In a First, Oklahoma Uses Different Drug in Execution
By John Gramlich, Staff Writer
On Thursday (December 16), Oklahoma addressed the drug shortage in a novel way, becoming the first state in U.S. history to execute an inmate using pentobarbital — a drug more commonly used to euthanize animals — instead of sodium thiopental. The state executed John David Duty, a 58-year-old prisoner convicted of murdering his cellmate in 2001, The Oklahoman reported .
Duty's execution went off without any problems, according to the state. "There were no apparent issues with the new drug," a corrections department spokesman told The Oklahoman .
How states execute prisoners has been a contentious debate ever since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976. Opponents of the death penalty have protested execution methods ranging from the electric chair to lethal injection, arguing that they constitute unconstitutional "cruel and unusual punishment." The courts, however, have kept lethal injection as the most common method of execution used by the 35 states with the death penalty, even if the drugs involved in the procedure are changing.