A So-Called ‘Humane’ Capital Punishment …

In 1989, Eugene Dietz and his daughter Debra were slaughtered by Joseph Wood, Debra’s boyfriend. His guilt was never doubted, and the victims’ relatives had the right to obtain full and complete justice. The state of Arizona has instead supplied an execution worthy of the tortures inflicted during the Middle Ages.

Last week, after having twice given him a glimmer of hope for a reprieve — in order to clarify the constitutionality of the origin of the still-secret drug mixture — the prison authorities proceeded with Wood’s execution.

What happened after is worthy of a horror film. Wood suffered for nearly two hours on the injection table. According to his lawyer — who was present — he suffocated and moaned throughout the entirety of the botched procedure.

Can anyone say they are surprised? The drug cocktail, a mixture of midazolam and hydromorphone, had only been used once, with nearly equally traumatic results, in January (in the case of Dennis McGuire in Ohio). The well-publicized case of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma in April comes to mind, but the complete list of botched executions is quite long …

Our thoughts are with the relatives of Debra and Eugene Dietz. They are also with the family of Joseph Wood, who also believed himself to be a victim in this affair.

But the whole prison staff is also implicated in the execution. They have frankly been traumatized for life after having been ordered to proceed with an improvised execution while not having the required qualifications. Former executioners like Jerry Givens in Virginia, Fred Allen in Texas or, Ron McAndrew in Florida and Texas, know it only too well. “The state has no right to ask people to kill others on their behalf. It’s nothing but a premeditated, ceremonial killing, and we do it to appease politicians who are tough on crime,” said one of them, Ron McAndrew.

How many other victims will capital punishment create in the United States before we become aware of the inhumane character of a punishment incompatible with modern society? It is a punishment which is not the most profitable solution — quite the contrary — and is by far the least effective of the panoply of tools at the disposal of American police chiefs, as they have all confirmed. It is a solution that is not a deterrent; one has only to think of the 42 percent decrease in the Canadian homicide rate since its abolition in 1976. A punishment, furthermore, that condemns to death thousands of innocents, as legions of individuals saved in extremis have testified.

In short, it is a punishment that practically never appeases the grief of the victims’ family members. Talk to the 178 who, in 2012, dared to break their silence in Connecticut to say to Governor Dannel Malloy: “Let’s rid ourselves of this pointless punishment!” They came to the conclusion that capital punishment severely harms their quest for justice and takes away the assistance that they could obtain. Governor Malloy had the necessary political courage, as did his counterpart in Maryland the following year. We must hope that the 30-some American states that have not yet done so, quickly come to the same conclusion, before humanity suffers further.

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