Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A prevarication from the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation


Noun: prevarication
A statement that deviates from or perverts the truth -- lie.

Intentionally vague or ambiguous -- equivocation, evasiveness.

The deliberate act of deviating from the truth -- lying, fabrication.

Today there's an Associated Press story receiving widespread distribution on the national AP wire about problems with Ohio's latest execution. Readers may recall that at Christopher Newton's execution last month, it took 90 minutes and at least ten stabs of a needle for the execution team to find a vein.

In response, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio is seeking state records, including the names of the volunteer medics and guards who oversaw the execution. AP reports that the request has drawn Ohio into a wider debate over whether executioners' identities should be kept secret.

According to AP:

Death penalty opponents say Newton's May 24 lethal injection was the latest in a series of botched executions nationwide, and that executioners' identities and professional credentials should be open to public scrutiny.

They point to the case of Dr. Alan Doerhoff, a participant in Missouri executions who was revealed in news reports to have been sued for malpractice more than 20 times. The state is no longer using his services.

They also point to the December execution of Florida inmate Angel Diaz, who took 34 minutes — twice as long as usual — to die. Executioners administered a rare second dose of lethal chemicals to Diaz, and an autopsy found the needles had been pushed through Diaz's veins into the flesh of his arms.

A commission created afterward to study the incident called for more training and better protocols for executioners.

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes the death penalty, said the public can't properly scrutinize the effectiveness of capital punishment without adequate information on those carrying it out.

"Public executions should be as public as possible," he said. "They supposedly have nothing to hide, and as with anything government does, it benefits from more scrutiny. For medical personnel, yes, there may be a cost. But that's sort of like the cost that the state, or all of us, bear."

But now comes Michael Rushford, president of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in Sacramento, Calif. Rushford has committed at least one and quite possibly two prevarications -- the word we will use because we wish to be polite.

In the AP story, Rushford accuses capital punishment opponents of wanting to expose members of execution teams to intimidate them. "The ACLU, which has staked out its turf as severely against the death penalty, will use this opportunity to out someone involved in an execution, and use it to put these people at risk," he said. "Unfortunately, that's how important their cause is to them."

Oh, really? No one I know of in the abolition movement wishes to put anyone at risk. (In fact, if you think about our work, that is antithetical to what we do.) We DO want to learn everything we can about the lethal injection process through a legal process known as discovery. Indeed, this is how we have come to learn there are problems with lethal injection in the first place.

Mr. Rushford may have engaged in a second prevarication when he states, "They (the ACLU) were against the gas chamber 30 years ago — they said there was only one humane alternative and that would be lethal injection."

The ACLU came out in favor of lethal injection? Really? I can't definitively state that it didn't happen -- I was a freshman in college when the first lethal injection execution occurred. But I would be shocked if any group, including the ACLU, including Amnesty International, including the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, came out in favor of one method of execution over another. That's not what we're about and that's not what we do.

On the first point, Mr. Rushford owes the ACLU an apology for stating that the organization wishes to put executioners at risk. On the second point, Mr. Rushford needs to either provide substantiation for his claim that the ACLU came out in favor of lethal injection -- or he needs to retract it.

Either way, I'm not holding my breath.


the tennessee dude said...

now that's ironic - someone who supports killing people as a public policy tool of the state is accusing another entity seeking to put people in harm's way...i'd say prevaricator provocateur

Anonymous said...

Lying: how about equating "released from death row" to "didn't do it". That's a lie. It is impossible to not believe that some people on the "Innocence List" got away with murder.

And, if you guys are going to get worked up about CJLF, what about the prevarication to a court of law in the John Byrd case.