Saturday, 19 April 2008

The Supreme Court Brings Back the Death Penalty





The Supreme Court Brings Back the Death Penalty

By Liliana Segura, AlterNet. Posted April 17, 2008.


With a 7-2 ruling ending a moratorium on state-sanctioned killing, states across the country are gearing up to resume executions.

The Supreme Court just made a decision that will send prisoners across the country to their deaths.

In a 7 to 2 ruling, it upheld lethal injection as currently carried out as Constitutional, ending a de-facto moratorium on state-sanctioned murder.

Executions in the United States had been on hold since last September, when the Court decided to take on the case of Baze v. Rees. At stake was the question of whether Kentucky's lethal injection protocol violates the 8th Amendment prohibition of "cruel and unusual punishment." The three-drug killing technique or some version of it -- a paralytic, a barbiturate, and a dose of potassium chloride -- is used in 35 out of 36 death penalty states. (Nebraska, whose sole method of execution used to be electrocution, ruled the electric chair unconstitutional this past February.) As states froze their execution machinery to await the justices' ruling, not a single execution was carried out for seven months. Last-minute stays of execution aside, it was a glimpse into what the United States might look like without the death penalty.

Baze represented a critical development in death penalty litigation, the first time the Court has considered a specific method of execution since it upheld the firing squad in 1878. Ever since the Supreme Court's last-minute intervention in the case of Florida death row prisoner Clarence Hill -- he was strapped onto a gurney with intravenous lines in his arms -- in January 2006, the stage had been set for a showdown on lethal injection. When the Court ruled later that year that prisoners could appeal their death sentences based on the possibility that lethal injection is cruel and unusual, a wave of appeals swept the country.

Now, those prisoners have lost significant legal footing and with it, very possibly, the right to live. "While the opinion appeared to leave open a chance that some further challenges could be made to the use of lethal drugs under a specific procedure in another state," explained Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog, "...The opinion also appeared to mean that the three drugs now used in all of those jurisdictions do not, alone or in combination, fail the Court's new standard."

In other words, the country's preferred execution method is now insulated by a legal precedent.

This is a serious blow to death penalty opponents who hoped that disabling the death machinery would lead to abolishing it. It is also, in many ways, the result of a frustrating failure of legal strategy. The attorneys who argued Baze did so on very narrow grounds, contending that Kentucky's lethal injection protocol is broken, but not beyond repair. "One needs a person trained in monitoring anesthetic death to participate in the process," defense attorney Donald Verrilli suggested, not only encouraging the controversial notion that medical professionals have a role in carrying out executions, but also encouraging the Court to treat botched executions as an aberration; freak accidents that rarely occur. "The Court has held that an isolated mishap alone does not violate the Eighth Amendment," wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in the decision. But states from California to Florida have had lethal injections go horribly wrong in recent years; with states often secretive about their execution procedures -- and many not keeping data on file about them -- how "isolated" these incidents are is largely unknown.

Lethal injection is often described as a "three-drug cocktail." The first drug is the barbiturate sodium thiopental; the second, a paralytic called pancuronium bromide, and the third, potassium chloride, which stops the heart. The technique has been favored by death penalty supporters who find appeal in its medical veneer. In theory, if the drugs are administered correctly, the victim will die quickly and painlessly. But in reality, executioners, contrary to the assumption of many, usually have little or no medical training. If they wrongly administer the first drug, the result can be grisly.

Take the case of Joseph A. Clark, a death row prisoner in Ohio. On the day of his execution in May 2006, it took the execution team 22 minutes to find a vein -- a not uncommon problem. Shortly after the catheter was finally inserted, Clark's vein collapsed and his arm began to swell, at which point, he lifted his head. "He said 'It don't work, it don't work, it don't work, it ain't working,' about five times," one witness later described. At that point, the gurney was concealed by curtains. Thirty minutes later, there was "moaning, crying out and guttural noises." An hour and a half after the start of the execution, Clark was dead.

Then there are instances where the paralytic drug can make it impossible to tell if something has gone wrong. Since a paralyzed prisoner cannot cry out or move if in pain, clues that he or she suffered only come with the autopsy. In the case of Florida prisoner Angel Diaz in December 2006, he started to move following the first drug, "squinting and grimacing as he tried to mouth words," according to the Death Penalty Information Center. "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 undamaged, but that the needle had gone through Mr. Diaz's vein and out the other side, so the deadly chemicals were injected into soft tissue, rather than the vein." Angel Diaz was quite literally tortured to death.

The cruel irony is that the paralyzing agent is totally pointless; serving no purpose aside from masking the effects of the lethal chemicals on a prisoner's body. In fact, veterinarians long ago decided not to use it for the that very reason. But death row prisoners, despite being human beings, do not inspire the humane treatment that animals do -- and twisted logic is offered to keep the paralyzing drug in place. "The purpose it serves," argued Roy Englert, the attorney representing Kentucky before the Court, "is the purpose of dignifying the process for the benefit of the inmate and for the benefit of the witnesses." In reality, it is used to "dignify the process" for the benefit of the state. It makes murder look a little less murderous.

For legal experts, the Baze decision is not a major surprise and in fact, contains some interesting language about the future of death penalty litigation. ''I am now convinced that this case will generate debate not only about the constitutionality of the three-drug protocol, and specifically about the justification for the use of the paralytic agent, pancuronium bromide, but also about the justification for the death penalty itself,'' wrote Justice Stevens. The variety of opinions expressed by the justices -- a "plurality" in legal terms -- in the rather glib interpretation of one expert blogger, "provides a little something for everyone." Unfortunately, for prisoners granted a temporary reprieve by the seven-month-long de facto moratorium, what the decision provides is death.

As they have since the return of the American death penalty in 1976, defense attorneys will find new legal arguments to try to spare their clients' lives. But how many prisoners will die before another opportunity arrives like the one presented by Baze? How many of them are on death row because they are poor or black? How many of them are innocent?

As Marlene Martin, executive director of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty says, "I think of people like Troy Davis, Rodney Reed and Timothy McKinney -- all on death row, all African American, all poor and almost all surely innocent. What does this decision mean for them and the countless others like them?" As executions resume in a country with more than 3,000 people on death row -- whose names are unknown to the vast majority of Americans -- it is a question not enough people are willing to ask.



1 comment:

DOUGLAS FIELD said...

TROY DAVIS, PLEASE REMEMBER THAT AMERICA IS NOT THE OLD SOUTH ~ AFRICA !!!!

A $TATE ECONOMIC BOYCOTT OF GEORGIA INTERNATIONALLY WILL OBVIOU$LY BE THE END RE$ULT OF GEORGIA DECIDING TO MURDER A PO$$IBLE INNOCENT TROY DAVI$ WITHOUT A NEW AND FAIR TRIAL ?

US CONGRESSIONAL MEMBERS WHO ARE ALSO LAWYERS BY TRADE, CONTINUE TO DENY poorer AMERICAN’S PROPER LEGAL REPRESENTATION !!!

THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY NEEDS TO BEGIN A FORMAL INVESTIGATION INTO THESE US CONGRESSIONAL CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY, AND HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS BEING INFLICTED ON poorer AMERICAN’S LIKE MR.TROY DAVIS OF GEORGIA !!!

HAVING BEEN DENIED APPEAL LAWYERS FOR THREE YEARS ON DEATH ROW IN GEORGIA MR. TROY DAVIS IS NOW BEING EXECUTED FOR A CRIME HE MIGHT NOT HAVE EVEN BEEN INVOLVED WITH !!!

SENATOR OBAMA PLEASE LET THIS COUNTRIES VOTERS KNOW YOUR FEELINGS AND THOUGHTS ABOUT A NEEDED FUTURE REPAIR AND RENOVATION OF OUR BROKEN JUDICIAL SYSTEM THAT CONTINUES TO ALLOW THE EXECUTION’S OF EVEN POSSIBLE INNOCENT AMERICAN’S LIKE TROY DAVIS OF GEORGIA ?????

BEING THE WEALTHIEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD SENATOR OBAMA, DON’T WE NEED AS THE LEADERS OF THE FREE WORLD TO BEGIN ONCE AGAIN TO RE-INVEST THE PROPER MONIE$ IN OUR OWN US JUDICIAL SYSTEM, ASSURING ALL OF OUR CITIZENS THEIR RIGHTS TO FAIR TRIALS WITH PROPER LEGAL REPRESENTATION ???

DOES GOD NEED TO LOBBY OUR US CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS OF THE FREE WORLD ON BEHALF OF OUR poorer american’s SENATOR OBAMA,OR ARE YOU WATCHING OUT FOR THEM ??

***OUR US CONGRESS CONTINUES TO DENY MIDDLE CLASS AND WORKING POOR AMERICANS PROPER LEGAL REPRESENTATION EVEN THOUGH WRONGFUL EXECUTIONS & FALSE INCARCERATIONS CONTINUE ALL ACROSS AMERICA ???

*** 700 BILLION $$$ AVAILABLE FOR US BAILOUT, & NO $$$ FOR ALL POORER AMERICANS PROPER LEGAL REPRESENTATION ? SENATOR OBAMA, THIS JUDICIAL INJUSTICE HAS BECOME AN AMERICAN ART FORM, AND NO LONGER CAN BE KEPT HIDDEN OR SECRET FROM THE AMERICAN PEOPLE EVEN IF CERTAIN (501c3) U$ RELIGIOU$ LEADER$ HAVE BEEN $ILENCED ??

LETS ALL HOPE OUR MEDIA FRIENDS CONTINUE TO SHOW AN INTEREST IN REPORTING ON THIS AMERICAN HORROR FACING THESE (TENS OF THOUSANDS) FORGOTTEN AND TRAPPED POORER AMERICANS, AND HOW THIS PRESIDENTIAL CONTENDER HANDLES THIS VERY SERIOUS ISSUE FACING AMERICA’S LATINO AND BLACK AMERICAN COMMUNITIES ????

WITH 80% OF THE BLACK AMERICAN VOTERS SAYING THEY SUPPORT SENATOR OBAMA IN THIS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, IT IS ONLY FAIR FOR EVERYONE TO KNOW PRIOR BEING ELECTED OUR NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES HOW THIS DEMOCRATIC SENATOR TRULY FEELS ABOUT THIS AMERICAN JUDICIAL INJUSTICE CONTINUING TO INFLICT GRAVE HARM ON THE BLACK & LATINO AMERICAN FAMILIES AND THEIR COMMUNITIES NATIONWIDE ??????

*** WHEN GOD’S FACE BECAME VERY RED *** THE US SUPREME COURT GAVE ENEMY COMBATANTS FEDERAL APPEAL HC RIGHTS LAWYERS AND PROPER ACCESS TO US FEDERAL COURTS,AND POORER AMERICANS (MANY EVEN ON DEATH ROW) ARE DENIED PROPER FEDERAL APPEAL LEGAL REPRESENTATION TO OUR US FEDERAL COURTS OF APPEAL, AND ROTTING IN AMERICAN PRISONS NATIONWIDE ?????????

**** INNOCENT AMERICANS ARE DENIED REAL HC RIGHTS WITH THEIR FEDERAL APPEALS ! THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE $LOWLY FINDING OUT HOW EA$Y IT I$ FOR MIDDLE CLA$$ AND WORKING POOR AMERICAN$ TO FALL VICTIM TO OUR U$ MONETARY JUDICIAL $Y$TEM.

****WHEN THE US INNOCENT WERE ABANDONED BY THE GUILTY **** The prison experts have reported that there are 100,000 innocent Americans currently being falsely imprisoned along with the 2,300,000 total US prison population nationwide.

***WHERE ARE AMERICA’S RELIGIOUS LEADERS ??????? Since our US Congress has never afforded poor prison inmates federal appeal legal counsel for their federal retrials,they have effectively closed the doors on these tens of thousands of innocent citizens ever being capable of possibly exonerating themselves to regain their freedom through being granted new retrials.

This same exact unjust situation was happening in our Southern States when poor and mostly uneducated Black Americans were being falsely imprisoned for endless decades without the needed educational skills to properly submit their own written federal trial appeals.

This devious and deceptive judicial process of making our poor and innocent prison inmates formulate and write their own federal appeal legal cases for possible retrials on their state criminal cases,is still in effect today even though everyone in our US judicial system knows that without proper legal representation, these tens of thousands of innocent prison inmates will be denied their rightful opportunities of ever being granted new trials from our federal appeal judges!!

Sadly, the true US *legal* Federal Appeal situation that occurs when any of our uneducated American prison inmates are forced to attempt to submit their own written Federal Appeals (from our prisons nationwide) without the assistance of proper legal counsel, is that they all are in reality being denied their legitimate rights for Habeas Corpus with our US FEDERAL COURTS and will win any future Supreme Court Case concerning this injustice!

For our judicial system and our US Congressional Leaders Of The Free World to continue to pretend that this is a real and fair opportunity for our American Middle Class and Working Poor Citizens, only delays the very needed future change of Federal Financing of all these Federal appeals becoming a normal formula of Our American judicial system.

It was not so very long ago that Public Defenders became a Reality in this country.Prior that legal reality taking place, their were also some who thought giving anyone charged with a crime a free lawyer was a waste of taxpayers $$.

This FACADE and HORROR of our Federal Appeal proce$$ is not worthy of the Greatest Country In The World! ***GREAT SOCIETIES THAT DO NOT PROTECT EVEN THEIR INNOCENT, BECOME THE GUILTY !

A MUST READ ABOUT AMERICAN INJUSTICE:
1) YAHOO 2) GOOGLE
(MANNY GONZALES THE KID THAT EVERYONE FORGOT IN THE CA PRISON SYSTEM.) ** A JUDICIAL RIDE OF ONES LIFE !

***Someone please tell our US Congress that the GED degree that Manny Gonzales acquired in prison is not a LAW DEGREE !!!!!!

lawyersforpooramericans@yahoo.com (424-247-2013)