Our Opinion: Founders would be ashamed of executions

Published 9:22 am Thursday, August 14, 2014

Last month, the state of Arizona performed the most recent in a string of botched executions. While we certainly don’t condone what these convicted felons did — in many cases horrendous acts of violence — at stake here is one of the basic rights protected under the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution — protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

Our Founding Fathers clearly intended to protect this land’s citizens from cruel and unusual treatment, and a two-hour execution — as was reported in the state of Arizona’s killing of Joseph Rudolph Wood III in late July — fits that criteria.

The problem stems from many drug companies’ refusal to provide the necessary drugs, which had been used in most prior lethal injections. States are left to trade and barter among themselves, in other markets, or who knows where else (some states won’t even reveal what exactly they’re using.)

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Compounding the issue is most doctors, after taking the Hippocratic oath, will not participate in executions, which in some instances leaves less qualified technicians to perform the deed. In April, Calvin Lockett, a convicted killer and rapist, writhed and grimaced during what probably was the most obvious of the controversial executions, this one in Oklahoma. According to witnesses and official comment from the state, the problems were caused by a failure of a vein that allowed the drugs to seep into Lockett’s tissue, something missed until after it was too late.

It should be no surprise when this system, flawed from the start, fails. The question governors, state legislatures and residents of these states should be asking is: Should we continue blindly and allow more cruel punishment to inevitably happen, or should we institute a moratorium until these issues are resolved? The answer should be obvious.

Whether states should sanction executions is another debate, but those on both sides of the issue should be in agreement on this. Any citizen who claims to be an adamant supporter of Constitutional rights should certainly be concerned with the state of executions in this country. Our founders would be.