Down with the death penalty


Justine Seligson, Photo Coordinator

Listen to any US politician’s speech and chances are, at some point, he or she will sprinkle in a form of the below phrase.

“America’s great because we’re free.”

Okay. For the most part, I agree with this statement. We have the freedom to vote if we’re over 17, run a business under certain regulations, and jaywalk at our own risk.

But our freedom to, well, live, is a contested issue. All because of the still current use in our nation of the death penalty. Us as Staples students do not realize our unique privilege of being in one of just 18 states that guarantees us freedom from this barbaric punishment.

In contrast, Oklahoma, the state with the highest per capita use of capital punishment, recently executed a man through lethal injection.

But that’s not the whole story. It was a messy execution.

Typically, inmates receive three injections, each of which shuts down the body in a different way so that the intended final product is a painless death. This particular time, there was a mix up in the way the procedure was administered. The anesthetic-like medication didn’t work, so the man experienced (and fully felt) a tremendous heart attack as he collapsed into death.

This is not the first time such an error has occured. In an autopsy study by The Lancet, of 49 lethal injection executions, 43 of the inmates were found to have lower doses of the anesthetic medication needed for any effect, meaning they were forced to feel a pain harsher than any of us could ever imagine.

The pain of dying from a simultaneous suffocation and heart attack.

Also, even in the past 50 years, other more gruesome methods of killing like firing squads and electric chairs have still been used by some states. These other techniques have more than their fair share of errors. I would get into the details of what happens during a botched electrocution, but they’re probably too gory to include in a high school publication.

This doesn’t sound very different than the Spanish Inquisition.

There may be the argument that the death penalty is only used for the worst convicted crimes like first degree murder, so the inmates deserve the horror. Nuh uh. In the past decades, people like Carlos DeLuna have been killed by the state while there was still question of their guiltiness.

And even if someone truly did convict the worst possible crime, what good does an execution do? Against popular belief, it will not cause deterrence. Many people are on death row for homicide. So then doesn’t capital punishment just further justify killing in order to solve our problems? Seems to be a little hypocritical to me.

So what’s my suggestion? For the criminals that we would typically execute, just give them a life sentence in maximum security. Some say this wastes money. But with our already absurdly high number of inmates (700 incarcerations per 100,000 people) for minor offenses like drug possession, it seems that we have more than enough of a budget to lock away so many people.

Yet not enough of a budget to do as little as spare the lives of our people in this so-called free nation.