It was just 30 years ago that the guillotine was last used in France. That method of execution, as horrible as it sounds to us today, was adopted during the French Revolution as a more humane method of capital punishment than some of the methods then employed. In this country, our search for the most humane way of execution has taken us from hanging to firing squad to electric chair to gas chamber to lethal injection. The search continues:
A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Tennessee's new lethal injection procedures are cruel and unusual punishment, interrupting plans to execute a killer next week.
The protocol "presents a substantial risk of unnecessary pain" and violates death row inmate Edward Jerome Harbison's constitutional protections under the Eighth Amendment, U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger said.
The new protocol, released in April, does not ensure that inmates are properly anesthetized before the lethal injection is administered, Trauger said, which could "result in a terrifying, excruciating death."
It seems to me, forgive me for being insensitive and tactless, silly to worry about a "terrifying, excrutiating" experience that will last only moments, followed by eternity. You want the most humane way to execute someone? Tell him his appeal is in the process, still years away from resolution, of course, then sneak up behind him and put a bullet in the back of his head. No lingering, excrutiating pain. No years of watching the end come ever closer.
We either execute people as a policy of our criminal justice system -- the most awesome power a state can exercise -- or we don't. Let's debate that, instead of arguing around the edges.