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March 5, 2018

Spotlighting the modern realities and challenges of geriatric executions

Adam Liptak has this new Sidebar piece in the New York Times headlined "Too Old to Be Executed?  Supreme Court Considers an Aging Death Row." Here is how the piece gets started:

The nation’s death rows are starting to look like geriatric wards. Condemned inmates in many states are more likely to die of natural causes than to be executed.  The rare ones who are put to death often first spend decades behind bars, waiting.

It turns out that executing old men is not easy.  In November, Ohio called off an attempt to execute Alva Campbell, 69, after the execution team could not find a suitable vein into which to pump lethal chemicals.  The state announced that it would try again in June 2019, by which time he would have been 71.

But Mr. Campbell suffered from what one judge called an “extraordinary list of ailments.”  He used a walker, could barely breathe and relied on a colostomy bag.  He was found lifeless in his cell on Saturday, having died in the usual way, without government assistance.

In Alabama last month, state officials called off the execution of Doyle Lee Hamm, 61, also because they could not find a suitable vein. Mr. Hamm has at least two kinds of cancer, cranial and lymphatic, and he may not have long to live with or without the state’s efforts.

Last week, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of another Alabama inmate, Vernon Madison, 67, who suffers from dementia and cannot remember the crime that sent him to death row.  The court, which has barred the execution of juvenile offenders and the intellectually disabled, is now turning its attention to old people.

Prior related posts:

March 5, 2018 at 11:51 PM | Permalink


Only 10% of us will have an easy, peaceful, painless death. For the rest, there will be prolonged pain, fear, deterioration, humiliation, as illegal aliens have clean the person up.

I guess, only a Life Skills student, learning to eat with a spoon, would understand the kindness of a quick death penalty for the terminal patient.

I have suggested that executioners volunteer as EMT's and learn to start IV's under the worst conditions of a car crash.

Is appellate advocacy ethical? Is it a crime against humanity to subject a client to the torments of end of life care. The medical profession will not let you go before getting its $250,000 for end of life care. They will insert tubing into every orifice. Should lawyers rethink the humaneness of death penalty appellate advocacy to the very end?

What if the condemned wants the quick, painless end, after being told what lies ahead? Is assisted suicide under such circumstance permissible?

Does the Supreme Court know anything about this subject, that it is allowed to set national policy? Should vampires, like Ginsberg, who cannot be killed by several cancers recuse themselves from such a discussion?

Posted by: David Behar | Mar 6, 2018 2:05:49 AM

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