Professor Available to Join Lethal Injection Debate and Discuss Ricky Gray Execution

WHO: American University School of Communication professor Richard Stack

WHAT: AU expert available to discuss the Execution of Ricky Gray on January 18, 2017, and weigh in on lethal injection protocol

WHEN: January 17, 2017

WHERE: Phone or in-person interviews

Contact: Ericka Acosta, AU Communications, [email protected] or 202-885-5935 (office) or 202-500-1326 (cell)

January 17, 2017 (Washington, D.C.) – Tomorrow Ricky Gray will die a little more than 11 years after a murder rampage that claimed seven lives in Richmond, VA. Gray was scheduled to be executed in March of 2016; however, Virginia lacked the necessary drugs to carry out the execution. Legislatures have since passed a law that allows execution drugs to be purchased from compounding pharmacies. Compounding pharmacies are not subjected to the same approval process as larger manufacturers, leading to litigation and allegations about the drugs’ effectiveness and the possibility of a botched execution.

Gray's lawyers are attempted to halt his execution, arguing that the drugs could cause unnecessary pain and suffering, which is a violation of his 8th Amendment rights. Two of the three drugs will be made by an unidentified compounding pharmacy, as opposed to pharmaceutical manufacture. Gray's lawyers pointed to executions in other states that have not gone according to plan. Virginia refuted that argument by pointing to numerous executions in other states that have not had any problems. Ultimately, the judge did not agree with Gray's arguments. Ricky Gray will be executed by lethal injection at 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Greensville Correctional Center.

Virginia has carried out 111 executions since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to resume in 1976. Only Texas, with 538, and Oklahoma, with 112, have carried out more.

“In the Executioner's Shadow” DocumentaryProfessor Stack is the creator of an upcoming documentary on capital punishment titled, “In the Executioner’s Shadow.” The film shines a spotlight on wrongful convictions, botched executions, and questions our justice system as well as the value our country has on life. The documentary looks at arguments from advocates for its repeal and the other side that is pushing for its reinstatement.

The Executioner's Shadow takes viewers into the rarely seen world of death row and execution by following Jerry Givens, a former Virginia state executioner. It takes viewers to the trial of the Boston Marathon bomber and the internal struggle faced by Karen Brassard, who was injured in the attack. The Schieber family also appears, whose daughter was raped and killed. The family actually went against the prosecutor to fight for the life of their daughter’s murder.

About Richard Stack Richard Stack is an associate professor within the School of Communication. His professional life is dedicated to social justice. Stack’s third book, "Dead Wrong: Violence, Vengeance, and the Victims of Capital Punishment," helped reframe national debate from: “Is the death penalty a deterrent to crime?” to, “Can we trust our government to make such irreversible life-and-death decisions, when it makes so many mistakes?” "Grave Injustice: Unearthing Wrongful Executions" [2013] takes the innocence argument further. It tells the stories of men who were executed even as serious doubt persists in their cases.

To speak with Richard Stack, please contact Ericka Acosta, AU Communications, [email protected] or 202-885-5935.


American University is a leader in global education, enrolling a diverse student body from throughout the United States and nearly 140 countries. Located in Washington, D.C., the university provides opportunities for academic excellence, public service, and internships in the nation’s capital and around the world.