[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----FLA., USA
rhalperi at smu.edu
Mon Aug 1 18:25:37 CDT 2011
The death penalty: A dead end in Florida
Executing inmates is getting harder, more expensive and a lot loonier in
But kill them we must, and so the follies continue.
This year state officials added a new drug to their lethal-injection cocktail.
The Florida Supreme Court blocked its use last month until a hearing could take
place on whether it poses "substantial risk of serious harm" to the condemned.
Only in the American justice system would that make sense.
This put a damper on Gov. Rick Scott's first signed death warrant, although
Attorney General Pam Bondi came to the rescue with an immediate appeal to the
U.S. Supreme Court.
It's all part of the $51 million we spend a year on the death penalty. Given
that we haven't had an execution in 16 months, that would put the per-capita
cost of the next one at about $75 million.
Even if Bondi wins, the issue will be far from settled.
The state uses three drugs in an execution. The 1st is a barbiturate that
knocks the prisoner out. The 2nd paralyzes him and the 3rd stops his heart.
At issue is the 1st drug.
Like other states, Florida had been using sodium thiopental. But the sole
American manufacturer of the drug, Hospira, stopped production in January.
"The drug is not indicated for capital punishment, and Hospira does not support
its use in this procedure," the company said.
Some states then obtained the drug illegally from overseas, resulting in
seizures from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Florida was one of several states that turned to a replacement drug called
pentobarbital. It is used in treating convulsions, such as those suffered by
epileptics. Veterinarians use it in larger quantities to put animals down.
In June, Georgia used it to put down Roy Blankenship. He did not go quietly. He
jerked around, mumbled and gasped for breath.
This meant that the drug may not have rendered Blankenship fully unconscious.
So he may have been awake as the subsequent drugs began suffocating him and
stopping his heart.
That pretty much would qualify as torture. And attorneys for death-row inmates
pounced with appeals.
To fend them off, Georgia videotaped the next execution and this time the
prisoner behaved and died quietly.
Nevertheless, the appeals continue, as we are seeing in Florida.
But any legal issues soon will be a moot point.
The Danish pharmaceutical company that makes pentobarbital, Lundbeck, doesn't
want it used for killing people.
In letters to Rick Scott in May and June, the company said this "severely
contradicts Lundbeck's mission to provide therapies that help improve people's
lives.'' Scott ignored them.
Last month, Lundbeck announced it would limit distribution of the drug to stop
its use in executions.
That begs the question: Now what? Any new drug would be grounds for ever more
On and on it goes.
We can't hang 'em and can't shoot 'em. We tried frying them but that stopped
when flames shot out the heads of 2 inmates.
Injecting seemed to be the humane alternative until it took 34 minutes and 2
rounds of chemicals to kill an inmate in 2006. Turns out they missed his vein
with the needle.
Officials claimed to have fixed that problem, and now this.
When do we get to whacking the condemned on the head with a big black frying
The best solution remains life with prison food and without parole.
(source: Mike Thomas, Commentary; Orlando Sentinel)
Blog on consular rights following last wk's hearing in Senate committee
Protecting Americans Abroad, And Human Rights
If you were detained abroad, would you want to be guaranteed access to help
from your Embassy? Of course you would.
Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony from officials at the
Department of Justice, the State Department, prominent constitutional lawyers,
and Clare Gillis, a journalist who spent 44 fearful days detained in Libya, in
support of the Consular Notification Compliance Act legislation introduced
earlier this summer by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont.
This bill enlists state law enforcement officials and federal courts to comply
with a 2004 International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling, known as the Avena
decision, which ordered the U.S. to remedy its failure to inform 51 foreign
national death row prisoners of their right to access their consulate “without
delay”. This right is specified by the Vienna Convention of Consular Relations
(VCCR), which became U.S. law in 1969. One of the 51 men, Humberto Leal, was
recently executed by Texas as Leahy presented his legislation.
Many of the hearing witnesses cited the fact, affirmed by the U.S. Supreme
Court, that both the VCCR and ICJ judgments are international law obligations.
They argued that U.S. non-compliance with VCCR obligations puts Americans
abroad at risk for similar infringements of their rights. And there are
thousands of U.S. military personnel and Americans visiting or working abroad
who, like Ms. Gillis, find themselves dependent on other nations’ reciprocal
commitment to the treaty.
The U.S. professes to be the standard-bearer of human rights (though its
recent record indicates otherwise). Passing Senator Leahy’s bill and affirming
a human rights commitment that actually protects U.S. citizens abroad ought to
be a no-brainer.
(source: Brian Evans, Amnesty International USA)
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