Saturday, May 21, 2016

Getting Ahead in Capital Punishment

Big Pharma standard bearer Pfizer recently made headlines by refusing to sell drugs to states for use in executions, ending their position as the last holdout among manufacturers of drugs that are used for this purpose. It was a surprisingly moralistic and human gesture for a big pharmaceutical company, not in the least bit diminished by the fact that Pfizer didn’t even sell execution drugs until they acquired Hospira, Inc. last year, so it probably didn’t hurt their bottom line too much.

While I applaud Pfizer for its humanitarian move, it does leave a problem, which is how states that wish to continue murdering their citizens will carry out their executions. According to the New York Times article, “A few states have adopted the electric chair, firing squad or gas chamber as an alternative if lethal drugs are not available.”

EXCUSE ME? Did I just read that right? Did that just say the fucking GAS CHAMBER?? 

Now, I’m well aware that Godwin’s Law says that you can’t win an argument by comparing the other side to Hitler, but THE GAS CHAMBER? If you can find me a person that doesn’t immediately think of Nazis when you say “gas chamber,” then I will show you a person that is either under the age of 25 or lives at least 500 miles from the nearest Jew (not counting the ones in Israel).
For the uninitiated, here’s how the gas chamber works, according to Wikipedia (you can trust them on this one, I promise): As implemented in the United States, the gas chamber is considered to be the most dangerous, most complicated, and most expensive method of administering the death penalty. The condemned person is strapped into a chair within an airtight chamber, which is then sealed. The executioner activates a mechanism which drops potassium cyanide (or sodium cyanide ) pellets into a bath of sulfuric acid beneath the chair; the ensuing chemical reaction generates lethal hydrogen cyanide gas.
The gas is visible to the condemned, who is advised to take several deep breaths to speed unconsciousness. Nonetheless, there are often convulsions and excessive drooling. There may also be urinating, defecating, and vomiting.

Well gee, that doesn’t sound at all cruel or unusual to me. And yet, Oklahoma, the state that is so resolute in its belief in the sanctity of human life that it recently introduced legislation to ban all abortions (and thank you, Governor Fallin, for nipping that nonsense in the bud), is considering introducing the gas chamber to execute its poor black citizens capital offenders. Oh, but don’t worry, they’ll be using safe, painless, nitrogen gas. The victims won’t feel a thing. Yeah. Don’t count on it. 

In 1983 in Mississippi, Jimmy Lee Gray was executed in the gas chamber. According to reports:

“Officials had to clear the room eight minutes after the gas was released when Gray’s desperate gasps for air repulsed witnesses.” According to defense attorney David Bruck, “Jimmy Lee Gray died banging his head against a steel pole in the gas chamber while the reporters counted his moans.”

Now, this gas chamber did not use Nitrogen gas and Jimmy Lee Gray was a murderous pedophile scumbag, but this is not the point. The point is if you think something like this won’t happen again because of this “humane alternative” to cyanide gas, you are kidding yourself.

So where does that leave us? Well, besides the obvious alternative of PUT A STOP TO MURDERING YOUR OWN CITIZENS LIKE EVERY OTHER CIVILIZED COUNTRY IN THE WORLD, we are offered the firing squad and the electric chair. Well everyone knows the electric chair sucks and screw-ups like that gas chamber fiasco happen almost every time they try to use it. That’s what made lethal injection so popular in the first place. And the firing squad? Just plugging someone full of holes? Seems pretty barbaric. But there is another alternative, and I don’t know why no one has considered it.

Yes, the humble guillotine. Despite its French name, no one knows who exactly invented the guillotine, and its use has been credited to have begun as far back as the turn of the 14th century. However, it was Dr. Guillotin in the 1790s who successfully advocated for its use as the primary execution device in France, where it served to send thousands to their just reward during the French Revolution. Once France ended capital punishment in 1981, though, that was the end of the guillotine. It has never been used to execute capital punishment in the United States.

Why? Why not? Is it because the guillotine was inhumane? In fact, during the French Revolution, people complained about the government’s use of the guillotine because the condemned were getting off too easy.

The guillotine is the simplest mechanically out of all the death penalty devices and produces death the fastest. In fact, assuming the blade and mechanism are properly maintained, it’s over nearly instantaneously, before the victim has the time to register pain. Now, it is possible that the brain can remain alive for a few seconds after being separated from the body, but there’s still no pain, and this phenomenon would probably be much more disturbing to the observers than the condemned.

No, I speculate that the guillotine, despite being the most humane method of execution, has never been and will never be used in this country because:

            1. It’s associated with the French Revolution and therefore somehow seems archaic and barbaric.

     2. It’s French.

Well, as I pointed out, it’s not ACTUALLY French, but neither are French Fries. The point is that it’s associated with France, and God forbid we should kill anybody the swishy French way, right?

Let me be clear, here. I am not advocating for the death penalty in any way, shape or form. I think it’s savage, unconstitutional, and, to quote Supreme Court Justice William Brennan “demeans us all.” I mean, full disclosure, Hitler used the guillotine too. 

But if you HAVE to kill your citizens, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming, won’t you at least consider the guillotine? Please, don’t stand on tradition or national pride on this one. Use your head.