Sunday, June 29, 2008

Just shoot him

So Florida is finally going to kill Mark Schwab. It's 16 years since the 23 year old man was convicted of the kidnap, rape and murder of an 11-year old boy and I so think it's safe to use the cold blood metaphor. Of course the government of Florida won't be shedding his blood, they'll strap him to what looks like a cross, try to get a needle into a vein to make him unconscious with Sodium Pentothal. They'll then hope they guessed right enough about the dosage and that it lasts long enough that he won't feel the searing agony of the pancuronium bromide used to paralyze him flowing through every blood vessel in his body like Liquid Plumber, making it impossible to scream or even twitch. If that goes well, they will stop his heart with potassium chloride. It doesn't always go well.

We've read about Florida's electric chair that has set people on fire, blowing boiling eyeballs out of their sockets while shaking the victim like a rag doll and causing witnesses to vomit in disgust, but for the most part, people don't care because they don't have to watch. We've read about the botched "three chemical" process that has taken over half an hour of indescribable agony to finally kill the strapped down and paralyzed prisoner, but again, not all of us are capable of caring.

It doesn't help that Schwab is as loathsome a man as any; the rape and murder of Junny Rios-Martinez occurred about a year after he got out of jail for raping another boy. The fact that the same government that let him out of jail however is the same government that is going to kill him, doesn't reflect well on the capability of Florida to deal with violent criminals.

But this is not about my horror of trusting demonstrably inept State governments with the legal ability to kill people. It's not about the corrupt and incompetent judicial processes, the correlation between race and the severity of punishment. It's not about my moral and ethical objections to executing criminals: it's about human pigheadedness, the propensity to stick with a decision long after the abject stupidity thereof has been proven. The process now being mandated as a merciful alternative to traditional executions is far too unreliable and cruel to be used on a pet cat, but governments and the supporters of legislative death share much with the pit bull that needs to be put down. Nothing will dissuade them once they have that taste of blood.

When it comes to the time when Fido has to go, the veterinarian will simply give him a shot of pentobarbital and he will drift away and be gone in 30 painless seconds. For larger animals there are stronger barbiturates, but even a bullet in the head is a certain and more painless death than the one we have turned to because the electric chair was too grisly and firing squads and hangings are emotionally unsanitary.

Self-important people with Junior College Criminal Justice degrees and people in politics however cling to this medieval drama as though it was a procedure handed down from Sinai. Somehow, the people who insist that the government can't do anything right are sure that the government does this right -- and maybe not often enough. Of course the intentional infliction of agony on a helpless and bound prisoner and it's place in that hilarious concept: the "Judeo Christian ethic" doesn't seem to be discussed here as much as it is in other areas.

But basically, it's all about cowardice. We want government to make the bad men go away and we want them to do it where we cant see it or smell it or hear it. That's all we care about. We care more about that than we do about reasonable doubt, about cruel and unnecessary suffering, and if we have scruples about casting the first stone, why then we pay others to do it.

For Christ's sake, just shoot the guy if you have the stomach for it and since you don't, lock him up forever. There will be plenty of room once you let the dope smokers go home.

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