Executions and the Damage Done

The New York Times Magazine has a feature article on the death penalty, The Needle and The Damage Done.

Lethal injection challenges are now underway in almost every state with a death penalty.

As a result of those cases, about 12 of the 38 states that have the death penalty have issued temporary bans on executions, and in one, New Jersey, a legislative commission recently recommended abolishing its death penalty altogether.

In Missouri:

Over the course of Doerhoff’s testimony, Anders uncovered many significant details similar to those uncovered in other states. For instance, Doerhoff testified that executions in Missouri have taken place in the dark, an execution team working by flashlight, and that the execution team routinely consists of “nonmedical people.” For most, the day of the execution is “the first time probably in their life they have picked up a syringe . . . so it’s a little stressful for them to be doing this.” Doerhoff stated that he determined if an inmate being executed had been adequately anesthetized by observing the condemned’s face through a window, which others noted was obscured by partly opened blinds. He also told the court that he reduced by half the five grams of anesthetic he had been using after the pharmaceutical company supplying it started packaging it in smaller bottles, which made it tricky to get the five grams in a single syringe. When Anders asked if he used calculations to determine the quantities of drugs to administer, he replied, “Heavens, no.”

Later Anders asked, “Is any part of the execution procedure written down?” “I’ve never seen it.”

“There’s no guide that you follow as you’re doing it?” “Absolutely not.”

I hope you read the whole thing. As TalkLeft has pointed out since 2003, lethal injection is not the painless death lawmakers have assumed it is. The people administering the drugs are woefully untrained.

This week saw articles about botched injections in the Associated Press, via the Sarasota Herald Tribune, Gainseville Sun, Wilmington Star News (NC) and AP via Charlotte Observer (NC), to name a few. There were editorials in the Charlotte Observer and the Birmingham News (AL.)

And, a bill to abolish the death penalty and use the money saved to investigate cold cases passed out of committee in Colorado this week. Changes may be afoot in Virginia and Maryland as well. Maryland is considering abolishing the death penalty while legislators in Virginia want to expand it.

< Late Night: The Needle and The Damage Done | Heading Back to D.C. for Libby Trial >
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  • Display: Sort:
    Let's call a spade a spade (none / 0) (#1)
    by Al on Sun Feb 11, 2007 at 02:33:05 PM EST
    "the first time probably in their life they have picked up a syringe . . . so it's a little stressful for them to be doing this."

    It's not picking up a syringe that is stressful. It's killing a human being that is stressful. Someone who uses a syringe every day (a dentist?) would probably be even more stressed.

    It goes against every instinct to kill someone in cold blood like that. So why do it?

    those damn papists! trying to keep people from (none / 0) (#2)
    by cpinva on Mon Feb 12, 2007 at 10:32:59 AM EST
    being murdered by the state! what's a good, god fearing protestant to do? you know god was up for capital punishment, just read the old testament (ok, it's the jewish bible, but you know what i mean!), he was about whacking darn near everyone, for just the least little o'l thang. *

    but serially folks, how does one make intentionally, with pre-meditation and planning, killing someone "humane" to begin with? it can't be done.

    even shakespeare had problems with it. as macbeth noted, when deciding whether or not to off duncan, "if 'tis to be done, 'tis best twere done quickly." this would require that the act be totally unexpected, from behind perhaps, and a mortal blow struck the first time. obviously, this can't be the case in a formal execution.

    nope, the concept of a "humane" execution is, by definition, an oxymoron.

    *snark alert!