When asked about the length of time it took to execute the murderer of a woman and her father, family member Richard Brown said it best.
“This man conducted a horrific murder and you guys are going, ‘Let’s worry about the drugs.’ Why didn’t they give him a bullet? Why didn’t we give him Drano?”
I tend to agree. About the bullet thing anyway.
It apparently took an hour and 40 minutes to carry out the death sentence of Joseph Wood, who was convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend and her father in 1989. Lawyers for Wood complained he was suffering, that the drugs didn’t do their job fast enough and thus caused cruel and unusual punishment, an oft-repeated comment by defense attorneys and death penalty foes that always makes me shake my head. What about the cruelty caused by this lowlife?
But that’s an old debate and it falls on the deaf ears of people who make the choice to carry the banner of murderers instead of their victims. Worn-out, too, are a lot of the other arguments around the capital punishment debate. The deterrent claim is certainly not true — prisons full of death row inmates disprove that. And the old hang-’em-in-public-and-they’ll-stop-killing cry is nonsense, too. We hanged ’em in public for centuries, and people still killed people.
I’ve always believed in the death penalty, though, because at least it stops the condemned from killing anyone again. But then again I’ve never had to be the executioner, nor have I had to witness an execution. I’ve known reporters who have, and they are always a changed person afterward. They come back to the newsroom with a look akin to the 1,000-yard stare used to describe combat veterans. The state taking a person’s life is a heavy thing, even if that life caused more harm than good.
But if we’re going to execute people — and right now we do — then let’s do it right. Bring back the firing squad. A bullet aimed true through a person’s heart will have them dead before they hear the crack of the gunshot. Ask any hunter who has ever put a good shot on a deer and they’ll tell you that’s true. No gasping for breath, no writhing in pain or any of the other suffering defense attorneys allege happens with lethal injection. Just pull the trigger and bam! The end.
Think I’m alone? Not hardly. In the dissenting opinion in an earlier case, 9th Circuit Chief Justice Alex Kozinski wrote:
“The guillotine is probably best but seems inconsistent with our national ethos. And the electric chair, hanging and the gas chamber are each subject to occasional mishaps. The firing squad strikes me as the most promising. Using drugs meant for individuals with medical needs to carry out executions is a misguided effort to mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and peaceful — like something any one of us might experience in our final moment.”
And that’s the thing: Killing someone is nasty business. Trying to take the sting out of it by making it “peaceful” is “misguided.” Dead is dead.
We can continue to debate whether we should execute people, but while we still are executing them we shouldn’t be arguing about the method. Pick one that’s as foolproof and painless as possible and get on with it, even if it is giving more thought to these murderers than they deserve.
It’s certainly more than they gave their victims.
Email Nate McCullough at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Fridays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/natemccullough.