Thursday, November 01, 2007

When will next condemned Texan meet their fate?

Reacting to this post at Sentencing Law and Policy in the comments, I offered a best-guess as to when Texas executions will resume given the apparent existence of a de facto moratorium until the US Supreme Court decides whether the lethal injection cocktail Texas uses constitutes cruel and unusual punishment:
The real answer to when Texas' executions start up won't be decided by Texas' highest criminal court. Instead, one of two things will happen: 1) The Supremes will approve LI next year in its current form, in which case Texas will restart immediately, or 2) the Supremes will require changes to or abolition of LI, in which case the Texas Legislature must approve a new execution method in 2009.

If it's the latter, and that legislation passes with a 2/3 majority, the next Texecution conceivably could happen as early as April or May 2009. More likely, executions could resume September 1, 2009. Given the Texas political climate, such legislation's passage in some form would be inevitable. That's why IMO the most likely guess (should you decide to start a pool) as to the date of the next Texecution is September 1, 2009.

Texas executed 26 people in 2007; no other state executed more than three over the same period. What do you think: When will Texas' next execution take place, and will Texas be the first state to execute another condemned man? A subset of that question, I suppose, then, must be how do you think the US Supreme Court will decide on Baze?

UPDATE: In the comments, Shannon Edmonds from the DAs Association says he thinks TDCJ could change the cocktail themselves unless SCOTUS bans lethal injection entirely. He writes:
Even if SCOTUS takes issue with the current "cocktail" used in lethal injections, I don't think it will take legislative action to come up with a new method in Texas. Code of Crim. Proc. Art. 43.14 leaves it up to TDCJ to determine how to do it ("... by intravenous injection of a substance or substances in a lethal quantity sufficient to cause death ..."), so that process could be changed immediately after receiving some guidance from SCOTUS. Whether or not that would have to go through the administrative rulemaking process is unclear to me (mainly b/c I'm too lazy to research something so speculative), although a California court recently rejected that state's new lethal injection procedure b/c the Cali prison system did not use their prescribed administrative rulemeking procedure.

Legislative action should only be necessary if SCOTUS completely invalidates all lethal injections, and I don't think that issue is even on the table for them (contrary to many abolitionists' fervent wishes).

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that there is anything available that does not cause a momentary amount of discomfort prior to death. Hanging, Firing squads, Gas Chambers, Electrocutions, Burning at the Stake all result in some type of discomfort for the offender. I support the death penalty, and i have heard most of the arguments against it, However, I believe as long as we have it, we have found the most humane method for enforcing it.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

A single, large calliber bullet to the back of the head at close range causes less "pain" over a shorter period of time than lethal injection. But our society enjoys the easier fiction that the condemned man's death is humane and even "medicalized," which is why they maintain the pretense of swabbing the injection spot with alcohol.

LI exists IMO as a symbol designed to assuage society's collective conscience about killing, not because it's more humane than other forms of death - I don't actually believe it is, though if society has decided the person is literally disposable, I'm not sure in the end why it matters. Killing is right or wrong. Beyond limiting prolonged torture, how they do it is immaterial to me. My line of inquiry was WHEN will the next Texecution be?

Anonymous said...

Does execution have to restart? If it does, it will be far too soon to suit me.

For me, it is cruel and unusual to even consider the question. Texans that want their state to be the first to "restart" should be ashamed of themselves.

Anonymous said...

I would imagine that the SC will opine that Baze is no different than Lightbourne or Schwab. The decision of the court was unanimous in both cases that it was not cruel and unusual punishment. I expect the same result in Baze, and Texas Executions should resume shortly after that, probably by spring of next year.

Anonymous said...

The responsible thing to do would be to use this period of a de facto moratorium to do the kind of comprehensive study that would be done if a real moratorium would be enacted by the Legislature. Since the Legislature is not in session, legislators should extend the moratorium for two years when they get back to Austin in 2009. Then, they should establish a commission to study all aspects of the Texas capital punishment process.

I am not going to list all the problems in the system, but for starters we need to determine if the system we have in place is capable of preventing an innocent person from being executed, as may already have happened in Texas in the cases of Carlos De Luna and Todd Willingham.

We should also establish an office of public defenders for capital cases, so that we are sure that every person accused of a capital crime has competent counsel.

Shannon Edmonds said...

Scott, you might consider revising your post.

Even if SCOTUS takes issue with the current "cocktail" used in lethal injections, I don't think it will take legislative action to come up with a new method in Texas. Code of Crim. Proc. Art. 43.14 leaves it up to TDCJ to determine how to do it ("... by intravenous injection of a substance or substances in a lethal quantity sufficient to cause death ..."), so that process could be changed immediately after receiving some guidance from SCOTUS. Whether or not that would have to go through the administrative rulemaking process is unclear to me (mainly b/c I'm too lazy to research something so speculative), although a California court recently rejected that state's new lethal injection procedure b/c the Cali prison system did not use their prescribed administrative rulemeking procedure.

Legislative action should only be necessary if SCOTUS completely invalidates all lethal injections, and I don't think that issue is even on the table for them (contrary to many abolitionists' fervent wishes).

Anonymous said...

Giving the inmate his meds and preping the injection site is required Scott. If he is granted a stay he is returned to his assigned living area. People who carry out the law certainly didn't make the law. I have often thought about how the law makers would react if they were required to carry out some of their laws.

Retire 2004

The Abolishment Movement said...

There is no humane way to murder anyone. It's an oxymoron.."Humane Execution." It also doesn't help the fact that the execution team is not properly trained. In Texas the technician who euthanizes an animal has been to a special school, takes an exam, and receives a license.

Anonymous said...

To "The Movement". The Team IS properly trained.
Retired 2004

The Abolishment Movement said...

Who does the training, and how are they trained?

Anonymous said...

Who? Experts. How? Very, very quietly.

Retired 20004

Gritsforbreakfast said...

There are experts at poisoning people? I don't buy that, Retired.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever had an IV? Did the person administering the IV walk in off the street or was he/she trained?

"Poison people"? The mechanics of LI are no different than one having a surgical procedure. The end result is different (in most cases).

I realize you are against legal executions Scott; take the law makers to task, not the state employees who are required to carry out the law.

Retired 2004

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Yeah, poisoning people! What else do you think they're doing, Retired? You stick an IV in their arm, pump poison into their veins, and they die, by poisoning. If someone were to do that to you, what would you call it?

Doctors won't give lethal injections because it's considered unethical, even if it's someone's "job." So once again, who are these experts in poisoning people training the death squad at TDCJ? You really haven't answered the question.

Spending a day planning and executing how to extinguish a human life may be just part of the job, but let's not cloud what's actually happening with euphemism. We speak plainly about their crimes, so let's speak just as plainly when the state decides to put them down like a dog.

Anonymous said...

I have answered the question.

Retired 2004

Gritsforbreakfast said...

So the answer is nameless "experts" with unknown credentials, even though doctors cannot participate and the expertise you mean is medical, or as you put it, "no different than one having a surgical procedure."

Clear as mud, Retired.