Lethal Injection Debate Renewed Executions: High Court Has Defended Execution Methods for 135 Years Executions: High Court Reluctant to Intervene

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), May 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Lethal Injection Debate Renewed Executions: High Court Has Defended Execution Methods for 135 Years Executions: High Court Reluctant to Intervene


Byline: Associated Press Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- A bungled execution in Oklahoma provides death penalty opponents with a fresh, startling example of how lethal injections can go wrong. But the odds of successfully challenging the nation's main form of capital punishment will probably hinge on exactly what caused the inmate's apparent agony.

If four-time felon Clayton Lockett suffered because of a collapsed vein or improperly inserted needle, that would suggest human error was to blame rather than an underlying flaw in the execution system.

If the drugs or the secrecy surrounding them played a role, defense attorneys could have a wider legal opening to attack the injection method, plus powerful new evidence to press the U.S. Supreme Court to get involved, legal experts say.

A day after the execution went awry, attorneys for some death-row inmates began planning new appeals or updating existing cases based on events in Oklahoma. Many called for moratoriums and independent investigations.

"Every prison is saying, 'We have it under control, trust us,'" said Texas attorney Maurie Levin, who spent Wednesday preparing new briefs

questioning that state's execution practices. "This just underscores in bold that we can't trust them, and prisons have to be accountable to the public and transparent in the method by which they carry out executions."

The 38-year-old Lockett, convicted of shooting a woman and watching as two accomplices buried her alive, was declared unconscious 10 minutes after the first of three drugs was administered Tuesday. Three minutes later, he began breathing heavily, writhing, clenching his teeth and straining to lift his head.

Authorities halted the execution, but Lockett died of a suspected heart attack more than 40 minutes after the process began.

An autopsy began Wednesday to determine his precise cause of death, and Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin named a member of her cabinet to lead a review of the state's execution procedures.

The White House said the execution fell short of the humane standards required.

Courts, including the Supreme Court, have been reluctant to halt executions over arguments that they violate an inmate's constitutional guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment. In four rulings over the past 135 years, the Supreme Court has upheld the use of the firing squad (1879), the electric chair (1890), the ability of a state to try to execute a condemned inmate by electrocution again after a first attempt failed (1947) and lethal injection (2008).

The Constitution "does not demand the avoidance of all risk of pain in carrying out executions," Chief Justice John Roberts said in the court's 2008 decision upholding Kentucky's lethal injection system.

Still, a minority of the high court has shown some recent trepidation about the secrecy of the process used by many states.

Many states -- Oklahoma, Texas and Missouri among them -- purchase execution drugs from lightly regulated compounding pharmacies and refuse to name the supplier, whether the drug has been tested, even who is part of the execution team.

In February, three justices -- two short of the required five -- said they would have blocked the execution of Michael Anthony Taylor in Missouri. A month later, four justices fell one vote short of blocking the execution of another Missouri inmate, Jeffrey Ferguson. They offered no explanation for their vote.

If Tuesday's problems are traced to a collapsed vein, the high court "probably won't feel a lot more pressure to step in," said Thomas Goldstein, an experienced Supreme Court lawyer who also has represented death-row inmates. But if the injection chemicals themselves and the state's secrecy emerge as important factors, "there will be great pressure for them to hear a case and require transparency."

Madeline Cohen represents Charles Warner, an Oklahoma inmate who was scheduled to be executed Tuesday just hours after Lockett. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Lethal Injection Debate Renewed Executions: High Court Has Defended Execution Methods for 135 Years Executions: High Court Reluctant to Intervene
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.