Capital punishment is that lethal practice by which a few of the U.S. states still maintain that they are showing how much they oppose killing in cold blood – by doing exactly that.
This not only runs the risk of executing the innocent, but in flagrant hypocrisy, authorities refuse to allow this alleged deterrent to murder to be televised.
The murder-deterrent failure of history’s public executions apparently is still insufficient to states like Ohio, which continue the practice of state-sanctioned killings of convicted killers like Dennis McGuire.
The Associated Press reported the following, among other things, from Lucasville, Ohio:
“A condemned Ohio inmate appeared to gasp several times and took more than 15 minutes to die Thursday as he was executed with a combination of drugs never before tried in the U.S.
“Dennis McGuire’s attorney, federal public defender Allen Bohnert, called his client’s death ‘a failed, agonizing experiment by the state of Ohio.’
“McGuire’s attorneys had attempted to halt his execution last week, arguing the untried method put him at substantial risk of ‘agony and terror’ while straining to catch his breath as he experienced a medical phenomenon known as air hunger.
“McGuire made loud snorting noises during one of the longest executions since Ohio resumed capital punishment in 1999.
“The state used intravenous doses of two drugs, the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone, to put McGuire to death for the 1989 rape and fatal stabbing of a pregnant woman, Joy Stewart. The method was adopted after supplies of a previously used execution drug dried up because the manufacturer put it off limits for capital punishment.
“Executions with the former method were typically much shorter and did not include the types sounds McGuire uttered.
“A few minutes before McGuire was put to death, state prison director Gary Mohr said he was confident the execution would be carried out in a humane and dignified manner. As is common practice, prison officials did not immediately comment after the execution except to release the time of death. …
“As his adult children sobbed a few feet away in a witness room, McGuire opened and shut his left hand as if waving to his daughter, son and daughter-in-law.
“More than a minute later he raised himself up, looked in the direction of his family and said, ‘I love you. I love you’ – his words audible even though the microphone had been removed.
“McGuire was still for almost five minutes, then emitted a loud snort, as if snoring, and continued to make that sound over the next several minutes. He also soundlessly opened and shut his mouth several times as his stomach rose and fell.
“‘Oh my God,’ his daughter, Amber McGuire, said as she observed her father’s final moments. …
“Although the U.S. Constitution bans executions that constitute cruel and unusual punishment, that doesn’t mean procedures are entirely comfortable, the state argued.
“‘You’re not entitled to a pain-free execution,’ Assistant Attorney General Thomas Madden told federal Judge Gregory Frost.
“Frost sided with the state but acknowledged the new method was an experiment. At the request of McGuire’s lawyers, he ordered the state to photograph and then preserve the drugs’ packaging boxes and vials and the syringes used in the execution.
“Bohnert, McGuire’s attorney, said the court’s concerns over the method had been confirmed.
“‘And more importantly, the people of the state of Ohio should be appalled at what was done here today in their names,’ said Bohnert, who did not witness the execution.”
This moves me to ask why there was no report in this AP story that any of our nation’s TV networks have made any effort to televise.
The television industry may well have concluded that a refusal by Ohio authorities would have been inevitable. But with proper legal preparation, who knows if TV cameras might have been allowed into the Ohio death chamber’s witness sector?
And who can say for sure that this would have such an effect as to lead to abolition of capital punishment, not only in Ohio but across the nation?
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