In a 7 to 2 vote the US Supreme court ruled April 15th that the most common method of lethal injection to execute condemned prisoners is constitutional.
The justices said the three-drug combination used by Kentucky, the Federal Government and 34 other states, sodium thiopental, which induces unconsciousness; pancuronium bromide, which paralyzes the muscles; and potassium chloride, which causes cardiac arrest, does not carry the risk of substantial pain so great as to violate the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment
"Simply because an execution method may result in pain, either by accident or as an inescapable consequence of death, does not establish the sort of 'objectively intolerable risk of harm' that qualifies as cruel and unusual," wrote Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.
This begs the question - Just what would qualify as cruel and unusual?
The immediate result of the decision was to dissolve the de facto moratorium on executions imposed since the court announced in September that it would decide the case, Baze v. Rees. Indeed, only hours later the Governor of Virginia lifted the hold he had placed on capital punishment.
The day before the Supreme Court decision, Amnesty International released its annual report on capital punishment, Death Sentences and Executions in 2007, which said that at least 1,252 people were executed in 24 countries and at least 3,347 people were sentenced to death in 51 countries. Up to 27,500 people are estimated to be on death row across the world
However, the most interesting element of the report (to my mind, at least) was the list of top executing countries. Eighty-eight per cent of all known executions took place in five countries:
China – at least 470 executions, Iran – at least 317 executions, Saudi Arabia – at least 143 executions, Pakistan – at least 135 executions, USA – 42 executions followed by Iraq and Viet Nam with at least 33 and 25 executions respectively.
Yes, the land of the free, home of the brave, world leader (?) is right up there with the worst of them – a shameful record.
Since World War II there has been a consistent trend towards abolishing the death penalty. In 1977, 16 countries were abolitionist. As of January 1 2008, 92 countries had abolished capital punishment altogether, 10 had done so for all offences except under special circumstances, and 33 others had not used it for at least 10 years - while 62 countries actively retained the death penalty.
At least 3,000 people (and probably considerably more) were sentenced to death during 2007, and at the end of the year around 25,000 were on death row around the world, with
Because I know you’re going to ask, my country,
According to Amnesty International Canada, contrary to predictions by death penalty supporters, the homicide rate in
I expect I will get some comments from irate Americans on this one.