Executions and Lethal Injections

So it looks as if the death penalty is at least suspended across the US. Good.

The highest criminal appeals court in Texas delayed an execution yesterday in a signal that even the most avid supporters of the death penalty in America are concerned that lethal injections are too cruel.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stayed the execution of Heliberto Chi, a convicted murderer, after his lawyers raised questions about the "constitutionality" of injections.

Texas, which executes far more criminals than any other state, had previously ignored the growing concern but yesterday\’s decision brings it into line with the US Supreme Court, which announced last week that it would review the legality of lethal injections. State prosecutors have 30 days to respond.

I\’m agin the death penalty (for the same reason I am abortion and euthanasia: you can kill someone in the course of a Just War or in immediate self-defense. not otherwise) so this is from my point of view good news.

But not a solution. The lethal injection was introduced because it was thought less cruel than the other methods, some of which fell foul of the ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The new evidence is that it might not be all that not cruel and unusual. For example, the difficulty of finding a vein (really, who would have thought it when the vast majority of those on Death Row are drug addicts?). Also, to be near painless, the drugs have to be administered professionally. But, err, no doctor will carry out an execution. Well, not and remain a doctor.

So they\’re at something of an impasse: they\’ve not got a non cruel method of execution.

I really don\’t know what\’s going to happen in the long term. I can\’t see that the blood lust of some who call fo executions won\’t find a way to deal with this.  Someone will recommend bringing back the noose I\’m sure.

11 comments on “Executions and Lethal Injections

  1. Actually I think there are quite a few non-cruel methods based on the way you kill animals by a bullet to the brain. The problem is that they tend to involve bits of head splattering around the place which upsets the witnesses.

    Personally I can’t see why people are so worried about the last few minutes of life of someone who has been convicted of murder – often of multiple murders – but it seems many people do for some reason.

  2. Interesting that the pain involved in a lethal injection goes to the courts but the death penalty remains largely undisputed in many states.

    Tim adds: That’s why you have a Consitution and the associated legal protections of people’s rights. So that they can’t be over ridden by the wishes of the mob at the ballot box.

  3. I am pro-euthanasia because I believe ultimately that a rational person should be able to choose if they’ve suffered enough.

    I am a bit ambivalent on abortion, in that we’d not consider it for ourselves, my wife did not have an amniosynthesis for our ‘laat lammertjie’ because we would not have acted upon a positive result, but I do not believe our views should be imposed on others or that the state can compel a woman to carry a child if she does not wish to.

    I am against the death penalty because I believe it is wrong for the state to kill in cold blood, I’m not greatly chuffed about it doing it in warm blood other than in self-defence, which can include assisting other nations that are under attack. Just wars tend to get very messy and become unjust very quickly.

  4. “…no doctor will carry out an execution…”

    I think Francis has the answer. Get vets (or slaughterhouse workers) to do it!

    “Personally I can’t see why people are so worried about the last few minutes of life of someone who has been convicted of murder – often of multiple murders – but it seems many people do for some reason.”

    While I’m sure some are genuine (the extremely religious or moral), for most it’s simply a way of either gaining publicity (the odious Clive Stafford Smith is a good example of this) or protesting against the authorities.

  5. I have to admit to confusion about this.

    If the real intention of capital punishment is deterrence and retribution, then surely the more public and painful the process is, the more effective and just it will be.

    Our ancestors in Britain realised long ago that if hanging was applied at discretion as a judicial sentence for a wide variety of felonies then something special was needed for truly heinous crimes such as treason against the state or conspiring against the life of the sovereign. Accordingly, they devised the refinement of hanging, drawing and quartering for men with the lenient compromise that women would be burned at the stake instead for reasons of public decency:
    http://www.richard.clark32.btinternet.co.uk/hdq.html

    As reported, Guy Fawkes and his surviving fellow conspirators were hanged, drawn and quartered at various sites around London in January 1606.

    And btw on the fashion for hanging two centuries ago:

    “Some thirty-five thousand people were condemned to death in England and Wales between 1770 and 1830, and seven thousand were ultimately executed, the majority convicted of crimes such as burglary, horse theft, or forgery. Mostly poor trades people, these terrified men and women would suffer excruciating death before large and excited crowds.”
    http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/HistoryWorld/British/19thC/?view=usa&ci=9780192853325

    Where am I going wrong?

    Tim adds: So, ask the question, are crime rates (burglary, horse theft and forgery) higher or lower now than they were then? So the deterrence value of capital punishment is what?

  6. “Also, to be near painless, the drugs have to be administered professionally. But, err, no doctor will carry out an execution. Well, not and remain a doctor.”

    Injections of any kind, or phlebotomy, do not need a doctor, or even any kind of qualified medical or certified medical staff, to be administered professionally. A lot of injections and blood samples are performed in the UK by professionals with no formal medical training whatsoever.

  7. “So, ask the question, are crime rates (burglary, horse theft and forgery) higher or lower now than they were then? So the deterrence value of capital punishment is what?”

    I’ve no idea whether the incidence of burglary and horse theft is higher now than then. But I do know no one else tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament again so, presumably, hanging, drawing and quartering worked as a deterrent. The Germans successfully bombed the House of Commons during WW2 but that doesn’t count.

  8. Crime rates reached their lowest levels between the wars IIRC, after the death penalty had been abolished for effectively everything except murder and treason. I think we’re now back up to mid-Victorian levels, and an order of magnitude below the 17th century.

    Can I also have a quick ‘dude WTF’ at the use of “the odious Clive Stafford Smith”?

  9. The death penalty should be abolished forever.

    The State of Texas, and particularly the county of Dallas, Texas, (which leads the country in the number of defendants exonerated– currently at 14 and counting) are just a few of the strong arguments against this form of punishment. Add to that, the growing number of death row and other defendants around the country who have been exonerated after spending decades in prison for crimes they didn’t commit and the correct answer is obvious when one speaks of being for or against capitol punishment.

    Too many major problems exist within the american judicial system for anyone to support the death penalty, so I welcome the ‘suspension’ of the state-sanction murders here in Texas and across the United States.

    Lakeith Amir-Sharif
    (Sharif) MTWT-Texas Chapter
    http://www.angelfire.com/crazy4/texas

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