Observations On Another Capital Punishment Fiasco

That’s Alan Eugene Miller, who was convicted of murdering three men in 1999. Nobody disputes that he is guilty. The only question is how and when he will be executed, as he received the death penalty and deserved to. The fact that he is still breathing 23 years after his crimes speaks for itself, and is self-evidently absurd, a direct consequence of the moral and ethical confusion over capitol punishment. People like Miller—that is, people who have forfeited their right to continue living in a civilized society—cost law abiding citizens millions by the time they finally get their just desserts.

This story is especially infuriating as well as ridiculous. Alabama passed a law in 2018 that gave death row prisoners a choice between being killed by a lethal injection and dying by a nitrogen hypoxia, which is death by being deprived of oxygen.

[Observation: Why a condemned prisoner should be given any choice at all is beyond me. As Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, said, Miller’s three victims didn’t get to choose whether they would be shot in the chest.]

Miller is, we are told, afraid of needles, so he chose suffocation.

[Observation:  This already sounds like a Monty Python skit. Again, who cares what he’s afraid of? Presumably he’s also a bit afraid to die. So what? Why should the state, or the society he betrayed, have any ethical obligation to yield to his delicate sensitivities?]

The official form in which Miller chose the more pleasant means of execution, in his mind at least, was lost by prison officials. The state then claimed he had never made the request to be smothered and since it was not ready to carry out an execution by hypoxia anyway, tried to move forward with a lethal injection.

[Observations: 1. Are we laughing yet? 2. A macro question: why does anyone trust any government to handle anything but the simplest, most basic functions? All of the bureaucracies are reliably incompetent. This example is especially silly: Alabama gives condemned prisoners a choice of two methods of execution before it is ready to use one of them. Then it loses the consent form. Then it covers by saying, “Form? What form?” 3. It’s tempting to say that Miller should have his sentence commuted to life imprisonment just to teach Alabama a lesson, but governments never learn. 4. Isn’t it odd that a state that uses lethal injections for executions have a governor named “Ivey”?]

A federal judge this week sided with  Miller, ruling it was quite likely that he had made the request to be suffocated, but this week, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled and said, in a 5-4 order without explanation, that the execution could go ahead.

[Observation: What a waste of SCOTUS’s time! This guy is a triple murderer. I’d support a system in which after the death sentence is pronounced, the killer is taken into a back room and shot in the head, like Lenny in “Of Mice and Men.” And look, Alan, nothing to be afraid of! No needles!]

But it took prison officials too long to insert an intravenous line into Miller’s veins the night of the Supreme Court ruling, and the death warrant expired (at midnight) before he could be killed. So back he went to his cell, waiting until his execution is rescheduled “at the earliest opportunity.”

[Observation: Wow.]

Yesterday, a judge granted an emergency request by Miller’s lawyers to  photograph any wounds he might have suffered during the attempt to insert the intravenous line, because the process used might have caused him pain.

Final Observation:

6 thoughts on “Observations On Another Capital Punishment Fiasco

  1. He’s afraid of needles – were prisoners allowed a choice to not get the COVID vaccine? It would be ironic if a prisoner had more choice about that than the guards watching him.

  2. I live in Alabama so this situation embarrasses me to the nth degree. More and more, I have come to the conclusion that a well-aimed, high-caliber bullet to the head is not painful, death is instantaneous so the pussies of the world can’t whine about it causing cruel and unusual punishment when they watch him struggle for air, and above all, it is by far the cheapest means of execution.

  3. The fact that he is still breathing 23 years after his crimes speaks for itself, and is self-evidently absurd, a direct consequence of the moral and ethical confusion over capitol punishment.

    This is solely due to judicial sabotage.

    https://ethicsalarms.com/2021/01/19/law-vs-fallacy-the-jurisprudence-of-justice-sotomayor/#comment-738373

    Of course, this delay is a problem of the Court’s own making. As Justice Breyer concedes, for more than 160 years, capital sentences were carried out in an average of two years or less. Post, at 18. But by 2014, he tells us, it took an average of 18 years to carry out a death sentence. Id., at 19. What happened in the intervening years? Nothing other than the proliferation of labyrinthine restrictions on capital punishment, promulgated by this Court under an interpretation of the Eighth Amendment that empowered it to divine “the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society,” Trop v. Dulles, 356 U. S. 86, 101 (1958) (plurality opinion)—a task for which we are eminently ill suited. Indeed, for the past two decades, Justice Breyer has been the Drum Major in this parade. His invocation of the resultant delay as grounds for abolishing the death penalty calls to mind the man sentenced to death for killing his parents, who pleads for mercy on the ground that he is an orphan. Amplifying the surrealism of his argument, Justice Breyer uses the fact that many States have abandoned capital punishment—have abandoned it precisely because of the costs those suspect decisions have imposed—to conclude that it is now “unusual.” Post, at 33–39. (A caution to the reader: Do not use the creative arithmetic that Justice Breyer employs in counting the number of States that use the death penalty when you prepare your next tax return; outside the world of our Eighth Amendment abolitionist-inspired jurisprudence, it will be regarded as more misrepresentation than math.)

    If we were to travel down the path that Justice Breyer sets out for us and once again consider the constitutionality of the death penalty, I would ask that counsel also brief whether our cases that have abandoned the historical understanding of the Eighth Amendment, beginning with Trop, should be overruled. That case has caused more mischief to our jurisprudence, to our federal system, and to our society than any other that comes to mind. Justice Breyer’s dissent is the living refutation of Trop’s assumption that this Court has the capacity to recognize “evolving standards of decency.” Time and again, the People have voted to exact the death penalty as punishment for the most serious of crimes. Time and again, this Court has upheld that decision. And time and again, a vocal minor-ity of this Court has insisted that things have “changed radically,” post, at 2, and has sought to replace the judgments of the People with their own standards of decency.

    – Justice Antonin Scalia

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