Don’t Die Before We Kill You

Death row elder needed 2 injections
SAN QUENTIN, California (AP) — In the end, California’s oldest condemned inmate did not seem quite as feeble as his attorneys made him out to be in their efforts to save his life.

With the help of four big prison guards, Clarence Ray Allen shuffled from his wheelchair to a gurney inside San Quentin’s death chamber early Tuesday, a day after his 76th birthday.

Though legally blind, Allen raised his head to search among execution witnesses for relatives he had invited.

“Hoka hey, it’s a good day to die,” Allen said in a nod to his Choctaw Indian heritage. “Thank you very much, I love you all. Goodbye.”

Having suffered a heart attack back in September, Allen had asked prison authorities to let him die if he went into cardiac arrest before his execution, a request prison officials said they would not honor.

“At no point are we not going to value the sanctity of life,” said prison spokesman Vernell Crittendon. “We would resuscitate him,” then execute him.

But the barrel-chested prisoner’s heart was strong to the end: Doctors had to administer a second shot of potassium chloride to stop it.”

This case didn’t get as much press as Tookie Williams did, which is one of the reasons why I felt that some of the people supporting Tookie did not have pure motivations. It is one thing to be against capital punishment and it is quite another to use someone as a political pawn.

If you are not familiar with the case here is a little more information.

“Allen, condemned for ordering behind bars a hit that left three people dead, was the second-oldest inmate executed in the United States since capital punishment resumed nearly 30 years ago, behind only a 77-year-old in Mississippi last month.

His attorneys had pleaded with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the U.S. Supreme Court to spare his life, claiming that executing a man as old and feeble as Allen amounted to cruel and unusual punishment, and that the 23 years he spent on death row were unconstitutionally cruel, too.”

Was it cruel and unusual to have three people murdered. This just irks me. But moving back to the title of the post I do wonder about the sense in resuscitating someone so that they can be executed. That might reasonably be considered cruel and unusual.

I believe in justice but society must have some standards.

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  1. Stephen (aka Q) January 19, 2006 at 3:45 pm

    By the way, we’re about to elect a Conservative government here. I’m thinking the US government could work something out with the new administration in Canada, and incarcerate prisoners in our far north. I bet they’d agree with you, that the weather constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

    But I’d want proof that these were actual bad guys — none of this holding them on suspicion that they might be suspected of idly thinking about possibly doing something Dubya disapproves of. Those people should at least be detained somewhere warm.

  2. Stephen (aka Q) January 19, 2006 at 3:40 pm

    There you go, that’s my point exactly — “cruel and unusual” can refer to just about anything, even a seasonally cold day in the Great White North.

  3. Jack's Shack January 19, 2006 at 7:00 am


    Well, what can you do.


    That just blows me away.


    We are not all that far apart on this one. I agree that resuscitating someone so that they can be executed is beyond the pale.


    I don’t know if I agree that the DP shows a lack of a value for life, but certainly a case could be made for that.


    After reading your post about the weather I wonder if living in your neck of the woods during the winter wouldn’t also be considered cruel and unusual. Brr…. 😉

  4. Stephen (aka Q) January 18, 2006 at 8:15 pm

    Good post, Jack. That “cruel and unusual punishment” clause is so subjective – arguably it can mean just about anything.

    But I totally agree with your interpretation. Going to extraordinary lengths to keep someone alive in order to execute him is self-evidently bizarre. Surely it ought to be regarded as cruel and unusual punishment.

  5. my bald sheitel January 18, 2006 at 4:18 pm

    “At no point are we not going to value the sanctity of life,” said prison spokesman Vernell Crittendon. “We would resuscitate him,” then execute him. OMG I am smirking at the irony of this statement. The DP inherenty shows society does not value human life. Also see

  6. Bill January 18, 2006 at 3:07 pm

    Personally I find execution repugnant, because one execution of an innocent person is one to many, and sorry folks it has happened more than once.(see below)

    That said to resuscitate him then execute him is barbarism.

    How is this “value[ing] the sanctity of life”?

  7. bornfool January 18, 2006 at 2:31 pm

    We’ve put two inmates through triple and quadruple by-pass surgery so they can be healthy when they get executed. One of them, against his will.

  8. Dovid January 18, 2006 at 7:18 am

    And it irks me too..

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