Monday, May 21, 2007

Revisiting the death of Angel Diaz

Lawyers for Ian Deco Lightbourne, who faces execution in Florida, are challenging the continued, mindless assertion by Florida state officials that the state's lethal injection protocol is flawless.

At issue in a recent court hearing is whether Angel Diaz -- executed last December -- suffered because the first drug was improperly administered. Florida officials -- all evidence notwithstanding -- deny that he did.

Now comes Diaz's spiritual advisor, who last week testified in open court for the first time about Diaz's execution and how it affected him.

Dale Recinella, a volunteer Department of Corrections lay minister, recalled an emotional phone call to his wife on his drive home and the images of a man who appeared to be struggling to live.
"I told her I had just watched a man be tortured to death," testified Recinella.

Diaz was executed by lethal injection on Dec. 13, 2006. His death took 34 minutes - twice as long as it usually takes. Authorities had to administer a second dose of the lethal drugs to kill him.

Recinella knew Diaz since 1998 and was asked to pray with him and console his family. But by the end of the execution, Recinella said he was in shock.

He said it seemed to be a "painful" death. Recinella recalled Diaz's torso arching up and down, his face grimacing. He gasped for air and there appeared to be much tension in his head and neck area.

"He looked at some points as he was trying to speak in a forcefully way ... to the staff and then he began to show signs of his body arching. His torso was arching and ... it seemed like it was an involuntary reaction,"the minister testified as he demonstrated Diaz's body movements and facial expressions.

(Source for the above: The (Florida) Ocala Star-Banner.)

Now: we've had some trolls lately (who apparently don't want to leave their names, but that's okay) and you can bet dollars to doughnuts that as soon as we post this, someone is going to write, "Oh, so what if they suffer a little bit?"

Well, so what indeed. One thing that opponents and proponents of the death penalty should be able to agree on is that when people are sentenced to death, they are not sentenced to gratuitous torture along the way. That's why we have an Eighth Amendment. That's why we have a U.S. Constitution. That's why we eliminated the rack, the whipping post, stocks and chains and other forms of medieval punishments. (Although actually, the state of Alabama tried to bring the stocks back a few years ago. The Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that they couldn't with Justice Thomas dissenting.)

Lethal injection offers up a conundrum. States can't seem to get it right without the involvement of medical professionals. And medical professionals won't participate because, well, their business is about saving lives, not taking them.

And so it goes.


Anonymous said...

The issue is not whether Florida can guarantee a painless death, but rather whether the procedures are wanton with respect to the risk of unnecessary pain. That's a tough legal standard to beat.

Everyone agrees that, done properly, the three drug cocktail gets the job done painlessly.

And speaking of the truth coming out, I notice I don't see anything here about the flawed nature of the Lancet study . . . . (you know, taking of samples way after the death of the prisoner, despite the fact that the chemicals degrade post-mortem). When you guys acknowledge that--then maybe we can give some credence to your "truth will out".

Anonymous said...

Anonymous is only half right when he/she says that "everyone agrees that, done properly, the 3 drug gets the job done painlessly" Truth is it gets the "hit" done, but we we cannot know how much suffering takes place. It is that simple. Theories abound, but there is no way, in practice, to be sure. The second drug, Pancuronium Bromide masks the symptoms of pain and suffering. Undisclosed and unscientific protocols and procedures, unknown executioners, secret "medical professionals" hiding behind masks, execution materials both used and unused destroyed, little or no documentation...all add up to make it difficult for the "truth coming out." Who is fooling who?

Also, Harley Lapin, head of the Federal Prison system has been adamant in advising states NOT to require immediate post-mortem blood draws that would give a better indication of drug levels at time of death. Virtually all states and the Federal government do not perform this quick and simple test. What are they afraid of finding? The truth? I agree with anonymous on this part. If the state is going to kill, it has the responsibility to providing accurate data on it's protocols, participants, and scientific data. After an execution, the Death Chamber should be treated as a crime scene and all evidence conserved.

Anonymous said...

Tennessee apparently wants to test. And, they use far more than they need to. And why do you guys have to cite BS nonsense like Lancet?