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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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  • Nitrogen? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @09:45AM (#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.

  • by delt0r ( 999393 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @09:55AM (#46878099)
    So its unacceptable for them to behave this way, but its ok if the state does it?
  • by s.petry ( 762400 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @09:57AM (#46878131)

    While funny, it distracts from several serious problems in the US.

    First, why does the US still allow a death penalty? Surely there are some people with mental disorders that can not maintain a life with the rest of society, but this is what Prisons and mental health institutes are supposed to be for. We tend to argue how much a prisoner costs society, but rarely discuss the morality of executing people.

    Next, and relates to the first is that the Prison systems in the US have become a for profit business. The privatization of prisons has caused countless issues. Such as contracts requiring a specific capacity at all times in prisons and the exploitation of prisoners. Laws have been passed to help keep prisons at capacity and nearly everyone in the US can commit several felonies every day without their knowledge. This means that we have people in prison that should probably not be there, and we lack the capacity to keep the really socially defunct people in jail.

    We could discuss other issues, such as how rehabilitation in the US really does not exist and society lacks opportunity for people motivating people to illegal activities but can save that for later. We should address why the US has the highest percentage of people in prison in the world, and why we still have executions first.

  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @09:57AM (#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 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @09:58AM (#46878141) Journal
    It's hard to argue with someone who disagrees on such a fundeental point. However, I always thought Tolkein (through Gandalf) put it quite well:

    Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment.

  • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @10:15AM (#46878397)

    Simply design a chair with an adjustable height, single shot firearm(really just a triggering mechanism, a chamber, and a short barrel) that is placed nearly against the skull at the forehead. Have a remote trigger, so all the executioner has to do is push a button (or hell, even just have him start a mechanical timer). It's quick, almost guaranteed to be instantly or near-instantly fatal, and cheap. You could place the gun at the base of the skull so that it guarantees the brain stem is severed, but then the witnesses have to deal with the face blowing out. Through the front (or maybe side) of the forehead is a cleaner wound and allows for an open casket. Or, if they wanted cleaner and less traumatic for the witnesses, place it up against the heart. Much cleaner kill, but a little slower. Either way, much less painful than electrocution or lethal injection.

    Yes, I am for capital punishment, because I see it as what it's name states: punishment. It is not a deterrent, it is the ultimate form of punishment for someone who has been shown to have committed especially heinous acts. Give them life in prison and it only gives them a more captive audience to prey on, unless you put them in solitary confinement (and that even closer to torture than lethal injection is). And yes, I understand that innocent people have been convicted and executed, but how many other innocent people have been convicted and spent their entire lives or died of health or other reasons in prison as well? The average wait on death row is over a decade, and can reach over 20 years. This includes numerous appeals, and there are a number of non-profits also working to find exculpatory evidence for people on death row. In fact, I am for a longer period between sentencing and execution(perhaps allow the person to waive extended time if they prefer), because it allows more time for the innocence of the person to come up. However, the treatment of death row inmates should be a little better: while they rightly should be excluded from other inmates, they should still be allowed regular exercise and contact with guards and visitors if only to preserve their mental health.

  • by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @10:17AM (#46878429) Homepage Journal

    It's more complex than that.

    You face many concerns considering legal punishment: deterrent effect, risk of harm to innocents, and direct impact of punishment, to name three. These depend largely on the crime, the punishment, and the surrounding culture.

    The deterrent effect, for example, has two major factors: perceived severity of the punishment and perceived threat of punishment. A weak punishment, colloquially a "slap on the wrist", carries little deterrent effect; a strong punishment carries high deterrent effect. A punishment lacks threat if it is unlikely to actually occur.

    The strength of punishment comes from perception: jail time, pain, execution, fines, and how much the individual fear these personally. Some individuals do not fear prison; others fear it a lot. The poor fear fines more than the rich. Death almost universally incites terror. Pain is unpleasant, but imprisonment may destabilize personal security and provide greater fear.

    Punishment carries threat when it is likely. The death penalty is a great example: in drug-riddled ghettos where criminal activity meets its abrupt end 99% by death and 1% by state execution, state execution carries no threat. In peaceful but armed suburbs, attacking someone may get you shot. Either way, someone will probably shoot you in the face before the state gets to you; if the police do catch you, they may simply provide a noose to save you from a bullet. In peaceful suburbs with low justifiable homicide rates, state action is the dominating outcome to murder; execution becomes a looming, subconscious threat.

    Putting these together: the death penalty is a deterrent only where death is feared and state execution is a likely consequence of capital crime. In places where the criminal base is used to and does not fear death at a distance, state execution is a laughable thing; the first thing to consider is how to not get killed committing your crimes.

    Once it's determined the deterrent effect, you have to consider other consequences. Fines and jail time can destroy lives. Executions kill people. If 4% of the executed are innocent, but executions provide such a deterrent effect as to stave off a hundred murders for each innocent executed, then that is unfortunate. If 4% of the executed are innocent, and executions provide no deterrent, then that is unacceptable.

    And of course there are other considerations. I mentioned direct impact of punishment. You will want a punishment which rehabilitates criminals if repeat offense represents a larger proportion of the crime than the additional general deterrent from the next best method. Putting together further conditions, you can increase the severity of punishment as the risk of punishing innocents decreases (it's null if the punishments to innocents is dismissed on appeal 100% of the time before the time is served--increase punishment as much as you like). It gets extremely complex.

    Justice is like sex: it feels good, but that doesn't make it wrong. Executing a man who stalks, rapes, and murders a woman feels immensely liberating to some; it is anxiolytic to a society who can distance themselves from the act of killing yet feel that they have participated in punishment. At the same time, such a man has earned his punishment. We may look down on people for enjoying vengeance, but we should not thus assume punishment is wrong.

  • by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @10:27AM (#46878571) Homepage Journal

    "It is no use saying, 'We are doing our best.' You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary." Winston S. Churchill.

    Execution is a deterrent in many places; in others it is not. Various punishments have various effects, influenced by the culture around them. If we forgo execution to save an innocent man, but condemn two more to die, we have failed; it is necessary to accept our flaws and do what is necessary to save lives. If losing one man by our own action is unacceptable, losing two more by our inaction is not a solution; we must necessarily learn better to identify the innocent.

  • by Wookact ( 2804191 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @10:27AM (#46878573)
    Because you are better then that? Don't stoop to their level. Do your dirty work and move on. Getting enjoyment out of it is macab, and disturbing.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @10:27AM (#46878575)

    Something of value is lost: we don't want executioners to get psychological rewards from executioning people. By turning death penalty into a circus, we entice psychopaths and sadists to apply for this job. As a society, we don't want to train the next generation of serial killers by giving them these kind of jobs. We want people that don't enjoy executions as executioners, hence why executions should be clean, fast and as boring as possible.

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

    by Rich0 ( 548339 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @10:35AM (#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.

  • I've read that in Switzerland their suicide kit comprises a helium bottle and a plastic bag.

    Also when I give 0,5 litre of my blood, I know that I may faint if I don't drink enough and then stand up suddenly.
    I guess making someone give all of it would be fatal with no pain.

    (again I want to state that I'm against death penalty, I don't suggest anything to carry on those punishments, just wondering why they still use drugs)

  • by Ralph Spoilsport ( 673134 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @10:42AM (#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 gweihir ( 88907 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @10:52AM (#46878987)

    Well, as it turns out quite a few people are not any better than the murderers they try to elevate themselves above.

  • by spire3661 ( 1038968 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @11:17AM (#46879443) Journal
    Marquis de Sade said it better "Til the infallibility of human judgements shall have been proved to me, I shall demand the abolition of the penalty of death."
  • by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Wednesday April 30, 2014 @11:25AM (#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.

Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits. -- Robert Louis Stevenson