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Today Someone Is Scheduled To Die

May 9, 2007

Today, a convicted cop killer is scheduled to die in Tennessee’s death chamber. And like almost all death row inmates in this country, he is to be executed by lethal injection.

I am completely opposed to capital punishment. First, the taking of a human life, even one of a person who has taken the life of another, is barbaric. Surely, punishment can be made without the use of death, and we don’t need capital punishment to hold criminals accountable for their crimes. Second, capital punishment is “cruel and unusual punishment,” which goes against the Eighth Amendment. Third, studies have shown that capital punishment does not deter violent crimes. Studies have also shown that without the death sentence, a jury is more likely to convict a murderer. In addition, cases of capital punishment can take several years, and the appeals are costly. These costs are made apparent by the Department of Justice reports, which show that almost half of the convictions that resulted in the death penalty had serious Constitutional flaws. Finally, there is a class and racial bias aspect to capital punishment. Statistics show that poor, underprivileged, and black criminals are more likely to be executed than their white counterparts. In addition, the death penalty is more likely to be imposed when the victims are white than when they are members of a minority group.

But I don’t want to argue about the pros and cons of capital punishment today. I just want to ask a question. My question, which was posed by Paula Zahn in her show on Monday, is: Do we need to come up with a more humane way of putting killers to death?

According to CNN, 52 of the 53 executions in the U.S. in 2006 were by drug injections, which is supposed to be a more humane way to die than methods like the electric chair. But because of gruesome disasters in death chambers and new research, the humanity of lethal injection is now being questioned.

Take Joseph Clark, for example. Clark was executed by lethal injection last year for murdering two people in Ohio. On his death bed, Clark was strapped across his chest and across his legs, with an intravenous line in his arm. First, he was put under anesthesia to make him unconscious in 90 seconds (otherwise, the lethal injection would make him feel like his veins and heart were burning up). Second, he was injected with another drug to paralyze his muscles and to collapse his lungs and diaphragm. Finally, he was injected with a drug to stop his heart.

But something went terribly wrong because after Clark was injected with the third drug to stop his heart, he raised himself up against the straps, yelling five times, “It don’t work. It don’t work.” At this point, the executioners drew the curtain so no one could watch. Instead of the normal 15 minutes or so, the process of putting Clark to death took nearly an hour-and-a-half.

According to CNN, no one knows how often lethal injections are botched and don’t work the way they’re supposed to, but a new study says it may be more often than previously thought. In fact, Dr. Jay Chapman, who invented lethal injections 25 years ago, thinks the use of lethal injection needs to be reconsidered. One reason for this is that executioners often have no medical training. Because lethal injection is a multi-step procedure that requires real know-how, many executioners who are not qualified sometimes mix drugs or have a hard time finding veins.

So, today, as one man is being put to death in Tennessee by lethal injection, I ask you–as Paula Zahn does: is lethal injection really humane?

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. tallnotsodarknotsohandsome permalink
    May 9, 2007 4:55 pm

    Do we need to come up with a more humane way of putting killers to death?
    This is a difficult question to answer as it would seem to be oxymoronic in nature. The definition of humane is: characterized by tenderness, compassion, and sympathy for people and animals… One would have to begin by answering whether killing any person or animal could be humane regardless of the method used. I think we can all agree that mercy killings, the euthanasia of sick or aged animals for instance, would be considered humane. Surely it is not humane to allow an animal to suffer….or is it? Is it better to be alive and suffer than to be dead? There is finality in death. Life is something that every living being is granted only once. So to intentionally cause death would seem to be inhumane as it is certainly not compassionate nor sympathetic to deny anyone or anything the right to live because you are taking something that can never be replaced.

    But this is exactly what convicted murderers have done to others. Clearly their actions were inhumane so should they be treated any differently? Does someone who acts in a brutal fashion deserve sympathy or compassion? Or do they forfeit that right upon committing their inhumane act? All of these questions must be answered before considering the method of execution. Anyone opposed to the death penalty is not going to consider any method of execution humane. Since they consider the act itself inhumane, the method in which it done would seem to be insignificant.

    Therefore, the only conclusion I can reach is: No, we do not need to find more humane methods of execution. Those opposed to the death penalty will never find any method humane. Those in favor of the death penalty have rationalized that those who act inhumanely deserve to be treated inhumanely, therefore any suffering that occurs is probably only a fraction of the suffering caused by the capital crime.

    Executions by their very nature are inhumane. But they are restricted to those who have acted in a manner that typically should not imbue the feeling of compassion or sympathy. Essentially, once you get past the inhumanity of if a person should be executed, the how really pales in significance.

  2. girlygirl34 permalink
    May 9, 2007 7:06 pm

    Dr. Chapman, who invented the cocktail for lethal injection and supports the death penalty, said on CNN that maybe it was time to bring back an older method: guillotine. His exact words? “It’s absolute if the person’s head is cut off. That’s the end of it.” What do you think about that?

  3. AnybodyButKnox permalink
    May 10, 2007 3:18 pm

    I am against the death penalty because it is not fairly meted out – as discussed above. Only poor people who cannot afford a good lawyer are actually executed. But I am not sure that life without parole is any less humane of a sentence then death. Especially for people like serial killers, or people that molest and then kill children – people who are so sick and whose souls are so tortured that death seems to be the kindest sentence. In other words, some people are better off dead.

    When I was young, my family used to discuss around the dinner table how they would choose to die if given the choice (weird, right?). I remember my father and sister both agreeing that drowning would be the most peaceful way to go. But anyone who has been dunked under water knows how horrible that is. I have read that freezing to death is the most painless death. As the body gets colder, you get sleepy, and then fall asleep. A firing squad might not be too bad. An overdose of morphine? Maybe we should give those convicted a few choices…any last requests?

  4. girlygirl34 permalink
    May 10, 2007 5:55 pm

    That was actually funny! I still say we should bring back the guillotine. After all, Dr. Chapman did say that it’s quick and painless and more absolute than the lethal injection. Oh, wait…. he forgot that the blades could sometimes be dull and might not always work the way they’re supposed to.

  5. Matt permalink
    May 11, 2007 1:35 pm

    I’m not showing my cards one way or the other on this question. Not yet, anyway.

    What I would like to mention, just as a heads-up, without editorial or comment, is that the New Jersey legislature is considering abolishing the death penalty. More about it here (if I’m allowed to post links to other websites): http://www.philly.com/philly/hp/news_update/20070511_N_J__panel_targets_the_death_penalty.html

  6. TallNotSoDarkNotSoHandsome permalink
    May 11, 2007 6:34 pm

    Just found this link regarding the execution in Tennessee and thought it was interesting.
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18599945/?GT1=9951

  7. girlygirl34 permalink
    May 11, 2007 11:12 pm

    Thanks for the links. I read both of them and found them to be very interesting. After reading both articles, my views remain the same, e.g., capital punishment is barbaric.

  8. girlygirl34 permalink
    May 12, 2007 11:13 am

    Yesterday (5/12/07), a Circuit judge rejected a request from the attorneys for death-row inmate Ian Deco Lightbourne to force testimony and get notes from four journalists who covered a botched execution late last year.

    The botched execution referred to is the execution of Angel Diaz, which took place by lethal injection in Florida on December 13, 2006. According to eyewitnesses, “after the first injection was administered, Mr. Diaz continued to move, and was squinting and grimacing as he tried to mouth words. A second dose was then administered, and 34 minutes [twice as long as normal] passed before Mr. Diaz was declared dead.” See http://lethal-injection-florida.blogspot.com/2006/12/some-examples-of-post-furman-botched.html.

    “At first, a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Corrections claimed that this was because Mr. Diaz had some sort of liver disease. After performing an autopsy, the Medical Examiner, Dr. William Hamilton, stated that Mr. Diaz’s liver was undamaged, but that the needle had gone through Mr. Diaz’s vein and out the other side, so the deadly chemicals were injected into soft tissue, rather than the vein.” Id.

    For more info on Diaz’s execution and to read about how he seemed as though he “would never die,” go to: http://www.foxnews.com/wires/2006Dec14/0,4670,FloridaExecutionWitness,00.html.

    Okay. So, now back to Lightbourne. In this case, the Circuit judge took the position that Florida law provides a “qualified privilege” protecting journalists from disclosing newsgathering information unless it cannot be obtained another way and is of “compelling interest.” So the judge ruled that the attorneys must first seek information from some of the 19 other people who witnessed the execution of Mr. Diaz.

    If you would like to read more about this particular case (mostly dealing with First Amendment issues), go to: http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/news.aspx?id=18548.

    Happy Reading.

  9. January 7, 2008 5:12 pm

    For anyone out there who’s interested in the topic, I found this Op-Ed in the New York Times today: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/07/opinion/07mon2.html

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