Monday, April 30, 2007

People who kill people

According to CNN's Elizabeth Cohen, "it took nearly 90 minutes to execute Joseph Clark, who'd murdered two people in Ohio. Witnesses reported that Clark raised his head off the gurney and said repeatedly, 'don't work, don't work,' and moaned and groaned as he struggled with prison officials." News accounts of the execution also quoted Clark as asking, "Can you just give me something by mouth to end this?" No one did. The story is one of a great many like it.

People who believe that killing people deters other people from killing people believe it for reasons having nothing whatever to do with evidence. All evidence is that it does not. That there are a lot of this kind of believer in the US doesn't need to be pointed out, but I suspect that the death penalty as a deterrent is espoused by some public figures simply because they're afraid of incurring the wrath of the true barbarians among us who style themselves as "conservatives."

I call it barbarism because the philosophy behind hanging, poisoning and shooting people isn't a philosophy at all, it's the simple expression of our "apeness." We kill because we are angry and the people we choose to legally kill tend to be people we fear or are angry at for other reasons. The evidence that the odds of being executed are heavily correlated with race and social status is compelling. Arguments frequently heard ask us if we wouldn't want to kill the person who killed someone we love and of course we would and of course that isn't any kind of justice at all; it's just the law of the jungle.

There has been, over the decades, an effort to make the forcible termination of human life more palatable, the better to sell it to those with objections, but not only is the success of such methods in reducing pain and suffering very questionable; to many people the attempt itself is somehow effeminate, liberal and vaguely French. Real men want to see pain.

When Florida's "old sparky" would set convulsing prisoners on fire, eyeballs and great gouts of blood popping out of smoking skulls, "conservatives" had little in the way of objection other than that it was slowing down the death process, but switching to lethal injections performed by State hired killers with no medical training and little brains may have caused agonizing and prolonged deaths, far worse than an electric chair set on slow roast.

The man who proposed the series of intravenous injections that has been widely adopted, thinks it needs to be changed and more effective chemicals and procedures used. Indeed the stories of executions entailing lengthy periods of maximum agony are nauseating to most people even Michael Rushford, president of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, a group that advocates the death penalty. He'd rather do what Hitler did to Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals and the disabled at places such as Sobibor - hook up a big diesel and kill them with carbon monoxide.

Dr. Jay Chapman, the inventor of the current lethal injection scheme disagrees with that. He simply thinks the chemical used to asphyxiate the victim while waiting for the potassium chloride to give him heart failure could be eliminated and the anesthetic replaced by something more effective. He does concede that the old French way of killing involving a guillotine would be more painless and foolproof.

I suppose a cross would be out of the question.


Reign of Reason said...

"I suppose a cross would be out of the question."

but more appropriate considering those who advocate the policy...

d.K. said...

Being anti-death penalty is seen as being weak in this country. I know you remember the Dukakis comments during the debate in 1988, and the subsequent fallout. This, from Wikipedia:

"The issue of capital punishment came up in the October 13, 1988 debate between the two presidential nominees. Bernard Shaw, the moderator of the debate, asked Dukakis, "Governor, if Kitty Dukakis [his wife] were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?" Dukakis replied coolly, "No, I don't, and I think you know that I've opposed the death penalty during all of my life," and explained his stance... Many observers felt Dukakis' answer lacked the passion one would expect of a person discussing a loved one's rape and death. Many — including the candidate himself — believe that this, in part, cost Dukakis the election, as his poll numbers dropped from 49% to 42% nationally that night."

Capt. Fogg said...

I guess if the death penalty was good enough for Jesus. . .

I hate to sound so cynical, but as much as I do love this country, I hate the hypocritical bastards that live here.