Bad Justice: Lethal Injection

As you all know, I’m very pro capital punishment. Unlike some more vocal opponents I consider this out of respect and humanity rather than retribution, as I see it as vastly less humane to cage a person like a beast until they die of old age, than to execute them swiftly and with respect.

This story makes me grumpy:

A botched lethal injection in Oklahoma has catapulted the issue of U.S. capital punishment back into the international spotlight, raising new questions about the drugs being used and the constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

…After administering the first drug, “We began pushing the second and third drugs in the protocol,” said Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton. “There was some concern at that time that the drugs were not having the effect. So the doctor observed the line and determined that the line had blown.” He said that Lockett’s vein had “exploded.”

The execution process was halted, but Lockett died of a heart attack, Patton said.

This guy was a very bad guy, and was sentenced to die, so I am not sad that he is dead. I am sad that he died in a way NOT prescribed by the law. This is in part due to the bizzarly complicated Rube Goldberg Execution Machine. I personally think a slow and accelerating titration of morphine would have better (but slower) result. Still I think the best way to end a prisoner’s life is long-drop hanging.

It wouldn’t be clean or pretty as some people would like, but it would be quick, painless and humane.

Also for those of the libertarian idea that “We can’t trust the government to execute the right people”, I will point out that A) the Government doesn’t sentence people to death, but a jury of their peers, and B) If we can’t trust the government to execute people, why do we stand for them locking people up until death? Its not like the citizenry controls the jails any more than the execution chambers.

What do you think?

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13 Responses to Bad Justice: Lethal Injection

  1. I would prefer the condemned be given a choice between crucifixion and impalement. But I’d accept hanging if that’s all I could get.

  2. The_Jack says:

    Ever since the electric chair came out as part of Edison’s anti alternating current propaganda, execution systems in this country have been less about actually putting someone down quickly and, fairly, humanely and more about the spectacle.

    Hell, strap a person to a chair, have a couple ransom rested guns properly aligned and then hook their triggers up on a random delay that’s keyed by one of three switches that are flipped by three executioners and wired by a 4th.

    And agreed on the whole “Life Imprisonment is still the state taking away a person’s life.”

  3. TS says:

    Slightly off topic, but I always thought the practice of loading one gun with blanks for a firing squad was pretty dumb. You’ll know from the recoil whether or not you had a bullet,

    • Stuart the Viking says:

      I agree. The explanation I have always heard (and I surely could be wrong about this) was so that those on the firing squad could rest their conscience on the idea that they might have had the blank so maybe they didn’t really kill anyone.

      I say, if you can’t stomach killing, DON’T BE ON THE FIRING SQUAD!


      • Weerd Beard says:

        I wonder if this relic was added by people just assuming firing squad volunteers would feel guilty or horrible about killing a condemned prisoner, or to have people who CHOSE to be on a firing squad have an out to the hand wringers that might ask them questions about how they feel about their job that make no sense to them.

  4. bluesun says:

    As I believe you yourself have said, Weer’d, even if they insist on “humane” lethal injection, there are way easier, nicer ways to do it that strange and rare cocktails. Morphine overdose?

  5. divemedic says:

    I am against the death penalty because I have seen too many prosecutions for crimes where the prosecution or the cops lied for political reasons or personal gain. Withholding exculpatory evidence, planting evidence, or just plain mistaken identity. You are correct that a jury is the one who does the conviction and sentencing, but we both know that a jury can be led astray if they do not get the facts.
    See the Innocence Project for a list of people who have been released (some from death row) after DNA proved them innocent. Locking them up at least means that they can get some of their life back if post conviction efforts should prove their innocence.

  6. Stuart the Viking says:

    I was pro capital punishment for a long time, but in the last few years I’ve been drifting the other direction.

    I’ve seen too many cases where a prosecutor’s conviction rate was more important than justice. Prosecutors withholding evidence, corrupt or inept forensics, outright lies by witnesses. The case that really got me was one I read about where the prosecutor had solid evidence proving the defendant couldn’t possibly have done the crime, but withheld it from the defense because, without it, he knew he could get a win (unfortunately, I’m not one to save links or I would link it). In cases such as these, if/when the malfeasance is found, if the convicted has already been executed, sucks to be him. If the convicted was instead put in jail for life, still sucks to be him, but at least he has a chance to try to enjoy the rest of his life.

    The other reason I’ve been drifting away from supporting capital punishment is, quite frankly, I don’t think it’s a good idea to let the government used to, and the people used to, the government killing people. Certainly, this isn’t such a huge issue right now since so few people are actually executed, but if the government were to ramp that up slowly, I could see it getting to be common enough that people stop thinking about it. Yes, I know it’s a weak argument. I don’t particularly care. It’s a secondary argument anyway.

    I have to admit though, whenever I see a sick bastard mess with or kill a kid, I tend to spike back the other direction. I would even volunteer to be on the firing squad. I would want to see the evidence first though.

    As an aside, I have often wondered why when prosecutors get such a benefit by having a good conviction rate, public defenders don’t get any benefit for having a good acquittal rate. Maybe there should be a bonus system of some kind in place to offset.


    • divemedic says:

      Perhaps in any case where the prosecutor, a witness, or a cop is shown to have lied or withheld evidence, they are forced to serve the same sentence as the person whom they wrongly convicted got, or would have gotten.

      Lie to get someone the death penalty? Same for you.
      Withhold exculpatory evidence where an accused got life in prison? He gets released, and you take his place.

      Or an alternative: You must support the person wrongly convicted, along with his family. From your own pay, not the state.

      • Weerd Beard says:

        That’s kinda how I feel. Really my feelings for the Death Penalty is more about public safety. Most people are good, and a small percentage of people are downright evil and/or dangerous. What do we do with them? Some people are just dangerous because they are stupid and naive, (I know people who would get into stupid fights and hurt people for stupid reasons, and now point out how wrong and stupid that behavior was.) Jail and Prison CAN scare some people straight…for the others it makes a nice paper trail of how well they rehabilitate, and how much they care about the rule of law.

        Still there are people who are just broken. Hardened career criminals, and lunatics like the surviving spree killers we have in the pen. These people WILL NOT GET BETTER! And they are a danger to all around them, be that citizens on the street, or jailers. I don’t like locking people up forever until they die, that strikes me as no different than the Oubliettes from the dark ages. Now I am also not for hanging the person outside the court house the moment they’re sentenced to die. We SHOULD have appeals and time for discovery, but I do think if it takes more than a decade to prove your innocence, I really have my doubts that you are indeed innocent.

        Also all trials that have the POTENTIAL of the death penalty, that is stated from the onset, so if somebody is going to lie under oath, they should know the gravity of that oath, and intentionally sending an innocent person, or a person guilty of a lesser crime to death should indeed be capital, and except in some of the more egregious cases like mass-murder, it should be considered a more serious crime under the law.

        Just because there is a problem with the system doesn’t mean the system will never work.

      • Geodkyt says:

        No, I agree that if you commit perjury or willful official misconduct in an effort to get a person convicted, you should (upon your conviction) be sentenced to the same exact penalty they were liable for. That’s just the criminal penalty.

        The civil penalties should be personal financial responsibility to them or their heirs for the loss you inflicted.

    • Weerd Beard says:

      But how do you feel about the government and the people locking people up until they are dead from age? Again, while life in prison is reversible, for the vast majority of the people sentenced to that, it’s really just a long wasteful death penalty.

      • divemedic says:

        When that is done, it is either because the person is considered beyond rehabilitation (three strikes law?) or because their crime was so despicable, that society simply cannot accept the risk having them on the street and committing more crimes.

        It isn’t about punishment, it is about keeping overly dangerous people out of society.

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