The state of Arkansas plans to put to death eight inmates over a span of 10 days next month, a pace of executions unequaled in recent American history and brought about by a looming expiration date for a drug used by the state for lethal injections.
New York Times, Arkansas Rushes to Execute 8 Men in the Space of 10 Days
This strikes me as a really stupid reason to schedule a massive number of executions. Perhaps the stupidest reason I’ve ever run across since realizing that the death penalty is a holdover from the barbarity of our past that we should really leave in the past. The numbers of businesses who don’t want to sell you drugs to kill your inmates with should be your first and last clue that the thing you want to do isn’t something you should be doing.
I want it over and done. I do. I’m tired, boss. Tired of bein’ on the road, lonely as a sparrow in the rain. Tired of not ever having me a buddy to be with, or tell me where we’s coming from or going to, or why. Mostly I’m tired of people being ugly to each other. I’m tired of all the pain I feel and hear in the world everyday. There’s too much of it. It’s like pieces of glass in my head all the time. Can you understand? – Stephen King, Frank Darabont The Green Mile
I believed in the death penalty when I was a child. I took the pro death penalty side in our high school debate team. We patted ourselves on the back for discovering the notion that beyond a shadow of a doubt meant the convicted were guilty. As a child, everything I knew was certain knowledge. What a comfort it was then, absolute certainty of truth.
When I was a child, I spake as a child,
I understood as a child, I thought as a child:
but when I became a man, I put away
childish things. For now we see through a
glass, darkly; but then face to face: now
I know in part; but then shall I know even
as also I am known. – 1 Corinthians 13:11
I know so little now, it is a wonder that I find the certainty to set words to paper. I do know this; The Innocence Project has tracked the number of exonerations in the United States since DNA evidence was allowed. As of this writing, 349 people have been exonerated. They couldn’t have committed the crime they were convicted of, because evidence from the crime does not match their DNA. Twenty of those 349 people were serving time on death row. Thirty-seven of the 349 plead guilty even though they could not have committed the crime.
When I realized that people were fallible, that government was frequently in error, that majority opinion had no more connection to reality than the flipping of a coin, I backed away from believing that we were ever going to be smart enough to know who really needs killing. I have a challenge for those who hold fast to the belief that the death penalty is right and good. Listen to this podcast, a portion of the radio documentary Witness to an Execution which aired in 2000, and then imagine yourself in their shoes, if you can.
For my part, I recognize hell when I hear it described. I can hear eternal torment in every voice that speaks, especially the ones that say how much they believe in the death penalty still. I would not willingly stand in any of their shoes even for one execution.
The government should not be allowed to do anything that individuals within the society are not allowed to do. In the heat of the moment, in the crisis of real time, certain actions are valid that wouldn’t be valid in other cases. When no other option presents itself, it is permissible to kill. Cops and prison guards should be armed and forgiven for actions taken in legitimate self defense of themselves and society, just like any other member of society would be forgiven in their place.
An unarmed prisoner strapped to a gurney or a chair is not a threat. Killing that person is killing in cold blood. It can only be counted as murder, making us no better than the murderer that we have exacted justice upon. Life imprisonment without the possibility of parole is preferable to making myself a party to murder, even if the man that we are killing “needed it”.