Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Gabe's View: Time To Kill Death Penalty

NEW YORK -- Two botched executions in Ohio make it clear: it's time to end the death penalty. A civilized nation can do no less.

In Ohio last week, Christopher Newton, an overweight inmate, was executed by lethal injection at the state prison in Lucasville. The execution was delayed 90 minutes while prison medical workers tried desperately to find suitable veins in his arms.

Last year, another prisoner, Joseph Clark, died 90 minutes after his scheduled execution in Ohio because the prisoner workers had difficulty finding a vein in his arm.

Botched executions are hardly the exception in the history of this barbaric practice that seems so much a part of American culture. Over the decades there have been failed executions involving electrocutions, lethal injections [the preferred method these days] and hangings. Capital punishment is a horror and, although many Americans, according to polls, still favor using it, this may be a case where a decent respect for humanity should make us ignore public opinion polls.

There are lurid photographs of some of these botched executions on the Internet. It doesn't do us, as a nation, proud. The death penalty has society taking human life in the name of justice. It puts us as a nation on the same level as the most depraved criminal who has taken a life.

Advocates of the death penalty say it deters crime. Opponents argue it does not. And, indeed, there is no convincing evidence that it does deter killers.

In Ohio, at the prison where Christopher Newton was executed, an official told witnesses as the process dragged on: ‘‘we have told the team to take their time. His size is creating a problem.'' Newton was 6 feet tall and weighed 265 pounds.

What a grotesque scene and an embarrassing moment for our society.

No wonder that a group of Ohio inmates is suing the state, charging that the injection method is cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Constitution. In Florida, Gov. Jeb Bush suspended all executions so a commission could examine the lethal injection method. The former Governor of Illinois, George Ryan, declared a moratorium on all executions because he was so concerned about the cruelty of the penalty and the process. In other states there have been suspensions of the death penalty, or moratoriums declared by Governors or judges.

Capital punishment should be outlawed. Not for the sake of the killers but for ourselves. You don't have to be a deep believer to know that killing is wrong. And killings carried out in our name are abhorrent. The death penalty amounts to legal murder. And it's time to make it illegal.

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