Wednesday, April 16, 2008

This Might Hurt A Little: Supreme Court OK's Lethal Injection In KY Case

Supreme Court Allows Lethal Injection for Execution

Published: April 17, 2008

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld Kentucky's method of execution by lethal injection, rejecting the claim that officials there administered a common sequence of three drugs in a manner that posed an unconstitutional risk that a condemned inmate would suffer acute yet undetectable pain.

Today's news that the Supreme Court upheld Kentucky's method of executing those on death row is big news here in California. There has been an unofficial hold on state executions for about a year now, as states waited for the High Court's decision on the practice of execution by lethal injection. (The method used by 35 of the 36 states that allow for the death penalty.)
The challenge wasn't so much to the consititutionality of lethal injection as it was to the details of the injection's administration. The appeal was brought on by two men on Kentucky's death row, each of whom were convicted of double murders.

My feelings about capital punishment have changed over the years. In my first year of college, in a Reasoning and Critical Thinking class, I chose to write a paper in support of capital punishment. But, I didn't know then what I know now. Since writing that paper, I've researched and studied the arguments for and against it at length. I understand - as best I can - wanting blood to be spilled for blood that was spilled. We all have heard the horrific and gruesome details of countless violent crimes committed against innocent men, women and children. Believe me, when I hear about a woman or child being raped and murdered and dismembered, I fantasize about how I would like the guilty piece of shite to be dispatched. It's easy to understand the feelings of the victim's loved ones to feel that the only justice would come from the death of the guilty... and that seeing them executed is still letting them off easy.

But, I also now know that the penalty of death is the sentence handed down more often to people of color than to white defendants, for similar crimes.

And, with the development of DNA evidence being able to be examined and compared, there have been a great number of cases where someone on death row has been found to have been wrongly convicted, and the actual perpetrator identified.

So, my present feeling is that, unless we truly know, without a shadow of doubt, that the person facing execution is undeniably the person who committed the crime(s), then I believe we should refrain from executing them.

Then, there's the common sense statement that - if you keep your emotions in check - makes complete sense: "You cannot teach people that killing is wrong by killing them."

That said...
I can't help but be somewhat annoyed and incredulous at the gall of convicted murderers (with DNA evidence) who, like a recent death row inmate at San Quentin, complained (through their ambulance-chasing mouthpiece lawyer) that just because they might experience some degree of pain during their execution... that we should not execute them (the "cruel and inhuman punishment" cry).

My response is simple:
There are numerous occasions when you or I or anyone has been at the dentist or being seen by a doctor...
and have been informed by the dentist, doctor or nurse that, simply put: "This might hurt a little."
And, it did hurt... sometimes a little and sometimes a lot... but, hey, we get over it and go on with our lives.
In the case of death row inmates, in the 'death chamber', about to be executed...
What the Hell? Those carrying out the death sentence should just inform the convicted that "This might hurt a little."... and get on with it. The person is being executed... for heinous crimes. Execution isn't a medical procedure that they are going to wake up from in a few minutes and then yell, "Damn! That hurt a lot!". They will be gone.
And it will have been a lot less painful than some of the methods of execution that I've imagined for them.



Executions in California Could Resume With Supreme Court Ruling

By DON THOMPSON, Associated Press Writer

SACRAMENTO—Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Wednesday's U.S. Supreme Court decision to allow lethal injections for death row inmates affirms California's capital punishment procedure and would allow executions to resume.

They have been on hold for two years because of legal challenges in federal and state court.

"I will continue to defend the death penalty and the will of the people, and I am confident that California's lethal injection protocol will be upheld," the governor said in a statement.

The Supreme Court voted 7-2 Wednesday to reject a challenge to the execution procedure in Kentucky, which uses three drugs to sedate, paralyze and kill inmates.

California is among the roughly three dozen states that uses a similar procedure. Executions have been delayed in California because of similar arguments claiming the drugs might not always work as intended, leaving inmates to die a painful death.

California has the nation's largest death row, with 669 convicts awaiting execution, including 15 women and 654 men.

In February 2006, California corrections officials halted the execution of convicted rapist and murderer Michael Morales hours before he was to be put to death.

Attorneys for Morales had challenged the three-drug sequence California used for its lethal-injection procedure one month before his scheduled execution.

They wrote that if the drugs were not administered properly it could leave Morales "paralyzed but
conscious and suffering death from ... burning veins and heart failure."

In response, U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel recommended that the state monitor the execution with two anesthesiologists. One would be in the execution chamber and another nearby to make sure Morales was unconscious before the two remaining drugs were injected.

Morales' execution was delayed for a day and ultimately canceled after the anesthesiologists refused to participate because of ethical concerns.

"There has been a de facto moratorium," said Seth Unger, a spokesman with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. "The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling opens the door for us to proceed with the Morales case in California."

The next step is a hearing in Fogel's courtroom in San Jose, scheduled for June 12. At that time, the judge could set a schedule for reviewing the state's proposed execution procedure.

In December 2006, he ruled that California's procedure was so badly designed and carried out that it was likely to cause pain and suffering.

Since then, the state has taken a number of steps to address the concerns, including building a better-lighted death chamber at San Quentin State Prison.

Corrections official submitted a new execution plan, but it was invalidated last fall by a Marin County Superior Court judge.

Attorney Brad Phillips sued the state in Marin County, home to San Quentin, on behalf of two condemned inmates. Judge Lynn O'Malley Taylor agreed with Phillips that state prison officials had failed to gather public comment and take other required steps in forming their new execution plan.

The state is appealing the Marin County ruling. In the meantime, Unger expects the lethal-injection case before the federal court in San Jose to proceed.

David Senior, one of Morales' attorneys, said he expects the federal judge to delay a decision until California state courts resolve the pending administrative challenge.

"California may ultimately choose a procedure which is completely different from the state of Kentucky's," he said.

No judge in California has scheduled an execution since the one was halted for Morales, who was sentenced in 1983 for the rape and murder two years before of 17-year-old Terri Winchell in a Lodi vineyard.

"There are four people who have basically exhausted all their appeals ... and for whom we could set dates once the Morales litigation is resolved," said Gareth Lacy, spokesman for the state Attorney General's Office.

State attorneys reviewing the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the Kentucky case preliminarily believe it also will end challenges to California's procedure, Lacy said.

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