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The Death Penalty: This Has To Stop

What Allen Stairs, a philosopher at the University of Maryland, said in the tweet below sums up my feelings about the death penalty and the horrific events yesterday in Oklahoma. It also includes a live-tweet account of the events as they happened.

This is not an isolated case:

From the above article by Brad Plumer:

It’s not the first time an execution dragged on because of the new drugs being used for lethal injections. In January, Ohio tried to execute a man with an untested cocktail — and it took 24 minutes for him to die. “[Dennis] McGuire started struggling and gasping loudly for air,” NPR reported, “making snorting and choking sounds which lasted for at least 10 minutes.”

And the history goes back even further than that. As Amherst law professor Austin Sarat documents in his new book, Gruesome Spectacles, executions gone horribly wrong have been a mainstay in the US for as long as the death penalty has been around.

By Sarat’s calculations, 3 percent of all executions between 1890 and 2010 have been “botched” (that is, they didn’t go according to protocol). That includes electric chairs catching on fire and hangings that led to decapitations. And, in fact, these “botched” executions have become even more common with the advent of lethal injections — about 7 percent have gone awry.

Were these people convicted of doing horrible things? Yes.

By electing to do horrible things to them, instead of condemning them…we join them.

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Comments

  1. I am quite critical of the death penalty on the whole because of the possibility of innocent individuals executed. However, I don’t get why people focus on the method of execution and get worked up about whether the individual felt any pain. It seems to me that if someone actually has been found guilty and deserves to die that it doesn’t really matter all that much whether he experiences a moment of pain or not. Make sure the innocent are not convicted, and then shoot, hang, or inject as you see fit. I don’t see a problem.

  2. Bob Robertson says:

    While we should certainly not seek to inflict pain and suffering on those who have been given a death sentence, I’m not sure I feel much sympathy for a man who kidnapped, raped, and tortured a young woman before killing her. You labeling this behavior as a “horrible [thing]” doesn’t even come close to describing the depravity and evil nature of his act. Is it really a tragedy that this man experienced 45 minutes of pain on his way towards death? His demise was charitable compared to the suffering he inflicted on others.

    Why you have such sympathy for murderers and rapists is really beyond me.

    • It has nothing to do with how we feel about the rapist. Cruelty toward others, no matter who they are, is a reflection of our own humanity.

      You cannot use another’s villainy as a free pass to behave as a monster and still retain moral standing… Once you decide it’s okay to excuse cruel behavior, it becomes easier and easier to find new reasons to do so again.

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