Wasting more effort killing killers

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Ohio has found it harder and harder to execute its death row inmates, and so the answer has been to make the process secretive. The problem began when the pharmaceutical companies, whose drugs were being used for executions, decided they didn’t like their drugs being administered on death row, so they stopped the supply line.

That left states like Ohio scrambling to come up with alternative drugs, which, in turn, led to a series of botched executions, including one in Ohio. On January 16, 2014, it took about 20 minutes to execute Ohio inmate Dennis McGuire, using two previously untested drugs. Botched executions have resulted in legal challenges to the new execution protocols.

Companies are hesitant to create new drugs specifically for executions. Who wants to be known for being in the business of killing people? Besides that, companies in this line of work (if you want to call it that) in other states have apparently received threats of harm. (What irony. People opposing executions threatening harm to people who make executions possible.)

What to do? Attorney General Mike DeWine and Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Ron O’Brien have suggested that the identify of the companies, known as compounding pharmacies, hired to produce the new execution drugs be a “confidential state secret.”

Let’s think about this. We’re already spending enormous resources on executing offenders—longer and more expensive trials, and usually 15-20 years in post-conviction proceedings. One might think the sudden unavailability of execution drugs would give authorities cause to re-think the death penalty.

That would make too much sense. DeWine and O’Brien and some legislators believe that making part of the process confidential is the way to go. Think of the amount of time being spent on coming up this this fix. More effort and less transparency. Great idea.

If we weren’t making a herculean effort in killing killers, aren’t we there now? Isn’t now a good time to think about awarding killers only life without parole sentences?

Don’t we have other problems that warrant our attention? Instead of confidentiality for compounding pharmacies, why not spend our time on matters like education or helping young teens avoid pregnancy. Instead of focusing on something secretive and destructive, let’s do something productive.

Give killers life without parole and call it day.


 Jack D’Aurora writes for


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