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

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…

Are the gas chamber, electric chair, gallows in Louisiana's future?

Are Louisiana lawmakers ready to bring back the gas chamber, hanging, firing squad or electrocution as options for carrying out the state's death penalty?

Attorney General Jeff Landry says he will push for those changes if Louisiana can't figure out how to get its lethal injection protocols back on track. Executions in the state are on hold and will be for at least another year as part of a legal battle and efforts to find a drug manufacturer or pharmacy that will sell them the products needed to carry out executions. Louisiana hasn't put a prisoner to death since 2010 when Gerald Bordelon waived all his rights to appeal.

Landry has accused Gov. John Bel Edwards of dragging his feet on the speed of executions, noting that other states have managed to put bodies on the gurneys, noting that Texas has carried out seven executions in the first six months of this year and that Arkansas had managed two in just one day.

While avoiding a direct statement on where he stands on the death penalty, Edwards has denied being the reason for the delays and challenged Landry on why the attorney general had not pushed changes to the state law on his own. That's when Landry released his draft of death penalty legislation.

Landry is also pushing for changes that would allow the pharmacy at Louisiana State Penitentiary, commonly known as Angola, to mix its own execution cocktail and keep the formula secret to avoid lawsuits from the pharmaceutical companies that are now withholding their drugs for use in executions.

The primary reason for execution delays across the country is being caused by drug manufacturers who don't want their products associated with putting people to death.

The maker of the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl joined a bid Monday (July 30) to block the use of its product in what would be the first execution in Nevada in more than 12 years.

Hikma Pharmaceuticals USA overcame objections from the state to intervene in New Jersey-based Alvogen's lawsuit seeking to stop the use of its sedative midazolam in the execution of twice-convicted killer Scott Raymond Dozier. After sedation, Nevada plans to use fentanyl to put Dozier to death. 

The move did not sit well with Nevada's solicitor general's office, which is as eager as Landry to get the line moving on death row.

"It's ironic that the maker of fentanyl, which is at the center of the nation's opioid crisis and is responsible for illegal overdoses every day is going to ... claim reputational injury from being associated with a lawful execution," Deputy Nevada state Solicitor General Jordan T. Smith said in a filing against the intervention.

But the fact that the maker of fentanyl finds a connection to state executions to be distasteful says a lot about where public opinion stands on the death penalty.

Recent polls have put support for the death penalty at about 49 percent nationally (with 42 percent opposed) marking the first time in 45 years that support for capital punishment had polled below 50 percent. It does, however, maintain support in Louisiana. A survey this year by LSU's  Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs found that 58 percent of Louisiana residents back capital punishment, while only 34 percent oppose.

Still, you have to wonder how many legislators will relish the idea of standing up for the return of gas chamber, firings squads, the gallows and "Old Sparky" as symbols of the state's ultimate criminal justice. The other option is executing inmates in the name of the people of the Great State of Louisiana, but not allowing those people to know exactly how it is being done or what is being used. Not a great look for democracy.  

The polls may tell lawmakers that this is a slam dunk, but you really have to wonder about what the drug companies are seeing in their marketing research. I mean, if it hurts their reputation ... 

Source: nola.com, Tim Morris, July 31, 2018. Tim Morris is an opinions columnist at NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune.

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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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