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Letters to the Editor: April 15, 2014

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The problem is the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. So, if a person condemned to die is kept from knowing the source, consistency and content of the drugs that will kill him or her, how can anyone know if it is cruel or unusual?

In January, the final words spoken by Oklahoma death row inmate Michael Lee Wilson quickly elevated the debate. His last words were, “I feel my whole body burning.” Wilson’s execution involved the use of the drug pentobarbital, which causes respiratory arrest. Oklahoma no longer uses the drug as part of its lethal injection process because manufacturers took steps to ensure their products would not be used in capital punishment cases.

Unable to rely on manufacturers, officials turned to compound pharmacies, sparking criticism from death penalty critics who claim these facilities do not receive the same high level of scrutiny by the federal government. The same critics suggest that could create excessively painful executions because the consistency and quality of the drugs is not monitored.

Without transparency about lethal injections, particularly the source and purity of drugs to be used, it is impossible to ensure that executions are humane and constitutional.

Corrections officials announced they will use a combination of midazolam (a sedative), pancuronium bromide (which paralyzes muscles) and potassium chloride (which stops the heart from beating). That mixture has been used before in the U.S. According to the Human Rights Watch report, the danger of masked suffering is so great that at least 30 states have enacted laws banning the use of such drugs in the euthanasia of animals.

There are too many unanswered questions regarding the Eighth Amendment and whether Oklahoma’s new death concoction would create a “cruel and unusual punishment.” All scheduled executions should be stayed until those questions are answered, and full public disclosure should be required regarding the lethal injection process.

— David Slane
Oklahoma City Slane is an Oklahoma City attorney.

Here, we all have freedom
Freedom is not a right reserved for Christians only. Our forefathers were not Christians and would never declare it wrong for anyone of another faith to be told they cannot pledge allegiance to their country. That was what they were escaping when they left England.

It seems like Doug Rixmann (Commentary, Letters, March 26, Oklahoma Gazette) also has a poor and archaic understanding of atheists if he thinks that we lack willpower to overcome evils of the world. How pompous of Doug to believe that Christians have proven to subject themselves less to the flaws of humanity. Quite the contrary, as evidenced throughout history.

Please inform Doug that bias toward Christianity is not what made this nation powerful and free; in fact, these principles of the United States aren’t even Christian, where you are bound by your holy book, not free to pursue your own individual desires, which are shackled to your imaginary crosses in an ultimate sacrifice of freedom and power to your god.

— Madison Ferrell
Oklahoma City

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