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New York Times calls death penalty ‘broken,’ cites Kentucky case

From Saturday’s editorial in The New York Times, “The Broken Machinery of Death“:

The death penalty is capricious, discriminatory and barbaric. The shortage of sodium thiopental has stripped what Justice Harry Blackmun called “the machinery of death” of even a cloak of scientifically based reliability.

We were unpersuaded when the court, by a highly fractured 7-to-2 vote in Baze v. Rees in 2008, upheld the death penalty and the three-drug protocol used by almost all states. It said that the manner in which the State of Kentucky administered it did not pose an unconstitutional risk that someone being put to death would suffer pain that was severe yet undetectable.

Chief Justice John Roberts argued then that the court could make that finding because of an extensive trial record about the use of sodium thiopental. There is far less of a record for the one-drug protocol, which should raise serious doubts about its constitutionality, even with this court.

When Illinois joined New Jersey and New Mexico this month as the third state to abolish the death penalty in the last four years, it made the choice compelled by a long record of judicial abuses, false convictions and other fundamental problems. That should be enough for all states to abandon the penalty once and for all.

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