Friday, October 5, 2007

Is the death penalty on its way out?

I was so pleased to see Susan's post on the NCADP, and coincidental since I planned on writing a post this morning about the death penalty in the news, so yeah for the media and class attention, hopefully more people will become aware and petition to their local state governments and federal government and we can stop this after all!

On that note, what inspired me to write this post was a few actions by both the Supreme Court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in the last few days. On Tuesday, October 2, the Texas Criminal Appeals court stayed the lethal injection of a man scheduled for death on Wednesday the 3rd. This action by the court, according to the NYT, signals an 'indefinite halt to executions in Texas.' If you're like me, you'll do a 'double-take' and read that again, Texas indefinitely halting the death penalty... it's about time.

Yet, the Appeals court hasn't released any information regarding what led to their decision and how the 5 to 4 vote was split between judges, yet it's safe to say that this action is a direct consequence of the Supreme Court's decision to grant a writ of certiorari and consider whether or not death by lethal injection is a form of cruel and unusual punishment, thus unconstitutional under the 8th Amendment.

This drastic and incredibly significant decision on behalf of both the Supreme Court and the Texas Court of Appeals could have resounding impact in the process of the criminal justice system throughout the country, and might finally, decide that the death penalty process is both cruel and unusual and incredibly racist.

What I thought makes this case interesting is the fact that the lawyers are not trying, it seems, to abolish death penalty as a whole, at least not openly. They are specifically attacking the method of lethal injection and provide staggering statistics abouts in ineffectiveness. The Texas Court of Appeals gave the district attorney in Texas, Tim Curry, and the state's director of criminal justice, Nathaniel Quarterman 30 days to respond to claims outlined by the inmate's lawyers stating that the chemicals used in lethal injection do not provide a quick and painless death, but rather, 'paralyze[ed] the condemned inmates while they painfully suffocate.'

Based on information I received from the NCADP, lethal injection can be incredibly painful, especially when time is spent searching for viable veins and chemicals are not properly introduced into the blood stream. There are records of people laying on the table for 30 minutes to an hour, quietly saying, 'it's not working.' That plea should be taken as a direct attack on the use of the death penalty as a 'deterrent' for crime, something which has never worked anyway. See the NCADP website for a story on 'Nine Botched Executions' and read for yourself how inhumane this practice is... especially the part where the blogger mentions that the chemicals used in lethal injection were banned from use on animals because it was proven that it was not quick and painless, are we at a point where human pain is less significant than an animals pain?

Hopefully this will stimulate some discussion about the death penalty and it's tragic consequences and keep watching the news to see where the Supreme Court and Texas court go next!

Also, on a side note, The Nomadic Theatre group on campus is performing the acclaimed play, 'The Exonerated' this month. Here is the information, I strongly suggest everyone attend and see for yourself how unjust the system is.

Nomadic Theatre’s first show of the 2007-2008 season, and the very first production of the Georgetown school year, “The Exonerated”.

October 17th at 8pm *This show will be followed by a talk back with Shujaa Graham, an exonerated death row inmate and anti-death penalty activist.

October 18th and 19th 8pm
October 20 at 2pm and 8pm
October 21 at 7pm

Sentenced to death. For crimes they didn’t commit. Sentenced to years behind bars. Ripped away from wives, husbands, children. Jobs. Lives left behind. Imprisoned by a racist and unjust justice system. Thrown behind bars in cruel and brutal prisons. Raped. Abused. Alone. For crimes they didn’t commit.

1 comment:

Molly LeBlanc-Medeiros said...

I can't help but be biased on this topic. As someone who believes that the death penalty is fundamentally wrong, I wholeheartedly applaud efforts to abolish this barbaric use of archaic "eye-for-an-eye" system of justice.

Of course, speaking out in a highly emotional, holier-than-thou way is not the way to win converts to a cause. It is much more effective to argue that the possibility of executing innocent people is far too high, or that a certain method of capital punishment constitutes "cruel and unusual punishment."

At the same time, when I reflect on Camus's questions in "Neither Victims nor Executioners," I can't help but be shocked by people who answer in the affirmative to the question "Do you, or do you not, directly or indirectly wish to kill or be killed?" I cannot imagine that people suffering so acutely that they desire cold-blooded revenge can be truly compensated for their losses by institutional murder.

I'm going to get off my soap box now. This is the kind of emotional diatribe that wins few converts, and yet I feel almost hypocritical arguing simply against one particular method of execution. Of course I realize that these things must be taken one step at a time, and it's great that Texas has stopped killing people, whatever the reason. I Just wish in my high-minded, bleeding-heart-liberal, idealistic way that more people could look at this issue and say, "NO. I do not want to kill or be killed." And act accordingly.