Thursday 24 July 2014

and the mercy seat is waiting....

"You can judge a society by how well it treats its prisoners" - Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

On Wednesday evening, it took the State of Arizona an hour and fifty-eight minutes to carry out the execution of a prisoner.  As the Guardian reported:

"Joseph Wood took an hour and 58 minutes to die after he was injected with a relatively untested combination of the sedative midazolam and painkiller hydromorphone. The procedure took so long that his lawyers had time to file an emergency court motion in an attempt to have it stopped. For more than an hour, he was seen to be “gasping and snorting”, according to the court filing".

Wood was sentenced to death in 1989 after the double-murder of his girlfriend and her father.  Apparently, after the injection was administered, Wood continued to gasp and snort for over an hour.  An eye-witness to the execution reported that he counted no fewer than 660 gulps and gasps from the condemned man as he lay strapped to a gurney.  The execution began at 1.52pm and Wood was finally declared dead at 3.49pm.  They're using untested cocktails of drugs on human patients to see what works.  The EU actually started to ban the export of these drugs to the USA because it objects to the their use in executions... the ban created shortages (because they are no longer made domestically), and some correctional institutions are now using out of date drugs that they have stockpiled. As the New Statesman reported, "In Oklahoma in January this year, 38-year-old Michael Lee Wilson, convicted of beating a convenience store manager to death in 1995, was executed in what appeared to be considerable distress. His last words, 20 seconds after the execution began, were: “I feel my whole body burning.” It begins to sound like a cruel or unusual punishment"... Cruel and unusual punishment  by the way, is specifically forbidden under the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.

Predictably, the relatives of Joseph Wood's victims were unmoved by the manner of his passing: "What I saw today with him being executed, it is nothing compared to what happened on Aug. 7, 1989," Jeanne Brown, Debra Dietz's sister, told a reporter after the execution. "What's excruciating is seeing your father lying there in a pool of blood, seeing your sister lying in a pool of blood."

I suppose you can understand that view.  But at the same time, how can anyone call this a civilised response? What does it say about a society that treats a human being -- whatever he might have been guilty of -- in this way?  Eye for an eye?  Well, that was specifically refuted by big JC himself, wasn't it?
(Matthew 5:38, if you're interested. I'm an atheist myself, but if you're going to go around slinging the Bible at people....)

Funny how the sanctity of human life can be such a selectively applied principle, eh?  Look around the world: Gaza, Ukraine, Death Row.... life seems pretty cheap to me.

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