To execute or not to execute? That is the question. And by what method, this execution?
Our country has been divided on the issue of capital punishment since the early 1800’s. But for the past six years 32 states thought it was all figured out–lethal injection is the most humane method. So, the electric chair went the way of firing squads and public hangings.
That was supposed to be a win-win situation, with justice prevailing while convicts’ 8th amendment right to protection from cruel and unusual punishment is upheld. So, WTF went wrong?
Look to the European Union for the answer. Really? Yeah. But first . . .
By not dying promptly yesterday in Arizona, Joseph Wood, (murderer of a woman and her father) set into place the proverbial final straw upon the stack of so-called botched executions this year which included Michael Lee Wilson, 38, (Oklahoma); Dennis McGuire, 53, (Ohio); and Clayton Lockett (Oklahoma) on April 29.
What has the European Union got to do with this? The European Union wants to lead the world in ending capital punishment. To that end, they have halted the exportation of execution drugs, causing the U.S. to look for domestic sources. Domestic pharmaceutical companies, not wanting to be associated with lethal injections, have insisted upon anonymity. In turn, inmates are suing penitentiaries, claiming that such anonymity violates their rights, and the effects of certain death-inducing cocktails constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.
That whole sequence represents a domino effect (also known as “if this, then that”) of controversial issues as the debate over lethal injection cranks up again.
Among the controversies is whether or not Wood was gasping or snoring during the hour+ it took him to expire. If he was gasping he may have been in pain. If he was snoring, he was in the unconscious state that precedes death, in no apparent discomfort. (BTW, Wood got to live 25 years longer than his victims, who had suffered cruel and unusual death when he shot them in cold blood.)
Here’s an account of their deaths, from the Arizona Daily Star:
Wood, who had sometimes assaulted Debbie Dietz during their relationship, walked into her workplace and shot her father in the chest. She was on the phone calling for help when Wood grabbed her around the neck and shot her in the chest.
Employees of the auto shop who witnessed the shootings heard Wood say: “I told you I was going to do it. I love you. I have to kill you, bitch.”
Police arrived almost immediately, having followed Wood because of a traffic violation. When confronted, Wood pointed his gun at police, who fired at him, hitting him with nine shots.
At the 1991 trial, Wood’s attorney argued his client’s alcoholism and drug use caused him to be erratic and depressed.
Let me get this straight. A drug using alcoholic, prone to domestic violence, premeditated the shooting deaths of two people, fired on police, was found guilty, then outlived his victims by 25 years, died by lethal injection after he may or may not have gasped for air? Have no fear, a costly review is in progress which will determine if, in fact, he was gasping or snoring, as Pima County Medical Examiner Gregory Hess performs an autopsy.
Hess told NBC News that the cause of death is pending until toxicology reports come back, “but we saw nothing unusual.”
Also reported by NBC:
In Ohio, Dennis McGuire, 53, took 25 minutes to die and appeared to gasp for breath in January when given an untested cocktail that included midazolam. The state put another execution on hold while it reviewed what was seen by some as a botched procedure.
Ohio declared that the execution was “humane” and that McGuire — convicted of raping and murdering a pregnant woman — felt no pain.
Oh, thank goodness.
Nationally, death-row inmates continue to challenge changes to execution protocols and laws and policies that keep the suppliers a secret.
Lawmakers in some death-penalty states are also pushing to have other forms of execution — such as firing squad or electric chair — reinstated. Experts on both sides of the debate say it’s unlikely that will come to pass on a broad scale because the public is unlikely to embrace non-medical executions.
Some death-penalty foes are predicting the high-profile Lockett disaster — in the wake of publicity about reversed convictions — could erode American support for the death penalty.
What does the U.S. Supreme Court have to say about it?
While several justices indicated they were in favor of a stay of execution in a couple of cases where inmates challenged the drug secrecy, the nation’s high court has yet to block an execution because of that issue.
Three weeks ago, the justices declined to take up the case of Christopher Sepulvado, who was sentenced to death for killing his 6-year-old stepson and challenged Louisiana’s secrecy rules.
There is no easy answer. But what do you think? Should the death penalty be allowed to continue? Should the electric chair or firing squad be reinstated? Before answering, remember the execution scene from The Green Mile. Oooh, maybe lethal injection should be perfected.