Sunday, December 17, 2006

Two More States Halt Executions

After the latest botched execution in Florida last week, Gov. Jeb Bush suspended all state-sanctioned killing.

Here are some of the gruesome details on how Florida administered the purported humane way to kill death row inmates, as reported by the Associated Press:

Angel Nieves Diaz...executed for killing a Miami topless bar manager 27 years ago, was given a rare second dose of deadly chemicals as he took more than twice the usual time to succumb. Needles that were supposed to inject drugs into the 55-year-old man's veins were instead pushed all the way through the blood vessels into surrounding soft tissue. A medical examiner said he had chemical burns on both arms.

"It really sounds like he was tortured to death," said Jonathan Groner, associate professor of surgery at the Ohio State Medical School, a surgeon who opposes the death penalty and writes frequently about lethal injection. "My impression is that it would cause an extreme amount of pain."

On the very same day, a federal judge extended a previously court-ordered California moratorium and ruled that lethal injection as carried out in that state constituted cruel and unusual punishment under our Constitution.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Judge Jeremy D. Fogel of the U.S. District Court for Northern California, cited in his ruling seven instances (out of 11 lethal-injection executions carried out by the state since 1996) where "inmates may have been conscious and in pain as they were dying -- or at least the record-keeping was so slipshod that prolonged consciousness could not be ruled out."

Most of the states that use lethal injection, apply the same three-dose concoction as Florida and California. This three-drug cocktail is supposed to first drown out the pain, then paralyze the person and finally induce a lethal heart attack. Medical studies have shown, however, that the drug can wear off before the inmate is dead, "subjecting them to excruciating pain."

As more and more news stories of botched executions and death row inmates who have been wrongfully convicted and executed make headlines, the heartening news for abolitionists is that for the first time in decades, a 2006 Gallup poll shows a majority of Americans prefer life in prison without parole as an alternative to the death penalty.

It appears more and more Americans are perceptively concluding that there is nothing more heinous than for the government to kill in our name as the condemned die an agonizingly slow and merciless death.

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