Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Recent American bungled executions

The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution prohibits the federal and State governments  from imposing  cruel and unusual punishment. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that this Amendment's Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause also applies to the states. Both the states and the federal government execute criminals who murder people.  

Unusual and cruel punishment      

Although the Salem Witch Trials are well-known for having their victims being burned at the stake however, that was actually less common than being hanged. Giles Corey was an 81-year-old man who had been accused of witchcraft. When he was confronted about it, he did not plead guilty or innocent. He stood mute whenever he was asked how he wished to plead. The interrogation for a response was different than any other Salem or surrounding communities had seen. They stripped him down and made him lay naked on the concrete floor. They continued on by placing heavy weights and rocks on his body, adding more and more each day. This continued on until Corey died.

One day in 1972 when I was traveling in Nevada, I saw an execution chamber that was used many years prior to my visit. It was only small enough for the condemned man to stand in. Slowly, the air was sucked out of the chamber until the condemned man died from suffocation.                 

Obviously these two forms of punishment were clearly against the dictates of the Eighth Amendment, but were later executions also against the dictates of that Amendment? They were but not deliberately.

May 3rd 1941, was supposed to be Willie’s last day on Earth. His head had been shaved and his pant leg had been torn so that current could cleanly surge through the body of the 17-year-old Louisiana youth as he sat strapped into the electric chair known as “Gruesome Gertie.” But things did not proceed as planned in the small town of St. Martinville. Foster and his assistant had been drinking and did not wire the chair properly on that hot morning, and when the switch was thrown, Willie convulsed and screamed for more than a minute, until it became obvious to everyone in the death room that something was wrong. “I am not dying,” Willie shouted, until finally, the sheriff ordered the electricity shut off.

Deputies put Willie back in his cell and Louisiana Governor Jimmie Davis was called as town officials were unsure what to do with the boy who walked away from the electric chair. About an hour later, Davis had made up his mind. Foster was to load the chair back into the truck and drive it home to Angola where it would be fixed. Then they’d send it back to St. Martinville a week later where Willie Francis was to be re-executed.

Gruesome Gertie had haunted the dreams of many a condemned man in Louisiana. Willie was the twenty-third person to take the deadly current, but the first to survive an electrocution. There were  however others who also survived the procedure.

The case of Furman vs. Georgia was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in June 1972. In that case, the Court held that capital punishment was unconstitutional and struck down state death penalty laws nationwide. As a result, the death sentences of 95 men and one woman on Florida's Death Row were commuted to life in prison. However, after the Furman decision, the Florida Legislature revised the death penalty statutes in case the Court reinstated capital punishment in the future.

In 1972, at the invitation of the California Department of Corrections, I visited most of the prisons in that State and one of the prisons I visited was the San Quentin State Prison which is just outside of San Francisco. It was the prison that housed the gas chamber that was used to execute condemned prisoners.

While I sat on one of the two chairs in the chamber, I was told that the deaths of the condemned were prolonged as they choked to death while inhaling Hydrogen Potassium Gas.

The gas is visible to the condemned who had previously been advised to take several deep breaths to speed unconsciousness. Nonetheless, there were often convulsions and excessive drooling. There may also be urinating, defecating, and vomiting ensuing after the gas filled the chamber.

In 1976 the Supreme Court overturned its original ruling in Furman and upheld the constitutionality of the death penalty in the case of Gregg vs. Georgia. Executions resumed in Florida in 1979 when John Spenkelink became the first Death Row inmate to be executed under the new State statutes.

During the September 2, 1983, execution of Jimmy Lee Gray in Mississippi, officials cleared the viewing room after eight minutes while Gray was still alive and gasping for air. David Bruck, an attorney specializing in death penalty cases, said, "Jimmy Lee Gray died banging his head against a steel pole behind him while trying to bring on his death in the gas chamber while reporters counted his moans.

Nitrogen gas or oxygen-depleted air has been considered for human execution, as it can induce nitrogen asphyxiation. In April 2015, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin approved a bill allowing nitrogen asphyxiation as an execution method in that State.

During the April 6, 1992, execution of Donald Harding in Arizona, it took 11 minutes for his death to occur. The prison warden stated that he would quit if required to conduct another gas chamber execution. Following Harding's execution, Arizona voted that all persons condemned after November 1992 would be executed by lethal injection.

Following the execution of Robert Alton Harris, a federal court declared that "execution by lethal gas under the California protocol is unconstitutionally cruel and unusual." By the late 20th century, most states had switched to methods considered to be more humane, such as lethal injection. California's gas chamber at San Quentin State Prison was converted to an execution chamber for lethal injection.

As of 2010, the last person to be executed in the gas chamber was German national Walter LaGrand, sentenced to death before 1992, who was executed in Arizona on March 3, 1999. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit had ruled that he could not be executed by gas chamber, but the decision was overturned by the United States Supreme Court.

 The gas chamber was formerly used in ColoradoNevadaNew MexicoNorth Carolina and Oregon. Six states, Arizona, California,  Maryland, Mississippi,  Missouri  and  Wyoming, authorize lethal gas if lethal injection cannot be administered, the condemned committed their crime before a certain date, or the condemned chooses to die in the gas chamber.

While it was used in the United States, the gas chamber was considered to be the most dangerous, most complicated, and most expensive method of administering the death penalty.

In 1981 at the invitation of the Florida’s Department of Corrections, I visited the         Florida State Prison near Starke. While there, I sat on the three-legged wooden electric chair in the death chamber and discussed the method of execution via that chair with an official of the prison.

Years later, the new three-legged electric chair was constructed from oak by Department of Corrections prisoners in 1998 and was installed at Florida State Prison near Raiford in 1999. The previous chair was made by inmates from oak in 1923 after the Florida Legislature designated electrocution as the official mode of execution. Prior to that, executions were carried out by Florida counties, usually by hanging.

While I was sitting on the chair in the State Prison in Starke, I was told that the executioner (an electrician) pushed a button and the mechanism then operated on its own based upon preset intensities of voltage to be used. At first, 500 volts surged into the prisoner’s body, and five seconds later, 2,000 volts followed and then it was followed by another 500 volts and finally another 2,000 volts. Presumably, the condemned person would be dead by then,  but not always.

Robert Austin Sullivan, a condemned murderer sat on that same chair in November 1983. Unlike me, he didn’t walk away from the chair.

April 22, 1983. Alabama. John Evans was executed by electricity. After the first jolt of electricity, sparks and flames erupted from the electrode attached to Evans's leg. The electrode burst from the strap holding it in place and caught on fire. Smoke and sparks also came out from under the hood in the vicinity of Evans's left temple. Two physicians entered the chamber and found a heartbeat. The electrode was reattached to his leg, and another jolt of electricity was applied. This resulted in more smoke and burning flesh. Again the doctors found a heartbeat. Ignoring the pleas of Evans's lawyer, a third jolt of electricity was applied. The execution took 14 minutes before he died and left Evans's body charred and smoldering

 December 12, 1984. Georgia. Alpha Otis Stephens was sentenced to death by electricity.  "The first charge of electricity failed to kill him, and he struggled to breathe for eight minutes before a second charge carried out his death sentence. After the first two minute power surge, there was a six minute pause so his body could cool before physicians could examine him and declare that another jolt was needed. During that six-minute interval, Stephens took 23 breaths. A Georgia prison official said, "Stephens was just not a conductor" of electricity.

 October 16, 1985. Indiana. William Vandiver was sentenced to  death by electrocution. After the first administration of 2,300 volts, Vandiver was still breathing. The execution eventually took 17 minutes and five jolts of electricity. Vandiver's attorney, Herbert Shaps, witnessed the execution and observed smoke and the smell of burning flesh. He called the execution as being "outrageous." The Department of Corrections admitted that the execution "did not go according to plan.``

 July 14, 1989. Alabama. Horace Franklin Dunkins Jr. was sentence to death by electrocution. It took two jolts of electricity, nine minutes apart, to complete the execution. After the first jolt failed to kill the prisoner, the captain of the prison guard opened the door to the witness room and stated "I believe we've got the jacks on wrong." Because the cables had been connected improperly, it was impossible to dispense sufficient current to cause death. The cables were reconnected before a second jolt was administered. Death was pronounced 19 minutes after the first electric charge. At a post-execution news conference, Alabama Prison Commissioner Morris Thigpen said, “I regret very, very much what happened.  The cause was human error.``

May 4, 1990. Florida. Jesse Joseph Tafero was sentenced to death by electrocution. During the execution, six-inch flames erupted from Tafero's head, and three jolts of power were required to stop his breathing. State officials claimed that the botched execution was caused by inadvertent human error that was the inappropriate substitution of a synthetic sponge for a natural sponge that had been used in previous executions. They supported this theory by sticking a part of a synthetic sponge into a common household toaster and observing that it smoldered and caught fire.

Since 1976, when executions in the U.S. were reinstated, the Florida State has executed 93 convicted murderers, all of them at Florida State Prison. As of August 25, 2017, 361 condemned prisoners are awaiting execution in that State. However, it will be done by lethal injection.

In January 2000, the Florida Legislature passed legislation that allows lethal injection as an alternative method of execution in Florida. Florida has since administered executions by lethal injection at the execution chamber located at Florida State Prison at Raiford.

It was believed that the best way to execute a condemned prisoner is by lethal injection. At first, the prisoner is injected with an anesthetic such as sodium thiopentalor pentobarbital is used to induce unconsciousness, pancuronium Then  bromide (Pavulon) is injected to cause muscle paralysis and respiratory arrest, and finally potassium chloride to stop the heart.

The theory is that the condemned prisoner will simply go to sleep before the two fatal drugs enter his body. Like many theories, they are not always valid.

The last two drugs have never failed to do the job. It is the first drug that had failed so many times. Imagine if will being awake while your lungs are still functioning and you are gasping for air. When I suffered from congested heart failure years ago, the fluid in my body surrounded my lungs and heart hereby forcing me to continuously gasp for air. It is a horribly scary experience while you are slowly suffocating to death.

December 13, 1988. Texas. Raymond Landry was sentenced to  death by lethal injection. He was pronounced dead 40 minutes after being strapped to the execution gurney and 24 minutes after the drugs first started flowing into his arms. Two minutes after the drugs were administered. the syringe came out of Landry's vein, spraying the deadly chemicals across the room toward the witnesses. The curtain separating the witnesses from the inmate was then pulled, and not reopened for fourteen minutes while the execution team reinserted the catheter into the vein. Witnesses reported they heard "at least one groan." A spokesman for the Texas Department of Correction, Charles Brown said, "There was something of a delay in the execution because of what officials called a 'blowout.' The syringe came out of the vein, and the warden ordered the (execution) team to reinsert the catheter into the vein.

October 17, 1990. Virginia. Wilbert Lee Evans was sentenced to  death by electrocution. When Evans was hit with the first burst of electricity, blood spewed from the right side of the mask on Evans's face, drenching Evans's shirt with blood and causing a sizzling sound as blood dripped from his lips. Evans continued to moan before a second jolt of electricity was applied. The autopsy concluded that Evans suffered a bloody nose after the voltage surge elevated his high blood pressure.

August 22,1991, Virginia. Derick Lynn Peterson was sentenced to  death by electrocution. After the first cycle of electricity was applied, and again four minutes later, prison physician David Barnes inspected Peterson's neck and checked him with a stethoscope, announcing each time “He has not expired.” Seven and one-half minutes after the first attempt to kill the inmate, a second cycle of electricity was applied. Prison officials later announced that in the future they would routinely administer two cycles before checking for a heartbeat.  Was he conscious before the second cycle was applied?

May 24, 1989. Texas. Stephen McCoy, was sentenced to death by   lethal injection. McCoy had such a violent physical reaction to the drugs (heaving chest, gasping, choking, back arching off the gurney, etc.) that one of the witnesses (male) fainted, crashing into and knocking over another witness. Houston attorney Karen Zellars, who represented McCoy and witnessed the execution, thought the fainting would catalyze a chain reaction. The Texas Attorney General admitted the inmate "seemed to have had a somewhat stronger reaction," adding, "The drugs might have been administered in a heavier dose or more rapidly.” I don’t know if he meant that they should have been administered in a heavier dose and more rapidly.  

March 25, 1997. Florida. Pedro Medina was sentenced to death   by electrocution. A crown of foot-high flames shot from the headpiece during the execution, filling the execution chamber with a stench of thick smoke and gagging the two dozen official witnesses. An official then threw a switch to manually cut off the power and prematurely end the two-minute cycle of 2,000 volts. Medina's chest continued to heave until the flames stopped and death came. After the execution, prison officials blamed the fire on a corroded copper screen in the headpiece of the electric chair, but two experts hired by the governor later concluded that the fire was caused by the improper application of a sponge (designed to conduct electricity) to Medina's head.

July 8, 1999. Florida. Allen Lee Davis, was sentenced to death by  electrocution. "Before he was pronounced dead, the blood from his mouth had poured onto the collar of his white shirt, and the blood on his chest had spread to about the size of a dinner plate, even oozing through the buckle holes on the leather chest strap holding him to the chair. His execution was the first in Florida's new electric chair, built especially so it could accommodate a man Davis's size (approximately 350 pounds). Later, when another Florida death row inmate challenged the constitutionality of the electric chair, Florida Supreme Court Justice Leander Shaw commented that "the color photos of Davis depict a man who for all appearances was brutally tortured to death by the citizens of Florida.  Justice Shaw also described the botched executions of Jesse Tafero and Pedro Medina calling the three executions as barbaric spectacles and acts more befitting a violent murderer than a civilized State. Justice Shaw included pictures of Davis's dead body in his opinion. The execution was witnessed by a Florida State Senator, Ginny Brown-Waite, who at first was shocked to see the blood, until she realized that the blood was forming the shape of a cross and that it was a message from God saying he supported the execution. What a jerk that man was to make such a silly statement like that one.

September 12, 1990. Illinois. Charles Walker was sentenced to death by lethal injection. Because of equipment failure and human error, Walker suffered excruciating pain during his execution. According to Gary Sutterfield, an engineer from the Missouri State Prison who was retained by the State of Illinois to assist with Walker's execution, a kink in the plastic tubing going into Walker's arm stopped the deadly chemicals from reaching Walker. In addition, the intravenous needle was inserted pointing at Walker's fingers instead of his heart, prolonging his execution

January 24, 1992. Arkansas. Rickey Ray Rector was sentence to  death by lethal injection. It took medical staff more than 50 minutes to find a suitable vein in Rector's arm. Witnesses were kept behind a drawn curtain and not permitted to view this scene, but reported hearing Rector's eight loud moans throughout the process. During the ordeal Rector (who suffered from serious brain damage) helped the medical personnel find a vein. The administrator of the State's Department of Corrections medical programs said (paraphrased by a newspaper reporter) “The moans did come as a team of two medical people that had grown to five worked on both sides of his body to find a vein." The administrator said "That may have contributed to his occasional outbursts.” The difficulty in finding a suitable vein was later attributed to Rector's bulk and his regular use of antipsychotic medication. If that man suffered from a serious damage to his brain, why was he sentenced to death?

April 6, 1992. Arizona. Donald Eugene Harding was sentenced to death by gas. His death was not pronounced until 10 1/2 minutes after the cyanide tablets were dropped. During the execution, Harding thrashed and struggled violently against the restraining straps. A television journalist who witnessed the execution, Cameron Harper, said that Harding's spasms and jerks lasted 6 minutes and 37 seconds. "Obviously, this man was suffering. This was a violent death … an ugly event. We put animals to death more humanely." Another witness, newspaper reporter Carla McClain, said, "Harding's death was extremely violent. He was in great pain. I heard him gasp and moan. I saw his body turn from red to purple." One reporter who witnessed the execution suffered from insomnia and assorted illnesses for several weeks; two others were "walking vegetables" for several days.

 March 10, 1992. Oklahoma. Robyn Lee Parks was sentenced to death by lethal injection. Parks had a violent reaction to the drugs used in his lethal injection. Two minutes after the drugs were dispensed, the muscles in his jaw, neck, and abdomen began to react spasmodically for approximately 45 seconds. Parks continued to gasp and violently gag until death came, some eleven minutes after the drugs were first administered. Tulsa World reporter Wayne Greene wrote that the execution looked "painful, scary and ugly."  It was overwhelming, stunning, disturbing as an intrusion into that moment of their lives that the reporters had trouble looking each other in the eyes after it was over.

April 23, 1992. Texas. Billy Wayne White was sentenced to death by lethal injection. White was pronounced dead some 47 minutes after being strapped to the execution gurney. The delay was caused by difficulty finding a vein because White had a long history of heroin abuse. During the execution, White attempted to assist the authorities in finding a suitable vein.

May 7, 1992. Texas. Justin Lee May was sentenced to death by lethal injection. May had an unusually violent reaction to the lethal drugs. According to one reporter who witnessed the execution, May "gasped, coughed and reared against his heavy leather restraints, coughing once again before his body froze.  Associated Press reporter Michael Graczyk wrote, "Compared to other recent executions in Texas, May's reaction to the drugs was more violent. He went into a coughing spasm, groaned and gasped, lifted his head from the death chamber gurney and would have arched his back if he had not been belted down. After he stopped breathing, his eyes and mouth remained open.

 May 10, 1994. Illinois. John Wayne Gacy was sentenced to death by lethal injection. After the execution began, the lethal chemicals unexpectedly solidified, clogging the IV tube that led into Gacy's arm, and prohibiting any further passage. Blinds covering the window through which witnesses observed the execution were drawn closed and the execution team replaced the clogged tube with a new one. Ten minutes later, the blinds were then reopened and the execution process resumed. His death  took 18 minutes to complete.  Anesthesiologists blamed the problem on the inexperience of prison officials who were conducting the execution, saying that proper procedures taught in "IV 101" would have prevented the error.

Was the mistake deliberate? You may recall that Gacy murdered 36 boys?

May 3, 1995. Missouri. Emmitt Foster was sentenced to  death by lethal injection. Seven minutes after the lethal chemicals began to flow into Foster's arm, the execution was halted when the chemicals stopped circulating. With Foster gasping and convulsing, the blinds were drawn closed so the witnesses could not view the scene. Death was pronounced thirty minutes after the execution began, and three minutes later the blinds were reopened so the witnesses could view the corpse. According to William Gum, the Washington County Coroner who pronounced death, the problem was caused by the tightness of the leather straps that bound Foster to the execution gurney; it was so tight that the flow of chemicals into the veins was restricted. Foster did not die until several minutes after a prison worker finally loosened the straps. The coroner entered the death chamber twenty minutes after the execution began, diagnosed the problem, and told the officials to loosen the strap so the execution could proceed with the drugs flowing easily. In an editorial, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch called the execution “a particularly sordid chapter in Missouri's capital punishment experience.”

January 23, 1996. Virginia. Richard Townes, Jr. was sentenced to death by lethal injection. This execution was delayed for 22 minutes while medical personnel struggled to find a vein large enough for the needle to nbe inserted. After unsuccessful attempts to insert the needle through the arms, the needle was finally inserted through the top of Mr. Townes's right foot.

July 18, 1996. Indiana. Tommie J. Smith was sentenced  to death by lethal injection. Because of unusually small veins, it took one hour and nine minutes for Smith to be pronounced dead after the execution team began sticking needles into his body. For sixteen minutes, the execution team failed to find adequate veins, and then a physician was called. Smith was given a local anesthetic and the physician twice attempted to insert the tube in Smith's neck. When that failed, an angio-catheter was inserted in Smith's foot. Only then were witnesses permitted to view the process. The lethal drugs were finally injected into Smith 49 minutes after the first attempts, and it took another 20 minutes before death was pronounced.

May 8, 1997. Oklahoma. Scott Dawn Carpenter was sentenced to  death by lethal injection. Carpenter was pronounced dead some 11 minutes after the lethal injection was administered. As the drugs took effect, Carpenter began to gasp and shake. This was followed by a guttural sound, multiple spasms and gasping for air until his body stopped moving, three minutes later. That was a quick death.

June 13, 1997. South Carolina. Michael Eugene Elkins was sentenced to  death by lethal injection. Because Elkins's body had become swollen from liver and spleen problems, it took nearly an hour to find a suitable vein for the insertion of the catheter. Elkins tried to assist the executioners, asking "Should I lean my head down a little bit?" as they probed for a vein. After numerous failures, a usable vein was finally found in Elkins's neck.

April 23, 1998. Texas. Joseph Cannon was sentenced to death by lethal injection. It took two attempts to complete the execution. After making his final statement, the execution process began. A vein in Cannon's arm collapsed and the needle popped out. Seeing this, Cannon lay back, closed his eyes, and exclaimed to the witnesses, "It's come undone." Officials then pulled a curtain to block the view of the witnesses, reopening it fifteen minutes later when a weeping Cannon made a second final statement and the execution process resumed.

August 26, 1998. Texas. Genaro Ruiz Camacho was sentenced to death by lethal injection. The execution was delayed approximately two hours due, in part, to problems finding suitable veins in Camacho's arms.

May 3, 2000. Arkansas. Christina Marie Riggs was sentenced to  death by lethal injection. Riggs dropped her appeals and asked to be executed. However, the execution was delayed for 18 minutes when prison staff couldn't find a suitable vein in her elbows. Finally, Riggs agreed to the executioners' requests to have the needles in her wrists.

June 8, 2000. Florida. Bennie Demps was sentenced to death by lethal injection. It took execution technicians 33 minutes to find suitable veins for the execution. "They butchered me back there," said Demps in his final statement. “I was in a lot of pain. They cut me in the groin; they cut me in the leg. I was bleeding profusely. This is not an execution, it is murder.” The executioners had no unusual problems finding one vein, but because Florida protocol requires a second alternate intravenous drip, they continued to work to insert another needle, finally abandoning the effort after their prolonged failures.

December 7, 2000. Texas. Claude Jones was sentenced to  death by lethal injection. Jones was a former intravenous drug abuser. His execution was delayed 30 minutes while the execution team struggled to insert an IV into a vein. One member of the execution team commented, “They had to stick him about five times. They finally put it in his leg.” Jim Willett, the warden of the Walls Unit and the man responsible for conducting the execution, wrote: “The medical team could not find a vein. Now I was really beginning to worry. If you can't stick a vein then a cut-down has to be performed. I have never seen one and would just as soon go through the rest of my career without seeing it again. Just when I was really getting worried, one of the medical people hit a vein in the left leg…inside calf to be exact. The executioner had warned me not to panic as it was going to take a while to get the fluids in the body of the inmate tonight because he was going to push the drugs through very slowly. Finally, the drug took effect and Jones took his last breath.

November 7, 2001. Georgia. Jose High was sentenced to death by lethal injection. High was pronounced dead some one hour and nine minutes after the execution began. After attempting to find a useable vein for "15 to 20 minutes," the emergency medical technicians under contract to do the execution abandoned their efforts. Eventually, one needle was stuck in High's hand, and a physician was called in to insert a second needle between his shoulder and neck.

May 2, 2006. Ohio. Joseph L. Clark was sentenced to death by lethal injection. It took 22 minutes for the execution technicians to find a vein suitable for insertion of the catheter. But three or four minutes thereafter, as the vein collapsed and Clark’s arm began to swell, he raised his head off the gurney and said five times, “It don’t work. It don’t work.” The curtains surrounding the gurney were then closed while the technicians worked for 30 minutes to find another vein. Media witnesses later reported that they heard “moaning, crying out and guttural noises.” Finally, death was pronounced almost 90 minutes after the execution began. A spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Corrections told reporters that the execution team included paramedics, but not a physician or a nurse.

December 13, 2006. Florida. Angel Diaz was sentenced to death by lethal injection. After the first injection was administered, Mr. Diaz continued to move, and was squinting and grimacing as he tried to mouth words. A second dose was then administered, and 34 minutes passed before Mr. Diaz was declared dead. At first a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Corrections claimed that this was because Mr. Diaz had some sort of liver disease.  After performing an autopsy, the Medical Examiner, Dr. William Hamilton, stated that Mr. Diaz’s liver was actually undamaged, but that the IV catheters (which had been inserted in both arms) had gone through Mr. Diaz’s veins and out the other side, so the deadly chemicals were injected into soft tissue rather than the vein. Two days after the execution, Governor Jeb Bush temporarily suspended all executions in the state and appointed a commission “to consider the humanity and constitutionality of lethal injections.  In 2014, pictures from the autopsy of Mr. Diaz’s body, along with a long article describing his painful death, were published in The New Republic.

May 24, 2007. Ohio. Christopher Newton was sentenced to death by lethal injection. According to the Associated Press, “prison medical staff” at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility struggled to find veins on each of Newton’s arms during the execution. Newton, who weighed 265 pounds, was declared dead almost two hours after the execution process began. The execution “team” stuck Newton at least ten times with needles before getting the shunts in place were the needles were injected.

June 26, 2007. Georgia.  John Hightower was sentenced to  death by lethal injection. It took approximately 40 minutes for the nurses to find a suitable vein to administer the lethal chemicals, and death was not pronounced 59 minutes after the execution process began.

June 4, 2008. Georgia. Curtis Osborne was sentenced to death by lethal injection. After a 55-minute delay while the U.S. Supreme Court reviewed his final appeal, prison medical staff began the execution by trying to find suitable veins in which to insert the IV. The executioners struggled for 35 minutes to find a vein, and it took 14 minutes after the fatal drugs were administered before death was pronounced by two physicians who were inside the death chamber.

In September 15, 2009, Ohio death row inmate Romell Broom was scheduled for execution  After his final appeals were denied, the state prepared to execute Broom. The execution team began searching for suitable veins to insert an IV for lethal injection. However, after two hours, they were unable to complete the process.  At one point, Broom offered to move around so the guards could find a second suitable vein, but it was to no avail.  The execution was called off.   A stay was granted for one week, and further stays were granted by the courts to consider whether it would be constitutional to attempt his execution a second time. 

In March 2016, in a divided 4-3 decision, the Ohio Supreme Court authorized the state to try for a second time to execute Broom. In December 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court in a majority vote, declined to grant review in Broom's case.  However, Justices Breyer and Kagan would have granted a review of the case.

The Ohio protocol, developed after the incomplete execution of  Romell Broom, ensures the rapid and painless onset of anesthesia by only using sodium thiopental and eliminating the use of Pavulon and potassium as the second and third drugs, respectively. It also provides for a secondary fail-safe measure using intramuscular injection of midazolam and hydromorphone in the event intravenous administration of the sodium thiopental proves to be a problem of functioning as it should.  The first state to switch to use midazolam as the first drug in a new three-drug protocol was Florida on October 15, 2013. Then on November 14, 2013, Ohio made the same move.

In the brief (report) for the U.S. courts written by accessories, the State of Ohio implied that they were unable to find any physicians willing to participate in development of protocols for executions by lethal injection, as this would be a violation of medical ethics, such as the Geneva Promise, and such physicians would be thrown out of the medical community and shunned for engaging in such deeds, even if they could not lawfully be stripped of their license.

March 13, 1985. Texas. Stephen Peter Morin was sentenced to death by lethal injection. The Associated Press reported that, because of Morin's history of drug abuse, the execution technicians were forced to probe both of Morin's arms and one of his legs with needles for nearly 45 minutes before they found a suitable vein.

It is estimated that 3% of U.S. executions in the period from 1890 to 2010 were botched. In the 2014 book, Gruesome Spectacles: Botched Executions and America's Death Penalty, Austin Sarat, a professor of jurisprudence and political science at Amherst College, describes the history of flawed executions in the U.S. during that period. He reports that over those 120 years, 8,776 people were executed and 276 of those executions (3.15%) went wrong in some way. Lethal injection had the highest rate of botched executions. 
Total Executions
Botched Executions
Lethal Gas
Lethal Injection
Firing Squad
All Methods

The question that gnaws at the public’s conscious is—why not choose  a better way to punish murderers? How about natural life in prison? Certainly those who have later been declared innocent of the crimes they were convicted of, it is most appropriate for obvious reasons. However, there is the financial factor to consider. It costs approximately $175,000 per year to house each inmates in federal and state correctional facilities in the United States.

There is one way to ensure that the execution of a condemned prisoner is quick and the pain is a fraction of a second. It is being executed by a firing squad. It can be messy but apparently, there have been no incidents where the prisoners suffered more than a second or so. 

As to be expected, a great many people would prefer to have the condemned prisoner suffering for as long as possible—especially Wayne Gacy who murdered 36 boys that he is known to have killed.   

The Eighth Amendment bans the infliction of “cruel and unusual punishments.” Those four words are hardly self-explanatory and raise numerous issues regarding their proper application. There is no universal definition of cruel and unusual that exists, but any punishment that is clearly inhumane or that violates basic human dignity may be deemed cruel and unusual.

The earliest cases in which the Supreme Court addressed the meaning of “cruel and unusual punishments” involved the methods of execution prescribed for capital crimes. In Wilkerson v. Utah (1878), for example, the court unanimously rejected the claim that execution by shooting violated the Eighth Amendment. While the court noted that difficulty would attend the effort to define with exactness the extent of the constitutional provision which provides that cruel and unusual punishments shall not be inflicted, it nevertheless concluded that it is safe to affirm that punishments of torture and all others in the same line of unnecessary cruelty, are forbidden by that Amendment to the Constitution.

Now one could argue that the aforementioned examples I presented to you in this article are examples of either unusual or cruel punishment.

Certainly the insertion of needles in various parts of a person`s body is unquestionably painful. However it isn`t unusual.  Many patients in hospitals and clinics have endured pain when needles have been inserted into their bodies.

Does an accidental insertion into the flesh of a human body such as what happened to Angel Diaz constitute a denial of his rights as stated by the Eighth Amendment.  He suffered terribly and that is not in question, however what he went through was a mistake that his executioners didn`t even know had occurred at that time.  As result of that terrible incident, it was unusual but not cruel because it wasn`t deliberate.

I hope I have enlightened you as to the fallacy of executing people for crimes of murder as it stands today. If we could just put them to sleep successfully without prodding their arms legs and other parts of their bodies with needles and use the proper anesthetic drugs to successfully place them in a state of unconsciousness, I would be satisfied that capital punishment in the U. S. would not conflict with the tenets  of the Eighth Amendment. 

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