Another Unnecessary and Risky Asphyxiation in Alabama May Be Challenged

Alabama's First Suffocation Caused Suffering, and a Painless Alternative Exists
 
WASHINGTON - Feb. 23, 2024 - PRLog -- Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall is seeking an order from the state Supreme Court to put prisoner Alan Eugene Miller to death by asphyxiation - suffocation by nitrogen gas - shortly after the first such execution of  Kenneth Smith.

But in view of the observations of several witnesses to Smith's very recent execution, the Supreme Court may ban this novel method of imposing the death penalty, especially if it follows its own recent ruling setting forth the standard for a method-of-execution challenge, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf.

According to the high court's recent ruling on this matter, to successfully challenge a method of execution, a prisoner need simply identify a readily available alternative method of execution that would significantly reduce the risk of severe pain.

In view of these and other independent reports of what actually happened, the first requirement for challenging this novel method of execution now seems to be more than met by many observations of the pain and suffering asphyxiation caused Smith, suggests Banzhaf.

Rather than just a substantial "risk" of serious harm, courts now have uncontroverted proof that execution by asphyxiation does in fact cause "severe pain."

As to the second requirement necessary to challenge a method of execution, the law professor notes that there clearly exists a "readily available alternative method of execution" which would "significantly reduce the risk of severe pain."

The simple alternative, Banzhaf suggests, and an alternative to using suffocation for executions generally - with the many legal and other challenges this method will now face in view of this botched execution - is putting the condemned on the pill.

In at least ten states (California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington) and in the District of Columbia, physicians are permitted to prescribe barbiturate pills so that terminally ill (and often old and frail) patients can achieve death with dignity without any pain or other suffering.

If states such as Alabama proposing to continue suffocating prisoners don't take advantage of this simple and proven alternative method to cause death without any pain, they can only expect further legal challenges and even more delays by death penalty opponents who can probably now show, according to the new legal standard, that this completely novel and untested execution method creates substantial risks of harm relative to a viable alternative; that viable alternative being painless barbiturate pills, Banzhaf predicts.

jbanzhaf3ATgmail.com   @profbanzhaf

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