Obesity

Too Fat To Fry? (i.e., Execute Via Lethal Injection)

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Convicted rapist and murderer Richard Cooey was set to be executed in Ohio in 2003 when a last-minute stay by a federal judge stopped the proceedings.

Now Cooey is slated to be executed on October 14 for his role in the 1986 double kidnapping, beating, sexual assault, and murder of two young women. Cooey's lawyers will argue that he is too fat to be killed—that it will be impossible for technicians to find the proper veins through which to administer the drugs that will kill the 5-feet, 7-inches, 267-pound man.

I am against the death penalty—I don't think that the state should have the right to take a life; I think the state's role is to protect citizens from danger and that can be accomplished via life imprisonment—but Cooey's argument is so absurd that it beggars my own beliefs.

So do the details of his crime: He and a confederate (who is improbably serving only a life sentence), threw concrete from a highway overpass onto a car, then pretended to give assistance to motorists before attacking and killing them. (Cooey claims he didn't participate in the murders and is guilty "only" of rape.) Such actions undermine any sympathy borne of Cooey's own abusive upbringing, in which soiled diapers were rubbed in his face and he was repeatedly struck with a hammer by his father.

If we have a death penalty that can be applied in an error-free way (a huge if, to be sure, and one that might be insurmountable), then Cooey certainly seems worth of paying that price (as does his partner in crime). Certainly getting too fat in prison shouldn't allow a killer to escape the hangman's noose.

More here.

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  1. “Cooey’s lawyers will argue that he is too fat to be killed-that it will be impossible for technicians to find the proper veins through which to administer the drugs that will kill the 5-feet, 7-inches, 267-pound man.”

    I use to be an EMT and I bet I could find a vein pretty easy on that guy.

  2. This is why I’ve advocated that the state should have multiple execution options and allow the prisoner to pick one. Leathal injection, electric chair, firing squad, .45 gangland style, guillotine, whatever: ultimately, we let the market (death row) decide.

  3. yea, that argument sounds like bs to me, I am a bit heftier (and a few inches taller) and no one has ever had a problem finding a vein on me. I am against the death penalty, but this excuse seems pretty dumbass to me.

  4. Another option: Feed him ten Big Macs with fries and a large milkshake a day. Should kill him in a month.

    Or would that be “cruel and unusual”?

  5. Due to repeatedly demonstrated dishonesty and incompetence by all facets of the justice system, I too am against the death penalty.

    However, I am fairly certain that I can provide Richard Cooey with a relatively painless death no matter what weight he has attained. This is a lame appeal that should be tossed out by every judge it comes before.

  6. “Certainly getting too fat in prison shouldn’t allow a killer to escape the hangman’s noose.”

    It’s not the hangman’s noose he’s trying to escape – according to the linked article – but the lethal needle.

    If Ohio hanged its murderers instead of injecting themm with poison, then this guy’s weight wouldn’t be a problem. It wouldn’t make a hanging any more cruel – if anything, his weight would hasten his death rather than prolong it.

  7. I recall reading a chart for executioners about hanging. It had a formula for the length of rope from the top to the neck depending on the weight of the condemned. Apparently, it was bad form to rip a persons head from the body by too hard a drop or not break the neck from too short a fall.
    Personally, I prefer the firing squad, which is least costly and most humane according to a recent study. ( which I will track down if necessary)

  8. Oh, and if he has a medical emergency that requires an IV, will he argue against it?

  9. “Five years ago, court-appointed attorneys sought mercy by presenting evidence of Cooey’s poor and abusive childhood: His soiled diapers were rubbed in his face during potty training. He was struck in the head with a hammer by his father for misbehaving.”

    I, too, oppose the death penalty in cases where life imprisonment can serve the public interest.

    However, this excuse-making is repulsive. Not that lawyers for the criminal would make such arguments – what are they paid for, anyway? But that we’re supposed to buy the arguments.

    Maybe the defendant’s dad was abused as a child. Wouldn’t that excuse him hitting his son with a hammer? That would be just as logical as giving the defendant a lighter sentence for killing two young women who had nothing to do with his childhood abuse.

  10. Why not put him on a calorie restricted diet for a few months until he’s fit enough to kill Since the prison controls his food intake that shouldn’t be too hard. Seems about as logical as most of the stuff we do re: prisons.

    I think that prisons are run extremely perversely in this country (not to mention the justice system.) We basically turn a blind eye to rape and violence within the system, and yet the idea of restricting food or entertainment is viewed as a constitutional issue? Were I in prison I’d much rather be in a safe environment than be assured of getting 3000 calories a day (though obviously prisoners should be fed enough to maintain their health.)

    Basically prisoners are given the stuff that makes them easier to manage while many of their basic rights are ignored. I think that people of conscience from every part of the political spectrum should find this outrageous. Of course if we emptied out the prisons by freeing all non-violent drug offenders we could use some of the resulting savings to administer things properly among the remaining prisoners, but that’s far far too logical a thing to ever happen in this country.

  11. I think the argument is stupid too, but if he can demonstrate that it would be a de facto violation of the Eighth Amendment because it is a literal impossibility that the execution will NOT be botched…what are ya gonna do?

  12. “This is why I’ve advocated that the state should have multiple execution options and allow the prisoner to pick one. Leathal injection, electric chair, firing squad, .45 gangland style, guillotine, whatever: ultimately, we let the market (death row) decide.”

    Purely from the standpoint of efficiency, this is a good call. If there is a humane method of execution available, why not use it? Assuming we’re actually trying to execute him.

  13. Most of you have fallen for this hook, line and sinker. Are we supposed to be outraged by the this guy’s, and his lawyer’s, argument? Please. I’ll save my outrage for far more appropriate and important matters.

  14. Most of you have fallen for this hook, line and sinker.

    Huh? Most of the posts talk about how stupid this is.

  15. Like what BD addresses in his 11:14 post.

  16. “He was struck in the head with a hammer by his father for misbehaving.”

    I’m thinking a few more strikes would probably allow for us to skip all this discussion on lethal injection. Probably his father could do with a few also.

  17. At least the guy is in for a real crime and not having some weed or something.

  18. TAO-

    No. The posts have not addressed my question-are we supposed to be upset that this guy and his counsel are making a “stupid” argument?

  19. Feed him ten Big Macs with fries and a large milkshake a day. Should kill him in a month.

    In 5-4 decision, Supreme Court finds “Spurlocking” method of execution to be unusual, but not cruel.

  20. Areson beat me to it; I was going to advocate a strict regimen of bacon dogs, Cheeze Whiz, and Pall Malls (unfiltered).

  21. Too bad the guy didn’t throw some concrete unto some cruisers.

  22. libertymike – yes because random, blind and cruel violence against the police will make *all* of our libertarian wishes come true!

  23. “””I am against the death penalty-I don’t think that the state should have the right to take a life””

    I agree.

    However, this appeal is pretty stupid. No judge should fall for it. I like the idea of giving them a choice of method.

    “””Most of you have fallen for this hook, line and sinker.”””
    “””Like what BD addresses in his 11:14 post.”””

    One guy equals most of us?

    “””No. The posts have not addressed my question-are we supposed to be upset that this guy and his counsel are making a “stupid” argument?”””

    Isn’t it abundantly clear that most of us DO think its a stupid issue for the judge to entertain.

  24. I am against the death penalty-I don’t think that the state should have the right to take a life; I think the state’s role is to protect citizens from danger and that can be accomplished via life imprisonment

    Are you against repelling invasion as well? That normally requires the state (or its agents) taking many lives of invaders. I wouldn’t call it a right so much as a narrowly constrained duty, either.

  25. TrickyVic-

    I think we are miscommunicating. I made the point that this is not a story to produce outrage or even furrowed brow, period. I have no problem with any person attempting to prevent the state from inflicting any harm or any further harm on him-even if the person is a convicted murderer who is seeking to KO the state’s scheduled murder of him on the basis that he is too corpulent. Have at it!

    TAO- Ah, so you think that violence against the police can be “cruel”? Well, I can see it if the violence took place with undigested donuts in the belly of the parasite.

  26. Did a whole group of posts just disappear?

  27. Ah, so you think that violence against the police can be “cruel”? Well, I can see it if the violence took place with undigested donuts in the belly of the parasite.

    Are you saying that anything, and I mean anything, can be done to a police officer?

  28. Did a whole group of posts just disappear?

    Yes.

  29. Against death penalty — check

    Think his appeal is teh stoopid — check

    I always thought that if you were going to have a death penalty then why not have the condemned sleep in a room that can be deprived of all air at any moment (without his knowledge — that would be cruel) and — without telling him that he is to be executed x night, pump the room with a gas to ensure deep sleep (after he’s gone to bed) and then pump all of the air out.

    He’ll never be the wiser.

    Again, I oppose the death penalty.

  30. Little Pig? I’d consider it cruel to subject somebody to the knowledge and anxiety that would accompany every single night they went to sleep might be his last.

  31. Did a whole group of posts just disappear?

    Actually, I will correct that: a bunch of convention ’08 posts were moved to a different area of the site that is for…convention ’08. However, it is badly done and confusing as to where links point/etc.

  32. To kill the convicted with advance notice is cruel. To not give warning of his/her impending death keeps him/her from making final spiritual arrangements and denies his religious freedom?

  33. Angry Optimist,

    Any crueler that being on Death Row for an interminable period? Maybe…. Personally I would find relief that I would not end up strapped to a table and injected with poison… Every day I woke up I might either be relieved or say “damn, can’t they just get it over with?”

    Give me the guillotine if anything.

  34. This is a great example why for principled opponents of the DP, advocating for particular cases as they work their way through the courts is a complete waste of energy, and is perhaps counter-productive. Cooey is a piece of shit who (probably) deserves to die, and no sympathy is to be gained for the cause of abolishing the DP by holding him up as one of its “victims”.

    Hearts and minds of voters, then legislators…

  35. I’ve never understood why humane execution is supposedly so difficult. Every day, thousands of people are put under general anesthetic for surgery and it seems to work fine 99.99% of the time. And once they’re unconscious, how hard could it be to end their life quickly and without pain?

  36. Anything that keeps the state from murdering people is fine with me. I hope everyone on death row starts chowing down.

  37. TAO-12:14-

    No, of course not. A police officer who arrests IRS agents, DEA agents and other cops, should not be subjected to such falling concrete.

  38. “Fat man walkin’!”

  39. If you’re confused about the essence of the problem of lethal injection, you may want to read the Amnesty International report from last year:
    http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ACT50/007/2007/en

    “Humane execution” is impossible and lethal injection is no exception. However the kinds of pain experienced will be different. These drugs have been banned in many areas for euthanasia of animals yet in many of those same jurisdictions, it is the method of killing a human being. One of the main reasons lethal injection has become so popular is that it is less graphic to those witnessing it – not that it is any nicer to the convict.

    With an obese condemned, the factors include not just ‘finding a vein’ but the level of dosage required of each drug.

    As for the ‘cost effectiveness’ – it’s still far cheaper to abolish capital punishment:
    http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/article.php?did=108&scid=7

    ‘Botched’ executions happen with all methods. There are even reported cases of botched guilotine executions. Shootings can just maim, swords can break or require several chops, electrocution – asides from having ‘things’ explode, doesn’t always kill on the first go. Gas can take a very long time even when the prisoner is tring to accelerate the death. Stoning is deliberately designed to prolong suffering, hangings can either behead or cause slow strangulation. With lethal injection you can ‘wake up’ while paralysed by one of the drugs while the final, painful, drug is injected to shut down your organs. Not really a ‘market’ I’d like to shop.

  40. At least the guy is in for a real crime and not having some weed or something.

    I also take comfort in small consolations.

  41. As soon as we ban trans fats, dilemmas like this will be a thing of the past. Plus the poor executioner won’t have to look at all his gross fat. Win-win!

  42. I’m 5’6″ and 290. The nurses had no problem drawing blood for a physical or inserting an IV for a colonoscopy.

  43. AH: None of that answers my point. If doctors can regularly use general anesthetic to do things like heart surgery and organ transplants without patients waking up or experiencing any pain, how can humane execution be “impossible”?

  44. PapayaSF:

    Because no self-respecting professional anesthetist would be involved in this.

  45. If Ohio hanged its murderers

    Actually, there was a case in Oregon or Washington about a man who was so fat he claimed his head would pop off, and therefore the execution was cruel and unusual.

    Of course, he had *selected* hanging as his preferred method of execution.

  46. Aren’t “self-respecting” doctors handling executions now? Do anesthesiologists have a more rigid code of ethics than doctors?

    And claiming anesthesiologists won’t do it doesn’t make it impossible. I suspect much of their training has to do with making sure people who are put under anesthetic wake up afterwards. If not waking up afterwards isn’t an issue, how hard would it be for nearly anyone to administer it?

    Look, if you want to be anti-DP, fine. Just don’t try to obfuscate the issue by claiming something is “impossible” when it clearly isn’t.

  47. […] 5’6″ and 290 […] colonoscopy.

    List of things not to read and think about before lunch…

  48. Anything that keeps the state from murdering people is fine with me. I hope everyone on death row starts chowing down.

    Good man! Now work on keeping the state from kidnapping people (imprisonment) and extorting money from them (fines).

    Not sure how you’re going to enforce the laws afterwards, though.

  49. I’ve never understood why humane execution is supposedly so difficult.

    No kidding. I’ve had a couple of dogs euthanized while I sat with them. There was absolutely no distress at all, they just went under and out. I don’t know why its so easy for animals, but so hard for people.

  50. This is a great example why for principled opponents of the DP, advocating for particular cases as they work their way through the courts is a complete waste of energy, and is perhaps counter-productive. Cooey is a piece of shit who (probably) deserves to die, and no sympathy is to be gained for the cause of abolishing the DP by holding him up as one of its “victims”.

    This isn’t being done by anti-death penalty advocates. Nor is he being held up as an example of the system’s abuses. It’s all being done by his own lawyers. Nobody would waste their time defending this guy unless they were being paid.

  51. Aren’t “self-respecting” doctors handling executions now?

    Not typically. The AMA strongly urges it’s doctors to avoid taking part in executions in any professional capacity, and for the most part doctors take that advice very seriously. They won’t even certify the death until someone else has claimed the inmate is no longer alive, even going so far as to not even look at the inmate until someone has checked his or her pulse. This is actually a big problem in a lot of states, where having a doctor on hand to oversee the killing is seen as a big part of managing to maintain the constitutionality of the death penalty, but where no doctors can be found who will actually do the job.

    And, you need a license and significant amounts of training to administer anesthesia (at least 27 months, plus nursing certification for the lowest level) which means getting admittance to the same professional organizations that run things now, which means getting into an organization that strongly recommends against, if not outright forbids, participation in executions. So it’s a very complex issue.

  52. Well, he is NOT too fat for a bullet to the back of the head, or a noose around the neck, or better yet to have his head bashed in by the same bricks he threw from the overpass! And WHY is he still alive today? Should have killed him 10 years ago.

    RD
    http://www.Ultimate-Anonymity.com

  53. List of things not to read and think about before lunch…

    Sorry about that

  54. Calling his accomplice a “Confederate” further illustrates “reason’s” pro-Lincoln, statist Orange Line bias.

  55. Whoa. Is it just me, or did UA guy just make a completely coherent comment?

  56. Little Pig? I’d consider it cruel to subject somebody to the knowledge and anxiety that would accompany every single night they went to sleep might be his last.

    Uhhh, we* teach this to the little ones.

    Now I lay me down to sleep,
    I pray the Lord my soul to keep;
    And if I die before I wake,
    I pray the Lord my soul to take.

    Cruel?

    * Well not me, but it’s a very common child’s prayer.

  57. Botched’ executions happen with all methods.
    That tossing the victim into a live volcano has a pretty good track record.

    Snark aside, ether followed by carbon monoxide doesn’t seem to me to have a big downside.

  58. “”””I think we are miscommunicating. I made the point that this is not a story to produce outrage or even furrowed brow, period.”””

    Miscommunication indeed. I agree with the above, the part I disagreed with was your claim of “Most of you have fallen for this hook, line and sinker.” Which is false. Most of us agree with your above line and prefer to joke about than take it seriously. I also disagreed with your evidence that one person equals the most of us.

    Does that clear it up?

  59. Certainly getting too fat in prison shouldn’t allow a killer to escape the hangman’s noose.

    Actually, isn’t that why they stopped hanging people? I thought the fatties’ heads were popping off in the noose, rather than their necks snapping. It seems like that might be a relatively efficient way to handle this fellow’s situation, though. Decapitation via hanging!

    Of course, I’m against the death penalty. Except when it comes to monarchs, in case you couldn’t tell.

  60. “Actually, there was a case in Oregon or Washington about a man who was so fat he claimed his head would pop off, and therefore the execution was cruel and unusual.”

    How would that be cruelty? Would that make his death somehow slower?

  61. BrotherBen: The “table of drops” from the British Home Office doesn’t go high enough to account for this guy’s body weight. I assume that the modern variants of the table (i.e. Singapore, Malaysia, US Military etc.) take into account increased body weight.

  62. Guillotines do not suffer veins. Whoosh! Done.

  63. And, you need a license and significant amounts of training to administer anesthesia (at least 27 months, plus nursing certification for the lowest level) which means getting admittance to the same professional organizations that run things now, which means getting into an organization that strongly recommends against, if not outright forbids, participation in executions. So it’s a very complex issue.

    Rather irrelevant in this case though. That 27+ months of certification is primarily there to make sure that you can reliably reverse the procedure, i.e., prevent from happening what the state wants to happen in this case. I’m pretty sure you could train someone to reliably and painlessly (ignoring the stick of the IV line) execute someone in about a week. Pretty much you stick them and turn up the flow of the sedative agent far beyond what you would if you actually had to stop it.

  64. Mad Max: “How would that be cruelty? Would that make his death somehow slower?”

    Well, if my head popped off, I’d certainly consider that a bit out of the ordinary. Then again, I tend to limit my perversions to those that aren’t punishable by death, much as I’d love to ** ** ******** *** ** **** *** Weigel *** ***.

    Also, some people do seem to have an irrationally strong desire to keep their corpses pretty for a few days following death. I can’t say I understand it- when I’m dead you can leave me out for the dogs as far as I’m concerned.

    But we feed people kosher and halal meals while waiting for it, so we might as well kill people who care some way that keeps them pretty. At the very least it saves on bricks when their obstreperous little sisters inevitably turn up.

  65. I’m pretty sure you could train someone to reliably and painlessly (ignoring the stick of the IV line) execute someone in about a week. Pretty much you stick them and turn up the flow of the sedative agent far beyond what you would if you actually had to stop it.

    Congratulations, you just (mostly) described lethal injection as it is currently practiced (they add a little something to make sure it happens quckly). And, it *is* that easy. Prison guards are the ones who do it now, after all. However, that’s not the issue. The issue is that, unless you get someone who is licensed and certified, lawyers will always be able to argue (possibly with cause) that the person doing the job is not actually qualified to do it, therefore there is no way that it can be done in a manner that ensures that it won’t be cruel and unusual. This is about providing Constitutional cover for execution, not finding someone qualified. So, your options are as follows; you can either convince the doctors that control the certification process (and who are morally opposed to letting any trained medical personnel take part in what you’re doing) to change the regulations to create some sort of “lethal injection certification process,” or you can find someone willing to undergo the training from start to finish in exchange for doing executions for you. Neither one is going to be particularly easy, and the latter has uncomfortable implications for society at large.

  66. Like most criminals, it’s all about him: No remorse over the crime, no apology, because he’s “a changed man” and shouldn’t have to pay for the crime that that man he “used to be” should. While any form of execution can be painful, it really makes you wonder what his victims went through, doesn’t it? I’m so sick of hearing how it’s our upbringing, it’s alcohol, etc., etc….there are a lot of people who grow up in bad environments who don’t kill and rape.

    If you can’t find a vein, use a rope.

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