Whatever happened to good old American know-how?
Sure, we are the only advanced society with the death penalty, but we must ask ourselves whether we are proving worthy of the distinction. We sentence ’em to death all right, but we are seldom up to the task of killing them.
In fact, the process has gotten even more drawn out in recent years because several states, having switched to the supposedly more humane method of lethal injection, can’t lay their hands on the requisite drugs.
Louisiana is one of them, so nobody will be put to death here for at least another year.
The shortage arose when European drug manufacturers quit shipping to us because they do not wish to abet capital punishment. Bunch of damn socialists, obviously. Rely on pantywaist foreigners at your peril.
A federal judge has suspended executions in Louisiana for at least a year while the state seeks a source of drugs or comes up with a new method of execution. Various other states have a back-up if drugs can’t be obtained, prescribing either the gas chamber, the electric chair, the noose or a firing squad.
Not that it makes much difference because the vast majority of death row inmates — even the ones who happen to be guilty — are never going to be executed. Natural causes will get them first. If it weren’t for Texas, you’d have to say we’ve pretty much given up the ghost.
Squeamish pharmaceutical companies may have made the process even more drawn out, but the death row backlog can hardly be laid at their door. A fresh supply of drugs would not appreciably diminish life expectancy among the more than 3,000 convicts under sentence of death in America.
Last year, 72 people were sentenced to death — the fewest since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976 — but we only managed to execute 35 convicts. Louisiana has 85 prisoners on death row and hasn’t executed one since 2010. That was no great trick either because Gerald Bordelon declined to file an appeal. Our last involuntary execution was way back in 2002.
Even allowing that a shortage of drugs may have stayed the executioner’s hand in some cases, we are clearly never going to catch up.
Texas puts us to shame, having carried out nine of America’s 17 executions this year. Officials in Texas have not been stymied by any European bleeding hearts, having secured from a secret and presumably American source a supply of the one drug they use to do the job.
It is not so easy for Louisiana to score because we are one of several states that dispatch the condemned with what the press unfailingly and whimsically dubs a “cocktail” of three drugs.
The latest confirmation of our reluctance to serve it is provided by the case of Christopher Sepulvado, who murdered his 6-year-old stepson by stabbing him with a screwdriver and plunging him in scalding water in 1992. Sepulvado filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent his execution by trotting out the old “cruel and unusual” line, but the issue is strictly academic so long as the state has no means to kill him anyway. Thus, the hearing scheduled for a couple of weeks ago was put off, as, by no means for the first time, was his date with death. Four other death row inmates were granted stays too.
The hope is that, by July of next year, Louisiana will either find the drugs required for executions under the current statute or pass a new one it can abide by. A bill that would have brought back Old Sparky got nowhere in the last session, but maybe the Legislature will be made of sterner stuff next year.
So far, however, the state is proving incapable of figuring out how to kill anyone. This is such a pathetic show you’d almost think our heart wasn’t in the capital punishment business. Come on. If we don’t exterminate a bunch of wretches pronto, the world will start to wonder whether we are proud of our unique status or not.
James Gill’s email address is email@example.com.