A Modest Execution Solution

I do not believe in the death penalty. But like a lot of things I don’t believe in—the invasion and occupation of Iraq, SUVs, tax exempt churches, criminal penalties for drug use—we have them and we will continue to have them until Americans get as smart as I am. Not likely that will happen in my lifetime. So just a few thoughts on this foolishness about lethal injections that fail.

The most humane method of executing someone, from the perspective of the victim, is probably the guillotine. I suspect it is no scarier to be led up to the blade and be laid out on it than being led to a scaffold or an electric chair, or strapped to a gurney. You are aware the whole time that you are in your waning minutes, and the devices you see will kill you. At least with a Guillotine, it’s fast, and probably not very painful. I suspect the same could be said of a quick shot to the head with a 12 gauge, or a 30 Calibre bullet to the heart (which as I recall is what they do in Utah).

The problem with these quick and easy methods is that from the perspective of the killer, they leave lasting impressions. I hope I can report with some satisfaction and sense of human progress that we no longer take joy from lifting heads out of the basket and displaying them to the crowds.  Still, whacking off a head is a messy business. It would require that someone clean it up, wash down the killing room, remove the separate parts. Same for the shot to the head. Shot to the heart is less messy, but they say they use a full firing squad with only one person having a bullet, so that the shooters don’t know for sure that they caused the death…deniability, the theory is, spares the conscience. And what if one misses? (And why is it that
firing squads are queasier than hangmen?)

Hanging was for many years viewed as a humane way to do it if you tied the rope right. It is the oldest of the no muss no fuss methods. So clean in fact that lynching crowds in the American south often cut off body parts before the hanging, just for sport, and the Brits did the drawing and quartering thing.

In modern times, however, we have sought out “humane” ways to kill that did not leave a mess. The electric chair, for example. No one seemed to be too bothered by the smell of singed hair and cooked brains. In general it left an intact package that could easily be carted off. Gas was used for a while in some states,  California used it on Carrol Chessman, and the Feds used it on the Rosenbergs.

The lethal injection seems to be the perfect killing tool for those who want to think they are being humane and also want to avoid the problem of mopping up. So why is it so hard? Apparently the guy that first recommended it suggested a complex drug cocktail that would do its work fast and painlessly…but only if administered just right, which of course, no one seems to be able to do. Incompetents are everywhere, even in the killng rooms of our nation’s prisons.

Let me make a suggestion. Use morphine. Lots of it. 1,000 milligrams. Maybe More. It’s clean. Its painless, and if you screw it up the victim won’t give a shit. He’ll just ask for more.

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