How is lethal injection administered and is it humane?

James Kennedy speaks with Dr. Charlie Rouse

Earlier today, the Georgia Supreme Court rejected a last minute appeal from Emmanuel Hammond's attorneys. They are raising questions about the safety and supply of one of the drugs used in the lethal injection process.

"There are certain crimes that are so enormous that the jury should make a determination on whether the ultimate punishment should be applied," said Dougherty County District Attorney Greg Edwards. Edwards has been involved in eight cases where the death penalty was under consideration.

He says the decision to seek the supreme punishment is only made after a careful review of the evidence and difficult conversations with victims' families. "One of the things I tell the family is that it will be a time consuming process from the point that we start with the case and whatever the ultimate result is going to be," said Edwards.

As in most states, Georgia's preferred method of execution is lethal injection, which is actually a series of three injections.

Dr. Charlie Rouse is an expert in pharmacology and says the lethal injection process is very humane. "They feel nothing and it's just a deep sleep," said Rouse.

Sodium thiopental is the first drug given. "Sodium thiopental is an anesthetic and it literally, physically is infused into the human body and little by little, it just numbs," added Rouse.

Supplies of the drug are dwindling because it's manufactured in Italy, which frowns on the death penalty.

Despite its ominous-sounding name, sodium thiopental is fairly common. While you won't find it on the shelves of your local pharmacy, chances are if you' had major or even minor surgery recently, the drug may have been inside your own body.

"Certainly, they use sodium thiopental even in surgery and anesthesia to this day â" it's safe for that particular use," said Rouse.

He insists the same holds true for its use in the death penalty. "This particular injection would be smooth and non-invasive as far as heart or brain dysfunction," said Rouse. "It's just down."