24 July 2014

'An eye for an eye' is a problem

Last night, there was another botched execution - this one in Arizona. It took Joseph Wood almost two hours to die, during which time he was reportedly gasping and snorting while strapped to the gurney with the fatal drugs flowing into his veins.

This comes just three months after another botched execution. In Texas in April, Clayton Lockett died after reportedly writhing and groaning for 43 minutes.

The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishments, including torture. I am not a doctor, but it sure seems as though Wood and Lockett may have been slowly tortured to death. In any case, we don't know for certain how much pain they experienced. And that unknown seems like reason enough to immediately abolish lethal injection.

But some people seem to think that torturing the torturer is the fair thing to do.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said in an official statement regarding last night's Joseph Wood execution that "[t]his is in stark comparison to the gruesome, vicious suffering that he inflicted on his two victims - and the lifetime of suffering he has caused their family."

That's the old "eye for an eye" attitude. Wood made people suffer, so he deserves to suffer at least equally. But we as a society should be above the level of the criminal.

And, surprisingly, I got a similar pro-death reaction from a Facebook friend who (unlike Gov. Brewer) is otherwise fairly progressive. She saw it as possible karmic payback. But it's not up to us human beings to dole out karmic justice. It is, by definition, best left to some higher force in the universe. Because we humans are so fallible.

As Mohandas Gandhi said, "An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind."

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