Sunday, February 1, 2015

Contract Killings - with Correction

Ohio 2014 - One

Ohio 2015 - Nobody

Ohio 2016 - Eleven

That's executions, actual for 2014 and now 2015, scheduled for 2016.

You know the backstory. Ohio has an unmatched record of demonstrated incompetence in performing lethal injections.* Our last killing, Dennis McGuire in January last year, was particularly ugly. And precisely what they'd been warned would happen with their new experimental murder method. Alan Johnson covered it for the Columbus Dispatch and described what he saw.

Dennis McGuire struggled, repeatedly gasping loudly for air and making snorting and choking sounds, before succumbing to a new two-drug execution method today. . . .After being injected at 10:29 a.m., about four minutes later McGuire started struggling and gasping loudly for air, making snorting and choking sounds which lasted for at least 10 minutes. His chest heaved and his left fist clinched as deep, snorting sounds emanated from his mouth. However, for the last several minutes before he was pronounced dead, he was still.
So, and given the years of ongoing litigation here, the state backed off, called a brief halt, and saod ot would rewrite its protocol for the umpteenth time.  Which they did.  And given the litigation, well, the judge called halts and then everyone kind of agreed to court-ordered halts for a while.  And they decided not to use midazolam and hydromorphone any more.  But that meant finding some other drug and then the secrecy litigation because if you know where we get the drugs we'll have to kill you.

And finally, on Friday, the Governor who probably wants to be President decided to stop it all for a bit.  This year's planned killings, which included some from years past, all got punted into next year. When there are now 11 scheduled.  One a month from January through November.  

Will they all happen?  Probably not.  Some court will likely stop at least one or two.  The Governor may commute one of the sentences.  And of course the whole thing could implode again if we can't get the drugs or fuck another killing up - as we have so many.

And then there's the Supreme Court which is apparently going to decide by June whether killing with midazolam is unconstitutional and, more important really, whether the states can keep all the details of who's doing what a secret. whether a person complaining that the state intends to kill him unconstitutionally must suggest a constitutional method by which he can be killed.** Whatever they decide, expect more litigation.

In the meantime, though, and in 2016:
January 21 - Ronald Phillips
February 19 - Ray Tibbetts
March 23 - Alva Campbell, Jr.
April 20 - Gregory Lott
May 18 - Angelo Fears
June 22 - Warren Henness
July 20 - Cleveland Jackson
August 15 - William Montgomery
September 21 - Kareem Jackson
October 19 - Robert Van Hook
November 16 - Jeffrey Wogenstahl
To what end, exactly?

Each of them was found guilty of aggravated murder.  In each case, it was determined that the aggravating circumstance of the crime outweighed whatever mitigating factors were presented at trial.

Pretend that they got it right.  Every time.  Pretend these men all did terrible things and they had almost nothing to weigh against the crime but themselves.  Hell, maybe it's even true.  Maybe they are, or some of them are, the worst of the worst who did the worst things.  It could be.  (And the beauty of it is that there's no way actually to know, so we can pretend all we like.)

What then?

Van Hook will have been on death row for just over 31 years at his scheduled murder.  Montgomery nearly 30.  For Cleveland Jackson, the fastest of these 11, it will still be nearly 14 years.  And he'll be 38 when they kill him next year.  If they do.  At the other end, Alva Campbell will be 67. 

Whoever these people are that we're planning to kill, they're not who they were back then.  But by god, we're committed to doing it.  They must die.

Just not until next year.

When we kill Ron Phillips next January, if we do, it will have been just over two years since we botched Dennis McGuire's execution.  For just over two years, Ohio will have managed to kill not a single person on death row.  Somehow, the state will have survived unscathed.  Because, really, there's no need.

But if no need?  Then we're killing because we want to.  It's a conscious choice we make.
You, Ron Phillips.  You, Ray Tibbets.  You Alva Campbell, Gregory Lott, Angelo Fears. You, all of you.  We don't need to kill you. But we want to.
It's not that you need to die.  That's not something we can control.  No, we want to kill you.  More precisely, we want some prison guards we don't know to kill you.
We'll arrange it.  Pay for it.  Read about it in the newspaper afterwards.  Our arranged contract killings.  Because we want you murdered.  By those guys over there.
Next year.

*We are, after all, the state that tried for two hours but ultimately failed to kill Romell Broom.  He remains the only survivor of an execution attempt by lethal injection.  (Oral argument in the Ohio Supreme Court on the question of whether the state gets to try again to kill him will be the morning of June 9.)

**Sorry. I knew the right question when I wrote this last night.  I just didn't type the right question.

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