The esteemed Chairman asked some pointed questions regarding the Death Penalty. Some of these questions can also be asked about our legal system in general. If you feel, as many do, that our legal system is biased against "the poor" and minorities, then you will naturally be against the death penalty. In that case, my job just got tougher. It is my job to convince you, despite your ill feelings for the legal system, that the death penalty is a fair and just punishment.
Question #1: Is the Death Penalty... Fair and just, or cruel and unusual?
Yes and No
Is it fair and just?
Yeah, I know that was cheating. How about this answer? Not always. Being pro-death penalty or pro-"anything" doesn't mean we are blind to the faults or problems with our position. It just means that we are able to reconcile the negative with the positive, and on balance stay with our position. I don't believe the death penalty is perfect, but, is any method of punishment perfect? No. My feelings about capital punishment are more along the lines of it being a necessary evil.
Let me further break down my "yes and no" argument:
In this country, it has certainly gotten better over the years. Better? You bet it's gotten better. How has it gotten better? Read the link or allow me to summarize.
No more death penalty for stealing grapes, killing chickens, and trading with Indians.
In 1690, offenses such as striking one's mother or father, or denying the "true God," were punishable by death.
With the exception of three federal crimes, the States only issue the death penalty if a person has been convicted of capital murder:
"In 1994, President Clinton signed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act that expanded the federal death penalty to some 60 crimes, 3 of which do not involve murder. The exceptions are espionage, treason, and drug trafficking in large amounts.
Two years later, in response to the Oklahoma City Bombing, President Clinton signed the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. The Act, which affects both state and federal prisoners, restricts review in federal courts by establishing tighter filing deadlines, limiting the opportunity for evidentiary hearings, and ordinarily allowing only a single habeas corpus filing in federal court. Proponents of the death penalty argue that this streamlining will speed up the death penalty process and significantly reduce its cost, although others fear that quicker, more limited federal review may increase the risk of executing innocent defendants."
The no portion of this question is going to be answered in Question #2. Heh. I'm trying to be titillating. Is it working?
Cruel and unusual?
The current methods of execution are: lethal injection, gas chamber, electrocution, hanging and firing squad.
All states have lethal injection
as an alternative choice.
Lethal injection is similar to what we do to our pets when they need to be put down humanely.
Lethal Injection:When this method is used, the condemned person is usually bound to a gurney and a member of the execution team positions several heart monitors on this skin. Two needles (one is a backup) are then inserted into usable veins, usually in the criminal's arms. Long tubes connect the needle through a hole in a cement block wall to several intravenous drips. The first is a harmless saline solution that is started immediately. Then, at the warden's signal, a curtain is raised exposing the inmate to the witnesses in an adjoining room. Then, the inmate is injected with sodium thiopental - an anesthetic, which puts the inmate to sleep. Next flows pavulon or pancuronium bromide, which paralyzes the entire muscle system and stops the inmate's breathing. Finally, the flow of potassium chloride stops the heart. Death results from anesthetic overdose and respiratory and cardiac arrest while the condemned person is unconscious.
Many believe that euthanasia of our loved ones should be legal to put them out of their misery when illness causes extreme suffering. If that is the case, I say then it must be true that at the very least lethal injection is neither cruel nor unusual. All death row inmates are allowed to choose the manner of their death and lethal injection is available to all.
Question #2: Can the inherent flaws of man and his court judiciously deliver this ultimate sentence?
... even though it isn't always perfect.
I would be remiss not to mention the recent spate of death penalty moratoriums. Yes, it is true that the system sometimes fails and innocent people are convicted of crimes that they didn't commit. That happens at times, and capital murder is no exception.
It is for that reason that we have safeguards in place. Safeguards being the lengthy appeals process.
These safeguards have resulted in many death sentences being overturned.
Because these safeguards exist, it is my position that the overturning of many death sentences proves that the legal system does work. The safeguards we have are the main reason so many murderers spend many years on death row.
Now with the assistance of science we have DNA evidence
that we didn't have before.
The beauty of DNA is that we can be certain that someone is guilty or innocent when DNA is available.
Question #3: With the coldest of killers, is there nothing more deserved?
...there is nothing more deserved. In some cases, when anger gets the best of me, I would say they deserve a nasty, painful death.
James Byrd, Jr. was tied to a pickup truck, with a chain, and dragged about three miles. An autopsy indicated that Byrd was alive for much of the dragging; dying after his right arm and head were severed as his body impacted with a culvert.
This was done to him by Shawn Allen Berry, Lawrence Russel Brewer, and John William King. Brewer & Russell were convicted of capital murder and given the death penalty. Berry received a life sentence. I was so angry about this case that I wished the penalty could have been dying in the exact same manner as Mr. Byrd: by dragging those scumbags behind a pickup truck themselves.
That isn't who we are though, is it? No, we are better than that. The death penalty should be swift and just. It would not be "just" for us to act in the same cruel and evil manner as these killers.
Another reason that the death penalty is used is deterrence. Many will argue that the death penalty hasn't stopped murder from occurring. Of course, there are always going to be criminals. The death penalty certainly has stopped proven murderers from repeating their crimes. A life sentence even without parole cannot guarantee a murderer won't repeat his crime.
Just ask the family of Donna Payant
Donna A. Payant, of Dannemora, was a Correction Officer at Green Haven Correctional Facility when she was murdered on May 15, 1981 by inmate Lemuel Smith. This was a notorious case in which the New York Court of Appeals struck down the death penalty statute then in effect. Already a convicted murderer, Lemuel Smith, upon learning that he could not be executed, felt free to murder this prison guard knowing full well he would get away with it.
By declaring the death penalty statute unconstitutional as it applies to lifers in prison, the court placed prison staff in a very uncomfortable position. Many correction officers were vociferous in their opposition to this controversial ruling. If a lifer inmate wanted to kill a guard, what penalty could he suffer? What would be the deterrent? He was already doing life and had nothing to lose.
How do you think Lemuel felt when he found out that they ruled the death penalty unconstitutional? At his sentencing hearing on June 10, 1983, Lemuel Smith put his feelings on record: "I got so much time they can't do nothing to me," he said. "Think about it. If I wanted some sex, I could rape, I could sodomize. They can't do nothing to me!"
Many people convicted of lesser crimes are murdered
by "lifers" in prison. When a murderer has a life sentence what is another 20 years for committing murder in prison? Not much. Not much at all.
The inmates may not be innocent people like James Byrd, Donna Payant or the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing
, but is a kid doing time for burglary or pot possession deserving of murder?
Yes, the death penalty has a place in our society if used swiftly and justly.
Respectfully submitted: Rosemary Esmay, Iron Blogger Republican