Killing them softly, again

I don't often rerun my entries, but today I'm compelled to do that with a piece I wrote in April. My reason for renewed interest is a column in the N&O by editorial page editor Steve Ford, decrying the pain that prisoners may endure when being executed. It's a strange world we live in where we're worried more about how we kill people than whether we kill them in the first place.

Here's my original entry:

Nowhere does the lunacy of public policy shine brighter today than in the area of capital punishment. Here in North Carolina, the latest sad chapter is enough to make a grown man cry. Or maybe even fry.

At issue is the nature of cruel and unusual punishment -- and whether those on death row should have to endure the pain and knowledge of their executions as they happen. There are too many facets of the capital punishment debate for me to take on tonight, so let's just focus on the one in the news.

N.C. prison officials have proposed using a controversial medical device to make sure death row inmate Willie Brown Jr. is unconscious and not experiencing pain during his April 21 execution. U.S. District Judge Malcolm Howard had given prison officials until noon today to submit a proposal to abide with his ruling last week. Howard had ordered that Brown's execution could only go forward if medically-trained professionals were present to make sure Brown is unconscious before paralyzing and heart-stopping drugs are administered.

Brown's lawyers had raised concerns that inmates had been conscious and experience pain during executions based on eyewitness accounts and the levels of post-mortem sedatives in their bodies.

Prison officials say they would use a bispectral index monitor, or BIS machine, to track the inmate's brain waves. The state's expert in the case, Dr. Mark Dershwitz, wrote in an affidavit that the machine is used to to make sure that surgical patients have received adequate anesthesia and patients on ventilators are adequately sedated.

"It is my opinion, beyond a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that the utilization of the BIS monitor ... will prevent the possibility of the inmate being awake," wrote Dr. Mark the state's expert in this litigation, in an affidavit filed today.

However, when told about the state's proposal, Dr. Richard Pollard, president of the N.C. Society of Anesthesiologist, laughed out loud.

"These monitors cannot guarantee that a patient is asleep," said Pollard, a Charlotte anesthesiologist. "It has not been accepted by the American Society of Anesthesiologists."

The national group issued an advisory last summer saying these devices were an emerging technology but that the decision to use the machines should be made by doctors on a case-by-case basis.

"There is still much to be discovered about how these devices work, and in which situations they are best applied," Dr. Orin Guidry, the society's president at the time. "We are interested in following their continued evolution and to conducting further research in this area. Meanwhile, brain function monitors are an option to be used when the anesthesiologist deems it appropriate, just as he or she makes choices about specific drugs, dosages, warming devices and other types of monitors depending on the individual practitioner.

Can you stand it?

Our very willingness to kill one another while dancing around the niceties of "how" is mind boggling.

What I want to know is this: Why don't people in favor of the death penalty want public executions? Why aren't they eager for bullets in the back of the skull? Or maybe decapitation in the town square at high noon? Is it because that's not humane? Or is it because they're ashamed of their own lethal judgments.

The whole fucking business makes me sick.


I really couldn't care less

I really couldn't care less if these monsters are experiencing pain while being executed. In fact, if given the option I would make their death as painful as was the death of their victim(s). However I am concerned about the cost to society for putting these "things" to death. It is actually cheaper to keep them in prison for life than it is to kill them off. It took 11 years and $24 million after dozens of appeals to execute the serial murderer Ted Bundy.

There are small empty islands in the oceans that could become secure prisons, I believe these should be built so all murderers can be sent there after allowing them a REASONABLE number of appeals just to assure society that the criminal has been given a fair chance. Of course there will be innocents who will be sentenced because humans make mistakes, but the innocents who will remain alive because the vast majority of murderers are behind bars will far, far outnumber these mistakes. I simply don't buy into the argument "Better a hundred murderers go free than one innocent suffer." Better chance one innocent suffering than the hundreds plus if the hundred murderers remain in society continuing to prey on innocents. BB


What if

someone you love dearly were one of those wrongfully imprisoned "innocents?"

Oh never mind. I can see this isn't a discussion worth having.

Every discussion is worth having

I am against the death penalty - simply because I can't be convinced that our system of determining guilt and innocence is flawless, or that it ever will be.

I do not believe that the state should become a monster (it has); nor do I believe that we should continue to pay billions of dollars to incarcerate criminals who have no hope of rehabilitation (we do.) Do I have a solution? Sort of - it's systemic. And I will be labled a bleeding heart by just about every one here. Ah well. So be it.

End poverty. Fix the educational system, and fully fund it from early care (birth) through high school) with teachers who are appropriately trained and well-paid. Support ALL families, not just the ones who were created in the Ozzie and Harriet image. Fully fund mental health supports. When a crime is committed and an individual is convicted, fully support any effort and committment to rehabilitation. Incarcerate only when it is clear that they are incorrigable. Eliminate the death penalty.

Will this end murder and other violent crime? No, of course not. But it's a start, and it's what I believe.

"Be the change you wish to see in the world." - Ghandi

Bleeding heart liberal


That's why we love you.

And don't forget the insane war on drugs, which is indisputably the biggest reason the US incarcerates
more people per capita
than any country in the world ever has.

War on Drugs

I figured that the war on drugs would be unnecessary if all my other suggestions were put in place. :)

"Be the change you wish to see in the world." - Ghandi

I recommend Scott Turow's book on Capital Punishment

Here is a good book that is a must read in having an informed opinion about capital punishment.

Written by attorney/writer Scott Turow.

Ultimate Punishment: A Lawyer's Reflections on Dealing with the Death Penalty (Hardcover)
by Scott Turow "

If you go to the link at Amazon, they even have an online version that allows you to search through the book.

Turow served on the Illinois gov's commission to study their state's administration of capital punishment.

Turow is known for his fiction books on where law and reality intersect.

It is cheap now, but I got mine at the public library.

Those lobbying AGAINST capital punishment should buy a copy of this book for their lawmaker and whatever legislative committee might be examining NC's laws on this.

Anglico, I have had this

Anglico, I have had this argument tossed at me many times. And my answer is yes. If someone I love has committed murder then yes I would want them put where they could not murder again whether it be life in prison or death. In fact, believing in an after life as I do I would much prefer death for one I love. On the other side they could get the help their soul needs to rid themselves of the evil that made it possible for them to kill.
As for the one I love being that "innocent" accused. We all want to believe the people we love are incapable of such heinous behavior, but all criminals have people who love them. Ted Bundy fathered a child while in prison! But, after a time of reasonable appeals (not just frivolous appeals to keep the courts crowded as is done today) then I will have felt that as much as possible had been done by imperfect human beings and want the death penalty enforced rather than take the chance of his/her repeating their crime on another.
Again I must refer to my faith, I know there is an after life far, far better than this physical sphere we are in. A place of love and caring where those lost and damaged souls can be helped to heal.

Icloud, I don’t consider you a bleeding heart for wanting all the wonderful things you want. I want them too, with all my heart. I just know that we imperfect human beings will never achieve this goal no matter what we do. I mentioned President Johnson’s Great Society which started all the Welfare and help for the poor and that was the goal in the mid 1960’s and 70‘s, to end poverty, to make it possible for all children to have good schools and to be able to go as far as they were capable. Well 40 years and two generations later we have more poverty and more crime and illiteracy. (I am speaking percentages). There are many reasons these programs failed but it all comes down to freewill and the choices individuals make. Throwing more and more money at the problems is all we seem to be able to do but this has never helped.
And remember, Cain slew Able in near paradise.


I wonder if activists in NC are confused.

They have a choice now to use Durham DA Nifong as an example of dishonest prosecutors (the DNA lab), thus should anyone ever be convicted in a capital punishment case in N.C.? But....that would mean they were wrong in gleefully hoping the white Duke 3 had committed a crime against a black female. Which way will they go?

Exactly which "activists" are you referring to?

This kind of bullshit stereotyping is exactly the thing you're complaining about.

I'm sure there were some people "gleefully" hoping someone had raped someone else, but I don't know them. And if they were hoping that, they're idiots, just like a person who would write something like this.

I don't need Nifong's incompetence to make my case against capital punishment. And I don't need this whole sorry affair to conclude that some members of the Duke lacrosse team are arrogant, violent assholes.

How have you decided the Duke guys are assholes?

Durham County has the most violent crime problem in all of North Carolina, so I want to know how you think they fit right into their surroundings? Unless, of course, you go to NCCU, where Chan Hall said he wants them prosecuted "whether it happened or not" as justice for things that have happened in the past. And after that, NCCU elected him president! (And some people question why the defense team wants the trial dropped or at least a change of venue). Did you miss the gleefully hoping candlelight vigils, the marches, the potbangers?

I think a change of venue is a good idea

I'm not defending Nifong. He's screwed this up more ways than you can count. And I'm not defending the so-called victim either. The whole deal seems like a scam to me.

But that doesn't mean the players are angels. And I doubt that Duke Magazine is spreading unfounded rumors:

Finnerty was arrested in Washington over the summer for assaulting a man after being told not to call him "gay." Finnerty entered diversion program to have charges expunged from his record.

I've had plenty of dealings with lacrosse players over the past 30 years, even rooming with one back at Annapolis. I'm sorry to say, they're mostly assholes, in my humble opinion . . . not that it matters one way or the other in this case.


..I'm gay myself and have had to fight off truely violent queer-bashers in my life, who attacked with weapons. That Finnerty incident means nothing to me ("gay" often means jerk, or asshole in today's slang). I'm more worried about the virulently homophobic ("dead man walking") New Black Panthers being welcomed into Durham County and homophobic Victoria Peterson, sticking with Nifong. And I never said the Duke guys were angels. I don't care about lacrosse or whatever. But I do care about the innocently accused. In this country we can't declare people guilty just because we don't personally like them. Let's face it, in this case it was revealed to the rest of the country just how vicious and bitterly resentful certain black activists, feminist activists, and Durham residents are (like I said, rapes and murders are at a high rate, and they only made a fuss over this because they don't like the defendents). Civilized society isn't supposed to work like that. They wanted their national attention on this case, and they got it, but now they're trying to skulk away because the facts didn't turn out like they hoped (thank God/science for DNA).

Fair enough.

I don't disagree with most of what you're saving.

And I apologize for being in a pissy mood lately. I've been flying off the handle right and left. Sometimes that's useful, but not in this instance.