“Because of indifference, one dies before one actually dies.”
Two weeks before the scheduled execution of two Arizona inmates, the AZ Department of Corrections issued notice that they would be switching from a multi-drug concoction to a single drug for lethal injection executions. The reasoning behind the switch is that the 3 drug protocol has been brought into question because there is the possibility that if the knockout drug doesn’t work, the inmate would painfully suffocate to death.
Now this would seem like a good thing, right? That the AZDOC is trying to adjust to what they call “perceived concerns” ahead of time. Here’s what isn’t so obvious. The REAL reason they are making the switch is that they had been lobbied for quite some time without any change by DOC officials. Then during a recent rehearsal (yes, they practice executions, because it is something that can go very horrifyingly wrong) and they noticed that the second drug in the three drug process had expired! So they are going to a one drug protocol because they don’t have a choice.
Furthermore, what you may not find out if you read the wrong news sources (i.e., conservative news sources) is that the DOC is in violation of their own protocol, because they must provide to the inmate the decision in writing 7 days before the execution. They have scheduled an execution for Robert Moormann (won’t even go into his story, that’s an entire post on its own) next Wednesday, so they’ve given him only 6 days notice. Now I know many readers will say, ‘who cares?….He’s a murderer and I don’t care if he suffers. I don’t care if they give him notice or not.’
Well, you should care. The power to take a life given to the State is the most important power that citizens give away to their government because it is final and it can be the most egregiously abused by the State. If we are going to continue to allow the State to execute on behalf of the people, then the State MUST act in accordance with the law and its own very simple rules. Otherwise the Rule of Law is meaningless. That’s the theoretical/sociopolitical reason why you should care.
Here are some more pragmatic reasons you should care. According to one source (see links below) since 1973 about 141 people were released from Death Row from all over the nation because they were considered innocent. Of those 17 were exonerated by DNA, 46 were outright acquitted, 86 had the Charges Dismissed and about 7 were Pardoned. Note that the reason for release is not necessarily meaningful because it is not uncommon to have someone exonerated by DNA evidence or eyewitness testimony changes but the DOC or Court refuses to let them go. Under those circumstances it is not uncommon to see those individuals pardoned. The number of years of incarceration for all those individuals adds up to 1,418 years lost. Can you imagine? Over a thousand years taken from just these 141 men?! On average they spent a total of 12.5 years incarcerated.
Can you imagine being innocent, living on Death Row where you are isolated 23 hours a day, with one hour of exercise a day, for 12 years of your life, with the threat of execution hovering over your head for a crime you did not commit. To an innocent person, this amounts to torture. And these are just the ones we KNOW about. How many innocents have been executed in the U.S. since our inception? I shudder to think of it.
Furthermore, of that total 50% were African-American, 39% were White, Non-Hispanic and the rest were a mixture of Latino or Other. Now compare that to the U.S. population. African-Americans make up about 12% of our population but they comprise 50% of innocents release from Death Row. Now there will be some that say (bigots) ‘they must commit more crimes, particularly violent crimes’. We can categorically deny that this is the case. The majority of crimes in the U.S. are created by White, Non-Hispanic perpetrators and this includes violent crimes. This overrepresentation of a minority population is absolutely disgraceful. This fact alone should be enough for the U.S. to cease all executions…but, sadly, it hasn’t been enough to stop this foul practice.
I used to support the use of the death penalty, but as I learned more about it, saw men exonerated time and time again after spending decades in prison, and then seeing the stats on it, I can no longer say that the system works in this regard. It is not okay to execute the innocent in order to maintain the illusion of deterrence and the illusion that the country has everything “under control”. Either we do it right or we don’t do it at all. That’s why so many other industrialized nations have chosen to stop executing people….because the potential for making mistakes is simply too great. Would that all the pro-lifers in the U.S. were pro-lifers when it comes to executions but they throw those principles out the window when it comes to living, breathing people.
So we should care that the State of AZ is getting it wrong, even with something as simple as proper, timely notification. If they don’t follow their own protocols, who holds them accountable? We should. Do it right, or don’t do it at all–that should be the message that we all send to our officials when it comes to the Death Penalty. Ultimately, if an innocent man or woman is executed it is not only the State that bears the guilt, it is us as a people as well.