D.C. Beltway sniper John Allen Muhammad is scheduled to be filled with a nice intravenous cocktail of thiopental sodium, pancuronium, and potassium before 9:00 tonight. Not a bad way to die, really: the first drug will knock him out so that he has no idea what’s happening, the second will paralyze every muscle in his body (including those used in breathing), and the third will make his heart come to a complete standstill. This is all assuming that enough thiopental is given to ensure that he won’t wake up to a terrifying voodoo-style paralysis for his or last 30 or so seconds of life. I assume that medical types are on top of this.
I used to think I was solid on my views concerning capital punishment. Now I’m not.
The orchestrated execution of people who commit heinous crimes rings with the echoes of cosmic justice. The families of victims get what they want, and a manifestly worthless person is taken out of the human equation.
Beyond that, I question the scheme. Is capital punishment supposed to be a deterrent? If not, these musings are moot and it all goes back to retribution, noted above. But it doesn’t take a criminologist to understand that people who commit crimes earning them a death sentence are not exactly considering the ramifications when they do it. They are often mentally retarded, and perhaps just as often are systematic psychopaths with their faculties otherwise intact. These are not people who give a fuck about the rule of law. They would do what they do even if fully aware of the fact that they would be burned at the stake.
If I were given the choice between lethal injection and 40 years in a buttfuck prison, it would be an easy call. From the punishment standpoint, dying is an easy way out. If making people pay, making them rightfully suffer, is the name of the game, then put them in a place like Angola or San Quentin, or the supermax ADX facility in Florence, Colorado. Everyone gets his share of fun and games there.
My home state of New Hampshire has not executed anyone in 80 years, but in December, Michael Briggs, who shot a cop, got the death penalty for his trouble. Public opinion polls suggest that people, at least around here, come out far more strongly in favor of capital punishment when the victim is a law-enforcement officer. Really, that shouldn’t have anything to do with it.
With the advent of DNA technology, a surprising number of “criminals” have been found innocent. Numerous ones have been death-row inmates.
I guess all I am trying to say here is that capital punishment accomplishes none of its assumed goals. Sociopaths and the otherwise deranged will go on killing en masse regardless of what awaits them. They either don’t have the capacity to understand the consequences or they don’t give a fuck. If killing these people makes society a simpler and happier place, great. I’m just not convinced that it does, and so I waver on the fence, with a strong leaning toward the abolition of capital punishment. Rotting in prison is a worse fate than dying straightaway.