This does not compute

An attorney for an Ohio death row inmate who underwent a slow, gasping execution with a new drug combination has been accused of coaching the condemned man to fake symptoms of suffocation.

Dennis McGuire, 53, took 26 minutes to die – the longest execution of the 53 carried out in Ohio since capital punishment resumed 15 years ago – which renewed questions about the death penalty.

The Office of the Public Defender said Robert Lowe, one of McGuire’s attorneys, was temporarily suspended last week but back at work Monday after a review failed to substantiate the allegation.

State prison records released Monday say McGuire told guards that Lowe counseled him to make a show of his death that would, perhaps, lead to abolition of the death penalty.

There are two possibilities here.

1) McGuire was unconscious and therefore incapable of faking anything.

2) He was not unconscious, potentially capable of faking something, and therefore was being killed very slowly and in great pain.

It is not possible for him to have been faking it and also not being killed slowly. The allegation itself is therefore absurd.

31 comments on “This does not compute

  1. I don’t get the “in great pain” bit. The drugs mentioned do not cause pain. Even if he was suffocating whilst conscious, it’s not necessarily a painful experience. Or people* wouldn’t do it for fun, Unpleasant or stressful, maybe.
    *If we count Tory MPs as people

  2. Sorry BIS are you trying to say that suffocating is not an unpleasant business. ?.
    That a few Tory twerps can some kind of perverse pleasure from playing about on the fringes of the experience hardly matters. Hold your breath as long as you can and see what the last few seconds of that are like.

  3. Just goes to prove that what anti-death penalty folks want more than anything is for executions to be as inhumane as possible.

    It’s the only thing left when you’ve lost in the court of public opinion.

  4. I think you’ve cocked this one up, Tim. The key part of the allegation is nothing much to do with the prisoner. It’s the allegation that the lawyer is a bit of a crook. What, a lawyer, I hear you ask. A crook? Really?

  5. “Sorry BIS are you trying to say that suffocating is not an unpleasant business. ?.2
    Precisely. Anoxia can be a “high”. Why you get cautioned about the effects of high altitude, air supply problems diving… You go out with a smile.
    It’s why the kinkier play “breath games”.

  6. “Hold your breath as long as you can and see what the last few seconds of that are like.”

    Where’s David Carradine when you need him?

  7. You go out with a smile.

    Like hell you do. The key difference in those situations is that your carbon dioxide levels stay low. When you suffocate, your CO2 levels go up, and that triggers the “breathe at all costs” panic reflex. it’s one of the worst experiences you can have, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

  8. According to reports filed by two death row guards and one member of the execution team, McGuire told all three that he had been coached by his attorney to begin gasping/struggling as soon as he felt the drugs in his system. The attorney’s express reason for this was to allow anti-death penalty types to claim the execution was unconstitutionally inhumane. McGuire became so incensed with his attorney’s antics that he barred him from being a witness at the execution.

    At this point, whether McGuire’s actions were spontaneous or an act, the fact that his attorney attempted to coach him simply confirms to many of us that anti-death penalty advocates as about as inhumanely cynical as you can get. I suspect the lawyer’s actions will undermine whatever attempt is made to eliminate the death penalty in Ohio (and there ain’t much of a groundswell for it at this point).

  9. While not wishing anybody suffer cruel and inhuman punishment, the point was rather well made last time this came up that wanting death in the case of state execution of individuals to be sterile and morally equivalent to putting one’s dog down, is actually absolutely gross and that although it should should be as painless as possible (eg proper hanging, or firing squad, or having your head run over by a freight train) it should also be in your face and public so that the electorate who evidently are happy that people are killed in their name can come face to face with the reality of it.

    So all this attempting to make it into a medical procedure is quite wrong.

  10. Genuine question: why are they even experimenting with new ways of executing people? People have been executed long enough that I thought we’d have already figured out how to do it without causing any pain – blow them away using a cannon, or use the Pierrepoint method of hanging

  11. Why do we care if his death was slow and painful or not? This gent had (IIRC) raped a pregnant woman, then murdered her and her unborn child.

    Frankly, my main complaint under there circumstances is that he got off far too lightly, if it only took 26 minutes to finish him off.

  12. All just more proof of the commonplace observation that Americans have some considerable way to go before they join the club of civilised peoples.

  13. Hypoxia can be induced more simply by making the prisoner breathe nitrogen through a mask. He would die painlessly and the procedure requires no medical expertise.

    My findings did not satisfy those opposed to the death penalty. They do not want execution to be sanitised further. Some who support capital punishment were horrified to contemplate that sadistic murderers would die in a euphoric state. That might be painless, they said, but not humane to the families of the killer’s victims. – Michael Portillo

    http://www.michaelportillo.co.uk/articles/art_nipress/death_penalty.htm

    If the specific method is found “cruel and unusual” it would violate the constitution. But the other extreme – completely painless death – wouldn’t be humane to the families of the victims, in other words there has to be some degree of pain.

  14. “All just more proof of the commonplace observation that Americans have some considerable way to go before they join the club of civilised peoples.”

    Yeah, history shows that it’s Europeans who are the civilized ones. Hell, two world wars and the holocaust, and that’s only in the last 100 years of “European Civilization”. Thanks, Euroweenies!

  15. Not all US states have capital punishment, and those that do allow multiple appeals that delay execution for decades. In that time the cries of the murdered diminish to whispers, while the roars of their murderers (and their apologists) become deafening.

    Justice delayed…

  16. “While not wishing anybody suffer cruel and inhuman punishment, the point was rather well made last time this came up that wanting death in the case of state execution of individuals to be sterile and morally equivalent to putting one’s dog down, is actually absolutely gross and that although it should should be as painless as possible (eg proper hanging, or firing squad, or having your head run over by a freight train) it should also be in your face and public so that the electorate who evidently are happy that people are killed in their name can come face to face with the reality of it.”

    I have no problem with that. I’ll be happy to sit through an execution of someone like McGuire just as soon as you agree to sit through an autopsy of a murder victim; you know, some 23 year old pregnant women who has been beaten, raped and strangled to death (like McGuire’s victim)… just so we’re both face to face with reality.

  17. That’s the thing really; barbarian cultures are characterised by violence by all parties. Violent acts, violent retribution. Everyone among the barbaroi treats violence as a normal response and the only way forward is escalation.

    Islam is similar; violent citizens, violent punishments, lots of executions. The parallel is probably not merely coincidental; the USA being the most religious, and most Puritan, western nation, there is a commonality of heritage.

  18. “That’s the thing really; barbarian cultures are characterised by violence by all parties. Violent acts, violent retribution. Everyone among the barbaroi treats violence as a normal response and the only way forward is escalation.”

    But what does one say about cultures prefer the inevitable suffering in life hidden so they don’t have to think about it. Ultimately giving the “Liverpool Pathway” & the rest of NHS “care”.

  19. That’s the thing really; barbarian cultures are characterised by violence by all parties. Violent acts, violent retribution. Everyone among the barbaroi treats violence as a normal response and the only way forward is escalation.

    Islam is similar; violent citizens, violent punishments, lots of executions. The parallel is probably not merely coincidental; the USA being the most religious, and most Puritan, western nation, there is a commonality of heritage.”

    An under informed overgeneralization worthy of a high school sophomore. And it in no way explains the extraordinary levels of violence in Europe over the past 100 years, either.

    You subbing for Arnald?

  20. “If the specific method is found “cruel and unusual” it would violate the constitution. But the other extreme – completely painless death – wouldn’t be humane to the families of the victims, in other words there has to be some degree of pain.”

    I have no problem with violent retribution on the wicked–the real issue is to ensure that you have really got the wicked and not just some poor, fitted-up mug. The best plan would be for the family of the victim to beat the ,malefactor to death. They would have revenge/closure and the wicked would have suffered for his evil crime.

  21. They’re experimenting because the European companies that manufacture the drugs they use are refusing to export them to the US unless there’s a guarantee they don’t get used to kill people – so they have to find drugs made in America, by American companies that never want to operate in Europe.

    You may have heard of “big pharma”? How many pharmaceutical companies want to be in a position where they can’t sell anything in Europe?

  22. Ian B – “That’s the thing really; barbarian cultures are characterised by violence by all parties. Violent acts, violent retribution. Everyone among the barbaroi treats violence as a normal response and the only way forward is escalation.”

    Ummm, I am sorry to break it to you, but the only response to violent acts is another violent act. School shootings aren’t ended by a Sesame Street style group hug. They are ended by hard men with guns. We can euphemise that violence. Or we can be open about it. But the violence is there.

    “Islam is similar; violent citizens, violent punishments, lots of executions. The parallel is probably not merely coincidental; the USA being the most religious, and most Puritan, western nation, there is a commonality of heritage.”

    That is true but only because the populations who believe that religion are just violent. It means that executions are the only way to deal with them. The West has got a lot less violent, and that has enabled us to do away with executions, but there is a cost to that. People like Marc Dutroux, who should have been executed earlier, go on to starve little girls to death in his basement. Murderers go on to murder again as well as brutalise other people in prison.

    In the end there is no alternative. Either we are men with backbone who are willing to protect the weak and vulnerable. Or we are not. In which case someone else with more guts will come and take all our goodies, our countries and our women and do it for us.

  23. I don’t understand why the US government doesn’t simply make sodium thiopental itself. Take a look at the Wiki page; it’s a simple molecule with a simple synthesis procedure. A few kilos a year would be more than adequate to cover every execution carried out and then some. It’s not under license, and it looks like a competent high school chemistry teacher could make it.

  24. David Gillies – “I don’t understand why the US government doesn’t simply make sodium thiopental itself. Take a look at the Wiki page; it’s a simple molecule with a simple synthesis procedure. A few kilos a year would be more than adequate to cover every execution carried out and then some. It’s not under license, and it looks like a competent high school chemistry teacher could make it.”

    Now Breaking Bad has ended, perhaps someone can pitch this to Fox as a new TV series?

    More a sitcom than a romcom I feel. But it could go either way.

  25. Why don’t they just use the stuff that vets use to put down dogs?

    Twenty seconds and Fido is at rest.

    Just up the dose.

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