Thursday, October 02, 2008

A look at the death penalty
The Most You Ever Knew

Waiting in long lines can be a pain - unless you're on death row. Then, it's OK, awesome even. Nonetheless, you'd rather be in a different line.

The methods of execution are so inhumane that death row inmates can now sue under the civil rights law, according to a 2006 Christian Science Monitor article. Some argue that suffering is the point of the death penalty, but there's a little thing called cruel and unusual punishment.

Even today, people are hanged or face a firing squad. New Hampshire and Washington play hangman, as do India and Japan, according to the BBC News and Death Penalty Information Center Web sites. If the drop is too far, hanging can cause decapitation, which happened to Saddam Hussein's half brother.

Jailbirds can also die by a 5-person firing squad in Idaho, Oklahoma or Utah, according to the DPIC Web site. And we're not talking about BB guns here. Three men were sentenced to this type of execution in Indonesia just last May, according to a 2008 Reuters article.

What's worse is that several prisoners get stoned to this day. Did I mention that the prisoner is sometimes whipped first? And by the way, the stones shouldn't be too small that they don't cause any pain nor should the rocks be too large that they would kill the inmate with only 2 blows, according to the Law of Hodoud, the Islamic Penal Code of Iran.

The law states that in the event the convict escapes, he or she is free to go. However, it's easier for only men to do so. Men are always buried waist-deep whereas women are submerged up to the neck. As of this year, nine women are expected to get stoned in Iran, according to the Amnesty International Web site.

The more modern methods of execution aren't any better. Inmates could die of a lethal injection - as soon as the doctors can find a vein. Once they do, the amount of barbiturates pumped in may not be enough to prevent the inmate from suffering severe pain.

Thankfully, the doctors who are supposed to understand the procedure are present or are they? Sometimes "nurse practitioners" and guards replace the ones with the white coats, according to a 2006 Time magazine article.

That's just a pinprick.

The dead men walking can have a seat in an electric chair or a gas chamber should they desire a change in skin color. The chair prompts some inmates' internal organs to fry and flames to appear atop their heads. Silent but deadly, the chamber induces the same effects as a heart attack, cutting off the convict's air supply, according to the DPIC Web site.

Every time a new method turned up, however, the reason was to make the death penalty more humane.

It is the definition of irony.

Take Alfred Southwick for example. He pushed for the electric chair to replace hanging as a way of preventing painful deaths, according to the Medline Database Web site. He might as well have improved hanging by changing the rope to licorice. That way, if something goes wrong - other than a person dying - the convict can eat through it.

Refining the death penalty doesn't work. A method of execution by any other name would smell just as foul.

The only thing mildly humane about the death penalty is some inmates get to choose how they die. Keyword: some. Even then, several do so not because it will be less painful but to make their own statement about capital punishment.

In 1996, John Taylor chose to die by a Utah firing squad rather than a lethal injection to create problems for the state by attracting unwanted media attention and protesters, according to a New York Times article of the same year.

Sen. Ernie Chambers named the electric chair Nebraska's only capital punishment. "What was he thinking?" you ask. When the courts declare the chair unconstitutional, Nebraska would be death row-free, according to a 2003 New York Times article. Chambers succeeded in February 2008 when the Nebraska Supreme Court dismissed the method, according to a 2008 USA Today article.

The good news stops there. The state of Georgia protects the medical licenses of those involved with the executions, according to a 2006 Time magazine article. If the doctor doesn't sedate the victim properly, the state says it's OK to move on to another patient.

It's also been argued that the doctors who execute the death penalty are guilty of breaking the Hippocratic Oath, according to the Time magazine article. The modern version of the oath states, "Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. Above all, I must not play God."

America isn't getting off cheap either. According to a 2005 Los Angeles Times article, every execution costs California $250 million. Capital punishment is $4 billion more overpriced than prison life sentences in California, according to a 2008 American Civil Liberties Union report.

Perhaps the death penalty's price tag is the reason that the Supreme Court ruled out executions for child rapists. One of the majority's reasons was that capital punishment would be "overwhelming" since 5,702 child rapes were accounted for in 2005, according to a 2008 New York Times article.

It is unfortunate that the court was thinking about the financial costs and not the devastating effects on children. The court's decision illustrates another issue regarding the death penalty: It's inconsistent.

The inconsistency puts a dent in the deterrence argument. If capital punishment can't deter child rapists anymore, where's the logic in keeping it around?

How can 5 justices excuse the rape of a child by saying it isn't as grave as taking a human life? When you rape children, you are stripping them of their lives.

As the saying goes, it's better to set 10 inmates free than to send 1 innocent person to death row. To be exact, 129 people in the U.S. have been exonerated, 3 of them as recently as this year, according to the DPIC Web site.

The worst part is exonerations aren't allowed once the death penalty has been carried out, according to the Amnesty International Web site. The real guilty party could still be out there, and the innocent remains at fault even after he or she is gone. The dead inmate's family goes on believing that their loved one was a criminal.

Reputation is the hardest thing to get back, so this superpower nation should at least help some of its citizens try. If you go by the reasoning that the prisoners are dead so it doesn't matter anymore, why do we bother celebrating Memorial Day?

It matters because capital punishment is harsh enough without reputations being tarnished, unqualified doctors continuing to practice medicine, women receiving unequal treatment and inmates' skins turning the color of rainbows. It's time to kill the death penalty.

Firing squad, anyone?

(source: The Spartan Daily)

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