Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Supreme Court, Death Penalty, Botched Executions; Abolishment Is Overdue

Four inmates on Oklahoma’s death row petitioned the United States Supreme Court to hear their petition for a stay of execution. One week after refusing to halt the execution of one of the men, Charles Warner, the Court agreed to hear the petition on behalf of the other three. Until the Court’s decision is made, the three men have been granted a stay.

The petition asks for a review by the Court of a sedative, midazolam, used in Oklahoma, Arizona, and Ohio, where in some cases inmates have suffered agonizing executions. Its use therefore may violate the U.S. Constitution’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment. The Supreme Court is expected to hear the case in April and rule on the petition by July.

If the Court rules against the use of midazolam and states continue to have a problem purchasing approved drugs, states will simply find other ways to kill -- Virginia is considering the electric chair; Wyoming is proposing firing squads.

The reason lethal injection states cannot purchase approved drugs is that there is a shortage. The countries that produce the drugs refuse to sell them in the United States if they will be used in executions.

One thing is for sure; the Supreme Court will not rule against capital punishment and will continue to support its constitutionality.

What the Supreme Court and the United States should do, however, is move to abolish the death penalty. The case before the Court would be a good start. According to Amnesty International, the United States is one of 40 countries that continue to impose the death penalty. One hundred forty-one countries have abolished the death penalty. In the U.S., 18 states have ended state-sanctioned killing. It’s about time, if not by the Supreme Court, then by Congress to pass legislation prohibiting legal murder.

Abolishment would be an important action to take to negate the culture of violence. State-sanctioned killing, no matter in what form – war, police sanctioned killing, extrajudicial killing, capital punishment -- only perpetuates violence. It essentially sends the message that the use of violence to solve a problem, or achieve revenge or retaliation, is okay ... if the government can take such action, then why can’t I.

Moreover, killing people for killing other people is a childish tit for tat response and does not act as a deterrent. Ending the death penalty in the United States is overdue; however, try explaining that to a Republican.


Amnesty International, The Death Penalty and Deterrence, AmnestyUSA.org

Amnesty International, Death Penalty Facts, AmnestyUSA.org

Copyright © 2015 Horatio Green