AZ Execution Raises Issue: Is Humane Capital Punishment Possible?


A third execution by lethal injection has gone awry in six months, renewing debate over whether there is a foolproof way for the government to kill condemned criminals humanely, and whether it’s even worth looking for one, says the Associated Press. Death penalty opponents say any killing is an unnecessarily cruel punishment. Many reject the idea that even hours of suffering by a criminal who caused great suffering to others should send government back to the drawing board. More than 1,200 inmates have been executed by lethal injection. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 ruled the method constitutional.

Thirty years ago, states and the federal government gave little thought to condemned inmates’ comfort. Most executioners used electric chairs; inmates were also hanged, put to death in the gas chamber or faced a firing squad. Now, calls are mounting to scrap lethal injection, even by those who support capital punishment like Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He believes a completely humane method of execution isn’t possible and favors firing squads. “If we as a society cannot stomach the splatter from an execution carried out by a firing squad, then we shouldn’t be carrying out executions at all,” Kozinski said last week in support of the Arizona execution.

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