Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Last Chance

Tonight, the Philip Workman execution is to be carried out. The stay of execution was lifted yesterday.

Any other time, I would come here to discuss the justness of the death penalty. I've made no secret of my stance on it, nor will I now.

But that's a fight for another day altogether. For this is one of those rare cases where there is entirely too much reasonable doubt to ignore.

The eyewitness that the state built its case around has recanted his testimony. That's perhaps not unusual in capital cases, but what makes this one unusual is that not even the police could put Harold Davis at the scene of the crime. On the witness stand, he told us where his car was parked, and crime scene photos did not show his car there. Other witnesses on the scene never managed to see Davis. And if you watched Sharon Cobb's short film, you know that even the witness's own sister says he was with her that night.

Another witness on the scene, Steve Craig, has said that he saw policemen firing at Workman, despite their own testimony that they never fired their weapons. He was told "there was no need to talk about this ... unless it was with someone from the department." No one ever checked the service revolvers of Stoddard and Parker to see if they had been fired.

No less than Dr. Cyril Wecht, former lead consultant on the US House of Representatives Subcommittee on Assassins and former president of the American Board of Legal Medicine has testified that the wounds on Lt. Loiver's body are not consistent with the .45 hollowpoint ammunition Workman used. Medical Examiner James Bell testified that the wound was not only inconsistent with the .45 hollowpoint, but was entirely consistent with the .38 ammunition used by the police.

Five jurors have signed affidavits asking that either the verdict or sentence be overturned based on the evidence that has come out since the original trial. And Lt. Oliver's own daughter and the original prosecutor have lent their voices to the call for clemency.

The time to do the right thing is running out. For even if you disagree with me on the justness of the death penalty you have to want to make sure that everyone receiving the death penalty deserves it.

Call Governor Bredesen at 615-741-2001 or email him at phil.bredesen@state.tn.us to ask him to put a stop to this.

Clemency is not absolution. There is reasonable doubt in this case, and the sentence becomes irreversible at 1 AM Wednesday.

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote about the procedures involved in a lethal injection execution. It's worth bringing up again here so we can have a look at what a Tennessee judge said yesterday is NOT cruel and unusual punishment:

The goal of lethal injection is not to be easier on the person being killed. The goal of lethal injection is to be easier on the person doing the killing.

First, you’re strapped to the gurney. Then the executioner inserts a catheter into each arm and flushes them with a solution to keep them from getting clogged.

If you’ve ever been in the hospital and had a clumsy nurse try to start an IV for you, think about that and then imagine what care she might have shown if you’d been convicted of murder and would soon be too dead to sue her.

In one arm, they give you 5000 milligrams of sodium thiopental, which puts you to sleep for about thirty seconds. In the other arm, they give you 100 milligrams of pancuronium bromide, which paralyzes your respiratory system.

Finally, they give you a dose of sodium chloride, which induces cardiac arrest. Within two minutes, the state is declaring you dead.

The British medical journal The Lancet reported on the results of forty-nine autopsies from Georgia, Arizona, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Medical examiners found that in 43 of those executions, the condemned had lower levels of thiopental in their bloodstream than what is required for surgery--- Low enough that they were awake and aware as they slowly suffocated. Without enough thiopental, you remain awake and alert. The pancuronium stops you from moving, but leaves all of your higher brain functions intact.

So in fact, they went through excruciating pain, but since their bodies were crippled, they gave no outward indication.Let’s put this in perspective. Our standards for euthanizing animals are actually higher than our standards for executing the condemned.

Perhaps it’s simply the origin of the procedure shining through. It was created by Dr. Karl Brandt, personal physician to Adolf Hitler. How concerned with humanitarianism do you think he was?

So no--- I’m afraid that the question over whether or not lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment is far from a silly one.

We remedy inhumane acts by committing them ourselves. We avenge suffering and death by making others suffer as they die.

**UPDATE**
I believe in providing accurate information, and I found something that contradicts my writings from last year. While Dr. Karl Brandt was indeed a pioneer in lethal injections (He hanged for it at Nuremburg), the formula in use in America today was developed by Dr. Jay Chapman, who recently gave an interview to CNN verifying everything I wrote last year, and calls for a new formula to be established. Click here to read it.

2 comments:

Edward Frick said...

I just e-mailed the Governor and appealed to him, as a Christian and a Democrat, to grant clemency.

Freedonian said...

Thank you, Ed. And thank you everyone who did--- I was very pleased looking at my sitemeter to see how many good people out there clicked that link.