The wrong debate on the death penalty

Posted on Saturday 16 December 2006

This week, discussions about capital punishment hit the national stage again. Unfortunately, we’re still chasing the lethal injection red herring.

We need to take a Time out on the death penalty, please, and talk about the aspects that matter.

7 Comments for 'The wrong debate on the death penalty'

    December 16, 2006 | 11:23 am

    I was wondering if you were going to pick up on this one – but I think this particular story isn’t over yet, as it appears they really botched the execution – then the ME may have tried to cover it up, and might just have committed medical malpractice doing so.

    I would say “only in Florida, the only place where something named Chad could get pregnant”, but then some dolt in Texas would pull the same stupid stunt…


    December 16, 2006 | 11:54 am

    Death Penalty – One more time…

    Once again, the death penalty has gotten some time in the national spotlight, after what appears to be a botched execution in Florida. California has now joinedFlorida in declaring a moratorium on executions (although in the case of California it is …

    December 16, 2006 | 6:37 pm

    Hi Ed — saw your comment. Obviously, I agree that there are many problems with how our CJ system is functioning.

    Your example of Skilling is one example. Another is this absurd (and failed) “War on Drugs”. However, I really wanted to take this particular opportunity to point out that the arguments against the Death Penalty are often focused on red herrings.

    It’s one of many penalties that need examination.

    December 17, 2006 | 7:29 am

    However, I really wanted to take this particular opportunity to point out that the arguments against the Death Penalty are often focused on red herrings.

    That is probably true for arguments against other aspects of the CJ system, as well. The fact is that, when opponents to a particular penalty try to have it thrown out, under our laws there are a limited number of options – and the 8th Amendment is one that is commonly (over)used for this purpose. Given that the Supreme Court has ruled the death penalty itself to be constitutional, that leaves playing whack-a-mole with the various means of execution as the main avenue for trying to get it stopped. And, to be sure, the ‘victim advocates’ (often paid government employees) who make such outlandish statements as ‘they should be killed the way they killed their victims’ don’t help.

    In response, I did read somewhere (probably a Sci-Fi book, I think by Robt Heinlein) that if punishment is neither cruel (it is designed to cause suffering) nor unusual (it is simply ‘the luck of the lottery’, and not the response to an antisocial activity), what is the purpose?

    But, I personally think the way to kill off (pun intended) the death penalty is to resume the practice of public executions. Hold them in the town square, at high noon each Friday. Use a fairly quick, but very messy way of killing them (I would propose the guillotine – everyone dies the same way.) Make everyone watch. Put it on every TV channel out there, and make it a part of the civics lesson for all the school kiddies.

    One of two things will be the result: either people will get so sick and disgusted with the whole mess that they will demand it stop, or else they will make it the latest “Reality TV” craze, and advertisers will be battling for sponsorship rights.


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