Death Doesn’t Have to Knock: A Modest Proposal

In the past few years, the states have been facing increasing difficulties obtaining the drugs they need to carry out their death penalties. This is in part because manufacturers have been refusing to make the drugs available for use in executions. So instead of using the traditional three-drug sequence, states have been experimenting with new drugs. However, since they don’t want manufacturers to stop selling them the drugs, states have begun keeping their execution protocols a secret.

And perhaps because of these changes, an execution in Oklahoma went disturbingly wrong:

McALESTER, Okla. — What was supposed to be the first of two executions here on Tuesday night was halted when the prisoner, Clayton D. Lockett, began to writhe and gasp after he had already been declared unconscious and called out “oh, man,” according to witnesses.

A medical technican inserted the IV needle and then the the first drug, a sedative intended to knock the man out and forestall pain, was administered at 6:23 p.m. Ten minutes later, the doctor announced that Mr. Lockett was unconscious, and the team started to administer the next two drugs, a paralytic and one intended to make the heart stop.

At that point, witnesses said, things began to go awry. Mr. Lockett’s body twitched, his foot shook and he mumbled, witnesses said.

At 6:37 p.m., he tried to rise and exhaled loudly. At that point, prison officials pulled a curtain in front of the witnesses and the doctor discovered a “vein failure,” Mr. Patton said.

Without effective sedation, the second two drugs are known to cause agonizing suffocation and pain.

Lockett eventually died, but that didn’t stop the criminal coddling defense bloggers (e.g. Gamso, Gideon, and Greenfield) from wringing their hands and calling for abolition of the death penalty.

Giving up is for losers. What I wanted was someone who could rise to the challenge of killing criminals. Naturally, I turned to the only name in blogging when it comes to sane, measured commentary about the death penalty, Crime and Consequences. I discovered that Kent Scheidegger had this to say:

As I have noted several times on this blog, lethal injection was a mistake from the beginning.  We should have kept the gas chamber and merely used a different gas.  Carbon monoxide, for example, is painless.

We have lethal injection for the time being, though, and we should make it effective.  Congress should act promptly to lift the restrictions on importation of the needed drugs and to outlaw manufacturers’ restrictions on resale of them.

Hmpf. I guess Scheidegger isn’t as much of a conservative as I thought. Not if he wants to limit manufacturers’ ability to set the terms and conditions of sale of their products in the free market. His closing paragraph just confirms his new namby-pamby liberal leanings:

We should do what we can to minimize pain in executions, but we should never forget that even in the worst execution what the murderer suffers is a tiny, tiny fraction of the suffering he chose to inflict on the victim.

“Do what we can to minimize pain in executions”? I visited C&C because I was looking for the hard-boiled law-and-order view, someone who would rain down hell upon the sinners. And he’s worried about minimizing pain? What a pussy.

So I set about searching for another solution. Surely someone among the hundreds of bloggers in my feed reader must have a friggin’ solution for the problem of how to execute people when the old tried-and-true drugs are no longer available. But try as I might, I couldn’t find anything useful.

In a desperate effort, I even visited The Watch, written by noted law enforcement expert Radley Balko, whose wonderful book Warrior Cop was such a loving tribute to the the brave officers who fight the war on drugs. He mentioned the Lockett execution in passing, but he had no solutions either. My heart began to fill with despair.

And then it hit me…

The states don’t need to find a new drug protocol to execute people. There’s another way states can kill people. It’s simple, easy, and effective. Every state already has the mechanisms in place, and they’ve been killing people with them for years. When it’s time for a prisoner to be executed per a judicial order, all they have to do is have a SWAT team stage a no-knock raid on the death chamber!

Just think of it: A few hours before the appointed time, the warden could call one of the local multi-agency drug interdiction task forces and leave an anonymous tip that the condemned individual was selling pot, giving the address of death row and the time when the inmate was expected to be there. The SWAT team would show up, lob flash-bang grenades into the room to stun the witnesses, kick down the door to the chamber, yell at the guy strapped to the gurney to get down on the floor, and when he doesn’t, empty their weapons into his center of mass.

Then the SWAT commander could complete the ritual by pulling a small baggie of crack out of his back pocket and announcing that police had “discovered salable quantities of narcotics at the scene” to reassure spectators that the bad guy got what he deserved.

2 Responses to Death Doesn’t Have to Knock: A Modest Proposal

  1. Check the link, Windy:

    Our government is truly the most incompetent group of popularity contest winners this side of a high school prom queen. If they want to kill someone painlessly, consult with an anesthesiologist and see what they have to say about it. My own amateur opinion is that the best way involves morphine, and lots of it.

    Now me, I’d go back to the old tried and true firing squad. I’d also have the judge and prosecutor in positions one and two on the squad, my thinking being that if you’re willing to sentence someone to death, you’d better be willing to drop the hammer yourself. And as for that notorious blank cartridge? Forget it. Everyone gets a live round.

    I’m not in favor of the death penalty, the justice system being as screwed up as it is and life without parole being a more severe sentence, but that’s just me. My gripe is that if the government is going to kill someone, the very least the government can do is not fuck it up.

    • I’m sure anesthesiologists could figure out a good way to kill someone, given that they spent much of the last century figuring out how not to kill people. The problem is that the medical profession as a whole pretty much refuses to get involved with executions. This moral stance has the perverse effect of making executions worse, because without medical expertise, the execution protocols are created by people who don’t know much about medicine, pretty much guaranteeing that they will be done incompetently.

      I suspect that a strong morphine drip is a pretty good way to go, but I recall a Gamso post saying that it wasn’t quick enough for the execution business. They want it over fast.

      My own idea is to kill people by setting off a small charge of C-4 explosive at the base of their skull. It’s quick, and since the shock wave travels faster than a nerve impulse, it’s painless too. I think there will be some objections to the mess, however.

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