Wednesday, October 27, 2010

So Much for the Rule of Law

Arizona executed a man last night after the US supreme court lifted a stay granted when the state refused to reveal how it obtained one of the drugs used in the death chamber from a British manufacturer.

The state's attorney general, Terry Goddard, used a little known law preventing the identification of executioners – and others with "ancillary" functions – to defy a court order requiring the state to reveal the exact source of an anesthetic, sodium thiopental, used in the execution.


The effectiveness of sodium thiopental was one of the main issues in Baze v. Rees. And states are not supposed to use drugs not approved by the FDA. Given that states are supposed to follow the law and that the effectiveness of one of the three drugs used to kill people is in question, one might think that the state would have delayed the execution in order to follow the rule of law and to ensure that a botched execution was avoided.

Additional reading - "This drug came from a reputable place," Chief Deputy Attorney General Tim Nelson said. "There's all sorts of wild speculation that it came from a third-world country, and that's not accurate."

Not so fast - GlaxoSmithKline, the British drug giant, has agreed to pay $750 million to settle criminal and civil complaints that the company for years knowingly sold contaminated products manufactured in Puerto Rico. So just because the drug supposedly came from Britain does not mean that it wasn't manufactured in a "third-world country." 

But the larger issue in this case was the mental state of the condemned man:

Last week, Cheryl Hendrix, the judge who condemned Landrigan, told a clemency board that she would have given him a lesser sentence had she been aware of the brain damage caused by his mother's heavy drinking while pregnant and his turbulent childhood.

"The death penalty in this case is not appropriate and never has been," she said.

Why should anyone respect the laws of the State of Arizona when the State itself set such a terrible example?

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