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Crime The Courts News

Controversial Execution In Ohio Uses New Lethal Drug Combination 1038

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 i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @05:47PM (#45991507) Homepage Journal

    The phrasing in the 8th amendment is "cruel and unusual" FYI, and I'm pretty sure a court will find a stay of executions necessary until a new method is devised.

  • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @05:51PM (#45991571)

    If we want the death penalty to be a deterrent against crime, potential criminals should have to face a death that's scary, and not expect a painless injection that lets them quietly pass away.

    Though I question the value of any death penalty as a deterrent since it's so rarely applied and the criminal either thinks he's going to get away with it or isn't worried about the consequences no matter what the consequences are -- 5 years in prison and then death might be even more attractive to some than a lifetime in prison.

  • How hard can it be? (Score:4, Informative)

    by crow ( 16139 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @05:51PM (#45991579) Homepage Journal

    How hard can it be to do this? Start with standard general anesthesia. One the person is out, then administer cyanide or whatever.

    Or use the same thing we use for animals.

    Or look at how they do assisted suicide. There are plenty of solutions there.

  • by Antipater ( 2053064 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @06:01PM (#45991733)
    Screw morphine. I've wondered why we don't just use nitrogen to suffocate them. There is no suffocation reflex, because the body's suffocation reflex is based on overabundance of CO2, not underabundance of O2. It's completely painless - they pass out within a minute and never wake up. In the oil and shipping industries we have "Nitrogen: The Silent Killer" posters plastered everywhere in enclosed at-risk spaces. I never understood why we deal with expensive drug cocktails when we have tanks of simple N2 ready to be used.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @06:09PM (#45991869)
    I see you missed the point. Lets see, I think there are a few more quotes that come to mind:

    Let he is without sin cast the first stone.
    Judge not, lest you be judged.
    Thou shalt not kill.

    I think that last one is quite important. One that you're really supposed to abide by. A commandment, if you will. I don't recall any exceptions for "Oh but if the other guy killed someone else that's O.K, you know? Go wild." Maybe that was in the apocrypha?
  • by Whorhay ( 1319089 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @06:10PM (#45991875)

    Purpose of the Criminal Justice System (in theory):

    Also to hopefully reform criminals so that they can rejoin society as productive individuals.

    Also remember that biblically speaking an eye for an eye is given as a limiting example. That is to say that the punishment may not be any more severe at it's worst than the crime that was commited, and a lesser punishment should be used in most cases.

  • by Badblackdog ( 1211452 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @06:24PM (#45992105)
    "Thou shall not kill" is a bad interpretation of the commandment. The original text uses the word for "murder" as in "no killing an innocent person". Executions for punishment are not uncommon in the Bible.
  • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Informative)

    by ShadowRangerRIT ( 1301549 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @06:27PM (#45992147)
    Ignoring the fact that the appeals process for the death penalty costs far more than lifetime imprisonment, your figures are wildly inaccurate. The U.S. average cost per prisoner, per year, is in the $20-30K range [wikipedia.org], not even close to $75K.
  • by chowdahhead ( 1618447 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @06:28PM (#45992161)
    You're not far off the mark. For short OR procedures, fentanyl is preferred because the onset is faster and the duration is shorter, but hydromorphone can be used. Midazolam is used in conjunction for it's sedative and amnetic properties. This is also still a common combination when patients are mechanically vented. Patients lose complete orientation to what's happening to them before they lose consciousness. The observers' perception that he "suffered" is very unlikely to be the case.
  • by mythosaz ( 572040 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @06:30PM (#45992209)

    The person you're responding to is discussing "exit bag" systems, a popular method for self-euthanasia.

    Generally speaking someone using an "exit bag" (google for yourself) will leave a polite note on the door in case of leakage, since they probably won't be alive later to turn off the knob on the gas tank, but in any controlled setting, a respirator-type mask would do the trick wonderfully.

    A colorant or odorant could be easily added for operant safety, but it's not any more dangerous for the operator than, say, dental gasses.

  • by iluvcapra ( 782887 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @06:31PM (#45992223)

    Good John Adams quote relative to this point:

    It is more important that innocence be protected than it is that guilt be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world that they cannot all be punished. But if innocence itself is brought to the bar and condemned, perhaps to die, then the citizen will say, "whether I do good or whether I do evil is immaterial, for innocence itself is no protection," and if such an idea as that were to take hold in the mind of the citizen that would be the end of security whatsoever.

    It's just a rewording of Blackstone's ratio, but it makes the point really clear.

  • Re:Hmm (Score:2, Informative)

    by unixisc ( 2429386 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @06:36PM (#45992339)

    He can be released, or escape from jail, and do his deed again, when imprisoned. With an execution, they could toss his body anywhere, and anybody walking next to it would be safe from having her or his throat slit.

    You certainly don't know the difference b/w emotion or logic. Or else, you wouldn't have put up such a stupid equivalence.

  • by mythosaz ( 572040 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @06:44PM (#45992475)

    You're missing the point.

    We need and have the drugs we use in surgery. But if we use them for executions, the european companies that make these drugs we depend on for surgery will take them away. That's the whole point of this.

    We're not out of pentobarbital. We have an unlimited supply (at market price) for surgery.

  • by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @06:46PM (#45992489)

    The brain keeps functioning for a while after decapitation.

    http://www.guillotine.dk/pages/30sek.html [guillotine.dk]

    I think anesthesia is the least painful way.

  • Lundbeck (Score:5, Informative)

    by olau ( 314197 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @06:48PM (#45992525) Homepage

    Here in Denmark, Lundbeck has been under fire for their drug being used to kill people. They've tried to defend themselves in various ways, e.g. by casting it as misuse as their drug. But in the end in Denmark the American executions are viewed upon in the same light as the stories you hear of amputations and stoning people to death in the middle east. So the reaction has been as if a company sold convenient stones to be used for said stonings.

    It is sad to see that the outcome is more suffering.

  • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @06:52PM (#45992583)

    gas chambers of all types are dangerous, if you make it totally painless/sansationless you also make it a hazard for workers if the system malfunctions.

    Except that while hydrogen cyanide execution is lethal because of its presence (making it dangerous for people around if it escapes), suffocation in nitrogen is lethal because of oxygen's absence. You have to try hard to keep the oxygen out. If the 100% nitrogen escapes from the small chamber, all it does is that it mixes with the 80% of nitrogen in the large surrounding volume that is already there!

  • by ThreeKelvin ( 2024342 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @06:58PM (#45992659)

    I know you're trolling but, I am proud. So thank you.

    It took quite a lot of political pressure to get this through the EU. But it's quite worth it. Refusing to support other countries in this particular traditions is one of the better things that has happened in politics over here the last few years.

    Also, correction for the summary: The EU didn't ban selling certain drugs to prisons, they banned exporting drugs to a country that would use them for killing, i.e., the prison could have used the drugs from Lundbeck, but the EU would then ban export of the drugs to the US, even to hospitals. So, if you'd like to put a negative spin on what we did you could say that we held you hostage and threatened to deny you medicine.

  • by Mike Buddha ( 10734 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @07:11PM (#45992845)

    Personally, I'd like to see hanging make a comeback.

    It's still acceptable in Washington. Firing Squads are acceptable in Utah.

  • by Anti-Social Network ( 3032259 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @07:26PM (#45993071)
    Money's a bad consideration. Death Row inmates cost more than regular life-sentence [deathpenaltyinfo.org] inmates to house.
  • by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @10:37PM (#45995049) Journal

    Would someone still steal a car or shoplift if they knew they'd be executed if caught? Probably not as often...

    They tried this approach in UK back in the day, with sentences of hanging handed out routinely to pickpockets (often underage) provided that the amount stolen was more than a certain rather small sum. It didn't really help deter crime. On the other hand, it does mean that someone stealing a car would be likely to murder any witnesses, since it's death for him either way if he gets caught, and so anything reducing the chance of getting caught is fair game at this point.

    It's worth remembering that despite all the moral panics, we do actually live in a time where crime rates - especially violent crime rates - are at their historic lows in the Western civilization. That despite the fact that a good part of it has completely abolished death penalty, and some countries having even abolished life sentence.

  • by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @10:40PM (#45995083) Journal

    I don't think Europeans would care much about American-made weapons. If you stop and consider for a moment that the US service rifle and light machine gun are both manufactured by a Belgian company, the military standard-issue sidearm is Italian, the most popular police/LEO handgun is Austrian, and the most popular SMG is German...

I go on working for the same reason a hen goes on laying eggs. -- H.L. Mencken