Is a second execution effort cruel?


Deborah Denno discusses in the Los Angeles Times the legal precedent behind a second execution attempt in Ohio and whether it would violate the 8th Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

Only once before has a state’s execution failed, legal scholars say. In 1946, 17-year-old Willie Francis walked away from Louisiana’s “Gruesome Gertie” electric chair after a 2,500-volt current coursed through his body.

 “The issue with Willie Francis was, can you re-execute him, or would that be cruel and unusual punishment or dou-ble jeopardy?” said Deborah Denno, a Fordham University law professor and death penalty expert.

A divided high court decided in 1947 that Louisiana could lawfully subject Francis to execution again. A second electrocution killed him a year and three days after the first attempt.

“But so many aspects of that case are so outdated or so specific to Willie Francis and that time that even though it is entrenched precedent with the U.S. Supreme Court and frequently cited, one would look at the Broom case very differently,” said Denno, whose writings on execution methods were cited by the U.S. Supreme Court majority in last year’s decision upholding the constitutionality of lethal injection in Kentucky.

This story originally ran in the Los Angeles Times. 


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