Why Treat Condemned Criminals Humanely?
It’s been a long time since I heard something that actually made my jaw drop and caused me to hold my mouth open with disbelief. I may have used the cliché to express some disbelief of something or another but it was hardly ever meant to be taken literally. But yesterday I was amazed to hear one of our Supreme Court justices ask an attorney arguing to change the rules of how condemned felons are put to death, where in the Constitution of the United States did it say that prisoners must be put to death as humanely as possible. I’m not a lawyer, judge, Supreme Court Justice, court clerk, or even a bailiff. The last time I went to court was for a traffic ticket that I had to go before a judge to ask for community service because I didn’t have the funds to pay. But if I had to fathom a guess I would say it would be the clause that says something to the effect that protects people from cruel and unusual punishment.
But what can us as the citizens of the United States expect from our high court that makes marvelous nuggets of truth and justice such as the best way to combat racism is to quit making measurements of our pursuit of racial harmony or the lack thereof. The best way to defeat racism is to quit looking at it. Racism will disappear if we remove the legal tools available to the black community to hold the dominant culture with a glaring history of disenfranchising black people accountable. I’m still waiting for this retarded logic to manifest in other areas of law enforcement. I’m still waiting for the high court to say that the best way to counter murder is to quit looking at murderers. When will our Supreme justices say that the best way to fight terrorism is to quit looking at terrorist activities? You know all they want is some attention. Take away the attention and you take away their power over us. So what if somebody gets blown up. The terrorist will be virtually powerless.
The question isn’t whether or not we put our felons to death. Our collective voice says its okay for us to kill people. In fact, people in great state of “Hang’em High” Texas believe that the state regularly puts innocent people to death, but Texans would still defend their right to kill innocent people as long as they can use the death penalty as a means to deter criminal activity. Never mind the fact that evidence has never proven that the threat of the death penalty is an effective deterrent against crime. And never mind the fact that there are relatively easy ways to assure that innocent people are not needlessly murdered by the people of the state such as the use of DNA evidence whenever available. But then with reasonable measures to assure the no one is needlessly executed Texas couldn’t enjoy its status as the most reckless state at being tough against crime.
The question is whether the traditional method of death by lethal injection is too inhumane a process when it is improperly performed. As I understand it the traditional method involves three separate drugs each with its own function. The first drug is meant to put the victim unconscious, the second drug is meant to paralyze the victim so that the body doesn’t manifest any automatic reaction to the third drug which stops the victim’s heart. The proper administration of these three different compounds requires someone trained in their usage be close to the body to monitor their separate effects. But tradition requires that only the warden be in the room with the victim. The drugs are administered through tubes that start in a separate room and end at the victim’s blood vein. But if the needle misses the vein and administers the drug in the tissue the resulting misapplication can make the victim feel his or her body dying. The drug meant to paralyze the heart could make the veins feel as if they are on fire. Paralyzed lungs can make the victim feel like he or she is drowning unable to take another breath. These conditions can exist for as long as an hour.
It is interesting to note that the National Humane Society has ended their use of the triple drug cocktail to put animals down. As a society, Americans are willing to give Fido and Spot the consideration we fail to give other humans.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia obviously thinks that it’s okay for individual states to torture its citizens to death. Chances are slim to none that Mr. Scalia, nor any of his family, would find themselves facing a death sentence anywhere in the country. Personally this justice, nor any of his peers, has anything to lose if states get the green light from the high court to kill people in the most excruciatingly painful of methods. Maybe he’s just playing devil’s advocate. But if that’s the case I would like to play people’s advocate. It sounds like Justice Scalia would be okay if states decided to inject the condemned felons with the AIDS virus and drop them off in the tiger compound at the zoo. Where in the Constitution does it say we should be humane and civilized? It doesn’t. But then again, can anybody tell me where in the Constitution does it say that the Supreme Court has the final say on everything?
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