John McCain knows torture when he sees it.
The Republican U.S. senator from Arizona was victimized by it as a prisoner of war in Vietnam for more than five years. So when the 2008 GOP presidential nominee says an Arizona inmate was tortured before he was executed this week, I tend to listen.
I’ll declare here that I oppose capital punishment, largely because keeping someone alive to think about the crime he or she committed is punishment enough — in my book.
Well, this week Joseph Wood became the latest condemned man to die in what amounts to a botched or nearly botched execution. He gasped, moaned, snorted and writhed on the gurney for nearly two hours before succumbing to the drugs pumped into his body. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, another Republican, has ordered a complete review to determine what went wrong; the state attorney general has halted future executions until the review is complete.
Wood wasn’t a good guy. He committed a terrible and violent crime that put him on death row. Hardliners out there say they feel not a shred of remorse over what happened to him on the death chamber gurney. He still got off easy compared to the pain he inflicted on his victims, they will say.
Still, the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits “cruel and unusual punishments.” States that used to hang, shoot, electrocute or gas inmates to death have gone to lethal injection as a form of supposedly “human” execution. Well, James Wood didn’t die humanely. Neither did the Oklahoma inmate who was executed in a hideously botched process in which the lethal drug was injected into tissue, rather than into his bloodstream.
What are states to do? Texas, which had gone on a death row killing spree in recent years, has somehow slowed the pace of executions. We still kill inmates more regularly than other states. We’ve had none of the instances lately of the kind of torture that John McCain described in the Wood case.
“The lethal injection needs to be an indeed lethal injection and not the bollocks-upped situation that just prevailed. That’s torture,” Sen. McCain told Politico on Thursday.
Yes, the state should review its capital punishment procedures. However, if states cannot guarantee prevention of the type of agony suffered by a condemned inmate, perhaps there ought to be some serious debate about ending the procedure altogether.
Let these inmates rot in prison for the rest of their natural lives.