The Eighth Amendment seems straightforward enough:
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
U.S. Const. amend. VIII. Arizona ran afoul of that basic standard last night when it executed Joseph Rudolph Wood. The execution took almost two hours:
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne’s office said Joseph Rudolph Wood was pronounced dead at 3:49 p.m., one hour and 57 minutes after the execution started.
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An Associated Press reporter who witnessed the execution saw Wood start gasping shortly after a sedative and a pain killer were injected into his veins. He gasped more than 600 times over the next hour and 40 minutes.
I abhor the death penalty for moral reasons as well as practical ones. That’s a discussion for a different time. Still, if we’re going to do it, can we at least not torture the guy? Is that too much to ask?
In a related vein, I’m for public executions for as long as we have the death penalty. We the public need to bear witness to the acts being done in our name. Instead, States go out of their way to shield us from the final act of “justice.” Here’s a suggestion: if we cannot stomach the acts done on our behalf, we shouldn’t ask the State to do them.