As if capital punishment didn’t already look crude and barbaric, Arizona has raised the bar.
Arizona executed convicted murderer Jeffrey Landrigan last night by lethal injection–using a drug in the mixture obtained in a secret overseas deal. The execution occurred just hours after the Supreme Court lifted a lower court’s stay of execution in a 5-4 decision–with Kagan, Breyer, Ginsburg and Sotomayor dissenting.
“There is no evidence in the record to suggest that the drug obtained from a foreign source is unsafe,” read the majority opinion. This is despite the fact that all the public knows about the source of the drug, the anasthetic known as sodium thiopental, is that it’s from somewhere in England. American suppliers have run low on the drug, leading to delays in the administration of lethal injections. The previous court’s stay of execution had been issued because the judge felt that the unknown source of the drug meant that it hadn’t been tested against U.S FDA standards–and therefore it might be “cruel and unusual” punishment. Another issue at stake was whether the anonymous UK supplier knew that it was aiding capital punishment, as the drug is often ordered for use in U.S. hospitals.
But as the Guardian reports, the execution brings up more troubling issues about capital punishment. For one thing, the drug’s only U.S. supplier, Illinois-based hospira, actually does not recommend its use in capital punishment. “[The drug] isn’t indicated for capital punishment, and Hospira does not support its use in this procedure,” Hospira said, according the the Guardian. “Hospira has communicated with departments of corrections in the United States to advise them of this position.”
Furthermore, the new attention to the case reveals that the original sentencing judge has changed her mind. She felt Landigan, who strangled and killed another man in a robbery, in fact did not deserve to be killed because he had brain damage that was not brought to the court’s attention at the time.
Lethal injections have already been under nationwide scrutiny as to whether the supposedly humane method of execution can be botched too easily or causes excessive pain.
Posted by Sarah Seltzer at 7:22 am
October 27, 2010
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