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In the Bible Belt, Christmas Isn’t Coming to Death Row

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When it comes to the death penalty, guilt or innocence shouldn’t really matter to Christians.  

NASHVILLE — Until August, Tennessee had not put a prisoner to death in nearly a decade. Last Thursday, it performed its third execution in four months.
This was not a surprising turn of events. In each case, recourse to the courts had been exhausted. In each case Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, declined to intervene, though there were many reasons to justify intervening. Billy Ray Irick suffered from psychotic breaks that raised profound doubts about his ability to distinguish right from wrong. Edmund Zagorksi’s behavior in prison was so exemplary that even the warden pleaded for his life. David Earl Miller also suffered from mental illness and was a survivor of child abuse so horrific that he tried to kill himself when he was 6 years old.
Questions about the humanity of Tennessee’s lethal-injection protocol were so pervasive following the execution of Mr. Irick that both Mr. Zagorski and M…

Court filing: Ark.'s 2017 executions unveiled problems

Lethal injection lab
18 condemned inmates say in new court filings that the executions of 4 men in Arkansas last year exposed problems that should render the state's lethal injection procedure unconstitutional.

The prisoners late Monday asked a federal judge to let them amend a lawsuit filed after Arkansas scheduled 8 executions in an 11-day period last year. 

Four inmates from the original lawsuit were put to death, 3 received stays and Gov. Asa Hutchinson granted clemency to 1.

The inmates initially claimed Arkansas' use of the surgical sedative midazolam might expose them to excruciating pain because it couldn't render them unconscious before 2 other drugs stopped their lungs and hearts. The revised lawsuit says the 4 executions last year support their view.

"During several of the executions, the condemned moved when they should have been anesthetized or paralyzed," lawyers for the inmates wrote, citing witness accounts from various media, including The Associated Press. "During Kenneth Williams' execution, Williams began bucking against his restraints so hard that it caused bruising to his head."

Jack Jones' lips continued to move after he made a final statement, and 5 minutes into his execution his lips moved another 3 to 5 times, the lawyers said, citing an AP report.

The amended lawsuit, which must be accepted by U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker, says it was never clear whether the Arkansas Department of Correction followed its guidelines. The lawyers say there was no way to tell when each drug was administered and that it wasn't clear an attendant performed proper consciousness checks on each inmate.

"The consciousness check is necessary to discern awareness but insufficient to determine whether the prisoner is insensate to pain," the lawyers wrote.

Arkansas uses midazolam to sedate inmates at the start of its executions. The lawyers said late Monday it would be unconstitutionally cruel to subsequently shut down the inmates' lungs and hearts if the prisoners weren't unconscious. The 2nd drug in a 3-drug sequence paralyzes inmates, rendering them unable to cry out.

"The person has the desire to breathe but no ability to do so," the lawyers wrote. "Once the paralysis is total, the recipient is unable to communicate and feels as if he has been buried alive."

The inmates' lawyers said a firing squad, an overdose of pentobarbital or the anesthetic gas sevoflurane might be better options.

Courts last year rejected the inmates' effort to have the midazolam protocol declared unconstitutional and the Arkansas attorney general's office said Tuesday that this year's effort would fail, too.

"The death row inmates' proposed amended complaint is yet another attempt to delay justice for the victims and their families," Jessica Ray, a spokeswoman for the attorney general, said in an email.

Source: The Associated Press, June 7, 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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