Thursday, April 17, 2008

Death Cleared For Takeoff

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday ruled that the state of Kentucky could administer a three-drug cocktail which has proved to be painful in some cases, to cause death for the condemned. In Texas, where many executions have been on hold, this makes many convicted prisoners closer to death.

There is a case pending in Texas, though, which will have to be finished before those sentences can be carried out.

Mr. Chi's execution was stayed by the Texas court in October after the Supreme Court agreed to hear the Kentucky case.

The Court of Criminal Appeals received briefs in the Chi case in January. The Chi case involves not only the drugs used in executions, but also other protocol issues such as training of the person who administers the drugs.

In the Kentucky case, Baze vs. Rees, attorneys argued that the combination of drugs and administration of lethal injections caused the inmate to suffer unnecessarily, violating the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

Texas uses the same drug cocktail in executions, but David Dow, a law professor at the University of Houston, said the process in Texas is less transparent than the process in Kentucky, so, "It is possible that lethal injection challenge will get some traction in Texas.

While the legal issues are argued, another man has been released because of DNA findings from Dallas prisons after serving 23 years. Thomas Clifford Magowan had been convicted of a rape he did not commit. Once again, the accuracy of convictions which may lead to severe penalties, possibly even death, has been disproved.

There is an element that will celebrate a return to death penalties, sadly, but civilization has broken out in other places.

Gov. Rick Perry hailed the Supreme Court ruling yesterday, saying, "Texas is a law and order state, and I stand by the majority of Texans who support the death penalty as it is written in Texas law."

The governor's majority claim may be true, but support for the death penalty appears to be waning in Texas. Prosecutors are more wary of taking on marginal cases, and jurors want a higher standard of proof than the recollections of a purported eyewitness. Life sentences without parole are now an option for the courts.

Lethal injections may be cleared for use in the Texas death chamber again, but that doesn't mean executions have to go forward. State lawmakers who have doubts about the system have a responsibility to restate their case.

Association with venality and general misconduct is becoming increasingly impolitic in the Lone Star State, and the Dallas Morning News has dissociated itself from its worst emanations. Setting such an example would be helpful in many ways, not least of which is extrication from a past with such disgraces as lynchings, draggings and murders, that are only carried forward by the tradition of execution. The hoods and burning crosses are behind us, as they should be. The way forward is one of enlightenment, no longer hostage to the disgraces past.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

A lot of links (and comments) about the death penalty can be found on the nest.


6:42 AM  

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