By all accounts, Ohio’s Jan. 16 execution of convicted murderer Dennis McGuire went badly. After being injected with a never-before-used, two-drug cocktail, McGuire gasped, snored and snorted until he finally succumbed after almost 20 minutes. His family plans to sue the state for cruel and unusual punishment.
Ohio resorted to the untested mix because the pharmaceutical companies that make the drugs most often used in lethal injections have curbed production or refused to sell them for use in executions. That has led some legislators in Missouri, Virginia and Wyoming to propose a return to firing squads and electrocution. “I think it’s more inhumane to have someone strapped to a chair, watching a doctor poke them with a needle 10 times and then watch the drug flow down an IV to put them to sleep like a dog,” says Missouri state representative Rick Brattin, “versus a blindfold and your sentence being carried out by firing squad.”
This appears in the February 03, 2014 issue of TIME.