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Do condemned deserve ‘civil rights’ that victims lost?

January 24, 2014
By WILLIAM FINNIGAN , Tribune Chronicle |

The recent execution of a condemned killer in Ohio has sparked "heavy criticism," according to an AP article. The attorney for Dennis McGuire, the convicted murderer, has called the execution "a failed, agonizing experiment" because of the use of a drug combination never tried in the U.S.

Allen Bohnert, representing the McGuire family, elaborated on the length of time (more than 20 minutes) it took for the drugs to produce death, and the ensuing "agony and terror" suffered by McGuire. (Bohnert) plans to sue the state of Ohio, stating the people "should be appalled at what was done in their names."

On the surface, it's easy to sympathize with the attorney and the criminal's family. Being the humane society that we are, we have bent over backwards to coddle death-row inmates to the end. The drugs used prior to this execution were swift and effective, resulting in little or no "suffering."

But the reality in this case is the ''dried-up'' supply of the sedative phenobarbital is now unattainable since it has been declared by the manufacturer as "off limits for capital punishment." Thus, the prison officials had to minister intravenous doses of two alternative drugs to put McGuire to death for the 1989 rape and fatal stabbing of a pregnant newlywed Joy Stewart.

One gets the feel from this article that the state is now the culprit, being accused of "cruel and unusual punishment." It's amazing how subtly the emphasis switched from "justice," to the welfare of the criminal.

The state certainly had no intent in making the killer's death any more painful than necessary. After all, McGuire was just now facing justice some 25 years after his crime. Had there been swift justice given, he would have been executed "pain free" with the formerly used drug dosage.

In the midst of the defense's cry for McGuire's "constitutional rights," the state Assistant Attorney General Thomas Madden pressed for the execution to go ahead. He argued that while the U.S. Constitution bans cruel and unusual punishment, "you're not entitled to a pain-free execution."

The bottom line of this whole episode was not the killer's "suffering" per se, but a further attempt to ban capital punishment - period.

I wonder what Joy Stewart's family was experiencing through this time? A precious life was brutally snuffed out 25 years ago, but who cares? The concern here was about "constitutional justice" given to her murderer, rather than his judicial payment for the murder. McGuire should have thought of his victim's "civil rights" before taking her life.

It's interesting how so-called "criminal justice" is more concerned with the rights and wellbeing of the criminal, than the justice demanded by the crime. In my opinion, the long, drawn-out waiting periods on death row contribute to this "soft" attitude toward carrying out justice. With the passing of years, human nature tends to forget or at least minimize the horrors attached to snuffing out a life.

I pictured what if a similar crime occurred in some Muslim countries; just how long would it take for that "legal system" to take action on this murderer? No one doubts that there would be swift, "pain-free" justice, as in severing the man's head from his shoulders.

I'm not advocating that kind of "justice" in America, but our growing disrespect and opposition to swift and fair law enforcement is "killing" us from within. If this trend continues, crime and anarchy will reign, and the prisons will be run by the inmates. What a scary thought!

Finnigan is a Howland resident. Email him at



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