The Washington Post and other media have reported that Ohio has become the first state to execute an inmate using a single drug protocol. Most states use a "three-drug cocktail: sodium thiopental to render the condemned unconscious, pancuronium bromide to paralyze the prisoner and potassium chloride to stop the heart."
In January, the lone manufacturer of sodium thiopental abandoned making the product. Ohio has now decided to utilize pentobarbital, a drug that is commonly used to euthanize animals.
Ohio's use of pentobarbital has sparked a debate. Death penalty opponents contend that Ohio should seek more information regarding the use of the drug in humans. Death penalty advocates, however, argue that opponents are simply seizing upon this issue in order to wage their broader campaign against the death penalty.
Behind this warfare, however, is a more critical story. This story concerns Johnnie Baston, the man who was executed. The Toledo Blade, a local Ohio newspaper, focuses on more important issue surrounding the execution in article analyzing Baston's execution. The TB article discusses the emotions the deceased and his family expressed at the moment of execution. It also reports that the family members of the victim pleaded with the state not to execute Baston.
This article places emphasis on more central issues concerning the death penalty, rather than on the search for a more "humane" way for state governments to murder people. The humanity of the people impacted by the state's killing are central to, but often ignored, in debates regarding the death penalty. The TB article, however, fills this void and even includes a long excerpt of Baston's last words:
I would like to say to my family I am very sorry. I know this is not what they wanted to have happen. I hope they won't be too bothered by what is taking place today.
It is not their doing. Just the way things go.
I hope my execution, that it will be the last, that people will open up. The victims in my case didn't want me to be executed. They wanted life without parole. That should have been respected. That should have been respected by our governor ...
I made a bad decision and I hope my family can move on and find some comfort and peace. I would like to say I'm sorry to my family. I made a bad decision.
I want you to reach out to my children. I love them so much. I want you to tell them stories about me. I want them to know the good things about me, even through my time in prison I wanted to better myself, encourage others. Remind them of that. My daughter, she's quiet, a lot like me. Just like me.
I want you to watch her. If she talks, listen.
I want to thank all the members of my church, my friends who petitioned, letters, faxed, Twittered, hopefully, to the governor, to show mercy.
For a long time I didn't see a lot of value in myself. It wasn't until this moment till I had to go through this ordeal that I have seen so much love from so many people. Letters from people all over the world, and even Ohio.
I appreciate every last letter, I appreciate every last card, every last prayer, every last encouragement.
I was hoping I didn't cry.
Dear heavenly father, I have sinned, and I repent of my sins, I pray for forgiveness. As I close my eyes on the light of this world, I hope to open my eyes to the light in heaven.
Too often, people in the US try to sanitize the use of the death penalty. It is an execution, not murder. The events are not televised. Usually, little, if anything, about the inmate's or the family's emotions are revealed. This article provides a necessary human side to this terrible process.