Lethal Injection: The most humane method?


Lethal injection is the act of injecting a lethal cocktail into somebody’s body as a method of capital punishment. It is the most common method of execution today, mainly because it is said to be the most humane method. In 1977, Oklahoma proposed the idea of lethal injection and in 1982, Texas was the first state to adopt the method and use lethal injection to carry out capital punishment for Charlie Brooks. Even though there have been problems with a small percentage of executions by lethal injection, death penalty supporters still say that the method is as painless as it can be for an offender. If one theme characterizes the trajectory of the history of lethal injection and capital punishment in America, it is that American society continues to seek the most humane methods of execution. Today, states now use lethal injection as their only method or as an alternative to carry out capital punishment crimes.

From 1968 to 1976, the U.S. had no executions. Following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling of Furman v. Georgia in 1972, which ruled that the death penalty was unconstitutional because of the “arbitrary, capricious and wonton nature” of its administration, namely because the death penalty system was significantly racially biased and discriminatory. A federal moratorium suspended all executions nationally in the wake of the ruling. States quickly began reforming their statutes to institute procedural safeguards to ensure the fair administration of the death penalty. It wasn’t until the ruling of Gregg v. Georgia in 1976 that the Supreme Court considered capital punishment constitutional as long as state procedural safeguards, like jury-sentencing direction and appellate review, protected against individual discrimination. Following outlines the pages illustrating the history of lethal injection in America:

  1. Pre-Furman Era: the history of capital punishment in America from the colonial period to the Furman v. Georgia decision in 1972
  2. Post-Furman to Present: the history of capital punishment and the lethal injection method from 1976 to the present
  3. Practice Today: the practice of the death penalty and lethal injection today
  4. Other methods of execution: an overview of other once popular American forms of capital punishment
  5. U.S. Supreme Court: Supreme Court cases affecting the death penalty in America and the implications of the holdings

The charts below illustrate the number of executions in the U.S. during certain time periods in America. Click on the pictures or the links below for more information.

The Espy File

Executions in the U.S. 1608-2002: The Espy File


Executions in the U.S., 1930-2007

Executions in the U.S., 1930-2007

Related articles:

Death Penalty Information Center – Lethal Injection