The Death Penalty —Painless Would Be Good, But The Point Is To Make It Fatal

I saw this on Twitter:

It`s about a killer who took all of 24 minutes to die, and was apparently about as uncomfortable as a man having either an asthma attack or a heart attack. Now, this isn`t a big deal, in existential terms. The story does say  what he`d done to deserve this:

Joy Stewart, 22, of West Alexandria, a small town about 20 miles west of Dayton, was about 30-weeks pregnant when McGuire raped her, choked her, and slashed her throat so deeply it severed both her carotid artery and jugular vein. At the same point, her unborn child died, too, probably in the woods in the rural area of Preble County where her body was found the next day by two hikers. 

Killer struggles, gasps repeatedly under new 2-drug combination

By Alan Johnson, The Columbus Dispatch January 16, 2014 2:02 PM

Editor’s note: Dispatch reporter Alan Johnson witnessed today’s execution.

The guy who said “we might as well be in Saudi Arabia” is missing the point about Saudi justice. The problem is that they execute people for crimes that aren`t crimes in Western society, after trials with no safeguards whatsoever.

But when they get around to killing someone, they cut off his head with a sword, taking no time at all, which would pass the Founders` “cruel and unusual” test.

The formulation I would use, if I were writing death penalty legislation, is that the penalty should be as swift and painless “as is consistent with being actually fatal.”

The Founders only wanted to prevent things like drawing and quartering, or burning people alive. They didn`t think that you could kill someone without it hurting at all, and would have settled for a firing squad, a hanging, or beheading.

Things like the electric chair, the gas chamber, and the modern fad for lethal injection are attempts to achieve humane, bloodless killings, and they keep backfiring.

Lethal injection, in particular, runs up against the problem that many murderers are IV drug users, and you can`t find a vein. Some methods that do work quickly and surely require a skilled operator. If asked to name a quick, merciful method of execution, I would follow Alberta writer Colby Cosh`s suggestion of the guillotine, which he made at the time of an earlier lethal injection controversy.[Off with their heads The guillotine – no method compares in haste and reliability, and probably none rivals it for mercifulness,Colby Cosh, Western Standard,  July 30, 2007

The real problem with this guy`s death is not the 24 minutes it took him to die, but 24 years it took the State of Ohio to kill him at all. The murder was committed in 1989.

Both for deterrence, and for justice to be seen to be done, executions need to be carried out fairly quickly. The current system of multiple-year delays is as much a miscarriage of justice as the (entirely hypothetical) execution of innocent man.