What next, the guillotine?
To avoid the horrific scene that played out in Oklahoma on April 29, where an allegedly-lethal injection once again went horribly wrong and left a man twisting and turning in agony — three quarters of an hour — until he finally died of a heart attack, the state of Tennessee has decided to return to those days of yesteryear. They’ve decided to use a tried and true method of killing people.
You read that correctly. Tennessee — by overwhelming margins in both its state house and senate — voted to begin re-using their electric chair, though that method of killing has had problems of its own.
Sometimes you think we’re making social progress as a country, moving beyond the heinous aspects of our past and into a more respectable future. And then something so backward and cruel, so inhumane — so un-Christian — happens and you wonder if Mark Twain wasn’t right when he said God only created man because he was disappointed with the monkey.
Because the scene in Oklahoma was so despicable, so — pick a disgusting adjective and it will fit — some states have decided to avoid the “bad press” that failed executions always produce and simply change tactics. A legislator in Utah wants the return of firing squads — and we’re not making this up. The Associated Press reported as much last month.
And now Tennessee is going back to “the chair.”
Other states, of course, have hit upon a much better idea, a progressive, 21st century notion. They’ve discontinued the barbarity of capital punishment altogether. They’ve either banned or suspended the death penalty. They’ve decided that the risk of killing innocent people — when the injections or electrocutions or firing squads work as they’re supposed to — is too great. They’ve decided that the “if you don’t kill ‘em, they’ll never learn” philosophy is as stupid as it sounds.
So they’ve halted killing people in the name of the state.
In fact, the Kentucky Coalition Against the Death Penalty has shown that poll after poll reveals when voters are given the alternative of using the death penalty or the sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, they overwhelmingly choose the latter.
They’ve chosen to take “thou shalt not kill” seriously.
But leaders in other states obviously haven’t.
According to the Reuters news service, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin said after the April 29 debacle that her state had “lawfully carried out a sentence of death” in that botched execution that has been widely criticized as cruel and inhumane.
“Justice was served,” Fallin, wrote in a monthly newspaper column. “The people of Oklahoma do not have blood on their hands.”
Maybe not. But the state of Oklahoma surely does.
Convicted murderer and rapist Clayton Lockett, 38, died of an apparent heart attack on April 29 some 43 minutes after the lethal drugs were first administered.
A prison report said the botched execution was largely due to a collapsed vein during the injection and that the needle was inserted in Lockett’s groin instead of his arm after prison officials used a stun gun to restrain him.
The governor said people needed to be reminded of Lockett’s crimes, which included robbery, rape and murder in a 1999 crime spree.
Among his crimes were shooting a 19-year-old girl and then helping to bury her alive in a shallow grave, where she died.
Those who are opposed to capital punishment aren’t in any way condoning the horrific crimes of which Lockett was convicted. Yet his own horrific death is yet another classic example of how two horrible wrongs don’t in any way produce any kind of a right.
Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City said the botched execution April 29 of the Oklahoma inmate “highlights the brutality of the death penalty” and should bring the nation to “consider whether we should adopt a moratorium on the death penalty or even abolish it altogether.”
The Catholic Church’s opposition to capital punishment is well known — it is a barbaric practice that should be stopped.
And little by little, the rest of the world is coming to the same conclusion, as poll after poll has indicated.
There are those who remain unconvinced, of course. But how many more people will have to die, how many more executions will be botched, before even they see the light? Before this horrific practice finally ends?