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.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 09, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nasty As They Wanna Be
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Second Gilded Age: Overcoming the Rule of Billionaires and Militarists
Andrew Levine
Trump’s Chumps: Victims of the Old Bait and Switch
Erin McCarley
American Nazis and the Fight for US History
Lewis Lapham
Hostile Takeover
Joshua Frank
This Week at CounterPunch: More Hollow Smears and Baseless Accusations
Paul Street
The Democrats Do Their Job, Again
Vijay Prashad
The Cuban Revolution: Defying Imperialism From Its Backyard
Michael Hudson - Sharmini Peries
Orwellian Economics
Mark Ames
The Anonymous Blacklist Promoted by the Washington Post Has Apparent Ties to Ukrainian Fascism and CIA Spying
Yoav Litvin
Resist or Conform: Lessons in Fortitude and Weakness From the Israeli Left
Conn Hallinan
India & Pakistan: the Unthinkable
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Nativism on the Left – A Realer Smith
Joshua Sperber
Trump in the Age of Identity Politics
Brandy Baker
Jill Stein Sees Russia From Her House
Katheryne Schulz
Report from Santiago de Cuba: Celebrating Fidel’s Rebellious Life
Nelson Valdes
Fidel and the Good People
Norman Solomon
McCarthy’s Smiling Ghost: Democrats Point the Finger at Russia
Renee Parsons
The Snowflake Nation and Trump on Immigration
Margaret Kimberley
Black Fear of Trump
Michael J. Sainato
A Pruitt Running Through It: Trump Kills Nearly Useless EPA With Nomination of Oil Industry Hack
Ron Jacobs
Surviving Hate and Death—The AIDS Crisis in 1980s USA
David Swanson
Virginia’s Constitution Needs Improving
Louis Proyect
Narcos and the Story of Colombia’s Unhappiness
Paul Atwood
War Has Been, is, and Will be the American Way of Life…Unless?
John Wight
Syria and the Bodyguard of Lies
Richard Hardigan
Anti-Semitism Awareness Act: Senate Bill Criminalizes Criticism of Israel
Kathy Kelly
See How We Live
David Macaray
Trump Picks his Secretary of Labor. Ho-Hum.
Howard Lisnoff
Interview with a Political Organizer
Yves Engler
BDS and Anti-Semitism
Martha Durkee-Neuman
Millennial Organizers Want to See An Intersectional Understanding Of Gun Violence
Adam Parsons
Home Truths About the Climate Emergency
Brian Cloughley
The Decline and Fall of Britain
Eamonn Fingleton
U.S. China Policy: Is Obama Schizoid?
Graham Peebles
Worldwide Air Pollution is Making us Ill
Joseph Natoli
Fake News is Subjective?
Andre Vltchek
Tough-Talking Philippine President Duterte
Binoy Kampmark
Total Surveillance: Snooping in the United Kingdom
Guillermo R. Gil
Vivirse la película: Willful Opposition to the Fiscal Control Board in Puerto Rico
Patrick Bond
South Africa’s Junk Credit Rating was Avoided, But at the Cost of Junk Analysis
Clancy Sigal
Investigate the Protesters! A Trial Balloon Filled With Poison Gas
Charles R. Larson
Review:  Helon Habila’s The Chibok Girls: the Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria
December 08, 2016
John W. Whitehead
Power to the People: John Lennon’s Legacy Lives On
Mike Whitney
Rolling Back the Empire: Washington’s Proxy-Army Faces Decisive Defeat in Aleppo
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail