U.S. Death Penalty: Botched Executions And Suicide Attempts

Billy Slagle died in a holding cell, like the one in the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility featured here, three days before the state of Ohio was to execute him (Photo Credit: Mike Simons/Getty Images).

Billy Slagle died in a holding cell, like the one in the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility featured here, three days before the state of Ohio was to execute him (Photo Credit: Mike Simons/Getty Images).

Back in 2010, the cruelty – and absurdity – of the death penalty was on full display when Brandon Rhode tried to commit suicide just days before he was to be executed by the state of Georgia. The state rushed him to the hospital and saved his life – only to execute him a week later.

The suicide attempt reportedly left Rhode brain damaged. He was shackled to a restraint chair for the next 7 days, and then the execution proceeded. The lethal injection may have been botched, as Rhode’s eyes remained open the entire time.

This weekend, Billy Slagle was found hanged in his cell on Ohio’s death row. Slagle died three days before the state of Ohio was to execute him. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has promised a “complete investigation.”

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Lethal Injection: 30 Years of Hypocrisy

lethal injection

TEXAS CODE OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE, Art. 43.24. TREATMENT OF CONDEMNEDNo torture, or ill treatment, or unnecessary pain, shall be inflicted upon a prisoner to be executed under the sentence of the law.

Hypocrisy: a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not; especially: the false assumption of an appearance of virtue.

30 years ago, just after midnight, Dec. 7, 1982, Texas executed Charlie Brooks with a lethal cocktail of three drugs.  Texas had been execution-free for 18 years, since 1964. The first African American executed in the U.S. since reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976, Brooks’ final words were an Islamic prayer (“There is no God but Allah. Verily do we belong and verily unto Him do we return.”) followed by a “stay strong” to his girlfriend.

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Iran, Ohio, and the Question of Executing the Same Person Twice

In Iran, in January of this year, a man being stoned to death for adultery managed to survive his ordeal by digging his way out of the pit in which he had been buried.  According to an Amnesty International report, citing Iran’s penal code, “if the condemned person manages to escape from the pit, they will not be stoned again if they had been sentenced after confession.” The man who escaped in January was not stoned again that day, though it is believed he was taken back into custody.

Today, Ohio faces a similar dilemma.  Romell Broom survived the Buckeye state’s attempts to execute him by lethal injection, due to the failure of his executioners to find a useful vein in which to inject the poison.    Does this mean Mr. Broom will no longer face the needle, or will Ohio subject him to a second execution?  It appears that the latter is the case (Ohio Governor Ted Strickland merely granted Mr. Broom a week-long reprieve), although there may be arguments in court that being executed twice would constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

Ohio has had these problems before: the execution of Christopher Newton (who “volunteered” to be executed by giving up his appeals) took 90 minutes, and the lethal injection of Joseph Clark took 40.  In both cases, the delay was the result of the inability of the execution team to find suitable veins.

Given that this horrible problem keeps re-occurring, it would be wise for Ohio Governor Ted Strickland to at least declare a moratorium and halt executions in his state.