He’s got a point here

Atlanta — Anti-capital punishment activists are using the prolonged execution of Joseph Wood in Florence, Ariz., Wednesday as a clarion call to end the death penalty. A federal judge who adjudicated Mr. Wood’s case has emphasized another alternative: bring back the firing squad.

“Eight or ten large-caliber rifle bullets fired at close range can inflict massive damage, causing instant death every time,” Alex Kozinski, chief justice of Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals, wrote in a decision that would have stayed Wood’s execution by lethal injection if the US Supreme Court hadn’t overridden that ruling.

“If we, as a society, cannot stomach the splatter from an execution carried out by firing squad, then we shouldn’t be carrying out executions at all,” Judge Kozinski reiterated Thursday to the Washington Examiner’s Byron York. In his earlier ruling, Kozinski said using drugs to carry out executions is “a misguided effort to mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and peaceful.”

Well, quite.

32 comments on “He’s got a point here

  1. Better a botched execution than letting them out after only a decade in jail.

    Personally I’d like to see the heads-on-spikes tradition brought back for the worst murderers.

  2. A sharp axe wielded by a sober executioner should do the trick.

    It seems to me that the whole thing boils down to “Is the inevitability of a few wrong verdicts and sentences enough to require us to abandon capital punishment forever?” An economist would say “no”: he’d want a study of trade-offs. For example, if three erroneous executions happened every year, but executing murderers saved ten victims per year, he’d presumably argue that the cost-benefit analysis was pro capital punishment.

  3. JuliaM is correct. For example, carbon monoxide gas is simple and easy. I had a coworker off herself by starting up her car in her garage.

  4. You don’t even need to make any splatter. An explosively fragmenting round fired with sufficient force to penetrate the skull only once and then bounce around inside should be about as instantaneous as you can get.

    I expect the people who design bullets don’t have the quite the same moral qualms the doctors do. And by all means anesthetize first, and check it’s worked before proceeding.

    The judge sort of has a point, but it is only being applied to executions under controlled conditions. When people are killed in self defence, or hostage rescues, or to stop the maniac gunman currently approaching the primary school classroom, they don’t make such a fuss. If killing is considered to be justified at all, then most direct methods appear to be considered acceptable. While a totally painless and distress-free death is preferable, it more often seems to be regarded as a nice-to-have rather than a necessity.

    It’s the premeditated deliberation that seems to be the problem.

  5. “That’s why you wouldn’t ask an economist to settle a moral issue.” I suppose a Moral Issue is one that some religious nut declares to be such.

  6. Is there any research into the numbers of capital crimes which would have been punished by the death penalty (shall we say 1950-2014, versus the number of people murdered by convicted murderers who were released from prison after short ‘life’ sentences or on early release or compassionate reasons.

    Wonder which list is longer…

  7. I’m not sure the method of execution matters too much between hanging, firing squad, and lethal injection. When I’ve seen it depicted in films, the horrific part for me is the minutes leading up to it when the condemned knows he is experiencing his final moments on earth. The actual manner of death wouldn’t change that one jot.

    I’ve also seem videos of people getting shot and killed, and it seems pretty quick and not very messy. What does amaze me is that the electric chair is still in use.

  8. He didn’t take as long to die as the morally blameless will, in their beds of assorted diseases.

  9. Aside from historical associations with unpleasantness, why not use a gas chamber?
    Nitrogen is the perfect gas to use – easily available and incredibly fast acting. I’ve lost count of the number of safety briefings I’ve sat through which emphasize how quickly a lungful or two of the pure stuff will render you unconscious (the point being not to attempt to rescue your mate who has been overcome without breathing apparatus as it will inevitably lead to two victims instead of one).

    It does it in a fast, painless way.
    Sounds perfect to me and you don’t need to construct specialised equipment (electric chairs) or specialised skill set – everything is already commercially available and any half decent engineer should be able to cobble something together pretty quickly. In theory, the room wouldn’t even need to be airtight, just flood it with nitrogen for a few minutes until they first fall asleep, then die.
    Job’s a good’un. (Though I would recommend airtight with a purge and vent system)

    Or alternatively, just get some scuba gear, use nitrogen instead of compressed air – tape it into their mouth and hold their nose shut for a while.

    Quick, clean, certain.
    CO2, helium, or any of a variety of inert gases could also be used.

    Or is it disturbing that I think this way?

  10. Thinking about the scuba idea, a rebreather like firemen use would be a bit less psychotic…

  11. There’s a peculiar thing about sensations.
    One is, as anyone who’s hit their thumb with a hammer knows, the pain bit lags quite a long way behind the splat.
    The other is; the actual appreciation of sensations is very much in the anticipation of & memory following them, rather than their immediate experience. And in the latter case, with a terminal experience, there isn’t going to be any.

  12. Tim Newman>

    Quite. I really don’t see why all the fuss about executions given that the way the US keeps inmates on death row for decades with false hopes is really just a form of slow torture.

  13. Why not give just give them a large injection of something lethal, that should be pretty foolproof, there’s a wide range of substances, medical and otherwise that will be fatal with just a few cc or less.

    Oh, hang on …..

  14. Gun to back of head shoot dead.
    Works very well for those wanting to get rid of enemies and the cost is minimal.
    How much, in total, does death by moderately lethal injection cost? More than a .45 bullet?

  15. Who cares if a multiple murderer suffers for x hours then dies? That they die is the point. Sure, shoot them if you want. Gut them alive. Guillotine them. Hang them. Makes no difference.

  16. @Dave – “….the US keeps inmates on death row for decades with false hopes.”
    This is the thing I don’t understand. Keeping men who’ve been sentenced to death waiting around for years before executing them, or not, is just sadism. When you’ve sentenced them, get on and carry it out FFS.
    I guess it really means that the Yanks don’t have much faith in their Courts to reach the right decision.

  17. Why not use Second Hand Smoke.
    After all the righteous keep telling us it is one of the most lethal substances going, so a chamber filled with it should do the trick.

  18. “It’s nice to see this blogs more liberal commentors coming out to play.”

    There is nothing illiberal about just retribution for a horrible crime.

  19. There is nothing illiberal about just retribution for a horrible crime.

    But you aren’t talking about ‘just retribution’ are you? You are talking about a horridly bolloxed-up mess. Which had the desired result, in the end. The guy is dead.

    Crowing about it is, JSM illiberal. Law punts a certain way? Murderers get offed? Fine. Quickly, efficiently and with a more than a modicum of dignity on the part of the state.

  20. “If we, as a society, cannot stomach the splatter from an execution carried out by firing squad, then we shouldn’t be carrying out executions at all.”

    Bang on. Which is why I also believe executions should be televised during prime (post-watershed) hours. People should be willing either to vote for it and watch it, or neither.

  21. Dave,

    > the way the US keeps inmates on death row for decades with false hopes is really just a form of slow torture.

    Surely torture would be something the justice system does to the inmates. The reason they spend years on death row is their appeals process — i.e., it is something the inmates are doing to the justice system. Death row inmates are welcome to stop appealing and just go ahead and get executed. That none of them choose to do so puts the lie to the popular notion that long-term incarceration is somehow worse than execution.

    dearieme,

    > A sharp axe wielded by a sober executioner should do the trick.

    You’d think, but the literature is full of examples where beheadings took quite a few swings. The cruelty of that is, after all, why the guillotine was invented.

    Wasp,

    > Aside from historical associations with unpleasantness, why not use a gas chamber?

    Your description of how easy and humane this could be is interesting, because, when the US did have execution by gas chamber, it wasn’t like that at all. Victims were strapped into a chair inside the gas chamber, and whatever toxin it was that was used caused such convulsions that their last living act was to break their own arms.

    As a lot of people mentioned on the other thread last week, vets can apparently give humane lethal injections to dogs and horses, but the US justice system can’t give lethal injections to humans without fucking it up.

    Julia’s right: this is difficult because someone’s making it difficult.

  22. Victims were strapped into a chair inside the gas chamber, and whatever toxin it was

    It was hydrogen cyanide, or prussic acid. The Germans called it Zyklon B when they used it in their own gas chambers. The German system was more effective in that they just pumped the gas into the chamber directly. For some reason, probably to avoid having to store the stuff, the American system would involve some reagent wrapped in a cheesecloth dropping into another reagent under the chair, which would react to form HCN. This was fraught with problems, one of which your needing to make damned sure the chamber was free of gas before the guards went in afterwards. I think the use of nitrogen is frowned upon because you would die of asphyxiation, which in my experience of being asphyxiated due to not wearing a fire-hood properly is a bit like everything going a bit funny and slipping into sleep. All very painless, but for some reason people see poisoning as better than asphyxiation.

    As a lot of people mentioned on the other thread last week, vets can apparently give humane lethal injections to dogs and horses, but the US justice system can’t give lethal injections to humans without fucking it up.

    The reason for this is that most people who know what they’re doing refrain from getting involved in executions. Ditto for the suppliers of the drugs.

  23. All very painless, but for some reason people see poisoning as better than asphyxiation.

    I think this might be because most people’s familiarity with asphyxiation leads them to think of people choking – coughing, fighting for life, cyanosis, and generally being deeply unpleasant – rather than the quiet passing out from an insufficient oxygen percentage in the air which the vast majority of the population aren’t exposed to very often.

    That is of course just my supposition, but it seems logical.

  24. @Wasp,

    Probably. It is inability to expel CO2, rather than the lack of oxygen, which causes the pain of asphyxiation. Although when I got that damned hood on wrong, I just felt as if I was dreaming, then next thing I know I’m outside in the sunshine with two blokes holding me up. We had a poor Korean fella die on one of our installations* when he put a painting hood on which was wrongly hooked up to a nitrogen line rather than an air line. He was likely dead before he hit the ground.

    *Lessons learned = 0; Fucks given by his employer or the operating company = 0

  25. “But you aren’t talking about ‘just retribution’ are you? You are talking about a horridly bolloxed-up mess. Which had the desired result, in the end. The guy is dead.”

    Retribution usually involves torture and pain. People generally feel better when they respond to loss or pain by inflicting pain upon the person responsible. This is a normal human urge. There is nothing illiberal or unjust about law that caters to this.

    I am saying that I don’t really care how murderers are killed as retribution for their crimes. Some might feel that upping the level of suffering involved is equivalent to justice being done. Perhaps justice was done by accident in this case?

    “Crowing about it is, JSM illiberal. Law punts a certain way? Murderers get offed? Fine. Quickly, efficiently and with a more than a modicum of dignity on the part of the state.”

    Who is crowing about it? A murderer got killed as retribution for his crimes. I don’t really feel much about this at all. I hope those that were wronged by this man feel justice was done.

  26. Tim Newman:
    “It was hydrogen cyanide, or prussic acid.”

    Nup, even Wikipedia doesn’t claim that the official records for deliberate killings in the various camps in Hitler’s German empire were set by HCn. Carbon monoxide did the job just fine.

    The real problem in the application of the death penalty in the legal system of the ‘USA’ isn’t the execution methods. It’s the shitbag lawyers and judges. The Amurrican legal system is perfectly fine with a dubiously-American FBI sniper murdering a woman holding her baby, but for some reason it can’t bring itself to put an animal to death, at least not without wasting more public money than the animal would ever earn for itself in its life (let alone how much it would pay in taxes to pay for its legitimate termination).

Leave a Reply

Name and email are required. Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.