Leath injection controversies

“Pain should not be a criteria,” said sophomore Joel Popkin, a supporter of the death penalty. “If they are 100 percent guilty the amount of pain they feel is irrelevant.” The death penalty’s method of the lethal injection’s three-chemical protocol has caused controversy. Opponents argue that the procedure leaves the inmates in extreme pain.

“This case is about illuminating controversy. They are chipping at the margins on a bigger issue,” said Kyle Dell, Assistant Professor of Political Science. “Although strong majorities of Americans support the availability of the death penalty, using it in a painful inhumane way is also troubling. Lethal injection reflects this middle ground: the punished appear to just go to sleep. So, although there are majorities in favor of the death penalty as practiced this way, there are differences of opinion and practice in different states across the country.”

The newest argument against capital punishment claims that the protocol’s injection does not work properly and causes extreme pain.

“I think putting people to death is saying our culture is very violent. We’re supposed to be an advanced culture and we’re still killing people. We are breeding a culture of violence. People keep creating a circle of killing,” said sophomore Megan Fair who is in the Quaker Leadership Program. Fair has been actively against the death penalty, and attended execution protests in Ohio.

The first drug used is a barbiturate, which is used as an anesthesia. The second drug is a pancurium bromide, which paralyzes the muscles with suffocating effects. The third drug, potassium chloride, stops the heart and causes death.

“The death penalty should be up to the victim’s family. I feel like no one has the right to decide unless it happens to them,” said sophomore conservative Bobby Lee.

Thirty-six states use the lethal injection, but Nebraska remains to be the only state that uses the electric chair.

Max Carter, director of the Friends Center and Campus Ministry Coordinator had a personal and religious opinion on this subject. This Quaker had a close childhood friend, Marvin Beighler, executed by the state of Indiana.

“My thought is that Jesus’ own life and witness speaks against the death penalty; Jesus’ own execution is a powerful witness against execution of the innocent. Sometimes, unfortunately, even innocent people are executed,” said Carter. “With the new research in DNA science, many people on death row have been found to be innocent. In Winston-Salem, Darryl Hunt was found to be innocent after nearly 20 years on death row.”

According to The New York Times, the peaceful appearance the second drug gives the inmate can misrepresent the prisoner’s extreme pain. The inadequacy of the anesthesia takes over the inmate and makes the prisoner unable to communicate. The third drug causes severe pain if the anesthesia does not work.

Also according to The New York Times, Donald B. Verrilli, lawyer for two prisoners on Kentucky’s death row, said the risk can be lowered if there were medically trained personal instead of the prisons warden monitoring the anesthesia. The Justice Antonia Scalia objected to the American Medical Association’s (AMA) ethical code, which prohibits the doctors from contributing in the executions.

According to AMA, physicians cannot participate in executions, since it would violate their oath of protecting lives.

“I think it would be preferable, but I understand why the doctors would not want to do that. It would be going against their oath to do no harm,” said David Millican, Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry. “These injections are saying that while society sees execution as a necessity, we want to do it in as humane a way as possible. There are a lot of easier ways to kill people.”

According to The New York Times, the Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. said the inmates could object that death would take longer without using the third drug, and could appear less “dignified” since the muscles contract, which is concealed by the second drug.

“I think some people deserve death, some people are evil and should not live among us,” said Robert Duncan, Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science. “So what if these people are feeling pain? They should have thought about that. Actions have consequences and some consequences are even death.”

According to The New York Times, Justice Stephen G. Breyer’s responded to Verrilli’s argument that the single-drug of barbiturate would be a practical alternative. However, Breyer’s had researched and found scientific articles that support the one-drug protocol, which was cited in the briefs by prisoners and found them confusing.

Justice Breyer said to Tthe New York Times that there is a risk of human error in the executions, and questions if there is a more serious problem with the other execution methods.

According to The New York Times, the Supreme Court sent the case to the lower courts for continued developments since there are doubts about the quality of the evidence.
Kentucky courts rejected the case without considering the availability of the single-drug option.

“The collateral damage from all forms of capital punishment, including lethal injections, includes family, friends, and a society desensitized to the reality of taking someone else’s life,” said Carter. “Those who prefer lethal injection try to make death ‘clean,’ just like there is a reason to mask the reality of a battle field.