All of the topics we discuss on Big Time Dicks are disgusting in their blatant willingness to disregard other people’s humanity, especially if they are people of color or women. But this week’s dick—Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchison’s plan to execute eight death row inmates in a period of ten days—is viscerally sickening.
The executions are set to take place from April 17 to April 27, in an effort to beat the expiration date of a drug called Midazolam, intended to sedate the inmate before he is given two other drugs that will paralyze him and make his heart stop. (It’s worth noting that Midazolam is a drug approved for basic procedures like colonoscopies, but not for major surgeries.) In this episode, Prachi and I discuss the death penalty’s history and its inseparable ties with lynching, as well as Arkansas’s plan to complete four double executions (meaning two people are executed each day) in a row, for no reason at all.
“This conversation about the drugs and the executions coming up is a little bit of a microcosm of the bigger problems with regard to the death penalty,” said executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty Diann Rust-Tierney, our guest on the podcast this week. “What we really are seeing here is an example of, not only outlier behavior, but the government behaving badly. Why do I say that? Because part of what’s happening in these states that are rushing to do these executions, particularly in Arkansas, is that we’re also seeing that these executions are veiled in secrecy, that many of these states—most of these states, actually, that are continuing with executions have passed laws that basically say, ‘We can use whatever drug we want, but we don’t have to tell the defendant and we don’t have to tell you where we got it and we don’t have to tell you how much we paid for it.’ We wouldn’t have that in any other context.”
“This rush exemplifies a lack of respect for human beings,” she continued, referencing a recent report from Harvard Law’s Fair Punishment Project that found that at least five of the eight men set to be executed have serious mental illness or intellectual impairment. Additionally, she said, it’s also unfair to the people forced to perform the executions. “It’s a real thing when you kill people, and it has longstanding, detrimental impact on people. It’s traumatizing.”
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