January 2nd, 2008
First off, I hope all of you had a wonderful holidays and are excited about 2008–it’s going to be a great year! Also, if I had one New Year’s wish I would ask that anyone that finds this blog interesting/informative share it with friends and also contribute with comments.
I was shuffling through my emails this morning (about 20 of them relevant and 600 junk) and I came across this fascinating article at salon.com (READ IT HERE) about torture, the 8th amendment, and the upcoming Baez v. Rees case. The blog title “Is any jury going to convict Jack Bauer?” is a statement made by US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as he “stood up for the TV torturer extraordinaire and hero of Fox Broadcasting’s “24.” Scalia insisted that the fictional spy had “saved hundreds of thousands of lives” using tough interrogation tactics to stop a terrorist from nuking Los Angeles.” Jack Bauer is tough as nails and fun to watch but Jack Bauer = fiction.
“The clear implication was that Justice Scalia does not believe in an absolute ban on torture — at least when it comes to suspected terrorists. That’s a popular view these days, particularly among members of the Bush administration, although the hard questions of whether there are any limits on the use of torture have yet to be fully tested in the courts. We may get a somewhat better idea of just how far Scalia and his colleagues would go in tolerating abusive treatment of prisoners — or what some would call torture — next week when the Supreme Court considers a case challenging the use of lethal injections in execution.”
Personally, I don’t believe any form of torture is ever necessary and I believe that the barbarism that is torture is only being justified by acts elicited by our actions as a nation. The article begins with a discussion of torture and terrorism, but the meat of it is focused on lethal injection and its usage for capital punishment. Is lethal injection torture? Does it violate the 8th amendment? These are important questions as the US Supreme Court prepares to rule on Baez v. Reese which is likely to have major implications on how this country doles out capital punishment for years to come.
“Dr. Dennis Geiser, a professor of veterinary medicine at the University of Tennessee, told me that the use of potassium chloride and pancuronium bromide without proper anesthesia would result in an “agonal type of death. “It would be like tying you up to a wall and torturing you. You’re wide awake but you can’t respond.”The three drug cocktail that is currently being used and is now up for question should render death painlessly scientists say. However, this is only if everything goes exactly as planned. “If error rates are that high among trained anesthesiologists and medical professionals whose job is to alleviate suffering, then it’s extremely unlikely that the hodgepodge of doctors, nurses, paramedics and technicians — some with little or no training — employed to kill people will be getting it right often enough to ensure that an execution is not a form of “cruel and unusual” punishment.”
“If Justice Scalia and his colleagues have any doubt that inmates may remain conscious during execution, they can also examine a brief from the Anesthesia Awareness Campaign that presents painful-to-read testimony of patients who have undergone surgery in which neuromuscular blocking agents were administered without sufficient anesthesia. Kathleen LaBrie described waking up to “grinding and pushing in my nose” during sinus surgery. “I really thought I was slowly dying and not one person in that room cared. If anyone wants to know what HELL is like this is it.” Kelly Haapala, who was conscious during surgery for a hip-socket joint replacement, said, “I felt like they were killing me and I needed to do anything I could to move and let them know I was awake! I still have nightmares that this has happened to me.” Diana Todd, who was conscious during a hysterectomy, described it as “the most traumatizing experience of my life. It takes away your basic humanity. That kind of terror is cruel beyond description.”
Jack Bauer was saving lives and doing what he felt was the right action with very little time to deliberate. Although I don’t agree with his actions or torture in general, it makes for great television. But I think even Jack and probably the majority of CTU can agree that with as calculated as an act as capital punishment it would be logical to ensure that executions are done properly. It is my hope that Baez v. Rees will do that.