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Tennessee execution: Billy Ray Irick tortured to death, expert says in new filing

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Editor's note: Reporter Dave Boucher was one of seven state-required media witnesses at Irick's execution. 
Billy Ray Irick felt searing pain akin to torture before he died in a Tennessee prison in August, but steps taken in carrying out his execution blocked signs of suffering, according to a doctor who reviewed information about the lethal injection.
In new court filings entered late Thursday amidst an ongoing legal challenge of Tennessee’s lethal injection protocol, Dr. David Lubarsky said statements from people who witnessed the execution indicated the controversial drug midazolam failed to ensure Irick could not feel pain during his death.
As a result, the death row inmate “experienced the feeling of choking, drowning in his own fluids, suffocating, being buried alive, and the burning sensation caused by the injection of the potassium chloride,” Lubarsky wrote in the filing.
The document also says the state did not follow its own lethal injection protocol, raising questio…

Trump backs death penalty for drug dealers; is it constitutional?

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President Donald Trump backed the death penalty for drug dealers on Saturday at a Pennsylvania rally, while his administration is reportedly studying the issue.

Trump said the United States got the idea of capital punishment for drug dealers from Chinese President Xi Jinping, the Washington Post reports.

The idea needs discussion, although “I don’t know if this country’s ready for it,” Trump said. CNN also has coverage.

Trump said people who kill just one person get the death penalty, while drug dealers can kill 5,000 people with drugs. “These people are killing our kids and they’re killing our families, and we have to do something,” Trump said.

The Post reported on Friday that Trump’s Domestic Policy Council and the U.S. Justice Department are studying policy changes that would authorize prosecutors to seek the death penalty for drug dealers.

One approach might be to make trafficking large quantities of fentanyl a capital crime because even a small amount of the drug can kill, the Post reported. The administration is also studying tougher prison sentences for large-scale dealers.

Federal law allows the death penalty for drug related murders in four situations, according to the Death Penalty Information Center: for a murder related to drug trafficking; for a drug-related murder of a law enforcement officer; for a drug-related murder involving a drive-by shooting; and for a murder committed by use of a firearm during a drug-trafficking crime.

George Washington University law professor Peter Meyers said he doesn’t agree with the idea of adding more capital crimes for drug dealers, but the idea would “very likely” be constitutional.

Ohio State University law professor Douglas Berman, however, had doubts. “It is not at all clear that death sentences for drug dealers, even for those whose drugs cause multiple deaths, would be constitutional,” he wrote at the Sentencing Law and Policy blog. “It is entirely clear that the issue would be litigated extensively and would have to be definitively decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Source: ABA Journal, Debra Cassens Weiss, March 12, 2018


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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