Monday, February 3, 2014

We'll Have What Ohio's Having

The state is evidently happy to wing it so long as Sepulvado dies Wednesday.
That's James Gill writing in the New Orleans Advocate about Louisiana's intended killing of Christopher Sepulvado on Wednesday.

It's hard to feel much sympathy for Sepulvado. Here's the story as the Louisiana Supreme Court described it in 1996 when it affirmed his conviction and death sentence.
On Thursday, March 5, 1992, defendant married the victim's mother, Yvonne. The next day, Friday, the victim came home from school, having defecated in his pants. Yvonne spanked him and refused to give him supper. Defendant returned home from work at approximately 9:00 p.m. That night, the victim was not allowed to change his clothes and was made to sleep on a trunk at the foot of his bed. On Saturday, the victim was not allowed to eat and was again made to sleep on the trunk in his soiled clothes. At around 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, defendant and the victim were in the bathroom, preparing to attend church services. Defendant instructed the victim to wash out his soiled underwear in the toilet and then take a bath. When the victim hesitated to do so, defendant hit him over the head with the handle of a screwdriver several times with enough force to render him unconscious. Thereafter, the victim was immersed in the bathtub which was filled with scalding hot water.
Approximately three hours later, at around 1:50 p.m., defendant and his wife brought the victim to the emergency room at the hospital. At that time the victim was not breathing, had no pulse, and probably had been dead for approximately thirty to sixty minutes. All attempts to revive the victim were futile. The cause of death was attributed to the scald burns covering 60% of the victim's body, primarily on his backside. There were third degree burns over 58% of the body and second degree burns on the remaining 2%. The scalding was so severe that the victim's skin had been burned away. In addition to the burns, medical examination revealed that the victim had been severely beaten. The victim's scalp had separated from his skull due to hemorrhaging and bruising. Also, there were deep bruises on the victim's buttocks and groin which were not consistent with accidental injury.
If the courts got it right (at trial Sepulvado argued that the boy fell into the tub, that his death was a tragic accident; the jury didn't buy it), it's horrible.  Inexcusable.  Hell, even if Sepulvado's version is true it's monstrous.  

Of course, there's worse.  The killing was pretty clearly an act of crazed rage - albeit by someone who'd already shown a remarkable inability to respond sensibly to a child's problem.  Then again, it was Yvonne who began the . . . .  

Aww, never mind.  This isn't a post about the details and whether death is the appropriate punishment for Chris Supulavado.  The courts have settled that question, at least as a legal matter (it's OK because they say it is), and I'm not after visiting that question here.

No, what interests me for the moment is where I began.
The state is evidently happy to wing it so long as Sepulvado dies Wednesday.
Louisiana's been trying for some time to get its hands on pentobarbital so that it can kill Sepulvado in the usual manner.  No luck.  There's no ready supply thanks to Lundebeck's refusal to make the drug available for killing.  And no Louisiana compounding pharmacy is willing to compound it for that purpose.  The powers that be looked into getting a supply from the rogue compounders at The Apothecary Shop in Tulsa, but backed off because it would be illegal.  (That didn't stop Missouri, but I digress.)
What to do?
What to do?
The top guys at Louisiana's Department of Corrections scanned the countryside to see how killin's gettin' done these days.  And they turned to - - wait for it -- 

They turned to -- the Buckeye State where we did such a bang-up job killing Dennis McGuire. You remember.
  • 26 minutes
  • Gasping
  • Snorting
  • Choking
  • Heaving chest
Cool.  As Estelle Reiner didn't say, 
We'll have midazolam and hydromorphone, too.
Which if you figure that the idea is to make the killing as ugly as possible, if you want to ensure that the guy you're gonna kill will be terrified before hand, and if you want to up the odds of making the witnesses sick, and if you're looking forward to the prospect of getting sued in federal court for torturing the guy to death, all while maintaining the pretense of doctor-approved.  If you're after all that, then Ohio's probably a great model.

But here's the thing.  Killing McGuire with an experimental pairing of drugs didn't go well.  Call it a failed experiment (except in the broadest sense that he ended up dead, but that could have been achieved by heavy bludgeoning - with a screwdriver, say, and then dropping him in boiling water. Except we don't do that because we're better than the people we kill.  

We kill them to express our deep sense that they should be killed.  But nicely.  

Unless, it seems, that's hard to do.  

Now, Louisiana could take its time.  They could keep looking for a compounding pharmacy.  They could think about some other means of killing altogether.  Jack Kevorkian's machine was apparently pretty gentle.  But all that would take time.  And the killin' must go on.  It's been almost 21 years.  It must end this week. 
The state is evidently happy to wing it so long as Sepulvado dies Wednesday.
More important to do it than to do it right.

Better to ask forgiveness than seek permission.

Except Chris Sepulvado won't be able to forgive (or permit, for that matter).


  1. I really think you need to take a moment and think about the experience of that 6 year old. Spend as much time on it as you are willing to devote to his murderer's cause. Hell, save even a half or a quarter of your concern for what that little boy went through. If you actually do this the argument for this person's execution is self evident, you would need a pathological lack of empathy not to get that. The kid was 6 years old.

  2. I'm sure you will be happy to learn that the execution has been delayed. A blow has been struck for the right to beat 6 year olds to death.

  3. You're right, of course. Everyone who does bad stuff should be killed. And really, we probably ought to make it as awful for them as they made it for those they hurt. Surely we can show them that we, in the name of love and mercy and justice, can be as cruel as they.

    OK, maybe that's not really your point. Maybe you're pushing the idea that if I don't think it's a good idea to kill Sepulvedo ASAP I must be endorsing what he did.

    Or maybe that's not it, either. Maybe you just think I'm a blithering idiot, or suffer from "a pathological lack of empathy." Probably I won't convince you otherwise.

    But I'm no fan of doing unto others. The idea is that we should be better than they, resist the temptations.

    I do in fact feel for that boy. Were he my son, I'd want to kill the person who did that to him. But that I'd want to do it doesn't make it a good idea.