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A Most American Terrorist: The Making of Dylann Roof

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“What are you?” a member of the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston asked at the trial of the white man who killed eight of her fellow black parishioners and their pastor. “What kind of subhuman miscreant could commit such evil?... What happened to you, Dylann?”
Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah spent months in South Carolina searching for an answer to those questions—speaking with Roof’s mother, father, friends, former teachers, and victims’ family members, all in an effort to unlock what went into creating one of the coldest killers of our time.
Sitting beside the church, drinking from a bottle of Smirnoff Ice, he thought he had to go in and shoot them.
They were a small prayer group—a rising-star preacher, an elderly minister, eight women, one young man, and a little girl. But to him, they were a problem. He believed that, as black Americans, they were raping “our women and are taking over our country.” So he took out his Glock handgun and calmly, while their eyes were closed in prayer, ope…

Pfizer’s move throws a wrench into America’s death-penalty machinery

“FIRST, do no harm.” Executives of pharmaceutical companies are not subject to this guiding principle of the Hippocratic oath—only doctors are. But increasingly, drug manufacturers are taking steps to ensure that their formulations do not wind up in syringes used for lethal injections of condemned prisoners. Last week, Pfizer, one of America’s largest drug companies, announced that it would no longer supply prisons with seven drugs used to impose the death penalty. “Pfizer’s mission is to apply science and our global resources to improve health and well-being at every stage of life”, the statement says. “Consistent with these values, Pfizer strongly objects to the use of its products as lethal injections for capital punishment.” The firm will sell the drugs “only for medically prescribed patient care and not for any penal purposes”, and take pains to ensure that the “select group of wholesalers, distributors and direct purchasers” who buy these drugs—pancuronium bromide, potassium chloride, propofol, midazolam, hydromorphone, rocuronium bromide and vecuronium bromide—“will not resell these products to correctional institutions”.

Pfizer’s move will rankle a devoted but diminished swath of America. Though 31 states still have death-penalty laws on their books, only a handful actually follow through. In 2015, a total of six states—Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia—hosted executions. And of the 27 men and one woman put to death last year (the lowest number since 1984), all but four were in the execution-leading troika of Georgia, Missouri and Texas. The execution method in all 28 cases—and in every application of the death penalty but one over the past four years (when Virginia electrocuted Robert Charles Gleason, Jr in 2013)—was lethal injection. Pfizer’s decision will exacerbate an already difficult situation for states seeking drugs that will reliably kill their worst offenders.

If it were not for the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision a year ago in Glossip v Gross, the task of sourcing the the deadly cocktails would be even tougher. Oklahoma and a few other states had turned to one of the drugs on Pfizer’s list, midazolam, in 2013 when European drug companies opposed to the death penalty stopped supplying prisons with sodium thiopental and pentobarbital, barbiturates which induce a coma-like state. In Glossip, Richard Glossip and two other Oklahoma inmates challenged their pending executions because they believed midazolam carried a risk of torturing them to death. They presented the nightmare of Clayton Lockett’s execution in April 2014, during which he twisted in pain and regained consciousness to blurt out “this shit is fucking with my head” before succumbing after 43 minutes of apparent suffering.


Source: The Economist, Blogs, S.M., May 16, 2016

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