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Crime Medicine Politics

Oklahoma Botched an Execution With Untested Lethal Injection Drugs 1198

Daniel_Stuckey (2647775) writes "The state of Oklahoma had scheduled two executions for Tuesday, April 29th. This in spite of myriad objections that the drugs being used for both lethal injections had not been tested, and thus could violate the constitutional right to the courts, as well as the 8th Amendment: protection from cruel and unusual punishment. After much legal and political wrangling, the state proceeded with the executions anyway. It soon became clear that the critics' worst case scenarios were coming true — Oklahoma violently botched the first execution. The inmate "blew" a vein and had a heart attack. The state quickly postponed the second one. 'After weeks of Oklahoma refusing to disclose basic information about the drugs for tonight's lethal injection procedures, tonight, Clayton Lockett was tortured to death,' Madeline Cohen, the attorney of Charles Warner, the second man scheduled for execution, said in a statement. Katie Fretland at The Guardian reported from the scene of the botched attempt to execute Lockett using the untested, unvetted, and therefore potentially unconstitutional lethal injection drugs." sciencehabit also points out a study indicating that around 4% of death row inmates in the U.S. are likely innocent.
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Oklahoma Botched an Execution With Untested Lethal Injection Drugs

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  • by delt0r (999393) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @08:37AM (#46877877)
    Why does the US still even have the Death penalty?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by smooth wombat (796938)

      Because of people like this. Or the person (or people) who thought it would be fun to put cats in a bag and beat them to death, or the guy who raped and killed an 11-month old.

      For these reasons, and a whole host of others, these people have decided the basic rules of society do not apply to them. As a result they need to be removed. Keeping them alive does nothing except waste taxpayer money on people who will never be productive members of society.

      That is why we have the death penalty.

      • by delt0r (999393) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @08:55AM (#46878099)
        So its unacceptable for them to behave this way, but its ok if the state does it?
      • by OzPeter (195038) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @08:56AM (#46878121)

        Because of people like this.

        Given that the death penalty was in existence prior to his crime, yet the perp still did what he did, it seems that the threat of punishment was no deterrent. So if the death penalty is not a deterrent, why again does the US have it? It can't be to protect the victims, and I've seen figures that suggest locking someone up for life is actually cheaper to do (given all the appeals, special wings etc). The only conclusion I can realistically see is pure revenge by the rest of society.

        • by coinreturn (617535) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @09:53AM (#46878997)

          Given that the death penalty was in existence prior to his crime, yet the perp still did what he did, it seems that the threat of punishment was no deterrent.

          Although I am no proponent of the death penalty, your logic is flawed. Although in this case the penalty was not an effective deterrent, there is no way to tell if it did deter others from committing similar crimes.

      • by Jason Levine (196982) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @09:01AM (#46878191)

        Two problems with this:

        First of all, how do you decide who is a "waste of taxpayer money"? That seems to me like a slippery slope that could be applied to any group if the mob so deems it. Don't like a group? Declare their activities illegal and arrest them. Then declare that all they are doing is sitting in jail taking up taxpayer money and execute them to save some cash.

        Secondly, what about the estimated 4% of people on death row who are innocent. There are people who, for various reasons (e.g. overzealous prosecutors, incompetent defense attorneys, corrupt police planting/hiding evidence, etc), were convicted of crimes that they didn't commit. They sometimes sit in jail for decades trying to get cleared. Sometimes they do (having lost years/decades of their life), sometimes they don't (cleared after they die in jail or are executed). If you wrongly jail someone, that's bad but you can release them. It's not a 100% payback for the time wrongly spent in prison, but it is something. If you execute an innocent person, you can't "un-execute" them. They are dead and no amount of "Oops, our bad" will change that.

        This is why the death penalty - if it is to be kept - should only be applied exceedingly sparingly and only after a TON of legal maneuvers that are skewed towards the defendant not being executed. Better to keep a guilty person alive and in jail than to execute an innocent.

    • by Sloppy (14984) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @10:36AM (#46879717) Homepage Journal

      Why does the US still even have the Death penalty?

      Why does the US still even have fines? Why does the US still even have imprisonment?

      Answer any of these questions, and you'll have answered them all. Show the foolishness of any of them, and you'll have shown the foolishness of them all.

      I think the most popular answer, is that we have these things to punish criminals. HTH.

  • Untested? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @08:38AM (#46877883)

    Seems they've tested it now.

    • I wondered about this. If being untested is a problem for methods of execution, how exactly are you ever going to have a usable method of execution?

      I'm sure those opposed to the death penalty like it this way; methods of execution are not usable until they've been tested and they can't be tested because they're unconstitutional. Ergo, we can't execute anyone. But the same legalistic argument presented many times above applies to them, too; the constitution does not forbid capital punishment, only cruel a

      • Re:Untested? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Rich0 (548339) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @09:35AM (#46878695) Homepage

        Yup, this is basically the whole "intelligent design" thing in a different form.

        People want to teach the biblical creation account in school, but got shot down by every court in the nation 50 years ago (go figure). So, they have to carefully construct the argument so as to try to present it as something new so that courts have an excuse to look the other way.

        If an inmate challenged an execution on the grounds that the state has no authority to perform an execution, they'd be shot down. So, instead arguments are made about the process, but those advancing these arguments would not be satisfied with any process - they are opposed to execution in any form.

        The only reason states are changing the methodology is because protesters have been fairly effective in curtailing supplies of the materials used previously. Now states are moving towards undisclosed methods with undisclosed suppliers so that it is hard for protesters to target them. They're also generally using materials that are important for healthcare in general so that it is not possible to disrupt their supply. It is a big cat and mouse game. There won't be any kind of standardization of the process since a stable process can potentially be disrupted. So, expect more events like this one until somebody decides to go back to firing squads and hanging.

        I'm not a fan of the death penalty myself, but the whole argument around untested methods is just a smoke screen. The whole system of punishment needs a complete overhaul. The death penalty isn't just inhumane, it is based on a flawed premise. How the inmates get executed is fairly unimportant in the big scheme of things - it is like debating whether you'd rather get run over by a car going 35mph or 75mph.

  • Nitrogen? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @08:45AM (#46877967)

    I find it hard to believe that no one has looked into execution using Nitrogen. Something akin to an old style dive helmet with a hose near the top to feed in gas. When the time comes, switch the flow over from air to pure nitrogen. Simple, cheap, painless and there is a limitless supply of Nitrogen.

  • Failed injection. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jamesl (106902) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @08:48AM (#46878011)

    According to Robert Patton, the director of Oklahoma's department of corrections, when doctors felt that the drugs were not having the required effect on Lockett, they discovered that a vein had ruptured.
    This is not a problem related to the drug(s) used but incompetent administration.

    This in spite of myriad objections that the drugs being used for both lethal injections had not been tested ...
    How does one test lethal injections?

  • by oneiros27 (46144) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @08:52AM (#46878055) Homepage

    It's one thing to claim about the drugs being untested .. and you can still probably claim they're untested, because all of the reports are suggesting that it was a blown out blood vessel, so the whole thing would've been botched no matter what drugs they had actually used.

    (and before you say I'm just against executions ... I actually think that prisoners who are sentanced to life without parole should be given the opportunity to be administered euthenasia ... but the costs of capital punishment as they curently exist are so high that it should only be reserved for those really, really horrible crimes (which this one would seem to be).

  • by swb (14022) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @08:57AM (#46878135)

    Or even something simpler, like some kind of coup de grace, maybe a 12 gauge slug to the back of the head? Maybe by making executions much more visceral we'll be less inclined to make them clean and clinical and stop thinking about them as clean and clinical.

    As bloody as such an execution would be, perhaps it should be so and the judge, prosecuting attorney and lead low enforcement investigators could be mandated to be in attendance and watching. It's one thing to plant evidence, withhold exculpatory information from the defense, commit gross prosecutorial misconduct and run quadrennial judicial elections on your persona as a "hangin' judge" when the convicted is executed somewhere else in a manner more consistent with outpatient surgery than an actual execution.

    But when you know ahead of time that if the death penalty goes through you're going to see a human being have a good chunk of the head taken off in front of you, maybe you might not sleep so well knowing it happened because you broke the rules.

    • by gman003 (1693318) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @10:25AM (#46879595)

      I've thought for a while now that the method of execution should be decided by the convicted.

      He wants injection? He gets injection. He wants the firing squad? He gets a firing squad. He wants to skydive into an active volcano with no parachute? He gets it. As long as it's guaranteed to be lethal and isn't grossly impractical, it goes.

      That has the obvious benefit of making sure that the execution is as humane as possible, because the person with the most interest in making it humane is the one making the decision.

      It could have a second benefit. Namely, what happens if he chooses "execution by old age"? You could easily block that as "grossly impractical", but I see that as a feature, not a bug. It basically turns into life imprisonment with no parole, only way out is to actually overturn the verdict. So if you're truly innocent, that might be a good option. Otherwise, it's arguably a worse execution than many others, although that's a very arguable point.

  • by biochozo (2700157) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @09:02AM (#46878197)
    Nitrogen hypoxia. Cheap. 100% effective. Readily available. Doesn't torture the inmate. Why don't we use it? Apparently it's not satisfying our need for justice to equal revenge.
  • by Jason Levine (196982) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @09:04AM (#46878237)

    I wonder how many of the people who are saying "What's the problem if the death penalty is horribly painful? This guy deserved it!" are also the ones who express horror over the government torturing people to get information from them or spying on everyone just on the off chance that one of those people might be planning something bad. If your government is willing to go to such lengths to get information from people, then do you really want to give that government the ability to kill any prisoner that they deem to be a "waste of taxpayer money"?

  • by Rashkae (59673) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @09:06AM (#46878251) Homepage

    Leaving assite entirely the debate over death penalty to begin with, when we have to put down our pets, vets don't seem to have any trouble putting them to sleep, (and then inject more and more until sleep becomes permanenet.) Maybe the state just needs to fire to their medical experts and hire some country vet?

    • by cheetah_spottycat (106624) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @09:17AM (#46878417)
      There are many known painless and very effective ways of killing a human being. For example, suffocation with Nitrogen gas. It will cause a state of euphoria, then unconsciousness, then death. No pain, dead simple (pun not intended), and 100% success rate. It's a no-brainer. Or a simple, massive overdose of pretty much any anesthetic will do. It does not take complicated mixtures. But it would mean, your convict would die "happy". And that thought would be too much to bear for the victims. The death penalty is not about justice. It is about revenge. It is designed to be gruesome, the suffering is intentional. The deliquent is no longer considered a human being, and the pig deserves to suffer. It seems to be consensus even here on slashdot.
  • Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vyse of Arcadia (1220278) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @09:09AM (#46878305)

    There are a lot of bloodthirsty people here on Slashdot.

    I think it's a good thing to try to move away from the, "He made others suffer so he should suffer," mentality. Punishment, capital or otherwise, should be about rendering the criminal incapable of commiting futher crimes to protect the populace. It's self defense, nothing more. Making sure that criminals suffer is barbaric. It turns my stomach a bit, and I liked that cinnamon roll.

    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Yosho (135835) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @09:42AM (#46878805) Homepage

      Welcome to the internet. Most of the armchair criminal scientists here feel that the purpose of the justice system is to get revenge and slake the bloodlust of the accusers. In that aspect, society hasn't really advanced a whole lot since the dark ages. If you suggest that maybe the justice system is about rehabilitating criminals who can be rehabilitated and protecting society from the ones who can't, all of them will call you a hippy liberal who is soft on crime.

      Fortunately, most of those people don't have any actual influence on the justice system, but you still have to watch out for the ones that do.

  • Jury Panel (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Major Blud (789630) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @09:24AM (#46878539) Homepage

    I was recently assigned to a jury panel in a murder case. The state I live in has capital punishment.

    I went into the courtroom with a fairly solid conviction against the death penalty (excluding military cases, i.e. fratricide, where soldiers should be held to a higher standard and capital punishment could be considered a necessary component of discipline).

    As the evidence was presented, I started to question my beliefs. The defendant was accused of murdering and raping a 12 year old boy, and was a twice-convicted sex offender (why he wasn't already in prison is an entirely different question). This person showed no remorse for the crime, and if given life imprisonment, would still be able to see his friends and family....something his victim could no longer do. It really made me question my thoughts on capital punishment.

    In the end I wasn't chosen for the jury, and the guy was found guilty. I still believe that capital punishment is wrong and doesn't solve anything, but life imprisonment, although no cake walk, doesn't necessarily equate to justice or punishment...because let's face it, this criminal won't be rehabilitated and shouldn't be given the chance.

    • Re:Jury Panel (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gweihir (88907) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @10:15AM (#46879407)

      The solution to that is simple: This person is not a criminal, this person is severely mentally ill and likely in a very real sense unable to make a moral judgment. For that, closed mental institutions exist. You cannot punish people that are so damaged they are incapable of understanding what they did wrong. You can only exact perceived revenge on them, and that is exceedingly immoral.

  • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @09:42AM (#46878821) Journal
    What are the other countries that have death penalties?

    China, Malaysia, vietnam, Uganda, Indonesia, Gambia, Thailand, India, pakistan, Bahrain, Botswana, Equitorial guinea, Bangla desh, UAE, North Korea, Kuwait, afghanistan, Taiwan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Belarus, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen, Egypt, Libya, Sudan North and South, Ethiopia, Somalia.

    Nice crowd.

  • by BenSchuarmer (922752) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @10:24AM (#46879563)
    Why are they experimenting with 3-drug combinations when they could just use sedatives? They work just fine for putting pets "to sleep".

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