On February 11, 1989, 22 year-old Joy Stewart met Dennis McGuire while he was working on her friend’s house….
Stewart mentioned that she would like to buy some weed, McGuire said he was just the guy to get it for her and the two left in his car.
The next day, her body was found by two hikers in the woods.
To set the stage, the following are excerpts are taken from court transcripts; “The front of her shirt was saturated with blood. One deputy sheriff at the scene noted that there appeared to be a “blood wipe mark” on her right arm. The autopsy revealed that Joy had been stabbed twice. The critical wound was a four-and-a-half-inch-deep cut in the throat, which completely severed the carotid artery and jugular vein.
“The doctor said Joy was alive when she received the wound. The autopsy also revealed abrasions around the neck, impressed with the cloth pattern of Joy’s shirt.”
The coroner’s office also took vaginal, oral, and anal swabs and found “an abundant amount of sperm on the anal swab, some sperm on the vaginal swab, and none on the oral swab.”
Stewart was eight months pregnant; McGuire was sentenced to death.
On his next to the last day on the planet, McGuire had two hot dogs for lunch and visited with family. His last supper consisted of roast beef, fried chicken, a bagel with cream cheese, fried potatoes with onions, potato salad, butter pecan ice cream and a Coke. He talked on the phone to his mother until 1 a.m. then wrote a letter. He refused breakfast and a shower the next morning and began his long walk to the death chamber. Guards described him as nothing but pleasant and cooperative.
With the needle inserted in his arm, before the lethal liquids began to flow, McGuire’s final words included, “To my children, I’m sorry. I love you. I’m going to heaven and I’ll see you there when you come.”
He then yelled “I love you” at around 10:29 a.m. as the drugs began to perform their purpose.
A local TV reporter said, “He gasped deeply. It was kind of a rattling, guttural sound. There was kind of a snorting through his nose. A couple of times, he definitely appeared to be choking”
The execution process took 24 minutes; McGuire appeared to be gasping for air for 10 to 13 minutes, as his children and daughter in law looked on in tears.
He was pronounced dead yesterday at 10:53 a.m. ET, but why do we care?
This is the third story of late where executions go badly. In this instance, no state had put a prisoner to death with this untested cocktail. I spoke to a close friend about it – an anesthesiologist who wished to remain unnamed.
And he told me: “From an anesthetic perspective, midazolam (versed) and hydromorphone (dilaudid) would certainly get you started toward the heavenly gates. But they would not necessarily stop the heart in a number of cases. Generally an infusion of potassium is used for that. Using a combination of versed and dilaudid would not be as efficient as using Pentothal, but enough of the two would produce deep sedation in most folks. Most people wouldn’t remember squat, but some could potentially be lucid and even talking right before the potassium is injected.”
So McGuire took much too long to check out.
Do you think his “pain” matters in a case like this?
And today, as Missouri is rumored to be thinking they might bring the firing squad back, the question remains, should we execute at all?
A Stewart family member said, “The last time I saw her, she was beaming with happiness and couldn’t wait to meet her baby. This has been a long time coming.”
When asked about the level of suffering McGuire may have suffered; “He is being treated far more humanely than he treated her. Ultimately, we must all face judgment – both here and in Heaven and it is his time to face the judgment.”
My anesthesiologist friend went on to admonish me to read Matthew 5:38-42; “You have heard that it was said, Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.”
He added; “Those are the words of the man who we claim is God incarnate. God’s grace is unrelenting, and people accept it at different rates. If we kill someone by the death penalty, we in effect stand in the way of God’s grace on this side of heaven; it is not our place to obstruct God’s forgiveness.”
It’s one of those questions I find myself coming down on both sides of.
A pregnant 22 year-old girl was shown no mercy in a long, tortuous ordeal; what do we really owe McGuire?
In the words of a local Pastor, “Too often we want mercy for me, but justice for them.”
Is it our job or God’s to decide who lives and dies?