You would expect that Governor Rounds would be catching some heat over the debacle that was the called off execution of Elijah Page if for anything because of election year politics and that has been the case for the most part.
Jack Billion was somewhat critical, thought not exceedingly so, of the decision as you would expect being Rounds’ challenger this November.
“To me, there seems to be a lot of misdirection and a lot of confusion. There appeared to be some ignorance initially to the law. I don’t know if the governor knew where he wanted to be on this issue”
And Mike Rounds’ favorite newspaper the Argus has an editorial (not yet online but posted on our newest South Dakota blog Prairie Conservative) that as one would expect from an organization that hasn’t been one of Governor Rounds’ biggest fans, basically rips him a new one.
…Rounds responded defensively, “There’ll always be somebody trying to place the blame somewhere.”
This is not about blame. This is about oversight and accountability.
Judging from the governor’s reaction, he doesn’t appear to think either is necessary in this sad twist to the most solemn action a state can take.
And, consistent with this administration’s past practice, Rounds doesn’t think openness is needed. Many questions remain about the state’s bungled handling of Page’s execution.
As I mentioned these criticisms are not surprising considering the sources but unfortunately for Rounds, the critics of his decision are also now coming from sources that usually either friendly to him and his leadership or at least neutral like the commentary in today’s RCJ.
We still think Rounds could have allowed the execution to proceed since the intent of the law is to provide a humane method of execution and the presence of the third drug is intended to ensure a more humane method than specified by law. The execution also could have been carried out with just the two drugs as specified by law.
But Rounds chose to apply the letter of the law and a strict interpretation of the statute – something that should have been done weeks ago. If you’re going to strictly apply the state’s death penalty law to the letter, shouldn’t Long or someone in the Rounds administration have read the statute and alerted Rounds long ago to the glaring discrepancy that the governor said forced his hand just hours before the execution?
Even if no one in the administration thought to check the statute earlier, when the lawyer for death-row inmate Donald Moeller filed an appeal last week challenging the method of lethal injection, shouldn’t someone have looked it up and immediately advised Rounds?
Someone in Rounds’ administration failed to do their job in researching the death penalty statute. At best, Rounds has been ill-informed and advised; at worst, he was looking for an out and only decided at the last minute to take it.
We expect our governor to make tough decisions, and Gov. Rounds has pushed making this one off to the state Legislature and next year.
While the details of exactly what happened here is still unclear as far as who knew what and when, the ultimate responsibility for this screw-up lies directly on Rounds and his choice to put the final decision in the hands of the legislature is just another case of his not being willing to take responsibility for the tough decisions.
Rounds while still being well ahead in his re-election bid seems to be showing everyone his true lack of leadership ability or a spine for that matter just in time for election silly season which should start in earnest after Labor Day and it isn’t just Democrats that are starting to see the light.