FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

What Executions Say About the Executioners

by CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI

State sponsored executions are back in the news again.  By the time this column sees the black of print, two men will have been executed in the space of less than one week, one in Ohio and one in Texas.  Neither would be remarkable  (except in the eyes of the decedent and his family) but for what the executions say about their executioners.  In Ohio it is the enthusiasm of the state for getting the job done and in Texas the duplicity of its governor and attorney general who permitted the execution to go forward.

On January 16, 2014, the state of Ohio showed the world that the lack of a proven potion to accomplish the task would not halt the execution of Dennis McGuire.  A lesser state might have postponed the execution because of the unavailability of drugs that had most recently been used by Ohio when conducting its executions.  The   unavailability of death dealing drugs was not because they were no longer being manufactured. They were unavailable because their manufacturers refused to sell them to states that used them in executions.

When Missouri was confronted with the unavailability of propofol, its favored drug for executions, Missouri postponed a scheduled October 2013 execution until it could come up with an acceptable substitute.  When Texas encountered a problem in obtaining pentobarbital, the drug it used in execution, state correction officials forged prescriptions in order to obtain the drug from a pharmacy.  (When the forgery was discovered the pharmacy refused to fill the prescription.)  Unlike Texas and Missouri, Ohio dealt with the problem by being creative.

For many years before Dennis’s execution, Ohio had used a three-drug combination that performed its assigned task in less than 15 minutes.  When questions were raised as to whether or not it caused the person receiving the drugs an unconstitutional level of discomfort its use was discontinued and other drugs were substituted.  None of those drugs being currently available, on January 16, 2014, Ohio killed Dennis by administering a sedative and a painkiller, a procedure that had never before been used in the United States.  To outward appearances it was not a great success although Dennis did die.  However, during the execution he appeared to be desperately gasping for air and the procedure took more than twice as long as it had taken when those being executed received the established death dealing cocktails.

Commenting on the new Ohio procedure, Doug Berman, a law professor and death penalty expert said:

“[W]hat we now have discovered is Ohio is using a method that gets the job done, but looks ugly.  We don’t know if it actually was ugly.  We just know that it looked ugly.”

(If Ohio wants to find out if the procedure “actually was ugly” it might consider giving the person being executed a device with a button to press to let those watching the execution know if he finds the procedure unpleasant.  That could inform future executions, permitting the state to modify procedures if appropriate. The inmate might take pleasure in knowing that while dying he was helping to improve the execution process. )

On January 22, 2014, Texas executed Edgar Tamayo, a Mexican citizen.  After Edgar was arrested and charged, Texas ignored its obligations under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.  Under the Convention,  foreign nationals who are arrested and charged with criminal conduct are entitled to have their Consulates notified of their detention.  In 2004 the World Court ruled that Edgar’s rights and the rights of four dozen other Mexican nationals awaiting the death penalty were violated since they had not been properly advised of their consular rights.  In response, President Bush ordered Texas to conduct those hearings.  In 2008 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the president lacked the authority to order Texas to conduct those hearings.

Following the Supreme Court decision, however, Governor Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott, both honorable men, wrote the Supreme Court, the Secretary of State, and the Attorney General of the United States and said Texas would ask the Texas courts to review the issues raised by the World Court, even though they were not are required to do so.  Sadly, from Edgar’s point of view, Governor Perry forgot to ask Texas courts to consider that question.  So did Greg Abbott who hopes to be Texas’s next governor.  Commenting on the execution, Governor Perry’s spokesperson said:  “If you commit a despicable crime like this in Texas you are subject to our state laws, including a fair trial by jury and the ultimate penalty.”   Nothing was said about broken promises.

January 22, 2014, Edgar was executed without a review of his Vienna Convention claim.  As the governor’s spokesperson said, Edgar had a jury trial and got the ultimate penalty.  Who cares that Edgar’s rights under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations were not honored or that the governor and the attorney general of Texas showed themselves to be men without honor in permitting Edgar’s execution to go forward?

Not Texas.

Christopher Brauchli is a lawyer living in Boulder, Colorado.

Christopher Brauchli is an attorney in Boulder, Colorado.

February 09, 2016
Andrew Levine
Hillary Says the Darndest Things
Paul Street
Kill King Capital
Ben Burgis
Lesser Evil Voting and Hillary Clinton’s War on the Poor
Paul Craig Roberts
Are the Payroll Jobs Reports Merely Propaganda Statements?
Fran Quigley
How Corporations Killed Medicine
Ted Rall
How Bernie Can Pay for His Agenda: Slash the Military
Kristin Kolb
The Greatest Bear Rainforest Agreement? A Love Affair, Deferred
Joseph Natoli
Politics and Techno-Consciousness
Hrishikesh Joshi
Selective Attention to Diversity: the Case of Cruz and Rubio
Stavros Mavroudeas
Why Syriza is Sinking in Greece
David Macaray
Attention Peyton Manning: Leave Football and Concentrate on Pizza
Arvin Paranjpe
Opening Your Heart
Kathleen Wallace
Boys, Hell, and the Politics of Vagina Voting
Brian Foley
Interview With a Bernie Broad: We Need to Start Focusing on Positions and Stop Relying on Sexism
February 08, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Privatization: the Atlanticist Tactic to Attack Russia
Mumia Abu-Jamal
Water War Against the Poor: Flint and the Crimes of Capital
John V. Walsh
Did Hillary’s Machine Rig Iowa? The Highly Improbable Iowa Coin Tosses
Vincent Emanuele
The Curse and Failure of Identity Politics
Eliza A. Webb
Hillary Clinton’s Populist Charade
Uri Avnery
Optimism of the Will
Roy Eidelson Trudy Bond, Stephen Soldz, Steven Reisner, Jean Maria Arrigo, Brad Olson, and Bryant Welch
Preserve Do-No-Harm for Military Psychologists: Coalition Responds to Department of Defense Letter to the APA
Patrick Cockburn
Oil Prices and ISIS Ruin Kurdish Dreams of Riches
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, the UN and Meanings of Arbitrary Detention
Shamus Cooke
The Labor Movement’s Pearl Harbor Moment
W. T. Whitney
Cuba, War and Ana Belen Montes
Jim Goodman
Congress Must Kill the Trans Pacific Partnership
Peter White
Meeting John Ross
Colin Todhunter
Organic Agriculture, Capitalism and the Parallel World of the Pro-GMO Evangelist
Ralph Nader
They’re Just Not Answering!
Cesar Chelala
Beware of the Harm on Eyes Digital Devices Can Cause
Weekend Edition
February 5-7, 2016
Jeffrey St. Clair
When Chivalry Fails: St. Bernard and the Machine
Leonard Peltier
My 40 Years in Prison
John Pilger
Freeing Julian Assange: the Final Chapter
Garry Leech
Terrifying Ted and His Ultra-Conservative Vision for America
Andrew Levine
Smash Clintonism: Why Democrats, Not Republicans, are the Problem
William Blum
Is Bernie Sanders a “Socialist”?
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
We Can’t Afford These Billionaires
Enrique C. Ochoa
Super Bowl 50: American Inequality on Display
Jonathan Cook
The Liberal Hounding of Julian Assange: From Alex Gibney to The Guardian
George Wuerthner
How the Bundy Gang Won
Mike Whitney
Peace Talks “Paused” After Putin’s Triumph in Aleppo 
Ted Rall
Hillary Clinton: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Gary Leupp
Is a “Socialist” Really Unelectable? The Potential Significance of the Sanders Campaign
Vijay Prashad
The Fault Line of Race in America
Eoin Higgins
Please Clap: the Jeb Bush Campaign Pre-Mortem
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail