Thursday, November 15, 2007

Aren't we missing the forest here?

The Supreme Court is hearing a somewhat controversial death penalty case, but to me this seems to present the classic example of missing the massive forest because of a particularly gruesome tree.

[Disclaimer: I have always been somewhat intellectually squishy on the death penalty, but I have been able to deal with (weasel out) of my moral conundrum on practical grounds because of the manifestly unfair way the punishment is administered and the frightening likelihood of killing the innocent]

The court will decide, not whether the taking of a human life is a constitutionally appropriate punishment, but on whether the particular execution protocol used by most states is violative of the cruel or unusual punishment prohibition.

I understand the argument, that the current cocktail can cause intense pain while the paralytic agents prevent the dying (wo)man from crying out or otherwise signaling distress, but is this the constitutional question that we should address? Are those six minutes from the two nods, the initial one from the warden and the final one from the doctor, truly present the constitutional issue? This court has framed the question not as "should we kill," but rather as "hey, is there a more efficient way to kill?" The court's decision will not determine how we deal with the fundamental questions of life, death, and justice. Rather, it will either return the executioners to their gruesome work or send the chemists scurrying to their labs and the lawyers to their libraries to ensure that the killing protocol becomes a much more effective process.

Isn't it apparent that we really want state killing to be more comfortable for us, not the condemned?

1 comment:

jimbow8 said...

Very nice post. I am solidly ANTI-capital punishment. Strangely, for me it started when I did research and determined that it costs more to execute someone (appeals, etc), than to imprison them for life. That led to questioning the appeals process and the moral argument seemed to fall nicely into place and coroborate the rest. I don't think that there is a single argument in favor of the death penalty that I agree with.