Sunday, December 17, 2006

Two States Place a Moratorium on Executions

I know. I'm late on this one, but it's been a busy weekend.

When the State of Florida killed Angel Diaz (pictured) last week, the cocktail of lethal chemicals took 34 minutes to get the job done, and then only after a second dose was administered. Some say that an execution that lasts more than a half hour constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. I suppose that scheduling the exact date and time of a person's death then, when the time comes, strapping that person down while medical personnel inject fatal chemicals into his body is not by itself cruel and unusual.

Anyway, Florida Governor Jeb Bush personally suspended executions in the state. Meanwhile, California also decided that pumping people with poison is cruel and/or unusual. Enter the activist judge:

Separately, a federal judge in California imposed a moratorium on executions in the nation's most populous state, declaring that the state's method of lethal injection runs the risk of violating the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel ruled in San Jose that California's "implementation of lethal injection is broken." But he said: "It can be fixed."

Fogel said the case raised the question of whether a three-drug cocktail administered by the San Quentin State Prison is so painful that it "offends" the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Fogel said he was compelled "to answer that question in the affirmative."

How is Judge Fogel so sure that lethal injection is so painful? Has he tried it? (Can one be a federal judge if one is undead?) At any rate, I'm glad that Florida and California have taken these measures. But I fear that this debate over the cruelty and peculiarity of lethal injection will only prompt states to come up with more clever ways to kill people instead of bringing to the surface underlying moral questions about capital punishment.


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