Yesterday Ohio became the first state in history to execute a man using a drug normally reserved for animal euthanasia. Before this execution, states had traditionally employed a three injection cocktail that would anesthetize the inmate, stop his breathing, and then stop his heart. In January, however, the company that produced one of those crucial drugs announced it would cease distribution. Hospira, the drug manufacturer, publicly stated that it did not condone capital punishment, and that since it was impossible to ensure that its drugs would not be used in executions, it was pulling its product off the market entirely.
Ohio then sought alternatives, eventually deciding to abandon the three drug approach in favor of a single lethal dose of the barbiturate pentobarbital. This move, however, created a row with that drug’s manufacturer, H. Lundbeck: “It’s against everything we stand for,” a company spokesman said, “we invest and develop medicine with the aim of alleviating people’s burden. This is the direct opposite of that.”
The opposition to Baston’s execution didn’t stop there. Peter Mah, the son of Baston’s victim, publicly voiced his family’s opposition to the execution and capital punishment in general. Mah said that Baston’s execution will not bring back his father and will not alleviate his family’s suffering. The Mah family went even further, backing up their words with a formal request to the Ohio Parole Board that Baston’s sentence be commuted to life in prison without parole. Their request was unanimously denied.
In death penalty cases at least someone is supposed to benefit from the execution.Here, however, it appears as though not a single individual came out ahead. The drug companies vehemently opposed the use of their products, the victim’s family actively tried to stop the execution, and the Bastons eventually lost a family member. Society would have been equally shielded from any future dangerousness if Baston had instead been sentenced to life without parole. From what I can tell, Ohio just spent millions of dollars to go out of its way to do something with no marginal benefit that no one wanted to do in the first place.