Death penalty takes a painful turn
Re “Dead wrong,” editorial, Dec. 20
A determination has been made that perpetrators of violent crimes should die painlessly for the acts they have been found guilty of committing. Could someone please tell me why a defenseless senior citizen dying in excruciating pain does not have a right to die free of pain too? What crime did they commit? Or should they now commit a crime to avoid suffering? What kind of society would favor the criminal over the defenseless senior citizens who go through hellish pain after committing no crime whatsoever? I know from experience what cruel and unusual punishment is, and it doesn’t pertain to 30 minutes in the life of condemned murderers.
The Times states that “there was a time when judges took a broad view of whether the death penalty in its totality ... amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.” True, and the electorate has been working for 30 years to undo the misjudgments of jurists of that era. Justice Potter Stewart’s comparison of the application of the death penalty to being struck by lightning not only grossly overstates the frequency of errors but stands as an obscenity against those who would expect justice for the most egregious crimes committed. That the death penalty sometimes appears to be administered capriciously is only natural when the justice system within which it functions allows for an appeals process that can stretch out for decades. Those who oppose the death penalty are clearly happy to place obstacles in its path and then use the resulting chaos as evidence of its failure.
With authorities in California, Florida and Maryland now recognizing serious flaws in the system of state killing, it is heartening to see The Times continue to call for its outright abolition. In 1994, Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun reached the same conclusion in Callins vs. Collins, in which he famously wrote: “From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death.”
STEPHEN F. ROHDE
The idea that our founding fathers found state executions to be de facto cruel and unusual punishment is ridiculous. State executions by hanging and/or the firing squad were commonplace in the 18th century. Surely death by hanging is at least as painful as death by lethal injection. The standard should not be to eliminate all pain but to inflict no more pain than is necessary under the circumstances. Our judiciary must accept that any form of execution is inherently painful.
Our society requires some practical method of inflicting the death penalty. Death by lethal injection is the most humane method of state execution yet devised, and the courts should allow latitude in the imperfect art of executions.