Capital punishment

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Sunday, July 27, 2014


I THINK there was a reason capital punishments were often deliberately painful. The threat of crucifixion, burning, dismemberment, sawing or disembowelment, to name a few historical examples, would have scared the bejesus out of our ancestors from committing a crime.

In some countries today, a convicted murderer can still lose his head on the chopping board and a convicted adulterer can be stoned to death (and I don’t mean smoking pot).

But in Western countries that allow capital punishment, apparently thinking themselves more civilized, they want to ensure that an execution is “not of a cruel and unusual nature.”

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In 2008, British journalist Michael Portillo looked at the science behind executions in the show “Horizon.”

Portillo said the following criteria must be met to ensure a humane killing: death should be quick and painless (of course), the executioner must have some medical education to prevent error (to die in the hands of a medically illiterate executioner is really the height of insult), death should not be gory so those carrying out the execution won’t suffer (that’s just being considerate) and finally, the prisoner must not be allowed to take part in his own execution (duh!).

The show later determined that the best way to execute someone is to apply a mixture of the gases argon and nitrogen to induce hypoxia. That way, the person being executed won’t feel any physical pain but will experience instead a euphoric state. (It’s the only way to go.) The show said these gases can be applied cheaply and efficiently. Just restrain the prisoner and put a mask over his head. (Now, isn’t that convenient?)

Earlier this week, a botched execution in the southwestern state of Arizona in the US caused another furor.

Howard Koplowitz of the International Business Times wrote that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) criticized Arizona for proceeding with the execution despite what happened in Oklahoma and Ohio earlier in the year.

“Today the state of Arizona broke the Eighth Amendment, the First Amendment, and the bounds of basic decency,” Cassandra Stubbs, director of the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project, said in a statement. “Joseph Wood suffered cruel and unusual punishment when he was apparently left conscious long after the drugs were administered. According to his emergency papers filed by his attorneys, he was choking and snorting over an hour into the process. In its rush to put Mr. Wood to death in secret, Arizona ignored the dire and clear warnings from the botched executions of Oklahoma and Ohio. It's time for Arizona and the other states still using lethal injection to admit that this experiment with unreliable drugs is a failure. Instead of hiding lethal injection under layers of foolish secrecy, these states need to show us where the drugs are from. Until they can give assurances that the drugs will work as intended, they must stop future executions."

If American society is so worried about how a prisoner being executed feels then maybe the country should just scrap the death penalty. I mean, if it doesn’t want the prisoner to suffer then maybe it shouldn’t kill the prisoner.

Am I repeating myself? And did I write a similar column earlier in the year? Heck, yeah. I’m just sick and tired of hearing about the debate over and over again, every time a US execution is messed up.

There’s no gray area in capital punishment. You either execute, or you don’t.

If you institutionalize the killing of a person, that’s your prerogative. Just don’t sugarcoat it. There’s no moral high ground when murder is concerned.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 27, 2014.

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