Picture of Death Row

Oxymoron = a figure of speech in which incongruous or seemingly contradictory terms appear side by side.

Is there such a thing as a visual oxymoron?

You be the judge. Look at the picture of flowers being planted  in front of the prison that houses death row inmates in the following New York Times article dated May 12, 2014:

Confronted on Execution, Texas Proudly Says It Kills Efficiently


Only two weeks after Oklahoma’s botched lethal injection execution, Texas planned to execute Robert James Campbell.

With Campbell, however, the following concerns were raised based on Atkins:

…in Atkins v. Virginia, the United States Supreme Court declared that the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against “cruel and unusual” punishment precluded the execution of anyone whose intellectual disabilities makes them less morally culpable because they struggle to understand the nature of the punishment being imposed upon them. There is now strong evidence — new evidence, discovered by defense attorneys on May 1 — that Campbell is so disabled. And yet Texas still plans to execute him.


The basis for Atkins relief?

A neuropsychologist had diagnosed Campbell with “mild mental retardation.”


The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected Campbell’s claim (5-4).

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, however, in a unanimous opinion stayed the execution.

Here is the ruling:

Because of the unique circumstances of this case, Campbell and his attorneys have not had a fair opportunity to develop Campbell’s claim of ineligibility for the death penalty. In light of theevidence we have been shown, we believe that Campbell must be given such an opportunity. The motion for a stay of execution pending resolution of Campbell’s Atkins claim will be granted.

* * *

IT IS ORDERED that movant’s motion for authorization to file a successive habeas corpus petition is GRANTED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that movant’s motion for stay of execution scheduled for Tuesday, May 13, 2014 is GRANTED.


Josh Sanburn writes a lot about flawed executions. See:

Lethal Injection’s Fatal Flaws


Newspapers Sue Missouri Over Execution-Drug Secrecy


Most recently, and worth the read, is an article that appeared in the May 26 edition of Time:

Fatally Flawed

It provides a succinct overview of “execution in America.”

Too long to summarize, it raises the question, “is there a cleaner way to kill?”

Sanburn concludes, regarding the supposedly more modern, civilized approach to executions than a firing squad or noose, namely lethal injections, that, “the needle now faces the same problems that preceded it: what once seemed a humane alternative no longer appears to be.”

The question I ask, is, “has public policy evolved sufficiently in light of several botched lethal injections to call upon an Eighth Amendment review?”


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