February 10, 2011
Judge Fogel and the Death Penalty
On Tuesday, Judge Jeremy Fogel of the
The inspection was part of his review of a proposed new method for injecting those drugs to assess whether he should allow
Judge Fogel stressed in his 2006 opinion that, in focusing on the administration of the lethal three-drug cocktail, “this case presents a very narrow question.” But that question cannot be answered unless the judge also asks the state why it believes that one of the drugs, sodium thiopental, is reliable.
After the sole American manufacturer stopped producing sodium thiopental,
Judge Fogel’s doubts about
Soon after, he began his own review of the execution method. One of his pivotal findings was that, in six of
In an essay about this case, Judge Fogel was punctilious about not saying whether he supports or opposes the death penalty. Instead, he expressed faith in the legal process as a means of fairly resolving even the most difficult issues.
For legislators in state capitols considering whether to abolish the penalty, however, this case has done much more than that. It has documented how lethal injection can be cruel and unusual punishment when unprofessionally administered and how the culture of prisons breeds that shoddy approach. It is one more reason to reject the death penalty as a barbaric punishment.