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Will the Supreme Court Kill The Death Penalty This Term?

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Will the U.S. Supreme Court add the fate of the death penalty to a term already fraught with hot-button issues like partisan gerrymandering, warrantless surveillance, and a host of contentious First Amendment disputes?
That’s the hope of an ambitious Supreme Court petition seeking to abolish the ultimate punishment. But it runs headlong into the fact that only two justices have squarely called for a reexamination of the death penalty’s constitutionality.
Abel Hidalgo challenges Arizona’s capital punishment system—which sweeps too broadly, he says, because the state’s “aggravating factors” make 99 percent of first-degree murderers death-eligible—as well as the death penalty itself, arguing it’s cruel and unusual punishment.
He’s represented by former acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal—among the most successful Supreme Court practitioners last term. Hidalgo also has the support of several outside groups who filed amicus briefs on his behalf, notably one from a group including Ari…

Will Oklahoma Change Execution Methods?

Training to recognize symptoms of nitrogen hypoxia
Training to recognize the symptoms of nitrogen hypoxia
Tucked inside last week's scathing Multicounty Grand Jury report was a recommendation the state begin moving away from lethal injection. Instead jurors suggested the state hire experts to take a look at moving to nitrogen hypoxia; a suggestion that renewed arguments over the feasibility, legality and moral efficacy of Oklahoma's back-up execution method.

The Grand Jury had been investigating Oklahoma's recent problems in the execution of convicted murderer Charles Warner and scheduled executions of convicted murderer Richard Glossip.

The method of using Nitrogen Hypoxia pipes pure nitrogen into a facemask or a sealed hood around an inmate's head.

According to an unnamed doctor and unnamed professor who testified in front of the jury, the method would be "easy and inexpensive," "simple to administer" and "quick and seemingly painless."

The professor also gave anecdotal evidence from high altitude pilots who were trained to recognize symptoms of nitrogen hypoxia and said they did not feel "any feelings of suffocation, choking or gagging."

Oklahoma opponents of the method, and the death penalty as a whole, say there's no good reason to think the state would get executions right with a different method. The ACLU-Oklahoma linked the method to Nazi concentration camps and human experimentation.

"As a state, we will stand on the shoulders of such lauded men and Reinhart Heidrick and Adolf Eichman, pioneers in the Nazi SS, who developed technologies like hypoxia as ways to kill, not just 1 person, but a whole lot of people," ACLU-OK's Legal Director Brady Henderson said in a press conference one day after the report was released.

Hypoxia was signed into law as a back-up last spring, should lethal injection be deemed unconstitutional or if the drugs used become too hard to find. The latter has already begun to play out during a global shortage of key components to the state's lethal cocktail.

Many major pharmaceutical companies in Europe have said they will not allow their drugs to be used in lethal injections. Most recently the American pharma-giant, Pfizer, said it will follow suit, calling the use of its pharmaceuticals in executions a "misuse of medicines."

Currently, the Department of Corrections does not know how long it would take for the state to switch methods and they have no plans to use nitrogen hypoxia as a method, according to a spokesperson for the department.

Source: nenwson6.com, May 25, 2016

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