Supreme court approves execution with a substantial likelihood of causing agony (vote, naturally, was 5-4)

This is what we’re in for the foreseeable future: a Supreme Court whose conservative majority, while concerned with preserving the life of every fetus, sends criminals to their deaths with impunity, even when those deaths are horribly painful. As the article below in The Atlantic relates (click on the screenshot), Justice Neil Gorsuch, who heretofore had kept his opinions on capital punishment private, joined the 5-4 Supreme Court majority (5-4 is temporary; it will be 6-3 before too long unless we elect a Democratic President in 2020) in the case of Bucklew v. Precythe, a ruling you can see here. The opinion was in fact written by Gorsuch, with the other four conservative justices (including Kavanaugh) concurring. The dissenters were, of course, Ginsburg, Kagan, Sotomayor, and Breyer.

Russell Bucklew, facing execution in Missouri for murder, rape, assault, escape, and other crimes, appealed because he has a disease called cavernous hemangioma, which in his case produces fragile blood-filled tumors in his head and mouth. He can’t sleep lying down lest he choke on his own blood, and it’s possible, even likely, that a lethal injection, the standard procedure in Missouri, would cause insupportable pain by rupturing his blood vessels.

Courts have ruled that if an inmate challenges the lethal-injection procedure, it’s up to him to suggest an alternative procedure that would be less painful. Bucklew’s lawyers argued that stipulating such alternatives in his particular case would be unconstitutional, as it’s unknown whether any alternative procedure would be less painful than lethal injection. (Bucklew had in fact suggested that death by nitrogen gas inhalation might be less painful than lethal injection, and nitrogen inhalation is indeed authorized as an alternative method of execution in Missouri, though it’s never been used in the U.S.)

But Gorsuch et al. didn’t buy it. In an astounding ruling, they demanded that Bucklew not just specify the use of nitrogen (remember, it’s already approved by the state as an alternative method of execution), but do a lot more. From the ruling:

First, an inmate must show that his proposed alternative method is not just theoretically “‘feasible’” but also “‘readily implemented.’” Glossip, 576 U. S., at ___–___ (slip op., at 12–13). This means the inmate’s proposal must be sufficiently detailed to permit a finding that the State could carry it out “relatively easily and reasonably quickly.” McGehee v. Hutchinson, 854 F. 3d 488, 493 (CA8 2017); Arthur v. Commissioner, Ala. Dept. of Corrections, 840 F. 3d 1268, 1300 (CA11 2016). Mr. Bucklew’s barebones proposal falls well short of that standard. He has presented no evidence on essential questions like how nitrogen gas should be administered (using a gas chamber, a tent, a hood, a mask, or some other delivery device); in what concentration (pure nitrogen or some mixture of gases); how quickly and for how long it should be introduced; or how the State might ensure the safety of the execution team, including protecting them against the risk of gas leaks.

Why is that stuff Bucklew’s responsibility? It’s the State of Missouri’s responsibility, since it approved nitrogen as an approved method of execution! Author Epps also singles out two other barbaric aspects of the majority ruling:

Gorsuch’s opinion has two even more important malignant flaws. For at least 60 years, the Supreme Court has consistently held that the ban on “cruel and unusual punishments” is not limited to the ideas prevalent in the 18th century (when crimes were sometimes punished by hanging, whipping, branding, and even mutilation). Instead, in a 1958 case called Trop v. Dulles, the Court said that “the words of the Amendment are not precise, and … their scope is not static”; instead, it “must draw its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.” This is a hugely important precedent, invoked dozens of times since then. It has led to such decisions as forbidding execution for rape (employed in the South into the 1960s) and execution of those who commit crimes as children or who become mentally ill while waiting to die. It is nothing less than vital to protecting American society from the growing clamor for barbaric treatment of the powerless.

But the majority opinion pretended that Trop did not exist, instead turning to a repellent discussion of how much it hurt to be hanged in the 18th century (rather a lot, apparently) and whether drowning in your own blood is really all that much worse.

In the next section of the opinion, Gorsuch suggested that the real problem with death-penalty jurisprudence is those pesky people who just won’t get aboard the gurney. The Court’s inconvenient involvement in death cases, he wrote, could be reduced if the federal courts begin “invoking their equitable power to dismiss or curtail suits that are pursued in a ‘dilatory’ fashion or based on ‘speculative’ theories.”

And indeed, you can sense the petulance of these death-mongers in the Court’s opinion, which suggests that it’s indeed time for Bucklew to mount the gurney, even if it results in cruel and unusual punishment:You know my view on capital punishment: I oppose it because it offers no alternative over life in prison, with or without parole: it’s neither a deterrent nor does it allow for rehabilitation or keeping criminals sequestered (compared to jailing them). It’s retributive punishment. And if a convicted person is later found to be innocent, having killed them can’t right the wrong. In this case the execution is doubly wrong, for it’s likely to be cruel and unusual punishment, and yet the Court refuses to even consider means of execution that are less painful.  The majority is without empathy. At long last, gentlemen, have you no decency?

h/t: Ken

156 Comments

  1. anonymous
    Posted April 7, 2019 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    One more example of incredible cruelty of so-called “justice” in united states, the country where rich can legally buy “judges”.

    • Caldwell
      Posted April 7, 2019 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

      rich can legally buy “judges”

      The guy lived in a trailer.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 7, 2019 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

      Tough to buy a federal judge in the US, “anonymous,” given that they have lifetime appointments under Article 3 of our constitution.

      As to whether a rich person can “buy” themself a federal judgeship, well, maybe that’s a closer call. Judgeships are patronage jobs of a sort — although there’s vetting by the ABA and confirmation required from the US senate — and it’s as American as apple pie to pay your way into a patronage position, as the current administration amply demonstrates, with its cabinet and diplomatic corps (and, soon, the Federal Reserve Board) larded with Dear Leader’s fat-cat cronies.

      • JB
        Posted April 10, 2019 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

        Ken: It’s not unheard of for federal judges to submit to bribery… they’ve been caught doing so in the past.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted April 10, 2019 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

          Not unheard of, but exceedingly rare, JB. There has been but one federal judge impeached for bribery so in the first two decades of this millennium (and one other, for sexual misconduct).

          Instances of bribery among state-court judges — who are generally elected or subject to reappointment after a set term of years (and are, thus, in need of raising campaign money or are beholden to political bosses) — are more common, although still quite rare.

  2. Posted April 7, 2019 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    We have our faults in South Africa.
    At least we have done away with judicial murder as per a constitutional court ruling.
    There is no humane method of killing someone.

    • Posted April 7, 2019 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

      I disagree. System could just as easily be done the way pro-euthanasia groups do it, in a comfortable setting.

      Even the way we euthanize cats would be preferable- a pre-injection to relax them, all while in the company of a loved one who cares about them.

      However no USA politician would *ever* consider such a thing.

    • Posted April 7, 2019 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

      To make the USA even more culpable we must realise that it first creates an environment where firearms legally saturate its society. Then proceeds to judicially murder people who misuse them, taking no responsibility for the environment it created.

  3. Caldwell
    Posted April 7, 2019 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    the standard procedure in Missouri, would cause insupportable pain by rupturing his blood vessels.

    Lawyers make a lot of claims. Sometimes those claims are true and sometimes those claims change.

    “By this point in the proceedings, Mr. Bucklew’s contentions about the pain he might suffer had evolved considerably.”
    “He no longer complained about circulation of the drug, the use of dye, or adverse drug interactions. Instead, his main claim now was that he would experience pain during the period after the pentobarbital started to take effect but before it rendered him fully unconscious. According to his expert, Dr. Joel Zivot, while in this semiconscious “twilight stage” Mr. Bucklew would be unable to prevent his tumors from obstructing his breathing, which would make him feel like he was suffocating.”

    Wiki: “Sodium thiopental or pentobarbital: ultrashort-action barbiturate, an anesthetic agent used at a high dose that renders the person unconscious in less than 30 seconds.”

    So he would be unconscious before he can suffer from not breathing since you can easily hold your breath for 30 seconds.

  4. Caldwell
    Posted April 7, 2019 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    You know my view on capital punishment:

    Do you think the SC should have found the decision/case unconstitutional because the members of the SC don’t like capital punishment, even though capital punishment and the issues of this case were constitutional and the SC’s job is not to make new laws or policies?

    (FWIW, I didn’t any evidence presented that his condition would actually cause any unusual pain. What the lawyers claimed seemed to also indicate that it would be painful and fatal for him to fall asleep normally.)

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 7, 2019 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

      I think SCOTUS should hold that the death penalty constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment” under the 8th Amendment in all circumstances — as several justices (including at least one Nixon appointee, after spending a career of “tinkering with the machinery of death”) have said, and as the Court itself has seemed on the verge of holding previously.

      This nation has undergone a failed centuries’ long experiment with capital punishment, and has never yet found a way to implement it that isn’t arbitrary and capricious at best, and bigoted and inhumane at worst.

      It’s high time to join the rest of the civilized world by being done with this barbarity.

      • max blancke
        Posted April 7, 2019 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

        I think solitary confinement for long periods of time would be far worse.
        “Cruel and unusual” should not prohibit discomfort, I think.
        What needs to be prohibited is the sort of executions suffered by Wallace, or John of Leiden.
        Just my personal opinion.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted April 7, 2019 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

          “I think solitary confinement for long periods of time would be far worse.”

          Maybe so, Max. But wouldn’t the appropriate remedy then be to allow offenders to opt out of life sentences by volunteering for assisted suicide — rather than to preempt the matter by making the death penalty mandatory and universal?

          And if that’s the case, do you favor forcing reinstatement of the death penalty on the 20 states that have abrogated it — or requiring the pace be picked up in the 8 other states (as well as the federal government and the US military) that haven’t executed anyone on their death rows in the past 10 years?

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted April 7, 2019 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

            “volunteering for assisted suicide” – whaat?

            The (religiously tainted) right would *never* accept that. They are only in favour of killing people who *don’t* want to die. They will never go for permitting people who wish for a painless death to actually achieve that. That would be too easy. We were put on this earth to suffer so we can appreciate Jeebus or Allah or Yahweh or whatever in heaven all the more. Or some crap like that.

            Also, as a practical matter, the right-to-die movement has enough lies, distortions and FUD flung at it by the ‘pro-life’ scum already, it doesn’t need an association with executing criminals added to their propaganda.

            cr

          • max blancke
            Posted April 7, 2019 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

            These are tough questions, and it is a subject that seems to lack easy solutions.

            I would obviously prefer that we have a society where people do not commit the sort of horrors for which the death penalty seems appropriate.

            But that is not the world we live in. My thinking is we might get closer to living in such a place if anyone contemplating such an act recoiled at the thought of what would await them if prosecuted. I don’t think decades of prison life (which many of them have experienced before), followed by dying in their sleep, is much deterrent.

            Of course, my views are influenced by my own experiences, particularly of having a fairly close friend abducted, raped, murdered, then discarded by someone who had done it several times before.

            Sometimes, I think the Chinese method is the best solution.
            http://www.zonaeuropa.com/20041202_1.htm

            But there it is applied on a mass scale, and often to people who do not deserve it. I guess that is a big argument against the DP in general, that people might be unjustly executed, and how doing so would implicate us as a society.

          • max blancke
            Posted April 7, 2019 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

            These are tough questions, and it is a subject that seems to lack easy solutions.

            I would obviously prefer that we have a society where people do not commit the sort of horrors for which the death penalty seems appropriate.

            But that is not the world we live in. My thinking is we might get closer to living in such a place if anyone contemplating such an act recoiled at the thought of what would await them if prosecuted. I don’t think decades of prison life (which many of them have experienced before), followed by dying in their sleep, is much deterrent.

            Of course, my views are influenced by my own experiences, particularly of having a fairly close friend abducted, raped, murdered, then discarded by someone who had done it several times before.

            Sometimes, I think the Chinese method is the best solution.
            http://www.zonaeuropa.com/20041202_1.htm
            (includes images of a rehearsal)

            But there it is applied on a mass scale, and often to people who do not deserve it. I guess that is a big argument against the DP in general, that people might be unjustly executed, and how doing so would implicate us as a society.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted April 7, 2019 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

        I agree Ken. The US is the only country in the developed would that still uses the death penalty. I think it’s disgusting.

        Further, there’s the stat that surely everyone knows by now: the US has 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s prison population.

        Too many prisoners are held in solitary confinement. Especially in private prisons, health care is appalling.

        And how exactly did Joe Arpaio get away with his constant cruel and unusual punishments over the years? He’s never been held to account for that.

        • Mark R.
          Posted April 7, 2019 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

          And how exactly did Joe Arpaio get away with his constant cruel and unusual punishments over the years?

          He was held accountable and would have gone to jail (criminal contempt), but Trump thinks he’s a great guy and pardoned him.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted April 7, 2019 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

            I thought he was found guilty of racial profiling when stopping cars etc and was found in contempt because he didn’t stop doing it. I didn’t realize it was because of the other stuff as well. My bad! (I knew Trump pardoned him of course. Trump thinking Arpaio is a Good Guy should tell everyone all they need to know about his character and fitness for office.)

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted April 7, 2019 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

              You were right in the first instance, Heather.

              Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt (but pardoned by Donald Trump even before he even sentenced) for failing to abide by a federal court order to stop his department’s racial profiling by targeting minorities for unlawful stops.

              Arpaio has never been held to account for the cruel and unusual conditions he imposed on prisoners at his Maricopa County Jail (many of whom were being detained pending trial and, thus, presumed innocent), such as keeping them in tents under the Arizona summer sun, where the temperatures could range above 120° F., and for making them wear pink underwear.

              Joe Arpaio was a disgrace to American law enforcement and to everything decent and noble in the American spirit.

        • BJ
          Posted April 8, 2019 at 8:59 am | Permalink

          Once again, I agree with everything you said.

          And the fact that Arpaio was able to do what he did for years makes me want to vomit.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted April 8, 2019 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

            I find that very odd, not to mention appalling.

            You have a Bill of Rights. You have the rule of law. (Someone was even able to get off a speeding ticket because, after the cop let her off with a warning, she gave him the finger and he then stopped her again (unconstitutional!) and issued the ticket.)

            So howcome Arpaio could get away with trampling all over people’s rights for so long and nobody could do anything about it? There’s a gaping hole in the law somewhere.

            cr

  5. Randall Schenck
    Posted April 7, 2019 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Why not just bring back the guillotine. That would be my choice and certainly better than the nitrogen gas? Is that not the same liquid nitrogen you put in the ground as fertilizer? If so, you don’t want to die inhaling that stuff. It will kill you but would be very painful. I have had a few whiffs of that stuff, very nasty.

    • Rita Prangle
      Posted April 7, 2019 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

      I’ve had nitrogen gas at the dentist, it is also called “laughing gas”. I don’t know about the liquid nitrogen you’re talking about.

      • Taz
        Posted April 7, 2019 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think they’re talking about nitrous oxide (laughing gas).

      • Posted April 7, 2019 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

        I presume its replacing air with pure nitrogen. We know deep sea divers can suffer from nitrogen narcosis which may be the first stage of suffering nitrogen toxicity.

    • Caldwell
      Posted April 7, 2019 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      Is that not the same liquid nitrogen you put in the ground as fertilizer?

      No, it’s the same inert odorless nitrogen gas which makes up most of the Earth’s atmosphere.

      “Physiologically inert gases (those that have no toxic effect, but merely dilute oxygen) are generally free of odor and taste. As such, the human subject detects little abnormal sensation as the oxygen level falls. This leads to asphyxiation (death from lack of oxygen) without the painful and traumatic feeling of suffocation (the hypercapnic alarm response, which in humans arises mostly from carbon dioxide levels rising), … etc”

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted April 7, 2019 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

        Asphyxiation, sounds much better than what I was thinking but still painful.

        • Posted April 7, 2019 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

          Maybe not. Nitrogen narcosis with its associated state of euphoria would set in first.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted April 7, 2019 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

          Probably not painful. You’re not choking for lack of air, and your CO2 levels (which is what gives the ‘suffocating’ response) are normal or possibly lower (because there isn’t the O2 intake required to produce CO2 – but I don’t know that for sure). So you just ‘fall asleep’. Like anaesthesia.

          That’s my impression, anyway.

          The only downside is, if someone ‘rescues’ you halfway through you’ll probably be brain damaged due to lack of oxygen, but that’s common to many suicide methods.

          (*Liquid* nitrogen is highly dangerous to touch due to its extremely low temperature – but that’s exactly the same as liquid oxygen or liquid helium or liquid any-other-gas.)

          cr

          • Adam M.
            Posted April 7, 2019 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

            I can give an anecdote about inhaling too much helium. (As a kid I found a huge tank of it in a store bathroom…) I inhaled a few times and then just woke up on the floor. No warning or suffering at all prior to passing out. Didn’t learn my lesson since a similar thing happened with some helium balloons at a fair… just woke up lying in the grass.

            So I think inhaling nitrogen would be completely without suffering, except for the anticipation of death.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted April 8, 2019 at 7:15 am | Permalink

              I think that probably happens with any anaesthesia, properly done. Your account reminded me of a trans-oesophageal ultrasound scan I had (the transmitter (?) goes down your throat; they knock you out to avoid the choking reflex). One minute I was talking to the nurse, quite relaxed, and the next moment she was telling me the procedure was all over; and there was absolutely no interval in my consciousness between the two events. I would have expected a ‘fade’ at least, but I had NO memory of having lost consciousness at any point, not even a blip.

              cr

            • Posted April 9, 2019 at 6:04 am | Permalink

              Inhaling helium gas is favoured as a method of assisted suicide, and one of the methods suggested in The Peaceful Pill Handbook.

          • Posted April 8, 2019 at 10:34 am | Permalink

            CR: In a college human physiology lab we did an experiment on our selves related to this question. We breathed into a plastic bag. After a few breaths we would yank it off, gasping for air. Then we breathed into one with NaOH in it to absorb the CO2. In that case, our lab partner had to stand by to remove the bag when we started to pass out. (That was 50 some years ago; I’m not sure the same sort of self-experimentation would be encouraged today.)

        • Michael Waterhouse
          Posted April 8, 2019 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

          I think you need a build up of carbon dioxide to trigger the asphyxiation response.
          I forget the exact mechanism but it means that you can die from lack of oxygen without stress.
          Like some do with carbon monoxide from car exhausts.
          I think.

    • darrelle
      Posted April 8, 2019 at 6:47 am | Permalink

      Regarding the fertilizer, it is almost certainly ammonia (NH3) that you have smelled. We produce enormous amounts of ammonia and nearly 90% of it is used for fertilizer. It is very nasty stuff to breathe. If you’ve ever experienced smelling salts, that’s ammonia. One sniff is enough to wake the dead. Many sniffs of more concentrated ammonia can cause a miserable death.

    • Posted April 8, 2019 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      No nitrogen gas is virtually painless. It’s actually quite dangerous when used for non capital punishment reasons because you don’t know your body can’t tell you are breathing pure nitrogen. What makes you realise that you are about to asphyxiate is not low concentrations of oxygen but high concentrations of carbon dioxide.

      British ex politician Michael Portillo tried it out for himself (he didn’t go the whole way) in a documentary “How to Kill a Human” – you can probably find it on the Internet.

      The guillotine, by the way, was first introduced as a humane way to execute people. Before the guillotine, people in France were executed by having their heads cut off with an axe or a sword. Achieving a clean kill in one blow required a lot of skill on the part of the executioner, skill that they rarely possessed.

  6. Mark R.
    Posted April 7, 2019 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    SCOTUS is just another branch of the Republican Party now, following in line with the Republican’s cruelty and lack of empathy.

    • Historian
      Posted April 7, 2019 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

      Except for the relatively small “never Trumpers” what motivates the conservative movement more than anything is the appointment of conservative judges to the Supreme Court. Conservatives have varying expectations from the Court, including: overturning Roe v. Wade, deregulating the economy (including eviscerating environmental protections), supporting gun rights, killing Obamacare, expanding executive power (if there is a Republican in the White House), permitting states to reverse cultural advances such as gay rights, and allowing religion of the Christian variety to seep back in to the public sphere. Trump is doing their bidding by appointing arch conservatives to the Court. Thus, they will never desert Trump because he does their biding. The fact that he heads a crime family is of no significance. The Supreme Court will be Trump’s most damaging legacy that will still be with us decades after he leaves office.

      • murali
        Posted April 7, 2019 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

        Isn’t this a flaw (if at all) in the system? Trump did not do anything illegal to appoint the judges. The constitution is open to interpretation to the extent that appointing enough politically and culturally aligned judges can swing the decisions one way.
        The ‘cultural advances’ that you mention are only advances for some of the population in the US; for some others, they are a regression.

    • Posted April 7, 2019 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

      All nine justices are highly politicized. That was never intended, and up until recently, had never been the case.

      • Mark R.
        Posted April 7, 2019 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

        Yes, and this fact is one reason why we should abolish life-time appointments.

        • Historian
          Posted April 7, 2019 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

          I can’t see how abolishing life-time appointments would make the Court less political. It would mean that there would be many more contentious battles over the nominees, thus making the Court even more political. There may be good reasons for terms limits, but I don’t think this is one of them.

          • Mark R.
            Posted April 7, 2019 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

            I see your point, but now that 51 votes can nominate a new SCOTUS, I don’t see that more contentious battles over nominees really matters. Kavanough was contentious to the extreme, but he got through regardless. Term limits would at least keep a hack like Kavanough a limited time to hack.

  7. Rita Prangle
    Posted April 7, 2019 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    It seems insane to me that we still allow capital punishment in this day and age. Other more civilized countries stopped that barbaric practice years ago. Countries that do use the death penalty: China, Pakistan, Iran,North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Iraq.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 7, 2019 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

      Such is the company we keep.

      Our president, who claims the mantle of “sentencing reformer” — and who prides himself on having pardoned (at the suggestion of a Kardashian) Alice Marie Johnson, a convicted drug offender — incoherently suggests that the solution to this nation’s drug problem would be to follow the example of Presidents Duterte of the Philippines and Xi Jinping of China by executing all drug dealers.

  8. Posted April 7, 2019 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    I saw this on the news a day or two ago, I was horrified. It left me with a sick feeling, I almost vomited.

  9. Claudia Baker
    Posted April 7, 2019 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Excuse my language, but those are five sick fucks on the Supreme Court. Disgusting.

  10. Posted April 7, 2019 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    My opinion is that Mr. Bucklew and his lawyers are just sucking arguments out of their thumbs to postpone or abolish his execution, or at least to avenge it by wasting maximum possible time of SCOTUS (which, of course, is quite negligible harm to the world, compared to what he has already done – murder, rape, etc.).

    “Courts have ruled that if an inmate challenges the lethal-injection procedure, it’s up to him to suggest an alternative procedure that would be less painful. Bucklew’s lawyers argued that stipulating such alternatives in his particular case would be unconstitutional, as it’s unknown whether any alternative procedure would be less painful than lethal injection.”

    I have issues with law-speak comprehension, but what I get is that his lawyers are saying that any method of execution would be unconstitutional in his particular case. Bingo!

    I side with Gorsuch here.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 7, 2019 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

      Are you in favor of bring the death penalty back to Bulgaria, Maya, where, I believe, it was abolished a couple decades ago (as it has been in every other nation in Europe, save Belarus)?

      • BJ
        Posted April 7, 2019 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

        It seems to me that Jerry’s post and this comment are severely misrepresenting the opinion. The question at hand was not “is the death penalty itself cruel and unusual punishment/should the death penalty be outlawed?” The question of law at hand wasn’t anything close to that. And when I read the whole opinion — including the changing arguments by the lawyers, the precedents discussed, and the seeming evolution of the petitioner’s condition — I can see pretty clearly why the Justices made the decision they did.

        I oppose the death penalty and I think that, if we are to have it, it should be done the same way assisted suicide is done: with a deadly dose of barbiturates. But this case wasn’t a challenge regarding the entire idea of the death penalty.

        • Posted April 7, 2019 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

          Just read the ruling, will get to the dissent presently.

          On first pass I find the ruling sound.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted April 7, 2019 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

          I don’t know which “this comment” you’re referencing, BJ. I haven’t commented on the particular holding of Bucklew v. Precythe itself, although I have said, elsewhere in this thread (and elsewhere in other posts on this website, and elsewhere than on this website) that, were the issue to be presented directly in a case before SCOTUS, the Court should hold the death penalty unconstitutional.

          Do you disagree?

          • BJ
            Posted April 8, 2019 at 9:07 am | Permalink

            Hell no, I don’t disagree at all. The death penalty should be abolished, the prison system should be reformed and become rehabilitative rather than retributive, and we should reduce the prison population through various means (diversion programs, softer sentencing, etc.). I am a strong believer in a complete overhaul of the system, including abolishing the death penalty and drastically increasing the comfort of prisoners, as well as discarding cruel modes of punishment like solitary confinement.

            When I said “this comment,” I meant that, by countering mayamarkov’s views on the SCOTUS opinion by asking if she thinks Bulgaria should bring back the death penalty, it seemed like you were clearly implying that this case should have been decided by the Justices on the grounds of whether or not they thought the death penalty itself to be cruel and unusual punishment. If that’s not what you meant, I find your response confusing.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted April 8, 2019 at 10:27 am | Permalink

              I was simply responding to Maya’s final statement that she “side[s] with Gorsuch,” and wondering whether that implies she favors the capital punishment per se, and whether it implies she favors the repeal of its abolition in her own native country.

              • BJ
                Posted April 8, 2019 at 10:44 am | Permalink

                Gotcha.

      • Posted April 8, 2019 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

        For the moment, I am not.

        • Posted April 8, 2019 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

          At the same time, I would not tell another country that uses death penalty that they should abandon it.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted April 8, 2019 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      I’m not in favour of the death penalty (for several reasons that are not relevant here), but a cavernous hemangioma causing unbearable suffering is BS. These lawyers have been taken for a ride.
      A strong barbiturate (just an example, there are many other possibilities) knocks one out in seconds, with or without haemangioma.
      I wonder what is the matter with these ‘botched executions’, any medical student (they get training in anaesthesia) or vet can do it: painlessly and immediately knock out a human -or other vertebrate.
      Again, for all clarity, I oppose the death penalty.

      • Ken Kuke
        Posted April 8, 2019 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

        The American Medical Association has taken the position that it is unethical for doctors to actively participate in executions.

        I believe other medical professionals and the pharmaceutical industry have adopted similar positions.

        • Nicolaas Stempels
          Posted April 8, 2019 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

          Veterinarians?

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted April 10, 2019 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

            I think veterinarians have taken a similar position. In any event, what self-respecting vet — whose job it is to heal sick animals, and to put them down as a last resort, when compassion so dictates — wants to travel to a maximum security penitentiary to kill a healthy human being on the order of a governor and under the supervision of a warden?

            I suppose they might be able to pay some vet sufficient money to do so, if they put a hood over his head to hide his identity like ax executioners and hangmen of yore.

            • Nicolaas Stempels
              Posted April 14, 2019 at 7:34 am | Permalink

              Ai Ken, you put it so, how shall I say, vividly?

      • Michael Waterhouse
        Posted April 8, 2019 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

        I agree.

        People are dying painlessly all over the place due to accidental overdose.

        How hard can it be to do it on purpose.

        There is some concern when the size of the vertebrate becomes say horse size, where getting enough stuff in there to work quickly can be difficult. Which is why they still shoot horses don’t they.

        I do think the cavernous hemangioma thing is a dodge.

        But I am against the death penalty.

  11. Posted April 7, 2019 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    If you can’t outlaw the death penalty, i feel like a bullet or piston (eg. No Country For Old Men) to the head is the most humane. You are instantly knocked out, and then whatever dying you do is not felt. It’s cheap and simple and proven.

    Does any body know why we don’t use firing squads or bullet execusions any more?

    It baffles me that we make this process as expensive and convuluted as possible.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 7, 2019 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

      “… or piston (eg. No Country For Old Men) to the head is the most humane.”

      Good to know that, when it comes to applying the “evolving standards of decency for a civilized society,” we haven’t dropped below the Anton Chigurh test. 🙂

      • max blancke
        Posted April 7, 2019 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

        A fictional character is probably not to be considered our “standard of decency”. But the character uses, as a weapon, a device designed to be very quick, neat, painless, and inexpensive (per use).

        Plus- from the script-
        “Just how dangerous is he?”

        “Compared to what? The bubonic plague? He’s bad enough that you called me. He’s a psychopathic killer but so what? There’s plenty of them around”

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted April 7, 2019 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

      “a bullet or piston (eg. No Country For Old Men) to the head is the most humane. You are instantly knocked out, and then whatever dying you do is not felt.”

      Well, actually, no. Not always.

      There are a large number of cases of people who have been shot in the head who haven’t died.

      And firing squads don’t aim for the head, they aim for the heart (and quite frequently miss).

      Now if the ‘bullet to the head’ was actually a very heavy-gauge shotgun from close range, *then* it would probably be guaranteed lethal. Also, it wouldn’t leave much of the victim’s head in place, most of it would be scattered around the scenery. That would be probably the most guaranteed humane of any sudden-death method of execution, but also the most aesthetically unappealing to the execution personnel and the cleaners. So that ain’t going to happen.

      I favour nitrogen.

      But then, I’m opposed to the death penalty, largely on account of the considerable number of innocent people who get executed.

      cr

      • Posted April 7, 2019 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

        In this case, where we are discussing how to do something we think shouldn’t be happening, i would say fuck aesthetics. 1 to the heart and 1 to the head. I don’t think people feel a well placed bullet to the head. I’m betting it knocks you out before you have a chance to consciously recognize any pain. Quick and not feeling it has to be the most humane way to do this.

  12. Posted April 7, 2019 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    The whole cruel and unusual schtick baffles me.

    Unusual? hello? make any method the standard procedure and it will automatically become the usual method.

    The same absurdities can be applies to combat prohibitions on weapons. Its illegal to use chemical agents but fine to blow someones intestines out in a ditch using remote drone and leave them to die slowly over an hour or two.

    As a species we still have a long way to go before we can regard ourselves as truly civilised.

  13. Taz
    Posted April 7, 2019 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    Insisting that the prisoner work out all the details of the method of execution sounds a bit like forcing someone to dig their own grave.

    • Posted April 7, 2019 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      And certainly an extra layer of cruelty.

  14. Posted April 7, 2019 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    The guillotine was designed to be quick and to limit suffering.

    It’s also cheap.

    • Katkinkate
      Posted April 7, 2019 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

      … and reusable, environmentally friendly.

      • Posted April 7, 2019 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

        Not to mention, Halal.

      • tomh
        Posted April 7, 2019 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

        With the added benefit that you could then plant the heads on spikes as trophies, outside government offices.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted April 7, 2019 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

          We want the death penalty to have a deterrent effect, let’s broadcast ’em live on national tv, not hide ’em away like some perverted uncle’s dirty little secret.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted April 7, 2019 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

      Guillotine joke:

      In some small French colony, the Governor, Deputy Governor and Government Civil Engineer are caught plotting to secede, and sentenced to death for treason.
      So they lead the Governor to the guillotine, and it jams. They try again, it jams again. And a third time. So in accordance with custom, his sentenced is commuted to life imprisonment.
      Same thing happens with the Deputy Governor.
      So they get the Engineer, and it duly jams. And as they’re about to try again he looks up and says, “No, wait! I can see what the problem is…”

      (Okay, so it’s really a nerd joke)

      cr

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted April 8, 2019 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      The Guillotine was designed to circumvent incompetent or drunk executioners that had to hack several times before the head was severed. Beheading itself was of course an improvement on the wheel, the horse, the cross or other methods to torture and mutilate to death.
      However, I do not think that the guillotine is so humane (apart from the barbarism of execution in the first place) with our modern standards, how long is the severed head still conscious? a minute? two minutes? We don’t know for sure, because no severed head ever was in a position to recount the experience.
      No some morphine penthothal cocktail or barbiturate beats the guillotine in nearly every possible way.

      • Posted April 8, 2019 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

        As the SC ruling observed,

        The Eighth Amendment forbids “cruel and unusual” methods of capital punishment but does not guarantee a prisoner a painless death.

        I’m all for making executions as swift as possible. But all this hand-wringing over a few seconds more or less of suffering by absolutely monstrous creatures who inflicted immense suffering on others, is pathetic.

        • Nicolaas Stempels
          Posted April 14, 2019 at 7:43 am | Permalink

          The thing is not about these monstrous creatures not suffering per se, but it is about ourselves. We do not want to sink to a level where we inflict suffering, do we?
          I’m not 100% clear here, does that make some sense to you?

          • Posted April 14, 2019 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

            No, I follow that argument, and ascribed to it in the past. Now, I lean toward the view that society is healthier when some monstrous creature are gone for good.

            • Posted April 14, 2019 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

              Read ‘no’ as , ‘yes’, I make sense of it.

  15. another fred
    Posted April 7, 2019 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    In historical context “cruel and unusual” was obviously addressed toward such practices as drawing and quartering, burning at the stake, flaying, etc., where the purpose was to inflict agony and make a spectacle of punishment.

    Arguments for or against the death penalty are not the issue.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 7, 2019 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      And the First Amendment doesn’t say anything about “prior restraints” or “clear and present danger,” either. Hell, for that matter, the constitution never mentions a “right to association” or a “right to privacy” or a “right to travel freely from state to state.”

      Do you think the meaning of the Bill of Rights should be construed like a fly trapped in amber on December 15, 1791, the date of its ratification?

      • another fred
        Posted April 8, 2019 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

        “Do you think the meaning of the Bill of Rights should be construed like a fly trapped in amber on December 15, 1791, the date of its ratification?”

        Sorry for the late reply, but:

        My attitude towards the Constitution is probably different from 99% of the people one might “poll”. I believe that without any doubt the Constitution that was ratified – WITH the Bill of Rights – was a compromise between people with very important differences in their view of the ability of government to order citizen’s lives.

        The “burning issue” of slavery caused the compromise to be abrogated (coincidentally) in favor of those favoring a stronger role of government, and they rule – for now. I am not an idiot, I understand that the path “we” have taken (rather than that of Jefferson’s yeomen) demands a stronger role of government. The rule of those favoring a stronger role could not have been decided by Constitutional means, so the Judiciary has taken us there.

        I believe the departure from “original intent” is a reaction to other realities that are themselves a result of human nature (ambition mainly: see Panksepp: SEEKING). I am not one who thinks that a return to “original intent” would “save” the Republic, but that there is a price for “success”, but that’s beyond your question.

        DIRECTLY TO YOUR QUESTION: I don’t think it makes a nickle’s worth of difference given past history and human nature, but some individuals might profit from the contradiction, which creates some cognitive dissonance, being pointed out.

  16. tomh
    Posted April 7, 2019 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    This is the same 5-4 majority that decided in February that a Muslim death row inmate couldn’t have an Imam at his side when executed, as Alabama only would allow a Christian pastor in the chamber when he died, citing “security concerns.” They had to overturn an appeals court that had ruled, “If Ray were a Christian, he would have a profound benefit; because he is a Muslim, he is denied that benefit.”

  17. Posted April 7, 2019 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    Bucklew will die the same way as every horse I’ve had to put down.

    I wouldn’t shed a tear if he suffered at least as long as his victims.

    In March 1996, Russell Bucklew followed his former girlfriend, Stephanie Ray, to the trailer home of Michael Sanders, where she was living. Bucklew entered the trailer and shot Sanders. While Sanders bled to death, Bucklew handcuffed Ray, dragged her into his car, and drove away. Bucklew then raped Ray in the backseat of the car.

    • Michael Waterhouse
      Posted April 8, 2019 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

      I had heard that lethal injection for horses was difficult which was why they chose to shoot them.
      This was an issue at race meetings where it was a public and distressing event and people asked why not use injections.

      • Posted April 9, 2019 at 11:03 am | Permalink

        Because of their skull structure, it’s actually quite difficult to place a gunshot that will quickly kill a horse. I can see why shooting may be preferable to injecting if a horse is struggling and thrashing, though jabbing the horse first with a sedative would in most cases be entirely feasible.

        Standard euthanization of a horse: 1) I.V. a strong sedative; 2) I.V. into a main artery in the neck two very large syringes of pentobarbital. These go about as slow as the plunger on a french coffee press.

        On rare occasion, I’ve had weak horses drop after the first pentobarbital injection, making it somewhat more precarious for the vet to administer the second.

        Administering a much smaller dose to a convict strapped to a table should be a piece of cake.

        • Michael Waterhouse
          Posted April 10, 2019 at 2:33 am | Permalink

          Thank you for clarifying that.

          That sounds like a much better way to do it.

          I have been there when one of my cats had to go and, except for the strange environment and people, it was very peaceful without any hint of suffering.

  18. TNT
    Posted April 7, 2019 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    I oppose capital punishment because the state should not have the power to end its citizen’s lives. While some opponents of the death penalty (such as Dr. Coyne) say that it does not stop people from committing certain crimes the same criticism could be leveled against jail sentences in general. Hence, such a view holds little weight against capital punishment.

    There are two closely related arguments that might be a bit more convincing: 1) the state might execute legitimate innocent parties and 2) the state’s power to execute should be removed to prevent it from executing any of its citizens. (Please note that I am limiting the discussion to citizens for sake of brevity. I also hold that state shouldn’t be allowed to execute illegals or enemy combatants whom surrendered).

    Regardless of your views of the matter, the fact remains that the state might kill guilty and innocent people alike. In either instance, the state has the authority to end someone’s life. That’s unacceptable.

    On a final note, it is perfectly understandable that survivors of crimes or the relatives and friends of the deceased would want their predators to suffer and die. That seems like a psychologically normal reaction to one’s own pain and suffering. What does it matter to the parent if a wolf had no other choice but to eat their child? Many parents would want to torture and kill the wolf just the same. It seems to me that the restrained approach has its roots in religious thought. But that would require some research.

    • Posted April 7, 2019 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, but there are data shownig that the death penalty is not a deterrent. I suspect there are NO data showing that incarceration is not a deterrent. If you have them, please cite them before you post again here. I want data showing that putting people in jail for crimes does not deter crimes. And look up the Montreal police strike.

      And I made argument #1 in my post.

      • mura
        Posted April 7, 2019 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

        I have not seen any data either. I can imagine how such data might have been gathered had there been a recent change in, for example, the death penalty laws.

        Would you say that removing the laws that are used to punish crimes by incarceration and death would not affect the crime rate?

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 7, 2019 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

      “It seems to me that the restrained approach has its roots in religious thought.”

      So does “eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” in Exodus 21:24. Not sure why the religious origins of a doctrine should cut Euthyphro’s mustard anyway.

    • BJ
      Posted April 8, 2019 at 9:17 am | Permalink

      If the argument is that the state should never have the power to take a citizen’s life, you’d have to remove guns and other potentially lethal weaponry from all police and other intranational protection services. Every state that exists and has ever existed has the power (and, in my opinion, the right) to kill its citizens; the only question is what parameters are. Society is supposed to decide when and how lethal force should be applied. I think, for example, we can all agree that police officers should be able to shoot someone who is threatening others with a deadly weapons, or has already started killing people (e.g. a mass shooting). This is an example of the state having the power to end citizens’ lives.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted April 8, 2019 at 10:39 am | Permalink

        I believe a law enforcement officer’s right to use lethal force is limited to self-defense or the defense of the life of another. They certainly have no right to mete it out as any sort of punishment.

        • BJ
          Posted April 8, 2019 at 10:43 am | Permalink

          That’s basically what I said.

  19. eric
    Posted April 7, 2019 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    Horrible that SCOTUS would not even delay an execution for a week or two to prevent significant pain. If Roberts doesn’t flip to full-on liberal soon, his court is going to go down in history as the second-worst after Taney.

    On a more sarcastic note, the defendant missed a gallows-humor opportunity here. He should’ve requested execution by firing squad, and pointed out that the Missouri police force has substantial experience shooting unarmed, cooperating people.

    • Historian
      Posted April 7, 2019 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

      It would be quite remarkable for Roberts to become a liberal. On occasion, he may side with the liberals (such as he did to save Obamacare once before and may in the future), but he has always been a conservative and is likely to stay that way.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted April 8, 2019 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      I’m not sure what is used in executions by lethal injection in the US, but it is absolutely, unacceptably incompetent, as illustrated by these botched executions mentioned in earlier posts on this site.
      My vet does a better job. And if done properly the presence of a cavernous haemangioma makes no difference whatsoever. In that sense I can agree with the SC.
      (Need I mention again I’m not in favour of capital punishment?)

    • Michael Waterhouse
      Posted April 8, 2019 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

      I have recently taken an interest in the anti police arguments that are so popular now.

      I am not sure that they are all fair.

      Could you point me in the direction of the evidence for the Missouri police shooting substantial numbers of unarmed cooperating people, please.

    • Posted April 9, 2019 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      … the Missouri police force has substantial experience shooting unarmed, cooperating people.

      Whom do you refer to?

  20. pablo
    Posted April 7, 2019 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    I don’t have a moral problem with capital punishment. The state is empowered to kill for the protection of its citizens, otherwise we wouldn’t have an army. I only oppose capital punishment because the present justice system is so flawed it cannot usually determine guilt with sufficient accuracy.

    Also what is wrong with retributive punishment? Rehabilitation doesn’t(to my knowledge)have a great track record in regards to violent criminals; many of whom probably have some deficiency in their pre-frontal cortex.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 7, 2019 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

      And if we could identify those prefrontal cortex deficiencies with sufficient accuracy ahead of time (say, with at least the same accuracy which we now determine guilt after-the-fact), would you be down for executing such people before their innocent victims had to suffer and die?

      or is it all about the retribution part for you?

      • pablo
        Posted April 8, 2019 at 9:45 am | Permalink

        Yes I was advocating death camps. You read that exactly right.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted April 8, 2019 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

          I never claimed you advocated that, pablo; I asked you a straightforward hypothetical, based in part on the implication of your statement that “[t]he state is empowered to kill for the protection of its citizens …”

          You can answer it or not, as you see fit.

    • BJ
      Posted April 8, 2019 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      You should look up studies on the success of rehabilitative versus retributive justice systems. The rehabilitative systems have far lower recidivism rates, which should be the ultimate goal: reducing crime and ensuring that those who do commit crimes do not continue to commit them upon release from prison.

      • Nicolaas Stempels
        Posted April 8, 2019 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

        I think the Norway system is a case in point there.

  21. Posted April 7, 2019 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    Bad decision. Time capital punishment was banned in US.

    Strange to me that the state did not comply with the request and use the other authorized form of execution. Appears to me they have not developed the proscess and it is not in fact available. But if they list it as an alternative they should have the procedure developed and ready before listing it as an alternative. Sounds like the state is furnishing false information and deceptive practices.

  22. Posted April 7, 2019 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    I just don’t understand why we need to debate the most humane way to kill someone when we can achieve the same result with life without parole. In some ways being locked in a cage until you die is worse than death, if revenge is the purpose. It also has the advantage of being reversible (partially) should exculpatory evidence be found.

    • Posted April 7, 2019 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

      Then again, Charles Manson- who lived half his life in-and-out of prison *before* he became ‘famous’ for Sharon Tate’s murder, managed to do quite well for himself in prison. Four TV interviews in the 80’s, drug trafficking from his cell, *and* recording a record album, never released.

      He also continued to be popular with female penpals, one who was set on marrying him.

      That, and the 12 parole hearings (stopped in 2012)at which relatives of his victims felt compelled to attend, made him the poster-child for people who supported the death penalty.

      • Posted April 7, 2019 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

        Manson is a diagnosed schizophrenic, so he should not be a poster child for capital punishment. Unless one argues it is okay to kill the mentally ill. He should, and has, been prevented from causing further harm. As for the rest, those are imperfections in the penal system and should be corrected. But I don’t think an imperfect system is a great argument for capital punishment.

        • Posted April 7, 2019 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

          PS The parole hearings wouldn’t happen with LWOP.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted April 7, 2019 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

        Do you think that’s a valid argument to justify capital punishment?

        Can you point to a single jurisdiction in the United States that has ever delineated a system by which judges and juries can reliably and consistently identify the Charles Mansons of the world from the thousands of other defendants charged with capital crimes every year?

        Do you have a constructive suggestion for how such a system might function?

        • Posted April 7, 2019 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

          No I don’t. But I can certainly identify with the relatives of the victims of the crime and how *they* feel.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted April 7, 2019 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

            Ah, revenge.

            I rather think that principle of justice was discontinued (at least in the more advanced societies such as Mediaeval England) some time in the Middle Ages, when it was established that the King had the sole right and responsibility of meting out justice, impartially, and the victims’ families were not.

            That was the ideal, anyway.

            cr

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted April 8, 2019 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      In fact, ‘life without parole’ is one of the very few -and weak- arguments in favour of the death penalty, IMMO.

  23. Randall Schenck
    Posted April 7, 2019 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    To just throw in two more cents regarding the court and history – in my reading and understanding of what took place in 1787, there was really no understanding or idea that the Supreme Court would have the power it does today. Certainly Madison did not think so and neither did Hamilton.

    Look at how much space they spent in the constitution concerning the court. The legislature was suppose to have the power and make the laws. Much of the change regarding the court and the legislature has occurred through evolution and frankly what they could get away with. We have a congress that does not have the guts to do the job assigned to them and have simply given away much of their given power to the executive and the court.

    It was never the intention of the founders that a court of 9 people would be making the important final say on such things as guns, on abortion and many other things. It is the gutless congress that has refused their own authority and refused to act. All we do is cry about the damn courts and the judges when that is not what was suppose to be in the first place. Your congress is shit and therefore, your govt. is shit.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 7, 2019 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

      “Much of the change regarding the court and the legislature has occurred through evolution and frankly what they could get away with.”

      The origin story traces back to Chief Justice John Marshall’s pronouncement for the Court in Marbury v. Madison, the 1803 Supreme Court case that established the doctrine of “judicial review,” that “[i]t is emphatically the duty of the Judicial Department to say what the law is.”

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted April 7, 2019 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

        Ken, the way I understand it is the court gets judicial review but that is not to say the court gets to make the law. They get to look for something in the act of congress or the executive that might be contrary to the constitution. That is not the same as making the law. If the congress, who has the duty to make the laws, sits on their hands and does nothing then the court simply does it for them. This is what has been happening for years. They did nothing on abortion so the court did it for them. Show me where the congress did anything on abortion. They do almost nothing on regulation of guns so the court does it for them. It is a joke.

        The idea that a hand full of un-elected lawyers would be determining the final act on all of these matters is ridiculous.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted April 7, 2019 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

          Speaking of abortion rights, Randy, since the confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh, several states, such as Louisiana and Arkansas, have been emboldened to pass laws that would make abortion all but unavailable within their state borders. They seem to be itching for a full frontal attack on Roe v. Wade.

          I think they may be still be a vote short, since I don’t think Chief Justice Roberts (even though he staunchly opposes abortion rights personally) will supply the deciding fifth vote to overrule Roe out of institutional concerns over the Court’s perceived legitimacy.

          But inasmuch as it takes just four votes for the Court to grant certiorari to hear a case — though five votes to provide a binding majority opinion — if the Court should hear such a case, yet not overrule Roe outright, there’re gonna be a whole lotta pissed off evangelical voters, since their main reason for supporting Republican candidates so staunchly was to get judges who would accomplish this appointed.

          They’ll feel they’ve spent lo these many years marching across the dessert only to reach Mount Nebo, like Moses, yet be denied entry to the Promised Land.

          • Randall Schenck
            Posted April 8, 2019 at 6:24 am | Permalink

            So again, all the action against abortion or even for abortion is simply at the state level. From there it passes to the supreme court. Where is the congress? They are as always, permanently out to lunch. Same with many other issues. If you do not make law, you are not in the game. Therefore, the law will be made by a handful of lawyers so we can all cry about who is on the court. So you just accept this as the way it is suppose to be?

            What happens is, the agency that makes decisions and takes chances, wins. The law loses. Look at the current issue with Trump taxes. The congress has everything on their side, including the law but guess what, they do not have his taxes.

            We have total access to all the guns we want in this country. Why, because we are allowing that same handful of lawyers to make the law. King George was a walk in the park compared to what we have allowed in our own system. Again, Congress is a joke.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted April 8, 2019 at 7:12 am | Permalink

              Far be it from me to defend congress, Randy, since I think it’s fallen down on the job — both generally over the past couple generations, and more specifically recently during the two years of the all-Republican congress during the Trump presidency.

              But part of the problem you complain of is inherent in the structure of our constitution itself. The federal government is one of limited powers. Congress has only such authority to legislate as is enumerated in Section 8 of Article 1 of the constitution (although congress has at times used its authority under the “commerce clause” of Section 8 to legislate in matters that relate to “commerce” itself tangentially at best). Other than the authority granted it by the constitution, congress is powerless to pass laws compelling the states, or the people of the states, to take or desist from taking any action.

              The Supreme Court, on the other hand, is charged with passing upon any and all laws, state or federal, the violate the US constitution.

              In the context of the abortion issue, this means that congress has no express authority under Article 1, Section 8 to pass laws guaranteeing the right to abortion, but but SCOTUS has the authority to strike down state laws that violate the “right to privacy” (including the right to reproductive freedom) that has been held to be implied in the Bill of Rights.

              • Randall Schenck
                Posted April 8, 2019 at 9:20 am | Permalink

                If you surrender your authority to others, eventually you will have few and your powers will be diminished. To make laws regarding reproduction, gun control, tax policies and many other issues is well within the legislative authority. Specific to section 8 is not the standard and any number of examples of past legislation applies. Does the Congress not legislate regarding drivers licenses in the U.S. because it is not specifically addressed in the constitution? No, they simply surrendered the job to the states. But then why did they legislate all matters regarding flying. If all matters not specifically given to Congress belong to the states, why don’t the states handle this? We have surrendered or made rules within our govt. to excuse responsibility and that is why we have a few lawyers handling a great deal of legislation instead of Congress who was elected for this purpose.

          • Nicolaas Stempels
            Posted April 8, 2019 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

            Ken, I noted that Justice Kavanaugh recently voted in favour of blocking some anti-abortion action. I’m sure Justice Kavanaugh will defend Mr Trump, I’m much less sure he is against RvsW. Only time will tell..

            BEERS FOR BRETT!

  24. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted April 7, 2019 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    “or how the State might ensure the safety of the execution team, including protecting them against the risk of gas leaks.”

    Whaaat? It’s NITROGEN, you wanking morons. You know, the stuff that makes up 78% of air anyway. Not cyanide.

    It would only be a hazard if it leaked so fast it displaced all the air in the vicinity. It’s less dangerous than oxygen, ffs.

    Where did these dumb fucks get their education?

    If I ever have to commit suicide (like, because I’m faced with something terminal and we (NZ) still don’t have a decent euthanasia law) it will probably – subject to a lot more Googling – be with nitrogen.

    cr

    • Posted April 7, 2019 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

      Yes, the prisoner dies from oxygen deprivation, not nitrogen poisoning. No different than smothering with a pillow.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted April 7, 2019 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

        “No different than smothering with a pillow.”

        And a certain poetic justice to it, too, since that’s how the Trumpist paranoid rightwing is convinced Killery offed Nino Scalia to create the vacancy that Gorsuch filled. 🙂

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted April 8, 2019 at 7:34 am | Permalink

        Well, actually, a bit different (though I agree with your first sentence). First, the absence of the physical sensation of the pillow stopping your breathing. Second, smothering with a pillow must inevitably lead to CO2 build-up and the resulting ‘suffocation’ sensation, where freely breathing nitrogen doesn’t.

        cr

        • Nicolaas Stempels
          Posted April 8, 2019 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

          Good point. So why not the ‘soft hanging’? Apparently it gives an orgasm before losing consciousness. In fact deaths due to ‘near soft hangings’ as a ‘sexual play’ gone awry are not unheard of.

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted April 8, 2019 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

            Erotic asphyxiation. Kenny from South Park & Dr. Lloyd [below] say it ain’t just a reduction of oxygen to the brain.

            Dr. E L Lloyd (29 March 1986)
            “Points: Hallucinations, hypoxia, and neurotransmitters”
            British Medical Journal Volume 292: 903
            LINK

            Dr. E L Lloyd points out that elements of erotic asphyxiation [such as hallucinations] don’t occur during aircraft decompression at altitude & other similar examples. There seems to be abnormalities in the brains of those who auto-asphyxiate: “…in the cerebral neurochemistry involving one or more of the interconnected neurotransmitters, dopamine, serotonin & beta-endorphin had been reported in all the conditions associated with hallucinations” although it isn’t clear to me what he’s suggesting. And I don’t think he’s contacted autoerotic hobbyists [or whatever it is they call themselves – wankhankwangdiddlyists?].

            I note that nearly all [sort of 99%] wankhangwangdiddlyists are male.

    • Posted April 8, 2019 at 6:29 am | Permalink

      Messing with the Nitrox mix is how some divers cash in their chips when they’ve decided to sleep with the fishes. Nitrogen doesnt stimulate the suffocation reflex (Co2 does that) so its totally peaceful

    • EdwardM
      Posted April 8, 2019 at 10:04 am | Permalink

      They are neither morons nor dumbfucks.

      I work in a research laboratory and in the room where our LN2 tanks are stored is an O2 sensor for precisely this reason – to warn of a drop in O2 levels because of a leak. A quick googling reveals dozens of such accidents involving many fatalities. The gas itself is harmless, but it can and it does kill.

  25. bewilderbeast
    Posted April 7, 2019 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    I recoil in horror. I am ashamed that I am an ‘honorary citizen’ of this country I love. I still love it, but I am aghast. Horrified by this dark spell its going through. A petulant discussion by its most powerful men of how it is irritating that a condemned man would make every possible appeal to save his life!! Condemned people are not asking for their freedom, just not to be judicially murdered. It just stuns me how ‘Christians’ can say “Fuck Jesus” so bluntly; and how evidence can be ignored by the very men who should value evidence (eg. the very flimsy evidence for the death penalty and the real evidence that ‘guilty’ people are sometimes later proven innocent).

  26. Posted April 8, 2019 at 6:27 am | Permalink

    I used to think that the the Chinese government had cornered the market when it came to vicious, humiliating, state-approved, cruetly that carries the imprimatur of legality.
    Making your relatives pay for the bullet that killed you was going to take some beating.
    But I worried in vain. Its good to see that the U.S.A. have not sat idly by and let China walk away with that prize. Go U.S.A.! Making a man describe in excrutiating detail his own means of execution, then throw it back for technicalities. Bravo! You are an example to dictatorships the world over. Shining City on the Hill indeed.

  27. Posted April 8, 2019 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Hmmmm…just wondering: are you pro-choice? Because being pro-choice and anti-death penalties are at extreme opposites of the pole? From a curious reader.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted April 8, 2019 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      They may be at opposite ends of your pole, but many do not see it that way. One could ask the same of the conservative religious right – how can they condemn pro choice wanting to regulate personal reproduction but then say after the child is born you are on your own.

      To put pro choice (a woman’s reproductive decision) equal with your opinion on capital punishment takes some strange and wrong thinking.

      • Posted April 9, 2019 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

        I guess we will have to agree to disagree on this issue.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted April 8, 2019 at 11:11 am | Permalink

      Why don’t you say what your position is exactly on abortion & capital punishment? And why those positions.

      Seems unfair to be asking for PCC[E]’s positions whilst remaining mute yourself! From your Gravatar I see you are a “conservative” [whatever that is] & a bibliophile – is the latter your moral foundation? And how does it apply to the two big issues you specify?

      Michael the anti-theist atheist.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted April 8, 2019 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

        Brain futz: bibliophile got tangled in my head with the Bible. Apologies for that. Sleep deprivation!

      • Posted April 9, 2019 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

        I’d rather remain neutral and not put forth my opinion in order to avoid being media mobbed.

        • tomh
          Posted April 9, 2019 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

          Can’t be too careful, “media mobbed” sounds scary.

          • Posted April 9, 2019 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

            not scary — just a bunch of liberal lunatics doing what they do best! LOL!

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted April 8, 2019 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

      Themama1836, the thing is that pro-choice proponents do not consider a zygote, gastrula, embryo or early foetus a human being. And they have some good arguments for that (if you want I can expand on that, but it suffices here, I’d think, to realise they do have arguments).
      Hence no, not ‘extreme opposites of the pole’, not at all.

      • Posted April 9, 2019 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

        I beg to differ, but I guess we will have to agree to disagree on that.

    • Michael Waterhouse
      Posted April 8, 2019 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

      The day a fetus or embryo can contemplate its own suffering and describe to us a way in which it may be reduced is the day when ‘some’ anti abortionist argument carry any weight at all.

      But of course that can’t happen, period, so your attempt at any sort of comparison is completely lacking any validity.

      Then we would come to the issue of bodily autonomy and freedom from slavery.

      No one is ever going to make the case that we keep prisoners alive by hooking them up with tubes and wires to some other person such that their continuing existence depends on the loss of bodily autonomy to someone else, say, you,
      Nod to Thomson, 1971.

      • Posted April 9, 2019 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

        I guess we will just have to agree to disagree on this issue.

        • Michael Waterhouse
          Posted April 10, 2019 at 2:41 am | Permalink

          No, I don’t agree to that.
          If opinions like yours were only personal opinions and remained only personal opinions, then yes, but while there is so much activism intruding on women’s health and well being and bodily autonomy, then no.

          Causing so much suffering to something, someone for the sake of a thing that doesn’t is wrong.

  28. Posted April 8, 2019 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Sorry, made a mistake in punctuation again — meant to put a period after “pole,” and I can’t edit it.

  29. Posted April 8, 2019 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    It’s interesting how the methods of killing prisoners (with the largest prison popilation of the world*) have moved towards hiding the damage and suffering inflicted on the body.

    It would be more humane to blindfold and anesthetize someone, and kill them with a bolt to the head. Or throw them out of a helicopter, or into a wood-chipper, for that matter. But of course the Pro-Death reactionaries wouldn’t want to see that, so they’re coming up with all these methods that inflict the damage to internal organs, unseen to the naked eye; and as we learn today, don’t care whether it causes suffering. It’s all hypocritical: in the USA, “humane” is a code word for “kill them, but such that it doesn’t turn my stomach around”.

    I love the USA — the ideal (and also its national parks), and consider myself transatlantic. I want nations that champion Enlightenment values, freedom from oppression, but also freedom from harships and suffering (through humanism, progress, and education). Unfortunately, the USA that is in the news every day is quite far away from that ideal. No matter how hard Hollywood and its cultural industries tries to paper over it, the black mould oozing in from reality comes through.

    ——–
    Ref: “The United States has the largest prison population in the world, and the highest per-capita incarceration rate.”


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