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Capital punishment stats:
In 2008 in nine states
37 paid ultimate price;
Texas led the pace;
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Death penalty cases load and reload dockets; Supremes continue to put prosecutors in Catch 22 situations.
The death penalty. Capital punishment. The ultimate punishment. Serious stuff. The government kills one of its own - a member of society. Should our government do that? Should our government legally take one of us out? We're not talking about war. We are talking about a man or woman being escorted off a prison death row and intentionally, systematically executed by lethal injection, electrocution, lethal gas, hanging, or firing squad.
Our history is chock full of legal executions. They once were commonplace. Criminals were executed with little thought on the part of the executing authority or the general public. Death at the hands of the government was not considered a cruel punishment. It was not considered an unusual punishment. It was accepted practice from earliest colonial days.
The U. S. Supreme Court has never declared capital punishment, per se, to be unconstitutional, nor has the High Court found it to be either cruel or unusual punishment.
However, the Supremes have struck down various methods of execution. No more boiling in oil, draw and quartering, burning at the stake, or otherwise killing a criminal in such a way as to cause severe physical pain. Torture is out. The government can legally off a criminal - but not in such a way that it seems to enjoy it.
Over the years, the Supremes have drawn more and more lines in the sand limiting imposition of the death penalty. For example, a mentally retarded murderer can no longer be executed - no matter how gory the murder or how much pain he inflicted on his victim. Same with juvies. Juveniles can no longer be executed no matter how cruel and heartless or horrific the murderous act. Execution is X-rated for adults only and only for adults who are mentally capable of understanding the full implication of their acts.
What do Americans think? Throughout the United States, poll after poll shows that the vast majority of Americans favors the death penalty for murder.
Where do we stand in the world community on this issue? The United States is the only Western democracy to retain capital punishment. Think about that. Even Russia ended executions in 1999. What does our policy and practice of executions say about us as a people as a society? Are Americans uncivilized, or are we righteously acting as God's avenging angel?
I wonder if standards of decency in America will ever evolve to the point where we collectively say, “Government executions are uncivilized, and we, as a society, will no longer condone or be a party to them.
I believe the U. S. Supreme Court will say exactly that in a landmark opinion outlawing capital punishment eventually in my lifetime.
Every time I hear about a horrific murder scenario, I get hot, furious, outraged! I become incredibly righteously indignant. I want the dirty bastard to pay to pay with his life. He deserves it, by God. An eye-for-an-eye. This cold-blooded subhuman killer showed no mercy for his poor victim who died a horrible death. Why should we (society) show him any mercy, any kindness, any leniency? Let's do unto him what he did unto his victim. After all, doesn't the American way demand equality for all in this case, equal violence - a life for a life?
I want to be honest with you. Here is the ultimate nightmare for C.A. Nix. The dirty bastard is convicted of capital murder, and the jury imposes the death penalty. Ten or so years down the line, after all appeals are exhausted, the Governor asks me to flip the switch that will set the death machine in motion. Will I do it?
Just because a terrorist straps bombs on his back, walks into a crowded restaurant, and explodes himself and others to smithereens doesn't mean I'm going to do the same barbarous thing. Far from it. I recognize the error of his ways. I don't want anyone to repeat his insane murderous conduct least of all me.
Am I capable of killing another human being who is not an immediate threat to me or my family? Yikes, to take a human life. Would I assume that responsibility? Could I live with myself? The government says it's ok. They do it. Does that make it ok? Does the government speak for my conscience? Does the government speak for civilized society? For all you believers, does the government speak for God?
I don't know for sure what I would do. The question makes me squeamish.
I like to think I am civilized, enlightened, spiritually evolved. I like to think I exist above the sub-gutter level where the murderer festers in his own putrid juices.
Hardly a wimp on crime, if I were Lady Justice, the brute with blood and gore all over his face and hands wouldn't walk. But wouldn't life without parole do just as well as execution? Never another moment or breath of freedom. Wouldn't that be punishment enough?
The American people favor the death penalty for murder. Capital punishment is in the Federal criminal code and in the criminal codes of most states.The fact is that I was a prosecutor.I respected the laws that I enforced every day for twenty years.Although I doubted the wisdom of some of them, I enforced all of them.I would have taken a capital murder case to the jury and asked for the death penalty.That was my duty.
© 2009 C.A. Nix