Capital Punishment Under Review Again

The Florida Supreme Court will hold an evidentiary hearing for inmate Paul Augustus Howell who is scheduled to be executed on 02/26/14.

Central to the issue at hand is the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

And, specific to this case, involves the drug midazolam that was added to Florida’s lethal-injection protocol in September because of shortages. The argument is that the drug that is supposed to make the inmate unconscious before the other cocktail drugs are administered “will subject Howell to ‘substantial risk of serious harm’ because of his medical history.” One of Howell’s attorneys said that midazolam “will not prevent Mr. Howell from being awakened by the injection of the painful second and third drugs in the protocol, even if he appears to be unconscious (after) the midazolam is administered. The result will be severe and torturous pain that no court has denied would violate the Eighth Amendment.”

http://www.tallahassee.com/article/20140207/POLITICSPOLICY/302070050/Hearing-ordered-state-s-use-execution-drugs?gcheck=1&nclick_check=1

I’m left wondering if our nation’s evolving standards of decency might not make it ripe for the Supreme Court of the United States to carve out more precise guidelines on lethality means overall that do not offend the Eighth Amendment.

Fact about the death penalty from the Death Penalty Information Center:

http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/documents/FactSheet.pdf

See also death penalty trends:

http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/issues/death-penalty/us-death-penalty-facts/death-penalty-trends

I realize that capital punishment may evoke strong reactions. Whereas I do not shy away from a pro-life stand, I looked for some balanced coverage of arguments for and against the death penalty in an effort to present both sides of the argument (mind you, that the outcome of the use of midazolam per se in the Howell case does not undo his death sentence):

http://deathpenalty.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=002000

http://www.balancedpolitics.org/death_penalty.htm

http://deathpenaltycurriculum.org/student/c/about/arguments/arguments.PDF

My prayer, notwithstanding, is that as long as capital punishment is sanctioned, executions be as humane as possible (if indeed, the word “execution” can be modified realistically by the word “humane”).

 

Roy

 

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