Friday, December 15, 2006

Lethal injection is dying

Today brings a couple of interesting stories relating to the death penalty. The L.A. Times is running a story reporting a federal judge in California has determined that lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment. He previously ordered a moratorium on lethal injections in that state, and this ruling seems to insure that moratorium will remain in effect going forward.

The next story has to do with the botched execution of Angel Diaz in Florida. Diaz took twice as long as could normally be expected to expire. Witnesses describe Diaz mouthing words, and he was moving up to 24 minutes after the initial injection.

Diaz was executed after the failure of his appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court which asked for them to declare lethal injection cruel and unusual, challenging the chemicals used. One of the three drugs, pancuronium bromide, is a paralyzing agent and death penalty opponents fear that inmates can not express the agony they endure until death due to this paralysis.

The California case described above even details how veterinarian standards for animal euthanasia are not met in California's death chamber. The use of pancuronium bromide is not accepted in euthanizing animals by veterinarians. Also the conditions of the chamber room itself do not meet the standards of practice for veterinarian euthanasia rooms. We literally treat the animals we kill better than the prisoners we kill. What does that say about our society to you?

This may not be as bad as having your head burst into flames as the electricity flows through your still living body, but it's bad enough. By definition, the procedure society uses to kill the inmate is traumatic to that person, and if anything goes slightly wrong in the states preparations, the excruciating death that results would define the term cruel and unusual. Ergo, as human beings are the ones carrying out the states sentence, since humans have not attained perfection, there will be mistakes. Cruel and unusual deaths at the hand of the state are unavoidable as long as the state puts inmates to death.

Another interesting aspect of the botched Florida execution were the initial excuses posited by state officials to explain the lengthy death of Diaz. State officials originally claimed that the execution took so long due to a liver condition that did not allow the drugs to be processed normally by Diaz's body. However the investigation of the death has determined that the execution was botched pure and simple. The drugs in the Diaz execution were administered to soft tissue, (the needle was inserted completely through Diaz's veins) not injected into the inmates blood stream. The medical examiner refused to say if he thought Diaz's death was painful. I for one believe if he thought it were not painful, he would not feel the least bit uncomfortable in saying so.

In wrapping this up, it ought to be obvious in hindsight that the initial reaction of the state officials were simply lies, in order to cover up the truly awful nature of Diaz's death. The officials who told these tall tales should not be allowed to simply lie about such a serious matter with impunity. It seems like a no brainer that we would want honest and trustworthy spokepeople representing law enforcement.

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