Monday, 29 November 2010

Clive Stafford-Smith: In Favour Of Some Form Of Death Penalty, Then..?

Clive Stafford-Smith is in ‘CiF’ whining (yet again) about the US death penalty. This time, it’s the drugs used that rouses his ire:
Some find it counterintuitive that an anaesthetic can cause pain during an execution, but if the anaesthetic does not work, then the prisoner is first paralysed and then poisoned in a particularly painful way. Unfortunately, the probability of such a mistake is very high, no matter what the drug the executioner may use.
Doctors' ethics prohibit them from taking part in an execution, so the prison must ask one of its employees to mix up the drugs, and then "administer" them.
Simple answer, then. Point out to the doctors that their oh-so-principled policy is causing suffering, rather than alleviating it.
It is ironic that sodium thiopental was abandoned by veterinarians on both sides of the Atlantic some years ago, as it was consider unreliable, the side effects unacceptably painful. So, we currently kill people with drugs we would not use on animals.
So, now they are going to use a drug that IS used on animals instead. Has that made Clive happy?
Oooooh, no:
Perhaps this gave the Oklahoma authorities an idea: the condemned prisoners are, in populist parlance, no better than animals. Rather than look for more sodium thiopental, Oklahoma has chosen to turn to the vets for help. They have asked the court for permission to execute John Duty on 16 December – just in time for Christmas – with phenobarbitol, the drug the vets currently use to kill dogs.
It’s the humane thing to do…
One of the sidebars of the execution debate involves the people who design each method of execution. Dr Jay Chapman is generally credited with selecting sodium thiopental 30 years ago for use in executions. No great humanist, he is baffled by the suggestion that we cannot put prisoners to death as we put down animals: "If they have a bit of pain exiting this world, it is of no great concern to me."
Me neither. The animals are innocent. Not so these convicted criminals…

Oh. This chap’s offence? I’m glad you asked, because it’s never mentioned in Stafford-Smith’s little diatribe, and for (no doubt) good reason.

Thanks to a commenter, MoveAnyMountain, we can see that he killed a fellow inmate for kicks and with malice aforethought, and then wrote a letter to the lad’s mother, boasting of his crime.

So, I guess we can deduce from this that Stafford-Smith is rather blasé about convicts being subject to the death penalty when it’s administered by other convicts.

15 comments:

David Duff said...

"Doctors' ethics prohibit them from taking part in an execution

And anyway, most of them are far too busy doing abortions!

tolkein said...

I'm afraid I regard capital punishment in a civilised state as barbaric. I am glad doctors' ethics prevent them taking part. I just wish their ethics prevented all of them, not just most, from taking part in abortions.

You see, I think doctors should be saving lives, not taking them.

Anonymous said...

"Simple answer, then. Point out to the doctors
that their oh-so-principled policy is causing
suffering, rather than alleviating it."

1. Carrying out an execution is not alleviating suffering.

2. Doctors do not cause suffering by not participating. Any suffering is down to the person administering the lethal injection.


Doctors (as a group) have nothing to do with this. Judicial execution is not medicine.

An individual with medical training might choose to participate - that's their business, but you can't force someone to carry out an execution just because they've been to medical school.

The Swimmer.

Angry Exile said...

CSS is batting a sticky wicket here. Could the lethal injection process be screwed up so as to cause the condemned a painful exit? Sure it can, and while it may be of no concern to some, even a majority, if it's deemed "cruel and unusual" then it's not allowed by the Eight Amendment. But it's not too hard to devise a process to pretty much rule out the kind of dosage problem that CSS is worried about without dreaming up some epic incompetence. Stick a whole pint in, add a huge dose of heroin before anything else so he's too high to feel pain (or indeed ever come down again anyway), find alternative drugs, use an entirely different means of execution.

The options to fix CSS's objections are limited only by humanity's imagination and ingenuity, and this because he's ignoring the really big problem with capital punishment. Not only do you need to have complete trust in the current government not to abuse and extend it, but also the next government. And the next. And the next. And so on. Trust the Massively Foreheaded One? Even if I did what if he continues to sell the UK out to Europe? You'd also need to trust the Commission and Hertz Van Rental or whatever the current Pres/spokesprick is called. Even if you trust both or iDave restores UK sovereignty - excuse me one moment...
ahahahahahahahahaha, as if
- sorry, yes if iDave does that you still need to have the same level of trust in Red Ed and his mob. And that applies to all the successors to those running the UK.

Hexe Froschbein said...

The entire thing reminds me of a guy I knew who kept poisonous tropical fish(just because he could and it looked cool), with the difference that the fish were actually quite nice guys.

That's all this writer wants, a dangerous pet he can pose with as if he in his moral superiority would have control over the beast. Similar to people who argue to not put down dogs that bit once already because "it's not his fault and he won't do it again and I can rehab him, all he needs is love..." and other lunatic ideas.

Talking of pet keeping... tolkein, how about the following compromise: we set up your pets in a closed jail and everyone like you can donate via PayPal to keep your cute charges in food and entertainment.

That way you can completely celebrate your Jesus complex(tm) ad show to the world how compassionate your really are, and we get to keep some much needed money that we could for example buy cancer drugs with.

Rightwinggit said...

9mm back of head.

Job done.

banned said...

I'm with Rightwinggit, the Chinese just walk into the cell and shoot the condemned in the back of the head. Less time to get all stressed out and better than being tortured to death with chemicals.

Angry Exile said...

Ah, China. That well known bastion of personal freedom and individual liberty where the government never exceeds itself - a model for the west to emulate. ;-) Alternatively why not go for something even more cost effective. A bullet can only be used once whereas a nice sharp sword can cut heads off over and over and over again. Not just heads either - much harder for thieves to run off with as much as they can carry if you cut a hand off for a first offence and a foot for the second. If cost is the only issue you're worried about then perhaps Sharia is the example we should be following, yes? And just trust that the cutting heads off thing doesn't later lead to people being hanged for being gay or being stoned because hubby thinks they've been playing away from home.

I'm sure that no-one who comes here regularly would need more than a nanosecond's thought to reject Sharia despite its provision for quick and cost effective executions. And since people there can also be wasted by the state for such things as smuggling, fraud, counterfeiting, selling fake medicines and rape - and the Ambush Predator has become a bit of an authority on how often the justice system gets that wrong in the UK - I'm also pretty sure that you wouldn't really want to emulate China either.

Incidentally, on my earlier post I forgot to mention something important. I'm not anti-capital punishment because I give the remotest fuck about the lives of murderers. Frankly the more of them that are daft enough to resist arrest by heavily armed police, the better. However, I do value my own skin very highly indeed and while I'm no murderer or friend to one I don't trust governments not to one day make something that I do do - bitch about the government, for example - a capital crime.

JuliaM said...

"And anyway, most of them are far too busy doing abortions!"

Well, quite! It seems that despite being able to convince themselves that a foetus isn't a potential human, they can somehow convince themselves that a stone-cold killer is...

"You see, I think doctors should be saving lives, not taking them."

Instead, they are quite happy to see others get their hands dirty. Some 'ethics'...

"Doctors do not cause suffering by not participating. Any suffering is down to the person administering the lethal injection."

Never heard of a sin of omission? As I said, some 'ethics'...

JuliaM said...

"...and this because he's ignoring the really big problem with capital punishment. "

Do you think he's just covering all the bases?

Or has he realised that, for many people, the straw that broke the camel's back came a long time ago and people are no longer prepared to listen to his other complaints?

"That's all this writer wants, a dangerous pet he can pose with as if he in his moral superiority would have control over the beast. "

Stafford-Smith strikes me as the sort who would have no problems believing that his own moral superiority would have control over anything...

"I'm with Rightwinggit, the Chinese just walk into the cell and shoot the condemned in the back of the head. Less time to get all stressed out and better than being tortured to death with chemicals."

I think even with the budget crisis, we'd be hard put to justify billing the family for the ammo though... ;)

JuliaM said...

"Incidentally, on my earlier post I forgot to mention something important. I'm not anti-capital punishment because I give the remotest fuck about the lives of murderers. Frankly the more of them that are daft enough to resist arrest by heavily armed police, the better."

I think a lot of the rumbling over CP in the UK is because when it was abolished, the unspoken agreement was that life in jail with no hope of parole would replace it.

How'd that work out?

Angry Exile said...

"I think a lot of the rumbling over CP in the UK is because when it was abolished, the unspoken agreement was that life in jail with no hope of parole would replace it.

How'd that work out?"


We both know the answer, though I feel it adds weight to my main argument that government is not to be and cannot possibly be trusted long term. And if we can't trust its word over life sentences how can we trust it over death sentences? That it broke faith in one direction as opposed to the other is irrelevant - all that matters is it broke faith. In any case I harbour some doubt over the existence of this "unspoken agreement" since it's nearly impossible to tell it apart from an incorrect assumption on the part of the press and public in the late 50s / early 60s. If it happened today I'm pretty sure politicians on both sides of the House would allow such an assumption to go uncorrected, and it doesn't seem to much of a stretch that the same thing might have happened then. Political deceit isn't exactly unprecedented, especially when it's merely deceit by omission, and it doesn't really alter my argument since how the government broke faith is just as irrelevant as in which direction it did so. It could just as easily be an unspoken agreement not to execute anyone but murderers that will eventually be broken when they start executing people for other crimes. Had that happened fifty years ago it's quite possible that some of the innocent not-actually-rapists arrested on the strength of lies that you've written about would now be dead, courtesy of the public desire for a fundamentally untrustworthy state to have the power of death over its subjects.

There are problems with life sentences without hope of parole as well, at least if used as the norm rather than the exception, but that's another box of worms. I certainly don't deny that unreasonably light sentencing is a problem because it clearly is, but I'd also add that the UK has a lot of prisoners doing time for victimless crimes and so overly harsh sentencing is also a problem. In fact it's part of the problem because they're taking up jail space that could be occupied by a real bastard, a real bastard who's possibly going to get early release because it helps manage prison overcrowding (/facepalm).

banned said...

a lot of the rumbling over CP in the UK is because when it was abolished, the unspoken agreement was that life in jail with no hope of parole would replace it.

There was nothing unspoken about it at all. That was what we were explicitly promised, time and again. The quid pro quo for abolition was for life to mean life, not 10, -50% for 'good behaviour'.

Mr. Exile, my point about being shot in the back of the head is that the Chinese see it as more humane than the USs long drawn out execution procedures; my comment does not reflect my views on capital punishment which are that it is wrong simply because of the number of mistakes any organisation can make. You can't get compo when you are dead.

Angry Exile said...

Mr. Exile, my point about being shot in the back of the head is that the Chinese see it as more humane...

Ah, point taken. In fairness it wouldn't be the first time I've heard someone seriously suggest that prisoners should be dragged out and shot. Text only communication being what it is I misunderstood you there. Sorry.

As for abolition being in exchange for life meaning life and whether it was explicit or inferred, I wasn't around at the time and so far I can't find a contemporary source saying one way or the other. My parents certainly were under the impression that life would mean life but neither could ever point me in the direction of anything in writing. I'm sure it'd be in Hansard but it doesn't go back far enough online, and so far I've not got anywhere with old newspaper articles. Not saying it wasn't said, just that I'm struggling to find it. Either way it still shows that government can't be trusted: if they promised life would mean life, or even allowed the impression to go uncorrected, and then every government since broke it then there's no reason to believe them if they said they would bring back the death penalty but only for the worst murderers. You could never be sure that the next government wouldn't make watching anything with Simon Cowell in it a capital offence.

And before you ask, no, not even for Simon Cowell.
:-)

dr cromarty said...

Phenobarb is a very good drug and CSS is an ignoramus.

It is VERY successfully used in the terminally ill in the relatively small number of patients who get intractable agitation (i.e. unresponsive to big doses of midazolam) in hospices and other palliative care units.

It works fantastically well within minutes in patients who are extremely anxious in their last hours and gives a very peaceful end. One might argue it's too good for the crims.