Thursday, September 17, 2009

Death to the Death Penalty

I do not type those words lightly. I believe, in principle, that there are times when a person is so dangerous, as shown by particularly heinous and brutal crimes, that it is in society's best interest to terminate the person's life.

But it's the practice that's flawed beyond redemption.

First, the process of justice is flawed; there is no doubt in my mind that innocents have been executed for crimes they did not commit. That alone ought to give pause to any who support the death penalty. Imagine that your family is brutally murdered. The investigation somehow leads to you. You know you didn't- couldn't have- committed the crime, but the jury finds otherwise.

How well would you respond to first losing your family, then the realization that society believes you are their murderer? I know I would try to commit suicide; it would utterly break me.

Second, the appeals process is (necessarily) long, drawn out, and extraordinarily expensive. It is simply cheaper to pay the cost of imprisoning a person for life than it is to pursue an execution. The appeals process also looks very random and quirky to me; sometimes an overturning of the sentence is granted on what seem specious grounds. Other times, an appeal is denied despite grounds that seem overwhelming. This must be psychological torture for the prisoner, regardless of whether the person actually committed the crime.

Finally, the methods of execution currently available are inhumane. The story that motivated this post had me squirming. The prisoner actually tried to help the personnel that were trying to place an IV in his arm; they thanked him for his efforts.
Prison officers described how, after about an hour of hunting for a suitable vein, Broom helped them by turning on to his side, by moving rubber tubing along his arm and by flexing his hand and muscles. At one point, technicians found what appeared to be a suitable vein but it collapsed as they inserted a needle, apparently because of past drug use.

Broom, who was convicted of kidnapping, raping and killing 14-year-old Tryna Middleton, became so distressed that he lay on his back and covered his face with both hands. One of the execution team handed him a toilet roll to wipe away tears.
Whether Broom actually committed the crime, I can't know. But it doesn't matter: no one should have to endure two hours of being jabbed with a needle, nor be expected to assist his would-be executioners.

They're going to try again next week.

Followup, Sept. 18: A Federal Court has placed a ten-day restraining order on the execution.

No comments: