[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----USA, TENN., ILL.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Apr 24 05:50:21 UTC 2007
Executed in U.S. may be awake as they suffocate
The drugs used to execute prisoners in the United States sometimes fail to
work as planned, causing slow and painful deaths that probably violate
constitutional bans on cruel and unusual punishment, a new medical review
of dozens of executions concludes.
Even when administered properly, the three-drug lethal injection method
appears to have caused some inmates to suffocate while they were conscious
and unable to move, instead of having their hearts stopped while they were
sedated, scientists said in a report published Monday by the online
journal PLoS Medicine.
No scientific groups have ever validated that lethal injection is humane,
the authors write. Medical ethics bar doctors and other health
professionals from taking part in executions.
The study concluded that the typical "one-size-fits-all" doses of
anesthetic do not take into account an inmate's weight and other key
factors. Some inmates got too little, and in some cases, the anesthetic
wore off before the execution was complete, the authors found.
"You wouldn't be able to use this protocol to kill a pig at the University
of Miami" without more proof that it worked as intended, said Teresa
Zimmers, a biologist there who led the study.
The journal's editors call for abolishing the death penalty, writing:
"There is no humane way of forcibly killing someone."
Lethal injection has been adopted by 37 states as a cheaper and more
humane alternative to electrocution, gas chambers and other execution
But 11 states have suspended its use after opponents alleged it is
ineffective and cruel. The issue came to a head last year in California,
when a federal judge ordered that doctors assist in killing Michael
Morales, convicted of raping and murdering a teenage girl. Doctors
refused, and legal arguments continue in the case.
More than 2,000 executions
In 2005 alone, at least 2,148 people have been killed by lethal injection
in 22 countries, especially China, where fleets of mobile execution vans
are used, the editors write, citing Amnesty International figures. Of the
53 executions in the United States in 2006, all but one were by lethal
The new review was written by many of the same authors who touched off
controversy when they published a 2005 report suggesting that many inmates
were conscious and possibly suffering when the last of the drugs was
That report was criticized for its methodology, which relied on blood
samples taken from prisoners hours after executions.
The new paper looked at the executions of 40 prisoners in North Carolina
since 1984 and about a dozen in California, plus incomplete information
from Florida and Virginia. The authors analyzed details such as the dose
the inmates received, their weight and the time they needed to die.
Most states use three drugs -- thiopental, an anesthetic; pancuronium
bromide, a nerve blocker and muscle paralyzer; and potassium chloride, a
drug to stop the heart. Each is supposed to be capable of killing all by
itself, but if not, the anesthetic is supposed to render the inmate
unconscious while the other drugs do the job.
In 33 North Carolina executions, the average death time was 10 to 14
minutes, depending on the combination of drugs used, the authors report.
Calculating each inmate's actual dose, based on his or her weight, they
concluded that some did not receive enough.
"The person would feel either asphyxiation or the burning sensation
associated with the potassium," said Dr. Leonidas Koniaris, a surgeon and
co-author at the University of Miami. "The potassium would cause extreme
discomfort, something like being put on fire."
Even the final drug did not always prove fatal as intended. At least one
California inmate required a 2nd dose, and the California warden has said
additional doses were used in 2 other executions, the study reports.
Death penalty proponents complained the report's conclusions were based on
scant scientific evidence.
"It's more like political science than medical science," said Mike
Rushford, president of Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in Sacramento.
Steve Stewart, prosecuting attorney in Clark County, Indiana, where an
execution is scheduled for May 4, said the simple solution seemed to be to
give a higher dose of the anesthetic, which probably would not satisfy
opponents who see all methods as barbaric.
"It doesn't matter a whole lot to me that someone may have felt some pain
before they were administered poison as a method of execution," he said.
Dr. Mark Heath, an anesthesiologist at Columbia University Medical Center
who has studied lethal injection cases, took issue with some of the
paper's conclusions, but said it generally showed that concerns about
lethal injection in its current form "are well-justified."
Editors said they sent the manuscript to 3 independent medical experts for
review -- an anesthesiologist, a forensic pathologist and someone in
charge of a critical care unit, plus a lawyer.
"We were satisfied" with the science, said Dr. Virginia Barbour, a British
physician who is managing editor of the journal, published by the
nonprofit group Public Library of Science. "The difficulty of a paper like
this is that there is very poor evidence for all the kinds of protocols
used" in lethal injections, but the authors did a good job analyzing what
there is, she said.
(source: Associated Press)
"TN's Death Penalty System Full Of Flaws, Study Finds"-----Results from a
panel of Tennessee legal experts examining the state's death penalty
system were released and the findings are not good.
The 3 year study concluded Tennessees death penalty system is so flawed a
moratorium on executions set to expire in May, should instead remain in
place while a top to bottom review of the system begins.
Since 1916, 125 inmates were executed in the Tennessee electric chair.
In 2000, lethal injection replaced electrocution as the primary method of
execution and 2 inmates, Robert Glen Coe in April of 2000 and Sedley Alley
in June of 2006 have been put to death by lethal injection.
Now, a......study conducted under the auspices of the American Bar
Association Death Penalty Implementation Project concluded there are so
many problems and flaws that a thorough review of every aspect of capital
punishment in Tennessee should take place before any more executions are
American Bar Association, ABA, President Karen Mathis said, "This is not a
system that delivers justice to the citizens of Tennessee of that the
citizens of Tennessee expect."
Governor Bredesen halted all executions in Tennessee for 90 days so the
effectiveness and humanness of the lethal injection system could be
Convicted cop killer Phillip Workman is slated to be put to death on May
9, a week after the governor's moratorium expires.
Of the 93 protocol for a fair and accurate death penalty case, the ABA
study concluded Tennessee met only seven, partially met 31 and failed to
comply with 26. The study also concluded 29 others could not be determined
due to a lack of information.
Based on the findings, the ABA urges Governor Bredesen to "continue the
temporary pause on executions that he has already imposed until the
problems this study surfaced can be addressed and broaden the review into
the protocols for administering lethal injection to include the many
problems thatare identified in this study."
One big problem identified is that DNA evidence can be destroyed while a
defendant is still on death row.
Study committee member Jeff Henry said, "We want to be sure that as the
DNA technology evolves and develops that the evidence will be preserved
for future testing that wither would confirm that it's the right person or
and more concerning that an innocent person is not executed."
The death penalty study committee consisted of 7 Tennessee law experts
including a former state attorney general and a current federal judge.
It found that 67% of Tennesseans support the death penaltyand 66% would
favor a continuation of the moratorium to ensure fairness.
The panel made 14 recommendations including creating an independent
commission to review factual claims of innocence.
Governor Bredesen has received the report and said he has great respect
for the American Bar Association, but has no plans to extend the
Prosecutors study death penalty in cable murder trial
The Cook County state's attorney's office on Monday said it will make a
decision by early May on whether to seek the death penalty against Anthony
Triplett, a cable TV repairman charged in the rape and murder of 2 women
Assistant State's Atty. Bernie Murray said his office expects to decide by
Triplett, 25, is charged with murder and criminal sexual assault in the
deaths of Janice Ordidge, 39, in her Hyde Park home and Urzula Sakowska,
23, of the Southwest Side.
Triplett, an employee of Premier Cable Communications, a subcontractor of
Comcast, was being held without bail in the October death of Ordidge when
he was charged with the December slaying of Sakowska.
(source: Chicago Tribune)
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