The abomination of the death penalty

Liliana Segura writes about the botched attempt last week by the state of Alabama at executing Doyle Lee Hamm, who had been on death row since 1987. What resulted was nothing less than torture as the state rushed to execute him before the midnight deadline for the execution warrant expired, all the while trying to hide what happened from his lawyer, his brother, and an outside anesthetist.

What is worse is that Hamm is terminally ill with cancer and has not long to live.

Hamm, 61, had large-cell lymphoma; the cancer had spread from his left eye to other parts of his body. After providing radiation, the state insisted the cancer was in remission and prioritized his execution over further treatment. Surgery scheduled for December to remove tumors on his chest was canceled — he received a death warrant that same day. Hamm’s illness compounded other problems: his veins were severely deteriorated, due in part to years of drug use, which would make inserting intravenous lines supremely difficult. There was one potentially viable vein in his hand, but nurses repeatedly reported having trouble using it to draw blood. The lethal injection would almost certainly not go according to plan.

I cannot even bring myself to quote what they did to Hamm as they tried to find a vein to inject the lethal drugs before giving up at 11:30 pm. There has been an increasing frequency of botched execution attempts across the nation that are similarly gruesome.

We are truly a barbaric people to allow this kind of thing to be done in our name.


  1. says

    We are truly a barbaric people to allow this kind of thing to be done in our name.

    They make murderers of us all. And incompetent murderers, at that.

  2. says

    Oh, come on. #NotAllBritons …..

    I’m British and opposed to the death penalty. But I can honestly envisage someone trying seriously to restore it after Brexit. And then getting pissed off when other countries start refusing to trade with us because of it.

    I love my country, but that doesn’t mean I have to be able to stand the idiots in charge of it.

  3. says

    Good morning Mano,

    I’ve long opposed the death penalty, not for moral reasons but because I simply don’t trust our judicial system to find convict the person actually guilty of the crime.

    Having said that, we are in the middle of an opioid crisis with hundreds dying each year in Ohio alone.

    Why aren’t we using these opioids for executions?

    Every time I’ve asked this question at a public forum I get blank stares.

    I suspect that such a death is deemed too good for the excused. We want them to suffer.

    Is America great or what?



  4. Jockaira says

    I’ve said it before, now again. A high-powered bullet passing through the center of the brain results in instant death with no pain. Nitrogen asphyxiation results in death with no pain but is not instantaneous. Any society utilizing capital execution should offer either as an option. Anything else is barbaric savagery.

    Those awaiting execution should also be given the option of an accelerated date of execution.

    Death by opiate is not necessarily as pleasant as believed. Sensations include increasing coldness, loss of physical control, and emotional isolation, especially with the sure knowledge of impending death in the last minutes of dwindling consciousness. Execution by opiate is just as cruel as the current injection protocols.

  5. says

    @Jockaira, No. 5

    Reference please.

    I ask because we actually have reports of death parties here in Ohio where addicts take what they know is a lethal dose trusting that someone at the party will revive them with Narcan. If the effect were unpleasant, I doubt we would have repeat practitioners.

    I agree, however, that both a properly placed bullet or Nitrogen offer reasonable alternatives.


  6. Jockaira says

    Jeff #6

    I assume that your request for a reference is “how do I know what an executed feels in the last moments of opiate death”. I have talked with a few people who were present at accidental overdoses who related the last words of victims. From this I have supposed the thoughts of a person executed by opiates. The party-goer who deliberately takes a fatal dose is expecting to be “saved” at the last minute therefore would have a completely different set of emotional reactions than a person knowing of their impending death.

    Your distrust of the judicial system vis-á-vis capital “punishment” is well-founded as evidenced by results of the Innocence Project that revealed several convicteds to have been wrongly convicted for various reasons. The flaw perhaps is in the requirement that a jury either find a defendant “not guilty” or “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt”. I suggest that a third determination might be necessary to morally justify execution: “guilty beyond ALL doubt”. I am sure that any reasonably bright person could innovate dozens of scenarios where such a determination could be made, so I won’t belabor the point. Those found “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” should not be executed, but instead given life without parole, always keeping in mind that such a person will always be a danger to those around him.

  7. Holms says

    A more reasonable approach would be to remove execution altogether, on the grounds that there is no such thing as ‘beyond all doubt’ to name just one reason.

  8. jonmoles says

    If we are going to continue the barbarity of executions, would it be possible for them to be as humane as euthanizing a stray pet? Am I missing something with regard to the efficacy of the method used to euthanize at the vet’s office that is not applicable to humans?

  9. chigau (違う) says

    jonmoles #9
    Just to answer in a vague way,
    I read somewhere, sometime, that the manufacturers of those chemicals are willing to provide them to zoos and veterinarians but not to prisons.
    Having just typed that, … I don’t think that’s the problem.

  10. Peter B says

    “Nitrogen asphyxiation results in death with no pain but is not instantaneous. ”
    Yes, but the executed painlessly becomes unconscious as if in a deep sleep. Use a breathing mask and appropriate restraints. Keep the N2 flowing until well after all signs of breathing stop. Moderate ventilation will assure the health of attendants.
    NOTE: this is not to argue pro or con about the death penalty. Only about the method employed.

  11. sonofrojblake says

    Not for the first time: there should be a national referendum on the death penalty, with two questions.
    Question 1: do you support the use of the death penalty? (YES/NO)
    Question 2: given the statistical inevitability of mistakes, do you, personally, volunteer to be the first innocent person executed? (YES/NO)

    Anyone answering YES to the first but NO to the second doesn’t get their voted counted because they obviously don’t meant it. What they mean is “I support the death penalty but only as long as it doesn’t apply to me”. They can be safely ignored as hypocrites or idiots.

    Anyone answering NO to the first question gets their vote counted.

    Anyone answering with two YES’s is shot in the back of the head point blank as they leave the polling booth, and a note of thanks for their civic-minded sacrifice is sent to their next of kin. Their votes ARE counted. The poll is rerun the next day, and the next, until no bullets are wasted, and at the end of the exercise the national average IQ has gone up a few points. The only people left in the country are people who oppose the death penalty and people who EXPLICITY stated on the record that they oppose it in the real world.

    I cannot see a downside to this plan.

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