By Claire O’Connor, Franklin and Marshall College
“An eye for an eye makes the whole world go blind.” We’ve all heard this cliché expression. We all know what it means and the wise warning it gives; and yet, the death penalty is still legal in 32 states in America.
Capital punishment has long been one of the most polarizing debates among Americans. Although it seems to me as though there are no completely perfect answers to this, I believe strongly that capital punishment should be abolished.
Capital punishment has been carried out through several different methods over the years, yet none have stood the test of time. We keep thinking we’ve found a humane way to kill another human being, but I believe that there is no humane way. Killing is not humane.
The most common method used now is lethal injection because it is thought to kill the person quickly and painlessly; today, however, that is not the case. The drugs previously used in lethal injection have recently become unavailable in America due to other countries’ objections to their use for capital punishment. As a result, several states have resorted to using a drug called midazolam, which is meant to make the subject unconscious, but doesn’t work on everyone. One Alabama prisoner was said to have been coughing and clenching his fists before his body started heaving for at least thirteen minutes until he finally died.
Despite this, along with numerous other similar cases, the Supreme Court ruled this morning that another Alabama prisoner named Thomas Arthur will be executed using midazolam. The law states that “In order to successfully attack a state’s method of execution, a condemned prisoner must not only prove that the state’s method risks severe pain, but must also propose a known and available alternative method for his own execution.” Arthur had a doctor testify to the fact that due to his heart condition, Arthur is at an even greater risk than the average person of waking up in the middle of his execution and having a heart attack. He also presented the idea of another “known and available” method of execution, the firing squad. Though the firing squad is more gruesome than lethal injection, it has a greater chance of working quickly and almost painlessly.
Despite his evidence and alternate suggestion, the Supreme Court ruled against Arthur. Though I was not in the courtroom, from an outside perspective it seems as though this was not due to inadequate evidence, but rather, the fears of certain Supreme Court judges. I believe that the judges who support capital punishment feared that a ruling in Arthur’s favor could threaten the future of the use of capital punishment. The other methods of death penalty currently available in the U.S. are electrocution, lethal gas, firing squad, and hanging, all of which are not used frequently unless requested by a prisoner due to thoughts that they are gruesome and inhumane. It also seems as though we have exhausted all “humane” possibilities of lethal injection.
So what next?
Evidently, supporters of the death penalty would like to ignore the fact that many prisoners wake up writhing in pain while being killed by the current concoction of lethal injection. Many would say that sufferers of this ill fate deserve it because of their actions, but what about those who have been wrongly convicted? 153 prisoners on death row have been exonerated based on new evidence since 1973. And what about jury and judge bias? Statistics show that the murder victims of 76% of cases resulting in the death penalty were white despite the fact that nationally, 50% of murder victims are not white. Statistics also show us that of the 324 people executed for interracial murders, 293 of them were black defendants who had killed white victims while just 31 of them were white defendants who had killed black victims.
It is unfair that one could be killed in this unnatural and inhumane way due to the biases of those judging him or her, and that one could die in extreme pain due to a drug that has already shown bad results. It is clearly impossible to remove several aspects of human error from the process of capital punishment, so we must in stead remove capital punishment.