Saturday, 30 December 2006

Editorial: Executions in Florida

Editorial: Executions in Florida

While focus is on ‘how,’ we might also ask ‘why’

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Florida officials are reviewing execution procedures in the wake of a convicted murderer last week taking longer than usual - 34 minutes rather than the usual 15 or so - to die from lethal injection.

Witnesses and others say it appeared the killer, Angel Diaz, 55, of Miami, was upset and in pain.

While the remedial action would seem fundamental - refresher courses for intravenous technicians on how to get needles into blood vessels rather than surrounding tissue - even going near this volatile issue is sure to bring a much more widely-ranging review and inevitable debate.

Therefore, while officials are reviewing whether Florida’s lethal injection methods are “cruel and unusual punishment,” why not review capital punishment in its entirety?

Is it really a deterrent? That has always been dubious, especially in view of the fact that death row is populated by 374 killers and is putting them to death at the rate of three or four per year. Diaz committed his crime - not his sole murder - fully 27 years ago.

Does capital punishment save money? In view of the above, how could it?

While Florida’s procedural review is under way, it will lead to the conundrum of trying to find a nicer way to kill someone - even though one can argue that any killer of an innocent has earned like treatment. Yet, doing so would be unconstitutional.

Remember, it has been only six years since lethal injection replaced the electric chair after sparks flew from the heads of two occupants.

This is a slippery slope.

It may be time to address whether actually keeping criminals behind bars - more so than issuing attention-grabbing sentences for chemical castrations - is the way to go. Period.

Denying someone’s freedom is the ultimate punishment, is it not?

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