The death penalty creates internal conflict for many people.
If you sit through a trial of a man who was entirely responsible for sexual and physical abuse of a toddler that led to her death, you will find the death penalty to be a very reasonable penalty.
If your daughter were raped and killed, you wouldn’t be very likely to find sympathy for the perpetrator who suffered for a few moments as the drugs that eased him out of this life made him gurgle or cough before he died.
As someone who has been the state’s witness to executions, I can tell you I felt no remorse for the men I saw pass from life to death to pay the ultimate penalty for the crimes they committed.
In those cases, there was no chance that anyone else was responsible for the crimes and no doubt that the world was a better place without these men in it.
But many people are far from comfortable with the state taking a life in any case. There are valid concerns that a sentence of death is more likely to be handed down to people of color or those who don’t have the means to afford an attorney who can represent them well enough to spare their lives.
When Lady Justice removes her blindfold and lets skin color and socio-economic status affect sentences, it is easy to see why someone might be concerned.
Other concerns come when those convictions are based on evidence that is less certain. After all, there is no way to reverse this sentence once it goes into full effect.
Oklahoma hasn’t executed anyone in almost three years due to issues with the process they use being botched a few times and problems with the availability of drugs that are used to put someone to death.
Now the state is looking to get back into the execution business. After becoming the first state to use lethal injection to carry out the death penalty, Oklahoma is trying to become the first state to use nitrogen gas to carry out executions.
Attorney General Mike Hunter says nitrogen is the best and safest method to execute a criminal. I don’t know why I find it humorous that we are using a “safe” method to execute someone. I mean, they’re going to die. How safe could it be?
Anyway, the state’s willingness to use experimental methods to carry out the death penalty seems pretty reckless. It’s a lawsuit waiting to happen if the method takes too long, if the person being executed suffers or if the method fails entirely.
I understand the idea that victims deserve closure and the death penalty is legal and often justified.
The lethal injection method used a redundant set of buttons to administer the drugs so no one ever knew that he was the one who pushed the button that killed the executed convict. As I said before, in the cases I witnessed, I would have pushed both buttons myself and I wouldn’t have felt even a tiny twinge of guilt. They deserved to die and they did.
About two-thirds of Oklahomans polled say they are in favor of using the death penalty. It would be interesting to see a poll that was more specific to ask whether those same people trusted the state to do it correctly.
Those answers might move the needle.
Done correctly and in the right cases, the death penalty has a place in justice. But if we truly believe it is better for 1,000 guilty men to go free than one innocent man to be convicted, the stakes are raised in that theory’s application in death penalty cases.
We have to be able to trust prosecutors to use the sentence appropriately and for the executioners to carry out the sentence correctly. Neither seems like too much to ask, but if it weren’t, we wouldn’t be in the midst of a three-year moratorium.
When the state resumes executions, I hope the process and procedures are in place to do it right.
Apologies aren’t worth much after this sentence is carried out.