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Crime The Courts News

Controversial Execution In Ohio Uses New Lethal Drug Combination 1038

Posted by Soulskill
from the let's-argue-about-killing-people dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "CNN reports that Ohio inmate Dennis McGuire appeared to gasp and convulse for roughly 10 minutes before he finally died during his execution by lethal injection using a new combination of drugs. The new drugs were used because European-based manufacturers banned U.S. prisons from using their drugs in executions — among them, Danish-based Lundbeck, which manufactures pentobarbital. The state used a combination of the drugs midazolam, a sedative, and the painkiller hydromorphone, the state corrections department told CNN. In an opinion piece written for CNN earlier this week, a law professor noted that McGuire's attorneys argued he would 'suffocate to death in agony and terror.' 'The state disagrees. But the truth is that no one knows exactly how McGuire will die, how long it will take or what he will experience in the process,' wrote Elisabeth A. Semel, clinic professor of law and director of the Death Penalty Clinic at U.C. Berkeley School of Law. According to a pool report from journalists who witnessed the execution, the whole process took more than 15 minutes, during which McGuire made 'several loud snorting or snoring sounds.' Allen Bohnert, a public defender who lead McGuire's appeal to stop his execution in federal court on the grounds that the drugs would cause undue agony and terror, called the execution process a 'failed experiment' and said his office will look into what happened. 'The people of the state of Ohio should be appalled by what took place here today in their name.'"
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Controversial Execution In Ohio Uses New Lethal Drug Combination

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  • by stox (131684) on Friday January 17, 2014 @04:45PM (#45991475) Homepage

    I don't know what is then.

  • Hmm (Score:1, Insightful)

    by roninmagus (721889) on Friday January 17, 2014 @04:45PM (#45991477)
    Let's ask Joy Stewart what she thinks about the undue agony and terror. Oh, she and her unborn child are both unavailable for comment.
  • Re:Hmm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday January 17, 2014 @04:47PM (#45991503) Journal
    And her opinion on the 8th amendment matters why exactly? (yes, yes, I know that invoking the victim, and her precious fetus too, I see, is fashionable; but it's kind of a lousy substitute for thinking).
  • Re:Hmm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by i kan reed (749298) on Friday January 17, 2014 @04:48PM (#45991523) Homepage Journal

    I forgot how important it is to get a second wrong to match with the first one. It's like Go Fish, if you get related pairs, they both go away, right?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @04:48PM (#45991527)

    Maybe it was the pregnant women that he slit her throat and left lying along the road was !

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @04:49PM (#45991539)

    'several loud snorting or snoring sounds' doesn't really sound like "cruel and unusual," sorry.

    Compared to what he did, I'm not terribly sorry for him. A few minutes of "snorting or snoring" (during most of which he was probably not fully conscious) doesn't seem like a big deal.

  • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ArbitraryName (3391191) on Friday January 17, 2014 @04:49PM (#45991541)
    There's a reason that independent third parties adjudicate trials and not friends and family of the victim and accused.
  • QA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by timdingo (1922214) on Friday January 17, 2014 @04:49PM (#45991547)
    I guess I should be appalled, but.. the dude slaughtered a pregnant girl; I don't care how he died exactly at all. In fact, I'm going to consider this a successful QA test and move on.
  • It's worth noting (Score:2, Insightful)

    by roc97007 (608802) on Friday January 17, 2014 @04:50PM (#45991553) Journal

    ...that his end was still less unpleasant than his victim's.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @04:50PM (#45991567)

    Maybe it was the pregnant women that he slit her throat and left lying along the road was !

    This.

    I don't feel bad for him at all. I certainly hope he felt some (or more) of what his victim felt.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @04:54PM (#45991615)
    An eye for an eye, and the whole world is blind.
  • by guanxi (216397) on Friday January 17, 2014 @04:58PM (#45991685)

    I thought testing drugs on humans -- without their informed consent and successful prior testing -- was banned long ago.

    It doesn't matter that the person is a prisoner; in fact the standards are higher for them, because they are much less able to refuse consent. It also doesn't matter that they will die soon; terminally ill patients also must give informed consent.

    What kind of sick society experiments on helpless prisoners?

  • by Threni (635302) on Friday January 17, 2014 @04:59PM (#45991697)

    But more unpleasant than I'd expect a civilized society to behave. There's a reason people have generally looked up to the US. This sort of thing is not exactly America's proudest achievement, and history will not look kindly upon the quantity and manner of execution.

  • by davydagger (2566757) on Friday January 17, 2014 @05:00PM (#45991711)
    false equivilancy. This man might be a monster, but we are not. We are civilized. We are not going to torture people out of revenge or for any other reason.

    The purpose of criminal justice is to keep bad people from harming society. Not to make us feel better, with some feel good violence or torture.

    Please keep your biblical eye for and eye type mentality out of my country. Or go move to some country like saudia arabia
  • by nblender (741424) on Friday January 17, 2014 @05:00PM (#45991713)

    Since innocent people end up on death-row and are frequently exonnerated by DNA or new evidence, then how can it be logical to maintain a death penalty? If you're going to say "well, maybe .1% of the time an innocent person is put to death but it's for the greater good", then how about you line up to be the next .1%?

  • Re:Hmm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by OhPlz (168413) on Friday January 17, 2014 @05:00PM (#45991725)

    We're more humane now that he's gone.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @05:05PM (#45991809)
    And when you are ready to inflict the same, you become just as bad as he was.
  • Stupidity... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wbr1 (2538558) on Friday January 17, 2014 @05:06PM (#45991819)
    I know I will be bombarded by right wing-nuts and tough love justice advocates (cold fjord are you here?), but does anyone not see the ridiculous hypocrisy of the death penalty?

    You are not allowed to kill, but it okay for us to kill you.

    I won't get into the fiscal debate as to whether it is cheaper to lock away someone for life or to execute with multiple appeals and proceedings. It shouldn't matter. If it is wrong to take a life, then it is wrong to take it in any circumstance. End of story. Then when you factor in the fact that we are constantly finding innocent people convicted (if not for death penalty offenses). Often due to poor representation, over zealous prosecutors, or shoddy politically or financially motivated police and forensic work, it would seem to me that the ethical cost of killing one innocent person would outweigh all of it. Even if our judicial system was perfect, humans make errors.

    However, as with so much else in our society, our desire for vicarious retribution, our poor ability to truly judge relative risk, and the fear peddled by those in power to keep you caged keep winning.

  • by Razed By TV (730353) on Friday January 17, 2014 @05:06PM (#45991821)
    Suffocation through nitrogen is the answer. The body doesn't build up CO2 (which is the cause of unpleasantness when holding ones breath). Pain free execution.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @05:06PM (#45991827)
    The EU can be proud - their drugs weren't used in the execution of Dennis McGuire, and therefore, he died a more painful death than he otherwise would have.
  • by Libertarian001 (453712) on Friday January 17, 2014 @05:07PM (#45991833)

    You were relevant right until you decided to bring religion into it.

  • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @05:08PM (#45991859)

    Oh yes, it's much better to put the vicious murderer in prison for 60 years or so, at $75,000+ a year.

    Considering the whole appeals process ends up costing more than life in prison, yes, that would be better.

  • by Swarley (1795754) on Friday January 17, 2014 @05:11PM (#45991895)

    Exactly this. I'm only a second year med student and even I could tell you that trying to kill someone with the mixture of drugs in the summary would be a really ugly process. I'm pretty sure we can't use propofol for the same reason we can't use the pentobarbital mentioned in the summary, but honestly a regular dose of propofol to knock someone unconscious plus a pneumatic piston like we use to humanely kill food animals would be the obvious option. Sure it makes a bigger mess, but it's WAY more humane for the person being executed, the one who were trying to protect from unnecessary cruelty and suffering. Propofol plus guillotine works well too. As it turns out medical science knows a lot more about reliably making people unconscious with drugs than about reliably killing them with drugs. Given that, if the killing is to happen, it should be done with something we know works reliably and quickly.

  • by goldcd (587052) on Friday January 17, 2014 @05:11PM (#45991897) Homepage
    later adjusted to 25 after the observers called bullshit...
    *personally* I'm against the death penalty, but if you're going to do it, just make yourself a Guillotine. "Lethal injection" is quite distasteful as it dresses up a killing as some pseudo-medical procedure. Scewing this up quite so magnificently is just jaw-dropping - although I suspect you don't send your brightest off to work in the penal system.
    What really shocks me though is the response of a significant number of people here, that the suffering he endured was justified as it was 'deserved'. I've tried in vain to think of how to get my point across, but can't think of any common ground to even start my pitch that the deliberate infliction of suffering upon another is simply wrong.
    I'm a great big atheist - but generally feel I've got a lot in common with those of faith, at least in my views if not the underlying reason. My biblical knowledge is rusty to say the least, but I'm reasonably sure when Jesus killed sinners, he at least did it mercifully.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @05:12PM (#45991905)
    It won't fail unusual, given chemical poisoning executions already exist and are legal, but a lengthy dying process might be cruel
  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday January 17, 2014 @05:15PM (#45991961)

    ..that his end was still less unpleasant than his victim's.

    Yes. It's totally ethical to cause pain and suffering to someone, so long as it's less than the pain and suffering they caused before. Also, medical experiments on prisoners is okay, because afterall they've been convicted of a crime, and the experiments would be less harmful than what they've done, so it's legit too.

    There was another man who thought like this in history...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @05:16PM (#45991989)

    No crueler that what he did to his victim.

      I personally favor letting the family have at him.

  • by ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) on Friday January 17, 2014 @05:17PM (#45992009)
    On the other hand, their refusal to provide drugs for executions has *stopped* many executions that would have otherwise happened. Those are direct effects. The suffering of this man was an indirect effect; only Ohio is to blame for his torture and death.
  • by guanxi (216397) on Friday January 17, 2014 @05:18PM (#45992013)

    Would you rather test an intentionally lethal drug cocktail on law abiding people?

    No, we should follow the same rules as any drug tests. Whether people are law-abiding or not has no bearing on whether we can do experiments on them.

  • by Whorhay (1319089) on Friday January 17, 2014 @05:23PM (#45992069)

    My principle reason for wanting a painless and relatively low stress execution method is that we have an imperfect justice system. Which means we periodically commit murder in the name of executing criminals. Other than some sense of vindication we as a society gain very little from a condemned persons suffering. So in the event of an innocent person being put to death I would at the least hope that there last few minutes of life are not spent in agonizing pain.

    So far as deterance goes I don't think that it really works very well because that only works when people make logical decisions about what they are doing. When murder is involved there is rarely much sound reasoning happening. Additionally I think it makes more sense for such a criminal to meet a quiet ignominous end.

  • Personal Beliefs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Friday January 17, 2014 @05:24PM (#45992095) Homepage Journal

    I, for one, do not believe the state has a right to take any life, regardless. Besides, if our society wasn't hell-bent on spending billions of dollars to incarcerate non-violent offenders, there would be plenty of cash in the coffers to put every sociopath away for several lifetimes, with money left over.

    That's really all I have to say about this.

  • by davydagger (2566757) on Friday January 17, 2014 @05:27PM (#45992139)
    >Don't lump him into civilized society

    I'm not. the rest of us, the people who are supporting an otherwise cruel and unsual punishment are part of society. Civilized persons don't condone torture.

    >Doesn't the coverage of his slow, painful death serve as even the slightest deterrent?

    no.

    >Doesn't that help to keep bad people from harming society?

    no.

    >But at some point the actions of someone are so vile and so beyond the realm of acceptable that we must take action to guarantee that they are never given the opportunity to take those actions again against anyone.

    torture doesn't do that. Your 19th century theory on policing/criminal justice belongs with the "eye for an eye" criminal justice in the dustbin of history. Its both barbaric and ineffective,
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @05:32PM (#45992239)

    Of course. He isn't worse than you after all.

    At some point someone has to clean up the most violent murderers of society. Someone has to be willing to do what others won't in order to protect everyone - including those who would not make the effort to protect society from people like McGuire.

    Nobody likes these things. We are not a pack blood thirsty mongrels waiting for another chance to harm someone under the guise of law and order. But at some point someone needs to make sure people like McGuire don't get a chance to practice their craft ever again.

  • by Your.Master (1088569) on Friday January 17, 2014 @05:32PM (#45992253)

    It's to make monsters feel the pain they inflicted on others

    ...which you do to make yourself feel better.

    and to deter future monsters

    Not convinced that has ever worked. I am doubtful anybody has ever sat down and thought "man, I'd blow up this school if I thought I'd go to federal pound me in the ass prison for life, or if I was humanely executed, but if there's a chance I might get tortured for ten minutes and then executed it's just not worth it".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @05:36PM (#45992343)

    Is that because you are a torturer and murderer?

    (Personally, I'd like to think that my society is better than the bad guys.)

  • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Friday January 17, 2014 @05:37PM (#45992357) Journal

    It ain't just about the victim's family, asshole - it's so that he can never do the same crime again, and we don't have to bear the cost of his remaining days.

    Bullshit. LWOP is cheaper than capital punishment. Fact.

    It's got nothing to do with public safety and fuck all to with economics. It's about retribution, satisfying the bloodlust of an angry mob. Capital punishment is lynch-mob justice. It's expensive, ineffective, and barbaric. Period.

  • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by i kan reed (749298) on Friday January 17, 2014 @05:39PM (#45992395) Homepage Journal

    And you're an animal for saying so, and should also die.

    See how easy that is?

  • by mythosaz (572040) on Friday January 17, 2014 @05:41PM (#45992433)

    I'm all for putting violent animals out of our misery...

    ...but if anyone thinks the Industrial Prison Complex(tm) is a money-making operation now, just think how adding organ harvesting to it will go down.

    An unfortunate reality. In terms Slashdot understands, it's why you don't let your PC technicians take home bad hardware -- suddenly you'd have a lot more "bad" hardware cropping up.

  • by TiggertheMad (556308) on Friday January 17, 2014 @05:42PM (#45992447) Homepage Journal
    If we can me completely certain that there never will be an error in a capitol crime sentencing, I would advocate immediately dropping the killer in a wood chipper head first. However, being as there is always going to be some error in the legal system the question we should be asking is, "How many innocent people are we willing to murder in the name of revenge/justice?"

    Because, until you get to that 100%, and never make an error, that is what you are doing. You are murdering people because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, are the wrong skin color, or cannot afford a good lawyer. At least if you screw up a life in prison sentence, you can let the person out in a decade or two when the truth comes to light.

    There is a great bullshit test I came up with to give to someone who advocates capitol punishment. Ask them if our court system is 100% perfect in convicting the guilty. Then ask them if that means that means that we are murdering at least a few of the wrong people with capitol punishment. Then ask them if they would still feel that capitol punishment was fair and just if they were one of those people that was selected to die. Then ask them if they still support capitol punishment. If they say still yes, they are lying.
  • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TapeCutter (624760) on Friday January 17, 2014 @06:00PM (#45992689) Journal

    we are all humans and we know what justice is. If a person did something horrible, then yes it's justice to do it back to them.

    So how does your definition of justice differ from your definition of revenge?

  • by TangoMargarine (1617195) on Friday January 17, 2014 @06:01PM (#45992705) Journal

    There are a number of pacifists who would disagree with you on that point.

  • by Rhacman (1528815) on Friday January 17, 2014 @06:03PM (#45992737)
    +6

    Killing an unarmed and fully secured captive has no place in a mature and civilized society. I call bullshit on any claim that the death penalty is a deterrent and somehow weighed in the minds of a person who decides to rape and kill a pregnant woman. The real aim of the death penalty is to satiate the rabid mob of townsfolk who would prefer take matters into their own hands with a rope and a tree. Heck, I'll even admit that I'd be among those first in line to get a piece of this guy if he had done this to someone I knew but that doesn't mean I don't hope that calmer minds would prevail. Even in this case it doesn't really bother me that this man suffered, but that he suffered in the name of name of supposed 'justice'.
  • by jbmartin6 (1232050) on Friday January 17, 2014 @06:15PM (#45992911)
    I agree, All this injection stuff is to spare OUR feelings, not the prisoner's. If we were so concerned about humane execution we would use the guillotine. But that is messy and prevents us from pretending we aren't killing a person. If the person deserves it, let's at least be grown up enough to be honest about it.
  • by jbmartin6 (1232050) on Friday January 17, 2014 @06:18PM (#45992965)
    Funny, Jesus didn't kill any sinners. He would have opposed the death penalty. Or he does, depending on your belief.
  • Re:Hmm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Friday January 17, 2014 @06:19PM (#45992967) Journal

    I'll bet you drive a big truck too.

    A Nissan Leaf.

    I'm a full of delicious contradictions.

    My concern in this particular line of thought isn't about the right or wrong of the situation. Once we decide to execute people, and we know it's expensive, and we do them infrequently and all over the damned place, then we should employ some sort of economy of scale in doing so.

    Okay then. How about industrial-scale gas chambers with a railway line going in the front and a crematorium out the back? To ease the minds of the convicts you could just lie to them and tell them it's a work camp, and put a sign on the gate saying "work sets you free." Better build that chimney pretty high though. The locals are sure to complain about the smell of burning human flesh.

    Seriously though, do you people ever listen to yourselves?

  • by gd2shoe (747932) on Friday January 17, 2014 @06:25PM (#45993055) Journal

    I'm in an odd position of believing in the death penalty, but willing to see it go.

    I believe that if we took the death penalty seriously as a society, and actually used it, it would stop being an empty threat. As it stands, there are so few executions in most of the states that we are getting very, very little deterrence out of it. Criminals know that it doesn't happen often. If they are convicted, they don't believe they'll be given the death penalty. Their chances are statistically 0.

    Further, I don't believe vengeance is a sufficient motive for the death penalty, or indeed any state punishment. If it doesn't prevent further crime in some way, the state has no business there. Incarceration physically prevents further crime... while giving prisoners a reason not to come back*... and theoretically rehabilitating them**. Possible escape and the ordering of crimes from within prison are the only other two reasons I can see for a death penalty, but these seem rather weak. High risk criminals should be in maximum security already.

    *(Prison should be unpleasant. It shouldn't be as awful and dangerous as it typically is, but it shouldn't be pleasant.) **(We should offer rehabilitation, not that we do.)

    The Paradox:

    It is commonly said that it costs more to execute a man than to keep him incarcerated for the rest of his natural life. I don't know if this is true or not, but it does highlight unfairness in the system.

    Imagine two murderers in a death penalty state. The first is convicted with special circumstances, and is sentenced to die. The prosecutor can prove the guilt of the second prisoner, but can't quite prove special circumstances. He is convicted for life. The first is given appeal after appeal. The second can ask for an appeal, but may be denied.

    Note that the state has taken the lives of both of these people. The second one is just killed slower. Either, we give death penalty cases too many appeals, or we don't give life sentence cases enough. Something is out of balance here.

    (Addendum: Why don't we let death row prisoners choose? There are some interesting theories out there about humane execution. So long as the method chosen results in death, is acceptably inexpensive, can be accomplished from within the prison, and is not dangerous to others, it would be the most ethical way to kill someone. Not that it is ethical, that is still open for debate... but it would be the most ethical.)

  • by FatLittleMonkey (1341387) on Friday January 17, 2014 @07:06PM (#45993489)

    gas chambers of all types are dangerous,

    Nitrogen doesn't need a "gas chamber". Just a mask and reservoir bag (aka non-rebreather mask). Cost: $20 for the disposable mask. A few bucks per cubic metre for high-grade nitrogen. (I'd also add a bubbler to remove any odours, and warm and humidify the gas.)

    a fixed aim bench rifle of sufficient bore directly to the head

    Judging from bolt-guns at slaughterhouses, there's an error rate. And the result of an error is nasty. (Whereas if the nitrogen doesn't work, it just doesn't work.)

    This is the problem with all methods of execution. The guillotine sometimes wouldn't cut all the way through. The noose wouldn't break their neck (or the rope would break). The cyanide wouldn't release properly. The electric chair wouldn't make proper contact through the skin, burning them alive instead of instantly electrocuting them. And sometimes the anaesthetic doses for lethal injection go wrong, so the person wakes up as the kill-you-horribly part is injected; or they use the wrong drugs. This the advantage of nitrogen, anything less than a kill is benign.

    or we could just make life without parole the top possible penalty and save a ton of money AND make errors more reversible

    Or that.

  • by Muros (1167213) on Friday January 17, 2014 @07:13PM (#45993559)
    Could restate your opinion in a way that makes some semblance of logical sense? I have no idea what property rights in America you claim "European busybodies" are infringing by refusing to sell to murderers.
  • Re:QA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Friday January 17, 2014 @07:26PM (#45993731) Journal

    I guess I should be appalled, but.. the dude slaughtered a pregnant girl; I don't care how he died exactly at all.
    In fact, I'm going to consider this a successful QA test and move on.

    Well then you're a fucking barbarian.

  • by quantaman (517394) on Friday January 17, 2014 @07:34PM (#45993831)

    But what's the benefit of capital punishment? Revenge? Justice? Deterrence? Closure?

    Personally I'm highly skeptical of the deterrence effect, and revenge doesn't sit right, which leaves only justice and closure.

    Is execution the only deserving justice for a horrible crime, why can't life in prison be considered justice?

    As for closure I can understand the desire of the victims family to want the killer gone, but the fact the family will feel better doesn't really justify killing someone.

  • by Man On Pink Corner (1089867) on Friday January 17, 2014 @07:57PM (#45994069)

    The only downside i've really seen to the process is how they keep executing people who eventually turned out to be innocent

    If that's not a dealbreaker in your opinion, there's something very wrong with you.

  • by FatLittleMonkey (1341387) on Friday January 17, 2014 @07:58PM (#45994079)

    She was tortured and killed. Those are bad things. Torturing and killing are bad.

    Which is why civilised people don't torture and kill.

  • by Smauler (915644) on Friday January 17, 2014 @08:03PM (#45994127)

    But... Our system right now is so paranoid against executing the falsely convicted, that stays of execution are granted when there is the faintest whiff of innocence. Prisoners are kept for decades, just to avoid wrongful execution.

    From Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] : "Newly available DNA evidence has allowed the exoneration and release of more than 15 death row inmates since 1992 in the United States, but DNA evidence is available in only a fraction of capital cases."

    That's more than one person per year exonerated by DNA evidence. There are far more people on death row who have been convicted for crimes where there is no DNA evidence. There will be many people on death row now, who are innocent, and can't get that evidence to prove it. There will have been many innocent people already executed.

    I'd insist (on cruelty grounds) on choosing the method of my execution, and being monitored by a pain specializing neurologist. (There are several supposedly-humane methods that haven't been sufficiently explored.)

    You can insist all you like, doesn't make a difference to the justice system.

  • by TiggertheMad (556308) on Friday January 17, 2014 @09:57PM (#45995191) Homepage Journal
    I'm not against all of the additional costs, mind you, in this day and age we ought to be damn sure we're executing the right person.

    well spoken. In fact you touched on another reason to do away with the death penalty: Suppose you convict and execute the wrong guy. You have just committed a double error in that an innocent is dead, and the real criminal will likely never be found and caught. Has there ever been a case where the wrong person has been executed, and then the real criminal is caught and successfully prosecuted? IANAL, but I don't think I have ever heard of such a thing....
  • by Bengie (1121981) on Friday January 17, 2014 @11:02PM (#45995663)
    It's been a long while since researching the subject, but it was something along the lines of 30% of people who get killed on death row, get proven innocent some time after. Partly because of aggressive DAs that only care about winning at all costs.

    So long as our justice system uses humans, I won't trust it to kill people.

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