January 17, 2014

"[F]or proponents of the death penalty it was a great form of erotica."

Says Attaturk at Firedoglake, about the execution by lethal injection, yesterday in Ohio, that took 15 minutes to kill the condemned man. I blogged that story here, and we talked about it in the comments. Did any of us get off on the cruelty that resulted from the mishandled machinery of death?

The closest I'm seeing to enjoyment is an expression of not caring about the condemned man's suffering or wanting to focus on the suffering of the victim. I write in the comments to stress that executions must reflect our values — due process and refraining from cruel and unusual punishment — and the hateful values of the condemned person cannot change that. Personally, I oppose the death penalty, so I am not in the category of persons that Attaturk believes enjoy torture-executions, but I assume many of my commenters support the death penalty, and I don't see anyone disagreeing with the point I made, that if there are to be executions, they must be done humanely.

Incidents like yesterday's erode support for the death penalty, so I don't think death penalty proponents are happy to see anything that can be used to promote the theory that executions can go wrong and inflict unnecessary pain anymore than they want to hear that an executed person may have been innocent. If a botched execution is erotica for anybody, it should be the opponents of the death penalty.

From the comments at Firedoglake:
One of the many key distinctions between those of us on the left VS the teabag extreme right is that we don’t support torturing people. Killing human beings is very terrible but I guess in this country as long as it isn’t an infant anything goes huh?

thanks, attaturk, what the hey? If we really wanted to save money we could just let ‘em starve. Give the right a thrill down their collective leg.
As long as it isn’t a fetus-American anything goes.

66 comments:

MayBee said...

So I take it Attaturk an proponents of abortion read the Gosnell transcripts for erotica?

Sorun said...

"McGuire was still for almost five minutes, then emitted a loud snort, as if snoring, and continued to make that sound over the next several minutes. He also soundlessly opened and shut his mouth several times as his stomach rose and fell."

Yeah, sounds like torture. You want to see more torture like this? Observe what goes on in a hospital operating room. People are being split open while still alive!

Mark O said...

Ann, tell us how you really feel about the machinery of death.

traditionalguy said...

In the words of Saint Hillary, " What difference at this point does it make?"

Rumor has it that the same Coptic posted a video on the internet that touched off the Ohio Street.

Sorun said...

"those of us on the left VS the teabag extreme right"

Let's balance this out a little better: "those of us on the dumb cunt left VS the teabag extreme right."

Lyssa said...

Incidents like yesterday's erode support for the death penalty, so I don't think death penalty proponents are happy to see anything that can be used to promote the theory that executions can go wrong and inflict unnecessary pain anymore than they want to hear that an executed person may have been innocent.

I could be completely just speaking for myself, but, while I would agree with you in a case where there was clear extreme pain/torturous action (I'm thinking of the execution in the Green Mile), I don't see this as eroding support. I'm what I would characterize as a very weak opponent - I can see both sides, and don't oppose it enough that it would impact my voting in any way.

But, IMO, this makes me more sympathetic to the pro-death penalty side - because it's taking something that, to me, doesn't seem like a big deal and making it out to be one. I'm not sympathetic to the idea that, if we're going to use the death penalty, it must be completely painless. That seems silly and evidences an unwarranted amount of concern for the heinous criminal. The side that pushes this as a reason to oppose the death penalty seems like a side with misplaced priorities, to me.

ALP said...

Would McGuire's daughter have a civil case for the state causing undue trauma to HER? While I can't shed a tear for this guy, his daughter should not have been subjected to that. She did choose to attend, correct, but could she argue she was expecting a less...dramatic death?

PatHMV said...

I don't take any joy in it, but I sure don't feel terribly bad that this monster suffered a bit as he died. I do agree with you that it's important for us to not want to needlessly torture or cause suffering, even to the worst, most despicable, evil people imaginable. But I'm not going to feel any sympathy toward the individual evil monster, should we incidentally cause some suffering as we execute him.

From a political standpoint, the death penalty opponents have done everything they possibly can to make it difficult if not impossible to use the relatively proven 3-drug cocktail for execution. There is nobody... nobody... who legitimately is fighting only to ensure that executions are humane, and would therefore support, for example, the medical and pharmaceutical industries to loosen their growing restrictions and prohibitions against participating in executions, if doing so would make the executions more humane.

Frankly, a bullet to the back of the head is about as pain-free as you can get, but it causes a mess, and so we are squeamish about it.

jacksonjay said...

The sweetest boy in our neighborhood had his head blown off with a shotgun blast. He was trying to defend his girlfriend. She was being raped by two convicts on parole. She also was killed with a shotgun blast to the head! Sixteen and seventeen years old! We didn't celebrate the execution, but we sure didn't mourn the loss! I guess it's different when it's personal!

BTW, he was Hispanic and parolees were white-trash!

My only hesitation lies with the soulless prosecutors who need a notch on their gun for a capital murder conviction!

lgv said...

I am not philosophically opposed to the death penalty, but find it much easier and cheaper to not execute people. I am just skeptical enough of our justice system to feel that we may be executing too many innocent people, always a risk with the death penalty.

I'd like to see the FDL commenter's columns of traits for themselves vs. teabaggers. I can see the teabagger column, "Loves to torture people to death"

Kim Jon Un's method was much faster and pain free when he dropped a bomb on the accused. Maybe that's the ticket.

oleh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Original Mike said...

"Frankly, a bullet to the back of the head is about as pain-free as you can get,"

That's what I was thinking.

I don't understand why the government can't even handle execution.

SteveR said...

I'll make it easy, stop killing babies and stop killing convicted murderers.

Gahrie said...

The Guillotine was invented as a form of painless execution. Bring them back.

Mark O said...

This is an ancient problem.

Ecclesiastes 8:11

Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.

Spiros Pappas said...

The death sentence is an outmoded form of punishment. It does nothing to deter criminals. The death sentence is expensive. Blah, blah, blah... But executing especially vile criminals does feel right. Shouldn't these people suffer? And the death sentence was around when the Constitution was drafted and that seems to be enough for Justice Scalia and his ilk. Others rely on the Bible for an extra-legal justification. For these folks the Bible trumps the Constitution. Yet, we know the Bible is full of nonsense. For example, men who refuse to impregnate their widowed sister-in-laws are condemned to death. But the Bible does have its good points. And, I think, the death sentence is one of them.

PatHMV said...

From a moral standpoint, there is certainly a large difference between choosing to needlessly cause suffering and accepting suffering that is an unavoidable component of some action that must or should be taken.

If there is a painless, humane, non-cruel method of execution, then by all means, let the folks at FDL suggest it, and acknowledge that they will accept it as humane, and we can all then settle on that. Then we can carry out the execution using what has been agreed is the most humane method available.

That won't happen, because the arguments about suffering by manner of execution are not truly made in good faith by the death penalty opponents. They believe that the death penalty itself is inhumane, and that there simply is no way to humanely kill someone. So there will NEVER be political agreement on the issue.

TosaGuy said...

While I am not in favor of the death penalty, I find that the amount of energy by those who get agitated about this single POS of a human is as disgusting as the same amount of energy those same people use defending the quiet slaughter of hundreds of thousands of inconvenient children.

Ann Althouse said...

"Machinery of death" is an allusion to Justice Blackmun's "From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death."

Freder Frederson said...

that if there are to be executions, they must be done humanely.

Yet you are an apologist for torture. What gives?

madAsHell said...

I see there's another news report that says the man suffered for 25 minutes!

Maybe the procedure was botched on purpose. "Look at the problem I created. We need to fix the problem by eliminating the death penalty."

SteveR said...

@Spiros The Bible has two parts as I'm sure you know.

Marshal said...

lgv said...
I am not philosophically opposed to the death penalty, but find it much easier and cheaper to not execute people.


I don't think this accurately reflects the financial realities. The costs are driven up by court appeals etc. But those appeals don't disappear if we stop executions or the death penalty. The anti DP activists simply change targets and file appeals on behalf of those serving life withut parole. The court and appeal costs are effectively sunk costs.

Given that most executions would result in less total cost by eliminating future housing and eventually medical costs executions reduce costs, not increase them.

EDH said...

Like I said, the method of execution should retain some element of horror, not for "enjoyment" of the crowd, but to make the process less benign.

Death penalty opponents should fear a "painless" execution method, not strive for it.

Each instance of the state taking a life should need to be justified against the horror (I'm not saying physical pain, but unvarnished violence) of the execution itself.

I think that's key democratic check on keeping executions rare.

SGT Ted said...

The comments show that leftwingers opposed to the DP are ignorant douche-bags, full of hate and bile and no cogent arguments to defend their positions.

But we already knew that.

SGT Ted said...

We could actually save far more money in prison costs by building tent city jails like Sheriff Joe in AZ and feeding them baloney sandwiches. The DP costs are a distraction.

SGT Ted said...

Leftist anti-DP clowns always pick the worst sorts to try and play the "pity" card.

Bob Ellison said...

Erotica? Projection.

SGT Ted said...

"One of the many key distinctions between those of us on the left VS the teabag extreme right is that we are simpletons and moral idiots, completely incapable of seriously considering opposing arguments in good faith."

FTFY

Bob R said...

Why are you bothering to dignify and empty and fallacious argument by observing that her ad hominem attack is poorly observed?

If you are just taking an opportunity to discuss the death penalty, why bring Attaturk into it? I feel like I've been defiled just by reading that post. The intellectual depth of pond scum.

I don't have principled moral objections to the death penalty, but I'm an opponent of the death penalty as I've seen it practiced here in Virginia where we seem to execute mostly murderers with bad lawyers. To me there are crimes for which death is the just sentence, but it has to be carried out in a just manner. That means uniformity, transparency, and dispassionate execution (e.g. no torture.) I don't know that the US justice system is capable of that.

tim maguire said...

This is a good example of why you cannot have an intelligent discussion with a liberal. It is inconceivable to them that a decent, caring, informed, intelligent, thoughtful person could, in good faith, disagree with them. On anything.

They'd much rather shout down or beat down the other side then discuss and persuade.

The liberal certainty that liberals, and only liberals, are intelligent and thoughtful has been devastating to the quality of liberal ideas and it gets worse every year as fewer and fewer liberals have any experience with thinking about issues from different perspectives.

RecChief said...

seems to me it would be faster with a good old fashioned firing squad. Cheaper too, even with the recent rise in the price of ammo.

tim in vermont said...

I generally start reading the comments from the bottom up, but I stopped on the first one, tim maguire's because I think he nails it.

Johathon Haidt's research, and he is a self avowed liberal, suggests that liberals, unlike conservatives, are simply unable to understand conservative POVs.

Their usual response to anything they disagree with is a rejection, followed by some type of rhetorical flourish. Haidt calls this "Reject first, ask rhetorical questions later!"

SJ said...

@Spiros,

the Law of Moses had multiple parts.

One was a moral law, with the abbreviated Big 10 that are very popular. (See Exodus chapter 20.)

Others were ceremonial, and focus on ritual purity. (Several dozen rules for against mixing types of cloth in clothes, inter-breeding horses and donkeys, etc.)

Others were Moses' handling of regular social practices. My understanding is that impregnating the widow of a deceased brother was (and maybe still is) practiced among certain communities in the Middle East. Moses mentioned them because they were part of the cultural environment.

However, I notice that Moses required a high standard of evidence for death penalty. Basically, multiple eye-witnesses.

And Moses also talked about inter-family and inter-clan vengeance. When a person was fleeing an 'avenger of blood', he could go to a City of Refuge and live there in safety.

The death penalty is a challenging topic. So is the application of Christian (or Jewish) precepts to secular civil society.

I think that a long, painful execution doesn't mean we should work towards abolition of the death penalty. However, I think it does mean we should maintain a high level of proof for capital punishment.

I also think we should go for simpler, faster methods of execution. Firing squads, lethal dose of morphine, guillotine, gallows...

Perhaps we should offer the condemned man a choice of options.

Sigivald said...

Firedoglake - and even moreso its commenters - is not particularly interesting except as a warning.

(I think EDH might be right - or at least have something to think about carefully - when he says Like I said, the method of execution should retain some element of horror, not for "enjoyment" of the crowd, but to make the process less benign.

... with the exception that I think that while perhaps "painless" might be too high a bar, there shouldn't be any deliberate or especially great physical suffering; certainly no more pain than any of us might voluntarily sit through at the dentist or the like.

But the horror aspect doesn't depend on pain, or any "unusual" aspect, or exacerbating the suffering of the condemned.

Simply removing the clinical facade and doing it more in the open, and in a businesslike manner might well make the horror of execution more apparent.

This would seem salutary in several ways:

A) Some small amount of deterrence, though probably not much.

B) Not letting anyone get too cozy and comfortable with it with the emotional distance involved. [I generally support the death penalty in principle, but think we need to be completely clear about what's happening when someone is killed by the State, rather than effectively doing it behind a curtain.]

The same reason he suggests opponents should not support "painless" (and "behind a curtain") execution is a reason supporters also shouldn't - to keep it reined in to the most severe and worthy crimes, under the most stringent evidentiary requirements.

[I would support a DNA evidence requirement for the death penalty for every crime but Treason - and that only because it's both so rare and Constitutionally enshrined with no such requirement... and because unlike the other remaining capital crimes it doesn't require significant bodily presence at a "scene of the crime".

You can't murder or rape someone without being present, practically speaking - movie-style "remote murder" setups being irrelevantly uncommon in the real world; you can commit treason without any significantly incriminating DNA evidence; the crime is more mental than physical.])

Matthew Sablan said...

I tend to agree. I would think proponents of the death penalty would HATE this story, because it hurts their case [or be ambivalent about it: "Oh, a terrible thing happened to someone the state deemed a terrible enough thing that the state would kill him for it? Let me get out the world's tiniest violin."] I'm conflicted over the death sentence because of that infinitesimal change "What if the state is WRONG," but I don't see how this incident makes anyone like it more.

EDH said...

Sigivald,

Below is the BBC program I linked to yesterday. There does appear to be a "painless" method of execution, and although promoted by people adverse (if not opposed) to the death penalty, I don't think a benign method of execution is a good thing.

The search for a 'humane' execution

Having ruled out all four methods, mainly because there was a risk of pain, Mr Portillo looked at an alternative, the deprivation of oxygen - hypoxia. It's commonly used in the killing of lab animals because it preserves their body tissue.

He discovered that nitrogen could do the job in about 15 seconds, and the prisoner would not feel pain - on the contrary he would feel euphoric, like being drunk.

Captain Ned said...

What's wrong with English-style weight-calculated-drop hanging? With a proper and skilled hangman it's bloody instantaneous.

heyboom said...

How do we even know he was suffering? It sure seems like the symptoms he displayed were the same as those with sleep apnea/snoring problems. The only one who can truly tell us whether he suffered is no longer with us, so what difference, at this point, does it make?

Okay, that last line was purposely snarky, but really, how do we know that wasn't a normal thing that he did while falling asleep?

traditionalguy said...

Cyanide capsules are quick and effective tools. They work by hypoxia by stopping the blood chemistry from absorbing Oxygen.

An anesthesia overdose would also be painless. Just go to sleep forever.

Fred Drinkwater said...

EDH: Hypoxia is not only painless, it is demonstrably painless. Ask any research pilot who has been tested for hypoxia tolerance. They never remember passing out.

Regarding the "erotic" comment: As has been said by others, this is just projection. It is like conversations I had back when Desert Storm was being contemplated. I was told "Revenge is bad. Retaliation is bad." My response was that it's not about either of those. It's more like police work (at least, how I think it should be): the goal is to remove the bad actor, or prevent him from acting again. It's about the future, not the past.

Michael K said...

The political left insisted that the gas chamber and the electric chair be stopped. Those were humane execution methods although the Guillotine was the most humane. Messy, though.

The lethal injection requires someone to start an IV on someone who probably has wrecked his veins with drugs and that alone is cruel and unusual. I completely agree with the AMA about involving physicians in execution.

Let's go back to the gas chamber.

paul a'barge said...

Read about the criminal and what he did.

Done?

Now, here's your answer: Yes.

Are you happy now?

Clyde said...

"Not caring" would be me, of course. Note that I'm not in favor of having the condemned suffer for suffering's sake. Some would call being pricked with a needle for lethal injection "suffering." I would not. I don't consider that to be "cruel and unusual punishment" any more than a gunshot to the heart or a quick drop and a snapped neck are. Those forms of execution were not devised to increase the criminal's suffering. They're not necessarily pleasant ways to die, but most of us probably will eventually die in even less pleasant ways than this man did. Quick unconsciousness and death in less than half an hour is pretty good compared to the lingering suffering that marks the final exit for most people.

Doug said...

What was his hurry?

Doug said...

SteveR said...
I'll make it easy, stop killing babies and stop killing convicted murderers.

Babies are innocent; convicted murderers are not.

damikesc said...

I can only imagine the FDL readers stroking one out at a baby's hand opening up from a clutch when a doctor's scissors pierce its skull to kill it with a late-term abortion.

n.n said...

Send them to an abortion clinic. They are well practiced in delivering lethal injections or dismembering bodies. In fact, there is nearly 100% mortality of the intended victims, as well as a minority of the contractors. Only abortion can claim that it terminates lives with greater than 100% efficiency.

That said, I am pro-choice. However, unlike the pro-abortion/choice position, I only support murder with cause and following due process, or in justified self-defense. I do not support murder for the sake of money, sex, ego, or personal convenience.

Fritz said...

It's not like there aren't a few hundred thousand vets in the US who know how to put a dog or cat down painlessly.

Valentine Smith said...

People who have not experienced a loved one being murdered have absolutely no conception of the ensuing devastation. Imagination will not provide it, nor empathy nor proximity, not even love.

We kill the killers for the living not for the dead.

Mark O said...

When I asked for Ann to tell us how she really felt about the "Machinery of death," I not wondering what the phrase meant or its source, those were givens. I was using the colloquial expression to suggest that she had firmly and in no uncertain terms already made her position clear.

Anthony said...

Sound more like agonal breaths that can occur for several minutes after death.

n.n said...
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n.n said...

For proponents of elective abortion it was a great form of erotica.

I think that as many people who support capital punishment of murderers view their execution, as people who support abortion of wholly innocent human lives view their execution.

Steven said...

People have been pointing out the advantages of nitrogen asphyxiation as an execution method for decades at this point. If opponents of the death penalty actually cared about suffering during execution, they could have rallied around demands to switch to the method long ago, and probably pushed it through.

But of course they haven't, because making executions painless would make the penalty harder to abolish.

SteveBrooklineMA said...

Was his death any less difficult than ours will be? What's death from cancer, congestive heart failure, pneumonia or kidney failure like in comparison?

If "natural causes" is no more pleasant, then the punishment seems to be only the foreshortening of life, and that is what it is supposed to be.

Beldar said...

I support the death penalty in appropriate cases, and I support its use in Texas, where I live.

But I would not like to see a return to the guillotine or the electric chair or the firing squad or the noose.

In acting as agents in the name of and on behalf of the people of a State, those carrying out the execution must be competent, but dignified.

Most capital murderers committed crimes that were literally spectacular, crimes that were dramatic, crimes that were cruel; oftentime those circumstances were indeed part of the "aggravating circumstances" which factfinders (typically a jury in a bifurcated post-guilty-verdict sentencing proceeding) have found to outweigh, beyond a reasonable doubt, any and all mitigating circumstances.

I am unpersuaded that the McGuire execution was so badly botched that he indeed suffered; my ex-wife would tell you that I have snorted and snored while unconscious and unfeeling of any pain practically every night of every year we slept together. But executions can, and should, be done in a manner that leaves no doubts on that score, and this one left at least some doubts.

Those doubts have been used by death penalty opponents to distract from the example of justified and lawful societal retribution that should have been the message to the public from this execution.

In short: What ought be remembered about Dennis McGuire is that he was a capital murderer whose crimes justified the maximum available penalty, the ending of his life, after he had received all legal process due to him under Ohio and federal statutory and constitutional law. To the extent this execution could have been done more professionally without leaving these doubts, it ought to have been, and I hope future executions in Ohio (and elsewhere) will be.

Beldar said...

It should go without saying -- and I wish Prof. Althouse had said in so many words -- that the suggestion that a "botched execution is erotica for anybody" is vile, tasteless, and deliberately provocative, an insult to decency undeserved by anyone, and an immature spasm of the self-indulgent and intellectually dishonest.

Sam L. said...

Well, if it makes them so happy to think that we do...well, we knew they are seriously messed up.

Sam L. said...

And then there's what he did to his victim... Nobody but us cares about her.

Terry said...

Mr. Attaturk has apparently never read the comments on his or her own site regarding Limbaugh, Palin, Bachmann, and of course the evil Koch brothers.

Jason said...

I think more liberals would climb aboard capital punishment if instead of lethal injection we just hacked the condemned persons' limbs off with a giant curette.

SayAahh said...

Where was Dr. Conrad Murray when we needed him?

rcocean said...

Again the absurdity of the DP opponents. Someone is shot full of painkillers, but DP opponents declare - based on no evidence - that the execution was painful!

If we gave the Criminal the equivalent of a bottle sleeping pills, the DP Opponents would still call it "torture".

rcocean said...
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rcocean said...

And again the insanity of liberals is highlighted:

Killing unborn babies - Ok
Executing serial Killers - Not OK