How To Kill People, Legally …

She didn't Feel A Thing! MARIE ANTOINETTE

She didn’t Feel A Thing!
MARIE ANTOINETTE

Though the ease and frequency with which we perform this task outside the law suggest that it should not be so, killing people legally — execution — is turning out to be quite a problem. A recent Arizona execution occupied media air time and headlines and fed public dudgeon over the fact that the convicted killer required some 15 ‘lethal’ injections and two hours to depart for his reward. And this explains a great deal about our present society.

The Romans crucified offenders; we used to burn them alive or more mercifully, hang them but mainly Moslems resort to such activities today (plus stoning). Hanging gained a negative reputation from too many cases where the victim just hung there and slowly strangled, or their heads came off, or occasionally, the rope broke, leaving the victim alive and well.

These events gave birth to the electric chair as the more merciful and efficient answer of a civilized society to this unpleasant duty. However, as experience accumulated, reality paralleled the history of hanging. Some victims sat screaming while their electric connections smoked and flamed. Some required repeated jolts before they would agree to die and a few again just plain refused to terminate at all. Adding a hood and gag made life easier for onlookers but did nothing to obscure what was going on. And so, now we have lethal injection, that is proving once again, to be troublesome. Our species does not like to die easily, per the evidence.

The State of Utah long stood out for its use of the firing squad for these events; there is some sentiment to bring that once more to the fore. You put a bunch of holes into someone, they pretty reliably, die for you. Not, of course, necessarily in a hurry. And we suppose that it hurts. The real issue here is the growth of public revulsion at the idea of execution for crime. We have evolved from everybody declaring a picnic and attending public executions, to outlawing most of them and conducting the few remaining under secretive conditions. The criminals who commit the crimes — usually, murders –that receive these sentences remain unchanged. But the public would rather pay many thousands of dollars a year to imprison such offenders for decades in order to avoid doing to them, what they have done to their victims. But we still kill a few of them.

This issue of being humane to killers who have not been very humane themselves has painted us into this awkward corner. We haven’t minded offing thousands of Iraqis and Afghans who never attacked us; forget the maimed and crippled who only wish they were dead. But we agonize over the few we actually execute for crimes and we desperately need a solution. Fortunately, a dead French doctor pursued the same problem to a solution and a sitting Federal judge has now recommenced that solution. Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin proposed his humane execution device just in time for the French Revolution, which unfortunately, gave it a bad name.

The Guillotine is instant, painless and reliable, unlike any other. Cheap, too. And unlike most of the historical methods, none have ever survived it to remain embarrassingly alive. And it has been recalled from history to be recommended by an American Federal judge. We are less squeamish than we pretend; while we object to executing murderers, we have no such qualms with unborn babies, right? So if we’re serious about being humane, we really ought to consider His Honor’s solution …

 

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About Jack Curtis

Suspicious of government, doubtful of economics, fond of figure skating (but the off-ice part, not so much)
This entry was posted in Law Enforcement, Politics, Science and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to How To Kill People, Legally …

  1. Yeah, we’re all squeamish about death. Don’t know why, everybody dies. But authority is notoriously cack-handed about everything they do. After all they have an entire army of trained killers and spooks at their disposal. Although a spy committing suicide or having fun by locking himself in a small hold all with no fingerprints on the outside, even his own, lacks the credibility of joining a bank then jumping off a high building, one wonders why cheap, virtually painless and very reliable methods such as a plastic bag and a piece of string, carbon monoxide poisoning or simply dropping someone off a ferry in a bag with rocks in it haven’t been used.

  2. Oh, I forgot my point. The deaths of some people, like Hitler or people with sexual compulsions that aren’t satisfied until the other party are dead, have the effect of saving other people’s lives.

    • Jack Curtis says:

      Killing killers indeed saves lives; we nevertheless prefer to house, feed and care for them for life instead. We also offer massive abortion services and in America’s case, export military to provide massive population control uninvited. Lifesaving appears to be less of a goal than it is cracked p to be …

  3. Jim Teague says:

    In war, the combatant are shooting at each other. If there were truly innocent civilians that has been written off as the social cost of a just war. Killing the unborn is ignored by many because they don’t want to be inconvenienced or held accountable for planning ahead. There is no rational excuse for abortion except for the life of the mother. I know, mothers did plan to be raped, but neither did the unborn child.

    There is a legitimate concern for executing an innocent person so we have numerous appeals. In California these can be dragged out for over 20 years. Somehow this uncertainty and length of time is now considered cruel and unusual punishment though an alternative life imprisonment would not functionally be different and would be expensive too.

    I propose no death penalty without premeditated murder. Incontrovertible DNA evidence must be presented along with any other substantial evidence. No single eye witness, crimes of passion, breaking point killings, or circumstantial evidence case could lead to death penalty (something else to be sure). A one year appeal process to assure that no reexamination of the evidence is going to overturn the conviction.

    I’d like to have the killer executed the in the way they did to their victims with only victim families who wish to watch in attendance. If they wish, let a family member push the button, pull the trigger or whatever. No spectacles and no reporters. That is probably too drastic for some of the horrific torture killers. I don’t think you could find an unrelated executioner to carry out the procedures people have used on others.

    Use what works for the execution. We know what the vital organs are. Bullets to the head/heart, beheading, chemicals. If Kevorkian could figure it out we can too. I really don’t care about their suffering and pain. They caused it on their victims and families.

    • Jack Curtis says:

      Hmnn … I think I like your comment better than I like my post. But I fear that we are both stymied by the incontrovertible fact that whatever is done, will be done by government, an agency guaranteed to be at its best, inept …

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