Any doubts that even “humane” executions by lethal injection are still cruel and unusual punishment should be dispelled once and for all by the conflict in California over executing Michael Morales.
Morales, a convicted murderer and rapist, was slated for execution Feb. 21. But the action was postponed twice — the second time indefinitely — after two anesthesiologists changed their minds about making sure Morales was unconscious during execution using a three-drug sequence.
When the state then proposed an overwhelming dose of the barbiturate sodium pentothal instead, a district judge ruled that the drug must be injected directly by a medical professional to minimize chances that Morales’ death would be botched and painful. The state rejected that requirement. Now Morales’ fate is in limbo pending further judicial action.
The American Medical Association strongly opposes participation by physicians in executions as unethical, and apparently the two unnamed California anesthesiologists came to the same conclusion when it became obvious they might have to take an active role in Morales’ death.
Morales’ stay of execution came just days before a national week of action Feb. 27 through March 3, “Thirty Years is Enough: End the Death Penalty!” called by the Campaign to End the Death Penalty. The campaign points out that in the 30 years since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty, over 1,000 people have been executed in the U.S., while more than 120 people have been exonerated and freed from death row.
Civil rights organizations including the NAACP and Derechos Human Rights, have pointed out the shocking patterns of racial discrimination in imposing and carrying out the death penalty.
Executions have been abolished either in law or in practice by some 106 countries around the world, 30 of them since 1990. In the U.S., 12 states and the District of Columbia have no death penalty. In view of all the evidence — of injustice committed and cruelty imposed — isn’t it time all the states and the federal government did likewise?