For the second week in a row, a death penalty story from the West is the headliner. Arizona executed convicted murderer Joseph Wood on Wednesday afternoon by lethal injection. His death took almost two hours. Some believe that Wood was gasping and snorting throughout and view it as a botched execution (see this Slate article), others argue that Wood was sedated in the first few minutes and did nothing but snore thereafter (see this Arizona DOC news release). Last-minute litigation in the case focused on Arizona’s refusal to reveal the precise drugs to be used to execute Wood. Perhaps presciently, Judge Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit wrote in the course of that litigation that “[t]he enterprise [of lethal injection] is flawed. Using drugs meant for individuals with medical needs to carry out executions is a misguided effort to mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and peaceful . . . . But executions are, in fact, nothing like that. They are brutal, savage events, and nothing the state tries to do can mask that reality. Nor should it. . . . If some states and the federal government wish to continue carrying out the death penalty, they must turn away from this misguided path and return to more primitive—and foolproof—methods of execution. The guillotine is probably best but seems inconsistent with our national ethos. . . . The firing squad strikes me as the most promising. Eight or ten large-caliber rifle bullets fired at close range can inflict massive damage, causing instant death every time. There are plenty of people employed by the state who can pull the trigger and have the training to aim true.”
In other news:
Federal drug guidelines reduced retroactively. Anyone who practices in federal court is likely aware of this already, but the United States Sentencing Commission recently concluded that changes to the federal sentencing guidelines that apply in drug cases should apply retroactively to defendants who have already been sentenced. Congress could disapprove the amendment but if it doesn’t, sentences could be changed starting November 1, 2015. It’s a big deal, and Doug Berman at Sentencing Law & Policy wonders here whether the federal public defenders will be able to handle the onslaught of cases. The folks at Crime & Consequences disapprove here.
No new trial for Jeffrey MacDonald. The former Army doctor convicted of killing his wife and two daughters was denied a new trial by a federal judge yesterday. WRAL has the story here.
Why does all the goofy stuff happen in Florida? (OK, and Italy.) As to Florida, the headline of this story pretty much says it all: Man in Road Rage Incident Run Over by Own Truck. Actually, it doesn’t quite say it all. The man, who was hit by his truck when he got out of it to confront another motorist but neglected to put the vehicle in park, smelled strongly of alcohol and had an open beer in the cab. He “told [an investigating] officer that he does not drink and drive,” but “[w]hen asked about the beer cans in his truck, he said he was only drinking while he drove home.” Meanwhile, across the pond in Italy, a women’s prison apparently has been providing inmates with “happy hours which ran until ‘late at night’ with ‘external guests.’ Prisoners were provided with a catering service and offered alcohol.” No word on the quality of the vintages available. The story is here.