Posted on Tue, Jan. 08, 2008
The Associated Press
Here are excerpts from editorials in newspapers in Florida:
The (Fort Myers) News-Press, on how the complicated three-drug "cocktail" used in Florida executions should be changed:
Florida and other states that use drugs to execute capital criminals should stop dragging their feet and change the prescription.
It's pretty clear now that the three-drug cocktail developed as a humane alternative to the electric chair or gas chamber is itself unreliable. There's a better way, readily available, but someone needs to take the lead. It should be Florida, which has been studying the matter since the last botched lethal injection.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Monday on whether it violates the constitutional ban on cruel punishment to use methods that carry an unnecessary risk of pain and suffering, and if an alternative is available.
The simple sodium pentobarbital overdose used to put down pets is apparently more reliably painless than the complicated three-drug "cocktail" in general use in executions. Sodium pentobarbital can cause involuntary muscular contractions that are gruesome to watch but are not evidence of suffering.
We need to apply the least painful, most effective method of execution, not because murderers deserve humane treatment but because we are not a nation of torturers. It's for our sake, not theirs.
Exceptionally brutal crimes demand capital punishment, in the name of justice. The argument that the death penalty deters crime is hard to make. It may in some cases. Generally, the evidence is inconclusive.
But if we are going to use capital punishment, we have several moral obligations, the first of which is to be as sure as possible of the suspect's guilt. The use of DNA has exonerated a painfully large number of men on death row, but not enough to invalidate execution. We just need to try harder, and one way is to spend what it takes to make full use of DNA technology, and to provide defendants with competent lawyers and appeals.
We should also move cases along more briskly. There is no good reason for men to linger for 15 or 20 years or longer on death row. If there is a question about their guilt, lift their death penalty.
And finally, the method of execution should be reasonably humane.
In sodium pentobarbital we have such a method. We should use it, without being forced to by the high court.