ST. LOUIS - With Florida carrying out the nation's third execution in less than 24 hours, some death penalty states - particularly in the South - appear unfazed by the recent furor over how the U.S. performs lethal injections.
A botched execution seven weeks ago in Oklahoma amplified a national debate about the secretive ways many states obtain lethal injection drugs from loosely regulated compounding pharmacies. Before Tuesday, nine executions were stayed or delayed - albeit some for reasons not related to the drug question.
Amid the court battles, many pro-death penalty states kept pushing to resume executions, including the three carried out during the quick burst this week. Georgia and Missouri executed prisoners around an hour apart late Tuesday and early Wednesday, and John Ruthell Henry was pronounced dead at 7:43 p.m. EDT Wednesday after receiving a lethal injection in Florida.
Austin Sarat, professor of jurisprudence and political science at Amherst College, said there has been a regional divide when it comes to how quickly states are returning to the business of putting prisoners to death.
"I think what you're going to see is kind of a division where some areas, some states, predominantly in the South, are going to dig in their heels," Sarat said. "Other states are going to proceed more cautiously and impose, if not an official moratorium, more of a de facto moratorium until things get sorted out."
The executions in Georgia and Missouri were the first since April 29, when Oklahoma prison officials halted the process because drugs weren't being administered properly into the veins of inmate Clayton Lockett. He died of a heart attack 43 minutes after the process began.
Lawyers for death row inmates have cited concerns that what happened in Oklahoma could be repeated, and they've challenged the secretive ways many states obtain lethal injection drugs from loosely regulated compounding pharmacies.