Thursday, March 17

"CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT"

I'll tell you this: this post will be painful to write. I can't believe we may be less than 24 hours away now from an utter abomination -- something altogether reprehensible and which will cause the unnecessay pain and death of a hapless, defenseless, handicapped woman. It's an outrage? Please, Dear Lord, help her, if men will not.

Brian Nichols, the man who Atlanta, Georgia police believe is responsible for four cold-blooded murders and who is now in police custody, will be subject to execution by lethal injection if the District Attorney seeks the death penalty and if Nichols is convicted. That is the method of execution now prescribed in the State of Georgia. The former method of execution -- death in the electric chair -- was ruled by the courts to be "cruel and unusual punishment."

Scott Peterson, convicted of the first-degree murder of his wife Laci and their unborn son Conner, has been sentenced to die by lethal injection, the form of execution now used by the State of California. The former method of execution -- death in a gas chamber-- was ruled by the courts as "cruel and unusual punishment."

Death by lethal injection is considered humane and most medical experts believe that no pain is felt during the process, which takes only a matter of minutes to complete. So it has been adopted by a large number of states. Indeed, the typical process involves the intravenous administration, via a series of up to eight syringes, of various drugs, the first of which is always the anesthetic Sodium Thiopental (trademark name is Pentothal), which "puts the inmate into a deep sleep." How fast does it work? "It can reach effective clinical concentrations in the brain within 30 seconds," according to an Amnesty International report. Anywhere from 2 g to 5 g are administered, either of which is regarded as a lethal dose.

Interesting isn't it that the Eighth Amendment to the United States' Constitution which prohibits the "infliction" of "cruel and unusual punishments" only provides that protection for criminals and not for law-abiding citizens of the United States. Terri Schindler-Schiavo would be afforded a humane, painless death had she murdered someone, been convicted of that crime in Florida (Florida uses lethal injection), and exhausted the gamut of legal appeals for which such criminals are entitled. Unfortunately, she was a model citizen up until her brain injury in 1990, has been cognitively-disabled ever since, has most recently (and for a number of years now) been in a lock-down, shut-in, hospice room environment, and now by order of the Florida courts (and the patent indifference of the Federal courts) faces the looming prospect, beginning tomorrow, March 18th, at 1:00pm EST, of a draconian, death-by-court-decree process that is so gruesome, so painful, and so utterly unconscionable, that it could not under the highest law of the land be perpetrated on Brian Nichols, Scott Peterson, Charles Manson, a convicted "9/11" terrorist, a convicted traitor, or a dog with distemper!

Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, in his opinion in the "Furman v. Georgia" (1972) case, wrote:

Whether the English Bill of Rights' prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments is properly read as a response to excessive or illegal punishments, as a reaction to barbaric and objectionable modes of punishment, or both, there is no doubt whatever that in borrowing the language and including it in the Eighth Amendment, our Founding Fathers intended to outlaw torture and other cruel punishments.
But, alas, Justice Marshall was writing about protections afforded capital offenders by our Constitution, not handicapped people with severe brain injuries. For them, no dignity can be assured, no torture averted, no prolonged, cruel death precluded -- not unless a judge's heart is in the right place and made of other than cold steel. Circuit Court Judge George Greer's is not.

So what exactly is Terri Schindler-Schiavo's court-ordered form of death? The unthinkable answer in this day and age, and in America of all places: dehydration and starvation. But, according to medical experts, the dehydration is what will surely be the death of her; but, not until as many as 14 days may have elapsed and during which the following will likely be experienced by her:

An unconscious person would feel it (dehydration) just as you or I would. They will go into seizures. Their skin cracks, their tongue cracks, their lips crack. They may have nosebleeds because of the drying out of their mucous membranes, and heaving and vomiting might ensue because of the drying out of the stomach lining. They will feel the pangs of hunger and thirst. Imagine going one day without a glass of water. Death by dehydration takes 10 to 14 days. It is an extremely agonizing death.