Thursday, February 16, 2006

Death Penalty Craziness

This story in yesterday’s Sacremento Bee (free registration required) has my head spinning. The lead:

California must either scrap plans to execute Michael Angelo Morales next week or change the way it will put the condemned inmate to death, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel of San Jose, responding to a defense challenge that the state’s method of carrying out lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment, gave state authorities the option of defending their current procedure in a two-day court hearing.

The judge said official state logs “in at least six of 13 executions by lethal injection” raise “at least some doubt” whether inmates were rendered unconscious before being injected with chemicals that would cause “excruciating pain."

Set aside for a moment any feelings you have (pro or con) about the death penalty. It’s the law of the land here in California, and it’s this judge’s duty to uphold the law. And he’s concerned that the inmate may not be unconscious before the drugs that actually kill them — because these drugs can cause excruciating pain.

Ok, I can certainly see the judge’s concern here, though I’m not sure I agree with him. After all, if you’re going to kill somebody, why is it so bad to inflict some pain along the way? In fact, wouldn’t that provide some addition deterrent force — if those bad guys out there knew that their demise would be horrible, grisly, and excruciatingly painful, wouldn’t that give them a bit more pause? I can hear the screaming already from the criminal-coddling class…

But put that issue aside for a moment. When you read a little further in the article, you find out what the evidence is that inmates might be conscious when the fatal drugs are administered:

While “no direct evidence” showed anyone was conscious to feel pain, said Fogel, the logs noted “respirations” continuing at least until the start of the administration of pancuronium bromide in the six executions of Jaturun Siripongs, Manuel Babbitt, Darrell Keith Rich, Stephen Wayne Anderson, Stanley Tookie Williams and Clarence Ray Allen. Williams may still have been breathing when the administration of potassium chloride began.

Now wait just a doggone minute here! Just because someone is breathing, that’s evidence that they’re conscious? Last time I checked, someone who wasn’t breathing is dead, not unconscious! This argument amounts to the judge saying “The inmate isn’t dead yet, so you can’t kill him."

And we pay these people!

But back to the question of the death penalty… Most of my life, I’ve been a supporter of the death penalty for certain kinds of crimes (basically those involving the death of, or irreparable harm to, their victims). I based this support on the value of permanently removing the offender from society (I have no confidence that liberal judges will honor permanent incarcerations), along with the deterrent value.

But in the past few years, I’ve changed my position on this; I’ll call myself now a “reluctant opponent” to the death penalty. My opposition stems from the demonstrated failure of our justice system to actually execute convicted criminals (just look at the death row statistics compared to the execution statistics — 3,300 on death row vs. 60 executed in 2005), the alarming number of death row inmates being exonerated (often by contra-indicatory DNA evidence), and the costs of the process (including the long-term special incarceration of death-row inmates). It just isn’t working, no matter how much I would like it to.

So now I’m a supporter of permanent incarceration as a replacement for the death penalty, with supporting law that makes it impossible for a judge or the “Corrections” department to release inmates under such a sentence for any reason other than exoneration. I also support the notion of severely restricing “privileges” for such inmates (e.g., no TV, no reading, no Internet, no visitors, etc.) and requiring punitive labor (preferably mind-numbingly menial and physically taxing). Those animals are in there for punishment, not molly-coddling, and their misery should be as public as possible for its deterrent effect. I’d even support the idea — if carefully designed — of isolated “colonies” where criminals under such a sentence were turned loose to fend for themselves.

That ought to endear me to the liberals, don’t you think <smile>?

1 comment:

  1. In the old blog, Anonymous said:
    I’m smiling! Those liberals love ya now!