Ronnie Lee Gardner’s brother, Randy, says no. “There’s no humane way to execute anyone,” Randy Gardner told NBC news on Monday. “I had the opportunity to see my brother after four bullets hit his chest, and I could have put my hand in anyone of the holes. It didn’t look very humane to me.”
“He was tied down with a hood over his head. Terrorists around the world and Isis, when they execute people, that’s what they do.”
Last year, Ed Pilkington spoke with Deborah Denno, a Fordham University professor who specialises in execution methods:
Denno has studied the history of the firing squad in the US, and found that in most of the cases in which it was used it was relatively quick and effective. In 1938, a “human experimentation” was carried out on a 42-year-old inmate who was executed by firing squad, with his heart monitored using electrocardiograph tracing. The results showed that his heart was electrically “silent” within a matter of 20 seconds.
The only known case of a botched execution by firing squad, in 1951 in Utah, appears to have been an act of vengeance on the part of five trained marksmen pulling the trigger. They targeted the wrong side of the prisoner’s chest, apparently intentionally, and he bled to death.
Yes, heart stopping is a pretty good indication of looming death. But it’s not what we actually define as death these days. Cessation of brain activity is what we do define as death these days. Which means that aiming for the skull is a great deal faster than aiming for the heart.
Ludicrously therefore, the Chinese and Soviet execution methods, a bullet to the brain, are thus “more humane”.
And as to hanging, yes, I know, snapped neck, heart stops. And I’ve been told that something or other (told around here that is) means near instant unconsciousness at the same time. But I’m not entirely certain myself. No one ever has actually run an MRI of a brain as it expires from a hanging after all. And those experiments with the heads of those guillotined seem to indicate that there’s consciousness there for a while.
Since these various execution methods were designed we’ve changed our definition of death somewhat. So shouldn’t we be changing our methods to meet our new definition? That is, execution should be a method of ceasing brain function, not a method of ceasing breath or heart?
A cattle bolt perhaps?