Sunday, October 07, 2007

October 4, 2007

Dear Sis~
You may have heard that last week the US Supreme Court granted certiorari review in a pair of Kentucky death row cases in order to resolve the constitutionality of the lethal injection procedures. The reality is that the court's decision will apply across the country because all the 34 states which use lethal injection (Nebraska still uses the electric chair exclusively) use the same drugs and protocols. This decision will settle the issue once and for all, at least as far as any federal constitutional challenges go; it's possible a particular state could hold that the lethal injection process violates that state's own state constitution. This whole lethal injection claim is not one of my favorite issues since you are not challenging the state's right to kill you, you are just saying "you can't kill me that way, with those particular drugs." All the state has to do is alter the drugs and change the protocols a little bit in order to satisfy the objections. Then it's back to killing people, business as usual. Personally, I don't believe the Supreme Court will rule the process unconstitutional. I think they accepted the case in order to uphold the drugs and the process and thus put an end to all this litigation, which has achieved varying degrees of success in different states. Anyway, other states, including blood-thirsty Texas, are now granting stays of execution for guys who are scheduled to die soon, based upon the Supreme Court's decision to rule on this issue. So, if nothing else, it is saving a lot of guys' lives (and may well save Christopher Scott Emmett, who is scheduled to die here in Virginia on October 17th), even if it's just for another 4 or 5 months ...
Check this out; some time back, before the botched Diaz execution in Florida 10 months ago, the Department of Corrections' own lead attorney secretly advised the Florida DOC to start using an electric monitoring device (called a "bispectral index monitor") in order to be sure the condemned prisoner is actually unconscious before the third & final (and very painfulo) drug is administered. Well, the DOC rejected this idea in favor of their own "new protocol", which consists of the following (according to the DOC spokesman, as reported in the St. Petersburg Times): "This new protocol requires a warden from another prison to attend the execution and check the consciousness of the inmate. 'The warden will call out the name of the inmate, shake him and touch his eyelids, looking for reflexes', she said." Yeah, that's right, we don't need no stinking new-fangled machines! We'll just get Jasper to come in and holler at the inmate, and poke him! That's as sophisticated as it gets in Florida (of course right after that, they botched the Diaz execution, just as Diaz's lawyers has predicted. Nevertheless, the DOC still maintains that the bipsectral index monitor is "totally unnecessary", and that their "new protocol" is sufficient ...
Give the dog (or dogs, if you got the new one) a hug for me!
Love, Bill

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