FEATURED POST

America Is Stuck With the Death Penalty for (At Least) a Generation

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With Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement, the national fight to abolish capital punishment will have to go local.
When the Supreme Court revived capital punishment in 1976, just four years after de facto abolishing it, the justices effectively took ownership of the American death penalty and all its outcomes. They have spent the decades since then setting its legal and constitutional parameters, supervising its general implementation, sanctioning its use in specific cases, and brushing aside concerns about its many flaws.
That unusual role in the American legal system is about to change. With Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the court this summer, the Supreme Court will lose a heterodox jurist whose willingness to cross ideological divides made him the deciding factor in many legal battles. In cases involving the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, his judgment often meant the difference between life and death for hundreds of death-row pr…

Oklahoma governor signs 'foolproof' nitrogen gas execution method

The state is the first to approve nitrogen-induced hypoxia for use on death-row inmates, which supporters says is ‘painless’ despite lack of human testing

Oklahoma became the first US state to approve nitrogen gas for executions under a measure Governor Mary Fallin signed into law Friday that provides an alternative death penalty method if lethal injections aren’t possible, either because of a court ruling or a drug shortage.

Executions are on hold in Oklahoma while the US supreme court considers whether the state’s current three-drug method of lethal injection is constitutional. Supporters of the new law maintain nitrogen-induced hypoxia is a humane and painless method of execution that requires no medical expertise to perform.

“Oklahoma executes murderers whose crimes are especially heinous,” Fallin said in a statement announcing that she had signed the bill into law.

“I support that policy, and I believe capital punishment must be performed effectively and without cruelty. The bill I signed today gives the state of Oklahoma another death penalty option that meets that standard.”

The bill authored by Republican representative Mike Christian and Republican senator Anthony Sykes had passed the state house on an 85-10 vote and cleared the senate on a 41-0 vote.

There are no reports of nitrogen gas ever being used to execute humans, and critics say that one concern is that the method is untested. Some states even ban its use to put animals to sleep.

But supporters of Oklahoma’s plan argue that nitrogen-induced hypoxia – or a lack of oxygen in the blood – is a humane execution method.

“The process is fast and painless,” said Christian, a former Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper who wrote the bill. “It’s foolproof.”

Opponents say there’s no way to know whether the method is painless and effective.

“It just hasn’t been tried, so we don’t know,” said represenative Emily Virgin, a Democrat from Norman who opposes the death penalty.


Source: The Guardian, April 18, 2015

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