Guest post by Randall Ryder
The introduction of a new lethal injection procedure does not change the fact the death penalty constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.
Ohio was forced to overhaul over their procedure after an attempted lethal injection in September went awry—executioners kept striking bone and muscles in allegedly 18 attempts over a matter of hours. The latest version of lethal injection uses one drug, rather than three, and is not supposed to cause any pain.
The new procedure involves a massive dose of an anesthetic agent. Effectively, the dosage puts the person to sleep in seconds, although respiratory and cardiac arrest may take a number of minutes. Proponents of the new procedure assert the person will not feel anything after falling asleep. On the other hand, given the range of times it takes for respiratory or cardiac arrest to occur, the new procedure may cause the same issues as the prior procedure.
Regardless of the procedure, the death penalty system is broken and constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. Imagine sitting on death row once your execution date has been set—knowing exactly how many days you have left to live? For most death row inmates, the time between their sentencing and execution is years. Any argument the death penalty works as a deterrent is severely undermined by this fact.
Perhaps the biggest paradox of the death penalty is allowing juries to make the decision. Allowing jurors to consider every mitigating and aggravating factor allows juries to be lenient if they desire—to show mercy. But, as studies have shown, this also allows for uneven application of the death penalty—the racial breakdown of individuals sentenced to death indicates a higher percentage of African-American defendants receive the death penalty compared to white defendants.
The Innocence Project consistently exonerates individuals who were wrongfully imprisoned, many of whom sit on death row. Unfortunately, neither the Innocence Project nor anyone else, can bring back to life individuals who were wrongfully executed. Changing the system does not change the result—so why is it still being used?