Death Row Inmate Has Death Request Refused

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The death penalty has long been a topic of heated debate, however there has been mass uproar after an inmate had his final request refused by the US Supreme Court…

Although abolished in many countries, the death penalty is still retained in over 60% of the world.

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These countries include China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangledesh, Saudi Arabia, Iran and of course, the United States of America.

The death penalty has been a part of the US justice system for centuries…

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And the penalty, which is often referred to as capital punishment, has been in action since approximately 1608… yep, it’s really that old.

But it’s not currently legal in every state.

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And as the years have gone on, it’s become more and more of a controversial and taboo subject.

Many U.S states have now abolished the death penalty for a number of reasons…

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Including the risk factors of executing an innocent person, the fact it doesn’t prevent future crimes, and the fact that it is both discriminatory and can be used politically, as per Amnesty.

Organizations such as Amnesty have been fighting for decades to have the death penalty abolished entirely…

And they have been trying to expose and hold to account governments that continue to use the punishment.

Many find the death penalty totally barbaric.

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When questioned philosophically, it’s difficult to justify the state killing its citizens.

Campaigners argued that many of those executed over the last few years were killed despite suffering from serious mental and physical illnesses…

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Which should have rendered the death penalty an unconstitutional punishment.

And some states have made huge progress in this field.

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Recently, history was made by Virginia being the first-ever southern state to abolish the death penalty. Other states which have abolished capital punishment include Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Delaware, New York and Washington.

People were overjoyed by the news, to say the least…

And many are even calling for the abolishment to be nationwide.

Virginia is now the twenty-third state to abolish the death penalty.

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And many are hoping for other Southern states to follow suit.

Not only is the act itself a source of contempt, but many believe the way people are put to death is also inhumane.

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The primary means of execution in the U.S. have been hanging, electrocution, the gas chamber, firing squad, and lethal injection. The Supreme Court has never found a method of execution to be unconstitutional, though some methods have been declared unconstitutional by state courts. The most widely used is lethal injection.

However, the injection has come under fire recently after states began using untested concoctions of medicines following a national drug shortage.

For example the execution of Clayton Lockett received mass uproar when he was subject to a botched execution in 2014. He had a heart attack on the table after he received an untested mix of drugs which had not previously been used. It is said he groaned, spluttered and convulsed for 43 minutes after being put under sedation.

However due to the national drug shortage, many states have had to improvise and use other ‘less humane’ forms of execution.

For example, The House Criminal Laws subcommittee approved a Senate proposal that also changes South Carolina’s default execution method to the electric chair in 2019. Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah states all allow the choice of a firing squad if lethal injection isn’t available.

Inmates would have the right to choose their method of execution among either electrocution or firing squad, if lethal injection was not available.

However, it has come to light that this isn’t always the case…

The US Supreme Court recently refused to hear an appeal from a death row inmate who requested to be executed by firing squad.

The inmate, Ernest Johnson was convicted in 1994 of killing three shop workers in Missouri during a robbery.

Johnson asked for the change as he said the lethal injection currently in use, called pentobarbital, could have mass side effects during his execution.

He said the injection could cause him to have painful seizures, because of a benign tumour he has on his brain. Instead he requested to be executed by firing squad.

However his appeal was turned down by the US Supreme Court.

He had first asked to be executed with nitrogen gas, with the Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit agreeing to his request. However in a separate case in 2019, the Supreme Court ruled that a state could refuse to use nitrogen as there wasn’t a ‘track record of successful use’.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor disagreed though, stating that it was unfair of the court to decline the request without allowing an appeal.

She said: “Think about what the Eighth Circuit has done in the interest of moving things along more quickly. Johnson has plausibly pleaded that, if he is executed using pentobarbital, he will experience pain akin to torture. Those factual allegations must be accepted as true at this stage of the litigation.”

Justice Sotomayor, quoting from her dissent in the 2019 case: “There are higher values than ensuring that executions run on time.”

Missouri has used the death penalty since 1810, having carried out 285 executions between 1810 and 1965. Lethal gas was used from 1937 to 1987. According to, lethal injection has 7.12% botched execution rate, whereas firing squad has 0%.

The main argument for the abolishment of capital punishment is the chance of ‘wrongful convictions.’

In 2020, Nathaniel Woods was sentenced to death after a non-unanimous jury sentencing recommendation in August 2005 for the killings of three Alabama police officers. Knowing he was not the shooter, prosecutors offered Woods a plea deal for 20-25 years, but Woods’ lawyer advised him not to take it, misinforming him that he could not be convicted of capital murder as an accomplice. Co-defendent Kerry Spenser, who received a life sentence in his trial, has consistently maintained that he shot the officers in self-defense, after they had beaten Woods during a shakedown and then pointed a gun at Spenser.

Nevertheless, the capital punishment is still a mass debated topic..

What do you think?
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