April 11, 2016

"Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe gutted a bill to let Virginia use the electric chair when it cannot find scarce lethal-injection drugs..."

"... making an 11th-hour amendment Sunday that would instead allow the state to hire a pharmacy to make a special batch in secret," WaPo reports.
The chair is already an option in the state, where condemned inmates are allowed to choose between it and lethal injection. The measure was intended to remove the choice if the state cannot obtain the drugs, which have grown scarce amid political pressure against the death penalty.

McAuliffe’s amendment comes at the scarcity issue in a different way, by allowing the state to special-order the drugs from compounding pharmacies, whose identities would be kept secret to shield them from pressure....
All I could think was what Justice Harry Blackmun wrote (more than 20 years ago): "From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death."

41 comments:

robother said...

Exactly. Why should judges intervene in the machinery of death? If one citizen deems another deserving of killing, who are judges to second guess? Let the executioners of this world continue on their path of destruction (creative destruction?) unhindered by the need to justify their actions to the judicial system.

Surely the Constitutional penumbrae and emanations that confer absolute immunity on women to terminate a full term baby (er, person, er, entity) confer an absolute right on each American to determine who in his or her world needs to be eliminated?

TreeJoe said...

I love the idea that the method of execution approved by the state has become super scarce. Think about that for a moment and relish in the fact that we've become too law-ridden as a nation to get out of our own way.

Maybe we could design a special bathtub for death row use?

Bay Area Guy said...

Scalia's response to Blackmun on the death penalty was much more compelling. As a Constitutional matter, it is a no-brainer - the death penalty easily passes constitutional muster. As a policy matter, reasonable minds can differ.

Last I checked, judges were supposed to interpret the Constitution, not impose their policy preferences

Michael K said...

The gas chamber was the most humane and that is probably why it had to be blocked. Many inmates to be executed have been drug addicts and have destroyed their veins. Lethal injection is cumbersome and that is part of the attraction for anti-death penalty politicians.

Fernandinande said...

scarce lethal-injection drugs

Scarce and very mysterious.

State by State Lethal Injection

Wilbur said...

Bay Area Guy states it concisely and correctly.

But the William Brennan School of Jurisprudence holds that if the Justice disagrees with the policy choice of the legislature, then ipso facto it must be unconstitutional.

Very dangerous guy, that Brennan.

sean said...

That was certainly one of Blackmun's more grandiloquent and pointless declarations. It sort of reminds me of when my wife was in labor and at one point announced that she didn't want to do it anymore, and that she was going to go home. (It's understandable, when you're in labor, if you stop making sense, but conscientiously crafting a sentence declining to deal with the world as it actually exists is total fatuity.)

Ron Snyder said...

I am very happy to send VA as many 9mm bullets as they need.

Hagar said...

I don't understand this scarcity of appropriate drugs.
Surely any city police evidence room has ample excess supplies of heroin, etc. for a deliberate overdose?

Sebastian said...

"All I could think was what Justice Harry Blackmun wrote (more than 20 years ago): "From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death." Funny. All I could think was, what if Progs would no longer tinker with the machinery of death and let justice be done, in keeping with the actual Constitution and actual laws. (Yeah, I know some states abolished CP, and you know, that's actually fine with me, though Prog pressure on states that have not abolished makes it less fine with me.)

madAsHell said...

I am absolutely convinced this lethal injection procedure is rigged to ensure the ugliest outcome. Even Marilyn Monroe was smart enough to ingest a handful of Seconal. They now have the audacity (of hope) to suggest that the drugs are difficult to acquire.

BULLSHIT.

Todd Galle said...

As a museum curator, I actually had an electric chair in a collection. Not just the chair, but the generator, fume hood, and a big metal box with the leather restraints, hoods, and sponges. Interestingly, we had a male and female leather hood/sponge apparatus. Given that we always needed money, i thought that a $5 polaroid of folks (tourists) sitting in the chair would have helped the bottom line. We could never figure out how to exhibit it, with meetings lasting hours on just what the wall color might be, and how it could be interpreted by some imaginary visitor.

Bay Area Guy said...

Gary Gillmore -- Utah - 1977 -- convicted of murder. Death by Firing squad

That's how you do it. Why "tinker" with the machinery of death?

FullMoon said...

Phillip Seymour Hoffman,Corey Montieth, Heath Ledger, and many other celebrities had do problem finding a lethal dose. Hell, half the commenters here probably know of a friend, or friend of a friend, relative etc. who OD'd.

Gahrie said...

Just use carbon monoxide. In high enough concentrations, one or two breaths knock you unconscious and you die within five minutes.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Gahrie said...
Just use carbon monoxide. In high enough concentrations, one or two breaths knock you unconscious and you die within five minutes.


Nitrogen. CO might make you puke and turn funny colors, and the gallery wouldn't like that. Nitrogen'll just put you to sleep quickly and you'll probably even feel good as it happens.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Hey, where were the "Do your job!" people when Blackmun said that, by the way?

Some Kentucky clerk decides her God won't let her sign some certificates and she's a backwards hillbilly deserving of a month's worth of 2 minute hates, but a Justice says doing his job vis a vis death penalty cases offends his sensibilities and he's some kind of moral hero? Bullshit.

Levi Starks said...

Actually nitrogen gas is the ideal product, there are recorded accidental deaths every year when a person spills liquid nitrogen in a confined space, and the available oxygen quickly drops to a level too low to support life. And the victim knows nothing, they just pass out and die.
Alternatively there seems to be no shortage of product for people who under state authorization choose to end their own life.

JPS said...

Bay Area Guy:

From that article, this struck me: "In 1976, when Gary Mark Gilmore was sentenced to death by firing squad, TIME reported that dozens of men were calling the Utah state prison warden asking to be one of the shooters."

I'm sure this will appall some, and I understand and respect that, but my personal criterion for imposing the death penalty is, Would I kill the bastard myself? I don't like how that sounds, but hey: It makes no moral sense to call for it, yet be unwilling to dirty my hands. Not even sure I'm buying that one blank cartridge so each man in the squad can tell himself he didn't fire the fatal shot. It's either the right thing to do or it's not.

Being able to answer this question "yes" requires some strict dependent criteria to be met. The crime has to be so cruel and sadistic that the convict is damned lucky, by comparison, to die by a clean shot, instead of what he did to his victim(s). Also, if I have any farfetched worry that the conviction was a mistake, I'm not pulling that trigger.

Thus it's rare and unsystematic, but it's there in case you need it - for justice, deterrence being a red herring. If anyone here knows who Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky are (and if you don't, I urge you not to find out), they are pretty much exactly who I'm thinking of. And, death penalty opponents? I respect your position but I promise you, volunteering to be a rifleman on their firing squad does not lower me to their level: "Ain't the same ballpark, ain't the same league, ain't even the same f&^*ing sport."

rcocean said...

Blackmun just decided he to impose his opinion on the whole country as a Philosopher King.

We gotten into this mess because the left-wing lawyers don't want to follow the constitution or the will of the people. There must be no "diversity" of opinion. All must obey their views on the death penalty. And they will impose them by hook or by Crook.

'cause they're so special and superior.

Scott M said...

Has no one ever thought about anesthetizing the condemned and then putting them in the electric chair? Hell, make it an electric gurney. The drugs to knock the condemned out have GOT to be easier to come by and far cheaper than the eclectic cocktail used for lethal injection.

That solves both the budget issue AND the "cruel and unusual" issue.

rcocean said...

Y'know why we have to go thru all this crap? Women voters. The poor dears don't like the death penalty, so we came up with lethal injection so its nice and tidy.

Just shoot the bastards. Its quick and relatively painless. Or guillotine them.

Yes, i know it can be a little messy. but that's not the point.

Bill Peschel said...

"From that article, this struck me: "In 1976, when Gary Mark Gilmore was sentenced to death by firing squad, TIME reported that dozens of men were calling the Utah state prison warden asking to be one of the shooters.""

That reminded me of the National Lampoon article that commented on the Gilmore execution, quoting a Utah official saying they had so many volunteers they weren't going to have a firing squad, but a firing platoon.

The battle over using drugs is in reality a smokescreen by anti-death penalty lawyers who can't get the penalty banned any way else. We use certain drugs to put animals to sleep; there's no reason why they can't be used on humans with the same efficiency.

Heck, the New York Times Magazine -- a year ago? -- ran a long article about this old woman preparing to commit suicide using (possibly) phenobarbital in a glass of wine. The story ends with her husband helping her along the way, she drinks it, falls asleep, and within a half hour, it's over. No muss, no fuss.

And yet no one in the media is willing to call this for what it is, a political fight to ban the death penalty using secondary means, much like using "medicinal" marijuana to legalize pot for all.

n.n said...

They can carry out human and civil rights-approved executions in the local abortion clinic. If they choose Planned Parenthood, they can go "green", and green, and recycle the lucrative parts.

mtrobertslaw said...

Blackmun, Blackmun? Didn't he write the abortion opinion?

Michael K said...

"We use certain drugs to put animals to sleep; there's no reason why they can't be used on humans with the same efficiency."

You are correct but most animals have not been shooting up drugs for years and obliterating their veins.

The "drug shortage" is a myth. Ask Michael Jackson. Oh wait....

Michael K said...

"Actually nitrogen gas is the ideal product,"

For that matter, nitrous oxide (also known as laughing gas) is perfect as it causes euphoria, then death. Of course, the families of victims might not appreciate the condemned laughing himself to death.

robother said...

"They can carry out human and civil rights-approved executions in the local abortion clinic." Instead of a death sentence, the trial would result in declaring the guilty one an "entity" requiring a retroactive abortion.

n.n said...

robother:

Exactly. Classifying her as subhuman has implications with "constitutional" protections backed by all the liberal justices. With guaranteed leading human and civil rights approval, and the female chauvinist vote, carrying out abortions of unwanted and inconvenient criminals will reduce the burden on society, the courtroom backlog, etc. Also, the abortion industry has excess capacity that reduces its viability for employment and profits for investors. It seems like an ideal way to increase their market while securing environmental stability, maintaining green lawns, and creating safe spaces.

Sammy Finkelman said...

Surely any city police evidence room has ample excess supplies of heroin, etc. for a deliberate overdose?

That might work, but it is not what was written into law. It is scarce because the EU has prohibited drugs from being sold for purposes of execution.

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/02/can-europe-end-the-death-penalty-in-america/283790/

Gahrie said...

Blackmun, Blackmun? Didn't he write the abortion opinion?

Yes he did. He was Nixon's fourth choice for the nomination...and one of his biggest mistakes.

Sammy Finkelman said...

Of the three drugs used in standard lethal injections, potassium chloride and pancuronium bromide are widely available. But sodium thiopental has been superseded by newer anesthetics. Few U.S. hospitals, if any, still use it, and even fewer manufacturers produce it worldwide. Most importantly, sodium thiopental only has a shelf life of about four years, making stockpiling the drug difficult given the lengthy and arduous appeals process for death-penalty cases. As a result of this vulnerable supply line, sodium thiopental has become a pressure point for activists in the U.S. and Europe.

Initially, individual European countries moved to cut off supply of the drug. British officials at first refused to restrict it, arguing that the anesthetic had legitimate medical uses, until activists provided data showing that Europe’s customers for the drug included U.S. prisons. Business Secretary Vince Cable then reversed course and imposed an export ban in November 2010, citing Britain’s longstanding support of the death penalty’s worldwide abolition.

Hospira, the last U.S. company to market sodium thiopental, stopped production of the drug in January 2011 under intense pressure from authorities in Italy, where their pharmaceutical plant is located.

Sammy Finkelman said...

Justice Harry Blackmun got corrupted by his strong feelings about abortion (he used to be a lawyer for the Mayo clinic and along with some doctors didn't mind abortion and disliked illegal abortion) and then, rather tahn admitting to himself that he'd twisted the law to get a result he wanted, he generally changed his philosophy.

Larry J said...

HoodlumDoodlum said...
Gahrie said...
Just use carbon monoxide. In high enough concentrations, one or two breaths knock you unconscious and you die within five minutes.

Nitrogen. CO might make you puke and turn funny colors, and the gallery wouldn't like that. Nitrogen'll just put you to sleep quickly and you'll probably even feel good as it happens.


Yes, nitrogen is the way. It's cheap, reliable, and, being 80% of the atmosphere, impossible to ban. It doesn't even require an execution chamber, just a mask.

tim maguire said...

Why do so many people of otherwise good sense tolerate the liberal passion for sneaky back-door methods of winning arguments that they cannot win through honest persuasion?

The Genius Savant said...

Re: Blackmun -- yeah except if that tinkering involves abortion.

tim maguire said...

Blackmun is right--having determined that capital punishment is constitutional, there is no justification for a judge to insert himself further into the issue.

Bay Area Guy said...

Death penalty archives:

Back in 1988, Dukakis had a big summer lead over Bush Pere. It was not looking good for the GOP.

At the first Prez debate, a CNN journalist, Bernard Shaw, stunned the crowd, the TV audience and Dukakis with the first question: a pointed question about the death pentalty:

If your wife were raped and murdered, would you still be against the death penalty?

Dukakis was weak and technocratic in his response, and it just killed him, politically, in the election. Bye-bye White House.

Thanks, CNN!

p.s. Perhaps, in a karmic sense, Candy Crowley of CNN felt the need to issue some payback against Romney 24 years later.

Fritz said...

HoodlumDoodlum said...
Gahrie said...
Just use carbon monoxide. In high enough concentrations, one or two breaths knock you unconscious and you die within five minutes.

Nitrogen. CO might make you puke and turn funny colors, and the gallery wouldn't like that. Nitrogen'll just put you to sleep quickly and you'll probably even feel good as it happens.


It's a well known industrial accident for someone to walk or climb into a space where the air has been replaced by nitrogen or some other inert gas.

The ones who are pulled to safety in time generally report "I walked into the room, and then I woke up in the hospital."

Seems humane enough.

southcentralpa said...

Can't we just settle this by saying that whatever's okay for sogenannte "assisted suicide" is okay for executions?

Big Mike said...

I think that the death penalty is overused in this country, but I don't think I'd want to live in s country that didn't have it.