Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Really, They Should Have Wanted To Know

Here was the plan.
On June 6, a team of corrections officers were going to strap Abdul Awkal down to a table, stick needles in his arms, and pump him full of pentobarbital.  If all went smoothly (far from a sure thing, this was Ohio, poster-child state for incompetently carried out state killings), he'd be dead by 10:15 or so.  Maybe a couple of minutes later.
It was all a go.  The Supreme Court of Ohio set the date.  The Parole Board said to kill him.  The Governor signed off on it.
But there was this messy fact.  Awkal was nuts.  Seriously bonkers.  He didn't understand what was going on.  He was not, that is, legally competent to be executed.  Maybe.
They'd been arguing about this for a while, and Awkal's lawyers kept losing.  Until, with two days to go, the trial judge decided he should hold a hearing.
The problem is that a hearing takes time. Schedules have to be matched, witnesses called, rulings made.  And then there are appeals.  But Awkal was to be killed on the 6th.  Judge Friedman wanted a hearing.  But
Really?  When?  After the killing?  Ordering a hearing is great, but once the Supreme Court sets an execution date, it's the only Ohio court that can stop it. So they went to the Supreme Court to get a stay. 
And the next morning, June 5, one day to go, the court told them to pound sand.
It wasn't unanimous, but it didn't have to be.  No stay.  No continuance to find out if the Constitution allowed his execution.  Not our problem, said 5 of them.  Off with his head.
Which really might have ended it.  Except that Governor Kasich, whose record in these things is proving respectable, granted a reprieve.
Two weeks, he said.  Which would be Wednesday.
And Judge Friedman held his hearing.  The one to determine whether killing Awkal would violate the Constitution.  The one the Supremes were trying to stop by refusing a stay.  And the judge determined that, hey, you know what?
He's not competent and can't be executed.  Though that might change down the road.
Except, you know, Friedman can't actually stop the killing.  Because, as I said, once the Supreme Court sets an execution date, it's the only Ohio court that can stop it. 
Which they did Monday afternoon.  With about 36 hours to go.
And there it stays.  Unless and until his competency is restored.  Which it might be if they give him the right drugs. Or unless the court of appeals or the Supremes decide that Friedman got it wrong.  Which, since they didn't want to give him a chance to get it at all . . . .
Anyone mention that this is all pretty fucked up?
Still, no execution on Wednesday here in the Buckeye State.

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