December 5, 2022

We might be witnessing the end of state-sanctioned death in America.
The Supreme Court will be hearing the first challenge to capital punishment since 2008. The Court stayed the executions of Richard Glossip, John Grant and Benjamin Cole Sr., three men on death row in the state of Oklahoma. The Court has stayed the executions until it decides whether or not it is legal to use a new cocktail of lethal injection drugs, particularly the sedative involved, Midazolam.
Clayton Lockett, another death row inmate in Oklahoma, was put to death last year with the new formula. He was alive for 40 minutes after the drugs were administered. Midazolam is likely the cause of his prolonged execution.
Oklahoma had to find new drugs because pharmaceutical companies are becoming unwilling to manufacture the traditional cocktail for moral reasons.
Although I doubt that there is a majority on the court willing to declare the death penalty itself unconstitutional, outlawing this new mix of drugs would be an important first step.
If the justices agree that 40 minutes of suffering before death amounts to illegal torture, what is to stop plaintiffs in the future from arguing that death itself amounts to torture?
The U.S. is the only Western country to allow the death penalty. According to Amnesty International, only China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq carry out more executions.
I think it is time to re-examine what side of the issue America is on, because we aren’t exactly in good company.
I am not qualified to decide who should live and who should die; I doubt anyone else is, either.
What I do know is this: too many people have been sentenced to death only to be exonerated later, some people are more likely to be given the death penalty than others, and the deterrence value of capital punishment is in question.
We don’t live in a perfect world. People’s prejudices cloud their judgements and make it impossible to administer capital punishment fairly. A well-educated white man is much less likely to be given the death penalty than an African American man who committed a similar crime.
This may seem to imply that our whole justice system is unsound because people on juries view events through the filter of their own lives in every case, not just cases where the death penalty is at stake.
Capital punishment is especially problematic because there is no remedy for mistakes. A man sentenced to life in prison may be found innocent later if new evidence comes to light. And an innocent dead man is still a dead man.

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