Abolish the death penalty ... NOW!

Joseph Rudolph Wood is dead.

That much should not be a surprise to anyone. According to the Washington Post, Wood was sentenced to die in 1991 for shooting and killing his ex-girlfriend and her father in 1989. An NPR story said his execution in a prison complex in Arizona began as scheduled at 1:52 p.m. Wednesday.

So the fact that Joseph Rudolph Wood is dead shouldn't be a surprise. He was scheduled to die Wednesday.

What should surprise - and disgust and shock - you, however, is how dramatically the state of Arizona botched (to borrow the words of Rachel Maddow) Wood's execution. Oh, the state still managed to kill Wood, but the way in which he died should horrify you. Take a look at this video from Wednesday's episode of The Rachel Maddow Show.

The state of Arizona injected, as Maddow says, a "secret cocktail of drugs" that had never been used for an execution before (in that state) into Wood. And if using Wood as a human science experiment weren't bad enough, the drugs also failed to kill him right away.

"The man did not die as planned," Maddow said. "He gasped and made noises and stayed alive for nearly two hours."

Maddow was not the only one describing a horror show:

  • According to the Washington Post, Dale Baich, one of Wood's attorneys said "he watched Wood 'gasp and breathe heavily' for more than an hour and 40 minutes" and that other news outlets reported seeing him gasp more than 600 times.
  • NBC News said Baich told them that "The state of Arizona today conducted a failed experiment. It was horrible to watch."
  • And finally, this gem from NPR: "Joe Wood is dead, but it took him two hours to die," said Troy Hayden of KSAZ-TV in Phoenix, who served as a witness. "And to watch a man lay there for an hour and 40 minutes gulping air, I can liken it to, if you catch a fish and throw it on the shore, the way the fish opens and closes its mouth."

ENOUGH! We must eliminate the death penalty now!

It's been clear to me for a long time that the death penalty must be declared unconstitutional and abolished nationwide. If Wednesday's horror show in Arizona doesn't convince you of the same, there's something terribly wrong.

One of the most wonderful things about our Constitution is that it guarantees (or at least SHOULD guarantee) certain rights to everyone, no matter who they are. And though some would suggest it should be otherwise, some of those rights don't end upon being convicted of a crime, no matter how heinous said crime was.

One of those rights is the right of Americans not to be subjected to what is called "cruel and unusual" punishment. It's guaranteed to us - all of us, including Joseph Wood - by the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution. And what happened to Joseph Rudolph Wood certainly qualifies as both "cruel" and "unusual."

The crazy thing is that what happened to Wood is not an anomaly. In April, Oklahoma attempted to execute convicted murderer Clayton Lockett, but somehow, the drugs didn't make it into his vein, causing him excruciating pain and suffering before he ultimately died of a heart attack. In Lockett's case, as in Wood's, the state was using an untested group of drugs.

However, botched executions are not really a new phenomenon. The Death Penalty Information Center has a list of well-known botched executions going back to 1982.

I'm not big on dramatic calls to action. But it's time to get the death penalty abolished nationwide. Call your congresspeople and senators. Send letters. Send emails. Tweet at them. However you need to do it, just let them know you're not going to stand for government-sponsored torture and murder.

Once the barbaric and arguably unconstitutional practice of executing criminals is abolished, only then can we dare call ourselves a civilized country.

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