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Thursday, 26 February 2015 08:02

Inclement Weather Postpones Execution in Georgia, as if It Were a Baseball Game

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lethalinjection(Photo: Ken Piorkowski)

CNN trumpeted the news: "Weather threat postpones Georgia's first execution of a woman in 70 years." 

The use of lethal injection as a form of capital punishment was meant to make killing in the name of the state more palatable.After all, the image of someone bound to a gurney sighing before dying makes taking someone's life seem a lot more "humane" - on a visual level - than the image of a dangling body kicking and jerking during a hanging, or smoke and fire coming from a condemned person's head during an electrocution, or blood spurting from a body after death by a firing squad.

Of course, there have been several "botched" lethal injection executions in which the deaths have been prolonged and grueling. One cause of this: Since it is increasingly difficult to procure lethal injection drugs, some eager-to-execute states have been using "untested" combinations of drugs that sometimes have horrific results. According to a 2014 article on the website Cerca, 

After recently running out of supplies of pentobarbital, some states have obtained the lethal injection drug from compound pharmacies or are experimenting with untested drug combos.

Pharmaceutical companies worldwide have boycotted the sale of drugs used for executions to U.S. prison systems in recent years. Alternatives like the gas chamber or electric chair would be problematic for states and could "raise the spectacle" level, according to death penalty expert Richard Dieter. 

Compounding pharmacies aren't subject to FDA regulation, raising concerns about drug contamination. Lawyers for inmates allege pentobarbital can cause a possibly painful and prolonged death. Several states, including Georgia, have enacted secrecy laws around the origins of their lethal drugs.

That quotation brings us back to Georgia, where - like a sports game - the execution of Kelly Renee Gissendaner was delayed due to an expected winter storm. Talk about cruel and unusual punishment: a person needs to endure the anguish of awaiting an execution until the inclement weather clears?

Capital punishment is still a barbaric spectacle, even if an attempt has been made to sanitize the act by making it appear that the state is just putting people to sleep for eternity. The bloodlust - still prevalent in the US - has been resoundingly rejected in Europe.

It is telling to note that, according to the CNN account:

Currently the only woman on Georgia's death row, Gissendaner could be the second woman in the state's history to be executed.

The first was Baker, an African-American maid who was sentenced to death by an all-white, all-male jury in 1944. She claimed self-defense for killing a man who held her against her will, threatened her life and appeared poised to hit her with a metal bar before she fired the fatal shot.

Sixty year after her execution, Georgia's parole board posthumously pardoned her after finding that "it was a grievous error to deny (her) clemency."

Not only is capital punishment an iniquitous example of state-sanctioned violence, it is subject to error, racism and bias against the poor. The Innocence Project has done a superb job of documenting wrongful convictions resulting in sentences of death - and in a significant number of cases, various innocence projects have freed people on death row.

It shouldn't be a winter storm that delays an execution; it should be basic standards of respect for the value of life. And ultimately, if we value the lives of all people, we must permanently end capital punishment in the United States.

Copyright Truthout. May Not Be Reprinted Without Permission.