There have been a lot of executions in the United States in the last few weeks. At least three of them have been badly botched in a way that amounted to torturing a man to death. There are laws that are supposed to prevent that from happening. Execution, even of the worst criminals, is supposed to be done as quickly and painlessly as possible. That’s why lethal injection gradually replaced other forms of capital punishment.
Looking at the Death Penalty
Facts about the death penalty that most people aren't aware of.
The Facts Behind the Headlines
The United States Stands Alone
The death penalty has resulted in too many instances of the condemned slowly choking to death when the hangman didn’t do it right. Too many instances of condemned bursting into flames in the electric chair. Or being found alive, badly burned, after voltage that was supposed to be lethal, and having to endure another application of electricity to their bodies.
Execution is supposed to be the ultimate payment for a crime, but it isn’t supposed to be torture. Europeans came to that conclusion some time back, and European pharmaceutical manufacturers will not sell drugs to be used in executions. But our states, deprived of the drugs they once bought from them. are determined to carry on the legally-sanctioned killings with untested combinations of drugs. Even if that means subjecting the condemned to horrible suffering. Even if it means falsifying records, hiding payments, and buying drugs from questionable companies. Or violating both state and federal laws to carry out what increasingly looks like a desire for revenge rather than justice.
We have to remember that among the individuals killed this way are innocents who are past being able to express their gratitude when they’ve finally exonerated. There are others who are still filing appeals or waiting for court decisions which are reasonably expected to set their death sentences aside. And who die because the state chooses to rush them into the death chamber and deprive them of their right to a hearing. And there are more than a few who are so mentally disabled that that it is illegal to execute them.
We have to ask why the United States is almost alone among developed countries in continuing to use capital punishment. Why the United States is, effectively, conducting experiments that nearly equal in their sadism the punishments that are so repugnant when countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt carry them out. Why the United States kills more of its citizens than any other civilized country. Why it uses excuses that most countries have recognized as nothing but rationalizations, because capital punishment does nothing to either reduce the rate of violent crime or protect our citizens.
Will the prolonged suffering of Clayton Lockett, and his death by heart attack after the drug injections were halted — the latest execution chamber horror show — tip the balance toward abolishing the death penalty? The media coverage is intense at the moment, but it was equally intense when Dennis McGuire died last January, struggling for air in an execution that lasted for some 25 minutes.
Regardless of what we think of those sentenced to death, to approve of the death penalty is to share in the continuation of a barbaric practice condemned by the rest of the civilized world.