Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Boomer Sooner!

Updating last week's post on the state of Arizona's drug smuggling operation for lethal injection, comes news that they executed Jeffrey Landrigan this morning.

The State of Arizona executed Jeffrey Landrigan late Tuesday night after the Supreme Court lifted a lower court’s injunction blocking the lethal injection.

Last-minute appeals for Mr. Landrigan, convicted of murder in 1990, focused on the origins of one of the drugs used in the state’s three-drug execution protocol.

The state refused to detail the origins of the drug or the process used to obtain it in open court, citing the state’s confidentiality laws, though officials said it had come from England. Thus “the Court is left to speculate,” Judge Silver wrote, “whether the non-F.D.A. approved drug will cause pain and suffering.”

In a one-page order issued Tuesday night explaining the 5-to-4 vote to vacate Judge Silver’s temporary restraining order, the Supreme Court stated that Judge Silver’s reasoning was flawed, because the case affirming the constitutionality of the three-drug execution method, Baze v. Rees, had a high standard of proof that an execution method would cause harm.

The Court stated that “speculation cannot substitute for evidence that the use of the drug is ‘sure or very likely to cause serious illness and needless suffering,’ ” and added, “There was no showing that the drug was unlawfully obtained, nor was there an offer of proof to that effect.”

Talk about your unfalsifiable straw man. It's not the state's burden to "prove" the lethal drug's origin, it's the defendant's? That's like saying "it's not the drug dealer's burden to prove where the drugs came from, it's the users."

But I'll agree with the majority's one point: "speculation cannot substitute for evidence," which is precisely what Arizona did when resorting to the black market to pick up its lethal drug (sodium thiopental) of choice. Speculating in the black market to keep the machinery of death going "offers no proof" of the drug's validity and, thereby, constitutionality.

So why would the five vote the way they did?
The five justices who voted for lifting the stay were Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.; Antonin Scalia; Clarence Thomas; Samuel Alito; and Anthony M. Kennedy. The four justices who voted to uphold Judge Silver’s stay were Ruth Bader Ginsburg; Stephen G. Breyer; Sonia Sotomayor; and Elena Kagan.
Gah. Never saw that coming.

The NYT also pulled another gem from my favorite pro-death penalty character:
In an interview, [Kent] Scheidegger said, “The Supreme Court told the Ninth Circuit and the District Court that they had applied too loose a standard in granting a stay.” The new decision, he said, “sends a message” that “speculation about problems with the source is not sufficient to stay an execution.”
Kinda like "demonstrations of actual innocence" aren't reasons enough to stay an execution, like "racial discrimination" isn't reason enough to stay, and a whole host of other pesky facts the court routinely ignores.

BTW, I wonder if this sets a new standard of "proof" for drug dealers and users to use in their defense? "Speculation about the source of my drugs is not sufficient enough to proceed with an arrest or prosecution."

Meanwhile, the only person not to have lost their sense of humor over all this was the poor sap Landrigan. An Oklahoma native, his last words from the gurney were:

“Well, I’d like to say thank you to my family for being here and all my friends,” he said, [then referring to the University of Oklahoma team nickname] “and Boomer Sooner.”

Awesome. I'm still waiting for some Georgia inmate to drop a "Go Dawgs!" bomb from the gurney down in Jackson one day.

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