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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Get Well Soon … So We Can Kill You

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, a former prison psychologist, admits that he recognizes the irony.  His state is keeping Lawrence Reynolds alive, on suicide watch, so they can execute him Tuesday morning.  Reynolds attempted suicide by overdosing on pills on Sunday and was rushed to the hospital where his life was saved.  The Governor postponed his execution, original scheduled for March 9, to give him sufficient time to recover so that the Buckeye state can kill him properly.

“It is ironic, obviously, that you would work to keep someone alive when they are scheduled to be executed,” the Governor said.  “Ironic” may be putting it mildly.  When you adopt a policy (state killing) that directly contradicts basic values (life is precious), absurd and morally dubious practices like this are inevitable.

What is ironic is that, back in May 2007, the state of Ohio executed Christopher Newton, who volunteered” to be put to death by giving up his appeals.  He even refused to cooperate with those investigating the crime he committed unless they promised to seek the death penalty.  The state of Ohio was surely assisting Newton in committing suicide on that day, though they nearly botched it by taking 90 minutes to find a vein to administer his lethal injection.

(Nationally, there have been 135 of these “voluntary” executions, representing over 10 percent of all executions since reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976.)

The Governor’s lame excuse for this current predicament is that his government is required to “observe the law as we understand it.”  Of course, the law also allows the Governor to commute death sentences, or even impose a moratorium on all executions in his state, as many, including Amnesty International, are urging him to do.