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Could a Missouri Execution Delay Signal a Change in Support For the Death Penalty?

Could a Missouri Execution Delay Signal a Change in Support For the Death Penalty?

Despite the increase in high profile cases of lethal injection attempts that have gone horribly awry, states continue to use secretive, unidentified “cocktails” to put criminals to death. That process, hopefully, may be slowing down, however, if Missouri is any indication.

A convicted murderer was scheduled to be executed this week, but the execution was put on hold due to the state’s refusal to disclose the source of where they received their lethal injection chemicals and what was in the combined cocktail. With notable issues with the drugs in Oklahoma and Ohio, secrecy is already a major concern to civil rights advocates. In the case of the Missouri execution it was an even larger issue, since the prisoner had a medical condition already, and without full disclosure on the drug there was no way to properly ascertain how the drugs would work on him, or if he would indeed have a painless death, versus one that could be considered “cruel and unusual.”

The federal Supreme Court weighed in and put the inmate’s execution on hold, sending the case back to district courts to decide if this failure to disclose the drugs and potential for another “botched” execution could be considered subjecting the prisoner to cruel and unusual punishment.

Missouri itself is already at the center of controversy when it comes to the death penalty, even without this new wrinkle. The state has already been accused of jumping the gun when it comes to executing prisoners, not waiting until their final appeals have officially run out before putting them to death. This isn’t something that happened once, either, but at least three times.

Perhaps realizing how controversial the entire topic has become, Missouri has decided that the best way to deal with it is to at least cut off inmates from any access to information on the issue. According to Care2′s s.e. smith, prison officials are refusing to allow an issue of St. Louis Magazine into the prisons, because it deals with incarceration and is critical of the Missouri prison system and especially the death penalty.

“The St. Louis Magazine feature covered an execution and discussed how Missouri has returned to the execution business,” writes smith. “It’s a stark, moving piece, serving as an indictment of the death penalty and the larger prison system itself.” Yet the article was kept from prisoners, even after the author, William Powell wrote a letter decrying the ban and the prison’s stance that they believed allowing prisoners to read the article would “instill violence or hatred” in the prisons and be a safety issue. As smith notes, it is the secrecy involved in not releasing details on the lethal injection drugs all over again.

The stay of execution and the intervention of the Supreme Court could be a sign that maybe the death penalty itself is being reconsidered, especially in light of the horrible and inhumane examples of lethal injections gone wrong in recent months. Then again, there’s also the possibility that rather than come to the realization that the death penalty is both unnecessary, cruel, and often racially motivated, states will instead just turn to a different mode of execution. That appears to be the case in Tennessee where, rather than eliminating executions all together now that lethal injections are proving to be a disaster, they are instead bringing back the electric chair as a mean of punishment. According to the Associated Press, Florida began using lethal injections rather than electrocutions back in 2000 after “bungled electrocutions raised concerns that the state’s death penalty would be declared unconstitutional.” Several other states are also considering bringing back firing squads and gas chambers.

Are we really going back around in circles? Maybe that’s a sign that it’s time to end the death penalty all together.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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4:26PM PDT on May 30, 2014

Robert H. The conservative, especially republican/tea party, do not care how many die. That are wrongly executed for crimes that the executed were innocent of in the first place.

A sad commentary on America that this is a position of any one in a civilized country.

3:01PM PDT on May 30, 2014

stll no one answers about the innocent people who have been put to death for a criem they didnt do.

12:02PM PDT on May 28, 2014

The author of this article needs to get their facts right. The US SUpreme Ct. send it back to the lower because of his vein problem which is just a travesty of justice as this murderer had surgery and had no problems, but the justices are trying not to get involved. This was all just a way to postpone his execution, but hopfully he will still be executed for his crimes against society. I will say again the death penalty has nothing at all to do with vengence as ask any victim what they would wish for vengence if it were possible and none would offer lethal injections as that my friend is way too easy of a death for rape and murder of an innocent human being. Another piece of information for this author is that the DOC of Missouri has allowed the article to come into the prisons. If any of you would read the story about the executions that Missouri has performed in the last 6 months you would see that all were pronounced dead in 9 minutes, now tell me wouldn't you like to die such an easy death in just 9 minutes, but we save that for the very worse murderers in our state.

11:11AM PDT on May 28, 2014

Frankly, I don't care what compounds are used in lethal injection cocktails. Just injecting an air bubble into the IV line would have the same effect in terms of exterminating the prisoner and it'd be a whole lot cheaper.

The reason I don't care about the lethal injection cocktail is because the entire practice of capital punishment is both barbaric and ultimately futile. It's not justice, it's vengeance. If capital punishment actually worked, then the crimes that lead to capital punishment would have ended ages ago in order to avoid being put to death. Killing someone who killed someone makes you just much a murderer as the alleged murderer that you plan to murder. THAT is what we need to get through to people to end the practice once and for all. (To really make the point effective, anyone who votes for capital punishment is convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, etc.)

8:07AM PDT on May 28, 2014

Thanks for sharing.We need to address all the innocent people being put to death .

7:40AM PDT on May 27, 2014


5:49AM PDT on May 27, 2014

………..and what about the people we are putting to death that are not guilty???

we are aeeing this more and more in the news as frensics are clearing more and more people on death row. What about THOSE people we murder???

12:46AM PDT on May 27, 2014

I agree with Susan and Eileen. Any form of death penalty is barbaric but much less than murder!! Every time there is a murderer on tv, I think to myself that the victim's family and friends should be given the opportunity to decide his fate. Too much taxpayers' money is spent on keeping these criminals comfortable.

7:14PM PDT on May 26, 2014

Why do criminals deserve a painless death? Did his victim die painlessly? What if his victim was a family member or your best friend?

2:21PM PDT on May 26, 2014

What trial did the victim have? What about an appeal? Was their death humane? A few years ago a co-workers daughter was brutally raped and murdered because the murderer wanted her car. What he did to this victim is so gruesome it cannot be repeated. After a fair trial he got the death penalty but still sits in prison in spite of killing another inmate. In cases like this I do favor the death penalty as punishment. After what the victim was forced to endure, so what if the execution was botched. The guilty party deserves to know what their victim went through.

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