renewed debate about lethal injection

renewed debate about lethal injection

From an article by Oren Dorell and Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY:

The questions over lethal injection that have led executions to be halted in Florida and California are likely to curb the use of the death penalty across the USA, according to analysts who support capital punishment and others who oppose it.

However, it’s unclear whether the increasing focus on whether lethal injection is unconstitutionally painful represents a significant and lasting turn against the death penalty or a temporary slowdown in executions that will end once procedures for injections are improved.

“I think we’re headed towards fewer executions,” says Deborah Denno, a professor at Fordham University Law School who was on the U.S. Sentencing Commission from 1994 to 1997. She says a range of problems in the nation’s death penalty system – unqualified public defenders, the need for more DNA testing and questions about lethal injections, for example – have prevented capital punishment from being applied fairly.

Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which supports the death penalty, disagrees that the decline will last.

He calls the controversy over lethal injection – which is used in nearly all of the 38 states that have the death penalty – “a significant but temporary setback” for capital punishment that will lead to fewer executions only until problems with injections are resolved.

He notes that public opinion surveys consistently have shown that about two-thirds of Americans support the death penalty.

Scheidegger says the debate over injections is somewhat overblown. “Why are we that concerned about whether a convicted murderer feels some pain at death?” he asks. “It’s supposed to be punishment.”

I agree with Mr. Scheidegger, that whether a convicted murdered feels some pain at death is not the issue. In fact, I have long believed that lethal injection is an especially cruel form of punishment precisely because it is too easy and too painless, because it masks the horror of what we are doing — intentionally taking the life of another human being. Lethal injection makes it too easy for us to pretend we are being “humane” even as we are destroying a piece of humanity … a piece of our humanity. Any execution, by any means, devalues human life and cedes to us a power which does not belong to us and which we are incapable of wielding fairly even if it were.

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