August 4, 2013

What's the point of committing suicide...

... when you're going to be executed in 3 days?

I could understand if a painful or degrading execution lay ahead, but this was a man in Cleveland, and he chose hanging himself over the state's fairly compassionate injection method.

45 comments:

Greg Hlatky said...

Like Herman Goering, the condemned may want to end his life on his own terms instead of submitting to the punishment of the court.

Greg Hlatky said...

Like Hermann Goering, the condemned may want to end his life on his terms instead of submitting to the punishment of the authorities.

kentuckyliz said...

An eff you to the state, witness, and vic?

bobby said...

Control.

jimbino said...

Autonomy is worth a lot. Depriving the executioner and the family of your victim of their joy is worth even more. Frustrating the gummint at every turn in life is priceless.

bobby said...

Control. He chooses his day to die, and deprives the objects of his hatred of the power to kill him.

Gahrie said...

Control.

Indigo Red said...

It's about control in and over one's own life. For 25 yrs he's controlled nothing but his bowels.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

I can imagine someone wanting to die alone and of his own volition, rather than strapped down and in front of an audience. As for the "fairly compassionate" lethal injection, I can't imagine a punishment much more undignified. The block and the guillotine and the firing squad and the gallows were all vastly more humane, in the sense of treating the condemned as human enough to face death bravely or not, defiantly or not. Your "compassionate" method reduces the condemned to the status of an ailing family pet.

Crunchy Frog said...

If you are going to die in three days, why not choose your own method of demise?

Maybe he didn't want to go out strapped to a gurney while a room full of spectators gawked at his through a glass wall. Maybe he wanted to preserve what little dignity he had left and die in private.

Maybe he wanted to give the penal system a final "Fuck you" on the way out. Whatever. Dead is dead.

Michael K said...

Afraid of needles ?

Jim Gust said...

I suspect the point is to, finally, reclaim control over your life.

retail lawyer said...

I would prefer the privacy. And I some moments you might feel strong enough to handle it, when in other moments you might fall apart.

James said...

It's your ultimate act of defiance. Proof that "you" have final control.

donald said...

Right on.

Denever said...

I'd say it's a way of asserting control over one's fate. Which, come to think of it, is why some death row inmates commit suicide further in advance of their execution date.

Joshua Barker said...

When you have nothing else, the desire to control something, anything, even if its only the manner of your death, can be too powerful to resist.

Tom said...

Sometimes it comes down to self-determination.

n.n said...

He captured the initiative, in perhaps the only way possible, and avoided being murdered by the state. This does not suggest that the state's action is without cause or sufficient due process, but it does state plainly that every individual, when it is within their power, may desire to choose and execute their own fate.

ddh said...

My guess is that he wanted control, or maybe he wanted to deny control to the state.

Matthew Sablan said...

"You can't fire me, I quit."

Cleanthes said...

Existential control: the phantasia kataleptikos. Deprive the State of its power.

Big Mike said...

I guess some guys just can't resist one last chance to break a law.

Denton said...

Control. Making the decision yourself as the only way to prevent others from forcing something on you.

Years ago, one might of said honor...

R. Chatt said...

Why wait? He wanted the pain to be over.

ironrailsironweights said...

Hermann Goering took poison the night before his necktie party.

Peter

Ann Althouse said...

I just approved a whole lot of comments, so the comments you see above are from people who didn't see what the others were writing.

This makes a strong showing of what the answer is. Nearly everyone said: control.

wholelottasplainin' said...

Compassion? Why does an criminal's lawful execution require compassion?

Isn't execution RETRIBUTION as well as PUNISHMENT???

Myself, I have no problem with the perp's hanging himself, since there were probably a few second where it really, really, really terrified him knowing that he was about to die.

A "compassionate" injection, given after an initial one to make him woozy and "out of it", strikes me as the opposite of punishment or retribution.

Seems to me it's a partial forgiveness, akin to saying, "We know you didn't really mean to kill that person, with your "troubled childhood and all, so this won't hurt a bit."

I suspect the victim's relatives wanted it to hurt, a lot.

I would.

wholelottasplainin' said...

Ain't buying the "control" crap. That only glamorizes the perp, making him heroic in denying the state its victory over him.

And if it's "control", why are all the defense's arguments based on the idea that a "troubled childhood" made him LACK self-control??

James Pawlak said...

I is all a matter of control.
When our Constitution was confirmed, both short/no drop hanging and shooting were allowable and usual forms of execution. I have not found any statement in the Constitution as to "evolving standards of decency".
Therefore....

jr565 said...

its kind of a pyrrhich victory if you ask me.
personally, i would probably go for the extra days of life, since it is a few extra days of life. But, if he went out on his own terms I guess there is something to that.

roadgeek said...

Control, just like the other commenters said; were I in his shoes I'd count it a great victory if I could cheat the executioner. It would mean I won.

R. Chatt said...

Compare to Timothy McVeigh, who I would consider far more of a control freak than Billy Slagle. If there was anyone who would have wanted to give a big middle finger to the government and die on his own terms it would have been McVeigh, IMO.

David said...

"Last week, Slagle’s attorney argued that a jury never got the chance to hear the full details of his troubled childhood."

Nor did the author of the article give us the full details of his crime, for which he was sentenced 25 years ago.

Maybe he killed himself to spite his lawyers, who presumably held the view that his life was worth saving.

Emil Blatz said...

Someone I know of (“acquaintance” would be a bit overstated, I met this person for about 40 minutes once at a cocktail party 3 years ago) is going to be sentenced in Federal Court in NY on Wednesday morning, for a financial fraud perpetrated on about 800 investors. He was convicted on 27 of 29 counts, mostly wire fraud, mail fraud, tax fraud, conspiracy as to wire fraud and mail fraud, securities fraud, etc.

The sentencing memorandum released by the US Attorney last week indicated that the guidelines recommend a sentence up to life in prison is appropriate. The US Attorney did not come straight out and request life, but this person I know of is 66 and his business associate, a fellow convict on 15 of 29 counts, is 68 (he'll be sentenced later in the day on Wednesday.)

So, you are 66, completely broke, facing a forfeiture of $30.2M, life in prison (or a term of years that will be long enough to mean life), and fines which could range up to $30M.

For that guy, I'm thinking suicide has to be an option.

Think of Ken Lay. Supposedly he stopped taking heart medication after conviction and before sentencing. Not exactly a deliberate suicide, but... Since he died before sentencing, I think it was a major boon to his family, in that the criminal fines could not be levied on his estate.

Or consider R. Budd Dwyer, that Pennsylvania politician who blew himself away at a televised press conference the day before he was to be sentenced after a bribery conviction. Had he died post sentencing, his pension would have been terminated. As it was, his wife survived him by 22 years and collected $1.3M under that pension's survivor benefit. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budd_Dwyer)

I'm just sayin'...

traditionalguy said...

L'Etranger asserts himself. The ultimate free act of man is suicide.

Bob_R said...

"And if it's "control", why are all the defense's arguments based on the idea that a "troubled childhood" made him LACK self-control??"

I've never been much for the idea of the penal system rehabilitating people, but maybe there is something to it. Concentrates the mind wonderfully and all that.

Robert Cook said...

Wholelottasplainin':

Your skepticism to the contrary, the man's suicide was completely about control. Many prisoners make a point of finding ways to break rules and disobey prison regulations, not just because, as you might assert, "they're incorrigible," but to claim a degree of autonomy in an environment where they have none.

As to your views on lawful execution, our system of justice, as designed, is not meant to be an instrumentality for retribution or revenge; it is meant to render the considered collective judgement of society as to how to treat those among us who transgress. A time spent in prison is miserable enough, beset with humiliation, indignity, privation, abuse and even torture, (by one's keepers and fellow prisoners alike). It is hardly necessary for us to make executions painful or cruel to exact adequate punishment for whatever crimes each condemned prisoner has committed, and certainly not to be wished for in a humane society. It is the very inhumanity of their crimes that brings the condemned to punishment and execution; society should not try to equal their inhumanity in its methods of punishment, or we will become inhumane.

(Even if you think the guilty deserve no mercy, a society without mercy will be as remorseless toward the innocent as toward the guilty...in fact, all will come to be considered potentially, if not presently guilty, as witness the behavior of tyrannies present and past toward their people.)

Rob said...

When he knew he was to be executed in a fortnight, it concentrated his mind wonderfully. (h/t Samuel Johnson)

Paul said...

Wish he had been forced to commit suicide with a dull spoon.

Yea he just didn't want to give people satisfaction seeing him die.

Like Hitler killing himself.

May he rot in hell.

The Godfather said...

It's interesting that, at the time he committed suicide, his lawyers were still working to get his sentence reduced to life without parole. Maybe he was afraid they'd succeed.

Scott M said...

""Take from them their victory! Then they will remember..."

Tom said...

Maybe's it's rage against the machine...

Viktor Elefant said...

He screamed.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Have_No_Mouth,_and_I_Must_Scream

peoplearenotstupid.com said...

I played video games as a kid. Sometimes in a fighting game like "Mortal Kombat," one of two players would be about to win a round without having suffered any damage. In such cases, the cognitive goalpost for "victory" would suddenly shift: the winning player would suddenly become committed to getting the flawless win; the underdog would be looking to inflict just a single hit of damage in order to deny the victor the satisfaction of a flawless victory (in such cases, we'd say the underdog achieved the "moral victory"). Moral victories would sometimes turn into huge comeback victories, and I suspect that the shift in momentum of a moral victory helped facilitate those comebacks.

Backgammon explicitly structures this kind of dynamic (playing to win, becomes playing for a gammon, becomes playing for a backgammon). That's one reason it is such a great game, and I'm surprised more games don't do something similar.

I don't know the extent to which this "shifting goalpost" analogy applies to the inmate's situation, but it is conceivable to me that, in his own mind, he achieved victory in some relative sense of the word.