Saturday, December 16, 2006

Executions Suspended in Florida and California--I'm Glad

It seems that the malingering death of Angel Nieves Diaz while being executed in Florida earlier this week has resulted in the suspension of executions scheduled in California as well as in Florida.

Personally, I am pleased with these decisions.

As I have written before, although I consider the death penalty to be both morally and constitutionally acceptable, I do not consider it to be, in practice, either.

Innocent people have been sentenced to death and, in at least one case, executed for crimes they did not commit.

The wealth, power, social status, influence, education and race of someone convicted of a capital crime has repeatedly been shown to have a direct effect on whether the person is sentenced to death or life imprisonment . . . or even convicted of the capital crime in the first place.

This is unjust and should be stopped.

If capital punishment is to be resumed I strongly urge that it be reserved for only those circumstances where the standards of guilt are raised higher than "beyond a reasonable doubt" to the level of "virtual certainty."

It is of marginal concern for me as to whether a person being executed experiences a brief period of physical or emotional pain or discomfort. Such would seem to me to be neither "cruel or unusual" under the circumstances.

This is, however, the issue being considered by the State Courts in California and, as a procedural matter, in Florida.

Last week it took Angel Nieves Diaz 34 minutes of quiet squirming before he died. According to recent reports the execution was botched because the IV needle was inserted through his vein and the mortal dose of drugs was infused into his muscle instead of into his bloodstream.

I hope that someone gets fired for incompetency in this matter. It is a simple matter to determine whether a needle in inserted properly or not. Anyone tasked with this assignment should have been able to do this correctly . . . and one person's incompetence should not be a legitimate legal reason to void the legality of execution by lethal injection.

But the occasion does provide another opportunity for us to rethink the matter once again. For this I am glad.

For more thoughts on this subject that substantially reflect my own I encourage you to read Captain Ed's recent post here.