20 March 2014

Cruel And Delusional Punishment

Condemned murderer Dennis McGuire, within four minutes of his lethal injection, in the windowless death house at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, began to have trouble breathing.  He gasped and snorted for the next ten minutes and then lay peaceful until declared dead, approximately twenty-four minutes after the novel two-drug cocktail was pumped into his arm. 

This was mid-morning the sixteenth of January, the year of our Lord two thousand and fourteen.  Perhaps you heard of it.  There have been many executions before this one and will be more, after, but this one was the first state-sanctioned killing in the New Year and it made national news because of the first-time use of this particular combination of drugs, the length of the procedure, obvious distress of the man on the gurney, traumatized family witnesses and a lot of I-told-you-so’s by McGuire’s attorneys.  It all made for lively reportage. 

Ohio since 1977 used Chapman’s Protocol of three drugs to dispatch murderers:  Thiopental, Pancuronium bromide and Potassium chloride.  The first is a fast acting sedative and knocks the person out in seconds.  The Pancuronium bromide paralyzes the muscles and, by itself, would eventually shut down breathing, leading to death.  To speed things along, though, the Potassium chloride is injected to stop the heart. 

Done correctly the whole deadly triple play can be over in a few minutes.  The officials wait even after the heart monitor signals cardiac arrest, just to be sure.  Then a coroner or physician double checks with a stethoscope and death is officially declared, the curtains are pulled and the witnesses dismissed.  Ten minutes, even twenty can go by for the whole procedure, but the actual death is much quicker. 

European suppliers object to our use of Thiopental in executions, and refuse to ship it to prisons in the United States, so In 2009 officials switched to a one-drug dozer: Pentobarbital.  It is used in smaller doses to induce comas in heart surgery patients.
Then Ohio decided, recently, to go with a two-drug procedure using Midazolam and Hydromorphone.  That is the one-two punch they used to execute Mr. McGuire.  And it worked, except for McGuire’s labored breathing.

Amber, his adult daughter, covered her ears as she watched him die, to block out the sounds.   "It was the most awful moment in my life to witness my dad's execution.  I can't think of any other way to describe it than torture."   His son, also a Dennis, said he didn’t “…feel like anybody deserves that—families, or my dad, anybody on death row—nobody deserves to go through that.”  Lawyer Jon Paul Rion felt likewise: “The execution violated Dennis McGuire's constitutional right not to be treated or punished in a cruel or unusual way,”

Attorneys for the condemned man tried to halt the untried method and predicted that McGuire would likely suffer “air hunger” and struggle for breath and suffer terror and agony [emphasis mine].  One of the killer’s attorneys, Allen Bohnert characterized the 24-minute execution process as a “failed, agonizing experiment by the state of Ohio.”

So there you have it.  The execution of Mr. McGuire is described, by various witnesses and other interested parties as: cruel, unusual, terrible, agonizing, failed, unconstitutional, awful, experimental, undeserved, appalling and torturous.

Ohio is holding off on other planned executions while they review what happened.  Amber and her brother have said they will sue the state of Ohio.

The people just quoted are those who cared for McGuire or who were paid to prolong his life and interfere with his execution and perhaps persons who used his case to further their drive to abolish the Death Penalty.  Keeping that in mind, knowing what you have just read, do you think Mr. McGuire’s execution was unconstitutionally cruel or unusual?

What does cruel mean to you? 
From the beginning of our country execution by hanging was a pretty standard way to kill rapists, murderers, horse thieves and traitors and deserters.  Firing squads were used also, but that method was more likely to be used by the military.  Rope and gunpowder were common and plentiful, and could be used just about anywhere.

But you need a skilled hangman to figure the weight of the condemned and how far he should drop.  Too little and the neck will not snap and the dropped will kick and contort as he slowly strangles.  Too much drop will tear off his head.  Decapitation didn’t happen that often, but it was embarrassing for the executioner and grisly to behold, but really not much different from being guillotined, which method was invented to be reliable and quick and painless.

At the start of the 20th century states were looking for something more humane and reliable and modern to replace hanging and came up with the electric chair and the gas chamber.  But there were still problematic send-offs.

For “Old Sparky” to work efficiently there needs to be a damp salty sponge under the metal head cap.  A dry one frustrates the pile driver of electrons and causes heat and then smoke and sparks and crackling noises, flames and burnt flesh smells.  If you saw the movie “GREEN MILE” you’ll have an inkling of how traumatic it can be. 

One electrocution in Florida in 1990 of Jesse Tafero should have gone swimmingly. The head sponge was properly soaked in brine and all the straps and electrical connections were bright and tight and not corroded, but it took three big jolts to stop the man’s heart.  Meanwhile six-inch flames were seen to shoot out of his ears.  At least that’s what it looked like to horrified witnesses, some of whom had trouble sleeping afterwards.  An investigation blamed the combustion on the improper substitution of a synthetic sponge for the natural type that had always been used.  Organic, it seems, is better for your health, after all. 
The gas chamber also has had a few hiccups.  One notable balls up happened in the dispatch of Jimmy Gray in Mississippi in 1983.  The pellets dropped and the cyanide gas suffused the chamber but Mr. Gray continued to gasp and groan and beat his head against a steel pole for at least eight minutes.  He was still alive when officials cleared the witness room.  Later it was revealed the executioner was drunk on the job. 

I don’t really see how sobriety could have improved the experience.  The crystals either drop into the pot of sulfuric acid and produce hydrogen cyanide gas or they don’t.  Cyanide gas was produced and Mr. Gray eventually died from it.  It wasn’t like the headsman dropped Mentos lozenges into a 2-liter bottle of diet Coke, by mistake.  The problem is the asphyxiation process of the gas chamber is rather slow and painful.  Grays death by gas didn’t really take longer than most.  The difference was that Gray kept banging his unrestrained head against an unfortunately placed iron pole, and nervous officials cleared the room and stirred up the press.

So states started switching to the latest new killing technology—drugs--hoping the quasi-medical procedure, and especially the sedation, would give them a cleaner, less trouble-prone and embarrassing way of dispatching death rowers.
Drugs (poisons) have been around from the beginning of recorded history, and just about any solid, liquid or gas can be lethal given the proper dosage; even water.  You can poison yourself by drinking too much of it, even if there’s no lead or arsenic in it.  If it’s fluoridated you could die with a nice smile on your face. 

Socrates, a philosopher and teacher, in 399 B.C., was convicted of corrupting the minds of the young men of Athens and condemned to death by a jury of five hundred citizens.  He was remanded to custody and, with close friends in tearful attendance, given a cup of hemlock juice to drink.  Paralysis slowly crept up from his legs to his chest until his heart stopped.  It probably took an hour.

Today’s lethal injection deaths are supposed to take about four to ten minutes.  And they are considered more humane because the soon-to-be-deceased is rendered unconscious first.  No other means of execution ever offered that amenity—except for one that I’ll mention later.  

But there have been troubles with the process, mostly before but also after injection. 
Stephen Morin, Randy Woolls, and Elliot Johnson all in Texas and all in the 1980’s and all persistent drug abusers had their executions delayed up to an hour while medical techs searched for a non-collapsed vein.  Woolls actually helped his execution team find a usable blood vessel.

Raymond Landry suffered a rare “blowout” in 1988, also Texas, when the IV needle popped out of his arm and sprayed the deadly concoction across the room.  A curtain was pulled and the catheter re-inserted and the process continued, but it was forty minutes start to finish.

1994, Illinois:  The  hazardous chemicals flowing through the IV tube leading into John Wayne Gacy’s arm solidified blocking the syringe and his demise was delayed ten minutes while the tubing was replaced.  The multiple drugs are often referred to as a “cocktail” but they are not supposed to mix with each other in the IV tubing, or they can clot and plug things up.  Each drug is introduced and then the tubing is flushed with saline before the next one is pumped in. 

Stephen McCoy (Texas 1989) had a physical reaction to the drugs so violent—gasping, choking, heaving, arching back—that a male witness fainted and knocked over another witness.  The Attorney General for the state surmised that “The drugs might have been administered in a heavier dose or (too) rapidly.”

And then there is the execution of Emmitt Foster in Missouri, 1995.  Seven minutes into the process it was noticed that something was going wrong.  Blinds were drawn to hide the gasping convulsing inmate from view while the execution team desperately tried to sort it out.  Twenty minutes and counting the County Coroner entered the chamber and spotted the problem right away.  The leather straps holding Foster to the gurney were tight as a tourniquet, restricting the flow of the drugs.  Foster finally expired several minutes after they were loosened.  The Blinds were re-opened so witnesses could view the corpse, thirty-three perspiration soaked minutes after the execution began.

So there just seems to be no perfect way.  There will always be some problems killing an organism so driven to remain breathing.  Should we throw out these methods because of a few mishaps? 

And what about that “cruel and unusual” thing?  Is it cruel if a condemned man suffers pain unintentionally for a few minutes while he dies?  How much pain is too much?  Inserting-a-needle-in-the-arm pain?  Migraine pain?  Stepping-on-a-lego-in-your-bare-feet kind of pain?  Labor pain?  Or maybe passing-a-kidney-stone pain?  

Why Is an inmate root canal, or a lanced boil not considered unconstitutional?  Why is pain associated with healing excusable, and the same or a lesser pain associated with an execution not to be tolerated?  Pain is pain.
Is it cruel if things don’t go as planned?  Is that what the authors of the Bill of Rights had in mind?  Maybe they should have written that all punishments should be painless and bloodless and not cause anyone watching any unease.  That seems to be where we are headed.

We should ask what the colonials considered cruel or unusual.  Maybe it would help to take a look back at some of the more creative punishments in ancient history that the founders of our republic would have known about and abhorred.  I will list some and I will give each of them a cruelty factor with 1 being the least and 10 being the most.  I will only refer to punishments meant to end in the death of the victim.

CRUCIFIXION:  (7)  This was a slow lingering death.  The crucified were on public display and could live for days and were exposed to the weather and wildlife.  Notable victims:  Jesus of Nazareth; Peter; Peter’s brother, Andrew; and six thousand slaves from Spartacus’ army.

IMPALING:  (9)  Another lingering death, only here a long pole is inserted in one of the tender nether orifices, or a cut, in the lower body and pounded up through the abdomen and chest cavity to poke out at the shoulder.  Much skill was needed to avoid puncturing any vital organs so the impaled could live in misery for days.  Often the tip was blunted and guided up along the spine for this purpose.  A cross bar kept the condemned from sliding down to the base of the pole, which was often planted in the ground upright.  Many were just left lying on the ground, and one impaled soul, dying of thirst, managed to drag himself and his skewer over to a stream for a drink.  Notable victims:  Thousands who displeased Vlad the Impaler; Anna Charbonier.

TORN ASUNDER:  (2)  Not a lingering death but definitely messy.  There are many variations.  By Horse:  victim’s limbs are tied to four horses pulling in different directions.  By Tree: the tops of two springy trees are pulled down and secured and the legs of the victim are tied to them, then the rope is cut and the trees recoil tearing the condemned in half, lengthwise.  By Elephant:  elephants in Southeast Asia were shod in steel booties with knives on the soles and trained to stomp the unlucky into Salisbury steak.  Bisected By Big Knife:  Murdering Turks were wrapped with ropes so tightly at the waist so as to constrict it to the diameter of an orange.  Their lower half was then severed below the tourniquet and fed to wild dogs.  The top wound was cauterized to seal off the blood vessels, and thus the truncated man could live and converse until his executioners tired of him and loosed his corset.

BREAKING ON THE WHEEL:  ( 10) Another lingering excruciating death.  Victim is tied to a wagon wheel and the executioner breaks arm and leg and knee bones and collar bones, and all other major and minor bones, with a steel rod, then leaves the man to slowly die.  
HUNG, DRAWN, QUARTERED:  (8) This is reserved for those unfortunate souls convicted of High Treason, such as William Wallace.  The condemned is fastened to a hurdle and dragged behind a horse—pelted along the way with offal and garbage by locals—to the place of execution.  There he is to suffer three deaths.  He is hung by the neck until he is unconscious.  When he revives his genitals are cut off and burned in a brazier in front of him.  Then his innards are tugged out and also plopped, still attached to him, in the fire so he can watch them sizzling.  He is then, mercifully, beheaded. 

His body is quartered and the pieces dragged through various towns and villages, and his head is spitted on a pike for display.  The pieces are interred secretly in unmarked locations.  There is no burial place for mourners and family to visit.  Women convicted of high treason, for the sake of modesty, were merely burned at the stake. 

Guy Fawkes and the other conspirators involved in the Gunpowder Plot were dispatched this way.  Fawkes, though, during the hanging phase leaped off the platform and broke his neck, and was dead while the rest of the sentence was carried out.

POENA CULLEI: (the punishment of the sack):  (4) This is basically death by suffocation.  It was reserved for a murderer of father or mother or other family member. The victim is beaten with rods and then sewn up alive in a large leather sack along with live animals:  serpent, cock, monkey and a dog.  He is then carted to a river or the sea and tossed in.  Publicius Malleolus was one of the first recorded to have been executed by leather pouch for killing his mother about one hundred years B.C..  This strikes me as one of the unusual ones. 

BURNING AT THE STAKE:  (4) As done in Europe in the Middle Ages, this kind of execution was painful but over fairly quickly.  The condemned was lashed to a wood post surrounded by faggots of dry branches, which were then lighted and the person burned to death.  Oft times, for mercy, a rope noose was looped around the neck so the executioner, from a safe distance, could strangle him or her before the flames got too high.  Sometimes a big roaring bonfire was got going sans victim, and the person to be “purified” was strapped to a ladder and tipped over into the inferno, for a quicker demise.  Notable people executed by burning:  Joan of Arc, William Tyndale.

BURNING AT THE STAKE as practiced by Native Americans: (10) This involved burning and a stake but was purposefully done as slowly and painfully as possible.  The condemned is stripped naked, hands behind him tethered by a five-foot rawhide leash to a tall post, so he can walk around.  A ring of firewood, ten-to-fifteen feet from the post is then ignited and the victim is slowly braised for hours. 

Colonel William Crawford, a friend of George Washington, in 1782 was captured by British allied Delaware, Shawnee and Wyandot tribes in the Ohio Territory and burned at the stake, with fiendish refinements.  He is first fired on by five dozen muzzle-loader long guns with just the gunpowder and saltpeter charges peppering his skin from the neck down.  His ears are cut off.  Then the circle of kindling is lit and the intense heat bakes the skin on his back and buttocks until it is black and cracked and peeling like a bad paint job.  He is scalped by Chief Pipes and poked with burning embers.  Hot coals are heaped on him when he collapses and hot coals are underfoot when he rises and stumbles around the stake begging to be killed.  After the circle fire dies down a fresh big bonfire is ignited and he is cut loose and a couple of braves toss him alive, face down, onto the roaring mound and is finally mercifully allowed to die. 

You can see why I give this a “ten”.  The other captive American militiamen from Colonel Crawford’s ill-fated expedition to the Sandusky Indian territory, considered themselves fortunate that they were just hacked to pieces with tomahawks.

And there is GAUNCHING and HANGING BY THE RIBS and HANGING BY THE FEET.  That last one has the victim hung by his feet, usually between two wolves.  You can imagine how irritable the wolves would get in that situation.  FLAYING ALIVE probably merits a (10) for being a lingering grisly death.  BOILING in oil or water or molten metal was popular. Crassus, the richest man ever in the history of the world, probably including today, and along with Julius Caesar and Pompey a ruler in Rome, was captured while warring with the Parthians.  Legend has it he died when his captors poured molten gold down his throat, symbolizing his thirst for riches.

STONING gets a (2) or (3).  The person is trussed up and buried vertically in the ground with only head and shoulders showing, a hood covering the face, and then softball-sized rocks are thrown by a dozen or so energetic citizens.  Smaller rocks and pebbles are forbidden for prolonging the suffering.  The victim dies from blunt-force trauma to the head.  A physician is nearby to check for a pulse and declare death. It usually takes ten minutes, but I’m guessing after the first few impacts the person is unconscious.  Stephen, a Christian disciple in the New Testament, was stoned, but probably not the modern way with a pit. 
THE GUILLOTINE: (1)  I don’t have a zero on my scale, but this method of executing people is less than one.

IMMUREMENT: (8)  The condemned is locked in a box and slowly starves and/or dies of thirst. 

SCAPHISM: (11)  This fiendish method was invented by the Persians.  They were much noted for their cruelty.  The victim is placed in a small boat on his back and then another identical boat is bolted down inverted on top of the first boat with arm and leg holes and a hole for his head and neck and set adrift on a pond.  He is fed a milk and honey mixture and it is also smeared on his exposed parts to attract flies and hornets and biting and burrowing insects.  Thus he is fed and kept alive, in the hot sun, sometimes for weeks, while being stung, bitten and devoured slowly.  Mithridates, a soldier, suffered “the boats” for seventeen days before succumbing.  His crime?   He drunkenly boasted of killing Cyrus with a javelin, a feat  Artaxerxes, the King of Persia, wanted credit for.

This is similar to being slathered with honey and staked out on an ant hill by vengeful Indians, but I don’t think they kept you fed and hydrated, so it was over in a few days.

And there are many many more.  But I think you get the idea what real extreme unusual cruelty could be.  A condemned man, given a choice, would consider plain old hanging, even if it was botched, a blessing, a sinecure, a visit to Disneyland, in comparison to some of the above gruesomalities.

You heard from McGuire’s family and advocates.  You should hear from the other side.  When queried about the condemned man struggling for breath an attorney for the state of Ohio argued that while the U.S. Constitution bans cruel and unusual punishment, “you’re not entitled to a pain-free execution.”

A death penalty proponent, Kent Scheidegger, in a New York Times article considered the whole episode as being sensationalized.  “The main point to be emphasized,” he said, “is the inmate does get a sedative as the very first thing. However distasteful it may be to observe, he is not in any kind of extreme pain that ought to concern us.”  He also lamented that we as a society have become “namby-pamby” in this regard.  Scheidegger is legal director for the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.

Would you like to know what Dennis McGuire did, and how he did it?  Would that make a difference?  Should it make a difference?  He was found guilty of abducting a twenty-two year old woman and driving her to a remote wooded area on a Febuary day in 1989.  There he assaulted her and then cut her throat and drove away.  That’s sounds pretty bad.

Joy Stewart, the murdered woman, was almost eight months pregnant.  Does that make it worse? What if she were only one month pregnant?

Joy was newly married.  She was carrying her first child.  She had a husband, father and mother devastated by her death.  She had a sister and two brothers.  Her murder left a huge aching hole.  Does that make it worse that there were loved ones to mourn and miss her?  Joy’s suffering was blessedly brief, compared to her family who still suffer her absence.  Her husband eventually killed himself.  Should we take that into account?  Is it less of a murder if the person you slaughter is all alone in the world and won’t be missed?

How do you feel about Mr. McGuire now?  After he was convicted of aggravated murder, rape and kidnapping, his jury then had to decide on his penalty and they got to hear about events in his chaotic life that might mitigate his behavior.  If you were on the jury, do you think you might hear anything that would lead you to be less vengeful? 

Here are some of the sad facts:  McGuire’s mother was married six times.  He witnessed her being beaten by different husbands.  McGuire was tongue-tied and malnourished and a poor student and reached eighth grade functioning at a second grade level.  He was unsupervised often and basically raised himself and would take off for days and hang out with eighteen year -olds when he was nine.  He also began using drugs at age nine.  He was mentally and physically abused by his father and various stepfathers.  Consequently he did not feel safe at home.  He didn’t learn to read or write.  His mother moved constantly and he was always having to enroll in new schools, which he hated.  He skipped a lot of classes and eventually quit going.
He was unlucky in the kind of life he was handed.  No argument there.  And it was probably going to stay that way.  He was twenty-nine years old when he killed Mrs. Stewart and worked as a menial laborer and was on probation for some petty crimes.  He was also married with kids and separated from his wife.

Does any of this soften your heart?  Do you feel for the ill-treated dog, even if it bites your child?  If you are on the jury, do you vote for death or jail time?  Do you let your neighbor’s beloved pet live if they swear they’ll keep him locked up in the yard?

Before you answer that, you should know that you couldn’t give McGuire a true life sentence without the possibility of parole.  That option was not available then.  Be aware, also, that ten months after Joy’s murder, Dennis was arrested for abducting a fifteen year-old girl, at knife-point.  His probation was revoked and he was looking at ten-to-twelve for snatching the high-schooler.

So Mister or Miss jury person;  McGuire seems to have developed a taste for imposing his company on women that barely knew him.  Do you want to take a chance on his getting out of prison some day?

There are other indications of Dennis McGuire’s character.  While sitting in jail on the teen girl abduction charge, he offered up his 18 year-old brother-in-law, Jerry Richardson, as the murderer of Joy Stewart, in exchange for some leniency.  He knew a lot of details that were withheld from the public.  He described the crime scene and the wounds on the body.  He took police to a barn and showed them where the murder weapon was hidden. 

He knew all this because he was there and watched Jerry do it, he said.  This got police investigators interested… interested in Dennis McGuire as the prime suspect. Tests on seminal fluid found in the body excluded Richardson, but not his talkative in law.  Ironically, the investigation into Joy’s murder was stalled until Dennis decided to outsmart himself.   Later he tried to get a serial confessor, in jail, to take the blame for him.  That failed also.

Inmate McGuire strove mightily to evade accountability for his evil deeds.  But prison time can sometimes change a man.  Many a sinner has found religion in the concrete confines of the Big House.  That is why it is called a penitentiary. 
Would that make a difference to you, that he repented and confessed?  That he was truly sorrowful?  Suppose you were on the parole board that heard McGuire’s last minute plea?  Would you be swayed to recommend clemency? 

You’re easily swayed if you do.  For twenty-four years he denied killing the newlywed.  With time running out he penned a confession in his own words—he finally learned to write-- to Governor Kasich.  He finally came clean… well almost.  

In it he claimed to be having an adulterous affair with Joy.  When she demanded he leave his wife a heated argument erupted and he lost control and slew her.  There was no kidnapping or rape.  She was with him voluntarily that day and therefore the murder was not an aggravated crime.  This was just a lover’s spat that got out of hand, for which Joy was partly to blame.  Or so he says. 

Joy’s sister Carol Avery, at the clemency hearing, marveled at this monstrous self-serving libel.  Almost twenty-five years after the grievous injury McGuire had already visited on her family, he could still draw blood.  With few remaining hours on Earth, with the Grim Reaper at his elbow, he chose to sully Joy’s character and spit in the eye of God.

But is any of this pertinent?  No matter the blackguard Dennis McGuire may have been, his family and lawyers claim his death was unnecessarily cruel, regardless of  worse tortures visited on miscreants centuries ago, and that even remorseless lying murderers deserve better.  What say you?

I’d like to point out a couple of things. 

Dennis McGuire suffered from sleep apnea.  When he was drugged with the Midazolam it put him into a deep sleep.  Supine on the gurney his jaw would relax, his mouth would open, and the base of his tongue would settle to the back of his throat and occlude the airway.  His chest would heave when his lungs couldn’t draw air.  Eventually the blocked passage would yield and he would be heard to snort or gasp loudly.  This went on for ten minutes until the opiate kicked in and depressed his autonomous nervous system and he died.  

The gasping and snorting were distressing to McGuire’s son and daughter because of the situation.  A child crying on a sidewalk because of a scraped knee is much less poignant than the same cry coming from inside a house on fire.  The nearness of death magnifies everything.  McGuire’s kids never had to put up with his snoring because he was in prison almost their entire lives.  They didn’t know what he sounded like normally.  The same snorting and gasping, at home in a Lazy-Boy, interrupting their prime-time TV shows, would have elicited annoyance and thrown objects, not horror. 
My dad had sleep apnea and so do I.  I’ve seen him struggle for air sitting in a recliner, dozing fitfully.  Sometimes a minute would pass between inhalations.  This can go on all night for such a sleeper.  
I try to sleep on my side, but sometimes I roll on my back and make all kind of loud door-rattling snoring sounds, or so I’m told.  My wife prods me awake and gets me back on my side or stomach, but I have no memory of the “air hunger.”   McGuire’s legal team averred that he would suffer “terror and agony”, but how could they know that? 
I submit to you that Dennis McGuire was likewise unaware and was not in any pain or distress in that ten minute period when his body fought for breath.  A surgeon could have cut him open and removed his gall bladder and he wouldn’t have made a face. 

In the future I advise that death row inmates facing the needle and likely to snore be positioned face down on one of those massage tables with the face hole.  When the drugs kick in their throats will stay open and they will pass from unconsciousness to death quieter than a purring kitten.  They might drool like Homer Simpson, but I’d like to see abolitionists sue the state over that.

Again, this will have no effect on the condemned.  He's not feeling a thing at this point.  It is just to avoid distressing the witnesses.

So do I think McGuire suffered?
Not at all.

Do I think some executed prisoners in the United States have suffered pain beyond the cruel and unusual pale?
No.  There are executions that last longer and are inherently more painful than others, but the intent is to dispatch the condemned as quickly and humanely as possible.  If there is pain it is soon over.  Even our botched executions are not cruel or unusual.

Are there methods you would do away with?
I would do away with the gas chamber.  It can be slower than other methods and if something goes wrong the chamber cannot be entered to remedy it because of the poison gas.  Indeed, after the execution, the hazardous gas has to be bled off and neutralized, and hazmat suits have to be worn to remove the body and then all the surfaces in the chamber have to be scrubbed down, also by workers in hazmat suits.  Even the body has to be decontaminated before it can be turned over to funeral workers.  The whole process is over-complicated and fraught with danger. That’s why no state has used it since 1999.. 

What is the best  method?
Lethal injection.  Most of the problems have been with finding a vein.  If leg and arm veins are problematic, I say don’t waste time, just stick the syringe in the jugular.  This method probably works best for donating organs.

Firing squad would be a good method, unless the victim wants to donate his heart.

Hanging, if done correctly, is my third choice.

There are many ways a person could be killed without a lot of pain or fuss, especially if you sedate them first: 

How about exsanguination?  Just insert a large catheter into the femoral artery and open it up.  The guy would bleed out in a couple minutes.  If doctors don’t want to do it because of the Hippocratic Oath, undertakers are perfectly skilled at draining off bodily fluids.

I don’t like the idea of beheading, even though it is quick and painless and sure.  But something like the guillotine could be accomplished without the separation of the head from the body.  Just drive a sharp flat chisel into the base of the skull severing the spinal cord, but keeping the body intact.  You wouldn’t even need a sedative.

Garroting could work.  If you squeeze on the sides of the neck the victim goes unconscious in seven seconds.  Then you just keep the pressure on until brain death occurs due to the lack of blood flow.  It might take twenty minutes, but the victim won’t notice.

Or how about drowning?  Again, sedate the murderer and dunk him.

Or carbon monoxide poisoning.  At a high enough concentration of the gas, unconsciousness is almost instant and death soon follows.  Take all those cyanide gas chambers and convert them.   
Do I think justice was done? 
No.  Not for Joy or her family.

I’m thinking our justice system is seriously barnacled when it takes twenty-some years to execute a condemned murderer.  Ten years is even too much time. I’d give them three years to make all their appeals.  Beyond that we are just letting the whole legal apparatus pleasure itself.

McGuire had twenty long years to beg the Governor for a reprieve, to conspire with his attorneys, to receive visits and to say goodbye to his family and loved ones.  Joy Stewart, violated, hurt and alone in the icy woods, except for the brutal man with a knife to her throat, had minutes.  Ponder what it must have been like for her.

At some point the young newlywed realized she would not be leaving with Mr. McGuire.  She would never see her mother or father or sister again.  She would not live to hold her husband or the child she was carrying.  Immense sadness would have shrouded her as she realized the many happy roles she would now not get to play.

The moment she got into McGuire's car she stopped being wife, daughter, sister, friend.  She was now just warm flesh to be bruised and penetrated and torn by an angry illiterate man; and then tossed aside like a soiled tissue, her usefulness over… but not quite.  There was one more thing. 
As her life pulsed out of her and her vision dimmed, Joy’s last sight would have been of her killer, leaning over her, and the last human touch she felt this side of eternity would have been of him wiping his bloody hands off on her blouse.

Should we just give up on executing people like Mr. McGuire?  It's expensive to keep them housed in prison, and it is expensive to kill them.  It used to take ten years.  It is now taking twenty.  It may soon take thirty.  

So I ask again:  Should we just give it up?

1 comment:

  1. I see no point in having family view the execution at all! It should be noted by an appoint witness and left at that. No spectators and no complaints when it looks "uncomfortable" for the convicted.