Friday, June 18, 2010

Capitol Punishment

I woke up this morning thinking about Ronnie Lee Gardner, a man I didn't know existed until about a week ago. He was executed shortly after midnight for a murder he committed over 25 years ago in Utah.

For some reason, this news story has had an impact on me. It might be the documentary I heard this week on NPR about the life of an executioner. It talked to prison officials, guards, and clergy who have been involved in executions in Texas. It brought a very personal element to the practice of capitol punishment. It made me look at this issue from their perspective - talking to the condemned, walking with them, praying with them. It gave a glimpse into the life of the condemned in their last days as they face their own mortality.

This week I have spent time reflecting on my feelings about capitol punishment. Truly, I'm ambivalent. I believe in justice, accountability, and owning up to your choices. I also believe in mercy, that people who desire, can change. I believe in second chances.

But do those who have committed the most horrendous of crimes deserve mercy? Do those who take another life deserve anything other than swift justice? I believe that God should be the only one to take life. Sadly, some use their agency to make that decision for God. In those cases, it is just to say "An eye for an eye!" or should we leave that choice & judgement in the hands of God? I'm just not sure.

Gardner was executed by firing squad, which I think is kind of barbaric. I think lethal injection is the more humane way, but that could just be my personal aversion to guns. I suppose that I think the ending of a life should be a solemn (IE quiet) event. A loud gun shot contradicts that notion. Apparently he was given options for how he wanted to be executed, and he choose by firing squad.

Are you ever considered the psychological toll it must be for those marksmen? I hope our system offers them counseling or some other means to cope. What are your thoughts? Is this a cut and dry issue to you or are you, like me, ambivalent?


Kristina P. said...

My problem with the death penalty is actually that it takes 30 years for it to be carried out. With DNA now, and being able to know without a doubt that someone is guilty, it should happen quickly. I think the deterrent would be higher.

Oh, and I have read many articles about lethal injection vs. the firing squad, and actually, death by firing squad is less barbaric. It happens in an instant, while there are many, many cases of botched lethal injections and a lot more things can go wrong.

Riddle Girl said...

I think I am like you...a little ambivalent. You made some really good points for both sides. It was a little weird to hear it all last night. My thing is it is cheaper to just give them life in prison...then make them think about what they have done until they die naturally.
But I agree with Kristina...firing squad is the quickest and least problematic. My hubby said that someone pushes a button and it triggers the shots.
That is what I had a problem thinking about...someone else had to aim and shoot at him. But I guess that is not that case.
Crazy stuff huh?!

Brook said...

Nate was one of the witnesses. How creepy is that?!

A button would be great, but there are actual people who do the shooting. They all volunteered to do it.

Mary said...

Although the firing squad sounds barbaric, it's quite quick b/c of where they are shooting. With lethal injection it all depends on what they are using, for instance if they are doing Potassium, it is stopping the heart, which I think might feel like a heart attack...or if they are using a lethal dose of anesthesia like Propofol then it would just be like going to sleep. I haven't done enough research to know what each state uses.

I know that I do believe in the death penalty. And I agree with Kristina, it takes way too long, and costs the tax payers too much, for these people to sit on death row for 20+ years.

The coolest Petersens said...

Ok, so I kind of see things from both sides, maybe because of my hubby's job. People actually do shoot them, there were 5 shooters 4 had live rounds and 1 had a dud, they do offer counseling to them and it kind of helps them cope because they don't know who had live rounds and who had the dud. I think that like Jessica God should be the only one who takes a life but that is clearly not the case.

It is not cut and dry but I do believe in justice however that is served. I think that neither outcome really makes it better for the families, but our justice system is set in place so that we do not have to decide what the punishment is. My husband would tell you that the death penalty is the right way to go, it costs less and SHOULD be done quickly.

Sorry this was long but that is my two bits, I do feel bad for the men/women who have to shoot them if they choose firing squad. I am glad I don't have to decide any of this. Maybe ignorance is bliss.