January 6, 2008

On the docket: Lethal injection

Posted: 01:31 AM ET

WASHINGTON - Seldom has the law of unintended consequences proved as perverse as when 36 states tried to make executions more humane but chose a lethal injection technique that may cause more pain than the shot a veterinarian would use to kill a horse.


On Monday the Supreme Court will hear arguments on the claim by two Kentucky inmates that the lethal injection technique used in executions is undependable and may cause excruciating and unnecessary pain.

The core of the problem is that the 36 state legislatures all adopted a complicated and untested three-shot injection procedure. It calls for a first shot to render the condemned man unconscious, a second one to paralyze the body and a final one to stop the heart.

The Kentucky inmates say the first shot may make the inmate unable to move or cry out, but may fail to spare him the fierce pain of having his breathing and heartbeat stopped by the second two shots.

The purpose of the Supreme Court case is to establish the standards the lower courts should follow in determining if the three-step injection process is, indeed, unnecessarily painful.
 Which raises the question:

Why didn’t the states follow the advice they were given by veterinarians and other experts and adopt the painless one-shot technique used to euthanize animals? That involves a large injection of barbiturates, which quickly puts the animal to sleep and causes fatal cardiac arrest within minutes.

It will be interesting to see how the state’s lawyer answers that in Monday’s Supreme Court hearing. Critics of the three-step approach say one reason the states adopted it was because they didn’t want to be accused of killing an inmate like an animal—but the unintended consequence was to create a method of execution that may be unconstitutionally cruel.

Fred Graham, In Session Senior Editor

Filed under: Death penalty

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Betsy Ortega   January 6th, 2008 5:07 am ET

The Death penalty is a crime. Premeditated murder.

The 3 shots give the appearance of a peaceful and quiet passing to anyone watching, while the inmate is unable to breathe or move a muscle or cry out in pain,as they slowly sufficate and experience the pain of having a fatal heart attack.
If the states were trying to avoid an accusation of treating them like an animal, why not treat them like a human being and and use common hospital procedures, such as incubating them in a drug induced coma or administering a general anaesthesia before giving a fatal dose?

Michael B   January 6th, 2008 2:59 pm ET

Why should this issue be considered by the court? Isn't it more important that the court examine the larger constitutional issues surrounding the death penalty itself? With all the high profile conviction reversals of late, isn't it abundantly clear that all death penalty sentences should be commuted nationwide, and this barbaric practice abandoned?
It makes this non-sensical debate over HOW to execute someone moot.

Matt   January 6th, 2008 4:04 pm ET

Not to sound heartless, but the death sentence should not be painless. A person is being put to death for a crime that, in all reguards, caused someone else pain. Lets make it realy simple, if a person is to be executed, use the same method they did to commit their crime. To me, that seems fair.

Scott   January 6th, 2008 7:48 pm ET

Too bad these killers didn't consider the methods used to murder their victims as cruel & unusual. I'd say they're lucky to get the first dose to make them unconscious. Give the imate a choice of either the electric chair, gas chamber or hanging, they would choose lethal injection everytime.

What really needs to be address is the endless appeals that goes on for years before an execution is conducted, as an inmate looks for any excuse to avoid the death sentence.

Tim   January 6th, 2008 10:11 pm ET

I recently had to have my best friend put down/asleep. He had been poisoned the vet. said and could not be saved. With just one shot he quietly faded off quite literally to sleep. He had never made a movement in anger, was well mannered and cheerful in all weather, and had once saved me from harm. He deserved such a humane death as sad it was for me to have to have done.
I don't feel the same for murder's of humans or my best friend.
While I'm against cruelity, pain,...pain is having a loved one taken by a human-animal.

Wife&Mom   January 6th, 2008 11:53 pm ET

"Most of us continue to believe that those who show utter contempt for human life by committing remorseless, premeditated murder justly forfeit the right to their own life."– Alex Kozinski, U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals

And for the record, I don't give a flying flip if the murderer was beaten, sexually abused or water boarded when they were children. There is NO excuse for murder and if they CHOOSE to kill then they also CHOOSE to be put to death.

These whining liberals make me want to puke.

rex   January 7th, 2008 5:03 am ET

The speculation of whether or not the person feels "pain" or not, should be removed from the process of deciding how they are to be executed.
If the letter of the Law is to be followed, that person is to be put to death irregardless of their feelings. They've had their day in court, then their allowable appeal; a search for vindication to prove any innocence– if they are still found guilty and there is no shadow of doubt as to their guilt, then execute as the jugment rendered.
Justice must not stay blind and it is up to the courts of the judiciary to see that Justice keeps both eyes opened and see that the victim's rights are upheld. Justice is to be meted out in the strictest form as written, and the blood of the "killer" is given up in full and equal measure.
It is the State's duty to perform this sacred duty.
No doubt in my mind.
To take another person's life is totally abhorrent to me.
But obviously, the people languishing in our Prison's never gave much thought to that hang them if you have to. Firing squad, electroction or even a death ray if you got it.
i had a sister-in-law murdered in CA, back in '72. Sweet woman. Had a 2 year old daughter, who never really got to know her mother. The guy got 10 years. Probably out in 3. To kill again?
Never really understood that...Talking about pain...

Morgan   January 7th, 2008 9:31 am ET

This IS a constitutional issue. It deals with the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. As for it being premeditated murder, there's a difference between justice and murder. Considering the heinous nature of the crimes for which many of these people are being put to death, I'd say it's well deserved.

Geneva Buske   January 7th, 2008 9:35 am ET

Inmates complaining about lethal injection? Excuse me, did they offer their victims an easy way to die before they killed them? If they are, without a doubt, GUILTY, I don't feel they should have any rights. I speak from experience.

Cella   January 7th, 2008 9:41 am ET

Locking a man away for life, with no possibility of parole, is a much harsher penalty then sentencing him to death. A death penalty inmate has the "privilege" of being in a separate cell, making their lives far more comfortable and far less dangerous than those in the general population. They are also automatically guaranteed, in most states, a series of costly (i.e. taxpayer funded) appeals of their sentence. As Michael B. pointed out, current scientific methods have recently exonerated many death row inmates; add to that the honest consideration of whether or not we even have the 'right', (regardless of the crime), to deliberately take another human being's life, perhaps we would all be better served if the death penalty were outlawed. Having said that, if the death penalty remains in force, if should be administered quickly and painlessly. As for not wanting to "kill a human being like an animal", forgive me, but that argument is ludicrous. Obviously, these people have behaved in such a way that we deem them unfit to continue living. They are animals by default. You cannot have it both ways.

Donna   January 7th, 2008 9:49 am ET

If it were up to the taxpayers the death penality would NOT be an option. An eye for an eye, isn't that what the Bible teaches us, so why should we waste millions of dollars on these SCUM of the earth to make sure they have rights? What happen to the rights of the victims that these people had? Did they get to choose wheather they are stabbed, shot or strangled? These people should NOT have a choice or an appeal to prolong the issue.

Sue   January 7th, 2008 9:56 am ET

Too bad if they suffer. These animals don't suffer enough. I find it rather interesting that they cared very little about the amount of pain they inflicted on others, yet when it comes to their own pain, they cry like babies.

I say cause them double the pain they caused their victims, until they pass out from pain, then wake them up and start over again. Do this on a daily basis. Maybe when criminals are treated like criminals, senseless murders will cease. Maybe when criminals are treated like criminals, raping of children will cease. Maybe when criminals are treated like criminals, kids will stop killing kids with baseball bats and "wrestling" moves.

Maybe when criminals are treated like criminals, we can once again live in a society where we aren't afraid to lend a hand to our fellow man, where we aren't afraid to take a walk in the park, where we aren't afraid to let our children out to play. Then maybe, just maybe, we'll have taked one step toward peace.

Jeff   January 7th, 2008 10:49 am ET

Of all the methods of executing condemned men and women, none are completely pain free. All depend to one degree or another on the skill and professionalism of the executioner. As long as we as a society are going to have the death penalty (and I wish we didn't – but that is a different argument), then we need to do it right and in such a way as will produce the least amount of agony for everyone involved (most notably the condemned, but also the execution team and the witnesses). In my humble opinion, the most humane and effective method would be hanging. If done right, the neck is snapped at the 2nd and/or 3rd cervical vertabrae (the hangmans fracture) and death is "said" to be instantaneous. Even if the person does not die immediately, they are unconscious and paralyzed and death occurs within a few minutes. The British perfected the long drop method of hanging used up until 1964 when the death penalty was abolished in Britain. The last chief executioner in Britain, one Albert Pierrepoint is said to have carried out more executions than any other executioner in any archive or record and not once were any of his hangings "botched". That is because he did it right the first time, all the time. We could avoid all these wastefull arguments about Lethal Injection, Electrocution and the Gas Chamber by requiring every state that wishes to maintain the death penalty to use the old British method of hanging as a primary or secondary method giving the condemned the choice of hanging or another method as Washington State does.

Rick   January 7th, 2008 11:24 am ET

I agree with Scott. The appeal process needs to be moved up to a 5 year maximum. As far as the pain inflicted? That's justice in my opinion.

drew   January 7th, 2008 11:28 am ET

I agree with Matt. Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. The two individuals mentioned in the cnn article both shot and killed people. And now they are complaining that their method of execution is inhumane (lethal injection). If they do not want that then they should be offered execution by firing squad which is what their victims got without any choice.

Stan   January 7th, 2008 11:57 am ET

Why do we still have this? Yes, there are some absolute monsters locked up, waiting for society's innoculation. Still, equally vile folks with decent lawyers may see bar-free daylight within 20 years. Some cut deals and are out even sooner. In the 14 states without the DP, they'll never see daylight again, and people accept this. If you've got it (the DP), you'll want to use it. If you DON'T have it, you really don't miss it.
With the recent spate of DNA clearing prisoners, evidence of torture (Chicago), prosecutorial misconduct, and so on, I'm astounded people really want to keep the DP. I'd sooner have 100 psychos stuck behind bars forever than have one innocent executed to keep me "safer".
As for the arguement that the condemmed deserve exactly what they dished out, I find that to be barely worthy of a 3rd grade playground arguement. You pulled my hair, so I'll pull yours, wahh, waahhh! We ARE superior to the criminal monster, and I'm not down with jumping into the same cess pool with him to get my hands bloody.

peter   January 7th, 2008 12:19 pm ET

Let's bring back the guillotine–quick, reliable, and humane. Messy, of course, but so what?

Mike   January 7th, 2008 1:03 pm ET

Why do we worry about what these convicts are feeling? These people who are being put to death deserve it. They took someone else's life, why do we care about theres? The lifes these convicts took didn't get to choose how they die. Do you think there victims suffered at all? We're talking innocent people being shot, throats slashed and being you think they felt pain from somebody who chose to take there life? I feel we should get tougher laws, like an eye for an eye. America has become too soft with the death penalty


Canadian View   January 7th, 2008 1:11 pm ET

Two views:

1) It was cruel of them to murder someone else, so why give them such lavish treatments?

2) How can you attain peace through measures of violence? Why should we sink to their level? While growing up, we are taught to forgive and not to bully bullies. If capital punishment is allowed, then we are all just in one large contradiction of ourselves.

Alex   January 7th, 2008 1:24 pm ET

In my opinion, the phrase "cruel and unusual punishment" shouldn't even be affiliated with any means of execution on a condemned prisoner. As stated before, many victims never had a choice of how they would die. Better yet, why show prisoners the mercy they didn't show to their victims. It was up to their killer to do whatever THEY felt like doing to the person at that moment. At least the System gives them THAT choice on how they can die.

I personally don't care if the condemned are executed in the most barbaric manner. The emotional pain the victims and their families go far and beyond the physical pain any human could stand.

There are murderers from all walks of life: the rich, the poor, the disappearing middle class. So you can't blame a killer for "having an abusive childhood" or "their daddy wasn't around". There are people in those same situations that turn their lives around.

The death penalty is just another dirty business nobody wants to do. It's kind of like taking out the garbage (human garbage in this case). There are plenty of methods of doing it and in this case, the lethal injection happens to be one.

Adam   January 7th, 2008 2:31 pm ET

If you people really believe that a painful death is a "just" punishment for those convicted of murder, then you are all the same animals as those convicted of brutal murders in the first place. Claiming that justice ought to be based on the premise of "an eye for an eye" is the act of a feeble-minded brute who has no ability to use their rational capacity. It is clear that our society believes that premeditated murder – the calculated act of taking a life – is wrong, so why do some feel it is alright to do the same to those convicted of capital murder in the first place? Because hypocrisy is acceptable? Because it is a means of serving "justice"? Such a notion is patently ridiculous. Sure, capital punishment may be "just" according to our legal system, but are you so intellectually weak as to blindly accept what our justice system deems as "just" without either questioning it or at least considering the theoretical implications for yourselves? Even if our justice system permits capital punishment, that does not make it right, only acceptable according to our laws. Why do we not aspire to be of greater character than those deemed by society unfit to remain in our society? Ted Kennedy is a prime example of this by urging that Sirhan Sirhan not receive the death penalty for assassinating his brother. In this case Ted Kennedy set aside his emotions to follow his principled belief that capital punishment is wrong in all cases by urging that Sirhan Sirhan not be put to death for assassinating RFK. Ultimately, it seems that we as a society do not aspire to be of greater character than our murdering scum because we have too many beasts and brutes who thirst for a false sense of justice achieved through the ugliest form of hypocrisy lingering in our legal system. Sleep well tonight you pigs.

Gary combs   January 7th, 2008 3:27 pm ET

there is absolutely no proof, scientific or otherwise, that death is a penalty, there are lots of opinions but hearsay isn't accepted in court.
however there is tons of proof that the death penalty is not a deterrent to capital crime...a punishment that does not deter the crime is very unusual

there are no atheists sitting in the Electric chair, they all accept Jesus at the last minute and are in heaven before the body is cold

and...the death penalty is definitely a blood sacrifice for votes when a politician promises to kill prisoners in custody if elected, considering it isn't a deterrent

Roy Lucas   January 7th, 2008 3:36 pm ET

Those sentenced to die by lethal injection, do not deserve to be without pain. The victim, relitives and friends deserve every consideration. Someone sentenced to death, has been convicted of grevious crime, forfeiting consideration.

Cindy   January 7th, 2008 6:37 pm ET

In our civilized world we have to have a justice system whereby the ones that commit heinous crimes must be punished. Unfortunately, the cost of housing every muderer and rapist and child molester would bankrupt the government and even state. You that do not condone the death penalty have my respect for your beliefs; but, when there is proof beyond question that a person did the crime I am for the death penalty. Are we a barbaric society? I think not. We have to speak for the dead and bring to 'justice' the one that committed this crime. If it were my child, parent, sibling or friend that was taken out by anothers hand then his/her constitutional rights should be taken away and the criminal should be put to death the way the 'justice system' deems fit. NOT how the criminal WANTS to be put to be put to death. I had a friend to be murdered. Unfortunately, it was not a death penalty case. If it had been, I would want him to have a fair trial, a fair judge in a fair court system. Found guilt, I would want him to be put to death fairly whether it hurt or not. That's my opinion whether it meets your approval or not.

Jay   January 7th, 2008 7:10 pm ET

While I can think of situations where the capital punishment seems applicable, I only have one problem with it: It can't be reversed! And this problem makes me against this punishment!!!

"There are many people who deserve to die, and some who deserve to live. Can you give them their life again" (JRR Tolkien, LOTR.)

There have been enough examples in the history of capital punishment showing that the wrong person was executed, in essence making the jury, judges, prosecutors and all those in favor of it murderers, who most of the time went off unpunished. How is justice served in those cases... by saying just "Opps, wrong one, sorry!!!"?

Be careful in your judgement about life and death, and don't play God; that power wasn't given to the human race, so let's not pretend we have that power as long as we can't reverse the execution.

Lisa   January 7th, 2008 7:48 pm ET

As a taxpayer I resent paying my dollars for murderers to live their lives out in prison. It costs alot to house and feed a criminal all their life. The death penalty is justice for people who have been murdered. Why should we care about a murderer's feelings or pain – did they care about the feelings or pain of the people whose lives they took? Prisons are too overcrowded as it is. I say, for all who have murdered out there – kill em all and be done with it.

Adam   January 8th, 2008 3:54 am ET

On another note: The cost of executing a prisoner is greater than the cost of imprisoning an inmate for life.

Jay   January 8th, 2008 6:55 am ET

Lisa, I strongly disagree with you. Why should we, as "civilization" (you know what the word means, do you?), LOWER ourselves to the same level of low-life as those criminals? Why "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth"?

And if you are a real Christian, then being in favor of the death penalty should bring you in a heavy ethical conflict with your faith's Commandments (Thou shall not murder). Like I wrote in my first comment, we should not play God, because – although we might have been created to his image – the powers of God were not given to us.

We are humans, and "to err is human", as criminal history has showed enough times already. And by erring, we executed an innocent person, we killed the wrong person and by doing so we became murderers ourselves ("we" and "ourselves" here represent our country, our "civilization")... Perhaps we should think a bit more and much deeper about this, and use one power our Creator has given to us: The power to reason, to think things over.

Bosco   January 10th, 2008 1:51 pm ET

One bullet to the back of the head behind the right ear. Death instantaneously. Russian style.

Kyle   January 10th, 2008 2:16 pm ET

Based on the events going on with the Lethal Injection in the state of Kentucky, I think its fine the way it is. I recently observed the trial of a man who killed my cousin by shooting her in the face in cold blood. While he pleaded not guilty, he is to serve 20 years in a federal prison. If it were left up to me, he should've received the capital punishment. But Kentucky only offers lethal injection, so it should be suffice. This crap about it should be painless is pathetic. I bet it was painless when my cousin felt a bullet go through her right eye and out the back of her head...If he was so low as to pull the trigger of that glock, then he should take the punishment. If Ralph Baze was so stupid to shoot Steve Bennett and the deputy back in '92, then he should be shot himself. Now while the firing squad would be my preference, in the end it doesn't matter how death is administered, so long as its delivered. Painlful is how it should go. They committed a painful crime the victim, to their families, and to the families of the all those effected. So why should they be the one who receives the painless treatment?!?! Society calls that moral? I call that insane.

Matt   January 12th, 2008 11:01 pm ET

Umm ok, why does it matter.
We're all gonna die some day anyways. =/
Life goes on. Get over it.

Wife&Mom   January 13th, 2008 6:01 am ET

First, the death penalty was not made to be a deterrent.
The law that says "Don’t kill people" is supposed to be the deterrent. The death penalty is the punishment for violating that law; it's society's way of saying "We think the world is a better place without you in it"

Now, for the people who are arguing that it isn’t “civilized” to put other people to death or that the supporters of the death penalty are some how lowering themselves to the levels of convicted murderers can chew on this little bit of information:

If anyone actually read the material from the link above then you can plainly see how supporters of the death penalty feel how UNCIVILIZED it would be to let these people live to only be paroled or to escape from prison to murder again and again.

Allowing murderers to live is not, in my opinion, a sophisticated or an educated reason to consistently put society in danger.


The simple answer is that Christians are to obey human law except where that human law violates God's Law. Our supreme duty is to obey God. Since God tells us to also obey human laws, we should. But, when they come in conflict, we are to "obey God rather than men."

God’s Law:
Exodus 21, vs. 23-26:"Wherever hurt is done, you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, bruise for bruise, wound for wound."

The context of this passage is found within specific instructions given to Moses by God concerning the manner in which the civil government should handle crimes committed against individuals. “An eye for an eye” was the judgment to be carried out by civil authorities.

cidoevoca   September 2nd, 2008 7:29 pm ET

wow ))
its very interesting point of view.
Nice post.
realy good post

thx :-)

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