The Politics of Botched Executions

Corinna Barrett Lain *

For decades now, America’s death penalty has been beset by serious problems in its administration, but what has finally gotten the public’s attention is a spate of botched executions in the first half of 2014. “2014 is Already the Worst Year in the History of Lethal Injection” one headline blared after a fourth execution went awry in July.[1] With fallout from botched executions named one of the “Top 10 Stories of 2014,” there can be little doubt: the death penalty is once again in the spotlight, and botched executions are what put it there.[2]

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*   Professor of Law and Associate Dean of Faculty Development, University of Richmond School of Law. Thanks to Jim Gibson for comments on an early draft, Cate Gray and Zack MacDonald for excellent research assistance, and to the University of Richmond Law Review for a fabulous symposium issue.

        [1].    Ben Crair, 2014 Is Already the Worst Year in the History of Lethal Injection, New Rep. (July 24, 2014), http://www.newrepublic.com/article/118833/2014-botched-execu tions-worst-year-lethal-injection-history.

        [2].    Michelle Charles, Top 10 Stories of 2014—No. 4: Fallout from Botched Execution Brings Death Penalty Challenges, Stillwater News Press (Dec. 27, 2014, 6:00 AM), http: //www.stwnewspress.com/news/top-stories-of—no-fallout-from-botched-execution/article _b4606b8e-8d7d-11e4-ade6-b71e24a226fc.html.