Leathal Injection: Is it too cruel and unusual?

A wonderful article in the Washington Post caught my attention today: The Supreme Court is currently torn over whether lethal injections are a painful capital punishment procedure, thus violating the Constitution’s protection from cruel and unusual punishment.

This brings up a couple issues for me. In my Constitutional Law class we discussed whether the Supreme Court should be involved in questions of degree. As my professor was a very conservative man, he of course said no. Taking a step back and analyzing the question myself, I’d have to agree. The purpose of the Supreme Court is to interpret the Constitution and then determine whether a specific law is clearly and directly in opposition to it (check out Marbury v. Madison for Chief Justice Marshall’s eloquent opinion of what exactly judicial review is).

If my opinion is correct, what place to judges have in analyzing whether something is “too costly” or “too painful” or “too burdensome”? In order for the Supreme Court to determine whether lethal injection is a cruel and unusual punishment, scientific review and evidence would have to be presented to the Court so that the Justices could come to a decisions. Justices are in no way qualified to make a ruling on such matters; it is not in their expertise, nor was it ever meant to be. They are not doctors; they are judges.

As Justice Scalia so tenderly put it, “this is an execution, not surgery.” (High Court Divided Over Lethal Injection, Washington Post)

However, I must disagree with Justice Scalia’s opposition to a painless death for those convicted of murder and even the death penalty itself.

In 2006, the only known countries to utilize the death penalty were Bahrain, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, North Korea, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mongolia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Uganda, the United States of America, Vietnam, and Yemen (Amnesty International), and 91% of those executions took place in SIX countries: China, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan, and the United States.

As a country that fosters democracy and has spent excessive amounts of money and man power on “saving” the barbaric government of underdeveloped countries, it is quite ironic (and rather hypocritical) that we find ourselves grouped with these very same countries for such an issue. This is a really well done diagram I got off Wikipedia as far as the distribution of the death penalty http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Death_Penalty_World_Map.png

I just can’t see how murdering someone who murdered someone else somehow magically sets the world right again. Perhaps if I was the mother of a child who was raped and violently murdered, I would change my mind. However, at this point in my life, I cannot see the logic, and I know that I could not live with myself if I were responsible for the intentional murder of another human being. Yes, that person should be in prison for the rest of his or her life, but who are we to decide that that person’s life is no longer of value? And can you imagine the pain that is put on that person’s loved ones when they find out that their son, daughter, spouse, friend, etc. is to be put to death? Why must we punish more innocent lives? Why must we cause more people to suffer? What good does this do? What justice does this bring to the world?

Christians that promote the death penalty drive me the most insane. One of those messages that Jesus was always rambling about was letting God be the judge… i.e. How can you point out the splinter in your brothers eye when you do not see the low in your own? Let he who is without sin cast the first stone, etc.

In conclusion… if we want to get rid of the death penalty, or perhaps just rectify any flaws with lethal injection, it is up to the people to bring their opinions to their representatives. We can’t depend on the Supreme Court to do all of this work for us.


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10 Responses to “Leathal Injection: Is it too cruel and unusual?”

  1. amberfireinus Says:

    Great post.

    I had a discussion about two years ago in a Philosophy forum regarding this subject. I have to tell you that my thinking grew alot wider, and my opinion changed at the outcome.

    I used to believe whole heartedly in the death penalty. I was all about Let’s fry em!

    But living in Europe, with a socialised view has given me pause for thought on the subject.

    You see you have to focus out on the subject to really get the full impact of it. Kinda like you do on Google maps to see all the surrounding areas.

    First of all… the death penalty has not been shown in any study to be a deterrant for crime. Psychologically it makes no difference to the person for the most part committing a crime.

    Secondly, you have to take into account the other people that it affects. What about the person that has to push the button to end someone’s life? The jurors or the judge finding that person guilty of the crime and punishing them to death. What guilt and torture do they have to live with for the rest of their lives? And those who witness such deaths? To me that is horrible for them and cruel and unusual too.

    And flipping that last sentances around a bit, doesnt that feed those sick people who watch death for enjoyment? There are people who do it. They love being even near it. Its not a new thing. People being fed to the lions for sport back in biblical times is well documented. People have this sick need to see this stuff. Dont you think that desensitizes our society into making life worthless therefore making it easier for criminals to committ these crimes?

    Does creating the death of someone else’s loved one make it ok? There will be children without parents added. Parents without children. All suffer for the deed that they were faultless for.

    Then lets look at the false economy of this action. The people on death row are so dangerous apparently that they need their own cells and special attention. It costs so much to house these people. Our tax payer dollars at work.

    Lets look at what it does to the prison guards each day having to live that horror of the things they see. They then bring it back to their families. These people become less than animals. They are abused. The guards are scared daily for their own lives. They become abusers.

    And of course there is the slippery slope here of equality. The rich seem to get it less than the poor. Where do we morally draw the line as to which deaths should get the dealth penalty. Should it be the abused woman who snapps one day against her abuser? Should it be the street kid who was never been shown a bit of kindness in his life? Should it maybe the drug user who was so amped up on drugs that he didnt know what he was doing? Or finally the mentally ill, who has no control over their actions. And why stop with just murder? How about rapists and maimers. Those assholes out there who rape someone then chop them up and leave them to die… but the victims somehow they live. Just because its attempted murder, doesnt mean that they havent killed that person’s soul. Ask any rape victim. They will tell you that part of them died on that day.

    I dont know what the solution is here. I could never quite figure it all out. But i do know that we need to give it alot more thought and attention. We need to figure out a system that is just and fair.

    As for lethal injection. The inmates are given a sedative first. The second injection just stops the heart. It is not painful. Not any different than putting a dog, cat or horse to sleep. That happens every day, even to animals who have committed no crime other than being born.

    I can attest to that, as my mother’s heart stopped via meds and it wasnt painful. She simply slipped slowly into death. Thank god I was there to save her and restart her heart.

  2. 06jk Says:

    I liked your point about desensitization. Very compelling. Violence upon violence upon violence makes it okay for us to take another life or two.

    Also… the Washington Post article I read said that the second injection is a paralyzer, so if the person is in any pain, they can’t express it. Buuuuut I think those guys may be grasping at straws haha.

    We seem to focus on punishment far more than we focus on solutions. If there were more viable outreach programs, there wouldn’t be so many problems with drugs. If we were able to make real efforts to stop violence against women, if we had more outreach for people in all kinds of distress…

  3. amberfireinus Says:

    Sure, but someone would have to step out of their own bombarded life and give a shit first….

  4. amberfireinus Says:

    BTW Jak, it gives me hope that there is actually a University student out there who knows how to read a newspaper. Thank goodness for that!

  5. 06jk Says:

    I actually owe that to my high school experience…
    If you check out my entries: “Some education please, with a side of opportunity” and “Catholic schooling is not brainwashing”, you’ll see what I’m talking about.

  6. throughpaulseyes Says:

    And where was that high school experience? Woo!

    I got a perfect score for my speech on why the death penalty should be illegal (and an A+ for the class too, Mr. A said he was very proud of me!). Here are the stats I still remember:

    Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1972, 82 inmates have been freed from death row. That means that for every 7 inmates put to death, there’s at least 1 person who was innocent.

    Great Britain and Australia, two countries without the death penalty have a murder rate of 6 and 5 times less than that of the United States. Of course, the popular response to this is that it isn’t because of the absence of the death penalty; it’s because of different cultures. But even in the United States, the stats are shocking. Texas has a murder rate twice that of Wisconsin, a state that does not have the death penalty. Texas and Oklahoma are the two states that execute the most, but they have higher murder rates than the national average and have even had an increase in murder rates since 2003.

    A bunch of people get really bad legal advice. A striking example is that of Judy Haney in Alabama. Her lawyer arrived to court too drunk to function. The judge held him in contempt of court and ordered him to spend a night in jail. The next day, he was back representing Haney. She’s still on death row.

    Then there’s Wanda Jean Allen. Her court appointed lawyer had never tried a death penalty case before, and was not confident in his ability to defend Allen. He asked the public defender’s office to remove him from the case, or send someone to help, but neither action was taken. This lawyer was such an idiot he never even mentioned to the jury that Wanda was mentally disabled. She was executed in 2001.

    Blacks make up 10% of the American population, but are 40% of death row. A psychology study conducted in 1988 showed that a jury remembers more information about a guilty verdict and gave a harsher judgment of guilt if the defendant has a Hispanic name.

    A research study asked a majority of police chiefs if they felt the death penalty was an effective law enforcement tool. Only 1% said it was. You’d think they’d know better than most.

    The main reason why the death penalty exists is because our current laws still allow it, but they can be changed. Prisons were first built in the US in the late 1700s, after our laws were written. The idea of holding people for long periods of time was completely new. But since prisons were built, only 12 states have banned the death penalty, and it’s because people aren’t voicing their displeasure.

    At the end of the day, all those arguments aren’t enough to make people care enough to even say ‘I don’t like the death penalty’. But what needs to be made known is that executions cost more. Executions cost over $2 million. Life in prison, in a separate max security wing only costs $500,000.

    “What says the law? You will not kill? How does it say it? By killing!”-Victor Hugo

    “Capital punishment is the most premeditated of murders”-Albert Camus

  7. throughpaulseyes Says:

    O and if someone hurt my mom, I wouldn’t want him or her put to death. I’d want him or her to have to suffer in prison for life. It’s no cakewalk; even the inmates have a code of honor amongst themselves.

  8. 06jk Says:

    Oh my gosh… those two quotes were amazing.
    Actually, your whole comment was 🙂

  9. Edie Says:

    I found your article very interesting and thought provoking, although I have to say I disagree with your conclution. In response to your “murduring some one who murderd someone else”: no this does not make the world magiclly right but it does serve justice. just as if a person stole a car or something, when they are caught they are expected to either return it or pay for it. so it is with murder. the only difference is that onec you have stolen a persons life you cannot return it or pay for it, because life is priceless. theirfor giving your own life is the only way to meet justice or pay the price you have stolen. this in its demonstration prooves that the murdurer’s life is not worthless, but rather that it is valued at the same price as the victams and their for pays the debt.
    In regards to your reference on Jesus’s teachings: let me point out hear that Jesus was the perfect son of God who took the punishment of the whole world when he died on the cross. this was not an act of justice but of grace. never once in his teachings did Jesus expect the law to show grace or mercy. in fact if you reserch the old testament you will find that laws were very harsh and just. remember justice is blind and it is up to the government (judges, jury, etc.) to serve blind justice with out mercy. the individual person, however, is a compleatly different story. we are to follow Christ’s teachings and example in grace and mercy in how we relate to others. theirfor, it would be up to the victims family to forgive the murdurer and pardon him, but the court should find him guilty and require him to repay the price he has taken.

  10. 06jk Says:

    Oh my gosh, this is such a wonderful response. I never ever thought about your justification for the death penalty, nor have I ever heard it argued before. Wow.

    However, did not Jesus say, “If a man steals your robe, give him your cloak as well,” and “If your brother slaps you on the left cheek, offer him your right.”? The New Testament was a way of wiping out the harsh, merciless God of the Old Testament and revealing an overwhelmingly loving and forgiving religion. Even if we were to follow the Old Testament, the Ten Commands say, “Thou shalt not kill”. Nowhere does it say, “Thou shalt not kill… except in cases where you are killing someone as a punishment.”

    Thanks for the comment. Again, your reasoning FOR the death penalty was really eye-opening to me.

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