Clay Bennett on capital punishment
by Steve Timmer
Jun 30, 2015, 8:30 PM

Aw, he was just snoring

Please see the update(s) below.

Just before donning their flip flops and sunglasses and heading out the door for the summer, the conservative majority on the Supreme Court gave Sammy Alito — who frankly has been waiting in the wings a lot in the waning days of the session — his spot in the sunshine, where he could deliver a damp-palmed, beady-eyed paean to death from the bench.

The problem is that the rest of the civilized world is revolted at the relish we have over putting people to death, and spoil-sports that they are, they quit selling us the drugs to do it.

This is where good ol’ American ingenuity, and Sammy Alito, too, come into play. Executing people has always had sort of a fevered, extemporaneous, junior high science lab quality to it. I mean, what the hell, they’re going to die anyway, right?

And I’ll bet a dollar that Sammy Alito was at the front of the line when they were handing out the pithed frogs in seventh grade.

You know I’m right.

Since the killjoy Europeans won’t sell us the drugs we need, the states decided to head to the lab, I mean the execution chamber, to find something that works, well, in the end, anyway.

You have to know that Alito’s defense of this experimentation is going to be good when the first sentence of the opinion’s syllabus is:

Because capital punishment is constitutional, there must be a constitutional means of carrying it out.

They apparently taught Sammy logic in the seventh grade, too. Justice Sotomayor pointed out the problem:

In dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said, “Under the court’s new rule, it would not matter whether the state intended to use midazolam, or instead to have petitioners drawn and quartered, slowly tortured to death, or actually burned at the stake.”

In his majority opinion, Alito says:

Justice Samuel Alito said for a conservative majority that arguments the drug [midazolam] could not be used effectively as a sedative in executions is speculative.

Somebody needs to show Sammy how to use the internet. I nominate Nino Scalia, who apparently can use the internet to leave anonymous comments at Red State.

Anyway, here’s a bit about somebody, um, put down with a new cocktail, proably including midazolam:

Arizona. Joseph R. Wood.  Lethal Injection.  After the chemicals were injected, Mr. Wood repeatedly gasped for one hour and 40 minutes before death was pronounced.  During the ordeal, Mr. Wood’s attorneys filed an emergency appeal to a Federal District Court and placed a phone call to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in a failed effort to halt the botched execution.  Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Arizona Attorney General’s office claimed that Mr. Wood was asleep and was simply snoring.  In the days before the execution, defense attorneys won a stay from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on their motion to compel the state to reveal the source of the drugs and the training of the executioners.  However, this stay was later overturned by the Supreme Court.[71]  A reporter for the Arizona Republic who witnessed the execution, Michael Kiefer, said that he counted 640 gasps from Wood before he finally died.[72]

But, according to Alito, since capital punishment is constitutional, this must be constitutional, too. You know that if lawyers have time to file an appeal in the Supreme Court while someone is being executed, that it’s probably cruel and unusual.

If you read about some of the many botched executions after it was held constitutional (again), you will see that one of the things that usually happens when things go off the rails is that the executioners pull the curtain.

I think this is cowardly. People need to take pride in their work. It should be available for viewing to all of the cheerleaders of capital punishment, including Justice Samuel Alito.

Update: Trouthout reports on the amateur who supported the use of midazolam:

As ProPublica has previously detailed, the doctor Oklahoma relied on as its expert witness had never given a patient anesthesia and based much of his research on includes a disclaimer that information on the site should not be used for medical advice.

Further update: I really had intended to include a link to law professor and former federal prosecutor Mark Osler’s Huffington Post piece about the death penalty and Dylann Roof.

You know all the febrile activity to put people to death SOMEHOW — I mean, there must be some way to do it; right? asks Justice Alito — no matter how medieval, will fall hardest on African Americans and other members of minority communities.

Thanks for your feedback. If we like what you have to say, it may appear in a future post of reader reactions.