Federal Judge Demands End to Executions by Drugs

Jul 24, 2014

A day before the state of Arizona took nearly two hours to execute a condemned convict, the chief judge of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals wrote a scathing opinion on the use of drugs to carry out death sentences. Alex Kozinski wrote that using drugs meant for medical purposes is a misguided effort to mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and peaceful.

But he said, they're not. He said "They are brutal, savage events and nothing the state tries to do can mask that reality"... and "nor should it". He said that we as a society should be willing to face the fact that the state is committing a horrendous brutality on our behalf. Kozinski called for a return to more primitive but foolproof methods of execution, noting wryly that the guillotine is probably best, but inconsistent with our national ethos.

In his view, firing squads are best, because large caliber rifle bullets fired at close range will inflict instant death every time. Furthermore, he wrote, firing squads are messy, but - "if we cannot stomach the splatter from an execution carried out by firing squad, then we shouldn't be carrying out executions at all".

A tremendous number of taxpayer dollars have gone into defending a procedure - death by drugs - that is inherently flawed and ultimately doomed to failure. The execution of Joseph Wood in Arizona seemed to bear out Kozinski's argument. The drugs used in his execution took nearly two hours to end his life.