The Thirty Minute Blogger

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Thursday, May 1, 2014

End the Death Penalty in the United States

After the debacle in Oklahoma with the botched execution by lethal injection on Tuesday, March 29, in which an experimental (i.e. never before tried) drug combination ended up giving the prisoner a fatal heart attack after 45 minutes of supposedly not cruel and unusual punishment, the death penalty should be ended in the United States. There are a number of reasons, but for me, it all stems back to an assertion by a historian who stated the death penalty had negative, corrosive effects on any state/nation that allowed the system to continue.

Take Oklahoma as a case in point. Suddenly the state decides to go for a "two fer" at 6 and 8 PM, something that had not been done since 1937. With European drug companies not allowing use of their name brand, known to be successfully fatal drugs in the killing cocktail, the state decided to try out a mixture not proven to work. The results were ... while fatal ... quite disastrous in their torturing of the executed man. This does not speak well of the state's decision making. It also speaks to the way in which employing the death penalty makes people more callous by nature, less sensitive to suffering, and more willing to seek revenge than justice. As one bystander opined, "Well, that's what he deserved."

In a nation that has shown lately, in Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling, that we are far from color blind and indeed remain sadly steeped in racism in many quarters, despite a recent and lamentable far-from-"Supreme" Court ruling on affirmative action that suggests otherwise, it is impossible not to note that Oklahoma's twosome for execution were both men of color. With a racial disparity in incarceration, in a nation that has 60% of those imprisoned being racial minorities, execution cases begin to feel more like racially motivated fear or revenge responses as well.

Finally, although I could go on, let's just say that we human beings are fallible creatures. We make mistakes. Sometimes we attempt to rush to justice to close a case, particularly a horrendous case like the kidnap, rape, and murder of a child as committed by Oklahoma's first up for the execution twosome. In that rush, at times we convict the wrong individual (not saying that occurred in this case) as recent DNA evidence has confirmed time and time again (over 300 to date). With the death penalty, we cannot redress that breach of justice after execution. With life sentences, a wrongfully convicted individual can be freed with apologies and compensation at least. We cannot afford to be so final in our judgments when there is such a possibility we may be wrong.

Let's err on the side of caution. Let's go for more tempered justice and free ourselves from the possibility that we are seeking revenge instead. Let's stop damaging ourselves, injuring our minds, staining our souls, by putting people to death. We can do better. We can be better.

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