The Debate Over This Inmate's Execution is Going Viral — Here's Why


Last Thursday, Ohio inmate Dennis McGuire, 53, was executed. 

McGuire received an "untried and untested combination of two medical drugs" involving the sedative midazolam and painkiller hydromorphone, mainly because drug manufacturers behind the lethal concoctions of the standard, federally-approved three-drug protocol have placed sanctions on the drugs' use in capital punishment. (See the video below, and this piece.) 

There has long been debate over whether the death penalty should exist or not. David Weeks, a pro-death penalty prosecutor in Huntsville, Texas, said in an interview, "You've forfeited your right to live in society. You've forfeited your right to live."

However, nationwide, public support for the death penalty is the lowest it's been in four decades. Forty percent of people surveyed by Gallup do not believe it is administered fairly. 

The argument has now shifted towards how an inmate will die. The Eighth Amendment prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment." However, reactions to a recent statement by an Ohio judge who claimed that inmates do not have the right to a pain-free execution indicate the public is polarized on the issue.

Typically, an execution should take no longer than 6 minutes. McGuire suffered and gasped for air until he finally died after an agonizing 25 minutes. Viewers described the ordeal as "ghastly."

Immediately following the execution, the Federal Public Defender of the Southern District of Ohio issued a statement: "It is entirely premature to consider this execution protocol to be anything other than a failed, agonizing experiment by the State of Ohio. ... More importantly, the people of the State of Ohio should be appalled at what was done here today in all of our names. Ohio, like its citizens, must follow the law. The State has failed." 

On the other hand, a judge from the Attorney General's office in Columbus ruled on Monday that McGuire — who, in 1989, raped and fatally stabbed Joy Stewart, who was pregnant at the time (the baby also died) — was "not entitled to a pain-free execution." The quote has since sparked a massive debate on Reddit.

Many took to public forums to express their fervent agreement. One commenter on PolicyMic wrote, "Somehow I cant find it in my heart to feel any kind of sympathy [sic] for this creature. Aww, he gasped for air. I wonder how the woman he raped and murdered was breathing, as she was being raped and murdered. Sorry, for me, there couldn't be a death penalty inhumane enough for this man." Another wrote, "There is a special place in hell for animals like him. The slower the better." A third commenter said, "I don't get it. He raped a pregnant woman, then killed her and WE HAVE TO GO HUMANE ON HIM? are you effen [sic] serious?" Another: "I would urge a slow and extremely painful death for abhorrent crimes like the ones discussed in this article."

The strongest argument against the death penalty is rooted in the possibility of executing an innocent man. There are also legal, logistical, financial, moral and philosophical objections. But in the case of McGuire, a man who was without doubt guilty of a heinous crime, anecdotal commentary indicates that a considerable portion of the public agrees with the Ohio judge: McGuire was, by no means, entitled to a pain-free execution. 

Is an inmate entitled to a pain-free death? Let me know what you think on Twitter


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