Today, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that the electric chair satisfies the criteria for ‘cruel and unusual’ punishment, eliminating its use on a state-wide basis. Nebraska was the only state remaining that used the electric chair as its sole means of execution.
I have written about the topic of capital punishment before (https://goingbald.wordpress.com/2008/01/22/are-we-there-yet/) and I am adamantly against the use of capital punishment, so needless to say I feel that this is a small step towards a more civilized U.S. society.
Why outlaw the electric chair? How is it cruel and unusual punishment? Here are a few brief examples from the Death Penalty Information Center (WARNING: If you are sensitive to graphic writing, skip this section and then ask yourself how you can justify punishing people this way if you can’t even read about it!):
Frank Coppola, 1982, Virginia: Two 55 second jolts of electricity were required to kill Mr. Coppola. During the second, Coppola’s head and leg caught fire and the sizzling sound of burning flesh could be heard in the room.
Allen Lee Davis, 1999, Florida: Mr. Davis was the first man to be executed in Florida’s new electric chair. Before he was pronounced dead, blood seeped onto his shirt from his mouth (reports state that the spot it formed was the size of a dinner plate). Florida’s senator, Ginny Brown-Waite, admitted that she was shocked to see the blood until she noticed that it was forming what she thought was a cross on his chest, indicating that “God approved of the execution.” (I have to interject and say that Ms. Brown-Waite sounds like a real wacko)
These are just a couple examples of what amounts to state-sponsored torture. Run a search for ‘botched executions’ and you will find dozens more. Unfortunately, other forms of capital punishment are still legal in many states. The most common currently used is lethal injection. It too is a real gem.
Joseph Cannon, 1998, Texas: After beginning the procedure, the vein in his arm collapsed and the needle popped out. When he saw what happened, Cannon had to tell the executioners “It’s come undone.” The officials closed the curtain to the witness room, re-opening it 15 minutes later to reveal a sobbing Cannon, who made a second last statement before the procedure resumed.
I think that it is important to understand that I in no way sympathize with these people… they murdered others to receive this sentence. I simply question whether it is appropriate to punish the crimes that these people have committed by committing the same crime against them. I also, like the Nebraska Supreme Court, question whether the methods used are appropriate… no human deserves to be tortured at the hands of another.
These methods, and capital punishment in general, have been condemned by other countries, scholars, philosophers, and even the Pope. What will it take for the people of the U.S. to acknowledge this cruel and unusual practice for what it is?