Friday, 23 November 2007

New Jersey And The Death Penalty

There are currently eight men, their ages ranging from 30 to 70 years old, on New Jersey's Capital Crimes wing and it is said they have more chance of dying of old age than they have of being executed. Their ages range from 30 to 70 years old.
New Jersey has not executed a single person since the United States Supreme Court permitted executions to resume in 1976. The last execution in NJ was in 1963. New Jersey is now on track to become the first state to repeal the death penalty.
A bill that would abolish New Jersey’s death penalty was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee this spring and is now on a fast track to be considered by both houses within weeks. Senator Richard J Codey, Senate President said he plans to bring the bill to a vote by the full chamber by the end of the year. Gov. Jon S. Corzine has said that he will sign the measure into law if it reaches his desk.

Recently the Supreme Court of the United States placed all executions across all states on hold, pending an enquiry on whether death by lethal injection breached the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, which states that punishment should not be, "Cruel and unusual."

Execution by lethal injection. A look at some of the published articles.

Elizabeth Wrigley-Field (ewriglyfield@...) is a graduate student in sociology and a member of the International Socialist Organization.

Badger Herald

Thursday, November 15, 2007
Last month, without much fanfare, it became clear that there is a de facto moratorium on executions in the United States. The Supreme Court indicated it will put all executions on hold while it evaluates the constitutionality of the lethal injection procedure used across the United States.

From an article in New College Clarion by Jessica Ablamsky, reported May 2007 in:

Yahoo Group CEDP

Writing about execution by lethal injection in an article titled, “Behind the Curtain - How Modern Day Executioners Botch Their Job”


"Lethal injection protocols vary from state to state, but generally the condemned
is strapped to a gurney. Two needles are then inserted into usable veins. The
needles are connected to long tubes that run through a hole into another room,
where one or more executioners release the lethal drugs. After a signal from the
warden, the curtain is raised and the inmate is exposed to the witnesses who
watch from another room. After the inmate makes his final statement, the lethal
drugs are injected.

The first drug is a fast acting barbiturate that ideally renders the inmate
unconscious. The second drug paralyzes the inmate and stops the lungs. The third
drug, the killing drug, stops the heart. A lot of the current controversy
surrounding the lethal injection has come from doctors who have testified in
court that if the fast acting barbiturate wears off before the inmate dies, then
he will feel the pain of suffocation during the execution but be unable to cry
out because of the paralytic drug.”

Those who administer the drugs.

"And the guys who do that, they're not doctors. They weren't during Willet's
tenure at least. No one was. Not the people who tied the restraints, not people
who inserted the IV, not the executioner. "The only place a doctor comes in� he
comes in and does all the things a doctor does to pronounce death," said Willet.( Former warden of the Huntsville Unit, the prison where
Texas' death row population goes to die.)"

Behind the scenes

"But, before the curtain that veils witnesses from the death chamber opens,
technicians sometimes struggle for up to an hour to insert the IVs into an
inmate's veins so that the lethal drugs can flow. The serenity of the lethal
injection, that just going to sleep, is due to a paralytic drug that is
administered as part of the lethal injection process. This drug that saves
witnesses from having to view involuntary spasms as the inmate dies, and saves
the public from having to hear about them, prevents the inmate from crying out
if the painkiller wears off before their heart stops."

Botched executions

Bennie Demps: June 2000

"On June 8, 2000, Bennie Demps was executed by lethal injection by the state of
Florida. Technicians struggled for 33 minutes to insert two IVs into Demp's
veins. When the curtain opened, Demps was already strapped down, with needles
inserted. During his final statement he said, "They butchered me back there. I
was in a lot of pain. They cut me in the groin, they cut me in the leg� This is
not an execution, this is murder," according to the Miami Herald. Demps said the
medical examiner would find a wound on his leg that technicians sutured back up.
"I was bleeding profusely," Demps said.

When Demps was killed, the lethal injection was new to Florida. Florida had
switched from electrocution to the lethal injection only months before. "This
being a fairly new procedure at the time, I did not have any expectations," said
George Schafer, Demps' lawyer, who witnessed the execution.

Everyone assumed that when the method of execution changed from electrocution
to lethal injection that it would be more humane, and that assumption needs to
be reexamined," Schafer said."

Joseph L. Clark: May 2006

"On May 2, 2006, Joseph L. Clark was executed by the state of Ohio using the
lethal injection, the sole method available in that state. After the curtain
opened, with the IV already in place, Clark raised his head and body and said,
"It don't work. It don't work," five times, according to an article in the
Canton Repository by Paul Kostyu. The curtain was closed, and witnesses heard,
"moaning, crying out and guttural noises," according to the Columbus Dispatch.
The curtain did not reopen for another 30 minutes. It took the state an hour and
a half to kill Joseph Clark."

Is there a Doctor in the Room?

"Clearly this whole lethal injection procedure is borrowed from the medical
profession," said Richard Dieter, Director of the Death Penalty Information
Center, an anti-death penalty group. "Now you have prison guards and non medical
personnel performing medical procedures," he said. To conduct the lethal
injection without an unnecessary amount of pain, a doctor would needs to oversee
the procedure. "They'd have to be willing to step in if necessary and
intervene," said Dieter, "I don't think that doctors are willing to do that."

Thirty five botched executions

"There have been at least 35 botched executions in 13 states, according to
information compiled by Michael Radelet, a professor at the University of
Colorado who studies the death penalty, and Deborah Denno, a lawyer and
professor at Fordham University who is an expert in death penalty law. Of those
botched executions, 14 were in Texas, which does the most executions each year.
Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, and Oklahoma each had 3 botched executions, Arkansas
had 2, while Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Nevada, South Carolina, and
Virginia each had 1 botched execution."

Doctors in the USA are very reluctant to become the State's executioners.
First of all, do no harm. It is not within the principles of a doctor's professional ethics to become a killer for the state. So, medically unqualified personnel have been administering what amounts to complex medical procedures. Time for this to be be stopped and I applaud the Supreme Court for taking up this issue and putting all executions on hold.

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