A Forum for Opinions on News, Politics, and Life
April 23rd, 2010
By Tom Carter
The state of Utah is going to execute Ronnie Lee Gardner by firing squad. That’s his choice; he prefers it to lethal injection.
By way of full disclosure, I’ve made clear my unalterable opposition to the death penalty. It doesn’t matter what the crime was or who did it.
In Gardner’s case, there’s no question that he was clearly guilty of the murder for which he was convicted. Now, 25 years later, the state is finally getting around to killing him. That kind of absurd situation is one of the many reasons why the death penalty should be abolished. We want to kill the guy, but we’re so concerned about his rights and his endless appeals that we string out the process forever.
His lawyers, the latest in an undoubtedly long string of advocates, are arguing that to execute him would be unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment, given how long ago the offense occurred. Only lawyers could make such a cynical argument with straight faces, considering that they are part of the reason it’s been so long.
Now we can expect the media and others to make a very big deal about the firing squad — how crude the rubes are out in that flyover state (where is Utah?), how barbaric it is to shoot someone instead of injecting him with lethal poisons, what a tough time he had as a kid, how in the past quarter of a century he’s become a Jesus-loving nice guy who’s partial to kitties and doggies, or whatever.
There’s a better way. The guy’s a murderer; let him rot in prison for the rest of his life, which is a pretty awful form of punishment. Truth is, it’s usually cheaper than the process of executing someone, and it takes the government (meaning you and me) out of the indefensible business of killing our fellow citizens in cold blood.
Or, let’s get serious. If we’re going to execute people, let’s do it within 12 months of conviction. That’s enough time for essential appeals. Just get it over with. We’ll never do that, though. We’re so good, so civilized that we prefer to wait half a lifetime to do the guy in. If we can’t man-up enough to do it right, then we ought to stop doing it, period.
I’ll say this, though — if you, my fellow citizens, ever decide you would like to kill me, then do it by firing squad. That’s quick and relatively painless, second only to the guillotine. What does that say about how far we’ve come in human society?
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