from the doing-it-wrong dept
I'll be up front here with all of you: I hate the death penalty. I think it tends to punish bad actors who are incapable of recognizing anything resembling a deterrence, that the cost arguments are both false and entirely besides the point, and I don't particularly enjoy the concept that the nation or state can make me and every other citizen complicit in the death of another human being. That said, obviously there's no consensus on this. That said, some of the states in our glorious union seem to have lost complete control over their thought processes when it comes to capital punishment.
Take Georgia, for instance, where the state is working very hard not only to execute a man every doctor that's examined him seems to think is mentally disabled, but they're also working really hard to protect the pharmacists responsible for the death cocktail from any kind of transparency. The case of Warren Hill is sad from the start.
Georgia has sought to execute Hill despite a US supreme court ban on executions for "mentally retarded" criminals, on the grounds that such executions constitute cruel and unusual punishment. The state argues that Hill has not been proven “beyond a reasonable doubt” to be mentally disabled, notwithstanding the fact that all nine medical experts who have examined Hill are in agreement that he is intellectually disabled. In 1990, Hill was already serving a life sentence for murdering his girlfriend when he killed fellow inmate John Handspike in a Georgia prison, beating him to death with a nail-studded board.So, what we have is a man quite likely to be mentally deficient on death row. This, of course, isn't a unique situation. Neither, unfortunately, is the state's attempt to keep the sources for their lethal injection cocktails secret. It's the latter that led to a case before the Georgia supreme court, who then ruled in favor of the state. In other words, the state can still kill people, but the people of the state aren't allowed to know the source of the methods of that killing. Hill's lawyers argued that if pharmacists could remain anonymous, free from scrutiny by the public they are supposed to be serving, the lack of accountability might lead to more contamination of the death cocktail, which in turn would represent cruel and unusual punishment. This argument is of particular weight right now due to the now infamous botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma. Judge Harris Hines, for the majority, had this to say.
"Particularly unpersuasive is Hill's expert's testimony that certain contaminants also could have the following effect: 'Their blood pressure would drop precipitously, and ultimately it's possible that they could die.' Such a side effect obviously would be shockingly undesirable in the practice of medicine, but it is certainly not a worry in an execution."It sounds like it should make sense: contaminants in execution drugs that lead to death aren't all that important, because the goal is to kill the person. But that's quite a cavalier and flippant perspective by a state supreme court justice who is deciding exactly how the people of his state will kill a person. The execution, if you'll forgive the synergy of word-choice, of the execution means everything. It's the very reason we have cruel and unusual punishment protections. The idea behind capital punishment, silly as the idea on its face is in my opinion, isn't to cause pain, it's simply to cause the criminal to expire. Ensuring our own humanity in this inhumane endeavor is of paramount importance, one which Judge Hines should be taking quite a bit more seriously than he appears to be.
And the final result in all of this is a state attempting to hide pharmacists who are helping kill a disabled man. Fortunately, several newspapers are challenging the state's injection secrecy law. Hopefully they win, and the people in charge of death cocktails have a little light shone their way.