Here's another gem from the written opinions of the justices. Justice Samuel Alito referred to the ethics rules of the medical profession, which, he said, bar them from taking part in executions. This was one of the issues in the Kentucky case where it was argued that nonprofessionals might not administer the drugs properly and thus might inflict excruciating pain. Two things about this: first, "medical ethics" have not prevented a good number of doctors from performing abortions and a few from engaging in "assisted suicide" at the other end of life; second, I like what Chief Justice Roberts said in his majority opinion: "Some risk of pain is inherent in any method of execution - no matter how humane - if only from the prospect of error in following the required procedure. Š It is clear, then, that the Constitution does not demand the avoidance of all risk of pain in carrying out executions."
As the court leans more conservative, it is beginning to take into consideration the pain inflicted by murderers on victims and the lifelong emotional pain on victims' families.
DNA is aiding in reducing the likelihood that those wrongly convicted will be executed. Death penalty opponents are correct when they note that not all capital cases enjoy even minimally competent counsel. That needs to be corrected, but the court majority is right in the Kentucky case. As states begin again to execute the guilty, perhaps the concept of "just desserts" is making a comeback, even in our feel-good culture.
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