Column: What’s Humane in Execution? The Bid for Justice or Mercy

Column: What’s Humane in Execution? The Bid for Justice or Mercy

Except in special cases seldom does the death penalty bring about much conversation pro and con on all sides of the political spectrum. It’s not a cut and dried matter and must not be taken lightly.

Sometimes invitations have been made available to view the “needle-in-the arm” practices. Most of the people I know who have the opportunity don’t accept and there are good reasons.

Virginia’s legislative agenda shows no sign of repealing the ultimate penalty.

Of late, Maryland’s legislators have voted to end the death penalty. The governor says he’ll sign the bill. At the same time, those on the state’s condemned list will be commuted to life sentences.

It’s disturbing that men and women can sit on death row for years and years and then be executed. The question is not an easy one neither is it pleasant for all involved.

Many citizens feel judges and others in the judicial system are without feelings imposing capital punishment. But they do have sensitivities as they “do their job” as well as the families of the perpetrators and victims.

Virginia and Texas are the nation’s leaders in the execution business. The latest was in the electric chair where the chosen man of the hour cavalierly said he was going on a ride with Jesus.

Reports following the Maryland decision are that only 46 states will not exercise such activity this year 2013. Virginia has eight candidates on death row. All told 19 people in four states await payment for heinous crimes.

The rightness and wrongness of the practice, established legally by the nation’s Supreme Court, seldom comes back for high-powered debate until a doomed individual is found innocent.

There is always an effort for wit and levity when a high profile murderer meets the end. It’s a horrifying thing to watch the hangings or shootings of the vilest like Saddam Hussein, Osama bin laden or John Allen Muhammad, the Beltway sniper who killed 10. His penalty was carried out on Nov. 10, 2009.

There are many more who are probably worthy of the judiciary’s most severe judgment. Inequities abound in the penalty that causes great concern. In a sensational Delaware case the former state attorney general from a leading family was sentenced to death for killing his girlfriend. The sentence to death was later commuted to life.

It’s easy to say “life is not fair.” It certainly isn’t. Take the matter of a major big time Mafiosi who, prosecutors said, controlled gambling, bootlegging, prostitution and murders of opponents was headed to federal court.

Reporters surrounded him and asked if he wanted justice, “No, mercy.”

That’s what he got, mercy in the form of a few months in federal prison.

The death penalty debate shouldn’t be a liberal or conservative matter. The question? What’s fair in all 50 states, red and blue?

Is there such a thing as a humane hanging, a humane electrocution, a humane firing squad or a humane lethal injection?