Friday, February 7, 2014

Just couldn't wait any longer

What is a state intent on killing a prisoner with an untested drug supposed to do? If we're talking about the state of Missouri the answer would seem to be to strap the inmate down, stick a needle in his arm and inject him with a fatal overdose of a sedative before his appeals are exhausted.

On Wednesday night the state of Missouri murdered Herbert Smulls while his appeal was still pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Mr. Smulls was seeking to force the state to disclose information regarding the compounded drug - and the pharmacy that made the drug - used to kill inmates. Four minutes after the execution, the Supreme Court denied Mr. Smulls' appeal.
A Missouri death row prisoner on the phone to his attorney discussing his appeal was hauled away in the middle of the call and put to death four minutes before the Supreme Court denied his final stay request.
So what's the hurry? If we are so concerned about this false notion of finality and justice, why are we carrying out executions before an inmate's appeals are exhausted? He's on death row. He's not going anywhere.

And it wasn't the first time this has happened. According to Mr. Smulls' attorneys, this is the third straight execution in Missouri in which an inmate has been killed at the hands of the state while an appeal was pending before a court.

What does the state of Missouri have to hide? Executions are carried out in the name of the people. They are carried out with the money provided by taxpayers. The people have a right to know what their government does in their name. The people of Missouri, whether on death row or not, have a right to know what compounded drug is being used to kill in their name. They have a right to know who is being paid with their tax dollars to make the drug. They have a right to know whether or not the drug does what it's supposed to do.

Everything surrounding the death penalty makes a mockery of our criminal (in)justice system. From the qualification of jurors to the jury instructions to the cavalier manner in which appeals are handled, everything is designed to grease the skids so that we can strap one prisoner down after another, stick a needle in their arm and kill them.

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