Dennis McGuire was convicted of the brutal and horrific stabbing death of Joy Stewart, a 22-year-old newly married woman who was 30 weeks pregnant with her first baby, in 1989 when McGuire kidnapped, raped, and stabbed her to death. He is sentenced to die by lethal injection on January 16.
His lawyers, however, have other plans. They think the sentence is cruel because the drug "cocktail" planned for use in the penalty is new. They say it may cause a horrifying phenomenon called "air hunger" where the dying person struggles to breathe and is in pain and fear during their last moments. Kind of like Joy Stewart must have been, correct?
A federal judge has already said the execution will go as planned, but his lawyers are frantically trying other methods to stop it. McGuire has also asked to stop the execution because he wasn't able to address the full extent of his chaotic and abusive childhood.
Look, as someone who is dubious on the death penalty, I see all the points listed here. It IS sad that McGuire chose to destroy three lives (Stewart's, his own, and the viable baby's), but he made those decisions. Not his "abusive" parents, not his lawyers. If we are going to have the death penalty, then we also have to accept that there is no "painless," sweet death and why do we care anyway?
We are KILLING someone! Do I believe that is right? That's not the point. The point is that our law does and, while we say "cruel and unusual" is against the law, we are also operating with an eye for an eye mentality. In this case, the pain and suffering of the victim will STILL be about 10 times that of the inmate, even if he does suffer from "air hunger."
Would it be awful to die that way? Yes. But aren't we splitting hairs a bit here? Death is cruel and unusual as far as punishments go, so does it really matter if it's by firing squad, hanging, or untested lethal injection? Besides, how does one test "lethal injection" on humans unless they test it on humans?
Whether Stewart's family supports the penalty or not is unclear, but I would imagine for many families, whether or not the inmate felt "pain" was inconsequential. They want justice for their loved one. My guess is he is still getting off easier than his victim.
Do you think the "pain" matters in a case like this?
Image via Ohio Department of Rehab