Some of my snakes get live, i.e. crotes and Thamnophis. I keep watch during these feedings of my crotes, just for safety. My Thamnophis get live fish, they can't really bite back. I use stunned prey at times, which can still bite of course, for newly aquired and finicky wild snakes. Again I keep an eye out to make sure all goes well.
Otherwise, almost anynsnake will eat F/T or pre-killed prey with little or no problems. There are those that do need some work, but in the end it is a better pay-off.
BUT--- I also feel it is more than just as simple as live feeding as the problem. For these snakes to have been hurt so bad, somebody would have had to of thrown the meals in the tanks/cages and walk away without attending to the snakes. This is part of the problem as well. Could have been that these snakes were fed to much and not hungry, could have been stressed out snakes without appitites, etc etc. When snakes come out to look this bad, it is more than just one problem. There are many underlying problems that factor in this. This is why information needs to get out to those that do not know about the complex husbandry needs of herps. Poor little buggers......