Death Penalty

Barbarism in the USA: Arizona's Botched Execution

There are limits to the type of punishment the state can impose on prisoners in America.

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Joseph Randolph Wood
Arizona Corrections

Another state, another botched execution carried out with secret new drugs. This time: Arizona, where convicted murderer Joseph Randolph Wood gasped and snorted for more than 90 minutes after his execution began. What should have been a 10- to 15- minute ordeal took 117 minutes for Wood.

According to witnesses, Wood "gulped like a fish on land" and made movements "like a piston: the mouth opened, the chest rose, the stomach convulsed." He gasped for air roughly 660 times over the course of the 117-minute execution—which had been carried out using a controversial two-drug cocktail the state had never used before.

One of the drugs, midazolam, has been used in flawed executions carried out in other states this year, including the horrific botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma, who died of a heart attack more than 40 minutes after the procedure started. It was also used in Ohio on Dennis McGuire, who gasped and snorted on the gurney before being pronounced dead 25 minutes after the execution began.

In the weeks leading up to Wood's execution, his attorneys argued that Wood had a First Amendment right to information about the drugs that would be used to kill him, which Arizona—like many states throughout the country—has kept confidential. On Saturday, the U.S. 9th Circuit Appeals Court sided with Wood and ruled that the execution could not be carried out until Arizona provided him with information about the origins of the lethal injection drugs, as well as the qualifications of the personnel who were going to administer the drugs.

The 9th Circuit's ruling is significant, as it marks the first time a federal court has ever issued a stay of execution based on the issue of drug secrecy. In all previous challenges, the court has sided with states. (Notable that one of the judges who dissented from the decision was Judge Jay Bybee, known for signing the infamous "torture memos" in 2002, which authorized "enhanced interrogation techniques" used at Guantanamo Bay.)

Arizona state officials appealed, but the circuit court upheld the ruling.  On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the federal court ruling and cleared the way for the execution to proceed on Wednesday at 10 a.m. MDT. However, the Arizona Supreme Court halted the execution minutes before it was set to take place in order to consider a last-minute appeal by Wood's lawyers over the secrecy of the lethal injection drugs to be used.

A couple of hours later, the state supreme court dissolved the stay, and Wood was strapped to the gurney. At 1:52 p.m., the execution commenced. According to journalists present, he began to gasp for air roughly seven minutes after the procedure began, and continued gasping for more than an hour and a half. According to his lawyers, who had enough time to file an emergency motion for a stay of execution while he laid alive on the gurney, staff checked Wood for sedation at 3:02 p.m. and found he was still alive. At 3:49 p.m., Wood was finally pronounced dead.

Shortly after, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer released a statement ordering the Arizona Department of Corrections to conduct a "full review of the process." However, because the review is going to be conducted by the very same people who were responsible for the botched execution yesterday, one should be skeptical that the investigation will be unbiased or thorough.

In her statement, Gov. Brewer also claimed, "Wood died in a lawful manner and by eyewitness and medical accounts he did not suffer." This, she said, "is in stark comparison to the gruesome, vicious suffering that he inflicted on his two victims—and the lifetime of suffering he has caused their family." Wood was sentenced to death in 1991 for shooting and killing his estranged girlfriend and her father in 1989.

Brewer's response to Wood's death was predictable yet telling. Besides misrepresenting some eyewitness accounts, Brewer's comments reveal her ignorance of the role of the state in carrying out capital punishment.

Yes, it's true that Wood's victims suffered. And yes, the families of the victims have suffered as well, probably much more than Wood did last night. But there are limits to the type of punishment the state can impose on prisoners in America—the punishment they receive for their crimes isn't supposed to match the level of pain and suffering they impose on their victims or victims' families. Vengeance isn't the job of the state. To argue otherwise signals a fundamental misunderstanding of the restraints purposely put on the government to protect its citizens from abuse and tyranny.

Wood certainly won't be the last inmate to have his execution botched. As long as states continue to experiment on inmates with secret lethal injection drugs from presumably dubious sources without providing an ounce of transparency into the process, these grisly results are going to continue to repeat themselves again and again.

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  1. Let’s talk about abortion while we’re at it.

    1. “Vengeance isn’t the job of the state.”

      Honestly, this is a big part of what separates us from Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

      1. “Vengeance isn’t the job of the state.”

        Correct. It is the job of the families of the victims.

        1. +1 Charles Bronson

        2. Or the victim himself!

          I was impressed by the Evel Knievel example. Your manager of how ever many years decides to write a tell-all book that contains all sorts of lies about you that will ruin your reputation–that you beat your family and are a drug addict, etc., so what do you do?

          Do you go on a talk show and fight him in the court of public opinion?

          Do you get a lawyer and sue for libel?

          Evel Knievel got an aluminum bat, instead, and he went to the guy’s office and beat the shit out of him with it.

          At his arraignment, he plead guilty. He was released on his own recognizance, while waiting for sentencing, and the reporters outside asked him why he plead guilty. Evel Knievel replied it was because he did it.

          Violence really is, sometimes, the answer. It’s sad when you see kids throw their lives away over a gang shooting, but if revenge is more important to you than your freedom?

          We’re not completely dependent on the government for justice. If somebody hurts someone I love, the government really isn’t the only thing they need to worry about.

          1. Or the victim himself!

            In the context of the death penalty for capital crimes, it’s a little bit more difficult for the victim to seek justice.

            1. I think he’s advocating hauntings.

              1. That crossed my mind.

            2. Well, yeah, but the point stands…

              Just because there isn’t anyone left willing to take on the legal consequences of revenge, doesn’t mean that the government should get into the revenge business.

              It also doesn’t mean that revenge isn’t still an available option for anyone left behind. Maybe revenge just isn’t worth it to anyone left behind. So, again, should the government get into the revenge business?

              1. There are other reasons to punish people.

                How ’bout deterrence?

                How ’bout incapacitation?

                How ’bout rehabilitation?

                To me the death penalty is only legit as an extreme means of incapacitation. He ain’t never gonna hurt nobody ever again if he’s dead, but there are other ways to incapacitate people, too.

                Regardless, retribution alone isn’t a sufficient reason for the government to do anything.

                1. Ken, thanks for saving me the trouble of explaining this.

                2. The death penalty is also a form of deterrence. More gruesome, timely and public forms of death would likely be better deterants than the current methods.

                  1. I think it’s unlikely to deter second degree murders–if it isn’t premeditated, why would they take the legal consequences of conviction into consideration before they did it?

                    Whether the death penalty deters first degree murder has been hotly debated for a long time. My understanding is that recent studies suggest that it is a deterrent.

                    I’m really not much of a utilitarian, and I don’t see the deterrent effects of the death penalty (if they exist) as being sufficient to justify the state killing people, but I’m a lot more sympathetic to the deterrence justification than I am to the argument that the state should be in the revenge business.

                    1. 2nd Degree murders rarely result in death penalties. If they do, it usually revolves around some distict aggravating factors.

                      I do believe the ‘incapacitating’ is the strongest arguement for the state. A corallary is ‘destruction’; some beings are so far removed from humanity as to be completely irredeemable. They burden all others and removing them is net benefit to others.

                    2. Deterrence is just a word. “Prevents” works better – killing killers prevents killing.
                      Fuck deterrence – it deters me at least once a year.

                  2. This took 25 years.

              2. I read an opinion from someone written a long time ago that stated the true purpose of a “state justice system” was to take retribution out of the hands of the victims. This is intended to a) prevent feuds from escalating out of control, and b) provide some justice for victims that don’t actually have the means to seek retribution on their own. This is the basis of a “civilized” society.

                This “civilized” society, when combined with a “state police system”, means that ordinary citizens are not allowed to defend themselves nor seek retribution on their own after being wronged. This mentality is deeply ingrained in the modern progressive mindset.

                This has further escalated to the point where the justice is system is no longer about retribution, but about rehabilitation. Punishment is passe.

                There are many days, when the “old ways” look more sane to me than the new modern civilized world.

                1. I think the purpose of the government is to protect our rights.

                  We have a criminal justice system to protect the rights of crime victims and to protect the rights of criminals.

                  We have the highest incarceration rate per capita in the world–by far!

                  Being convicted of a murder in the United States is no laughing matter–regardless of whether you get the death penalty.

                  If a murder victim’s friends or family are willing to take the legal consequences of killing the murderer (either before or after the murderer goes to jail), then they can still do that!

                  It seems to me that this is all as it should be.

                  When someone murders an innocent person (especially if it’s somebody child), there is no amount of vengeance that can be put on that murderer that will make it okay. And I think that’s what bugs capital punishment enthusiasts. They’ll always want more pain inflicted on the murderer–until there is no more pain that can be inflicted. …and as long as the murderer is still alive, there’s still something more that could have been done to the murderer.

                  But you have to understand that even after you kill him, it’s not enough. Killing a guilty man can never equate to killing an innocent person. Even after you kill a murderer, you haven’t evened the score. You’ve just expanded the purview of the state to include questions of whether people should live or die.

                2. This has further escalated to the point where the justice is system is no longer about retribution, but about rehabilitation. Punishment is passe.

                  I don’t know if I’d go quite that far. There certainly are plenty of people who want that to be the way it is, but I still see a lot of people who consider it to be about retribution and I don’t see a whole lot of rehabilitation happening in the prison system.
                  I do think that rehabilitation should at least be a secondary goal, though. Seems wise to at least try to give people released from prison the ability to do something other than return to crime.

                  Regarding the “old ways”, I think that as long as people continue to worry about whose ancestors wronged whom they will do more harm than good. That shit is a good part of why so many parts of the world are so fucked up.

                  1. As far as rehabilitation goes, I think that’s gone pretty much out the window.

                    It’s mostly about incapacitation now. The reason we have the highest incarceration rate in the world is because we want to keep those criminals off the street.

                    You put three strikes laws into effect, harsh, long, mandatory sentences for various things, etc., and they don’t give a damn whether you’re rehabilitated. They want to put you away until you’re so old that you won’t have any spunk left in you.

                    If we cared about rehabilitation in this country? We’d stop making lists of convicted felons available to the general public–making it almost impossible to get a decent job once you get out. The government doesn’t give a shit about rehabilitation anymore.

                    …even less so for murderers. No one’s trying to rehabilitate convicted murderers for reintegration back into society.

                3. You’re hardly alone on that account. Let your inner neoreactionary flourish!

      2. No, Al Qaeda and the Taliban is closer to what you get when you try to remove vengeance as a job of the state.

        Vengeance is part of what makes state-imposed punishments legitimate. The deal is that the state imposes measured vengeance in exchange for private persons giving up their claims to personal vengeance. Break that deal, by taking vengeance out of state-administered punishments, and you break the legitimacy of those state-administered punishments – along with any compunction people might feel about inflicting vengeance on their own.

        It’s like prohibiting drugs. A ban on drugs, or on vengeance in state-imposed punishments, won’t result in a (drug/vengeance)-free utopia. Instead, it will result in disrespect for the law, corruption, and a large increase in extra-legal violence. And no amount of preaching or propaganda about how people shouldn’t want (drugs/vengeance) will change this result.

    2. abortion is an orthogonal topic.

  2. I’m playing the world’s smallest violin.

    The irony of course, is that it’s some anti death penalty activists that are responsible here. They did everything they could to pressure companies from providing the drugs that would tend to be more effective.

    But, in any event, I agree with Alex Kozinski that it would be a lot better if capital punishment were carried out be firing squad.

    1. Do you understand that if we did that, there wouldn’t be any more death penalty in this country, and that this was his point?

      …well, maybe there wouldn’t be a death penalty anywhere but Utah.

      http://www.theguardian.com/wor…..row-inmate

      1. I didn’t read that as his point, only that it shouldn’t be sugar coated. My guess is that if it were changed to firing squad, it wouldn’t affect the basic polling that reveals capital punishment is supported by pretty healthy majorities.

        1. I thought the implication was that if it wasn’t sugar coated, the general public wouldn’t be as accepting.

        2. Who gives a shit if capital punishment is supported by majorities? Does that change the fact that the state should not be allowed to kill people because it’s vastly too incompetent?

          1. It matters because those decisions are determined by the democratic process, i.e. majorities. The Constitution does not leave those decisions in the hands of writers for Reason magazine.

            1. We don’t live in a democracy, DVH.

              1. Sigh. Yes, I realize that we don’t have capital punishment referendums. In many states, perhaps more than half, capital punishment is supported by healthy majorities that tend to be reflected in the people that are elected to the state legislature. Capitol punishment also exists at the federal level.

            2. Usually, these questions are left to juries, a “jury of one’s peers” meaning that the jury is not the government.

              I believe some states will ask jurors beforehand whether the possibility of the death penalty makes them more reluctant to convict, which in my opinion unfairly prejudices the jury towards the death penalty.

              They also often have a separate jury deliberation over the question of whether the murderer, once convicted, deserves the death penalty.

              From there, most capital murder cases automatically go through an appeals process–and it’ll go through a whole series of judges…

              Regardless, justice is not a popularity contest. The majority of voters can go screw themselves.

          2. No, no, it’s okay, we took a vote, that makes it legitimate. Whatever 50%+1 agree on it’s morally right and just.

            1. Tyranny of the majority is hunky-dory when it supports what I want!

              1. I think this is misconstruing the argument. The article above is the one that is making the argument that if we just did capital punishment the old fashioned way, the “majority” favoring it would change their minds. To point out that probably isn’t accurate doesn’t necessarily mean you agree that the majority should rule.

                This seems to be a common theme in Reason articles. Some author will post an article showing how this or that Statist policy is falling out of favor or could fall out of favor. Someone disagrees and the response to that person is, “Well majority shouldn’t rule”.

              2. No, it’s that many questions of public policy, including capital punishment, are left to the legislative branch, which is a creature of majority, or sometimes super majority rule, depending on where you live.

          3. Who gives a shit if capital punishment is supported by majorities?

            The legislators who make the relevant laws?

      2. Oh I’m pretty sure AZ and TX would still be on the DP bandwagon with firing squads.

    2. Thanks for pointing that out, Deputy. This is the result of a standard activist strategy: make some difficult or expense, and then claim it must be banned because it’s difficult and expensive.

      1. Maybe that’s a clue that we shouldn’t be trusting them with this power at all

      2. Just like gun control.

    3. Rope is reusable.

  3. Why don’t we just give these fuckers an overdose of morphine? I mean what is the fucking deal with all of these exotic drug cocktails when we could just OD them humanely and be done with it.

    1. + 1000

    2. Also note that anesthesiologists get training in order to not kill people accidentally while they are unconscious. It’s easy to kill people painlessly. Leave it to the government to make it difficult.

      1. There is no proof that any of these three executions were painful, only that they took longer than expected. Most of the drug cocktails start with a sedative, so it’s very likely that these three killers were completely unaware of their deaths.

        Hell, a little too much rum and my body will go out and do hours of horrible, degrading things without my consent or knowledge.

  4. I had the unfortunate experience of putting my cat down last year :'(

    From what I could tell, he didn’t suffer at all. One injection to sedate him, a second to stop his heart. It took all of 30 seconds, at the most.

    So I have to ask, again, why it is so much harder when dealing with people?

    1. I only see a couple of likely explanations.

      1) Maybe the stuff they use on cats and dogs isn’t 100% reliable?

      2) Someone has convinced our government that the combination of drugs they need to use has to be a special substance that can only be obtained from certain providers at extreme cost.

      1. I don’t know the exact drug used, but it was basically an overdose of anesthetic. I can’t speak to reliability, but a heck of a lot more dogs and cats are put down than people executed. And their owners have a pretty big incentive to demand that they not suffer, given the emotional attachment. That leads me to suspect that the drug is pretty damn effective.

        1. Yeah, I knew an anesthesiologist that had nor problem committing suicide, and I’m sure what he used was right off the shelf.

          1. It does seems like there are loads of drugs that can easily be used to kill which are so readily available that there would be no practical way to keep them away from executioners.

            1. Yeah, so somebody somewhere in the government must be stopping executioners anesthesiologists from using them.

              The doctors doing these “procedures” are anesthesiologists, right? They know how to take people out under anesthesia.

              That’s why I think the government’s gotta be involved in telling them what drugs they have to use.

              1. My dog (165 lb rottie) was put down in 10 seconds with an OD of injected valium. It was like turning off a switch.

                (I cried like a little girl)

        2. What ever happened to potassium chloride? It’s not like it’s a hard drug to make. Hell you can buy it; low sodium salt.

          Speaking of which, why is that lethal when injected? Is it that they just inject so much? Because you have potassium and chloride ions in your body all the time, so I don’t get it.

          1. In Oregon, you can kill yourself with a prescription of Seconal. I’ve watched videos of people doing it, and they all say they feel great during the process (about 5 minutes).

            Hmmmmm…

  5. The state’s going to kill who it wants to kill no matter what! That’s what governments do.

    1. All it takes is a couple of street cops to put the villain in a choke hold and then taze him to death. It’ll be all over in less than 10 minutes.

      The cops could pay an entrance fee to get into a lottery for available slots.

      1. Or turn it into a game show where the guy runs a gauntlet while everyone tries to kill him. Maybe get that guy from Family Feud to host it? Something like that?

        1. Richard Dawson is sadly no longer with us. And that’s the only “guy from family feud” that I will acknowledge.

        2. What’s the matter? Steroids make you deaf?

          1. I live to see you eat that contract, but I hope you leave enough room for my fist because I’m going to ram it into your stomach and break your god-damn spine!

  6. If they ever finish that wall on the border, maybe they could offer the convicts the option of taking the black.

    1. Bringing Law to the lawless?

      1. One of them’s bound to go over and become ‘the King beyond the Wall”. Probably a former governor of Illinois.

  7. I am opposed to capital punishment in principle, but the specifics of the methods by which it is carried out are immaterial to the question.

    We do ourselves a great disservice when we insist on logic and policy in some policy discussions, and revert to emotionalism in others.

    1. Not sure what you are saying. It’s OK if people suffer because dead is dead in the end?

      1. No, the point is it doesn’t matter who suffers when the state should not have the power to execute individuals in the first place. Insisting that our opponents adhere to logic when we argue with them on questions of appropriate use of government power while ourselves reverting to emotionalism in this case is foolish, and undermines the position of logic in other arguments.

        1. Right, you can’t argue with someone who bases his argument on the conclusion. For example, it’s pointless to argue against global warming, because anyone who is adamant about it states it as an axiomatic fact.

        2. Regardless of whether or not you think the government should have the power to execute people, the fact is that it does. So I’d say who suffers and how much matters. And I’m not sure where you see an emotional argument being made.

        3. I agree with the principle that the government should not have the power to kill in cold blood and that arguing about the details is beside the point, but given what the Constitution says, I think it does matter who suffers and how much. Determining what is “Cruel and unusual” requires looking at how punishments are carried out, not just what the ultimate outcome is.

          1. So, what’s cruel and unusual? Does that change as society becomes more “civilized”?

            My .02, I oppose the death penalty ONLY because I don’t trust the state to get the right guy.

            Once you actually have the right guy, you can run him through a woodchipper for all I care (after a constitutional amendment allowing it). These people are fucking MONSTERS, and they have it coming (provided they did what they are accused of). No problem with revenge whatsoever.

            1. My .02, I oppose the death penalty ONLY because I don’t trust the state to get the right guy.

              This. It’s just another government program that doesn’t work.

            2. So, what’s cruel and unusual? Does that change as society becomes more “civilized”?

              Yeah, I think that the “unusual” part means that is the case. “Unusual” is a normative judgement, so cultural change is relevant.

              1. So are hanging, electrocution or firing squad now unusual?

                I doubt even this botched execution was either cruel or unusual. He was sedated. His body may have gasped or convulsed, but I’m fairly certain he didn’t feel a thing. I’d rather go that way than be electrocuted.

                1. Vaporized by a nuke out in the desert. 3,000,000 Kelvin at point blank range. No corpse, no suffering.

              2. The 8th amendment does to apply post fact. I’ve heard dozens claim that because this was botched it was cruel and unusual – the point is it was not INTENTIONAL. That is the only context of the 8th amendment. Government can not engage in intentionally cruel and unusual punishment.

    2. It’s like saying that slavery is wrong because living conditions are bad. Some things are just wrong.

  8. If one is indisputably guilty of murder and the victim’s heirs wish
    death rather than restitution, then administer it with the guillotine.

    1. Why is that the family’s decision to make?

      1. There’s no way to give the victim restitution. They’re the next closest thing.

        1. It’s arbitrary. Who are you or I to say that it’s the next closest thing?

    2. The family of the victim should have a role in the execution. Do they prefer hanging, firing squad, or guillotine? I’d let them pull the lever or fire a gun. There has to be swift and harsh punishment for murder and I can’t think of a better one than losing life. Execution should be carried out within a year; no more of this 24 years wasting taxpayer dollars on death row.

  9. As a loyal Papist, I want the death penalty to be applied rarely if at all, and then only if life imprisonment isn’t a practically feasible option (eg, people who commit murder as members of a government or armed opposition group – they tend to operate in areas with so much political turbulence that some regime may eventually include them in an amnesty. Unless they’re dead.)

    But I don’t like the way this story is being spun. Anti-DP folks make lethal injection difficult by organizing government boycotts of the needed drugs, and so the executioners turn to less reliable drugs which cause suffering.

    And the anti-DP people aren’t going to say, “let’s do firing squads so we can be more humane!”

    1. I’m totally on your side with this. It’s like when someone who is pro life (I am by the way) complains about how barbarous the Gosnel abortions are. But it’s not like they would ever say “let’s make abortion more humane.”

      1. You probably wouldn’t hear them say that. But people have fought against the especially inhumane forms of abortion, like partial birth. Which is basically like saying “Let’s make abortion less inhumane.”

        1. That’s exactly what I mean. Specifically fighting against an inhumane version of something that you think is inherently immoral. Don’t get me wrong, I get it, it’s a way to get detractors on your side, but logically, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

          1. Respectfully disagree. I don’t think there is anything illogical about wanting to make something less bad when it isn’t possible, at least in that moment, to make it good.

    2. government boycotts of the needed drugs

      Is that accurate? As I understood it the pressure was on drug companies not to provide the drugs for executions.

    3. Speaking of loyal Papists, I’ve had some really weird arguments on the Catholic Answers forums with some of my former co-religionsts, who absolutely refuse to consider the possibility that the death penalty is immoral in a wealthy first-world country.

  10. Botched execution?

    Is he or is he not dead?

    1. Like when someone tells you they were “electrocuted.”

    2. How about “graceless”?

  11. Hi Lauren, I’m here for the heart-warming stories about robots displacing leeches who want to get paid a decent wage and Andrew napolitano’s dictatorship of the libertarian proletariat, not these depressing stories about a guy choking to death in a gurney supplied by the greatest country on God’s Green Earth, can you write more of the former and less of the latter? Thanks,

    American Socialist

    1. What the Hell is a “dictatorship of the libertarian proletariat?” Can those words all even go in the same sentence in the English language?

      1. We will seize power and rule with the tyranny of liberty! Force people to do whatever they want!

        1. +1 Cognitive Dissonance!

      2. Everybody knows that its the *orphans* who are the proletariat – the libertarians are the dictatorship.

        1. Socialist dictator – do what I say or I’ll kill you.

          Fascist dictator – do what I say or I’ll kill you.

          Libertarian dictator – what the fuck do I care what you do?

    2. Ah yes, Andrew Napolitano. I guess he’s the devil incarnate because standing up for individual liberty is just so unconscionable. Here’s an idea… Why don’t you move to Russia (or skip the foreplay and go straight to China) where all your socialist / communist dreams can come true and stop trying to f*ck up the American dream?

    3. … robots displacing leeches who want to get paid a decent wage…

      Everyone wants to get paid a decent wage, but maybe their labor isn’t worth that much. If they want to earn more, they can take actions on their own behalf to make their labor more valuable. And robots, really? You’re against technological innovation that improves the quality of life for millions, at the expense of the relative few who would need to find other employment?

      Fuck off, you retarded Luddite slaver.

  12. This is disgusting. Why are we “experimenting” with lethal injection drugs that take almost 2 hours to reach the end result? Even the good old fashioned rope around the neck doesn’t take more than 2 minute. A bullet to the head is instant. This kind of stuff makes me want to vomit.

    1. Yes. Where the fuck is the Constitution?

    2. A hanging in the town square where the murder occurred is a great idea. This is what happens when you violate a humans right to life, you lose yours. I would gladly throw rapists and especially child molesters in there too. Sex offenders are the worst repeat offenders and we have to stop the….FOR THE CHILDREN!!!

      1. Recidivist drunk drivers who kill . . .

      2. Why be like Iran, when we can go full North Korea. Firing squad.

  13. Got what he deserved. Do the murderers and rapists make sure to make their crimes as “compassionate” as possible so as not to inflict more pain than necessary? Ask the victims families if they are sympathetic to more humane justice. I think not…

    1. I for one don’t want to aspire to the same level of compassion as rapists and murderers.

  14. In her statement, Gov. Brewer also claimed, “Wood died in a lawful manner and by eyewitness and medical accounts he did not suffer.”

    And the eyewitnesses and medical types know this how?

  15. Bring back the guillotine if we’re going to execute prisoners. It’s far more civilized than this lethal injection nonsense.

  16. In the weeks leading up to Wood’s execution, his attorneys argued that Wood had a First Amendment right to information about the drugs that would be used to kill him, which Arizona?like many states throughout the country?has kept confidential.

    What possible legitimate interest could the state have in failing to disclose its lethal drug cocktail? This isn’t Colonel Sanders; no competitor is going to steal their secret formula to start executing prisoners even more humanely within the free market of capital punishment.

    1. I’ve been wondering the same thing. In the Ninth Circuit’s July 19 opinion, they provide a peek at what the State was arguing:

      Arizona argues that the information Wood seeks offers little value to the public debate and that releasing this information will serve instead to deter drug manufacturers from providing lethal injection drugs and lead to public disclosure of the identities of those who will administer the drugs. … But the State’s argument ignores the ongoing and intensifying debate over lethal injection in this country, and the importance of providing specific and detailed information about how safely and reliably the death penalty is administered. Moreover, the State can point to no evidence in the record to support its claim that pharmaceutical companies will stop providing drugs if this information is released or that no alternatives are available even if some companies do change course.

      1. As soon as someone spills the beans, they’ll welcome an open and honest debate on the issue.

  17. But there are limits to the type of punishment the state can impose on prisoners in America?the punishment they receive for their crimes isn’t supposed to match the level of pain and suffering they impose on their victims or victims’ families. Vengeance isn’t the job of the state.

    Let’s go the extra step in saying that punishment isn’t a legitimate role of government courts at all–it isn’t government’s business to change the behavior of the people whom it serves, which is all that punishment is. The idea of a punitive system (one meant to reform behavior) also gets mixed up with the idea of a cosmic justice system (eye for an eye) to the point that no one has a clue as to the purpose of criminal courts.

    Traditionally, the role of judges is to render rulings that compensate victims of aggression. If your neighbor butchers and eats your lamb and the king is a thousand miles away, the local judge’s job is to keep the peace by forcing the guilty party to pony up for his theft and the suffering he inflicted.

    The idea that the rulers must virtuously impose some sort of high-minded retribution to balance the karmic scales of society is 1) at odds with the justification of state punishment as a system of behavioral reformation 2) useless to the victim, whose stakes are improved only by compensation and 3) harmful to taxpayers (including the victims of the original crime, perversely), who pay for the expensive prison and justice systems.

    1. So, your proposal is?

      (use the crime of murder as an example)

      1. ANARCHY!!! The government can’t hurt me if I don’t believe that it exists!!!

        1. It’s asking a lot of the internet and college sophomores in general, but you’d do well to spend 40 hours or so reading about anarchism before opining about concepts you can’t accurately define, much less debate.

          Not that libertarian anarchism has anything to do with making victims whole. Restorative/compensatory justice was and is the default setting for humanity. Getting screwed by your neighbor one cave over is a hell of a lot older than the modern or imperial states.

          1. Anarchy – a state of disorder due to absence or nonrecognition of authority.

            That’s a definition. Perhaps not accurate, I am relying on a dictionary after all.

            1. Yeah, that’s why I recommend reading about anarchism before you begin bringing it up randomly on internet forums.

              1. Dude…I made a joke… 😉

                1. Pick one:

                  The Internet is Serious Business -or- It’s hard to read people’s intentions online.

      2. The murderer works for the rest of his life to pay off the victim or the victim’s beneficiaries kill him, victim’s choice.

        1. So a criminal increases the rights of a victim’s family merely by injuring the victim? I’m not quite sure about the logistics…

          1. That’s not what “rights” mean.

            Rights are property rights–if a victim owns his own body and he’s murdered, his legal beneficiaries are due compensation. And since the value of a life isn’t a metaphysical or legal certainty, that compensation could be psychic as well as monetary or physical, which is why it’d be nice to kill your father’s murderer.

            1. What do you mean that’s not what “rights” means?

              I read your idea as, I do not have the right to decide someone else’s fate…unless he kills my dad, then I gain that right?

              Correct me if I’m wrong

              1. You can’t “gain” rights. You have rights to self and property as a condition of self ownership, labor, and trade.

                If you steal my watch, you’ve robbed me and I’m due compensation for the loss and the taking itself. If you steal my father’s watch that would’ve been mine by inheritance and he dies before he receives compensation, that compensation is now mine provided I’m his beneficiary.

                It’s a confusion of language to think that anyone “gains” any rights in compensatory justice.

                1. That’s why I brought it up that way. I don’t have the right to confiscate something from you, but under your theory, I obtain that right if you kill my dad.

                  How is that not an increase in my rights? Rights aren’t exclusive to protecting yourself. A right is simply something that someone else absolutely cannot stop you from doing to put it in layman’s terms

                  1. We’re battling over language, but I’m game.

                    In some sense you may gain rights to your father’s property when he dies, but your “gain” of rights is really an expression of his rights to do whatever he wants with his property. In this sense if I were to give you a stick of gum, you “gain” rights to it only because I gifted it to you. It’s my gum, so the right to give it away is also mine, which I then pass on to you.

                    So it’s a zero-sum game; your gain of property rights to use the gum is necessarily equal to my loss of rights.

                    1. So you’re saying that when a man kills my father, his rights to decide what to do with his life become my rights to decide what to do with it. I see how it’s zero sum, just not why I’m so lucky as to obtain those rights…could I make him my slave? Or is it limited in some way

                    2. You would inherit the rights by agreement with your dad. He could also cut you out of his will and leave his property to someone else.

                      Restorative justice would be limited to the value of the victim’s life and the suffering of others, however that’s determined subjectively and locally. Most people today would place the value of literally enslaving or torturing a killer higher than any act he might have committed, but the slavery compensation was pretty common a couple of millennia ago. So it’d depend on your local valuation of slavery.

        2. The system we have *now* is intended to limit tit-for-tat retribution.

          We *could* go back to your old system – and then eye-for-an-eye reigns. Didn’t do much to keep the murder rate down back then either.

          Western jurisprudence, for all its faults (and there are many) is a far better system.

          1. The system I’m describing isn’t retributive; it’s compensatory. Most crimes would be dealt with by making financial judgments, with murder being a special case. And my opinion that the murderer’s family should have a choice in the criminal’s fate is my own, mainly because I’m not against capital punishment per se. There’d be plenty of people and judges who would disagree with me.

            The contemporary system you’re praising is based on some mystical combination of 3rd party retribution and punishment and expropriation of taxpayers with a few civil suits thrown in as an afterthought. Only in an insane system like that with all its perverse incentives toward prisons and expropriation could the drug war continue to destroy so many lives.

        3. The murderer works for the rest of his life to pay off the victim or the victim’s beneficiaries kill him, victim’s choice.

          How do the “victims” kill him?

          1. I’ll answer that after you explain why you put the word victims in scare quotes.

            1. Because I’m going to make a point concerning the victims after you respond.

              1. Ok.

                They’d kill him in a way that’s determined to be equal in value to their loss by the judge.

                1. Oh, so the victim doesn’t actually kill him or order him killed, the government does.

                  1. The court would determine that. Depending on the court’s values, it might appoint an executioner, allow the victims to do it themselves, or one of a billion other possibilities. Everything depending on community values, how the subjective valuation of the victim’s suffering compares to the value of the murderer’s peaceful or anguished death, and every other human value under the sun.

                    There’s a disconnect in what I’m arguing and what you imagining I’m arguing.

                    1. Couple more questions, as I find this fascinating.

                      1. Who’s paying for this government (court)?
                      2. Does each community get to make their own laws? Could one community say, for instance, theft is legal?

                    2. 1) insurance companies, likely, though I don’t aspire to know how societies organize themselves

                      2) communities already make their own laws, as laws are systems of expected behavior. Law develops organically within societies, not from edicts of political authorities, which is how the sensible idea of common law came about in the first place and why it’s better for everyone but the grifters than a system that mistakes top-down legislation for law.

                      If you could imagine a common-law system evolving where legal theft would be really good for families and the development of capital structure, you have a better imagination than I do.

                    3. 1. And where does this insurance company government get its authority to dole out punishment and why would I bow to it?

                      2. Yes, they do, and those laws are subservient to the “law of the land” (Constitution). What would stop a community of outlaws from simply getting more guns and people than you have and roam around taking everyone elses shit?

                      I was only half busting on you when I said I find this anarchy thing fascinating. I do. But every time I chase it down the rabbit hole, I end up in the same place. A dictatorship.

                      My problem with anarchy boils down to this:

                      There are bad people who won’t play by your rules and there needs to be overwhelming force in order to protect you from these people. If you have your little community army, I’ll (bad person) create a bigger one and take your shit.

                      Without the threat of overwhelming force the “system” devolves into warring factions. (see Afghanistan)

                      Not to mention, the second you form a court, a police force, an army or a school board, you have government. It is inescapable when people live together. Each of those warring factions is a government, making their own laws and imposing their will, JUST like our government except instead of electing the leaders, it is lead by the guy with the biggest gun.

                      So I get to government either way. Do you want a Constitutional Republic OR a dictatorship?

                    4. 1. Directly, guns, typically hired. Indirectly, and more importantly, informed consent. A system of authority that’s lost the people is one that can’t maintain its power, which is why ancap arguments always rely on a better informed population than today’s. If you’ve ever dealt with private arbitration vs. state courts, it’s clear which is better and which has a stronger incentive to reach as impartial a judgment as possible.

                      2. Yes, but we live in a Jacobin period where most people love authoritarian, centralized government and where it can be difficult to grasp Hayek’s distinction between law and legislation. Re: outlaws, you’d stop them by having guns of your own to disincentivize them and buying the services of mercenaries with your greater, market-fueled wealth or organizing in militias. Or other things I’m not considering right now or that aren’t possible at the moment, like robot armies. The point is that there would be multiple potential solutions, each of which could be tried in turn and in an infinite number of combinations. Communities would try a lot of things, and some of them would work better than others, which is how organic progress operates.

                    5. I usually distinguish between the state and government, but it’s pedantic if we’re not being technical. Ancap communities would have government, but not a state as in a monopolized form of violence.

                      And I may get testy, but I appreciate many of your insights. I’m an ancap realist in that I know that you’re correct about what will happen with some ancap communities when/if they occur. Some of them will become feifdoms and devolve into states in the same way that some 18th-century liberal revolutions became the US and others devolved into the Reign of Terror. Or how some liberal revolutions led to 21st century empires and truly absurd justifications of government behavior relative to Constitutional standards. So I don’t see it as republics vs. dictatorships, but experimental societies vs. states that inevitably slide into authoritarianism, as the West has demonstrated over and over no matter the intentions of the state’s founders.

                      The point of advocating markets is that we try lots of different things, with lots of communities applying different potential solutions to the problems of violence, legal disputes, and everything else that human beings do to and with one another. It’s the idea of federalism taken to a market extreme, and given the incredible creative potential of markets and the fruits of trial-and-error experimentation in science and law, it would push us toward greater wealth and peace than would stagnation in central authority.

                    6. I have yet to find a completely workable consistent philosophy. Taxes are theft. No two ways about it. It violates the NAP. Yet I believe there needs to be a monopoly on force to defend rights.

                      I see government as a balancing act. Too much and it impinges on liberty. Too little and liberty cannot be defended. So here is my solution (2 tenets):

                      1. A person may do as he chooses, PROVIDED in doing so he does not infringe upon the rights of others.

                      2. The ONLY legitimate function of government is to protect the rights of the individual.

                      Realizing that in order to fund 2, I must make an exception to 1 (which kills me).

        4. The murderer works for the rest of his life to pay off the victim or the victim’s beneficiaries kill him, victim’s choice.

          AND

          How hard would you work if you knew you couldn’t enjoy the fruits of your labor.

          1. Just a wild guess, but hard enough to keep the children of the man you murdered from killing you.

    2. Ordering a criminal to pay restitution IS a form of punishment. It’s just different than the one commonly used today. Other than that I would agree to this for non-violent crimes, and some low level violent crimes.

      1. I agree, but the primary purpose of paying restitution isn’t punitive. The judge doesn’t order the guy who burned down his neighbor’s barn to pay off the neighbor because it would be good to reform the bad guy’s behavior, but because he screwed someone else out of property.

        A punitive legal system doesn’t borrow much from effective behavioral techniques. Skinner found that punishment wasn’t useful compared to reinforcement (meaning that a behavioral justice system would focus more on rewarding good actors rather than emphasizing punishing bad ones, which sounds suspiciously like a market to me), and psychologists have known for a long time that the effectiveness of punishment in shaping behavior depends not on severity, but mainly on the amount of time separating behavior and punishment.

        In the context of the article, capital punishment isn’t punishment at all, as there’s no future behavior to shape once you’ve killed someone.

      2. So, if you’re rich enough, you can kill whomever you want?

        How is that different than what we currently have?

        /Ted Kennedy

        1. So, if you’re rich enough, you can kill whomever you want?

          Sure, if you don’t mind losing your entire fortune and winding up a virtual slave when a court rules that the suffering you inflicted on the family of a murder victim is valued at a trillion dollars.

          No restorative system I know says that a rich guy can kill peasants left and right and then pay off their kids from an actuarial table. Human suffering has real value, and like everything else, it’s subjective.

  18. You just have to wonder about the casual barbarism of those who administer the death penalty.

    No, not casual barbarism, bureaucratic callousness.

    If your intent is to kill the guy and the execution method is botched, someone there should have the goddamn human decency to put the dude out of his misery. A fucking pillow over the face would have been a mercy rather than 117 minutes of suffering.

    But no, that would be an overt act. *Do* something and you’re a murderer in the eyes of the law. Stand by while the guy convulses and there’s no blame to be attached to you.

    1. Old Doc Swain would’ve done something like that, law be damned. But we’re all a bunch of frightened serfs now.

    2. As I said above. He was sedated. He didn’t suffer.

      1. It is believed.

        The only way to know for sure would be to ask him, which is obviously not an option.

        1. Oh well.

          The guy murdered his ex-girlfriend and her father, received his due process, there’s no apparent disagreement over his actual guilt, and he showed no remorse for his crime at his execution.

          While I’m opposed to the state *intentionally* inflicting needless suffering during executions, I’m not really going to shed tears over the occasional execution going wrong…whether he was aware of the suffering or not. His pain was temporary. What he inflicted on the family of his victims was permanent, and he apparently felt not in the least bit sorry.

          Fuck that guy.

        2. The only way to know for sure would be to ask him, which is obviously not an option.

          Not true. This is testable. Just give the sedative to a someone and see if they can feel anything while under. I’d be willing to bet, it’s been tested.

        3. Why do YOU care if he suffered? Life blows outside the bubble of “civilization” – we institute government to socialize justice because otherwise it would burst the bubble and we’d be in gang-land hell . . . pick a country.

  19. You lost me when you wrote “horrific botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma”

    What Clayton Lockett did was horrific–why don’t you mention his crime? Give me a break on the hyperbole.

    I still think they should bring back execution by elephant stomping. They work for peanuts.

    1. You are an idiot.

      Just because a criminal showed no mercy to his victims does not mean that we should show none to him – he may not deserve it, but its not for *him*, its to keep us from becoming like him.

      1. Well said.

      2. Although I’d oppose death by elephant stomping (which I suspect was a joke), I don’t think that executing people who commit horrific murders automatically makes us anything like them.

        It’s a utilitarian argument…someone like Lockett, if he gets away with what he did to that girl, is likely to do it again. You’re not promoting barbarism if you have a legitimately-held belief that a violent criminal is a threat to commit more violent crimes…you’re simply removing the opportunity for recidivism.

        Same rationale behind putting down a rabid animal. Regardless of whether you love dogs and think they have rights, you still put one down when they’re a credible threat.

    2. They don’t mention the crime because it deflects from their preferred narrative of the unconscionably brutal state.

      You can certainly make a strong anti-death penalty argument on libertarian principles based on the number of wrongful convictions. They seem to be arguing from the point that the state should never be allowed to execute anyone because it shows a fundamental disrespect for human life.

      In cases where guilt isn’t really in doubt (such as Lockhart and Wood), I just see it as the state eliminating trash from society. They were unrepentant, sadistic murders…I don’t give a shit about their lives. And I’d prefer the state executed them rather than victims doing it themselves…I don’t see vigilante justice as being any more “fair” than juries and due process. If anything, it’s more likely to lead to lynch mob mentalities.

  20. Vengeance isn’t the job of the state.

    Let me open this by saying that I oppose the death penalty in practice but . . .

    I’m sorry, but you have a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of the justice system when it comes to serious violent crimes.

    Vengeance *is* the job of the state here – because the state has a monopoly on violence. We do expect that the state is cold and emotionless when evaluating the evidence (so that vengeance doesn’t fall on an innocent in the heat of the moment) and that retribution is proportionate and sufficient. This allows us to be consistent with retribution for wrongs suffered and to keep tit-for-tat feuds from erupting.

    We don’t put a man in prison for life for rehabilitation – its plain vengeance. Even in lesser crimes, incarceration (ie the loss of freedom, not the rest of the stuff that goes along with prison life) is as much punishment as anything else.

    Even how much suffering a criminal’s victims endured is taken into consideration when pressing charges and in sentencing. Shoot a man in the head gets you life in prison, sexual torture and depraved murder gets you lethal injection;.

    1. Agreed in full.

      I’m personally ambivalent about the death penalty and believe its usage should be more heavily restricted and conditional, but I don’t have a problem with the state executing sentence. I believe a monopoly on violence for the state when it comes to criminal justice is usually a good thing. Because I’ve been to countries where the victims get to choose, and they’re not inherently better societies than ours.

  21. What a coincidence that the Obama Administration forced the single company who produced the previous form of lethal injection drugs out of business via attrition, only to allow this untested and highly scrutinized drug to replace it…

    …as if they were hoping something like this would happen to appease the anti-capital punishment lobby.

    Yeah, I said it, and I meant it: they’re glad this happened – now they have their “martyrs.”

    1. Wouldn’t shock me. That’s the way they’ve implemented a lot of their agenda…by coercing businesses to do the legwork for them.

      Although if they’re trying to gain support from people like myself to oppose the death penalty by drumming up sympathy for pieces of shit like Lockett and Wood, they’re not going to get very far.

  22. I am so freaking tired f hearing how cruel and barbaric execution is. No one seems to care how barbaric this slug was when he killed no less than two human beings. Effected who knows how many lives be taking lives into his hands alone. Which by the why, only God has that right. The years of torment that family and friends of the victims have gone through with out the possibility of parole or easement of any kind. bastards like this should be shot by firing squad or hung. In a public forum. This would resonate throughout the community to make others aware that if you commit heinous crimes. You have a heinous punishment awaiting you. This pos got off stupid easy.

    1. If the issue is genuinely cruel and barbaric (which it ISN’T really) then you pay $1000 bucks for a hot masseuse, naked, then use as many 38 cal bullets as necessary to kill the offender. Pleasure, pleasure . . . nothingness. That’s how I’d choose to go.

  23. Notable that one of the judges who dissented from the decision was Judge Jay Bybee, known for signing the infamous “torture memos” in 2002, which authorized “enhanced interrogation techniques” used at Guantanamo Bay.

    Why is that “notable?” Except perhaps to summon the Buttplug?

    BOOOOOOOOOSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!11!!!1!1!!!

    1. Water boarding isn’t torture. I’ve had training while in the military harsher than that. So tired of hearing how horrible it is.

      1. Assuming you’ve been waterboarded, how did your experience stack up against Hitchens’? And what did the military do to you that was worse than waterboarding?

        I’m not asking sarcastically, as some people have lower or higher standards for what the word torture means, so it could be that you define the word differently than someone like me for whom slow drowning definitely falls under the heading of torture.

  24. I can only speak for myself. When wronged, I demand justice. I might seek it from the government, but if it isn’t forthcoming, I will seek it other ways.

    I believe there are certain acts which, when committed, trump your cosmic right to live among us and your ticket is eligible for punching. Whether that punching is done by government, or by my hand, there is no difference. A punching is legitimate, if not required.

    If some shit stain committed on me or someone I cared that much about, some of the heinous things I read about, a punching will occur. I may be over confident in my abilities and intellect but I firmly believe I am smart enough, and patient enough, to punch that ticket and even get away with it. By myself, or by hire, (and I’m not a poor man) literally anything can be bought, as even Rocco knew to be true.

    As to other, lesser wrongs, like say committed by some cop or EPA fuck, a partial punching is in order. Take a lesson from the IRA and visit them at home.

    But rid yourself of this notion that government is the arbiter and that “rules” are in order.

  25. God damn. Just shoot the fucker in the back of the head. With a 12 gauge.

  26. You know what would solve this problem? A Guillotine. Bloody to be sure, but its over in a few seconds, and no secret drugs or lack of transparency.

  27. I don’t much like the death penalty, as I don’t think the state should have that power over us, but I don’t see how they seem to botch these things. Veterinarians humanely euthanize animals every day. Jack Kevorkian seemed to have it down pat.

    I can only assume that someone wants these things to go bad for political reasons.

  28. Since I don’t trust the government to do much of anything right consistently (and certainly convicting and executing only the guilty) I’m strongly opposed to capital punishment. But that aside, I’m a bit mystified by all the difficulties with the drug cocktail. Why not use exactly what vets use for very large dogs?

  29. Sorry… There’s absolutely NO sympathy here for the criminal. AT ALL!

  30. You headline title,” Barbarianism?” HA! Are you trying to solicit sympathy for this cold blooded murderer? You won’t get any from me. I say, “Good Riddance” and “AMF.”

  31. The ‘barbarism’ are the heinous crimes that people like this commit.
    He took 23-years to die, too bad – but in that period, he received better health care than a lot of Veterans at the VA.
    All he deserved was a bullet to the back of the head.

  32. Sarcasm Button On:
    RE: Barbarism in the USA: Arizona’s Botched Execution
    Comrades! We must eliminate the death penalty in our glorious socialist state. Executing a murder eliminates more tax dollars from the state. If society kills these murderers, public monies will end up in the hands of the masses. Keeping these killers alive and in prison will keep the Prison Guard Union of the United States happy because they will get more taxpayer’s money. These poor babies will never have to worry about work, food, shelter, legal, medical, dental bills or getting a college education. These killers did not have a life that many of us had. Perhaps they weren’t able to suck on their mother’s breasts when they were a baby, or their daddy’s didn’t take them to Disneyland, or didn’t get a choo-choo train for Christmas or had parents that couldn’t afford ballet lessons. These murderers will never kill anyone else again, except for other inmates and prison guards. But they don’t count. None of these killers should be held responsible for their actions because they lived in a cruel capitalist society. Besides, taking personal responsibility is as old fashioned as the Pony Express. Get with the times people! We have a moral obligation to keep the the most egregious amongst us alive. Putting these animals to sleep would be only fair, but fairness is not what socialism is about.
    Sarcasm Button Off

  33. 10 gauge to the base of the skull. It’s quick, it’s sure, it’s a bit messy which makes it great entertainment. Who wants to watch him sleep to death.

  34. I recommend mainline heroin. Cheap, effective, ready supply. And a pleasure to go out on.

    Note: I oppose all capital punishment as I have no more confidence in the government being able to properly prosecute a case and render a just verdict than I do in it’s ability carry out an execution.

  35. Maybe we could “accidentally” nick an artery during the free sex-change operation?

  36. This man DID kill 2 people. What is it with you people who think murder gets to be rewarded with life then the victims lifes was taken by this monster?

  37. The state didn’t intend for Wood to suffer. This wasn’t an act of vengeance.

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