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July 30, 2014

After another ugly execution, will Missouri and Texas have any difficulties keep up monthly execution plans?

Recent troubled executions in Ohio, then Oklahoma, and most recently Arizona have seemingly contributed at least somewhat to a slowed pace of executions nationwide throughout 2014.  Nevertheless, Missouri and Texas have, so far, successfully completed scheduled executions on a pace of nearly one per month throughout out 2014.  In addition, as this DPIC list of scheduled executions spotlights, the next five serious executions dates over the next few months are in Missouri and Texas (with 2 and 3 slated executions, respectively, scheduled in the next seven weeks).

While I am sure national advocacy organizations will continue to make calls for abolition of the death penalty due to the trio of recent ugly executions in other states, I am not sure if this advocacy makes one whit of impact on key capital decision-makers in Missouri and Texas.  Time will tell if the abolistionist advocacy is really aided by all the ugly executionsin 2014, and the places for everyone to be watching most closely in the short term are the Show Me and Lone Star states. 

July 30, 2014 at 10:46 AM | Permalink


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"I am not sure if this advocacy makes one whit of impact on key capital decision-makers in Missouri and Texas."

You may be sure. It will not, at least in Texas.

The death penalty debate in Texas is largely a distraction: a sop to tough on crime demagoguery in an era when nobody - left or right - wants to pay for prisons anymore. It's unlikely we'll ever again see twenty people executed in a year and the numbers of new death sentences have plummeted. Meanwhile, Texas prisons average nearly thirty deaths in custody per month, most having nothing to do with capital punishment. Instead, people die due to crappy healthcare, excessive heat or sometimes elderly inmates with long sentences expire of natural causes without ever being released. I've never understood why abolitionists don't care as ardently about those (more numerous and frequent) deaths, but for some reason they don't seem to generate the same level of concern.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Jul 31, 2014 8:47:29 AM

So far this year, the problem seems to be with certain drugs (all three used midazolam)and certain protocols. Legally, there is no good reason why the problems that one state has with one drug combination should impact states that have repeatedly used a different drug combination (pentobarbital) without any problem.

I can't see it having a significant long-term impact on public opinion unless states continue to use midazolam and use it improperly.

Posted by: tmm | Jul 31, 2014 10:17:23 AM

I'm well aware of the variety of ways people die and care about those things too. This is why it annoys me somewhat when President Obama is targeted as doing nothing much about the "war on drugs," e.g., when things like ACA (as recently covered here) does address many who are caught up in the conflict. The "pro-life" label is applied to those who are against having the choice to abort. But, "life" is protected a variety of ways.

Still, there is a reason why so much emphasis is supplied when the state directly deprives people of life from people, instead of somehow being involved in the loss of life. The Constitution directly is concerned with the former. It is a more blatant case. We also are more concerned with the relatively small number of people who murder people as compared to those, e.g., who cause deaths in a variety of ways, such as companies who put people's health at risk, at times leading to their death.

And, while a high amount of effort, showing the special concern for the lives of even the worst prisoners, is supplied here, it shows the value we put on life. This affects other matters, surely. As Prof. Berman suggests, very well we should do more for the non-capital cases in a variety of ways. But, I don't think we are going to stop thinking the direct killing of people is not particularly important any time soon.

Posted by: Joe | Jul 31, 2014 11:57:47 AM

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