Well, maybe ax makers didn't care if they were used in executions
I was wrong.
What I was wrong about makes for an even more interesting story.
In my column last week I wrote about the death penalty and the objections of a Danish pharmaceutical company to Florida's (among other states) use of one of its drugs in the execution of condemned prisoners.
"We are adamantly opposed to the use of Nembutal to execute prisoners because it contradicts everything we are in business to do - provide therapies that improve people's lives," Staffan Schuberg, president of Lundbeck Inc., wrote in a May 16 letter to Gov. Rick Scott.
The courts, too, have an interest in Florida's use of pentobarbital in the execution of Manuel Valle, a convicted cop killer.
On Wednesday Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jacqueline Hogan Scola rejected Valle's appeal challenging the constitutionality of Nembutal, generically called pentobarbital. An execution date has not been set.
This case will end up in front of the Florida Supreme Court before the end of the month.
In my column last week I said U.S. executions are on the decline and that evolving standards mean the death penalty is on the way out, using the angels-dancing-on-the-head-of-a-pin argument about pentobarbital as an example of that evolution.
After all, I pithily concluded, the power company didn't object to the misuse of its electricity when Florida's "Old Sparky" was in use before 2000.
Yes it did.
The beginning of electrocution as a means of executions goes back to the late 19th century and is tangled up in a marketing campaign and clash of business titans.
How very American.
Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse had competing power-delivery systems, direct current (Edison) and alternating current (Westinghouse).
It was the Beta vs. VHS of its day, if you will. Edison was an opponent of capital punishment, but marketing trumped scruples.
Among the differentiating characteristics of AC and DC electricity was safety. Both Westinghouse and Edison claimed the safer product.
Edison told a commission of the New York state Legislature that electricity was a fine way to execute someone, at least if they used AC, particularly a generator "manufactured principally ... by George Westinghouse."
Westinghouse paid for the condemned man's lawyers to challenge the state of New York, objecting to its use of his dynamos to deliver a deadly dose of voltage to a human being as cruel and unusual punishment (and, not coincidentally, very bad publicity for Westinghouse).
This is all according to author Richard Moran's "Executioner's Current: Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse and the Invention of the Electric Chair."
Westinghouse refused to sell the state's contractor the dynamos to power the electric chair.
Didn't matter. The guy got AC generators from a secondary source out of state.
Sound familiar to the shenanigans of some states to get hold of the previously used sodium thiopental illegally from a U.K. source?
So, as it turns out, the power company HAS objected to the use of its juice to execute a prisoner, despite my lame joke.
It's also likely it was never a possibility in Florida for the utility to raise such an issue.
Though the Department of Corrections hasn't confirmed this, I'm told reliably that when the electric chair was Florida's primary means of execution (it remains an option for condemned prisoner's to choose), prison officials fired up their own generator to produce the power.