A Florida death penalty case argued before the US Supreme Court in Washington could have an impact in Missouri. Death row inmate Clarence Hill contends that Florida’s use of lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment. Missouri uses a similar method. An attorney for Hill tells the court that the anesthetic used in lethal injection paralyzes a condemned inmate, but doesn’t render him unconscious, which would lead to excruciating pain when the second drug is administered. A justice questions whether, if Hill wins his case, a state might risk a new lawsuit any time it changes its execution protocol, even if the goal is to make it more humane. Thirty-seven states use some form of lethal injection. In Missouri, three drugs are administered; sodium pentothal renders the condemned unconscious, pancuronium bromide pralyzes the muscles and stops breathing, and potassium chloride stops the heart, killing the inmate. The Supreme Court will issue a decision later. Meanwhile, an international human rights group claims the Missouri Corrections Department botched the execution of an inmate in 1995. Human Rights Watch of New York issued a report in conjunction with the US Supreme Court oral arguments on the lethal injection case in Florida. The group claims Emmitt Foster of St. Louis was restrained to the gurney too tightly and that his execution took half an hour, rather than the usual five minutes.
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