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.

Weekend Edition
April 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
Vijay Prashad
Political Violence in Honduras
Paul Krane
Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police
David Anderson
Al Jazeera America: Goodbye to All That Jazz
Rob Hager
Platform Perversity: More From the Campaign That Can’t Strategize
Pat Williams
FDR in Montana
Dave Marsh
Every Day I Read the Book (the Best Music Books of the Last Year)
David Rosen
Job Satisfaction Under Perpetual Stagnation
John Feffer
Big Oil isn’t Going Down Without a Fight
Murray Dobbin
The Canadian / Saudi Arms Deal: More Than Meets the Eye?
Gary Engler
The Devil Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Is Washington Preparing for War Against Russia?
Manuel E. Yepe
The Big Lies and the Small Lies
Robert Fantina
Vice Presidents, Candidates and History
Mel Gurtov
Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea
Howard Lisnoff
Still the Litmus Test of Worth
Dean Baker
Big Business and the Overtime Rule: Irrational Complaints
Ulrich Heyden
Crimea as a Paradise for High-Class Tourism?
Ramzy Baroud
Did the Arabs Betray Palestine? – A Schism between the Ruling Classes and the Wider Society
Halyna Mokrushyna
The War on Ukrainian Scientists
Joseph Natoli
Who’s the Better Neoliberal?
Ron Jacobs
The Battle at Big Brown: Joe Allen’s The Package King
Wahid Azal
Class Struggle and Westoxication in Pahlavi Iran: a Review of the Iranian Series ‘Shahrzad’
David Crisp
After All These Years, Newspapers Still Needed
Graham Peebles
Hungry and Frightened: Famine in Ethiopia 2016
Robert Koehler
Opening the Closed Political Culture
Missy Comley Beattie
Waves of Nostalgia
Thomas Knapp
The Problem with Donald Trump’s Version of “America First”
Georgina Downs
Hillsborough and Beyond: Establishment Cover Ups, Lies & Corruption
Jeffrey St. Clair
Groove on the Tracks: the Magic Left Hand of Red Garland
Ben Debney
Kush Zombies: QELD’s Hat Tip to Old School Hip Hop
Charles R. Larson
Moby Dick on Steroids?
David Yearsley
Miles Davis: Ace of Baseness
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail