Ninth Circuit Judge: No 'Masking Brutality' of Death Penalty

A top federal judge on Monday issued an evocative and forthright attack on the death penalty, saying that the practice of “lethal injection” is a misguided attempt by society to “mask” the “horrendous brutality” of the act.

“Using drugs meant for individuals with medical needs to carry out executions is a misguided effort to maks the brutality of executions by making them look serene and peaceful—like something any one of us might experience in our final moments,” Ninth Circuit Court chief justice Alex Kozinski, wrote in a dissenting opinion in the lethal injection secrecy case of Joseph Wood.

“But executions are, in fact, nothing like that,” Kozinski continued. “They are brutal, savage events, and nothing the state tries to do can mask that reality.”

The comments were made, unexpectedly, in Kozinski’s dissenting opinion in the Ninth Circuit Court ruling that denied the state of Arizona grounds to challenge the postponement of Wood’s execution, which is being delayed over the secrecy of its capital punishment procedures.

Though Kozinski is for the death penalty, he argued that, “If we as a society want to carry out executions, we should be willing to face the fact that the state is committing a horrendous brutality on our behalf.”

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According to the Guardian’s Ed Pilkington, the statement represents “one of the most high-profile attacks on the U.S. death penalty,” as the practice of death by lethal injection has come under increasing scrutiny following Europe’s boycott of producing death penalty drugs.