In Brief—It’s wasteful and illogical to work to make the death penalty painless for the condemned instead of working to abolish it altogether. Abolishing the death penalty would allow American society to address the many social problems that exist and become more civilized in the process.
The Waste of the Death Penalty—
After months of torturous waiting on Death Row, the last nightmarish walk to the end of his life. Prisoner V is strapped down weighted by the long-dreaded expectation that his life will end in just moments. What must his thoughts have been as he waited in his lonely cell? What are his thoughts now?
Here are some possible reasons that V is facing the death penalty:
He is entirely innocent of any crime but is convicted based on mistaken identity. He is black and killed a white police officer. He is a risk-taking sadistic killer who enjoys killing. He has a criminal past but was miles away at the time of the crime and knows nothing of it. He is merely the perceived enemy of the person who accused him to get rid of him. He is mentally deficient and has no idea of the wrongfulness of his act. His lawyer was negligent during the trial or appeal.
Thirty-two American states currently have the death penalty. Most use lethal injection, some permit gas, a few use electrocution, two use hanging, one uses a firing squad, some of these states provide alternative methods and some allow the condemned person to choose. All deliberately kill a human being. Guilty, mentally deficient or innocent, the condemned is a human being.
Purposes of Punishment—
The purposes of legal punishment are: deterrence, incapacitation, rehabilitation, retribution and restitution. Deterence means that others will be deterred from criminal activity. Incapacitation means removing the convicted person from society so society will not be further victimized. Rehabilitation means that the convicted person will have his/her behavior positively altered so s/he will no longer victimize society. Retribution means an eye for an eye. Restitution is often for financial crimes and is not applicable for purposes of the death penalty.
In medieval times—and in some countries today—the condemned person was executed publicly. He/she was frequently tortured, often in full public view preceding the execution. Was this a deterrent? Clearly not! Crimes were still committed…even while the execution was taking place.
Pain versus Painless—
In Oklahoma, Charles Warner was in visible severe pain for several minutes before dying. Also in Oklahoma, Clayton Lockett writhed in pain for almost 45 minutes before dying. Surviving victims said he deserved the pain. Currently, the Supreme Court is considering whether potential pain suffered by the condemned amounts to “cruel and unusual” punishment under the constitution. As always, the court is concerned about whether the condemned person, a human, suffered pain before dying.
Today, the lawmakers of Oklahoma want to continue killing, but heaven forbid the condemned person should feel pain. One legislator has suggested nitrogen gas as a solution. Nitrogen, he points out, has the added benefits of avoiding the secret drug cocktail controversy that’s before the Court as well as providing the condemned with a quick, happy (!) death. Let the killing continue!
I suspect that I’m not the only one who finds this concern bizarre? Why are so many otherwise intelligent Americans concerned about any pain the condemned might suffer? Seems to me that that killing a person is worthy of concern far outweighing pain suffered. Why do we focus on pain and not on the enormous issue of the death penalty? Furthermore, that killing is done out of sight and in the name of all members of society. I certainly don’t want any person killed regardless of the crime for which that person has been convicted.
Learn, Don’t Kill—
Assuming the condemned person is not innocent, logic says that it makes sense to learn something about why one human kills another. That knowledge can benefit society in a variety of ways. Sure, it doesn’t give as many political points as appearing tough on crime, but society might learn from the incident.
The death penalty won’t bring back the victim and, while it might give emotional satisfaction to a family member, society could learn how to prevent the next death. Could anger management courses be strengthened? Could mental health treatment benefit? Could domestic violence be diminished? Could the perpetrator be rehabilitated? These and many benefits could result from abolishing the death penalty, and beyond saving taxpayer money, it could elevate America’s morality along with providing the country with useful information on prevention of future tragedies.
What About War?—
It’s one thing to abolish the death penalty, but with abolition how can we then say it’s not okay to kill within our borders while it’s okay to kill those “others” who live somewhere else in the world? Think about that.
Meanwhile, it’s time to abolish the death penalty and stop wasting money and time on the pain just so politicians can burnish their “cred” and families can get revenge. One step at a time. Let’s abolish the death penalty and take a step toward becoming civilized.