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Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer: Kentucky’s lethal injection protocol ‘comedic if it weren’t so brutal and inhumane’

AOwensboro Messenger-Inquirern editorial from the Aug. 30 edition of the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer:

With the signature of Gov. Steve Beshear, Kentucky is one step closer to killing another person.

Last week, Beshear signed the death warrant for Gregory L. Wilson, 53, who was convicted of kidnapping, raping and murdering Deborah Pooley in 1987.

Without a last-minute reprieve, Wilson is slated to be executed Sept. 16 for his crimes and will become the fourth person the state has executed since 1976.

Wilson will be killed using a three-drug cocktail that he and other death row inmates have challenged as “cruel and unusual punishment,” only to have the method upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008.

But even still, the method is being questioned by a Franklin circuit judge.

Judge Phillip Shepherd said during a hearing earlier this month that he may order Kentucky corrections officials to explain why the state is sticking with the three-drug cocktail without exploring other options. The cocktail has been challenged by death row inmates who have argued that the use of a single drug, like what Ohio uses to kill inmates, shows there is a “safer” way to carry out executions.

Meanwhile, Beshear delayed signing death warrants for two inmates slated for execution because the state doesn’t have enough of one of the drugs it uses to kill.

This would be comedic if it weren’t so brutal and inhumane.

Deciding whether using three drugs or one is a safer way to kill someone? Holding up executions because the state can’t find enough of its lethal drug?

These disputes and dysfunctions expose how arbitrary a system Kentucky, or any state, uses to dispatch capital punishment. Kentucky, like other states, has rules regarding the execution of the mentally ill, the mentally disabled or the young.

Where does one draw such a line? Is a person with an IQ of 75 who commits a horrendous crime more deserving than someone who commits the same crime but only has an IQ of 65? In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a person under the age of 18 when committing a capital crime couldn’t be executed. How is a 17-year-old criminal so different from one who is 18?

Lawmakers and judges draw these arbitrary lines to add an air of mercy and justice to a practice that is unjustifiable. Making a decision about whether to use three drugs or one to kill an inmate is immaterial.

The only question that needs to be answered is whether the government should be in the business of killing its own citizens, and that answer should be easy — No.

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