Friday, November 02, 2007

Harpers Lethal Injection

It is a specific case of a Canadian facing the death penalty in the U.S. that the Harpocrites have decided they will use as their cause célèbre to arbitrarily abandon our long standing national policy that we do not extradite criminals to countries with the death penalty and that we fight for Canadians facing the death penalty abroad.

The U.S. implemented the Death Penalty in 1976 the same year that Canada in a free vote ended the death penalty. Remember 'free votes' that used to be the cornerstone of the Reform/Alliance/Conservatives parliamentary reform policy until they became the government.

A bill to officially ban the death penalty passed in a free vote in 1976.

A free vote on reinstating the death penalty was held in the House of Commons in 1987. MPs agreed by a 21-vote margin to maintain the abolition of capital punishment.

And the irony is that the Canadian on death row is facing death through lethal injection which is now before the Supreme Court in the U.S. as a form of cruel and unusual punishment, torture by any other name.

Is The Government Finally Scrutinizing The Death Penalty?

Since the Supreme Court effectively legalized the federal death penalty in 1976, death penalty legislation or even legislative oversight has been nearly non-existent. Feingold's hearing this summer on death penalty implementation was the first of its kind since 2001-- the last time a Democratic majority enabled Feingold to chair a Senate committee.

But there are indications that Feingold may no longer be the lone wolf in Washington howling about the death penalty's moral and practical problems. His hearing this summer actually made front-page headlines when fired U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton gave specific examples of the Alberto Gonzales-led Justice Department eagerly pursuing death sentences at the expense of due process. Nationally, executions this year are down to 42, their lowest level in a decade.

Of those executions all but one were done via lethal injection. And the Supreme Court's stay of execution for Mississippi prisoner Earl Berry was, according to the New York Times, an "indisputable indication" that the Court will stop all deaths by lethal injection until next spring.

That's when the nine justices argue Baze v. Rees, which will determine if death row inmates can challenge the so-called three-drug cocktail used for executions as a violation of 8th amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. Some doctors now argue that the drug combination may sometimes result in inmates being paralyzed but not anesthetized, meaning the final moments of their lives are spent in searing pain, unable to move.

Looking at the Ethics of the Lethal Injection Challenge

The Supreme Court decided to halt an execution in Mississippi this week, marking the third stay from the justices since they agreed to hear a challenge to lethal injection. It likely means that states will hold off on all executions until the high court rules on the case, which claims the drug mixture used for the injections can cause severe pain and amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

The "de facto" moratorium and the case itself raise an interesting ethical question. In the past, other inmates have challenged the constitutionality of lethal injection, have lost their appeals and have been executed. And Richard Dieter, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, says that the court has declined to take similar appeals in the past. So how is it fair that the justices have just now decided to weigh in, and, in the meantime, executions are likely to stop?

Marin judge rules lethal injection procedures invalid

Portrait of lethal injection reveals a barbaric scene

The other irony is that the Canadian in question is an Albertan. And Alberta is the home base of Harpers Law and Order Government.

The lawyer for a Canadian awaiting execution in a Montana prison says he was shocked by the federal government's announcement it will no longer seek clemency for his client.

In the past, the government has requested that Canadian prisoners sentenced to death in the U.S. be allowed to serve out life sentences here, since Canada opposes the death penalty.

The apparent change of heart came as a blow to Don Vernay, lawyer for Albertan Ronald Allen Smith, who faces lethal injection for the 1982 murders of two men in Montana.

"I mean, talk about having the wind knocked out of you. I'm astounded, is all I can say," Vernay told CTV's Canada AM on Friday.

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day announced in the House of Commons on Thursday that he will not plead for clemency for Smith, since he had been found guilty in a democratic country "that supports the rule of law."

On Friday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper confirmed Canada has no interest in wading into the debate over capital punishment, and would not be coming to Smith's aid.

"The reality in this particular case is, were we to intervene, it would quickly become a question of whether we were willing to repatriate a double murderer to Canada," Harper told reporters.

"In light of this government's strong initiatives on tackling violent crime I think that would send the wrong signal to the Canadian public."

Vernay said representatives of the federal government contacted him about a year ago and said they intended to try and bring Smith home.

"They came to us and they said we want Mr. Smith back in Canada, he's one of our citizens," Vernay said.

"We want the death penalty lifted and we are going to do whatever we can to secure his transfer to Canada and to have the governor of Montana grant clemency. And so we were pleased and we were surprised."

Vernay said he flew to Montana and met with the staff of Gov. Brian Schweitzer late this summer, and got the sense the clemency request was on the agenda.

"It was in the preliminary stages but everybody knew that this is what was on the agenda," Vernay said.

"And we had the Canadian government 100 per cent behind us and then all of a sudden out of nowhere comes this statement."

Vernay said the decision seems to fly in the face of Canada's position on the death penalty and sends a confusing message to the world.

"For your government to make a statement like that to the world internationally that you now support the execution of your own citizens -- what can I say? I mean, it's breathtaking in terms of its implications."

The Harpocrites are abandoning not only Ronald Allen Smith to his fate, but any right to legal intervention that could occur in the Supreme Court hearings on lethal injections. Perhaps fearing their intervention could sway the court.

"We have no desire to open the debate on capital punishment here in Canada -- and likewise, we have no desire to participate in the debate on capital punishment in the United States." Harper told reporters.

Now if one was prone to conspiracy theories one could be forgiven for thinking that the Harpocrites abandonment of this specific case is a sop to the White House, given the President is Executioner In Chief and rather proud of his record of executions when he was Governor of Texas.

And we know that the White House endorses other forms of torture err cruel and unusual punishment; like waterboarding, using public security as an excuse. Which is the excuse Stockwell Day gave for this sudden reversal of policy;

"It would send a wrong message. We want to preserve public safety here in Canada."
One wonders since this announcement has come out of blue. One has to ask why now, and why are they doing this. There is a hidden agenda here despite the Harpers assurances that he does not want to open up a debate on capital punishment.

Except they have.

In 1987, the House of Commons defeated a motion to bring the death penalty back. Among those who voted in favor of the idea was Rob Nicholson, now the federal justice minister. Nicholson did not talk to reporters in Parliament and his chief spokeswoman did not respond to queries about whether he still backed capital punishment.

Yep, a not so hidden agenda. It is the slippery slope towards a return to capital punishment in Canada if the Harper Law and Order government gets a majority.

Mr. Harper added: "The reality of this particular case is that were we to intervene, it would very quickly become a question of whether we are prepared to repatriate a double-murderer to Canada. In light of this government's strong initiatives on tackling violent crime, I think that would send the wrong signal to the Canadian population."


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