(May 24)  MOBILE, Alabama, and NEW ORLEANS — What part of the words “cruel and unusual” do lawmakers in Louisiana and Alabama not understand?

Imposing outlandish cruelty while inviting a costly constitutional challenge shouldn’t be anyone’s idea of public service. Yet by insisting on allowing the use of nitrogen gas, a gruesome method, for criminal executions, that’s exactly what these two state governments are doing.

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Louisiana legislators and Gov. Jeff Landry (R-LA) earlier this year approved nitrogen asphyxiation as an approved method for the death penalty. Last week, every Republican on a House committee, ignoring pleas from Jewish leaders who said the gas use evoked memories of the Holocaust, voted down a bill by Democratic state Sen. Katrina Jackson-Andrews to undo that approval.

Three weeks ago, Gov. Kay Ivey (R-AL) set an overnight Sept. 26-27 date for her state’s next nitrogen execution a week after Alabama’s Supreme Court granted the state’s request to do so. The decision is unconscionable.

Objections to this method of death need not rest in objections to the death penalty itself. One can cogently argue that sometimes death is the only punishment that can fit truly heinous crimes such as premeditated murder or torturous, aggravated rape. The case can be made that if the penalty is clear in advance (and setting aside the absurdly convoluted appeals options available in the United States), it is the criminal, not the state, who has triggered his own death sentence by the very act of committing such a monstrous crime.

Even so, the state has an obligation, both constitutional (under the Eighth Amendment) and moral, to carry out its duty, as determined by the representative consent of the governed, as quickly and painlessly as possible. The punishment entails the end of life but definitively not torture.

Torture, though, is what appears to be happening….. [The full column is at this link.]



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