Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Banality of Evil

Jeffrey Landrigan was executed Tuesday night after the stay issued by a federal judge was lifted by the United States Supreme Court.  Arizona conceded that they obtained one of the drugs required for lethal injection from Great Britain due to a nationwide shortage of the drug, but declined to name the company that provided it.  (It should be noted that this unnamed company may have violated the European Union's ban on the sale and export of devices that can be used for executions).  As described in an earlier blog entry, a federal judge had issued a stay after Arizona officials refused to explain where or how they obtained the drugs.  The Supreme Court's order vacating the stay gives the benefit of the doubt to the State.  It places an insurmountable burden on the condemned inmate to establish that the drugs to be used are unsafe even though the State refused to provide sufficient information to make that determination.  It is a chilling order:  "There is no evidence in the record to suggest that the drug obtained from a foreign source is unsafe. The district court granted the restraining order because it was left to speculate as to the risk of harm.  But speculation cannot substitute for evidence that the use of the drug is sure or very likely to cause serious illness and needless suffering."  This was a 5-4 ruling.  Four justices (Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan) voted to deny the State's application to vacate the stay.


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