Do Committers of Inhuman Murders Deserve Humane Executions

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Issues with the wrong drugs for lethal injection executions have raised voices in favor of death row inmates’ demand to know the drugs that would kill them, but have the actions that got them here ever been humane?

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Do Committers of Inhuman Murders Deserve Humane Executions

  1. 1. Do Committers of Inhuman Murders Deserve Humane Executions? Issues with the wrong drugs for lethal injection executions have raised voices in favor of death row inmates’ demand to know the drugs that would kill them, but have the actions that got them here ever been humane? The recent issues with states using wrong drugs for lethal injection, resulting in agonizing deaths for inmates, have gathered momentum in debates. With states being determinedly secretive about the source of their drugs, death row inmates have drawn on the Eighth Amendment to file lawsuits demanding to know what drugs are being used for their execution. The shortage of the tried and tested drug thiopental and then pentobarbital has left states scurrying to zero in on alternatives. Irrespective of the legal stance, which has varied between pro-state and pro-death row inmate, the ethical questions raised are confusing. While inhuman deaths cannot be tolerated in a civilized society, do the death row inmates who’ve themselves performed heinous and violent crimes have a right to demand total peace and calm during their execution? Does Jose Villegas Deserve Sympathy? While the violence, pain and discomfort with lethal injection executions due to the use of some unapproved or untested drugs has raised eyebrows and advocated a need for reform, much of our sympathy for death row inmates seems unfounded when we consider the violence with which they’ve executed their crimes. Take the case of convicted 39-year-old murderer Jose Villegas who was recently executed in Texas – this man had brutally stabbed his 23-year old ex-girlfriend, her 3-year-old son, and her mother in 2001 at their home in Corpus Christi. They had been stabbed more than 19 times. Cases such as the above rely heavily on the verbal and material evidence presented in court, and the transcripts of court proceedings available through accurate and reliable legal transcription. Let us look at the course of this case. The Mental Impairment Argument Villegas’ attorneys placed arguments that the slayings were a result of a condition they had called “intermittent explosive disorder” which caused bouts of uncontrollable rage. That argument did not stand in spite of a defense psychiatrist testifying to it. Lawyers also filed an appeal on the day before the execution requesting the Supreme Court to stop it. The reason they cited was that his IQ was only 59.
  2. 2. It only served to delay the punishment though, strangely, four among the nine justices mentioned in the court order that they would have provided him a pardon. This argument was based on the strength of a Supreme Court order which prohibits mentally impaired individuals from being executed. An IQ level of 70 is generally considered by courts to be the threshold for mental impairment. Argument Fails before Texas Attorney General The IQ finding was disapproved by the office of the Texas Attorney General since previous IQ examinations of the convict had not revealed any kind of mental impairment and the latest IQ test that was conducted after the execution date was revealed posed a possibility that Villegas was deliberately performing poorly. In the ten years that Villegas’ lawyers had for raising impairment claims, they came up with that only a few days before the execution. Villegas was executed by pentobarbital injection. The Department of Corrections officials have not consented to reveal the drug provider, and the Supreme Court has approved the stance. After the pentobarbital was injected, Villegas reported to feel a burning sensation in his body. After several gasps he began breathing quietly and was pronounced dead 11 minutes after the injection – the seventh prisoner to be executed in 2014 in the state of Texas. Texas has had over a third of American executions since the reinstatement of death penalty by the Supreme Court in 1976. The state has rendered capital punishment to 514 people since then. Villegas’ Physical Agony Not Big Enough Though in some of the executions the pentobarbital bought from compounding pharmacies has caused greater or longer periods of physical agony before death, Villegas could be said to have undergone some agony. But many people believe that it is much lesser than the physical and emotional agony Villegas’ victims went through as he repeatedly stabbed them, and also the trauma the relatives of the victims undergo to this day. District attorney Mark Skurka who was the prosecutor of Villegas was shocked at the contrasting atmosphere of the execution chamber and the scene of the crime. It would have been a terrifying environment for Villegas’ victims including the three- year old child who all received stabs after stabs while in the execution chamber Villegas just gasped for air before everything became calm in a little over a minute. How the Gruesome Murders Were Committed By Villegas’ own admission, he arrived at the home of his ex-girlfriend at around 5 AM. Both consumed cocaine worth around $200. His girlfriend’s mother, who had
  3. 3. warned her against welcoming Villegas home, then came and ordered him to leave at which Villegas retaliated by stabbing and killing her first and then stabbing his 23- year-old ex-girlfriend and her son in the bedroom. Villegas then whisked a television from the home, drove away in his ex-girlfriend’s car and then pawned the television to buy more cocaine. Villegas claims he wanted to commit suicide by cocaine overdose after returning to her home, but on seeing the cops there he fled. The blood bathed bodies were found by the 23-year-old woman’s father. Villegas’ execution was witnessed by six of the victims’ relatives who felt justice had been served though it was quite late. According to the district attorney, Villegas did not try to make peace with the victims’ family after the tragedy, or even apologize. The Rare Strain of Mercy for Death Row Prisoners A silver lining in this cloud of mindless murder and terribly affected loved ones is the willingness or even ardent pleading by some families of murder victims to do away with the death penalty for the murderer. An example of this is the Colorado case where the parents of a murder victim have pleaded the court to save the life of his murderer. Though we all - and certainly the law does - think that murderers deserve no sympathy, that thought process could be flawed when loved ones of the victims themselves step in actively demanding sympathy for the criminal. Surely this is the only respite death row inmates are entitled to receive for the chaos they’ve caused to the lives of others. Villegas’ brutality though was much more than what’s humanly forgivable or forgettable. It’s said you just can’t get away with murder, but probably what’s truer is that you just can’t get away with brutality.

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