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December 18, 2006

Will lethal injection woes speed abolition?

This morning at FindLaw, Austin Sarat has this essay entitled "When Executions Go Wrong: A Horribly Botched Florida Killing Adds Strong Impetus to a National Reconsideration of Capital Punishment."   Here are some snippets:

Last Wednesday, the name of Angel Diaz was added to a long list of persons whose executions have been botched in recent American history.... After this execution, a spokesman for the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty noted that "Florida has certainly deservedly earned a reputation for being a state that conducts botched executions, whether electrocution or lethal injection."

Like the king and his men trying to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again, Florida Governor Jeb Bush immediately reacted to the Diaz fiasco by reaffirming his belief in capital punishment, ordering a halt to all executions, and convening a special commission to review that state's lethal injection procedures to insure that, in the future, they do not result in cruelty and needless suffering.  Yet whatever Governor Bush's commission recommends, it is getting harder and harder for supporters of the death penalty to defend the system. The Diaz case is just the latest is a series of developments adding impetus to abolitionists' efforts to shift attention away from abstract philosophical debates, to the way the death penalty actually works.

Abolitionists have recent cited not only botched executions, but also dramatic exonerations of persons from death row, cases in which defense lawyers fell asleep during capital trials, and concerns over racial disparities in the death penalty system. These abolitionist arguments, each powerful in its own right, have gained so much traction that it now seems safe to say that the future of capital punishment in the United States is very much in doubt. Indeed, the prospect of its end, which once seemed so remote, is a distinct possibility in the foreseeable future.

December 18, 2006 at 07:09 AM | Permalink

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