Despite the continued national trend away from the death penalty, we are off to a blustery start to the year when it comes to executions. Seven states had collectively scheduled 11 executions for this month alone. That’s shocking given that only nine states carried out executions in all of 2013.
On the positive side, three stays of execution were granted for Rigoberto Avila Jr., Billly Ray Irick, and Edgado Cubas. All three reveal shortcomings of the capital punishment system. Avila had been sentenced to death for the murder of 19-month-old Nicolas Macias, however, new medical evidence suggests that the child died due to an injury from roughhouse play with his 4-year-old brother rather than by intentional acts by Mr. Avila.
Irick’s execution was postponed due to legal challenges of Tennessee’s lethal injection protocol. Tennessee, along with other states, has been scrambling to find alternative drugs to execute inmates since sodium thiopental has become unavailable due to manufacturers’ opposition to its use in executions.
Mr. Cubas, a national of Honduras, received a stay of execution so he can undergo a mental competency screening. The Honduran Consulate has been collaborating with his defense attorneys to ensure that Cubas’s case receives appropriate review.
Such consular access, a right for foreign nationals protected under the Vienna Convention, was not afforded to Edgar Tamayo, a Mexican national who (as of this writing) is set to be executed by the state of Texas on January 22. Secretary of State John Kerry has spoken out against his execution stating that if Texas proceeds, it will likely jeopardize the rights of Americans detained abroad and strain our relationship with our Mexican allies. The Mexican consulate was not informed of Tamayo’s case until a week before the trial, and substantial mitigating evidence about abuse he suffered as a child as well as a traumatic head injury that has likely affected his behavior and/or mental competency, were never heard by the jury. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles has denied clemency for Tamayo, and Texas is set to carry out his execution unless a higher court intervenes to stop it.
The absurd lengths that states are going to in order to carry out executions were made clear earlier this month with the experimental use of untested drugs in the execution of Dennis McGuire in Ohio and Michael Wilson in Oklahoma. Wilson was killed using drugs fabricated by a compounding pharmacy, which are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration therefore the drugs’ purity and effectiveness cannot be guaranteed. Wilson’s last words were, “I feel my whole body burning.” McGuire was executed using a combination of drugs never before used in an execution. His lawyers warned before the execution took place that these drugs could lead to extreme suffering and a sense of “air hunger”. McGuire in fact struggled and gasped for air in the 25 minutes it took before he was pronounced dead. While the death penalty may not yet be unconstitutional, cruel and unusual punishment surely is.
Please join NCADP and our Ohio affiliate, Ohioans to Stop Executions, in calling on Gov. Kasich to implement an immediate moratorium. Experimental executions like this must not be permitted to proceed!
Now more than ever we need your involvement and advocacy! As states run into barriers in carrying out executions, we will see more and more extreme actions as a last-ditch attempt to hold onto the dying capital punishment system. Already this year, Missouri and Wyoming have introduced legislation to allow for the use of the firing squad. Virginia lawmakers want to bring back the electric chair, and law makers in states like Kansas and Alabama are pushing legislation to speed up the appeals process.
We know we have the political power to turn the tide on capital punishment if people like you who agree the system is wrong lift their voices. You can help by engaging your friends and colleagues, sharing our emails and social media posts, and signing our petitions.
For a brilliant bit of humor on this issue, watch Stephen Colbert's coverage of the absurd lengths states are going to in order to execute people. Please share!
Tags: #lethal injection