The Florida Supreme Court ruled Nov. 1 that the lethal injection procedure was not a cruel way to execute a prisoner. In response to the verdict, the Tampa Tribune published an editorial Nov. 6 titled “State Should Forgo Execution By Lethal Injection For Now.” The Tribune’s argument is that “Florida’s justices should go ahead and delay Mark Dean Schwab’s date with death.”
Schwab was convicted of the kidnapping, rape and murder of an 11-year-old boy in 1991.
This is not an issue of whether capital punishment is right or wrong; the issue is whether lethal injection is cruel. Of all the ways to execute prisoners available, lethal injection seems to be the most humane. The Tribune believes Florida should wait until the U.S. Supreme Court comes to a decision, but that could take months, and capital punishment has always been a state right.
The reason the Florida Supreme Court examined this method of execution was because Angel Diaz, who was convicted of shooting a Miami club manager in 1979, was executed in December 2006 from lethal injection. Something went wrong and it took 34 minutes for him to die, double the time it usually takes. It was found that the technician incorrectly inserted the needle that was supposed to introduce the drugs into the blood system. The chemical compound moved through his flesh, rather than his blood stream.
In a lethal injection, the inmate is first given an anesthetic, which puts him or her into a deep sleep. It is believed that after this the inmate can’t feel anything. The second drug given is a muscle relaxant; it stops breathing by paralyzing the lungs and diaphragm. The last chemical is a toxic agent that induces cardiac arrest. All 38 states that use lethal injection for capital punishment use the three-drug mix, according to howstuffworks.com.
Even if the Supreme Court declares lethal injection to be cruel, there are only a few other options – none of them pleasant. Other states have even more brutal ways: Idaho and Oklahoma have the option of a firing squad, while New Hampshire and Washington still hang people and five states have gas chambers.
From the electric chair to the gas chamber, there have been problems and mistakes. In 1999, Allen Lee Davis was executed by electrocution but it was ‘botched,’ the term used for failed executions.
“The color photos of Davis depict a man who – for all appearances – was brutally tortured to death by the citizens of Florida,” said Leander Shaw, Florida Supreme Court Justice, as detailed on deathpenaltyinfo.org.
While other options like a firing squad may be quicker, it is still gruesome for those involved in the execution. It could traumatize both witnesses and those firing.
Florida gives prisoners a choice between injection and electrocution. If Schwab believes the injection causes excruciating pain, he can choose the chair.
Criminals remain on Florida’s death row too long. Diaz was executed 27 years after his crime, while Schwab committed his crime 16 years ago. The family of the victim needs closure.
There is no way to kill someone without some form of pain. Until there is a way to kill someone painlessly, lethal injection is the least cruel.
Candace Kaw is a junior majoring in mass communications and history.