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Death by lethal injection: A reading guide

Is lethal injection the most humane method of execution? Is there another way? Should we eliminate the death penalty altogether?

This story was originally published by ProPublica.

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Lethal injection is the primary method of execution in the United States. But as the morality and fairness of the death penalty continues to face scrutiny and the drugs used for the cocktail are running out, it may be nearing a turning point. We rounded up some of the best reporting on the practice below.

A Brief History of American Executions, The Atlantic, June 2015

This piece gives a broad overview of the grisly history of executions in the U.S., from hangings to lethal injections.

The Executioner's Lament, NPR, May 2014

Jay Chapman "invented" modern lethal injection when he served as the state medical examiner in Oklahoma after lawmakers sought a more humane way to execute people. Oklahoma is one of the primary states where the fight to dismantle the current system is being waged.

More: 'It's problematic': inventor of US lethal injection reveals death penalty doubts

Critics Say Execution Drug May Hide Suffering, The New York Times, October 2003

The second drug commonly used in "Chapman's Protocol" before states began running out was pancuronium bromide, a muscle relaxer that one judge wrote, "gives a false impression of serenity to viewers, making punishment by death more palatable and acceptable to society."

The Execution of Joseph Wood, 60 Minutes, November 2015

In July 2014, Joseph Wood was executed in Arizona. His execution was supposed to take about 10 minutes. He eventually died after 14 additional doses of the execution drug, 1 hour and 58 minutes after the execution began. Why? This look by 60 Minutes examines the circumstances surrounding Wood's execution and the place it continues to have in the national discussion on lethal injection.

After Lethal Injection, The Marshall Project, June 2015

While the war to preserve lethal injection was still being waged in the Supreme Court, this piece examined at the ways states were getting alternatives to injection ready. Oklahoma considered nitrogen gas, Utah looked at using firing squads, and Tennessee opted for its electric chair.

This Is The Man in India Who is Selling States Illegally Imported Execution Drugs, Buzzfeed, October 2015

When Nebraska ran out of execution drugs, they turned to Chris Harris – a man in India with no pharmaceutical background who sold them tens of thousands of dollars' worth. Due to FDA regulations, however, the drugs never made it past the airport.

States Lawyer Up, Looking To Find A Way To Buy Execution Drugs From Overseas, Buzzfeed, October 2015

Nebraska isn't the only state buying execution drugs from Chris Harris. Arizona and Texas purchased drugs that were held up by the FDA from the dealer in India. The states are among several, including Ohio, trying to find a way around laws and regulations to get execution drugs.

Adam Harris is the assistant social editor of ProPublica. Prior to joining ProPublica, he worked in audience development and social media with his digital marketing firm, AMH Strategies. As a freelance journalist he has covered politics, culture and technology for BBC and EBONY magazine.

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Calif. Dep't of Corrections and Rehabilitation

Execution room in the San Quentin State Prison in California.