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Another Failed Execution, Another Push to End the Death Penalty

Another Failed Execution, Another Push to End the Death Penalty

It has been less than three months since the last failed attempt at a lethal injection death penalty, and already we have another on the record. Arizona’s long, drawn out attempt at executing a prisoner bore a striking resemblance to the execution of Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett, including excruciating period of snorting and gasping. Now, much like a few months ago, we are again asking ourselves is it time to abolish the death penalty?

The execution of Joseph Wood was 117 minutes long, just a few minutes shy of two hours. That’s approximately 107 minutes longer than a lethal injection execution is supposed to take. One Fox News witness called it “very disturbing to watch … like a fish on shore gulping for air. At a certain point, you wondered whether he was ever going to die.” An Associated Press reporter felt similar, stating that he gasped over 600 times during the period after the drug was injected.

Prison officials claim that nothing went wrong. “Throughout this execution, I conferred and collaborated with our IV team members and was assured unequivocally that the inmate was comatose and never in pain or distress,” Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan told Politico. A representative for the state Attorney General argued he wasn’t gasping, just snoring. “He went to sleep and appeared to be snoring,” she said. “This was my first execution, and I was surprised at how peaceful it was.”

Whether he was snoring or gasping, highly sedated or somewhat aware of his surroundings, none of that changes the fact that what was allegedly supposed to be a 10 minute passage from life to death instead stretched the length of a movie before it was finally “successful,” a period so extensive that Wood’s lawyer actually had time to put in a request to the 9th circuit to ask them to stop the execution and resuscitate his client.

Like a number of recent cases, Wood appealed his execution because the state was refusing to disclose the drugs being used in the injection. That didn’t stop Wood from becoming what many are dubbing the latest victim in a series of botched executions.

According to CNN, “Human Rights Watch has compiled a list of U.S. executions between 1982 and 2006, which it considers ‘botched.’ It’s hard to spot an example on that list of an execution that drew out nearly as long as Wood’s did.”

Long or not, the continuation of states using a new combination of lethal injection drugs, despite now multiple examples of the process not occurring the way that prison officials claim it will, shows a callous disregard not just for human life, but for the constitutional right to avoid cruel and unusual punishment.

This lack of regard has local civil rights activists seething. “Arizona had clear warnings from Ohio and Oklahoma,” said Alessandra Soler, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona, told local press. “Instead of ensuring that a similar outcome was avoided here, our state officials cloaked the plans for Mr. Wood’s death in secrecy.”

Sadly, pollsters believe that regardless of the continuation of obviously botched executions, the general public is going to continue to accept the death penalty. “Gallup editor-in-chief Frank Newport said he doubted that prolonged executions would alter public opinion,” writes the Washington Post. “When supporters of the death penalty are asked why they are in favor, they tend to say condemned prisoners must pay for their crimes.”

Maybe as a society we have grown immune to suffering, and even see it as justifiable when someone has done evil themselves. Maybe we truly have become a country that accepts that two hours of gasping, shaking and snorting is an acceptable way to be sure we keep up the idea of vengeance and retribution. Maybe it will take a few more public accounts of hours of failed injections, more stories of people wrongfully executed, before we realize that the death penalty does little to deter crime, and only shows our own weakness as human beings, who still think the world requires an eye for an eye.

At this rate, we should have at least four more botched executions in the next year.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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172 comments

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8:51PM PDT on Aug 12, 2014

Dominic C.--

When someone defends the death penalty to me, I ask this question:

What if, in the next fifty years, only one (1) innocent person is executed.......but that person is you?

8:27PM PDT on Aug 12, 2014

Time to stand up and abolish the death penalty, America! It AIN'T WORKING!

3:41PM PDT on Aug 6, 2014

Exactly Joseph. Its all about revenge getting even making someone pay. Some of us apparently don’t even care if we get the right man as long as we can justify it.

MANy people on death row are likely innocent. Some we have seen cleared through science.Some never ewill be because someone’s carerer will be damaged if we find out they didnt actually solve the crime.

1:49PM PDT on Aug 6, 2014

Robert H.--

What solace is it to the deceased when you execute their murderer? NONE, they are dead.
You are not seeking "justice", you are seeking revenge.

"Proverbs 24:29
"Do not say, “I will do to him as he has done to me;
I will pay the man back for what he has done.”

Romans 12:17
"Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all."


1:13PM PDT on Aug 6, 2014

Michelle B and Julia H and all with the same view, so you believe in an eye for an eye??? So then you are not Christians is what we can see.

8:27AM PDT on Aug 2, 2014

…………and still I hear little or nothing from the vengance is mine people about the INNOCENT people we are killing.

Apparently they dodnt count or people simply dont bother reading any comments befroe they reply.

9:57PM PDT on Aug 1, 2014

When we execute criminals, we are no better than the person we are executing.

3:52PM PDT on Jul 31, 2014

I more than totally agree with Diana S. and Julia H. If you can't do the time, don't do the crime. What they did to land in jail AND on death row I'm sure was far worse than jay walk, so we should all of a sudden worry about THEIR rights and feelings and emotions??!! After what they did to some other poor innocent individual umpteen years ago??!! I don't even BEGIN to think so! Just so this persons family can go to their execution and see them die with dignity!!?? What happened to to victims family getting to say good bye to their loved ones??!! They didn't get the opportunity. They probably had to go identify a body or what was left of a body or pieces of a body!! Screw the criminals family and giving them a decent view of their loved one one last time on this earth crap. they don't deserve it. They had a good many years to come to terms with the fact that there was going to be a death of some sort to pay for the crime and that's that. Deal with it just like the victim's family had to deal with their death many years ago!!!

6:35AM PDT on Jul 31, 2014

How about we gather all the murderers and rapists and drop them off at the south pole or elsewhere that polar bears live but no people?

They will be given no weapons, no survival gear, no food. They can fight each other or ban together to try and survive. That is, until they kill each other or until the bears get hungry. Kind of like Les Stroud on Survivorman but with no rescue coming in 7 days. ;)

I know this would never happen but it is a nice thought. Remove them from society but don't kill them. Instead, let karma work its magic. Problem solved.

8:19PM PDT on Jul 29, 2014

Of course all this does not apply in NZ but I believe in some it probably should.

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