Lethal Injection on Trial

An execution is postponed after two doctors refuse to take part. Is the needle on the ropes?

The evening of June 7, 2000, should have been another seamless exhibition of modern execution science. A killer named Bennie Demps was scheduled to be the third Floridian to die by lethal injection, that smooth cocktail of sedatives, paralytics and heart-stopping potassium chloride that was adopted to replace the macabre malfunctions of Old Sparky, an electric chair that had served the state since 1924.

Unlike Florida's first two executions by lethal injection, however, there was nothing smooth about Demps' death that evening. Prison personnel struggled behind closed doors for 33 min. to properly insert the long tubes into Demps' veins. When the...

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