I was against the death penalty from a very early age.
I wasn’t against it so much in those early years on the basis that some of the people sentenced to death might not be guilty, as has been established with the advent of DNA.
No, I was against it simply because I thought it was wrong.
I am not a religious person, never really have been but went over the edge in the 1990s, but I do believe that the 10 commandments do have a place in our society.
Especially the one which says You shall not murder.
Now a friend of mine who is deeply religious once told me during a discussion about the death penalty that it was not murder when the killing was administered by the state to a person convicted of a crime which called for the death penalty.
I, of course, disagreed.
No matter how you slice it, I see the taking of a life by whomever, a person or a state, as being wrong, very wrong.
And over the years I have grown even stronger in my opposition as DNA has shown how many juries have come to the wrong conclusion in deciding whether an accused is to live or die.
It was so bad in Illinois that the governor there a few years back put a moratorium on executions. Other governors have since followed suit.
However, some states are still doing using the death penalty and now the federal government has gotten into the act. Driven by President Donald Trump and Attorney-General William Barr, in early July several death-row inmates were executed, the first in 17 years.
One, Daniel Lee, remained strapped to a gurney — with IV lines in his arms, for hours, according to a witness quoted in news reports — as the Supreme Court decided his fate. It decided he should die.
Lee’s lawyers, Cate Stetson and Ruth Friedman, complained that the government was in such a rush to bring about their client’s death that it, and the Supreme Court as well, ignored a court order halting the execution from a federal court in Arkansas which still remained in place.
Earlier on the day the execution was scheduled, a federal court in Washington, D.C., concluded that the most current scientific evidence before it “overwhelmingly” demonstrated that the administration’s lethal-injection procedures most likely violated the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits “cruel and unusual” punishment.
The court said the evidence showed that prisoners executed using the government’s chosen execution drug were at a serious risk of experiencing an excruciating sensation akin to drowning as their airways fill with foam. So the court put a halt to Mr. Lee’s execution, which was scheduled for 4 p.m.
This was overturned within a matter of hours by the Supreme Court and the execution was carried out..
Lee’s lawyers said media accounts from reporters who attended the execution suggested that Lee did not die immediately when the lethal injection was administered, potentially suffering from the very complication identified in his Eighth Amendment challenge
Cruel and inhuman punishment is what that is.
Some of these people have indeed committed horrible crimes; in some cases the people who have died at their hands had been tortured before being murdered.
But I believe, no matter the urge deep within us calling for retribution, that to take the lives of these people makes us no better than they are.
In this regard, I believe we in Canada can hold our heads higher than our neighbours to the south, where rednecks rule in too many states, since we have not executed anyone since December 1962.
Ronald Turpin, 29, a petty thief who shot a police officer and Arthur Lucas, 54, a career criminal and pimp from Detroit who killed two people slated to be witnesses in a major drug trial, were both tried and convicted in 1962, within a year of their crimes
According to a story from 2012 in The Toronto Star, .Turpin died quickly and cleanly. Lucas wasn’t so lucky.
Their chaplain, Cyril Everitt, later described a bloody scene:
“Lucas’s head was torn right off. It was hanging just by the sinews of the neck. There was blood all over the floor,” the paper quoted Everitt as saying in an interview with the Salvation Army’s internal newsletter
The Star’s story said there had been mass protests on the night of the hangings.
The deaths of Lucas and Turpin brought the total number of people executed in Canada to 710. All of them were hanged.
In 1976, the death penalty was abolished.
In the U.S., 25 states still have the death penalty but some don’t use it. As is to be expected, Texas is the leader in executions with 563 since 1976. Others with high totals are Virginia at 113, Florida at 103 and Georgia at 74.
Jim Petro, a former Ohio attorney general, wrote in The New York Times that he had seen the death penalty up close and no longer supported it.
“I’ve heard all the justifications — deterrence, support for victims, cost savings. And I know now they are all wrong, misguided arguments that act as a smoke screen for the profound flaws that mark capital punishment,” he said.
“Thus, where I once urged jurors and judges to impose or uphold death sentences, I now recognize a stark truth: The death penalty is a failed policy.”
Indeed it is. Nothing is gained by state-sanctioned killings, something the majority of Canadians realized and accepted 44 years ago.
Obviously from the number of states with the death penalty still on the books, it is going to take the U.S. as a country longer to get there, but with people like Petro finally speaking out and if the Americans can get rid of Trump, I would say the prognosis is good.