Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Inconsequential Methods of Execution.

A sobering post from San Quentin, CA by KTVU.

But first an aside: How we kill is never inconsequential. My interest in death row and executions clearly (to me) coincides with my interest in end of life care. The state sanctions killing, whether we're declared brain dead and reside in a hospice facility in Florida, or have a PEG tube inserted when we are 6 months from death in an elder home, or whether we've killed a woman thirty years ago. I despise liberal arguments for consistency -- against inconsistency and hypocrisy -- deeply. Yet, our society tends to get flummoxed over the issues of death in any of these situations and to operate from bifurcated trajectories given the "quality" of life that's being contemplated. I've never lost a loved one to violent, death-row-worthy crime but I have sat at the bedside of someone I loved who was dying. If killing is killing, as "pro-life" and disability activists say, where is their work to make the state accountable for death-row executions? If judgement is God's, and sin is his to determine, why shouldn't humane execution for a civilized people be something more than "inconsequential"? And if we're so certain of the exactitude of the judicial process, how can we ignore the exonerations that DNA testing has brought to light? If we don't see our judicial system as class and race biased, why are most prisoners black and poor young men? Why are the headline-grabbing persistent vegetative state patients, like Terri Schiavo and Nancy Cruzen, all young white females? We smirk at Kevorkian biopics, yet exercise his same certainty when asserting our own convictions of right and wrong when ending lives.

And why don't we desperately want these answers?

California's new death chamber was completed one year ago, but the facility has never been used due to an ongoing battle over the methods the state would use to execute inmates.

Although 702 inmates sit on death row, executions are holding even. The last man scheduled to die was Michael Morales for the 1981 rape and murder of 17-year-old Terri Mitchell.

Two hours before Morales was to die by lethal injection, a federal judge effectively halted his execution and all those to follow until the state changed its execution protocols.

That was four years ago.

"The four years has been awful for the crime victims," said Nina Salarno Ashford of Crime Victim's United.

Crime Victims United is an organization that supports the resumption of executions in California.

"To see that something inconsequential has delayed’s just inherently unfair," said Ashford.

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