Lethal Injections: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)



the desert rain frog and if you're thinking hold on I don't care about the desert rain frog maybe this will change your mind this desert rain frog it sounds like a dog toy but actually this is the sonorous war-cry of a very angry frog grace is that that's what it sounds like when it's mad how do they sound what it's happy what's a frog won't it be fun to learn more about that tonight I mean unfortunately we're not gonna be able to do that because our actual main story tonight is about lethal injection that's right only three more episodes with the greatest leading in modern television history and I'm burning one of them on lethal injections and the reason I'm doing that is it's a subject that doesn't come up very much because frankly no one wants it to for some reason lethal injections aren't something that people want to think about but they happen frequently in America there was one in Georgia just three nights ago and before we go any further I know that there are differing views on the death penalty some believe it's a deterrent to crime some believe it's righteous justice and some like Wyoming State Senator Leno chings believe it's justified for the weirdest possible reason the greatest man who ever lived died via the death penalty for you and for me I'm grateful to him for a future hope because of this if it wasn't for Jesus dying via the death penalty we would all have no hope so what what your argument for the death penalty is that it goddess of Jesus wants maybe one day if we kill enough people we'll get another one it's nothing we'll get that bonus Jesus let's just keep rolling the dice Papa needs a new pair of Jesus's now for the record so you know my personal view on the death penalty is a little different to that in that I don't think it should exist whatsoever there's actually no proof it has an effect on bringing down crime it's technically more expensive to execute someone than it is to keep them in prison for life and I'd argue it's wrong it's a wrong bad thing the government should not be able to do which kind of makes my first two points irrelevant they're listing reasons what you don't support the death penalty can feel a lot listing reasons why you're not going to your mom well let's see here we don't have much chemistry she lives 300 miles away oh and oh yeah she's money so I feel I do understand that it can be hard to sympathize with people convicted of heinous crimes although I will say according to one study around 4% of people sentenced to death are actually innocent which in itself should give us pause about the whole enterprise it's the equivalent of it would make things pretty weird with that not not the main reason not to do it by any measure and yet it should comfortably be disqualifying enough on its own but let's say that you don't care about any of those reasons look let's say you support the death penalty there's still the question of how you do it and legally injection came into vogue because it was seen as a humane and painless method it gains popularity around four decades ago the state started getting queasy about the horrors inflicted by the electric chair one state senator from Louisiana actually explained his votes to switch to lethal injection back then pretty nicely I am for capital punishment but I think that is a more humane way I have seen evidence in my committee this year I've seen photos of persons that were electrocuted and it is I guess you'd say kind of gross and I think that this is probably a step in the right direction kind of gross the electric chair actually set some people's heads on fire so that's kind of an understatement putting mayonnaise on pizza is kind of gross otherwise cute dogs with large erections are kind of gross driving a human being until their body's a smoking husk is objectively horrifying but in any case lethal injection was sold as something akin to surgery a medical procedure in which a doctor helps a person gently go to sleep and then they just don't wake up the problem is as you will see tonight however much we want that to be the case it just isn't and let's start with that idea that its medical that is more than a bit of a stretch because lethal injections aren't performed by medical personnel for a pretty obvious reason today in the United States it violates ethical codes for physicians to be involved so usually the people who are involved in the executions are not physicians and they're not properly trained to do an IV insertion much less an execution yeah of course anyone who's been properly trained to perform a procedure like a lethal injection has also been trained never to do that Hippocrates didn't say first do no harm second do some harm and the exclusion of medical personnel even extends to the design of our lethal injection process because it wasn't developed by scientists in a lab it came about when legislators in Oklahoma tried to figure out how to do it and couldn't get any doctors to work with them for obvious reasons so instead they turned to the state's medical examiner Jay Chapman who warned them that he wasn't expert in dead bodies but not an expert in getting them that way but he helped them anyway so I guess he wasn't an expert just an enthusiast with a can-do attitude for killing people even under the best of circumstances lethal injection is being administered by amateurs and unfortunately we're very much not under the best of circumstances and to understand why that's true I'm afraid you can I have to understand some of the specifics of how lethal injections work well the actual protocol varies from state to state most administer drugs in three steps first they give an anesthetic to put the inmate to sleep second a paralytic to stop the limbs from moving around there's actually no medical reason for that it's just for the benefit of the people watching so that they won't see a body file or convulse as the third drug initiates cardiac arrest and the really important thing to understand here is that the second and third drug in this procedure are both in their own ways horrifying the third drug apparently feels like fire being poured into your veins and even the second drug the one remember that only for the benefit of onlookers is nightmarish if you are not completely knocked out if the inmate is not unconscious and the inmate receives a second drug that paralyzes the muscles that is a horrible horrible situation where you are awake but you cannot move you cannot breathe see the sensation of suffocating essentially and you can't communicate to anybody that this is happening yeah you could be fully aware feel like you're suffocating but unable to move or communicate while fire is about to be injected into your veins and this somehow qualifies as more humane than an electric chair which seems pretty debatable at best it's like saying which movie has sexiest CGI characters Zootopia or Monsters Inc I mean probably Monsters Inc but it's not clear-cut and the question in and of itself is very disturbing so if steps two and three are torture the first drug in the sequence becomes critically important because in theory it's supposed to keep you from feeling the other two now we used to use a drug for this called sodium thiopental but it stopped being made here in 2011 and it's no longer approved by the FDA for import into the country although some states have tried to weasel around that restriction 5 years ago when zona needed drugs to execute an inmate named Jeffrey Landrigan it purchased them illegally from a supplier operating out of this driving school in London holy that is the most lethal thing to come out of a British driving school since Prince Philip and even when that supply got cut off states didn't give up they looked all over the place for replacement drugs Texas tried buying them from both a supply in India that also made illegal party pills and having them custom made by a small independent pharmacy which also operated as a gift shop which is just perfect if you want to pick up execution drugs but also give the inmates a little goodbye gift oh wow an oven mitt with googly eyes on it you shouldn't have Barbra I mean you really absolutely shouldn't have what the is wrong with you nowadays most states have given up on sodium thiopental and instead for that crucial first step they use a drug called midazolam which you should know is a sedative not a general anesthetic so it relaxes you but doesn't do anything to actually stop pain one expert has called it a martini in a syringe which sounds like a James Bond's rock bottom and be not nearly enough if I'm about to feel suffocated with fire in my veins and when called upon in court to justify using a sedative with no pain killing properties during a procedure this painful states have relied almost exclusively on this man dr. Roswell Lee Evans he's testified as the key expert witness in favor of midazolam on behalf of six different states even though he's not actually a medical doctor he got his pharmacy doctorate after just 18 months of post-grad study before midazolam even existed and has basically been working as a college administrator since 1994 and if you think it will hold on how do you know he's not been conducting research on midazolam or a bunch of other anesthetics since then well just watch this sequence of questions that he answered during a deposition have you been involved in research involving the use of the daze lamp no have you been involved in research involving the use of diazepam no have you been involved in research involving the use of lorazepam no have you been involved in research involving the use of propofol no have you been involved in research regarding the use of pentobarbital no have you been involved in research regarding the use of sodium thiopental no have you been involved in research regarding the use of health and gas no have you ever been involved in research regarding anesthetics of any sort no okay so two things are pretty clear there one that guy is not an expert on anything he's supposed to be an expert on and two there's a lot of overlap between the names of sedatives and the names of alien races in self-published sci-fi novels because I could definitely imagine a book in which the midazolam unites with a lorazepam to fight the evil hail Athene and their minions the pentobarbital in fact you know what I might not even have to imagine that it's probably already been optioned by HBO in their upcoming game of space throats in two weeks time this network is so deeply but wait but wait it gets even worse because when this shaved Santa here testified in support of using midazolam in a case that eventually went before the Supreme Court a full half of his 300-page expert witness report consisted of printouts from drugs calm and look drugs calm is a highly useful resource for information specifically information like this disclaimer reading this material is not intended for medical advice diagnosis or treatment it's frankly no wonder that many inmates do not want midazolam to be used in their execution in Arizona some of them actually sued over exactly this and the Department of Corrections hit on an ingenious solution to that saying that inmates could simply bring their own execution drugs which is pretty difficult isn't it what with those drugs being restricted and those prisoners being in prison it's basically telling a one-year-olds to provide his own birthday cake how the am I supposed to do that I don't have the money I can't drive I can't even get out of this chair and I'm somehow supposed to obtain my own fudgey the whale this is the worst birthday when when the head of Arizona's Department of Corrections was pressed on that plan he pretty quickly identified the problem you've never heard of a prisoner on death row in Arizona successfully purchasing federally regulated drugs for use in their own execution have you no have you heard of any prisoner anywhere ever doing that yet not yet no one in the history of America has ever done this but I think our inmates can pull it off it is almost sweet how much he believes in the people he's in charge of putting to death and so far in this story I've held off on describing specific cases to you but there are many many examples to show just how terribly things can go when all the factors you've seen so far tonight come together the list of botched executions is long and it is horrendous but let's just take one of them Clayton Lockett back in 2014 Oklahoma made him one of the first prisoners to be executed using midazolam and right from the start things did not go as planned executing Clayton Lockett with a new three drug combination took 43 minutes a phlebotomist tried inserting needles into lockets forearms neck foot groin and buttock minutes after the execution began lock its attorney there is a witness says his client kept trying to raise up and at one point even said something's wrong I wanted to hurry up and get it done with as little transparency as possible this is what they get yeah that attorney is right he's late for his gig as a Penn Jillette impersonator but he's absolutely right look what happened in that room was by all accounts incredibly gruesome and the subsequent investigation revealed just how ill-prepared the people of ministering the objection really the drugs were not delivered into his vein they went into the tissue there were no backup drugs that night there was no emergency plan if something went wrong regarding the use of midazolam mike oakley from the corrections department said i looked online you know went past the key WikiLeaks WikiLeaks or whatever it is and I did find out midazolam would render a person unconscious so we thought it was okay it's true they looked up midazolam on Wikileaks or whatever which is just not ideal is it in fact to make sure that that doesn't happen again we actually bought WikiLeaks or whatever calm which is now just a large banner reading midazolam doesn't keep you from feeling pain please stop using it in executions we also we also added that frog you know just to cut the change in a little bit if you click on him he squeaks he's angry about executions as he well should be what a frog lethal injection actually has the highest bot rate of any execution method so much so last year two inmates in Tennessee requested and were executed by the electric chair because they believed it would be less painful so incredibly in our desire to find a more humane method we've ended up letting amateurs both invent and administer a form of unpredictable torture and even some ardent supporters of the death penalty but this federal judge will acknowledge that legal injection just isn't what we like to think it is I think use of lethal injection is a way of lying to ourselves to make it look like executions are peaceful a benign sort of like going to sleep and they're not they're brutal things now you have proposed alternatives you prefer firing squad to lethal injections never fails but you also said the guillotine that's right really the guillotine well you know it's a hundred percent effective okay so just sure but okay first of all there I desperately wish that Lesley Stahl have been around during the French Revolution really the guillotine come on let me your old friend Desmond come on second second if hearing a federal judge endorse the guillotine makes you uncomfortable just wait until you find out that he stepped down in the wake of numerous sexual misconduct claims leaving me in the unenviable position of saying that me to judge who thinks we should be cutting off more heads actually make some pretty interesting points because the the hard truth here is there is no perfect way for the government to kill people and you're probably thinking of alternatives right now Oh what about assisted suicide can't we just do the same thing with executions well no it's harder to kill a healthy person than someone near death besides remember doctors and drug companies won't be involved in executions okay well what what about just overdosing them on opioids well we've actually tried that and one execution took two hours with the inmate gulping like a fish out of water but what about cyanide we tried cyanide gas in 1992 and it was so horrifying the Attorney General vomited and the prison warden claimed he'd resign if forced to conduct another one I could list methods all night long the latest idea is nitrogen gas which seems like it's got problems of its own but at the end of the day coming up with different ideas to do this is a bit like coming up with positions in which you'd feel least guilty your mom missionary that's good for a hips but you're looking right at her standing up mom hate standing for any length of time reverse scowl mom that's probably a best bet but it's still appalling and the fact is you shouldn't be doing it in the first place there's no way to do this and make you okay what I'm trying to say here is if the thing that's making you comfortable with lethal injection is that it's humane it isn't because the fundamental fact to understand about lethal injection is it is a show it is designed not to minimize the pain of people being executed but to maximize the comfort of those who want to support the death penalty without confronting the reality of it which is that it's violent and it's brutal and it's never going to be anything other than that and you might say well I don't care what happens to death row inmates they're bad people but I would argue that lethal injection isn't about who they are it's about who we are and if after everything you've heard tonight you still think we should be the kind of society that tortures people to death in this manner then I guess you're arguing that we should be like someone who looks at that list of reasons not to their mom and does it anyway which is really just a long way of me saying if we keep executing people by lethal injections or any other method we are some real [Applause] you

34 Replies to “Lethal Injections: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)”

  1. I'd be interested in talking to some of the 4,000-odd people who 'disliked' this video and listening to their objections…

  2. John… gotta disagree point 4 is the biggest point. That 4% of people are people that have been punished by the justice system while innocent… and it can't be taken back. That basically shits all over the entire legal justice process. At least with life imprisonment, if someone is found innocent after being sentenced they can be released.

    Point 4 is actually two points.
    1. You can't make reparations for punishment if you were wrong
    2. If you were wrong you just condoned the murder of an innocent person with your tax dollars…

  3. Ngl, i'd much rather have firing squad. I mean, i'm against the death penalty, but i feel the best would be firing squad

  4. If anyone wants more, then watch the Michael Portillo documentary about a peaceful way to execute people. I think it's all on YouTube.

  5. We are training people to do lethal injection bin Australia. But this is for willing participants, not as punishment.

  6. Once I thought the humorous discussion of serious issues was refreshing (in like 2014-15), now its just kinda fucked. Also just not very funny? The same recycled jokes get old

    It's constantly cringeworthy

  7. "Ethical codes for physicians to be involved in the death penalty"…..but sure, let them be involved in abortions. At least hold the same standards for all of life.

  8. THE DESERT RAIN FROG

    What we hear: squeeeak
    What the frog says: (impersonating Samuel L. Jackson) COME AT ME MOTHER FUCKER!!!

  9. Damn.. I'm anti-death penalty, but I didn't know the anesthetic got replaced by a sedative. That's just sick.
    And if that's the case, I agree with that former judge.. just bring back the firing squad. Sounds more humane at that point.

  10. I think it's right to support the death penalty depending on the crime. Death penalty through history prevented crime. The whole using a benzodiazepines to stop the heat or a high dose of opiate will be a lot cheaper considering how majority drug supplied to lethal injection are provided by top medical pharmaceutical companies.

  11. Death penalty, especially considering how many innocent people get executed with no way back, makes us worse than the criminals. And John, as I said before, you are the best.

  12. I honestly could care less if a man or woman is being tortured while being executed. Regardless, even though I am pro-death penalty, I believe it should only be used in the worst of the worst, not willy nilly like Texas and Florida do. Death by firearms is technically the most humane, but people don't like the idea. because they haven't educated themselves. I think we should bring back all methods (hanging, gas, firearms, etc.) and let the prisoner choose. I mean, why not?

  13. You shouldn't be doing your mom. Japan: Hold my tentacle porn. Leave it to John to throw in some crazy jokes to lessen the impact of something truly horrifying.

  14. All I want to know is, are these the same drugs used to euthanize our beloved pets?! Are they immobilized and suffer, terrified, feeling the pain of fire in their veins?! 💔😭💔

  15. I'm with John with most of his points, but me personally, i don't care how they die, they just need to die.. they didn't care how the person they killed die, why should we care how they die.

  16. Well, alright, Mr. Oliver. You raise some valid points, and you're certainly welcome to your opinion. But let me ask you this: so what do we, as a society, do with the worst and most vile of offenders? What do we do with rapists and murderers? Lifetime incarceration may be less expensive than some of the execution methods we've devised, yes. But do we, as taxpayers, really want to pick up the tab for the room and board of killers? Let's assume it was someone you cared about, who was brutally raped and killed by some monster. This person clearly did it; the evidence is irrefutable and damning. You know this animal killed someone who was precious to you. Now, given the option, by the state, of either ensuring this creature has a long, relatively comfortable life behind bars, paid for by your tax dollars; or, through whatever means the state deems most appropriate, putting this killer down like the dog he is – which one would you choose?

    And alright – maybe my support of the death penalty means I'm not nearly as moral a person as I'd like to think I am. But if life has taught me anything, it's that there are no good people – just people who are better at hiding their evil than others. If people could be good, the death penalty – let alone prisons, weapons, and every other horrible thing we humans have invented for dealing with the evil in this world – would be absolutely unnecessary.

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