Capital punishment

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Capital punishment or the death penalty is the killing of a person as a penalty for a crime. Murray Rothbard proposed that a person specify in his will whether he would prefer that a person who murders him be executed.[1] Under the current system, prosecutors are given broad discretion to decide to seek a death sentence or not — regardless of the wishes of the victim or victim’s family members. Political, rather than moral or legal, considerations sometimes drive elected officials to pursue a death sentence. Even the juries are designed to support the death penalty. If a prosecutor seeks capital punishment, then a person who opposes the death penalty is generally not permitted to serve on that jury.[2]


Various interest groups have had difficulty agreeing on the most humane execution method to use. Hanging has been mostly replaced by lethal injection. A three-drug cocktail has been used by some states, involving an anesthetic (either pentobarbital or, formerly, sodium thiopental), pancuronium bromide (a paralytic agent), and potassium chloride (stops the heart and causes death). It has been proposed that instead a one-drug protocol be implemented that uses a massive dose of pentobarbital or propofol, as this eliminates the possibility that the barbiturate might not knock the person out completely and that he might suffer when the pain-inducing drugs in the cocktail are administered.[3]

Pentobarbital is extremely cheap to manufacture, but Texas paid $25,000 for 39 doses of the drug.[4] Some pentobarbital producers have expressed dismay when they found out that the drug was being used for executions and have attempted to put a stop to its being used for that purpose. Accordingly, Georgia has made the identity of its pentobarbital supplier a "confidential state secret" exempt from disclosure to the public.[5] Some states have resorted to obtaining their supply from compounding pharmacies rather than large pharmaceutical companies.[6]