Friday, July 19, 2013

Killing at any cost

Theoretically, when the state exercises its most intrusive power - murdering an inmate - it does so in the name of the people. At least in Texas we don't play that game - criminal cases are brought by the State of Texas. Out in Georgia, however, lawmakers have been playing fast and loose with the public's right to know what their government does in their name.

Back in 2011 the US manufacturer of pentobarbital halted production after European manufacturers quit selling their wares in the US because of their opposition to the death penalty. All of a sudden states had to figure out what they were going to do when they ran out of the drug.

In some states the three-drug lethal cocktail was converted to an over-dose of one drug (as in Texas) but Georgia went a different direction. Bound and determined to keep killing inmates, the state legislature passed a law making the source of the drug a state secret. The law also classifies the names of doctors who willingly violate the Hippocratic Oath in assisting the state murder inmates a state secret.

By making the sourcing of its killing drug a state secret, the State of Georgia has, in effect, put in place a wall that makes judicial review of the protocol impossible.

The people have a right to know what their government is doing in their name. This includes the sourcing of drugs and the protocols used in murdering inmates. Now there is no way to determine the effectiveness or strength of the drug being used. There is no way to determine whether the drug is prepared properly. There is no way to determine if the state is procuring their drugs legally.

Yesterday, on the same day the State of Texas killed its 502nd inmate, a Fulton County judge halted the scheduled execution of Warren Hill on the grounds that the new law limits a condemned inmate's ability to seek legal redress in challenging the constitutionality of the state's method of execution.

From the Guardian:
The judge ruled that by withholding from Warren Hill crucial details about the source and nature of the drugs that were to be used to execute him, the state was causing him "irreparable harm". According to an Atlanta-based reporter Max Blau who tweeted from court, the judge added that the new law "unconstitutionally limits" the condemned man's access to legal redress as it prevented him from acquiring the information needed to mount an appeal under the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
When a government goes to these measures to hide what it's doing you have to ask yourself the question why. Is it really so important that inmates are murdered in cold blood for acts that took place years before? Is it really so important to kill inmates who, having spent years in prison, are no longer the same person they were when they were convicted at trial?

I dare say it's not a coincidence that a disproportionate number of those on death row are black, Hispanic and poor. If a society is judged by the way it treats its weakest members, what does this death-at-all-costs mentality say about us?


Unknown said...


Gritsforbreakfast said...

Is killing an inmate the state's "most intrusive power" compared to locking them up for life? Everybody dies. Not everybody spends decades in a cage.