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January 12, 2008

Should SCOTUS really be reviewing Missouri's lethal injection team?

One challenge for the death row inmates challenging a lethal injection protocol in the Baze case is that the execution record from Kentucky appears to be sound.  But, thanks to this article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, we keep learning that the execution story from Missouri reads more like sensational fiction than fact.  Here are snippets from the latest jaw-dropping discovery:

Before a Missouri executioner could go to Indiana in 2001 to help federal authorities put mass killer Timothy McVeigh to death, he had to take care of one detail: He needed permission from his probation officer to leave the state.

The request, by a licensed practical nurse from Farmington, set off alarms within the Missouri Division of Probation and Parole. At least one supervisor spoke out to an agency administrator. "As I stated to you previously, it seems bizarre to me that we would knowingly allow an offender, on active supervision, to participate in the execution process at any level," she wrote.

But that memo and others obtained by the Post-Dispatch show that high-level federal and state corrections officials did let the nurse make the trip — and continue to work on Missouri's lethal-injection team.

The use of someone with such legal troubles — two felonies plea-bargained down to misdemeanors for stalking and tampering with property — raises further questions about the expertise and backgrounds of the people the government entrusts to carry out the ultimate punishment.

Some related posts on Missouri's execution record:

January 12, 2008 at 04:19 PM | Permalink


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This is a non-issue.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 12, 2008 6:32:47 PM

Frankly I'm not that surprised. The opponents of the death penalty have made it so difficult for respectable folks (i.e., physicians, nurses) to participate in executions that I surmise the states are left looking for people with sordid backgrounds to participate. The whole thing speaks to how the medicalization of the death penalty is a bad idea and why we should simply bring back public hangings (and this would satisfy SCOTUS, who has said he wants school kids to view executions. It could be a field trip after all). In sum, I have no outrage over this story b/c it was predictable.

Posted by: Steve | Jan 12, 2008 9:01:09 PM

Yes, it would. Executions should be public. Executioners should be politically accountable, so they should either have to 1) run for office; or 2) be subject to a "nomination and confirmation" process.

Kids need to be able to see executions in order to make a truly democratic choice. Anything else is tyranny.

(For bonus points, kids that attend the hanging could get a "Little Executioner" or a girl scout merit badge.)

Posted by: S.cotus | Jan 14, 2008 7:33:52 AM

Think of all the money we could save if prosecutors issued guns or knives to jail house snitches. For due process reasons there would have to be a hearing to ensure the snitches were "reliable" first.

Posted by: George | Jan 14, 2008 11:02:22 AM

“This is a non-issue”

Translation: I don’t want to address the fact that the state is hiring immoral people to do its killing that it claims it has a moral obligation to do.

Posted by: S.cotus | Jan 14, 2008 12:00:13 PM

"This is a non-issue"

Translation: I have no analysis or reasoning for my opinion. I just state the conclusion and hope people will agree.

Posted by: | Jan 14, 2008 4:29:22 PM

So, what's the argument here, that the condemned has a constitutional right to have someone free from criminal convictions be on his execution team?

To state such a ridiculous proposition is to refute it.

Guys, there's a difference between "optics" and enforceable rights.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 14, 2008 7:34:08 PM

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