Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The execution shall not be televised

So what was the big brouhaha over a Georgia inmate who wanted to have his execution videotaped? We see much worse every night on cable or on the big screen. Why didn't the state want his execution captured for all posterity?

It used to be that executions were all scheduled for a minute after midnight. Nothing like a good killing in the middle of the night when all law-abiding citizens were tucked away safely in bed. Probably best not to let the decent folk see just how violent a death one suffered in the electric chair or in the gas chamber.

At some point legislators decided that Ol' Sparky might have been a bit too barbaric for our tastes. Someone decided that killing people by lethal injection was a cleaner, more sanitized method of murder. The condemned man is strapped to a gurney - just as if it were an ordinary medical procedure.

The three drug "cocktail" consists of a sedative, a muscle relaxer and a drug to induce cardiac arrest. In theory the condemned man should drift into unconsciousness before he is paralyzed and his heart is stopped. Of course since the inmate is paralyzed we don't know whether or not he's suffering as the last of the drugs is pumped into his body. We can't even be certain that the first drug puts him in unconscious state.

Is that what the state's afraid of? Were Georgia officials worried that their killing device wasn't as sterile as advertised?

We have no problem watching make believe carnage in which people are gunned down, stabbed, slashed, decapitated, drowned and burned alive. We have no problem promoting violence and blood in the name of making money. Hell, the military releases video showing bombs destroying buildings - and the people inside - when it suits their political needs. The media has replayed the 9/11 attacks endlessly. But, for some reason, the state has a problem with the public seeing what it does in the people's name behind closed doors.

So what if someone wants an execution videotaped for use in a legal proceeding to argue that the death penalty constituted cruel or unusual punishment. Of course state sponsored murder is cruel. Death is cruel. There are no two ways about it. No matter how much lipstick you put on a pig, it's still a damn pig.

Just as everyone accused of breaking the law in Texas has the right to have their case heard in an open courtroom, those sentenced to death should have the right to have their execution videotaped. As long as states resist demands to record executions, I continue to wonder what they have to hide.

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