Wednesday, April 30, 2014

'Tinker[ing] With The Machinery Of Death' — With Disastrous Results

The late Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, revoking his prior support of the death penalty in America, proclaiming it under all circumstances unconstitutional (presumably under the Eighth Amendment), said "[f]rom this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death." He was unable to work his will on the Court of his day, and the executions continued. Yesterday in Oklahoma, according to the WaPo, a botched execution gave more credence to the arguments of those of us who say the death penalty should be banned as "cruel and unusual punishment[]":
Tuesday night’s botched execution in Oklahoma, which resulted in an inmate’s writhing death from a heart attack 43 minutes after he received what was supposed to be a lethal injection, was just one in a series of bungled execution attempts the past few years. It’s prompting calls for a moratorium on capital punishment from death penalty opponents.

The inmate, Clayton Lockett, was confirmed unconscious 10 minutes after the first dose in the state’s new three-drug protocol was administered. The first drug, midazolam, is intended to render a person unconscious. But three minutes later, he began breathing heavily, thrashing and straining to lift his head, media witnesses said.


The blinds were then lowered to prevent people in the viewing gallery from seeing inside the death chamber. ...

Patton told reporters Lockett’s vein line had “blown.” When asked what he meant, Patton said the vein had “exploded.”

A colleague of mine once argued that a punishment had to be "cruel AND unusual" to violate the Eighth Amendment. Somehow I doubt that's what the Constitution's framers meant: nowhere is it recorded that any of them were computer professionals. But until one of The Mighty Five (and I'm not talking about composers of music) passes from this world, I'll be very surprised if the Supreme Court rules any method of execution to be unconstitutional. The "tinker[ing]" continues, and the "blown" executions continue...

An Oklahoma death chamber

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