Electrocution is wrong direction

A choice between two methods for a barbaric death isn't much choice at all.

Yet Virginia's House of Delegates wants to ensure that the commonwealth continues state-sanctioned killing, known as the death penalty, by mandating use of the electric chair if drugs used for lethal injections are not available.

For the past 20 years, the commonwealth has given the condemned a choice between electrocution and lethal injection, but few have chosen the electric chair. Virginia's former executioner, who administered 25 executions using the electric chair before retiring in 1999, explained why during testimony last week before a Senate committee.

Electrocution leaves bodies burned and blistered, Jerry Givens said. "If you've got a fire in the execution room and the witnesses have to witness this, this is something that will live with them forever," he said.

But Virginia, one of 32 states that continues to use the death penalty, now faces a shortage of lethal injection drugs, and proponents of the death penalty are rallying around the electric chair as an acceptable alternative.

Rather than reverting to that torturous, cruel device, Virginia should tack toward a more humane, sensible criminal justice system, one that replaces the ultimate punishment with life in prison without parole.

Execution fails to serve justice on many fronts: It is overwhelmed by racial disparity, more costly than a sentence of life in prison without parole, and harbors no possibility, once applied, to correct an error.

Last week, the House of Delegates passed the electric chair bill and sent it to the Senate for consideration, though its companion bill failed in a Senate committee after members heard Givens' testimony.

Shortages of lethal injection drugs have become commonplace in the United States, in large part because pharmaceutical companies that manufacture one of the drugs in the killing cocktail, the sedative pentobarbital, have restricted its sale for use in capital punishment. Other death penalty states, lacking portions of the drug mixture used for lethal injections, proceeded with executions using untested drug combinations.

This month, Ohio's execution of a man convicted of rape and murder, Dennis McGuire, served as a vivid example in the crusade against the death penalty. The two-drug combination coursing through McGuire's body left him choking and gasping for 25 minutes, much longer than a typical execution.

The electric chair is no better. Del. Scott Surovell, a Fairfax County Democrat, described its function in graphic terms.

"Electrocution cannot do what it does without mutilating a person," Surovell said. "It causes burns. It causes organs to cook.... There are documented cases of people smoking, of blood coming out of people, of people catching on fire. The rest of the country is moving on. We are increasingly isolated."

In the past five years, four states, including Maryland, abolished the death penalty. Virginia is one of only eight states to allow that sentence to be carried out through use of the electric chair.

Virginia's solution, requiring use of the electric chair should the lethal injection drugs remain unavailable, means the state steps back rather than forward.

Life in prison without the possibility of release keeps dangerous people locked up. It allows for correction in the event an inmate is found innocent. It makes us a more civil society.

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" ELECTROCUTION IS WRONG" and the death penalty is wrong,

The vast majority of countries in Western Europe, North America and South America - more than 139 nations worldwide - have abandoned capital punishment in law or in practice.

Scientific studies have consistently failed to demonstrate that executions deter people from committing crime anymore than long prison sentences.

It costs far more to execute a person than to keep him or her in prison for life.

It only costs more

because Death Penalty Activists run up the cost with endless appeals and delays.

They have the right to do that, but it is dishonest to run up the cost and then claim cost as a reason to abandon the use of the death penalty.

The appeals and delays

are the only way to add safeguards in a flawed system that wants to keep irreversible penalties.

So that cost factor needs to be part of justice system.

The number of death row exonerations include people who were battling for years, sometimes decades with the help of activists.

So the cost of a death penalty has to include many appeals as part of the system to at least appear to be fair and just.

Anti death penalty appeals.

When someone admits to murder kills while in prison, wants executed and a group pays a lawyer to file an appeal on his behalf.

I still find it humorous that someone can seriously oppose the death penalty and support abortion.

Anti death penalty appeals.

When someone admits to murder kills while in prison, wants executed and a group pays a lawyer to file an appeal on his behalf.

I still find it humorous that someone can seriously oppose the death penalty and support abortion.


The Pilot conflates two issues, which should be considered separately.

The first is whether we should use the death penalty at all, and the second is how to do it humanely.

By making the drugs used in lethal injections unavailable, activists have tried to influence the decision on the former by making the latter problematic.

There are any number of methods to execute a person that are instantaneous and painless, they just aren't pretty. Gallagher's mallet would accomplish the task but it would be messy to witness. A large caliber bullet in base of the skull would be somewhat less messy and just as effective. Lethal injection was no more humane, it was just esthetically more appealing. But in reality, a humane method is not out of reach.

As to the issue of whether we should use the death penalty or not, that is a more difficult decision. IMO, there are appropriate circumstances, all requiring absolute certainty of guilt, but including crimes against the justice system itself, such as the premeditated murder of witnesses, judges or officers of the court, policemen or their family members, OR THREATS to do so, to circumvent a fair trial.

But in any case, the two issues should be considered separately and on their own merits.

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