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Ohio executes inmate using untried, untested lethal injection method
January 17, 2014 8:53 AM   Subscribe

On Thursday morning, Ohio executed Dennis McGuire for the 1989 rape and murder of Joy Stewart. However, due to an embargo on the common used lethal injection drug pentobarbital, the state used an untried combination of midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a morphine derivative, for the execution. The procedure took 24 minutes, during which McGuirse was reported to have been "choking and snorting" and was described as "horrific".

There are questions of whether the procedure constitutes "cruel and unusual"

Pentobarbital is used to render the prisoner unconscious before another drug is administered to stop the heart, but has shortages in the US after the Danish manufacturer of pentobarbital placed an embargo on distributions to the US to prevent it being used in American executions.

Besides Ohio, other states are trying to get custom pharmacies to create the drug for them, with varying success.

Shortages might affect scheduled executions in Texas, Florida, and Louisiana.
posted by I am the Walrus (292 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sadly, it may be cruel, but I am not sure you can call it unusual.

It saddens me there is a death penalty.

The society is better off without some people, but I'm pretty sure killing them is not the answer.

In the end though, I don't see how once you've decided it's OK to kill someone that the method much matters.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:59 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


There are questions of whether the procedure constitutes "cruel and unusual"

I'm going to suggest that there are also answers to those questions.
posted by Hoopo at 8:59 AM on January 17 [19 favorites]


Even more than usual, don't read the comments. Jesus Christ.
posted by HotToddy at 9:00 AM on January 17 [10 favorites]


.

For him and for us. How absolutely terrible.

"Midazolam, a drug that is commonly prescribed to treat critically-ill patients because of its short half-life and relatively few side-effects, is already in short supply in hospitals, and medical practitioners fear the dearth will now intensify given the sharply increasing demands of prison wardens."

The cherry on top.
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:00 AM on January 17 [18 favorites]


From this morning's "Democracy Now":

Witness: "I would say for 10 to 13 minutes Mr. McGuire appeared to be gasping for air. I don’t know if it was air hunger or exactly what it was, but all I’m going to tell you is the description. He gasped deeply. There was kind of a rattling, guttural sound. There was a kind of a snorting through his nose. A couple times he definitely appeared to be choking."

A little bit of visceral horror on my ride into work.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:01 AM on January 17 [5 favorites]


This is the outcome of a serious campaign within the EU to cut off the supply of execution drugs to the US. There was one instance where the German maker of a drug forced a wholesaler in the US some sales that they weren't sure were going for medical use.
posted by Thing at 9:01 AM on January 17 [12 favorites]


Meanwhile, a Wyoming lawmaker proposes firing squads.
posted by emjaybee at 9:01 AM on January 17


(And of course for his victim, but nothing we do to him will bring her back.)
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:02 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


In the end though, I don't see how once you've decided it's OK to kill someone that the method much matters.

I'm very much against the death penalty but if it is going to exist at all the method absolutely does matter, or we might as well just admit that civilization and moral authority don't mean anything.
posted by mhoye at 9:03 AM on January 17 [81 favorites]


This is probably just an attempt by my brain to get out of thinking about the fact that it's so completely horrific, but as an Ohioan, I had a moment of thinking: If the state thinks it's that important, why can't the state pay someone to set up manufacturing in Ohio and employ Ohioans to produce it? At least then we'd get a few jobs out of the deal. There's something particularly ridiculous about our allegedly-job-creating state government not being able to even execute people properly because they can't outsource the drugs involved.
posted by Sequence at 9:05 AM on January 17 [20 favorites]


I don't understand why they don't just use firing squads. Seems like a quick, painless and cheap way to execute someone. Does anybody know what the reason is not to just execute by shooting in the head? Electric chair and injection don't seem so much better.

Note I am opposed to the death penalty. But I've just never understood why they don't just use a gun, if they're going to do it. Why is that considered cruel than electric chair or injection?
posted by jcruelty at 9:06 AM on January 17 [9 favorites]


That'll teach him.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 9:07 AM on January 17 [10 favorites]


I don't recommend reading the comments, but this one stood out.
I am an anesthesiologist and historically I have been an advocate of the death penalty. However, I want to express the we have come to desperate measures to choose midazolam (Versed) and hydromorpone (Dilaudid) to overdose an individual until that individual has respiratory arrest(stops breathing), with a high probability of aspiration (vomiting into the lungs). Was a cardiac or cerebral monitor on this individual? No, this is why: Hypoxic brain injury takes about 6 minutes to begin (longer for brain death) and the heart will effectively beat 20 or more minutes beyond the initiation of brain injury before it fibrillates and no longer pumps blood. No wonder this man was observed to to breathing /moving for more than 15 minutes. This man was not clinically dead for another 30 or more minutes after the last observed movement. Just refer to anesthesia articles describing unrecognized esophageal intubation. Ironically, the midazolam may have promoted cerebral protection to further delay this individuals demise. It is my understanding the Ohio legislators who approved the use of these drugs also approved using these drugs IM (intramuscular) if IV access can not be attained. If the IM route is attempted I am certain that an individual will take more than one hour to appear to die and even than, might not die. I hope the legislators have nightmares over this decision. This is not a proud moment for Ohio and for endorsement of the death penalty in our country. Hanging is a much better and humane choice for the death penalty than these drugs.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:07 AM on January 17 [118 favorites]


I hope this isn't a terribly naïve or stupid question, but why can't we put people down the same way we do dogs and cats? The one time I have had to go through that with a beloved pet I was certain the process was humane, painless and quick (I was holding my cat through the entire process).
posted by Curious Artificer at 9:08 AM on January 17 [12 favorites]


From the NPR link:
The Dispatch also reminds readers of the crimes that McGuire committed in 1994 and what he did to his victim:

"Joy Stewart, 22, of West Alexandria, a small town about 20 miles west of Dayton, was about 30-weeks pregnant when McGuire raped her, choked her, and slashed her throat so deeply it severed both her carotid artery and jugular vein. At the same point, her unborn child died, too, probably in the woods in the rural area of Preble County where her body was found the next day by two hikers."

Stewart's family issued a statement Thursday that said, in part: "Joy's death was the hardest thing our family has had to endure. ... She suffered terror and pain. He is being treated far more humanely than he treated her."
posted by cashman at 9:08 AM on January 17 [18 favorites]


Does anybody know what the reason is not to just execute by shooting in the head?

Basically the same reason people react badly to hunting while continuing to buy and eat pre-processed animals from grocery stores. It's visually more disturbing.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:09 AM on January 17 [37 favorites]


I've never really understood why administration of a general anesthetic can end up being painful. It seems to me that thousands of people are operated on each day without any pain. Why not just anesthetize the person being executed as you would in a hospital? Maybe someone with some medical training can explain this.

I also think it's strange that the U.S. has such a medicalized approach to execution. You're killing a person. Why do you need to pretend that it's some clinical procedure? The Chinese execute people with a bullet to the back of the head. It's brutal, but so is the death penalty, and so are the crimes these people have committed. There's probably less chance of a bullet to the brain causing pain to the person being executed, but it's harder to pretend that society is not engaged in violence.
posted by Dasein at 9:10 AM on January 17 [16 favorites]


Basically the same reason people react badly to hunting while continuing to buy and eat pre-processed animals from grocery stores. It's visually more disturbing.

Note that firing squad members are instructed to aim for the heart. There's a reason for that: the effect on the marksmen.
posted by ocschwar at 9:10 AM on January 17 [15 favorites]


I don't understand why they don't just use firing squads. Seems like a quick, painless and cheap way to execute someone. Does anybody know what the reason is not to just execute by shooting in the head? Electric chair and injection don't seem so much better.

Because it's not guaranteed death. If there's one thing that Phineas Gage and Gabrielle Giffords have taught us it's that sometimes the human brain can be resistant to unthinkable trauma and come out the other side.
posted by Talez at 9:11 AM on January 17 [9 favorites]


I'm very much against the death penalty but if it is going to exist at all the method absolutely does matter, or we might as well just admit that civilization and moral authority don't mean anything.

That's my point. I think the death penalty is already admitting "civilization and moral authority don't mean anything," and once you've gone off that ledge all bets are off. The least atrocious atrocity is still an atrocity.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:13 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


What's horrifying/interesting about this is that the use of drugs has allowed death-penalty advocates to stay distant from what's going on, emotionally. We put dogs to sleep and it's considered gentle, why not people who do horrible things? There is still an emotional out; we didn't hurt the guy, just ended his life painlessly.

Without that option, it's harder. We look less civilized. Shooting someone in the head, hanging them, electrocuting them, gassing them, are all, well, messy. Full of suffering and/or blood, and the attendant traumatizing of the executioners and the witnesses.

The thing is, undoubtedly many people executed did the crimes they were convicted of, horrific crimes. I'm not against the death penalty for their sakes, but for the sake of those falsely convicted and because I don't want even a monster's blood on our collective hands. We have to be better than the monsters.
posted by emjaybee at 9:13 AM on January 17 [26 favorites]


Automated spike to the medulla oblongata.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:13 AM on January 17


I'm not even an Ohioan, and I"m ashamed that this was done in my country.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:13 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Although I should note that I am not in favor the death penalty.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:14 AM on January 17


The society is better off without some people, but I'm pretty sure killing them is not the answer.

You know, I agree with you on this, but with the inhumane condition of our prisons, I'm not sure locking them away forever is the answer either.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:15 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


The lethal injection method is preferred for the same reason remote drone strikes are preferred: it's easier on the perpetrator's conscience.
posted by Acey at 9:15 AM on January 17 [22 favorites]


The guillotine is a cheap and effective method of execution. Assuming that you wish the practice to ongo...
posted by Thing at 9:15 AM on January 17 [7 favorites]


I have also wondered why it is apparently quite easy and gentle to put down a 100lb dog, but so difficult to legally murder a 200lb human without fucking it up horrifically.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:16 AM on January 17 [13 favorites]


Perhaps states that persist in imposing the death penalty should use the same humane method we use in slaughtering cattle: application of a captive bolt gun followed by the use of a knife to efficiently sever the carotid artery and jugular vein. Then we could grind up the executed prisoner and serve them in mandatory BBQs for the legislators who continue to support the death penalty.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 9:16 AM on January 17 [35 favorites]


Everyone who knew what was going on here and participated should go to jail.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 9:17 AM on January 17 [9 favorites]


Stewart's family issued a statement Thursday that said, in part: "Joy's death was the hardest thing our family has had to endure. ... She suffered terror and pain. He is being treated far more humanely than he treated her."

After being psychologically damaged by a murderer, they've been psychologically damaged by the state.
posted by mobunited at 9:18 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


With what he did? I have no pity.
posted by Yer-Ol-Pal at 9:18 AM on January 17 [5 favorites]


I hope this isn't a terribly naïve or stupid question, but why can't we put people down the same way we do dogs and cats?

Because the drug manufacturers won't sell those drugs to the states for purposes of capital punishment.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:18 AM on January 17 [12 favorites]


With what he did? I have no pity.

So they wasted a lot of money when they could have just let him starve to death in his own feces, right?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 9:20 AM on January 17 [28 favorites]


What I don't understand is why they don't just inject potassium cyanide. It would knock him unconscious in just a few seconds, and kill in a few minutes.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:20 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


If you're going to kill condemned people, you might as well be sure about it and go North Korean on them. "Stand here." *16 ton weight drops*

Quick, effective, sure, over abruptly without prolonged suffering.

I would greatly prefer that we _didn't_ kill condemned people, particularly with the ramshackle nature of our judicial system and the frequent possibility of mistakes having been made. But if you're going to do it, let's not pretend that we're being humane about it.
posted by delfin at 9:20 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


If some states do insist on keeping DP... then yeah, firing squad. At least it's somewhat noble. At the same time, I totally see the family's viewpoint. Their daughter was pregnant (pretty far along I think).. and extremely brutally raped/tortured. I'm sure her ordeal last longer than the amount of time this guy was struggling. I'm not in favor of the death penalty but man.. this was a heinous crime.
posted by ReeMonster at 9:22 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


I think it's actually pretty brilliant that the EU is able to disrupt our barbaric execution practices by simply refusing to sell us the drugs.
posted by monospace at 9:22 AM on January 17 [57 favorites]


Add Virginia to the list of states feeling the pinch, as the legislature proposes bringing back the electric chair.
posted by indubitable at 9:23 AM on January 17


With what he did? I have no pity.

You know who else killed a woman and her baby? Timothy Evans.
posted by Thing at 9:23 AM on January 17 [37 favorites]


Their daughter was pregnant (pretty far along I think).. and extremely brutally raped/tortured. I'm sure her ordeal last longer than the amount of time this guy was struggling. I'm not in favor of the death penalty but man.. this was a heinous crime.

Her and her baby weren't the only victims. Her husband committed suicide less than a year afterwards.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:24 AM on January 17 [5 favorites]


After being psychologically damaged by a murderer, they've been psychologically damaged by the state.

I think this is a really dismissive way at looking at the legitimate and natural feelings of victims. Desiring that your daughter's killer be executed is not a sign of psychological damage; it's a totally normal and valid reaction. There are good societal reasons not to have the death penalty - chief among them that you will end up executing innocent people. But on a personal level, I think most people (in the world, not necessarily in this thread) who lost a loved one to a murder, especially one as brutal as in this case, would say that taking the criminal's life from him would be doing justice.
posted by Dasein at 9:26 AM on January 17 [26 favorites]


Who do we kill if it turns out he was innocent? Does that person's execution also need to be needlessly cruel?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:26 AM on January 17 [12 favorites]


The vileness of his actions are not what is in question here. The question is that if the state was cruel and inhumane in its execution. I am not an advocate of the death penalty, but if it is to exist, it should be shorter than 30 fucking minutes.
posted by Think_Long at 9:26 AM on January 17 [8 favorites]


I'm opposed to capital punishment, but if we are going to have it, it shouldn't be clinical, clean and hidden. It should be in the public square, drawn and quartered, bloody and gruesome, broadcast on live TV and piped into every schoolroom. If you're going to do it, step up and take responsibility for it. Don't pretend that violence is not violent. If the public can't stomach reality, maybe they will reconsider.

Making it clean and impersonal is the same as using remote drones to execute people you don't like. It's just too easy.
posted by JackFlash at 9:28 AM on January 17 [9 favorites]


ocschwar: Note that firing squad members are instructed to aim for the heart. There's a reason for that: the effect on the marksmen.

In not sure if this is still a custom, but one of the rifles used by the firing squad will contain blank cartridges, so that individual pangs of conscience can be quelled by the possibility that you didn't fire the fatal shot.
posted by dr_dank at 9:28 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


Cases like this are a real test for death penalty opponents like myself. Its hard being against it when you know that this guy deserved no mercy for what he did. Of course that doesn't negate the massive financial cost and potential to execute the wrong person, but it does muddy the waters.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:28 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


Because the drug manufacturers won't sell those drugs to the states for purposes of capital punishment.

Every barbiturate that the states are turning to for capital punishment is getting withdrawn from sale to state authorities for the purposes of execution. That's why they turned to this fucked up solution of a sedative and an opiate.

Never mind that lawmakers are so desperate to execute people they'll purchase drugs from "compound pharmacies" that are neither licensed for the state that purchases them (since they are licensed in their home state) or overseen by the FDA which they are required to do when acting as outsourcing facilities.
posted by Talez at 9:28 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Who do we kill if it turns out he was innocent?

He admitted his guilt in a letter to the governor last month.
posted by Dasein at 9:29 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


A single bullet to the back of the head solves the problem neatly. If you can't bring yourself, as a society, to use a quick, inexpensive and very effective method then maybe you shouldn't be doing it at all.

Lethal injection, electric chairs, gas, these are all theatrics. Pointless and brutal theatrics for the small-minded.
posted by aramaic at 9:29 AM on January 17 [17 favorites]


jcruelty: " Note I am opposed to the death penalty. But I've just never understood why they don't just use a gun, if they're going to do it. Why is that considered cruel than electric chair or injection?"

The psychological effect it has on the people shooting and those witnessing the death. Also, some feel that such a death is barbaric.

Oklahoma still allows execution by firing squad. Utah did too, until recently. Their last firing squad execution took place last year.
posted by zarq at 9:30 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Just shoot 'em up with heroin, wait for them to nod off, then put a bag over their head…
posted by littlejohnnyjewel at 9:30 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]


Joy's death was the hardest thing our family has had to endure. ... She suffered terror and pain. He is being treated far more humanely than he treated her

But then, don't we kinda want to hold ourselves to a higher standard than a murderer/rapist? I never understand this "he did something we find morally abhorrent...therefore we should pattern our actions on his behavior!" logic.
posted by yoink at 9:30 AM on January 17 [54 favorites]


i can't decide my position of the death penalty's use on horrific cases like this - no matter how much what he did disgusts me - i have to look at things like the innocence project and decide if state sanctioned murder is worth it in order to execute those who we have no sympathy for. personally, i can't square that. our justice system is too fucked up and too often gets it wrong to allow us to wield a punishment like death.
posted by nadawi at 9:31 AM on January 17 [5 favorites]


one of the rifles used by the firing squad will contain blank cartridges, so that individual pangs of conscience can be quelled by the possibility that you didn't fire the fatal shot.

This doesn't actually work very well, as both the weight of the loaded weapon and kick on firing are different for blanks. Anyone trained should notice.
posted by jaduncan at 9:32 AM on January 17 [8 favorites]


>>The society is better off without some people, but I'm pretty sure killing them is not the answer.

>You know, I agree with you on this, but with the inhumane condition of our prisons, I'm not sure locking them away forever is the answer either.


So maybe fix that?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:33 AM on January 17 [5 favorites]


But then, don't we kinda want to hold ourselves to a higher standard than a murderer/rapist? I never understand this "he did something we find morally abhorrent...therefore we should pattern our actions on his behavior!" logic.

Because part of the deal in society is that I won't do shit that sucks to you if you don't do shit that sucks to me. This guy apparently didn't understand the value of that transaction, and should perhaps maybe have the full cost demonstrated.

I'm not the most rabid death penalty supporter. In fact, I largely oppose it.

But this fucker makes me question that.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:34 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]


Who do we kill if it turns out he was innocent?

He admitted his guilt in a letter to the governor last month.


Not quite, he acknowledged responsibility in an attempt to gain clemency, but also stated mitigating circumstances.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:35 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Because part of the deal in society is that I won't do shit that sucks to you if you don't do shit that sucks to me.

I'm pretty sure that's not the deal.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:35 AM on January 17 [24 favorites]


But then, don't we kinda want to hold ourselves to a higher standard than a murderer/rapist? I never understand this "he did something we find morally abhorrent...therefore we should pattern our actions on his behavior!" logic.

I'm against the death penalty, and that's exactly my line of reasoning. But this guy really makes my position wobbly.

If you're going to do it, do it quickly and efficiently. Never like this hot mess. Never.
posted by kimberussell at 9:36 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


I think this is a really dismissive way at looking at the legitimate and natural feelings of victims.

It is not. The government coerced a family into feeling pleasure (though ambivalent pleasure) at someone being tortured to death by torturing someone to death.
posted by mobunited at 9:36 AM on January 17


He admitted his guilt in a letter to the governor last month.

Well it's a good thing no one's ever been coerced into confessing to a crime they didn't commit.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:37 AM on January 17 [13 favorites]


The government coerced a family

I'm interested in this line of reasoning, but I don't think I follow?
posted by aramaic at 9:38 AM on January 17


This guy apparently didn't understand the value of that transaction, and should perhaps maybe have the full cost demonstrated.

Well, here's the deal. If he had plead guilty, he'd have life in prison. He wasn't executed for his crime. He was killed because he made the prosecutor's job difficult and wasted the court's time with a fair trial. That is never a good reason for murdering a convict.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:38 AM on January 17 [37 favorites]


perhaps maybe have the full cost demonstrated.

Is death really the full cost? Why not ADX Florence?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:38 AM on January 17


People are fallible.

Even in cases where we are 100% sure I think it's wrong to force people who aren't in favor of the death penalty to participate in it. So unless you can get a judge, a jury, and a defense lawyer to all agree it's a good thing, then some of these people will have to carry the guilt around and I think that's wrong.

I'm also fairly certain the US has also killed at least one innocent person. (Even if he wasn't innocent there's enough doubt that an execution should have never happened.)
posted by cjorgensen at 9:38 AM on January 17 [7 favorites]


When Utah does its executions by firing squad, the rifles are aimed and mounted in position. The shooter doesn't hold the rifle, he just pulls the trigger. If one of the rifles contained a blank round, he wouldn't be able to tell by heft or kick because he doesn't feel those things.

I think the point of mounting the rifles was to make sure they were aimed properly, so that an incompetent shooter didn't miss outright, or hit somewhere besides the heart.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:40 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]


The Dispatch also reminds readers of the crimes that McGuire committed in 1994 and what he did to his victim

i think it's important to note that opposing the death penalty, or even just a particularly cruel version of the death penalty, does not mean one is defending the actions or character of the criminal to be executed.
posted by Hoopo at 9:40 AM on January 17 [41 favorites]


In cases where the crime was horrific (as this one was) and where there's really no doubt of the criminal's guilt (as there was none here) I'm not opposed to capital punishment in theory.

But come on, the state can't perform a more humane execution than I could manage in my back yard with a gun? They make firing squads or the gallows look good? It takes a lot to lose the moral high ground to Dennis McGuire, but they seem to have managed.
posted by tyllwin at 9:40 AM on January 17 [5 favorites]


In pressing for the execution to go ahead, state Assistant Attorney General Thomas Madden had argued that while the U.S. Constitution bans cruel and unusual punishment, "you're not entitled to a pain-free execution."

Ohio's next untested execution method will presumably involve state Assistant Attorney General Thomas Madden hacking at the restrained convict with a blunt hatchet until the screaming and twitching stops, providing a great savings in equipment and pharmaceutical costs to the tax payer.
posted by figurant at 9:42 AM on January 17 [19 favorites]


There's always the Euthanasia Coaster, which could be the next big attraction at Cedar Point.
posted by delfin at 9:44 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


I'm interested in this line of reasoning, but I don't think I follow?

By legitimizing punishment as vengeance and requesting victim impact statements to factor in sentencing, the state acts as an agent for the family. As legal authorities, the state claims moral authority--it is rubber stamping death by torture as a morally proper act while connecting these actions to the family's feelings. This creates a powerful pressure to take a certain position. Taking the opposite position opens the family to accusations of disloyalty and callousness.
posted by mobunited at 9:45 AM on January 17 [15 favorites]


Because part of the deal in society is that I won't do shit that sucks to you if you don't do shit that sucks to me.

Actually, no. We have a long cultural tradition (dating back to the ancient Greeks, at least) of quite explicitly outlawing simple "eye for an eye" vigilantism, and seeing our turn away from such codes as an essential hallmark of arriving at "society" as opposed to savagery.
posted by yoink at 9:46 AM on January 17 [20 favorites]


I'm kinda surprised how many people in this thread are "not opposed to the death penalty". Actually I'm surprised it's more than zero. I guess I need to add some nuance to my stereotype of the typically mefite.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 9:47 AM on January 17 [11 favorites]


The criminal justice system should have the following motives:

1) Physically prevent likely re-offenders from offending. When necessary, life imprisonment can prevent the criminal from ever interacting with society.
2) Deter crime by having penalties relative to the severity of crime. (The murder rate in states with the death penalty is consistently higher than in states without. And the number of attempted suicides in maximum security prison indicates that it is a greater deterrent than the death penalty.)
3) Rehabilitate criminals where possible.

Relative to imprisonment, the death penalty does not aid any of these causes, and exists only to inflict revenge. In addition it inevitably leads to irreversible miscarriages of justice. Capital punishment may have been necessary before society gained the ability to reliably imprison people, but it has no place in modern civilization.

That the state was so desperate to inflict this punishment that they were willing to risk torturing a man to death is horrifying.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 9:47 AM on January 17 [18 favorites]


"I'm opposed to capital punishment, but if we are going to have it, it shouldn't be clinical, clean and hidden. It should be in the public square, drawn and quartered, bloody and gruesome, broadcast on live TV and piped into every schoolroom. If you're going to do it, step up and take responsibility for it. Don't pretend that violence is not violent. If the public can't stomach reality, maybe they will reconsider."

We can actually look back at the history of public executions and see that far from not being able to stomach reality, the majority found them entertaining and reinforced their belief in the justice of the system. Public executions make us more bloodthirsty, not less.

It's a problem common to the arguments that are formulated around the principle, "We'll make it worse! Then they'll see!" e.g. the idea on the far left that voting for Bush would lead people to understand how bad Republicans were. It doesn't work; things get worse with no guarantee of public epiphanies.
posted by klangklangston at 9:48 AM on January 17 [43 favorites]


Isn't it possible that an ugly execution is more of a deterrent than a clean one?
posted by davelog at 9:49 AM on January 17


I would personally vastly prefer a firing squad, single bullet to the head, or even a guillotine to this.

Honestly I don't understand how this is so hard. It seems an easy way to put people to death would be a gas chamber that replaced all the air inside with N2. My understanding if that the uncomfortable effects of suffocation are caused by CO2 building up in the bloodstream, and if you could exhale the CO2 out into the room you would not feel pain but would just black out from lack of oxygen. I believe that some right to death people advocate doing this with helium as a painless way to die if you have a terminal or terminally painful illness.

Of course we really should not be killing anyone anyway but if we must then it should not be so hard.
posted by Aizkolari at 9:49 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


"We have a long cultural tradition (dating back to the ancient Greeks, at least) of quite explicitly outlawing simple "eye for an eye" vigilantism, and seeing our turn away from such codes as an essential hallmark of arriving at "society" as opposed to savagery."

Also this guy named Jesus made some good points on the issue.
posted by klangklangston at 9:49 AM on January 17 [11 favorites]


Well, here's the deal. If he had plead guilty, he'd have life in prison.

He claimed as recently as last month that he and Stewart were having an affair and that the sex was consensual, then they argued and he killed her. In order to stick with this story he would have had to plead guilty to rape and 1st degree murder unless the DA gave him an option to plead down.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:51 AM on January 17


And then they killed him.
posted by delfin at 9:51 AM on January 17


on a personal level, I think most people (in the world, not necessarily in this thread) who lost a loved one to a murder, especially one as brutal as in this case, would say that taking the criminal's life from him would be doing justice.

Which is why we don't let the families of victims dispense justice. Doesn't make people wanting or not wanting vengeance wrong , it just means it's a bad way to build a society.

(I am not against the death penalty in a perfect justice system -- I am not for it, I just think you can make reasonable arguments for the death penalty if you know that the system is free of systemic bias and also never makes mistakes -- but in an imperfect one, like any justice system that any group of humans comes up with, I am vehemently against it.)
posted by jeather at 9:51 AM on January 17 [10 favorites]


Also this guy named Jesus made some good points on the issue.

I hear that guy was a convicted capital criminal though so how can we believe him?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:52 AM on January 17 [32 favorites]


Isn't it possible that an ugly execution is more of a deterrent than a clean one?

Crime rates in countries with the death penalty are not lower than in those without. Crime rates in US states with the death penalty are not lower than those in states without. If you want to argue in favor of the death penalty you cannot base that argument on deterrence, you can only base it on some rather atavistic notion of "payback."
posted by yoink at 9:53 AM on January 17 [10 favorites]


Isn't it possible that an ugly execution is more of a deterrent than a clean one?

Having done some econometrics work on execution data, I'd have to doubt that. If any thing, the brutalization effect would probably be enhanced.

From the link:

Studies of capital punishment have consistently shown that homicide actually increases in the time period surrounding an execution. Social scientists refer to this as the "brutalization effect." Execution stimulates homicides in three ways: (1) executions desensitize the public to the immorality of killing, increasing the probability that some people will then decide to kill; (2) the state legitimizes the notion that vengeance for past misdeeds is acceptable; and (3) executions also have an imitation effect, where people actually follow the example set by the state, after all, people feel if the government can kill its enemies, so can they (Bowers and Pierce, 1980; King, 1978, Forst. 1983).

posted by fifthrider at 9:54 AM on January 17 [55 favorites]


With what he did? I have no pity.

This isn't a callout to this specific commenter but just in general...I thought the death penalty was a good thing when I was younger. Now I find it abhorrent. I've found that showing death penalty supporter things in an easily digestible format is more effective than explaining my thoughts on it, so I would like to recommend to anyone interested the following movies: The Thin Blue Line, Dead Man Walking, and The Life of David Gale, in that order.
posted by phunniemee at 9:55 AM on January 17 [12 favorites]


Great job once again, America!
posted by infinitywaltz at 9:55 AM on January 17


You know who else killed a woman and her baby?

Yeah... ultimately the leader of every country engaged in military activities. But that's state sanctioned.

But, that's a different story.

There are zero winners here. What this fellow purportedly did (and a partial confession in order to seek clemency is pretty weak to hold up as proof of guilt) was horrific, and what was just done was horrific.

There a plenty of stories of people freed 10-20-? years after the fact because of wrongful prosecution, and in many of those stories the affected families still maintain the guilt of the freed person. that being said, of course McGuire likely did commit these crimes. But once we have a system in place to kill people we believe are guilty of the worst crimes we will inevitably kill people who are innocent, and that is murder, and should be prosecuted as such.

or, we could go back to Blackstone's formulation, which seems to have seriously gone but he wayside, and should be rewritten, "It is better that all potentially guilty persons be jailed than that one guilty person go free".
posted by edgeways at 9:56 AM on January 17 [6 favorites]


I'd propose a life sentence for all murder convictions and if at some point the convicted had had enough and wanted to die let them choose suicide and the method.
posted by judson at 9:56 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


I am surprised at how many people in this thread say they are opposed to the death penalty, then go on to propose some other method of killing people. I can think of a half-dozen painless and (if you're a prison system) easy-to-implement ways of killing someone, but I will not support their doing so by pointing them out, because I really don't want them to do it.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:56 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


Also this guy named Jesus made some good points on the issue.

No, no, no. That's a mistranslation that has fooled a lot of people. The Bible never prohibits killing. It prohibits murder. The difference is critical. Murder is killing someone for your own reasons, like to rob them, or because you hate their steaming guts. Killing them for the reasons of the state or other powerful social institutions is another thing entirely, and as a powerful social institution in his own right, Jesus is totally okay with this. He gets it. It's all about intention with the big guy. As long as you kill without passion, without wanting to further some agenda of your own, then slaughter away, big boy!
posted by Naberius at 9:56 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


The drug shortage thing seems ... odd. I mean, is there a shortage of large-animal euthanasia drugs? Wouldn't that be the exact same stuff you'd use for a lethal injection?

Separate from the whole question of whether we should be doing this, I'm really unclear on why various states are coming up with new procedures for lethal injections. It seems like all they'd have to do is crack a veterinary textbook and figure out what the normal procedure is for euthanizing a gorilla or other large primate. If there was ever a case where you didn't want to go off-book, that would be one.

Though personally, I think if we want to execute people we should just use a guillotine. It's fast, effective, and horrifying. If as a society we're not willing to give someone the job of lopping somebody else's head off and watching their blood drain out, if we're disturbed by that, maybe we shouldn't be in the business of executing people.

The "humaneness" of lethal injections is, IMO, more than a little problematic. It's a cowardly attempt to drain the violence and brutality out of a violent and brutal act. If we're going to engage in executions and use death as a punishment for crimes, then we should engage in executions, not pretend that we're performing humane euthanasia.

I don't think it's accidental that in judicial systems where traditional forms of execution were used exclusively, execution in general has mostly been given up. If you're required to use hanging or beheading, it's tough to muster up the stomach for an execution very often. (The French used the guillotine right up to the very end of their death penalty program, before scrapping the idea altogether; the British used long-drop hanging until their abolition.) It's a particularly perverse "middle ground" that we seem to have found in the US; mitigating our apparent discomfort with executions by tinkering around with the means, rather than fixing the means and forcing a discussion of the justification.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:56 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


I also found that my feelings on it changed significantly towards the against side as I got older, in large part because there's just no good way to make the process foolproof and there are no take-backs. This also comports with Catholic teaching on the subject, to wit:

Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent."

posted by jquinby at 9:58 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


The drug shortage thing seems ... odd. I mean, is there a shortage of large-animal euthanasia drugs? Wouldn't that be the exact same stuff you'd use for a lethal injection?

As has been pointed out upthread and in the Many Fine Articles - the companies that make those drugs refuse to sell them for use in executions.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:59 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


I'm not the most rabid death penalty supporter. In fact, I largely oppose it.

But this fucker makes me question that.


A belief that some people deserve to die for what they have done is in no way incompatible with the belief that a nation's government shouldn't be in the business of killing its citizens.
posted by slkinsey at 9:59 AM on January 17 [18 favorites]


Opposing the death penalty in general isn't the same as thinking each individual perpetrator of heinous crimes deserves pity and clemency.
posted by rocket88 at 9:59 AM on January 17 [9 favorites]


Killing them for the reasons of the state or other powerful social institutions is another thing entirely...

So - Mafia hit men are off the hook?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:00 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


Objectively we as a society are supposed to be above the "eye for an eye" form of justice. The death penalty is inhumane. There are also folks who believe that incarceration for life is just as inhumane. So what do we do with the worst of the worst? Those perpetrators who, for example, force their victims at gunpoint to drink Liquid Drano and then place duct tape over their mouths so that they can't spit it out? After raping the female victims. And then shooting them all in the head, execution-style. The perp suspects one of the victims is still alive, so he picks a Bic ball-point pen up off the floor, sticks it in the victim's ear as he lay on the floor and then stomps on it. (The pen victim ultimately survives to testify, see the Utah Hi-Fi Store Murders.) To be honest, if I was the Pen Victim, I wouldn't be too torn up if the perp struggled for breath for several minutes during his execution.

But the question still is - what do we do with those humans who kill other humans? Are long-term prison sentences the only answer?
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:02 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


No, no, no. That's a mistranslation that has fooled a lot of people. The Bible never prohibits killing. It prohibits murder.

The comment you're responding to seems to refer to Jesus's repudiation of vengeance -- "turn the other cheek" -- in the New Testament, not the commandments given in the Old Testament.
posted by kewb at 10:02 AM on January 17 [8 favorites]


But the question still is - what do we do with those humans who kill other humans? Are long-term prison sentences the only answer?

Of course not. If it's a young human who kills another human, they may not go to jail at all.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:03 AM on January 17


I have also wondered why it is apparently quite easy and gentle to put down a 100lb dog, but so difficult to legally murder a 200lb human without fucking it up horrifically.

That really is odd, isn't it? I've attended more than my share of euthanasias, and each one was a miracle of simplicity, efficiency and speed. One shot to calm the dog. Then, the second shot that puts them under in mere seconds. It's stunning how quick it is.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:03 AM on January 17


I would personally vastly prefer a firing squad, single bullet to the head, or even a guillotine to this.

Yes, this is what my husband and I were saying as well. I prefer the honesty of just straight up murdering--if you're going to kill me, put my back up against the wall and fire. The faux-scientific charade of lethal injection is perverse.

I have also wondered why it is apparently quite easy and gentle to put down a 100lb dog, but so difficult to legally murder a 200lb human without fucking it up horrifically.

It's not always. Lots of euthanasias do not go well. I unfortunately have done a lot of reading on this subject and it's an awful thing.
posted by HotToddy at 10:03 AM on January 17


No, no, no. That's a mistranslation that has fooled a lot of people. The Bible never prohibits killing. It prohibits murder.

The comment you're responding to seems to refer to Jesus's repudiation of vengeance -- "turn the other cheek" -- in the New Testament, not the commandments given in the Old Testament.


Oh, don't stop there. It was a stupid, knee-jerk comment from the hip that added nothing to the thread, and in the cold light of something like five minutes later, I wish I hadn't posted it at all.
posted by Naberius at 10:07 AM on January 17 [5 favorites]


Desiring that your daughter's killer be executed is not a sign of psychological damage; it's a totally normal and valid reaction.

Exactly why I can't imagine how executions wouldn't be psychologically damaging for the victim's family.

On the one hand: "Damn I wanna kill that fucker but he's in prison with a bunch of armed guards around him so that's a safe, distant fantasy I don't have to think about too much."

Or: "Damn I wanna kill that fucker but oh shit somebody vicariously fulfilled my fantasy. And he died trying to breathe enough to talk to his family, who I wasn't really thinking about until now. And I'm having a totally normal and valid reaction of feeling bad for somebody's son getting poisoned in front of them, which I don't want to because he tortured my daughter to death and everybody would hate me if they knew I thought that for a second..." etc. etc. etc.
posted by queen zixi at 10:07 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


The death penalty has never been about punishment so much as deterrent, and to that end I'm not sure it's easily quantifiable how successful it is. Given the murder rate in this country, my guess is that it isn't very successful.

You know, I'm of two minds. I think it's hard for anyone not to look at the crime he committed and want a degree of retribution, even ultimate retribution. I don't think there's anything wrong with that particular emotional impulse. When I first read about what he'd done, to be honest I had that moment of not being bothered at all by his suffering. But I think there is a sense in which it is the true test of our humanity and progress that we learn to transcend these sorts of primal whims and learn to be okay with letting go of the eye for an eye nonsense.

That said, the real reason I am vehemently against the death penalty is because I feel pretty strongly that it is morally better to let every guilty person live than to kill one innocent person (which we have undoubtedly done). That reason alone is enough for me to say no to the death penalty.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:08 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]


or, we could go back to Blackstone's formulation, which seems to have seriously gone but he wayside, and should be rewritten, "It is better that all potentially guilty persons be jailed than that one guilty person go free".

Actually, William Paley proposed just that. Innocent people who fell victim to misjustice were simply a collateral to the lesson that the workings of justice provided. It was better to show that people hung for crimes, even if they sometimes hadn't committed any.
posted by Thing at 10:08 AM on January 17


Unlike the anesthesiologist in Pogo_Fuzzybutt's comment, I am anti-death penalty, but beyond that I agree with everything in the quote. There are any number of drugs that would be better for use in the death penalty, and I can only wonder what imbecile came up with the combo of midazolam and hydromorphone. At one point they considered propofol (the drug that killed Michael Jackson, but using it would endanger already short supplies intended for actual medical use. There are other options but they all have drawbacks as well, whether it is unreliable supplies or the difficulty of administering a sure to be lethal dose.

The death penalty is turning out to be such a pain in the ass I say we just get rid of it.
posted by TedW at 10:09 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


Actually, William Paley proposed just that. Innocent people who fell victim to misjustice were simply a collateral to the lesson that the workings of justice provided. It was better to show that people hung for crimes, even if they sometimes hadn't committed any.

And then they hung William Paley.

...They did, right? It would be the only logical response to that statement.
posted by delfin at 10:13 AM on January 17 [12 favorites]


Too bad you can't execute someone quickly and humanely with boner pills.

As indubitable said above, we're entertaining a return to the electric chair here in capital-punishment-crazy Virginia. No time for reflection on the whole concept; law and order (and vengeance ) uber alles, I guess.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 10:14 AM on January 17


“Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement.”
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:15 AM on January 17 [32 favorites]


Why don't they just get vets to do it? They still have the drugs, right?
posted by marienbad at 10:15 AM on January 17


marienbad: "Why don't they just get vets to do it? They still have the drugs, right?"

Over the years I've put two dogs and three cats to sleep. Those experiences are the reasons why I no longer have pets in my house. Euthanizing animals does not always go smoothly and can cause suffering.
posted by zarq at 10:20 AM on January 17 [6 favorites]


Or rather, their vet put them to sleep. I paid the bill and held them in my hands or arms as they died.
posted by zarq at 10:21 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Pet euthanasia is not always clean and simple. Individual animals (of which we are one) react to medications in many different ways.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 10:22 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


So what do we do with the worst of the worst? Those perpetrators who, for example, force their victims at gunpoint to drink Liquid Drano....

As appalling, destructive, and simply *evil* as crimes like the Hi-Fi Murders are, I think as much or more harm ends up being done by turning that deadly or assaultive violence into evidence in the service of other kinds of deadly or assaultive violence, even supposedly "humane" or sanctioned or restricted. Like, what actually happens when we bring up these examples and dwell on them to convince ourselves we need to put down those we consider irredeemable or designate as "mad dogs?" What does this do except transform what should be civil and social institutions into instruments for the perpetuation of such kinds of violence?

This sort of thinking, once adopted and accepted, is why prisons become places where some crimes -- including rape, assault, extortion, and aggravated battery -- are sanctioned. It's part of the same logic as the notion that a prison can have a room where ending one of Those Monsters' lives is OK. If that's OK, then why do we care if the child rapist gets raped by another prisoner? And so prison becomes a place where some people get to keep on committing crimes and dress it up as righteousness.

Sometimes all you can do is feel bad, and work on prevention and rehabilitation where there seems to be a chance, and do everything you can to help the surviving victims find a way to go on living. Yes, you need to restrain, sometimes for a lifetime, those people who commit or will keep committing horrible acts to ensure that they cannot hurt anyone else.

Choosing that path will mean that sometimes someone is released foolishly and does something horrible again. It will sometimes mean that what happens to their victims can never be repaired or overcome. It will mean, in short, an acknowledgement and an acceptance of the truth that we all share a vulnerability to violence over the more comforting, but ultimately destructive desire for mutual power over violence as a basis for society. Deliberate violence as punishment does not remove that shared vulnerability. It undoes nothing, and what it satisfies is a delusion, however brief, that there is some measured, rightful violence that harms no innocents and does not merely extend violence into new domains.

What we forget is that, in a working penal system, once the murderers, the rapists, the abusers and molesters are away from their potential victims, they themselves are, in the most practical sense, now among the vulnerable. If you can strap a person to a table and inject that person with lethal chemicals, or line someone up against a wall, and take your time to mount, load, and aim a half-dozen rifles, you no longer *need* to except as a way to tell yourself you can master violence, except as the fantasy that it will stop some future violence or, by some law of sympathetic magic, restore the violence that has already occurred.

At the most basic level, I am not interested in finding moral or intellectual grounds where we give ourselves the right to end the lives of others, or willfully cause physical harm to others. At root, that's what every argument for the death penalty is; here, at last, we have the formula for righteous violence. Here, at last, one may kill without murdering. A society that spends os much effort, money, and time telling itself that in order to feel safe or in control is a society that is neither of those things and will never be. We may as well go on being unsafe with a clearer conscience.
posted by kewb at 10:23 AM on January 17 [22 favorites]


Wouldn't the state medical and veterinary boards have to declare the condemned "animals" and that still would make the euthanasia murky under the vet's oath.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:23 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


I'm sure her ordeal last longer than the amount of time this guy was struggling.

What's that got to do with anything? That you think human empathy is a finite resource?

Really, unspeakably horrific things happen to people. It doesn't mean it's automatically justified to want to add to that number. Hell, people who do that sort of thing often feel incredibly justified or don't really understand the ramifications of their actions- the drain cleaner murder in particular being cited here is actually a very good parallel to the botched execution, since in both cases the perpetrators thought it was a certain and quick death for their victims. The robbers with the drain cleaner had seen it in a movie, and extrapolated from there. They weren't trying to randomly torture someone, they were murderous morons who didn't know how to kill someone competently, and proceeded to further harm their victims on the same theme. Which goes back to the fact that killing people is a ghastly, hard task. Some people survive anything.

In any case, the awfulness of the criminal who was executed does not automatically create a bridge that justifies any awfulness that comes after. If you're going to make that argumement it needs to have more than that as it's starting premise because not everyone believes in the inherent worth of retributive justice.
posted by Phalene at 10:27 AM on January 17 [11 favorites]


A society that spends os much effort, money, and time telling itself that in order to feel safe or in control is a society that is neither of those things and will never be. We may as well go on being unsafe with a clearer conscience.

A society that never asks "why" will never be either. We're so scared of looking inward and making any honest connection between ourselves and the most deranged and reprehensible of society that we continue to allow people to become victims over and over and over. Why? So we don't have to confront this most uncomfortable aspect of humanity that we may share things with people we have deemed unworthy of connection.
posted by Talez at 10:28 AM on January 17 [6 favorites]


There are very few things I'm convinced of as firmly as I'm against death penalties. This is for a whole range of reasons:

1. Mistakes happen. This puts them beyond repair.
2. People can repent. This prevents redemption.
3. It is not a deterrent. People who commit crimes assume they won't be caught, and the data is against it.
4. It is unnecessary. You need not kill to remove someone from society.
5. It makes death an acceptable option. If the state condones killing, how can it be the ultimate crime?
6. It perpetuates the concept of evil, which is inherent in alienation and repression.
7. It brutalises those involved in the execution.
8. It heightens the acceptability of revenge in the course of justice.

All this is post-hoc justification for the real reason: it revolts me and goes against my concept of civilised society and the fight for an ever-more humane society in the face of our history.

I think it comes down to how I would answer the question: is it possible for a person to degrade themselves so far they lose all humanity? I don't think it is - and if it is, our greater humanity should be expressed in return.

I'm proud to be part of a society where the death penalty has been abolished, and part of a greater society in Europe that continues to fight for global abolition. (I'm not proud that, as far as I know, on a plebiscite the death penalty would be reintroduced in the UK, but I am glad that our political class has shown no particular interest in gratifying that.)
posted by Devonian at 10:28 AM on January 17 [41 favorites]


Some of this depends on what is the purpose of our prisons. Prisons should be used for rehabilitation and forgiveness. Those who commit crimes should be rehabilitated into productive members of society, and once that rehabilitation is complete, society should forgive them of their crimes and welcome them back into the world.

The death penalty should be reserved for crimes that are beyond forgiveness: torture, serial murder, causing the destruction of an economic system for personal gain, repeated abuses of power, etc. Things that many would classify as being the work of a psychopath.

If you believe that prison is a place for solely for punishment, then the death penalty has no purpose. Being locked in a box for the rest of your life is much worse than ending one.
posted by LizBoBiz at 10:29 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]


I'm also fairly certain the US has also killed at least one innocent person.

At least one? No, executing the innocent is routine in the USA. (And as you point out, we only know the tip of that iceberg.)
posted by anonymisc at 10:31 AM on January 17 [8 favorites]


The drugs thing is even more fucked up when you look at it in more detail. Midazolam is the drug that Florida and Ohio are using since they can't get pentobarbital anymore (as it's produced by a Danish manufacturer the E.U have been able to stop exporting it quite easily. It's also worth pointing out that the charity Reprieve have had a big part in lobbying for the E.U to stop exporting drugs that are used for the death penalty, so check them out if you feel so inclined).

Anyway, the really screwy thing about using Midazolam is the doses required. Remember that this is a drug in short supply. A medical dose is ~ 5mg for treating an acute condition. Florida is recommending a lethal dose of 500mg.
posted by Ned G at 10:33 AM on January 17


I actually used to postulate what method of execution I'd prefer if I ever found myself on Death Row. (No, really. I've been an avid reader of True Crime stories since I was in grade school, and I remember reading many first-person books back in the 1980s about the lives of prisoners on Death Row in different states.) I've always thought that hanging would be the most painful and unbearable. The electric chair and gas chamber also seemed to take too long and were fraught with unnecessary suffering. To my mind a firing squad seemed to be the least painful of all prescribed methods. Yet I still wondered - *does* the perp die immediately? Does every shot make its mark? Or does the perp slump to the ground and slowly bleed to death?

It seems like with all the brain power behind Big Pharma or whatever that some sort of quick, efficient, relatively painless chemical death could be developed.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:34 AM on January 17


There are questions of whether the procedure constitutes "cruel and unusual"

I'm going to suggest that there are also answers to those questions.


Honestly, in this case, I'm not so sure. There is a legal standard for the method of executions, and it is that they not have a "substantial risk" of inflicting unnecessary pain. While lethal injection has been upheld generally, the facts in this case may actually present a real question as to the constitutionality of this combination of drugs.
posted by likeatoaster at 10:36 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


I'm really surprised we're not better than that at killing people. It often seems like it's our specialty.
posted by Foosnark at 10:41 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


I oppose capital punishment.

That said, I don't get why quickness is such an important issue. Why not just do an IV barbituate drip, let the guy fall asleep, and then crank up the drip rate until death? Wouldn't the person just die in their sleep that way?

To my non-pharmacologist self, it seems like people are going out of their way to make the drug cocktails uncomfortable, if not downright painful.
posted by mondo dentro at 10:43 AM on January 17


Firing squad (bullet to the head) would be quicker. But messier for participants and would remind people that a death happened. And we can't have that. Because we're "civilized."
posted by wuwei at 10:43 AM on January 17


Why not just do an IV barbituate drip

We repeat, because every barbiturate manufacturer is withdrawing them for sale to states for the purposes of execution.
posted by Talez at 10:45 AM on January 17 [7 favorites]


"I hope the legislators have nightmares over this decision."

Personally, I hope that the legislators are charged with manslaughter. I don't understand why anybody should be let off the hook for this.
posted by schmod at 10:45 AM on January 17


As manufacturers get wise and refuse to sell their drugs to known drug abusers (such as states that will misuse those drugs to kill), states have been turning to compounding pharmacies to do the buying, like a kid outside a liquor store asking some guy off the street to take his money and buy him some beer because the cashier won't serve him.
As suppliers get wise to this, and start cutting off compounding pharmacies selling to known abusers, states have been writing themselves new laws to declare it is a State Secret where they obtain their drugs, because oversight and accountability and quality control are less important than getting their fix from fly-by-night operations.
oh FFS, really? REALLY? Just get with civilization already.
posted by anonymisc at 10:46 AM on January 17 [9 favorites]


We repeat, because every barbiturate manufacturer is withdrawing them for sale to states for the purposes of execution.

OK. I missed that one. So now I'm surprised by that. The state has the right to kill people, but not to gain access to barbituates? Truly bizarre.
posted by mondo dentro at 10:47 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Stewart's family issued a statement Thursday that said, in part: "Joy's death was the hardest thing our family has had to endure. ... She suffered terror and pain. He is being treated far more humanely than he treated her."

This is true; and I have not one iota of pity for this man, and to say that the family's reaction is truth of physchological damage from the state is idiotic and condescending.

That said, I am against the death penalty in all cases, because it is an irreversible punishment in an necessarily inperfect justice system. But expecting families of victims to have empathy for the killer? That's Hallmark philosophy and I don't think it sways anyone.
posted by spaltavian at 10:47 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


Given the suffering involved with current means of execution, where the mind is left to suffer, while the body painfully dies, I have A Modest Proposal for arguably the most humane method possible to end someone's life.

Specifically, the use of a specially modified high-power, high speed hydraulic press, designed to immediately and thoroughly crush the head of the offending human being.

Given the extreme durability and strength of such a machine, I see no reason why the device couldn't be modified to include a convenient, disposable hammock, allowing the convict to recline comfortably. Indeed, they could be given video glasses and ear buds, allowing them to watch a movie, enjoy a favorite video, or simply experience a high definition final experience on a beach, complete with relaxing aromatherapy, a nearby sunlamp, and even a light dusting of beach sand... before their thorough, immediate, and humane headcrushing.

Depending on the wishes of those wronged by the convict, a protective spash shield surrounding the head of the victim could be made of steel or bulletproof glass, per their request.
posted by markkraft at 10:49 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


THIS may get the State(s) to rethink such outlandish executions.
posted by Postroad at 10:51 AM on January 17


Without that option, it's harder. We look less civilized. Shooting someone in the head, hanging them, electrocuting them, gassing them, are all, well, messy. Full of suffering and/or blood, and the attendant traumatizing of the executioners and the witnesses.
Shooting, hanging, and gassing are all evocative of war and violence. "Lethal injection" is a medical operation performed by rational, civilized people. All of these methods are a group of humans killing another human but the theater of the act is different. We recognize a public stoning as a barbaric act of mob violence, but if the killing occurs out of sight and with the trappings of a medical operation, it can be justified as a necessary task carried out by the state on our behalf. It's a psychological shell game.
posted by deathpanels at 10:51 AM on January 17 [10 favorites]


Yet I still wondered - *does* the perp die immediately? Does every shot make its mark? Or does the perp slump to the ground and slowly bleed to death?

The guns are pre-aimed, so every shot strikes where it's supposed to.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:55 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


The police, both state and federal, must have in their possession large quantities of seized opiates. Couldn't you set up a facility that takes those drugs, instead of destroying them, and synthesize a lethal dose of something or other that would be effective and (within the boundaries of accepting capital punishment) humane?
posted by fatbird at 10:55 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


"I hope the legislators have nightmares over this decision."

As far as (some of) those legislators are concerned, this was probably a feature, not a bug. Even here in this thread, we have comments to the effect of "his suffering was less than what he inflicted".

Shame on us.
posted by RedOrGreen at 10:55 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]


designed to immediately and thoroughly crush the head of the offending human being.

This could be a way forward. Families of the executed are going to have open-cask funerals, take photos, some will get the victim exonerated with DNA proof that the prosecution claimed was "lost" during the trial, then those photos will be in the news, and the whole monstrosity will become that bit more exposed.
posted by anonymisc at 10:55 AM on January 17


paper chromatographologist: "I'm kinda surprised how many people in this thread are "not opposed to the death penalty". Actually I'm surprised it's more than zero. I guess I need to add some nuance to my stereotype of the typically mefite."

The site's large. Contains multitudes. Etc., etc.

I'm in favor of the death penalty under extraordinary circumstances. I think of prisons in a similar way as LizBoBiz. I draw the line at executing people for murdering one person, screwing with the economy or abusing power.

But if someone is an incontrovertibly murderous serial killer I don't think it's humane or even worth it to keep them locked away for the rest of their life.
posted by zarq at 10:55 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


The state has the right to kill people, but not to gain access to barbituates?

It's not about the state having a right to gain access to them. If the manufacturers sell the drugs for lethal injection, they can't sell them in Europe, which is a huge market. It's a commercial decision.
posted by Dasein at 10:56 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


The synthesis for these drugs is known. Why don't the states collectively set up a chemistry lab and create their own?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:58 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Walter White for governor!
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:59 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


It's a psychological shell game.

Not to mention that our "scientific" methods of execution were never solely intended, as originally designed, to reduce the suffering of convicts. Rather, beginning with the electric chair, they were born out of a distinctly Victorian taboo on blood and the shedding of blood. We've gone to great lengths to try to find ways of killing bloodlessly, even if the methods we choose are as viscerally horrifying and impractical as the gas chamber, the electric chair, and lethal injection. In the reverse fashion, the persistence of the firing squad in Utah arose out of a similar sort of fixation - the Mormon idea of blood atonement.

There are infinitely many quicker, cheaper, and more painless ways of killing people. The problem is, like the Mongols before us, we have this blood hang-up that drives us to ever more macabre inventions.
posted by fifthrider at 11:00 AM on January 17 [6 favorites]


The synthesis for these drugs is known. Why don't the states collectively set up a chemistry lab and create their own?

The same reason they don't do this for other drugs, including ones used to benefit rather than kill people.
posted by Hoopo at 11:03 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


Kadin2048: "The drug shortage thing seems ... odd. I mean, is there a shortage of large-animal euthanasia drugs? Wouldn't that be the exact same stuff you'd use for a lethal injection?"

Curious Artificer: "I hope this isn't a terribly naïve or stupid question, but why can't we put people down the same way we do dogs and cats?"

Speaking as an individual who works with veterinary drugs from time to time, I can tell you that the price per bottle for sodium pentobarbital has gone through the roof*. Because of the demand for it in other contexts, probably, and possibly because the suppliers have increased the cost to keep it off the market for veterinary use so that it will be available for use in other areas where persons are willing to pay more.

*The 20 ml bottle we can buy now costs 10x or more what we used to be charged for 50 ml bottles. And the price keeps going up. It can be used for terminal procedures, but it's also good in many contexts for surgical plane anesthesia, except that the cost per use is now making this pretty much not feasible.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:03 AM on January 17


Am I right in thinking that the people who are the most enthusiastic about the State having the right and means to kill individual people are also those who most oppose it if it takes steps to ensure that all individuals receive medical treatment if they need it?
posted by Grangousier at 11:04 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]


"Lethal injection" is a medical operation performed by rational, civilized people.

I'm reasonably sure that actual medical personnel are not involved in legalized murder, under the rationale that it would violate the principle "do no harm," and that it's actually a pseudo-medical procedure.
posted by graymouser at 11:04 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


I actually used to postulate what method of execution I'd prefer if I ever found myself on Death Row. (No, really. I've been an avid reader of True Crime stories since I was in grade school, and I remember reading many first-person books back in the 1980s about the lives of prisoners on Death Row in different states.) I've always thought that hanging would be the most painful and unbearable.

Long drop hanging works by destroying the brain stem. It is therefore fairly instant, and much to be preferred to what happened here.
posted by jaduncan at 11:05 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Like someone else mentioned up thread I've really surprised the states that are having trouble with this don't use an inert gas like nitrogen. A vaguely sealed room and a flood of either nitrogen or argon available from any welding supply house and the victim passes out and then suffocates. It's such an insidious death that as an industrial worker I need to be certified for work in confined spaces so I don't accidentally kill myself. It would be easy peasy and because there is no controlled substance involved supply chain wouldn't be a problem.
posted by Mitheral at 11:06 AM on January 17 [5 favorites]


I'm reasonably sure that actual medical personnel are not involved in legalized murder, under the rationale that it would violate the principle "do no harm," and that it's actually a pseudo-medical procedure.

States have been known in the past to have doctors on call for their death chambers, whose identities they carefully conceal from their state licensing boards. So, yeah, even more of a sick farce.
posted by fifthrider at 11:06 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


He admitted his guilt in a letter to the governor last month.

Belatedly, you know who else has admitted guilt?

Robert Hubert.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:07 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


I draw the line at executing people for murdering one person, screwing with the economy or abusing power.

It's not that screwing with the economy or abusing power are crimes that deserve the death penalty. It's that people who do that tend to by psychotic (lacking empathy and remorse, manipulative, narcissistic) and is mostly considered untreatable. Psychopaths are bad for society as a whole and bring great harm to everyone around them.

(You'll notice I also drew the line at murdering one person. It's the serial murderers that are beyond rehabilitation.)
posted by LizBoBiz at 11:09 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Since it seems as if the severed head stays conscious for about 8 seconds after being detached from the body (people who have been beheaded tend to look around if the head is help up) I think that to be rendered unconscious, THEN beheaded would be the way to go.

Even in Saudi Arabia, executed people are heavily sedated first.
posted by Danf at 11:10 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


zarq: " But if someone is an incontrovertibly murderous serial killer I don't think it's humane or even worth it to keep them locked away for the rest of their life."

Governments can fuck up a two car funeral procession, and I say that as a strong believer that we need more government intervention, because private industry could probably improve on the state's performance by fucking it up with just a single car. Trusting the state's criminal justice system to reach any conclusions incontrovertibly seems naive to me.

I'm also disgusted by the idea that it isn't "worth it" to pay to incarcerate our worst offenders, even if the only reason to do so were to keep them alive so they could be released if their conviction was found to be unjust. We can debate the humaneness of killing someone versus locking them up for the rest of their life, but there's no debating the fact that one choice lets us partially make up for our mistakes, while one does not.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:16 AM on January 17 [6 favorites]


It's the serial murderers that are beyond rehabilitation.

There are life sentences without the possibility of parole. We can remove psychopaths from society without engaging in state-sanctioned murder, and that way there's no chance of killing an innocent person.
posted by graymouser at 11:16 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


Long drop hanging works by destroying the brain stem. It is therefore fairly instant, and much to be preferred to what happened here.

Only when done correctly, and the difficulty of doing so (and lack of people eager to become experienced executioners) is what caused it to fall out of fashion as many botched hangings horrified onlookers. The length of the rope to snap the neck cleanly is variable depending upon the weight of the condemned. Too long, their head pops off; too short, they strangle and do the hangman's dance. Knot placement is also important.

Even in Saudi Arabia, executed people are heavily sedated first.

Good question: why isn't the condemned sedated to make them co-operative and much less likely to create a spectacle? Or at least offered a pill to take voluntarily to do so? It seems counterproductive, if you're actually in favour of capital punishment, to allow these sorts of PR nightmares.

[In some theoretical sense, I could be in favour of capital punishment under certain conditions, but practically, I'm totally opposed to it in all cases for too many reasons to list here.]
posted by fatbird at 11:21 AM on January 17


Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:26 AM on January 17 [5 favorites]


Another movie suggestion on the topic might be: Into the Abyss by Werner Herzog.
posted by linear_arborescent_thought at 11:27 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


The discussion of various types of execution reminds me of a story arc in HBO's series Oz, in which a death-row inmate is permitted by law to choose the form of his execution. He decides he wants to be stoned to death, like in the Bible.

The resulting protests and media backlash cause quite a lengthy stay of execution for him, though it was never made clear if this was his intention or not, as he was pretty weird in the head.
posted by rifflesby at 11:29 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


tonycpsu: "I'm also disgusted by the idea that it isn't "worth it" to pay to incarcerate our worst offenders, even if the only reason to do so were to keep them alive so they could be released if their conviction was found to be unjust."

You misunderstand me. I was not referring to money. Multiple, multi-decade-long studies have shown that it costs many more millions of dollars (stretching into billions, if you examine enough of a time span) to maintain the death penalty than it does to imprison people for life.

The argument that we can save money by executing people instead of keeping them imprisoned is a red herring. If the prisoners lived for hundreds of years and were flat-out denied the ability to appeal their first conviction and sentencing, then there might conceivably be a cost savings. Even that's doubtful. Otherwise, no.

In my ideal world, the death penalty would apply to people who without a doubt had committed mass murder. Like the 9/11 terrorists, had any survived. Or Osama bin Laden. I'd never have it applied otherwise. I'm talking about RARE cases, where evidence is so overwhelming that it is vanishingly, impossibly unlikely to be proven wrong.
posted by zarq at 11:32 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Insurance against unintentional survival of particularly robust passengers
posted by BigLankyBastard at 11:37 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


In my ideal world, the death penalty would apply to people who without a doubt had committed mass murder. Like the 9/11 terrorists, had any survived. Or Osama bin Laden. I'd never have it applied otherwise. I'm talking about RARE cases, where evidence is so overwhelming that it is vanishingly, impossibly unlikely to be proven wrong.

See, my problem with killing them is that those guys have a lot of intelligence that would be useful in preventing other attacks or in rooting out other would be attackers. Tim McVeigh for example left a lot of unanswered questions when he was executed.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:37 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]


every barbiturate manufacturer is withdrawing them for sale to states for the purposes of execution

This is still a bizarre excuse: barbituates are not super hard to make. There are a number of synthetic routes and the chemistry isn't really hard or anything. The precursors are controlled, but that shouldn't be such a big deal for a state actor. I don't understand why one of the states (or a consortium) hasn't just established their own provider, private or in a govt lab.

But then I don't understand most of the thinking surounding the death penalty. The whole thing is beyond bizarre.
posted by bonehead at 11:39 AM on January 17


a specially modified high-power, high speed hydraulic press

This is overkill. There is a perfectly adequate method that's already been mentioned, used for humane slaughter; the captive bolt gun drives a steel rod through the brain stem instantly and thoroughly annihilating it. This causes an instantaneous cessation of consciousness and very little external trauma. If the captive bolt is done right the followup throat-cutting is not necessary. It is a skill and can be botched, but so is finding a vein.
posted by localroger at 11:43 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


So they wasted a lot of money when they could have just let him starve to death in his own feces, right?

You understand, tough guy, that the thing that purportedly separates a guy like that from the vast majority of us blabbing about it on the intranets is that he's the one capable of committing the atrocity, right? FFS.
posted by aught at 11:43 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


Cases like this are a real test for death penalty opponents like myself. Its hard being against it when you know that this guy deserved no mercy for what he did.

No, it's not. The death penalty is wrong, period.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:44 AM on January 17 [8 favorites]


Because part of the deal in society is that I won't do shit that sucks to you if you don't do shit that sucks to me.

I'm pretty sure that's not the deal.


If I had a buck for every mangled and corrupted paraphrase of the Golden Rule I've heard in my life that ends up vaguely condoning hurting others, I'd take the thread out for drinks tonight.
posted by aught at 11:48 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


"Specifically, the use of a specially modified high-power, high speed hydraulic press, designed to immediately and thoroughly crush the head of the offending human being. "

Heh. I was thinking the same thing when I opened the thread, honestly. Inspired by the Kids in the Hall?

"[In some theoretical sense, I could be in favour of capital punishment under certain conditions, but practically, I'm totally opposed to it in all cases for too many reasons to list here.]"

That's where I fall. I'm not opposed, in theory, to executing an incontrovertibly guilty and recidivist person. However, the practical problems with achieving that level of faith in the process means that in practice, I'm against giving the state the power to execute people. I understand the necessity of lethal force for police and military use, but once someone is captured, that imminent threat is removed.
posted by klangklangston at 11:48 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


I tend to think the thing that separates a guy like that from the vast majority of us blabbing about it on the intranets is that he's the one capable convicted of of committing the atrocity.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:51 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


> you might as well be sure about it and go North Korean on them. "Stand here." *16 ton weight drops*

For some in the DPRK, it's worse than 20-30 minutes. Skip down to the compression chamber if you like nightmares.
posted by morganw at 11:52 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


in response to a whole bunch of the usual "but but but what about the victim! He didn't suffer like they did" stuff...

You know what? I've never had anyone close to me horrifically murdered (or state-executed, for that matter.) I don't know how I would react but it is quite possible that I would become obsessed with punishing the murderer, making him suffer, extracting vengeance.

That's pretty much why we bother having a state- because hypothetical vengeance-driven me is an incredibly shitty judge of what should happen.

That seems easy to grasp. And well, there's the whole Jesus thing, yeah the basis of your religion is a guy who was wrongfully executed by the state. But really, if you even fucking think about this, vengeance on that level can't even work, because suffering is not commensurate.

Say the murderer killed your sister. If the point of this is to balance out the suffering, shouldn't you kill his sister instead of him? Imagine how the murdering bastard would feel then!

What if he killed a whole room full of children? Well, you can't make him a child again, but what you could do is stuff him full of seriously bummer psychedelics and shoot him in the leg or something, let him bleed almost to death, then do it again every week or so until the count is right. You could make a whole season of a reality show out of it! (hmm I didn't start out thinking about White Bear, from Black Mirror, but I guess it crept up on me...)

It;s difficult for me to discuss this stuff because while I can easily see how you- a person- would want to get revenge on someone who has violated someone you love, I can't really at all see why anyone would think the state should act on that same impulse.
posted by hap_hazard at 11:53 AM on January 17 [7 favorites]


Wouldn't the state medical and veterinary boards have to declare the condemned "animals" and that still would make the euthanasia murky under the vet's oath.

Because the historical examples of when governments treat selected humans as "animals" are such high points of history.
posted by aught at 11:53 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]


From what I've read - and it's a lot - the standard method of execution in the DPRK is being tied to a pole and shot by a 3 man firing squad, three times: first in the throat, severing the ropes binding your head and allowing you to slowly bleed and choke but not cry out; next the chest causing the ropes binding you there to sever and causing you to slump forward bowing in submission to the gathered crowd; and then the final shot to the gut dropping you face first onto the ground where your corpse will then be pelted with rocks and spittal from the onlookers.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:56 AM on January 17


This is still a bizarre excuse: barbituates are not super hard to make. There are a number of synthetic routes and the chemistry isn't really hard or anything. The precursors are controlled, but that shouldn't be such a big deal for a state actor. I don't understand why one of the states (or a consortium) hasn't just established their own provider, private or in a govt lab.

Governments are trying to do that, such as Missouri who are buying barbiturates through a compound pharmacy in Oklahoma. Typically compound pharmacies have no FDA oversight because they make specific compounds for the treatment of specific patients and deal mostly with low output. Instead of industrial processes they have guys that just titrate stuff the laborious way. However, when you're dealing with compounds that aren't patient specific (i.e. the very compound you're buying to execute x number of prisoners) you then become an outsource facility which then requires you to go through FDA rigmarole.

The Missouri DoC and the OK compound pharmacy are probably falling afoul of federal law procuring a mass produced substance through a lab with no FDA oversight. It's a giant no-no.
posted by Talez at 11:59 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


Surely these states all have enough meth cooks in their own penal systems already to explode every beating heart on every death row there is!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:01 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


An interesting thing about this thread is that a huge chunk of it violates Metafilter guidelines against calling for violence against another. I guess that's okay when talking about state-sanctioned violence? Kind of the whole dilemma in miniature.
posted by HotToddy at 12:03 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


zarq: "In my ideal world, the death penalty would apply to people who without a doubt had committed mass murder. Like the 9/11 terrorists, had any survived. Or Osama bin Laden. I'd never have it applied otherwise. I'm talking about RARE cases, where evidence is so overwhelming that it is vanishingly, impossibly unlikely to be proven wrong."

The problem is you're not articulating an actual legal standard we could use, you're just citing some extreme examples. "Without a doubt" suggests that we could ever find anything on the planet that there was universal, 100% agreement with, which is not the case. This is precisely why the actual legal standard is "beyond a reasonable doubt", with the weasel word "reasonable" there to ensure that it ends up being more of a democratic decision of what's reasonable in that jurisdiction.

The problem there is that jurisdictions often arrive at unreasonable standards, so it's unreasonable to expect any consistent, workable definition of reasonable. We see this with racially-motivated sentencing, prosecutors hiding evidence or refusing to make it available to the defense as required by law, etc. You might have your feelings on what crimes rise to the level of capital punishment, but unless you have a way to encode this into law that wouldn't ensure that these "RARE cases" become very common cases, you're still contributing to a system that over time is guaranteed to commit grave errors.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:04 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


I think this is one of those things - like gun control and health care - where some kind of deep-rooted cultural nuttiness stops the bulk of Americans from admitting that the entire rest of the rich'n'democratic world (except Japan in this case) has figured out the right way to go on this one. Only more so in the case of the death penalty - I mean, even Tsarist Russia got rid of it.

(All countries have these blind spots btw - in the UK it's education.)
posted by Mocata at 12:11 PM on January 17 [4 favorites]


With opioids, clinically significant respiratory depression does not occur until heavy sedation kicks in. He should have been unconscious or very close to it. Death from opioid overdose does not usually involve gasping and struggling unless aspiration occurs. Absent an error in dosing/administration, I'm not fully convinced that his movements were not reflexive.

As far as the sedative goes, propofol would have been a better choice, but midazolam will put you out all the same. They don't mention details of the procedure, but they should have administered midazolam first, holding the hydromorphone for several minutes until heavy sedation was evident.

My guess: either the account is inaccurate, somebody screwed up, or McGuire experienced an atypical reaction of some kind.
posted by dephlogisticated at 12:11 PM on January 17


My guess: either the account is inaccurate, somebody screwed up, or McGuire experienced an atypical reaction of some kind.

Our the other option: These people aren't anesthesiologists. They don't have the knowledge to make the call. And since nobody from the medical profession would help them knowing they'd shortly lose their license, this isn't a problem that's easily fixed.

This is why the protocols are traditionally structured so that drugs work one after the other consistently as an automated process. Nobody there has the expertise to make the judgement call required to administer multiple drugs in succession at certain thresholds.
posted by Talez at 12:15 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


cashman: "Stewart's family issued a statement Thursday that said, in part: "Joy's death was the hardest thing our family has had to endure. ... She suffered terror and pain. He is being treated far more humanely than he treated her.""

While in this instance I do in fact agree with the family, the system itself is massively broken. We regularly kill innocent people; now we're going to be torturing them to death, as well.

Yay for the U. S. of A.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:15 PM on January 17


To me (staunch opponent of CP) the technicalities of the execution are very much a separate question from whether we should be executing people. Bottom line: if we're going to do it, we should be doing it right, for chrissake.

This utterly depraved, shameful, and embarrassing clusterfuck in Ohio is nothing short of a national humiliation. The state government of Ohio should be deeply ashamed to show their collective faces after that horrid spectacle. Hey, Ohio DOC, you had ONE JOB, and that was killing a man without making a complete God-Damned hash of the job. As discussed at horrific length already in this thread, it's really NOT THAT HARD to kill people quickly. This perverse reluctance to rely on any method involving major physical trauma is the main barrier to what really should be the main objective: Instantaneous brain-death. I can imagine a half-dozen contraptions that will accomplish that objective approaching 100% of the time, without breaking a sweat: Hydraulic presses; multiple large-caliber or 12-gage rounds set off from a variety of angles; the slaughterhouse methods discussed above, but from several angles at once.

Really, it's embarrassing (completely separate from the ongoing National humiliation that is our Capitol Penalty Justice system) that we set out ostensibly to perform this simple task and screw it up so horribly, in such a totally predictable and preventable manner.

It's a regrettable (and, frankly, cowardly) impulse to avoid the APPEARANCE of messiness, brutality, or inhumanity that led to this ACTUALLY messy, brutal, and utterly inhumane cockup.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 12:15 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


people who without a doubt had committed mass murder. Like the 9/11 terrorists, had any survived. Or Osama bin Laden.

Slight nitpick, but I think it would be hard to maintain with a straight face that OBM was an actual mass murderer in any sense that doesn't dragnet in a whole lot of heads of state, and heads of non-states, and possibly even stretch to upstanding people like Nelson Mandela. OBM inspired and instructed minions to kill foreign targets on the other side of the world. On that behavior, he stands in the finest of company.
Of course, internal consistency has stopped neither vengeance nor politics in the past, so it's a non-issue in any practical sense.
posted by anonymisc at 12:16 PM on January 17 [11 favorites]


Even in cases where we are 100% sure I think it's wrong to force people who aren't in favor of the death penalty to participate in it

Having been a juror on a murder trial that was not a death penalty case, I'm pretty sure that we would not have been able to come up with a guilty verdict if we had known we were condemning a man to death. So I think the death penalty sometimes ends up perverting justice in two different ways: executing the innocent and allowing the guilty to go free.

(Well, perhaps he wouldn't have gone free, but we would have settled on a lesser charge that would have put him back on the street much sooner.)
posted by malocchio at 12:17 PM on January 17 [3 favorites]


mobunited: "Stewart's family issued a statement Thursday that said, in part: "Joy's death was the hardest thing our family has had to endure. ... She suffered terror and pain. He is being treated far more humanely than he treated her."

After being psychologically damaged by a murderer, they've been psychologically damaged by the state.
"

In what way? Are you insinuating that the state somehow made the family insensitive to McGuire's suffering? I'm pretty damned sure the blame for the anger in their statement rests 100% with McGuire, not the state.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:21 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Thing: "You know who else killed a woman and her baby? Timothy Evans"

For those who don't know, Timothy Evans was hung for the crime of killing his wife and baby. Before dying he accused his downstairs neighbor of the crime... who turned out to be a serial killer, and confessed. Too late for Mr. Evans.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:23 PM on January 17 [6 favorites]


For some in the DPRK, it's worse than 20-30 minutes. Skip down to the compression chamber if you like nightmares.

Holy. Holy fuck. I forced myself to read through the entirety of her testimony. I knew it was bad in the DPRK, but I had no idea it was that horrific.

I think the world invading the DPRK right the fuck now would come as close to the definition of 'a just war' as anything ever could.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:25 PM on January 17 [6 favorites]


I think the world invading the DPRK right the fuck now would come as close to the definition of 'a just war' as anything ever could.

Not to further the derail too much more but... Her testimony is mild to boot!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:32 PM on January 17


I'm pretty damned sure the blame for the anger in their statement rests 100% with McGuire, not the state.

The state gave them an opportunity to approve of the real fatal torture of a human being and by including them in the sentencing process, made them a party to it.

Since people seem to be all caught up in the sacredness of the family's pain, let me pull back and offer an analogy.


[TRIGGER WARNING: Depicts an adult striking a child.]


Let's say another kid slaps my son at school. I go to him, hug him and probably without too much coaxing, get him to agree that he wish he'd been able to slap that kid back.

The next day I call a family meeting. I drag that other kid in by one arm. I warmly assure my son that I heard what he said, and that the whole family supports him.

Then I hit the other kid. Hard. And again. I draw some blood. My son is quiet; after all, he told me this is what he wanted. I have made him complicit. One more time. I let the kid go.

The whole family's looking at my boy. What is he going to say about me, about the incident? I just did what he wished he could have done. And of course, my son doesn't want to look like he's going against the family.

Going by some of the reasoning floating around, the flaw in my parenting is that I should have just hit the other kid once.

But of course, you want me to respect the family's pain, and the magnitude of McGuire's offense. But the fact is that, as much as you want this man who was tortured to death, who was horribly immoral, to be wholly inhuman, he still felt pain like us, and we can still understand that, in an elemental sense, inflicting this sadistic kind of death is a violation--except now we can't, because we instead send the message that torture and death are not defined by what happens to humans, but political allegiance. Your pain is valid. His pain is not. And I have made you not only take part in nullifying the moral import of inflicting pain and death, but I have made it the fulfillment of a wish--a mandatory one because, as the state, I'm the one that gets to decide what pain and death is moral, what pain and death isn't, so you sure know who to agree with.
posted by mobunited at 12:43 PM on January 17 [3 favorites]


Lutoslawski: "The death penalty has never been about punishment so much as deterrent, and to that end I'm not sure it's easily quantifiable how successful it is. "

Citation needed.

In general, it is impossible for any one statement to sum up everyone's justifications (or even objections) for capital punishment.

And I'd wager punishment - or even outright societal revenge - is as strong a reason to many supporters as any other.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:46 PM on January 17


I'm not surprised. There was an interesting episode a few years ago when the DEA confiscated the State of Georgia's supply of death-penalty drugs, which had been imported from via a dealer without an import license who may have been shady as heck.

While in this instance I do in fact agree with the family, the system itself is massively broken. We regularly kill innocent people; now we're going to be torturing them to death, as well.

In addition, for every McGuire on death row, there's plenty of McGuires who managed to work the system to avoid the death penalty, and probably a dozen guys sentenced to death row for significantly less due to a combination of zealous prosecution, bias, and legal incompetence. The death penalty is cruel and unusual because it's applied to a small minority of homicide convictions, often in cases that appear quite arbitrary.

Even if we assume the process of prosecution and conviction are sound, arbitrary disparities in sentencing from homicide to homicide are significant problems.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:48 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Bunny Ultramod: "He admitted his guilt in a letter to the governor last month.

Belatedly, you know who else has admitted guilt?

Robert Hubert.
"

"Robert Hubert was a watchmaker from Rouen, France, who was executed following his false confession of starting the Great Fire of London."

Honestly, do some Mefites think there's a point system for the most obscure, unexplained comment?
posted by IAmBroom at 12:48 PM on January 17 [16 favorites]


Methods that would be more predictable than Versed + Dialud:

-Nitrogen poisoning
-30 morphine pills
-Blast of CO2 to the face (how pigs are killed in the slaughterhouse)
-Bullet to the back of the head, a la China

/Not a doctor, but an interesting thought experiment.
posted by stewiethegreat at 12:55 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Who is driving the execution jalopy in these states? I mean, can't they find at least someone with a medical degree to determine a method that is at least likely to be humane? Other than just injecting 1000X the therapeutic dose of the first thing they grab off the shelf? I don't know, maybe this is the only thing that was cleared legally, but, Jesus christ; A bullet to the head is better than this.
posted by Halogenhat at 1:08 PM on January 17


Honestly, do some Mefites think there's a point system for the most obscure, unexplained comment?

You know who else wanted points for obscure, unexplained comments?
posted by cjorgensen at 1:13 PM on January 17 [13 favorites]


The death penalty has never been about punishment so much as deterrent, and to that end I'm not sure it's easily quantifiable how successful it is.

Citation needed.


If I've learned anything from films, it doesn't even stop the condemned from killing again and again and again and again and again and again.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:14 PM on January 17 [3 favorites]


-30 morphine pills

Yes please.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:14 PM on January 17


I mean, can't they find at least someone with a medical degree to determine a method that is at least likely to be humane?

'Humane' isn't even on the list of consideration for most prisoners in the USA period, let alone for executions.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:16 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


And any ethical medical practitioner should obey their Hippocratic Oath.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:31 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


malocchio: " So I think the death penalty sometimes ends up perverting justice in two different ways: executing the innocent and allowing the guilty to go free."

No doubt that it gives DAs a tool to threaten defendants with to procure pleas.
posted by Mitheral at 1:36 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


There was an episode of BBC Horizon years ago - How To Kill a Human Being. At one point he's asking about a humane way to execute people (helium), and he's talking to either a prison warden or a politician (can't remember) who says on camera in a very non-plussed way that that is not something the system is concerned with. I remember thinking about my personal beliefs for a long time after watching this. And I say that as someone who has had more than one family member murdered.

Found the link (it's just clips, though the full episode is probably in chunks on youtube??)

How To Kill a Human Being
posted by polly_dactyl at 1:46 PM on January 17 [5 favorites]


Lutoslawski: "The death penalty has never been about punishment so much as deterrent, and to that end I'm not sure it's easily quantifiable how successful it is. "

Citation needed.

In general, it is impossible for any one statement to sum up everyone's justifications (or even objections) for capital punishment.


Fair enough.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:54 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


It's a slippery slope from opposing painful executions, to opposing the idea of a "humane execution," to opposing state-sanctioned murder as justified punishment, to opposing assassinations of active murderers abroad, to opposing drones and remote killing, to opposing military interventions with heavy bombing and collateral damage, to opposing most military interventions, to opposing state-sanctioned violence of all sorts. Or at least, I wish it was.
posted by chortly at 1:57 PM on January 17 [7 favorites]


This isn't a callout to this specific commenter but just in general...I thought the death penalty was a good thing when I was younger. Now I find it abhorrent.

I've been discussing this Elsenet with friends, and am in the same mindset. Specifically, when I was younger, less thoughtful, and religious, I thought capital punishment was just grand. Then I grew up, jettisoned religion, spent more time learning rather than believing, and came to the conclusion that capital punishment is barbaric.

It's not about deterrence. It's not about punishment, even. Sure, the convict is punished, but he has no opportunity to learn from the punishment. It's bloodthirsty vengeance, and that's all. There's no way to "humanely" murder someone, and it only promotes mob mentality anyway.

I was very sad when my fair state resumed executions. I'm rather hoping this will be the impetus to stop them again. Unfortunately, Kasich is an ass-backwards fool and will never let it happen.
posted by MissySedai at 2:05 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


I've never been clear on why it takes these ridiculous amounts of time to execute people. How long is Death Row? This guy's been waiting to be murdered since 1989, what the fuck? For the record, since it's probably necessary, no I don't think the death penalty is a good thing. But if you're gonna do it, my god, 25 years is a long damn time.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:18 PM on January 17


"possibly even stretch to upstanding people like Nelson Mandela.

Mandela supported violent resistance and formed the Spear of the Nation, a clandestine revolutionary group that embarked on a campaign of sabotage. One of its bombings killed 19 people.

(Not a knock on Mandela.)
posted by klangklangston at 2:19 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


"But if you're gonna do it, my god, 25 years is a long damn time."

Sentenced to death — by waiting.
posted by klangklangston at 2:19 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Here in Oregon there is a gentleman who is on death row who on several occasions has made it clear that he does not want to do things the way they typically are for people sentenced to death. Which is to say, an endless appeals process until finally all options are exhausted and they are scheduled for execution. Governor John Kitzhaber put a moratorium on executions, refusing to let any occur while he is in office. Which is an admirable position to take, however it has resulted in this man being called mentally unfit to be executed. In effect, the state is saying that if you are on death row and want to die, you are not of sufficiently sound mind to be killed.

I am generally against the death penalty, though I will admit to seeing things like the killer in the Norway child massacre and wondering why any society would put all the money and resources into housing and caring for someone who is one hundred percent guilty of heinous offenses.
posted by mediocre at 2:22 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


My god. I'm a physician. I'm opposed to the death penalty. I use the mentioned drugs all day long, all the time. I'm shocked to learn that any states are using sedative/opioids as single drugs or in combination to cause death by overdose. It turns out many do. That is going to virtually guarantee a more prolonged, unpredictable, potentially visually disturbing death. Moreso with midazolam and hydromorphone, both of which have a slower onset than alternatives drugs that I suspect are made/sold in the US. Even an untrained lay-person who's tasked with the responsibility of designing these awful protocols should be able to come up with something at least faster and "more humane," after a 30 minute wikipedia search. It only clarifies the reality that apart from the moral/ethical ramifications of the death penalty in the idealized abstract, executions are being run by nitwits in real world practice. Horrifying.
posted by drpynchon at 2:24 PM on January 17 [12 favorites]


I've never been clear on why it takes these ridiculous amounts of time to execute people.

It takes that long for their cases to work their way through the appeals process until they don't have any further grounds for appeal -- or, to put it differently, until all the potential errors that were documented in the original trial have been examined by a higher court.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:24 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


"In effect, the state is saying that if you are on death row and want to die, you are not of sufficiently sound mind to be killed."

That's a hell of a catch, Yossarian.
posted by klangklangston at 2:32 PM on January 17 [7 favorites]


"Joy's death was the hardest thing our family has had to endure. ... She suffered terror and pain. He is being treated far more humanely than he treated her."

I'm sure I'd feel the same way if I were in their position, but I think that, more than anything else, that's an indication that we shouldn't be looking to the families of murder victims to determine the morality and efficacy of the death penalty.
posted by brundlefly at 3:05 PM on January 17 [13 favorites]


Without reading all of the comments I want to ask why the state doesn't just use carbon monoxide? If you're going to have the death penalty (which I'm against but that's a different topic from this comment) at least do it with a method that'll put somebody to sleep before killing them. CO seems like it'll do that.

If I was ever up for execution (I obviously hope that never happens and I don't know why I will ever be up for execution) then I would personally prefer death by a firing squad. It strangely seems less barbaric than a lethal injection. However since it's actual human beings pulling the trigger it will be hard on them which is why I think they stopped doing that.

My 2 unneeded cents.
posted by I-baLL at 3:07 PM on January 17


I'm sure I'd feel the same way if I were in their position, but I think that, more than anything else, that's an indication that we shouldn't be looking to the families of murder victims to determine the morality and efficacy of the death penalty.

Can't favorite this enough.
posted by MissySedai at 3:08 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


It's a slippery slope ... to opposing state-sanctioned violence of all sorts.

But it's not that long of a slide, and once you're at the bottom, oddly enough, you always have the high ground.


Sentenced to death — by waiting.

I can get behind this method. Death by old age is a great way to inflict capital punishment.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:16 PM on January 17 [3 favorites]


"I'm sure I'd feel the same way if I were in their position, but I think that, more than anything else, that's an indication that we shouldn't be looking to the families of murder victims to determine the morality and efficacy of the death penalty."

It's interesting to me to realize that this is a central point of Hobbes' Leviathan, which is, what, like 400 years old at this point?
posted by klangklangston at 3:18 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


I don't know that we save money in executing people convicted of homicide. The prosecution and appeals process is expensive, and death-penalty convictions are such a small number of homicide convictions that I'm not certain that it's worth it to maintain a distinct legal process that's so deeply problematic in terms of bias and arbitrary invocation.

And death penalty abolition often is part of a larger agenda of criminal justice reform, which would also address the even larger money pits for the prison system, such turning drug and fraud offenders into effective lifers and compassionate release because providing hospice care in prison is both expensive and inadequate.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:32 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


I don't know that we save money in executing people convicted of homicide

It is known, as in hard data, that capital cases cost significantly more than just imprisoning someone for 50 years.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:35 PM on January 17 [4 favorites]


Without reading all of the comments I want to ask why the state doesn't just use carbon monoxide? If you're going to have the death penalty (which I'm against but that's a different topic from this comment) at least do it with a method that'll put somebody to sleep before killing them. CO seems like it'll do that.

I'm guessing it's also an aesthetic complaint -- hanging, firing squads are brutal and violent, but it looks even worse for the government to be running gas chambers.
posted by vogon_poet at 3:42 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


but it looks even worse for the government to be running gas chambers

You mean like the one in California? I can't remember which other states use(d) gas for execution.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:45 PM on January 17


The gas chamber was used in California for a while, and was too disturbing a process to witness to continue being used. The condemned would have seizures, or would try to hold their breath to avoid inhaling gas, leading to a room full of spectators watching a man holding his breath for dear life for two minutes. And as always, the procedure sometimes got botched, and they had to re-enter the chamber to see why the hook hadn't released the bag of pellets into the acid...

Basically, "humane" in these cases tends to also mean "humane for the spectators", which means "not too graphically awful or difficult to process". And that goes for the guards and other prison staff, too, who have to carry out the execution. It's hard to understate how much this is a process that nobody wants to be good at, though they want it be a good process.
posted by fatbird at 3:48 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


The gas chamber was first adopted in the U.S. state of Nevada in 1921 in an effort to provide a more humane form of capital punishment. On February 8, 1924, Gee Jon became the first person to be executed by lethal gas. By 1955, 11 U.S. states had adopted the gas chamber as their method of execution, but by the early 21st century it was available in only two states (California and Missouri), where condemned prisoners were allowed to choose between lethal injection and lethal gas.
. . .
In 1996 a federal appeals court unanimously held that California’s statute authorizing lethal gas violated the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments, based on a lower court’s conclusion that gassed inmates can suffer an extreme amount of pain and that there is a substantial likelihood that such pain would last for several minutes. (Over time, eyewitnesses had also reported a number of long and gruesome lethal gas executions in California and other states.)
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:50 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Yeah. My point is that 'the government running gas chambers' isn't an aesthetic argument against the use of gas as an execution method, seeing as, you know, many governments in the USA have in fact used gas chambers.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:51 PM on January 17


The gas chamber was used in California for a while, and was too disturbing a process to witness to continue being used. The condemned would have seizures, or would try to hold their breath to avoid inhaling gas, leading to a room full of spectators watching a man holding his breath for dear life for two minutes. And as always, the procedure sometimes got botched, and they had to re-enter the chamber to see why the hook hadn't released the bag of pellets into the acid...

The worst part about it is that you can see HCN gas. The terror one must have felt, seeing the gas wafting towards you knowing there's absolutely nothing you can do about it. The sheer abject terror those people must have experienced in the 5-10 minutes it took for them to be executed would be enormous. I'm honest to god surprised that not everyone that died in the gas chambers was screaming out as they died. I know I sure as hell would.
posted by Talez at 4:22 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


The only people to blame here are the pharmaceutical companies and foreign countries who tried in a ham-fisted way to dictate our public policy. It disturbs me deeply that my fellow New Yorkers are willing to bow down to sob-sister degenerates, and I'm proud that Ohioans are made of sterner stuff.
posted by MattD at 5:02 PM on January 17


Prisons in the US are sitting on large stockpiles of life-saving medicines, which they plan to use in executions, while hospitals face shortages of the same drugs.
posted by triggerfinger at 5:09 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


MattD: "The only people to blame here are the pharmaceutical companies and foreign countries who tried in a ham-fisted way to dictate our public policy. It disturbs me deeply that my fellow New Yorkers are willing to bow down to sob-sister degenerates, and I'm proud that Ohioans are made of sterner stuff."

If I manufacture something, surely I am entitled to choose not to sell it to you. Isn't that the American way?
posted by hoyland at 5:29 PM on January 17 [5 favorites]


No pity. Good riddance. The ONLY people that should have ANY say in whether and how a convicted murdered is executed are the victim's family. If you haven't personally suffered the loss of a close family member to a horrific murder like this I'm sad to say your opinion matters not much at all.
posted by pallen123 at 5:40 PM on January 17


The only people to blame here are the pharmaceutical companies and foreign countries who tried in a ham-fisted way to dictate our public policy. It disturbs me deeply that my fellow New Yorkers are willing to bow down to sob-sister degenerates, and I'm proud that Ohioans are made of sterner stuff.

Why do you hate the free market?
posted by Lemurrhea at 5:41 PM on January 17 [4 favorites]


The ONLY people that should have ANY say in whether and how a convicted murdered is executed are the victim's family.

The move away from eye-for-an-eye vigilante justice is one of the hallmarks of a civilized society. You are exactly 100% wrong. Justice must be done dispassionately, as objectively as possible, and without revenge.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:49 PM on January 17 [8 favorites]


When I was a seminarian at Duke, I attended a death penalty protest at the prison in Raleigh, North Carolina. The condemned was Phillip Lee Ingle, a mentally ill man who murdered two elderly couples in 1991 because he thought they were "demons with red eyes," and who attempted to take his own life when he was just a child.

While standing in the rain with other protestors, a little girl, probably six or seven approached me and thanked me for coming. I knelt down and said to her "Thank you, too, sweetie. But why are you here?"

She said to me, "That's my daddy in there."

I hate violence. I hate crime. Hell, I'm a politically liberal, a pacifist, and a vegetarian. I have always been a against the death penalty because I believe that violence never overcomes violence, and that society must be above that which it decries. Yes, it isn't cheap to house and feed a convicted murderer for life, but it is so expensive for a society to become nothing more than that which it detests.
posted by 4ster at 5:51 PM on January 17 [6 favorites]


While standing in the rain with other protestors, a little girl, probably six or seven approached me and thanked me for coming. I knelt down and said to her "Thank you, too, sweetie. But why are you here?"

She said to me, "That's my daddy in there."


Will you excuse me please, I need some kleenex.

My father was a pretty horrific figure, though (I think) not criminal. I have nothing but contempt for the man.

But at that age, to know that Dad had not only killed people, but that inside that building right there some other people are going to kill him?

Words fail.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:53 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


No pity. Good riddance. The ONLY people that should have ANY say in whether and how a convicted murdered is executed are the victim's family. If you haven't personally suffered the loss of a close family member to a horrific murder like this I'm sad to say your opinion matters not much at all.

This is saying that the state is responsible, not for its ostensible purpose of justice, but for providing vengeance for the family of a murder victim. And yet, what happens when the state – enacting the eye-for-an-eye barbarism you are demanding here – murders an innocent person? Does their family get to murder the family of the first victim? Or does the state have to give up some proxy? Or is vengeance only good against non-state actors?
posted by graymouser at 5:53 PM on January 17 [4 favorites]


The move away from eye-for-an-eye vigilante justice is one of the hallmarks of a civilized society. You are exactly 100% wrong. Justice must be done dispassionately, as objectively as possible, and without revenge.

It's not a matter of revenge. That's the lazy default of armchair capital punishment philosophers. It's about victim's rights. Completely different issue. Quite the contrary, in a CIVIL society victims of homicide -- surviving friends and relatives -- should be afforded whatever solace can be afforded them. Considering their friends and loved ones cannot be returned, choice with regards to WHETHER and HOW the murderer of their friend and loved one is punished is the only small measure of control concerning the circumstance that they can effect. Unless you yourself have been the victim in this circumstance your opinion about what constitutes a civil society is just that -- and opinion based on a very, very narrow frame of reference.
posted by pallen123 at 5:58 PM on January 17


I wouldn't argue that the drug makers or their countries should be obliged to sell, but having made that choice they foreseeably compelled Ohio to seek alternatives. You can have the perfect right to do nevertheless blameworthy things.
posted by MattD at 6:01 PM on January 17


Some dude once said "An eye for an eye leaves the world blind."

Killing people is barbaric. It doesn't matter who you are, it's barbaric. Very occasionally--self defence, not letting Hitler rule the world--it's justified barbarism, but it's still barbaric.

I am truly, deeply sorry for your obvious loss. That doesn't mean killing people is the right thing to do.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:02 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


they foreseeably compelled Ohio to seek alternatives.

Really? It's not the state's fault, those mean companies compelled Ohio to torture a man? Ohio had no other options? None at all?
posted by CrystalDave at 6:08 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


It's about victim's rights.

The victim of a homicide is, by definition, dead, and has no rights. The notion of "victim's rights" (i.e. the rights of a victim's survivors) is the primal notion of vengeance, the difference is only in the terms used to express them.

If the state is in the business of murdering people, it will murder innocent people. No system of criminal law is perfect. There are no "victim's" (i.e. survivor's) rights that can justify the murder of innocent people.
posted by graymouser at 6:08 PM on January 17 [10 favorites]


You can have the perfect right to do nevertheless blameworthy things.

I'm pretty sure that "I will not sell you the materials needed to murder another human being" isn't exactly deserving of blame.

The state of Ohio made this choice.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:11 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


The victim of a homicide is, by definition, dead, and has no rights. The notion of "victim's rights" (i.e. the rights of a victim's survivors) is the primal notion of vengeance, the difference is only in the terms used to express them.

That sentence there makes zero sense. Of course there are victims of a homicide beyond the person or people murdered. What about children left with no parents? Oh right, they're not victims, they're... vengeance seekers? You may want to check your logic on that one.

The snowball argument that the state will murder innocent people is illogical and absurd. The state also incarcerates innocent people for life so why not free all prisoners everywhere?

You don't govern and legislate to exceptions. If that were so nobody would drive on roads because people get in accidents. Please.
posted by pallen123 at 6:15 PM on January 17


The state also incarcerates innocent people for life so why not free all prisoners everywhere?

The difference with incarceration is that people found innocent can eventually be freed.

Resurrection is not so easy.

Given that the USA has executed innocent people, are you saying that executing innocent people is acceptable collateral damage?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:18 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Yes acceptable. If we're going to have the death penalty we need to have the best court system possible. As it stands, with advancements in forensics and years and years and years of taxpayer funded appeals, I'm not concerned we're sending many boy scouts to their untimely deaths. In my opinion it is very odd that some people are far more concerned about advocating for the rights of individuals that as a class have committed the ultimate crime -- versus advocating for the rights of the family members of the victim's of these monsters. To each his own.
posted by pallen123 at 6:23 PM on January 17


I'm sorry, I want to be crystal clear here: you think it is acceptable to kill innocents in order to kill murderers?

So when an innocent is executed by the government, how do the victims assert their rights?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:25 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


It disturbs me deeply that my fellow New Yorkers are willing to bow down to sob-sister degenerates, and I'm proud that Ohioans are made of sterner stuff.

Referring to your opponents as "degenerates" and "sob sisters" doesn't make you sound tough-minded and righteous; it makes you sound like…well, like the sorts of people who have historically spent a lot of time classifying others as "degenerates" and who think impugning someone's masculinity is a killer debate tactic.

in a CIVIL society victims of homicide -- surviving friends and relatives -- should be afforded whatever solace can be afforded them. Considering their friends and loved ones cannot be returned, choice with regards to WHETHER and HOW the murderer of their friend and loved one is punished is the only small measure of control concerning the circumstance that they can effect.

I also feel for you given your loss. But I'm not sure that entitles you to define what constitutes a civil society or its priorities for everyone else.

You also seem to have a very limited view of what could possibly offer solace to other victim families. Counseling and financial assistance can be potential sources of solace and repair. The knowledge that a fair and impartial process of justice has been carried out can be a solace, a remediation of the rupture to civility created by the crime.

No one can or should tell you how to feel, but neither do anyone's feelings, however intense, however justified, get to define the law and the world for everyone else.

Yes acceptable.

Then you're perfectly happy with making someone else a victim of "the ultimate crime" as long as it makes you feel the way you want to.
posted by kewb at 6:25 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


Yes. In the past it's been through monetary compensation. Or the State just says "oops".
posted by pallen123 at 6:27 PM on January 17


Of course there are victims of a homicide beyond the person or people murdered.

But of course. On the other hand, what of the executed murderer's family and friends? What if he has children, what if he has parents? Somehow their suffering is... just? So then they have no need of further executions to make up for their loss? Glad to know it all works out so easily!

I was going to go into some detail about how one obviously has a moral responsibility not to be closely related to murderers- I don't care if you're 6! You shoulda made better decisions!- but fuck, if you can't see for yourself how absurd that is then my sarcasm probably can't help.
posted by hap_hazard at 6:28 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Yes. In the past it's been through monetary compensation. Or the State just says "oops".

Can you explain why that's okay, but for a non-state-actor murderer to pay money or just say "oops" is not?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:28 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


Or to put it another way:

You are saying it is not okay for a person to kill another innocent person. Is that correct?

Yet you are saying it is okay for the state to kill an innocent person. Is that correct?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:31 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


But of course. On the other hand, what of the executed murderer's family and friends? What if he has children, what if he has parents? Somehow their suffering is... just? So then they have no need of further executions? Glad to know it all works out so easily!

That's a real edge case and you're conflating responsibility with murder.

Ultimately what I think matters most is not that we're all perfect but that we strive to be good to each other and live as honorably as possible. That means we take personal responsibility. Murderers should volunteer to do whatever it takes to make amends to the family and friends of their victims. If that means their death so be it. And their children and friends should try to understand that despite the horribleness of their parent/friend they have accepted responsibility for their acts.
posted by pallen123 at 6:35 PM on January 17


Can you explain why that's okay, but for a non-state-actor murderer to pay money or just say "oops" is not?

Because in the former it's the State trying to remedy the horrible behavior of an individual in the best interests of the society as a whole. It's a utilitarian concept. In the latter it's an individual fully in control of their decisions. Two very different situations.
posted by pallen123 at 6:38 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


I am generally against the death penalty, though I will admit to seeing things like the killer in the Norway child massacre and wondering why any society would put all the money and resources into housing and caring for someone who is one hundred percent guilty of heinous offenses.

...because they reject the notion of a totally retributive justice system? Norway also maintains a belief in rehabilitation, even for Breivik.
posted by knapah at 6:39 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


That's a real edge case

That murderers have relatives? That they have relatives - parents, children, nephews, I dunno- who might suffer because they have been killed?

Not sure what you could mean by that.
posted by hap_hazard at 6:39 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Can you explain why that's okay, but for a non-state-actor murderer to pay money or just say "oops" is not?

I never said this wasn't sufficient. It should be up to the victim's family and friends to decide. Is the murderer contrite? Are they religious? Do they live in fear of the murderer? There are lots of factors that may weigh into their decision about whether or not to pardon the life of the murderer.
posted by pallen123 at 6:40 PM on January 17


But why is it okay to kill an innocent person if you are the state?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:40 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Yes. In the past it's been through monetary compensation. Or the State just says "oops".

Well, I'm glad that you have such an obvious respect for life rather than the glib and authoritarian attitudes one might unfairly associate with more thoughtless pro-death penalty supporters.

Still, can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs, eh? Oops!
posted by jaduncan at 6:41 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


It should be up to the victim's family and friends to decide. Is the murderer contrite? Are they religious? Do they live in fear of the murderer? There are lots of factors that may weigh into their decision about whether or not to pardon the life of the murderer.

Exactly! You see, the main problem with the criminal justice system is that there just isn't enough prejudice or institutional racism.
posted by jaduncan at 6:45 PM on January 17 [10 favorites]


Plus why the fuck does 'are they religious' matter in any way shape or form?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:47 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


"It's not a matter of revenge. That's the lazy default of armchair capital punishment philosophers. It's about victim's rights. Completely different issue.

Quite the contrary, in a CIVIL society victims of homicide -- surviving friends and relatives -- should be afforded whatever solace can be afforded them.

So, wearing the skin of purported murderers? Torturing them slowly for years? How about killing the murderer and their entire family?

Considering their friends and loved ones cannot be returned, choice with regards to WHETHER and HOW the murderer of their friend and loved one is punished is the only small measure of control concerning the circumstance that they can effect. Unless you yourself have been the victim in this circumstance your opinion about what constitutes a civil society is just that -- and opinion based on a very, very narrow frame of reference."

Well, or it's an opinion based on thousands of years of political philosophy, which is almost always grounded in the state's ability to legitimately use violence.

The whole point of having a court is that we don't have private judgment about what constitutes justice. Because when we try that, we find that a) It's only the strongest who get "justice," and b) "justice" looks a whole lot like civil war.

"Murderers should volunteer to do whatever it takes to make amends to the family and friends of their victims. If that means their death so be it. And their children and friends should try to understand that despite the horribleness of their parent/friend they have accepted responsibility for their acts."

Murderers should volunteer to die? OK, that's fine to think, but unfortunately, very few murderers agree with you. Many even maintain their innocence! And some are even right about it!

So, really, for someone who derides others as offering mere opinion, it's worth noting that opinion is worth more than fantasy, and you're just engaging in revenge fantasy.
posted by klangklangston at 6:47 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]



That murderers have relatives? That they have relatives - parents, children, nephews, I dunno- who might suffer because they have been killed?

Not sure what you could mean by that.


I'm not denying they may have relatives. Just that any authority of those relatives is relatively unimportant because it is borne from a bad seed. Of course a daughter may feel sadness at the execution of her father. That's natural. But it doesn't necessarily follow that she should be able to seek compensation from the State for the execution of their murderer father. That's the whole point. Their father was a murderer. He was a bad man. He made bad choices. He had die. It's sad. Society feels sad. But it was her father that essentially caused his own death, not the State.
posted by pallen123 at 6:48 PM on January 17


That sentence there makes zero sense. Of course there are victims of a homicide beyond the person or people murdered. What about children left with no parents? Oh right, they're not victims, they're... vengeance seekers? You may want to check your logic on that one.

The victim of a homicide is the person who is dead. The fundamental idea of vengeance is creating a right for the survivors to take the life of the murderer. You are putting it in prettier terms but the basic idea is no different at all.

Murdering a murderer does not give a child parents. The most it can do is take a parent away.

The snowball argument that the state will murder innocent people is illogical and absurd.

No, it's not. It's a simple fact: wrong verdicts will be made, inevitably. There is no court system that is perfect enough to ensure that no innocent people are executed.

The state also incarcerates innocent people for life so why not free all prisoners everywhere?

When a person imprisoned for life is exonerated, they are able to go free.

You don't govern and legislate to exceptions. If that were so nobody would drive on roads because people get in accidents. Please.

When it involves the state making a decision that will kill innocent people, you do.
posted by graymouser at 6:48 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


"That's the whole point. Their father was a murderer. He was a bad man. He made bad choices. He had die. It's sad. Society feels sad. But it was her father that essentially caused his own death, not the State."

"There is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong."
posted by klangklangston at 6:49 PM on January 17 [6 favorites]


Plus why the fuck does 'are they religious' matter in any way shape or form?

Why shouldn't it?

I'm not religious but maybe my neighbor is. That's their world view. You keep yours and let them keep theirs.
posted by pallen123 at 6:50 PM on January 17


Again: because it introduces massive issues of prejudice, racism, religious discrimination and generally unjust differences in outcomes.
posted by jaduncan at 6:52 PM on January 17 [4 favorites]


any authority of those relatives is relatively unimportant because it is borne from a bad seed

What... century are you from?

I'm sorry. I am as sure as I can be that you are participating in this discussion in good faith, and you obviously have very strong feelings about this matter. I can't go any further without sputtering in rage and incomprehension, and that's not fair to anyone involved or to the discussion itself, so I'm going to bow out now.

I am sorry for your loss.
posted by hap_hazard at 6:52 PM on January 17 [5 favorites]


[One comment deleted. Let's not make it personal, folks; keep the focus on the facts and ideas not the person. Thanks.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:00 PM on January 17


Allow me to rephrase my deleted comment:

I must bow out now, because I cannot comment in the appropriate way for MetaFilter, given the sentiments that are being stated here.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:04 PM on January 17


For the record I'm not a fan of the death penalty. I wish we lived in a utopia where we didn't need jails. But that's not reality. As long as there are very bad people in the world that do very bad things to other people, I think we need to try to balance the desire of those that would prefer to turn the other cheek or err on the side of caution for societal reasons with the rights of those that have been victimized (yes murder victims AND family and friends). I am concerned about the State executing innocent people. But I'm equally concerned about victims and the family and friends of victims having their say.

Let's take the case of the fine gentleman whose untimely death started this thread. There seems to be zero doubt about his guilt. He committed a brutal crime. He failed to plead guilty. And I won't lose any sleep over his death. You can call that revenge fantasy or whatever you want but it's common sense to me.

It seems to me that the family of his victim preferred that he be executed. Had they preferred for him to live the rest of his life in jail or on vacation in Aruba it wouldn't make any difference to me if it brought them some solace. It's very little solace in any case.
posted by pallen123 at 7:17 PM on January 17


Quite a derail here. The point of the OP wasn't really whether the death penalty is warranted or not, it's that it was done in a way that would have caused the state inspectors to fine the state itself heavily for animal abuse had they done such a botched job of slaughtering a cow.

Many of us have pointed out that, given the unpleasant but let's say warranted task of killing a person, there are methods that are both cheap and readily available and better in every conceivable way than what Ohio did here.

What McGuire did was unforgivably brutal. But mandating a non-brutal execution isn't about forgiveness; it's about not being like him. Even if we buy the argument that his death is necessary for $REASONS it is really a mile too far in McGuire's shoes to torture him in the process.

You do not right a wrong by committing the same evil yourself. There are cultures, particularly in the Middle East, where justice has been left to the clans and families by fiat for centuries and look how that's worked out. This is one of those points where it turns out we have a state for a reason. The state may not be very good at justice, but it is demonstrably a fuck of a lot better at it than the pissed-off survivors.
posted by localroger at 7:31 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


With all due respect there's a mile-wide gulf between stereotypical images of screaming fanatical Middle Eastern clans exacting eye-for-an-eye revenge with clubs and broken bottles, and family members thoughtfully recommending a penalty to a judge or jury in a U.S. courtroom.
posted by pallen123 at 7:38 PM on January 17


No (yeah I bowed out but) there isn't.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:41 PM on January 17 [5 favorites]


Now I bow out. Good night.
posted by pallen123 at 7:50 PM on January 17


stereotypical images of screaming fanatical Middle Eastern clans exacting eye-for-an-eye revenge with clubs and broken bottles

Well that is a stereotype isn't it, and it's wrong. These family units conduct "trials" (very deserving of those scare quotes), and they assign the task of finding and murdering the offender to near relatives of the victim who take it seriously and plan it carefully, it being after all a matter of sacred honor. It really differs very little from what our state does except for the fact that our state doesn't recognize their family unit as a group that should have the privilege.
posted by localroger at 8:00 PM on January 17


Reading this thread has sadly reminded me that my country is filled with bloodlust and I feel so distant from it as a result.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:21 PM on January 17 [10 favorites]


The ONLY people that should have ANY say in whether and how a convicted murdered is executed are the victim's family.

Thankfully, the law is 100% against you on this.
posted by MissySedai at 8:28 PM on January 17 [8 favorites]


It disturbs me deeply that my fellow New Yorkers are willing to bow down to sob-sister degenerates, and I'm proud that Ohioans are made of sterner stuff.

I'm an Ohioan, and I do NOT approve this message.
posted by soundguy99 at 8:30 PM on January 17 [3 favorites]


I'm not religious but maybe my neighbor is. That's their world view. You keep yours and let them keep theirs.

Putting government muscle behind religious views? There's this thing called the Establishment Clause...
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:15 PM on January 17 [3 favorites]


I-baLL: "Without reading all of the comments I want to ask why the state doesn't just use carbon monoxide?"

Carbon monoxide isn't a commonly available chemical is it? Certianly less commonly available than Nitrogen or Argon which would also kill with the bonus effect of not being inherently dangerous.

Kirth Gerson: "In 1996 a federal appeals court unanimously held that California’s statute authorizing lethal gas violated the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments, based on a lower court’s conclusion that gassed inmates can suffer an extreme amount of pain and that there is a substantial likelihood that such pain would last for several minutes."

Inert gas asphyxiation, though it would be used in something visually similar to a gas chamber, doesn't use an inherently lethal chemical and isn't painful at all from what I understand. One merely slips unconscious and then dies. Nitrogen and Argon are also colourless and odourless so you wouldn't see it coming. And the control is a simple valve; no rube goldbergist device that can fail mysteriously.

pallen123: "It's not a matter of revenge. That's the lazy default of armchair capital punishment philosophers. It's about victim's rights. Completely different issue. Quite the contrary, in a CIVIL society victims of homicide -- surviving friends and relatives -- should be afforded whatever solace can be afforded them. Considering their friends and loved ones cannot be returned, choice with regards to WHETHER and HOW the murderer of their friend and loved one is punished is the only small measure of control concerning the circumstance that they can effect."

Two possible problems:
  1. What if the family of the victim thinks the murder should say three Ave Marias and then be ushered on their way with a full pardon. Would you be OK with that?
  2. What if the victim's family is perfectly deadlocked between 10 years in prison and death penalty? Flip a coin to decide?
feckless fecal fear mongering: "So when an innocent is executed by the government, how do the victims assert their rights?"

A homicide has occurred so obviously each member of the innocent executee's immediate family and any facebook friend of the executee plus one person appointed by the courts to represent the now dead executee gets to pick one person involved in the wrongful prosecution (the judge(s), jurors, prosecution team including any expert witnesses, all the cops who worked the case, the state govenor and members of the defense team but only if the the wrongful death was an error on their part) to have put to death by the state. /HAMBURGER
posted by Mitheral at 11:13 PM on January 17 [4 favorites]


"Let's take the case of the fine gentleman whose untimely death started this thread. There seems to be zero doubt about his guilt. He committed a brutal crime. He failed to plead guilty. And I won't lose any sleep over his death. You can call that revenge fantasy or whatever you want but it's common sense to me. "

Among the other problems mentioned, there's also that this makes it more likely that you will die a horrible death if you are wrongfully convicted.

"With all due respect there's a mile-wide gulf between stereotypical images of screaming fanatical Middle Eastern clans exacting eye-for-an-eye revenge with clubs and broken bottles, and family members thoughtfully recommending a penalty to a judge or jury in a U.S. courtroom."

There is, but the stereotypical images of "screaming fanatical Middle Eastern clans exacting eye-for-an-eye revenge with clubs and broken bottles" are hella racist.

But we can look at other societies that do have more of the revenge culture that you're arguing for, e.g. how the Enga have reduced violence by reintroducing restorative justice and de-emphasizing punishment.

This is important for a couple of reasons. First, it illustrates that punishment isn't the only way to respect victim's rights. Second, it comports with a society that can't guarantee against returning the offender to society. Prison spending is huge, even overwhelming in many states — California is releasing pretty much everyone because we simply can't afford to keep expanding the number of people locked up without raising taxes exorbitantly.

I understand not losing sleep over somebody we can be pretty certain is a person who has made such a heinous transgression that they've lost their human privileges forever. But Ohio just used a new, worse method for execution, and not caring about how the state executes people makes it more likely that an innocent person will die horribly. And in the broader issue, the death penalty costs you money, makes you complicit in killing innocent people, and takes resources away from making victims whole. That outweighs the need for some kind of state flaying Make-A-Wish for victim's families.
posted by klangklangston at 11:31 PM on January 17 [5 favorites]


Some people live in a very simple, right-and-wrong world...oddly enough, they never seem to be wrong.

Or when they're wrong, it's in an understandable, forgivable way. Not the way others are wrong.
posted by maxwelton at 3:42 AM on January 18 [5 favorites]


Yes acceptable.

I invite you to consider that in every case where a person is executed for a crime they did not commit, the person who did commit the murder goes free without any punishment at all for the crime. How does that uphold the rights of the survivors? Can it in any way be what they want - to let the murderer go free and kill some other person?

Knowing what I do of the errors committed by our justice system, I would be haunted forever by the possibility that the state had executed the wrong person for the murder of my loved one, and that the killer was not even being hunted. If the convicted person were instead sentenced to death by old age, I could rest more easily, knowing that if they were not, in fact, the killer, that fact could be revealed, and the guilty person punished instead.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:42 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]


You know who else wanted points for obscure, unexplained comments

Adorno?
posted by spitbull at 6:47 AM on January 18 [4 favorites]


Just OD them on heroin, surely there is plenty in evidence lockers, etc.
posted by schyler523 at 6:51 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]


You don't govern and legislate to exceptions.

Except that maintaining a separate judicial process for capital punishment is a case of legislating to exceptions. The sentence is so rarely applied to homicide, even in those states where it is legal, that it's inherently an exceptional use of the criminal justice system, one in which racial and class bias, incompetent public defenders, and political prosecutors are better predictors of who gets on death row than the wishes of the victim's family or the facts of the crime.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:27 AM on January 18 [5 favorites]


Well, and further, when you set up a government on the principle that its powers are limited and the governed are possessed of inalienable rights, you very much do have to govern and legislate to exceptions, because the government is presumed to have limited power. You could frame it another way and point out that respecting human rights is not the exception; it's required by the form. In either formulation, you do, in fact, have to legislate to deal with things like innocent prisoners. Otherwise, the violence of the state is unjustified, and unjustified violence of the state is pretty much the exact thing that a limited government is set up to avoid.
posted by klangklangston at 10:24 AM on January 18 [2 favorites]


.
posted by 4ster at 7:06 PM on January 18


feckless fecal fear mongering: The ONLY people that should have ANY say in whether and how a convicted murdered is executed are the victim's family.

The move away from eye-for-an-eye vigilante justice is one of the hallmarks of a civilized society. You are exactly 100% wrong. Justice must be done dispassionately, as objectively as possible, and without revenge.
Now, now.... Judge Dredd fans have the right to their opinions, too.

Unless they think that movie was worth watching.

Or that their morality is based on anything more mature than "feels".
posted by IAmBroom at 9:29 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]


Just OD them on heroin, surely there is plenty in evidence lockers, etc.

Asked and answered too many times already.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:36 AM on January 19 [1 favorite]


I'm against the State being in the business of killing it's own citizens, regardless. Period. And convictions are not worth having if they fold under extreme, trying circumstances (which are also generally recognized as being a poor basis for laws/policies).

I generally feel about executions the way I feel about slaughterhouses; if you're going to do it, make the process as publicly visible as possible. Glass-walled slaughterhouses, publicly broadcast executions. Today, your tax dollars bought the death of a strapped-in-place human being at the hands of uniformed government employees. This is what the people voted for. This is what it looked like.

"We hate the blood, we want the meat."
-Show of Hands
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 12:11 PM on January 21


I generally feel about executions the way I feel about slaughterhouses; if you're going to do it, make the process as publicly visible as possible. Glass-walled slaughterhouses, publicly broadcast executions.

I'm assuming that you think this would have an inhibitory effect. I seriously doubt that. It would become a sick, and likely highly popular, reality show.
posted by mondo dentro at 6:53 AM on January 22 [1 favorite]


I'm assuming that you think this would have an inhibitory effect. I seriously doubt that. It would become a sick, and likely highly popular, reality show.

Agreed.

But, then the State using uniformed employees to put one of their own citizens to death is sick and wrong, so why should the practices of a sick society NOT be put on display?

Everybody who thinks he got what he deserved should be required to watch the whole ten minutes of his death spasms.

If we're gonna be a cruel, vengeful society that wants pain and suffering doled out by the State when we get riled up, let's stop fucking around and playing like that killing fo a human being (which most of us find a repellent act to take part in) isn't some ugly, horrifying thing that we try to make antiseptic, clinical, and detached.

We want blood vengeance for the victims, but then we don't want our dreams haunted by visions of torture and pain that we have voted to unleash.

If it becomes a reality show, fine. This is who we are.

If people are disgusted and turn against the death penalty, fine. This is who we are.

But I would have the mirror put up and force the issue.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:01 AM on January 22 [1 favorite]



I witnessed Ohio's execution of Dennis McGuire. What I saw was inhumane. I don't know how any objective observer could come up with any conclusion other than that injection was an evil way to go.
posted by Rumple at 8:31 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


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