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October 15, 2009

"Lethal Injection Draws Scrutiny in Some States"

The title of this post is the headline of this article from today's Wall Street Journal.  Here are excerpts from an effective article:

Despite the many arguments over whether criminals should be put to death, states thought they had settled at least one matter: the best way to carry out an execution. Largely gone are the electric chairs, firing squads and hangman's nooses of yore.  Most of the 35 states where capital punishment is legal require the use of lethal injection -- a combination of chemicals inserted intravenously. In a handful of states, condemned inmates can request that another method, in most cases electrocution, be used.

But a recent botched execution has triggered debate over whether alternative approaches to injections should be considered....

Some experts say states have bypassed the most reliable execution methods to save face with the public. Deborah Denno, a Fordham University law professor who has written articles on capital punishment, believes firing squads comprised of professional shooters could handle executions more quickly and flawlessly, though she concedes that cultural distaste with firing squads means it is unlikely to be widely adopted. "We've known for a long time that there are better methods, but states don't want to look bad and horrifying," she says.  The last firing squad execution took place in Utah in 1996....

Maryland has suspended its use of the death penalty while a state commission reviews whether lethal injection causes undue pain and whether prison staff are sufficiently trained to carry out the process. Executions fall to correctional employees because physicians refuse to participate, citing their oath to "save lives, not take lives," says Democratic state Sen. Paul Pinsky, co-chairman of the commission and an opponent of the death penalty.  Two other states, California and North Carolina, also have suspended lethal injection while the procedure is reviewed, effectively imposing a moratorium on the death penalty in those states.

October 15, 2009 at 10:27 AM | Permalink


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Our execution methods have more to do with our own squeamishness than any real concern with humane treatment of the condemned. The guillotine (sp?) would obviously be the most humane way to put someone to death.

Posted by: Gray Proctor | Oct 15, 2009 2:44:06 PM

To anyone who has been around a dying loved one, this discussion seems quite inappropriate. About 90% of us will die a painful, prolonged, humiliating death. And most of us have done nothing wrong to deserve that torment. Take the execution by torture scene from Braveheart, it is still less cruel than the pain of the spread of cancer to several bones.

I like the electric chair. One is gone at the speed of electricity in the brain. All horror stories of prisoners on fire offended the public, not the prisoner. If I were condemned, the execution could be made less cruel to me by 1) not telling me the date, months or years in advance (even the tormented dying are spared that painful knowledge); 2) keeping out reporters, dying being a biological function, and its wide dissemination in the press being undignified (like having a reporter taking notes while trying to go, on the toilet, during a particularly difficult period of constipation); 3) the harvesting of my organs to help others, or donation of my body or skeleton to a medical school, to partially redeem my sorry existence.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 15, 2009 3:50:56 PM

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