Friday, October 29, 2010

Today's New York Times on the Death Penalty

The Times published a moving editorial, "No Justification for the Death Penalty," decrying the execution of Jeffrey Landrigan.  It pointed out that the system failed Landrigan "at almost every level, most disturbingly at the Supreme Court. In a 5-to-4 vote, the court’s conservative majority allowed the execution to proceed based on a stark misrepresentation"  The Times noted how the execution was thrown off due to the shortage of sodium thiopental, one of the three drugs used in the lethal injection three-drug cocktail. The state obtained the drug from a foreign source, but "[w]hen Mr. Landrigan tried to ascertain its effectiveness for sedating him so he wouldn’t feel the pain of the other drugs, Arizona refused to divulge the information. After the state defied four orders from a federal district judge to produce it, the judge stayed the execution."  This is where the Supreme Court came in:  "The majority overturned the stay, saying there was 'no evidence in the record to suggest that the drug obtained from a foreign source is unsafe.' [but] there was no evidence — either way — because Arizona defied orders to provide it."  As the Times put it:  "The court’s whitewash highlights the arbitrariness of Mr. Landrigan’s execution."  The Arizona judge who imposed Landrigan's death sentence supported his clemency plea, saying she would not have sentenced him to death if she had been aware of the mitigating evidence, including evidence of brain damage, that Landrigan's trial lawyers ineptly failed to present. The Times concluded that the Supreme Court's failure to uphold the stay of execution was "shameful."
[See related posts: Banality of Evil, Drug Problem]


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