PS1350/ American Government
7/ 29/ 16
“Rights of the Accused” [U.4/ A.1-E.1-PP2]
Capital punishment sentences in the United States are on the decline, and executions are at their lowest in 2015. In 2015, only 48 people were sentenced to death, and only 28 were executed. This is the lowest numbers in in the past 20 years (Lane, 2016). And, while a majority of Americans (55%) favor the death penalty for persons convicted of murder, according to a 2013 Pew Research survey, that number has declined significantly over the last two decades. In 1996, about three-quarters of the U.S. public (78%) favored capital punishment. Meanwhile, the share of those saying they oppose the death penalty has risen from 18% in 1996 to 37% in 2013 (Lipka, 2014). These numbers are directly linked to a ruling by the Supreme Court. In1976, the Supreme Court, found that the mandatory death sentence was unconstitutional in Woodson v. North Carolina (428 U.S. 280 (1976)). Not only has this ruling had a direct impact on death sentences and executions, but states are finding it harder to obtain lethal injection drugs, especially now that pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has barred the use of its products (Lane, 2016).
On Friday, May 13, 2016, the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced on Friday that it had imposed sweeping controls on the distribution of its products to ensure that none are used in lethal injections, a step that closes off the last remaining open-market source of drugs used in executions. More than 20 American and European drug companies have already adopted such restrictions, citing either moral or business reasons. As a result, all F.D.A.-approved manufacturers of any potential execution drug have now blocked their sale for this purpose. Some states have used straw buyers or tried to import drugs from abroad that are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, only to see them seized by federal agents. Some have covertly...