Botched execution should give pause

In 1906, the state of Minnesota held its last execution of a murderer. William Williams was hanged in the Ramsey County Courthouse basement, in the middle of the night. It was a botched job – the sheriff overestimated the amount of rope needed, Williams hit the floor without breaking his neck, and he had to be hauled up into the air by three deputies. It took him 14 slow, agonizing minutes to strangle to death. A reporter had sneaked into what was supposed to be a private execution, and his report created such a furor that Minnesota outlawed the death penalty for good in 1911.

Last Thursday the state of Ohio tried to execute a convicted murderer, Dennis McGuire, with a lethal injection, using a drug mixture that hadn’t been used before. It took McGuire 26 minutes to die. The sounds and motions he made during his death throes indicated he was suffering terribly as he died.

The U.S. Constitution prohibits “cruel and unusual punishments.” Cruel and unusual certainly sounds like words that would apply in this case.

Clearly, the state of Ohio needs to place a moratorium on executions until it can figure out a more reliable and humane method of execution.

Or, it could follow the lead of Minnesota and the rest of the 18 states that have banned the death penalty.

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