What do You Think About the Death Penalty asks Work at Home Grandma
Old Death Row Cell
How Many People Believe in Capital Punishment?
If you listen to the news you probably heard about the recent botched execution of a prisoner on death row in Oklahoma. The means of execution was lethal injection, the most common method used today by 37 states as well as the US military and US federal government.
As the media reported the incident as one of gruesome and inhumane, we shouldn’t take this at face value but discover and decide for ourselves if we truly believe in Capital Punishment.
When I was 16 years old I did an essay on Capital Punishment along with the pros and cons. I found myself realizing then that there were just too many questions and not enough answers about the process. Now 50 years later, it is still being scrutinized for its use. It seems the same issues still exist.
What do you think?
Do you believe in the death penalty?
Electric Chair Once Used
There are five commonly used methods of execution
Lethal Injection: Since 1976 there have been over 1,200 executions by lethal injection. This most commonly used method of execution is currently undergoing scrutiny due to the unavailability of the drugs necessary to successfully complete the process. The recent botched execution in Oklahoma used a combination of three drugs, one of which was assumed to cause unconsciousness, one to cause paralysis and the third to cause cardiac arrest.
The drug used to numb the pain and render unconsciousness, Sodium Thiopental is no longer available as the manufacturer has stopped processing it. Instead, it has been replaced by Midazolam which is thought to have sedating properties but has also been linked to violent outbursts. Vecuronium Bromide and Potassium Chloride used together cause excruciating pain. The combination of these three drugs has even been outlawed for euthanizing animals yet it is used in the form of lethal injection.
Unfortunately, in the Oklahoma case of Clayton Darrell Lockett in April of 2014, the drug combination proportions were improperly selected and then injected incorrectly. The horrific pain and agony lasted over an hour before Lockett was declared dead. Many death row inmates are former drug users, thus their veins collapse easily during any process of intravenous application. This then causes the drug to go into the muscle and makes it unable to function properly, causing excruciating pain.
From 1890 to 2010 the rate of botched lethal injections in the United States was about 7.1%. Ohio in 2009 adopted a one drug method using only Sodium Pentathol which is used in euthanizing animals.
In a sense it seems odd that this is such an issue when people die from drug overdose every day without a blink of an eye. Why is it so difficult to find a drug combination that will do the job without so much controversy?
Other four methods of execution not commonly used:
Electrocution: 158 performed since 1976. Eight states use this as a secondary method to lethal injection.
Gas Chamber: 11 performed since 1976. Three states use this as a secondary method to lethal injection
Firing Squad: 3 performed since 1976. Two states use this as a secondary method to lethal injection
Hanging: 3 performed since 1976. Three states use this as a secondary method to lethal injection.
Currently, there are just 16 states that do not have the death penalty. They are Alaska, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
In the end does it really matter?
What is the purpose of the death penalty?
Capital Punishment is a vast subject with an array of pros and cons. We have to ask ourselves the primary question. Do we have the right to take another life, even if the person is guilty of murder beyond any doubt? It is an all consuming question, one of which none of us can easily answer.
If I were to explain in detail the methods of execution used in Capital Punishment you would find yourself nauseated as I did. The process causes everything from gasping to convulsions and defecation. The firing squad actually is the most humane of all execution styles as there is not much chance of failure. I am not saying the guilty should not be punished but does Capital Punishment really deter crime? Statistics show it does not. The states that do not have the death penalty have a lower incidence of murder than those that do.
First we need to examine whether or not the justice system in itself is fair. We’d all like to believe that justice prevails but alas it doesn’t always work that way. The family of Trayvon Martin wouldn’t tell you it was fair, nor would the family of George Zimmerman. We have just experienced an incident in St. Louis where a young African American man was shot by a police officer. When racial innuendoes are present, there is always room for doubt and misunderstanding. Both sides believe they are correct. As of yet, the actual truth of what really happened in St. Louis has not been revealed. As in the case of George Zimmerman, it was the same thing. He was found not guilty of first degree murder but his life is still ruined. He lost his home, his wife, and his well being. The family of Trayvon lost a child for whom there is no replacement.
It has been found that the criminal justice system itself is filled with inconsistencies and errors. There are cases of mistaken identity, flawed witnesses, prosecutorial misconduct or cover up, evidence tampering, and the list goes on and on. A police report done improperly can ruin a life. It can take a simple incident and blow it so far out of proportion that the innocent suffer and the guilty go free. The death penalty should only be used in cases of intentional, cruel murder that is proven without a shadow of a doubt. Circumstantial evidence is not proof beyond a shadow of a doubt.
In 2011, Troy Davis was executed for killing a police officer, Mark MacPhail, in 1989. He spent years on death row; exhausted numerous appeals all the way to the Supreme Court. Though the officer’s family believed Troy Davis was the killer responsible for the death of MacPhail, Davis professed his innocence on the gurney before he died.
Many people believed that Davis was innocent, but it was never proven. How many innocents were executed since the death penalty was made into law? We will never know for sure but since 1973 there have been over 140 people exonerated and freed from death row in 26 states, Florida having the largest number at 24. DNA evidence since 1989 has been responsible for many of these overturned convictions. Ten prisoners were executed before their names were cleared. If we have executed just one person wrongfully, it is too many.
If you have ever listened to the news and heard about a gruesome murder, you become angry so much that you want the guilty to pay for their crime. Sometimes you hear the theory that convicted murderers should die in the same fashion as their victims and then crimes would end. Perhaps this is true but the theory has never been tested.
For some people life in prison without parole becomes the living hell they may deserve. For others, they find a way to circumvent the punishment and live like kings in prison. This is the sad part of our justice system.
So what truly is the answer? The Bible says an eye or an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life. We cannot forget the verse found in Romans 12:19, “ Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, ………………., Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord”.
Some may say God’s vengeance was revealed in the case with Clayton Darrel Locket. It is interesting that many were “outraged” by the torturous method of his execution but perhaps those same people have forgotten the crime for which Lockett was convicted. He brutally raped, shot and buried alive 19 year old Stephanie Nieman in 1999. I wonder how many hours of torture were endured by Ms. Nieman before she died.
But what of the innocents and what of those that find redemption after they have committed a crime? I can only believe the innocents are at peace as those redeemed that still must face the consequence of their sins. God offers forgiveness but we still live or die because of our actions. In the case of Stanley “Tookie” Williams who was converted in prison and went on to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, he too had to face the consequences of his past actions when he was executed for his crimes.
The United States is ranked in the world for Capital Punishment just behind China, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran. Not very impressive company I think. No matter if Capital Punishment is abolished forever or if we someday become even more barbaric in our choices of execution, one thing is certain. God’s law cannot be broken. Thou Shalt Not Kill – this is the sixth commandment.