Debra J. Saunders

Consider this another example of how the left throws science out the window when it suits its philosophy. Death-penalty opponents have been fighting lethal-injection executions because, well, they oppose the death penalty. Enter the so-called scientific community. Last year, the British medical journal The Lancet reported that after being injected with the three drugs used to execute convicted murderers in America, some inmates might experience "awareness and suffering during execution." This, opponents claim, violates the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution because it is "cruel and unusual punishment."

The anti-death penalty left's bad science is working for them: It is winning execution delays. This week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling to delay the execution of Clarence Hill, a convicted Florida cop killer. The court's ruling took no side on the pain controversy. It focused instead on an obscure legal question as to whether a condemned prisoner could use the civil rights acts to fight lethal injection.

It is hard not to see the ruling as a reward for bad medicine. In February, U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel effectively delayed the execution of convicted killer Michael Morales so that Fogel could review the state's lethal-injection protocol.

The Lancet article, based on post-mortem drug testing of executed inmates, gave credence to the bogus pain claims. It warned, "It is possible that some of these inmates were fully aware during their execution."

Fully aware? There is little reason to believe this. It turns out that the researchers for the Lancet article took blood samples as long as two days after inmates died, not within the first hours after death. That allowed time for the drugs to diminish in the blood -- which maybe was the intent. Meanwhile, the media uncritically reported the article's findings.

So, in a sense, death-penalty opponents have aped the behavior of critics of evolution. They don't have to prove their thesis, they just have to establish doubt.

Let me acknowledge that some injection executions have not proceeded perfectly. In 2003, a North Carolina inmate convulsed and gagged before he died, but that doesn't mean he suffered. Surgeon Jonathan I. Groner of Ohio State University complained of technicians who took as long as 40 minutes to insert a catheter into a vein -- which he considers to be "needle torture."

Debra J. Saunders

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