Thursday, 15 February 2007

State in fog on executions

State in fog on executions

Tennessee's manual on death penalty is antiquated and outdated.

Why didn't anyone in the state of Tennessee bother to proofread the procedure manual for executing prisoners?

As it is, the state came out looking foolish with a manual that includes some of the steps for preparing a prisoner for death by electrocution — except that it's supposed to be the instructions for preparing him for a lethal injection.

An Associated Press review of the manual, for instance, revealed these instructions for lethal injection procedure: "The Executioner will engage the automatic rheostat." That controls the voltage flowing to an electric chair. Why didn't anyone notice these were supposed to be instructions for lethal injection?

Tennessee has not electrocuted a prisoner since 1960, although a condemned prisoner still can choose that option if his crime was committed before 1999 when the state adopted lethal injection.

Gov. Phil Bredesen has suspended four executions until the state can rewrite its procedures. Tennessee has not had a problem in carrying out death by lethal injections. But Florida recently did when drugs mistakenly were injected into a condemned man's tissue instead of his veins, and it took twice as long as usual for him to die.

Florida, Missouri, California and North Carolina all have suspended executions for the time-being because of lethal injection concerns.

Tennessee needs to ensure that the correct procedures are spelled out and then carried out during the executions themselves. Otherwise, the death penalty will become meaningless. The execution method will get tied up in the courts as the condemned find legal loopholes to keep delaying their sentences, and justice never will be served.

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