Botched Executions and Our Lost Humanity

A little over two months ago, I added my commentary on the botched execution of Clayton Lockett, whose vein collapsed during an attempted lethal injection in Oklahoma. He eventually had a heart attack and died. In that post, I reference the current problems with the acquisition and effectiveness of certain types of the drugs used for lethal injection. I also make my stance on the death penalty clear. Today, I write to share the horrific story of another botched execution: “The execution Wednesday of 55-year-old Joseph Rudolph Wood took so long that his lawyers had time to file an emergency appeal while it was ongoing.” According to this AP story, in the nearly two hours it took for Wood to die, he gasped more than 600 times.

Joseph Rudolph Wood, human.

State Department of Corrections Director, Charles Ryan, maybe thought he provided some assurances for any concerned citizens: “Throughout this execution, I conferred and collaborated with our IV team members and was assured unequivocally that the inmate was comatose and never in pain or distress.” Even if that is true, why should that matter? Whether he was conscious of it, Wood suffered. Whether he felt any pain, the punishment was beyond cruel and unusual.

Why are there observation windows?

Despite the horror of Wood’s death and the suffering clearly experienced, the AP story tells of a far greater terror. I will never understand why anyone would watch an execution, but people watched this one, the entire thing. In fact, it seems like some people enjoyed it:

“Family members of Wood’s victims in a double 1989 murder said they had no problems with the way the execution was carried out. ‘This man conducted a horrific murder and you guys are going, let’s worry about the drugs,’ said Richard Brown, the brother-in-law of Debbie Dietz [one of Wood’s victims]. ‘Why didn’t they give him a bullet, why didn’t we give him Drano?'”

Where is the humanity? For those of you ready to argue that Wood, himself, lost his humanity long before Richard Brown, and even wish to argue that Wood must share some responsibility in Brown’s deteriorating humanity, I say only this: you have proven my point.

Categories: Feature, Politics

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2 replies »

  1. “Whether he was conscious of it, Wood suffered.”

    This seems odd to me. Did I suffer unconsciously when I had surgery under general anesthetic and the doctor was slicing into me with a scalpel?

    • Only you can answer that. When you awoke from the surgery was there pain to manage? Did you have recovery time? If you answered “yes” to one or both of these questions, then you have your answer.

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