California: With state executions on hold, death penalty foes rethink ballot strategy

California advocates of abolishing the death penalty got a jolt of momentum in March, when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he would not allow any executions to take place while he was in office.
But after trying twice this decade to persuade voters to end capital punishment, they have no plans to go to the ballot again in 2020. Rather than seeking to build on Newsom’s temporary reprieve for Death Row inmates, activists are taking their own pause.
Grappling with the legacy of their two failed initiatives, advocates are reassessing their strategy and retooling their message. Natasha Minsker, a political consultant who has long been involved with abolition efforts, said the governor’s moratorium has given advocates the opportunity to do long-term planning.
“There’s this excitement and energy in our movement that we haven’t had in a long time,” Minsker said.
Newsom’s executive order caught many Californians by surprise. Although he supported the unsuccessful ballot measures to abolish t…

I witnessed Ohio's execution of Dennis McGuire. What I saw was inhumane

Dennis McGuire
I first began to visit [Ohio death-row inmate] Mcguire in November. He told me about the evil act he had committed, the murder in 1989 of a young woman Joy Stewart who was pregnant and whose unborn child also died. He confessed his sin to me, and expressed sorrow for what he had done. I said he should pray for forgiveness from the woman he had killed, and from that unborn child, and over the course of the final eight weeks, I know that he did.

After that, I had to deal with him as I do anyone else who repents: as a forgiven sinner. It can be very difficult for people not in the religion to accept that with regard to a murderer, but the faith is clear: once forgiven, you are forgiven, no matter how heinous the sin.

On the day of his execution, last Thursday, I gave him his last sacraments at Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, which lodges the "death house". Shortly before the execution was due to start, his son, daughter and daughter-in-law, who were with him at the time, asked me to come with them as witness. McGuire also said he wanted me there as his spiritual adviser.

I felt nauseous before I entered the room, as I had never seen an execution before. As the execution got underway, the nausea passed and was replaced by an intense feeling that I wanted to get out of that room, away from the horrendous act that was playing out before me.

I've seen people die many times before: in nursing homes, families I've known, my own mother. In most settings I've found death to be a very peaceful experience. But this was something else. By my count it took 26 minutes for McGuire to be pronounced dead.

He made his final statement. He said thank you to Joy Stewart's family who had offered him some words of comfort in a letter they had written to him, and he told his children that he loved them and would see them in heaven. They began to put lines into him. That was unsettling, as from what I could observe they seemed to find it hard to get insert the IV and there seemed to be blood coming from his right arm.

At 10.27am, the syringe containing the untested concoction of midazolam and hydromorphone was injected into him. At 10.30am, three minutes into the execution, he lifted his head off the gurney, and said to the family who he could see through the window: "I love you, I love you." Then he lay back down.

At about 10.31am, his stomach swelled up in an unusual way, as though he had a hernia or something like that. Between 10.33am and 10.44am – I could see a clock on the wall of the death house – he struggled and gasped audibly for air.

I was aghast. Over those 11 minutes or more he was fighting for breath, and I could see both of his fists were clenched the entire time. His gasps could be heard through the glass wall that separated us.

Source: The Guardian, January 22, 2014

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