“Under the Eighth Amendment, execution by nitrogen is surely unusual because it has never been used as a method of execution in this country or elsewhere, as far as we know. It is also likely to cause needless agony and suffering in the execution chamber,” Bernard Harcourt writes in his New York Times op-ed, “Alabama Has a Horrible New Way of Killing People on Death Row.” Harcourt knows what cruel and unusual punishment is. In February 2018, “Alabama executioners spent nearly three hours jabbing my client Doyle Lee Hamm’s groin, ankles and shin bone before they released him from the gurney and he stumbled off in excruciating pain,” he writes.
“Whatever Missourians think about capital punishment generally, the specter of a single individual imposing the ultimate penalty when a jury has declined to should be deeply troubling,” the Editorial Board of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes https://tinyurl.com/458r7k7e about the Missouri law that allows a judge to impose a death sentence when a jury fails to do so. While the editors are specifically addressing the recent death penalty trial of Ian McCarthy, convicted of killing a police officer, whose jury was unable to decide on a life or death verdict, leaving the ultimate decision up to the presiding judge, they also maintain that it’s time for the state legislature to change the law “so that a jury of one’s peers, and not one judge, makes the final decision in future cases.”
“Authoritarianism and prosecution are a terrible mix. Let’s kill capital punishment now. And before it’s too late,” former Denver chief deputy DA Craig Silverman writes in his op-ed in the Colorado Sun. Silverman notes that he was a capital punishment supporter as a district attorney and successfully prosecuted a death penalty case in 1986. But after Donald Trump ordered the execution of 13 people in six months in the last months of his administration, he has “newfound support for abolishing capital punishment” because “capital punishment, and on a mass scale, has been the revenge favored by tyrants throughout history.” He concludes, “No way should Trump, DeSantis, Pence, or any of their ardent supporters be anywhere near any machinery of death.”
When the British pediatrician Norman Guthkelch theorized in the early 1970s that shaking a baby could cause death from brain damage, he inadvertently added another piece of false evidence to the list of junk science prosecutors rely on to charge innocent people with murder. As John Grisham writes in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, “Texas May Execute a Man Based on a Scrapped Medical Theory,” Robert Roberson was wrongfully convicted of killing his two-year-old daughter, Nikki, based on “shaken baby syndrome” in 2002. Despite Guthkelch expressing distress at the misuse of his theory, saying in 2012 that “I am frankly quite disturbed that what I intended as a friendly suggestion for avoiding injury to children has become an excuse for imprisoning innocent people,” and Roberson’s lawyers’ detailed explanation of how the syndrome has been debunked over the years in his appeal, Roberson’s conviction was upheld. As Grisham notes, he “may be out of options unless the U.S. Supreme Court decides to hear his case.”
Three European ambassadors are marking World Day Against the Death Penalty on Tuesday, October 10, with an art exhibit, a roundtable discussion, and a reception at the French Embassy in Washington, D.C. The program, “C’est la vie? Raising Awareness on Capital Punishment through Art,” organized by the Justice Attaché Department at the French Embassy, will feature the work of several people who are imprisoned on death row, some who were on death row and whose sentences were overturned, and a discussion on the influence that art has had on their lives. The European Union Delegation, Witness to Innocence, and Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort, organized the public streetside exhibition, which will be displayed outside participating European embassies, including Spain, Portugal, Italy, Austria, and the Netherlands.