Jun
25

USA Today – Kirsten Powers: Conservative case against death penalty

Anti-capital punishment activists say time is ripe for promoting a culture of life.

Last week’s Road to Majority conservative confab in the nation’s capital had an unlikely exhibitor in the conference hall: opponents of the death penalty.

The activists were in the right place because their opposition stems from conservative principles. Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty believe that the faithful who gathered at the annual event hosted by the Faith and Freedom Coalition are ripe for embracing their critical view of capital punishment.

They have their work cut out for them. Yes, support for death penalties has been dropping in a Pew survey — from 78% in 1996 to 55% last year. But this barbaric practice still enjoys strong preference among conservatives, with 69% expressing support in a June ABC News/Washington Post poll. Only 49% of liberals agreed. Among Republicans, support is even higher — at 81%.

So what kind of reception did the activists receive? The group’s advocacy coordinator, Marc Hyden, told me the response was very positive. “The myth we are trying to shatter is that conservatives all support the death penalty.” Hyden, who had worked for the National Rifle Association, said many people who approached the booth expressed support, while one man who didn’t was converted after Hyden laid out the conservative case against the death penalty.

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May
8

The Atlantic – How Evolution Explains the Conflicted Death-Penalty Debate

The electric chair at New York’s Auburn State Prison in about 1908 (Library of Congress)

The botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma last week generated many predictable responses—some more productive than others. There were those who said the convicted murderer got off easy compared to his victim, whether he was tortured or not before he died. There were those who said the execution proved again the immorality of capital punishment. And there were those, like my colleague Conor Friedersdorf, who suggested that part of the problem is that executions in America are hidden from public view. Bring back the guillotine! he urged.

May
1

NY Times – Three-Drug Protocol Persists for Lethal Injections, Despite Ease of Using One

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Robert Patton, the director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, in Tulsa this week. Credit John Clanton/Tulsa World, via Associated Press

Terminally ill people who want to die can take drugs to end their lives peacefully. Ailing pets are put down humanely every day. Clearly, the technology exists to bring about a quick and painless death.

Why, then, do executions by lethal injection sometimes become troubling spectacles? The death in Oklahoma on Tuesday of Clayton D. Lockett, amid struggling and apparent pain, was not the country’s first bungled execution.

A number of factors have conspired to produce painful scenes in the death chamber, experts say: an ill-conceived drug formulation clung to by many states; the lack of medical expertise among people planning and carrying out executions; and, more recently, drug shortages that have pushed prison officials to improvise lethal cocktails and buy drugs from loosely regulated compounding pharmacies.

According to prison officials in Oklahoma, an intravenous line inserted into Mr. Lockett’s groin did not work properly and interfered with the flow of drugs. But doctors say the drugs themselves, three used in a certain sequence, are a deeper part of the problem, because two of them cause suffering if they are administered improperly. And those two drugs are not necessary.

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