Editorial: Execution discomfort a fraction of victims' pain

Arizona's death chamber is getting a little more attention nowadays, with an upcoming trial seeking more "transparency" in executions.

The inmate, or the subject of the exercise, is strapped to a table and covered up to his or her neck with a sheet, according to the Associated Press. "All you see is a head sticking out from a sheet, and a guy sort of looks around, maybe makes a last statement and then closes his eyes," said Dale Baich, a federal public defender who has represented the most recent inmates executed in Arizona. "We want more transparency in the process, and that's what we hope comes of this litigation."

In question for the Oct. 11 federal court trial are constitutional rights and alleged deviations from execution protocol: using a new execution drug, using the groin area as the injection site, and failing to leave injections uncovered during executions.

We see this as an attempt to take the "transparency" and use it for other means. For example, in the execution of Georgia inmate Andrew DeYoung recently, a judge allowed attorneys for another Georgia death row inmate to videotape DeYoung being put to death. They want to use it in their appeal, making the point that the sedative isn't effective enough at the front end of the execution process and thus exposes their client to potential pain and suffering, according to the AP.

Arizona Assistant Attorney General Kent Cattani, who will be arguing the state's side at the October trial, said corrections officials themselves dictate protocol and can change it anytime they see fit. "An inmate can challenge a change but they have to show there's a high likelihood of significant pain or suffering because of the change," he said. "...I'm not sure I understand why there would be a need for insertion of the femoral vein (in the groin area) to be witnessed."

Mr. Cattani is too trusting.

The focus on the drug choice sharpened in June when a media witness to another Georgia execution said the condemned man jerked his head several times and muttered after the drug was injected.

Whether they tape an execution or win the right to remove the sheet and see more of it, the witnessing of any possible discomfort for the condemned could be used to bolster other cases and arguments against capital punishment.

What is fair? What is constitutional? At his execution, DeYoung blinked his eyes and swallowed a few times before losing consciousness. His victims - his mother, father and 14-year-old sister? He stabbed them all repeatedly.

Case closed.