ARIZONA

Arizona recently “refurbished” its gas chamber built in 1949 which has not been used since 1999. The plan is to execute prisoners with cyanide and other gases. This is the same gas combination (Zyklon B) used by the Nazis to murder more than one million men, women, and children during the Holocaust. Is this worthy of a democracy?

Lethal injection is the death of choice for Arizona prisons and the state has paid over $1.5 million on lethal injection drugs despite its Department of Corrections facing a budget crisis. Executions have been on hold in the state since the lethal injection execution of Joseph Wood was badly botched in 2014. Now the state plans to offer a choice . . . gas chamber or lethal injection.

Arizona last used its gas chamber for the execution of Walter LeGrand in 1999. At that time The Tucson Citizen reported “agonizing choking and gasping” during the execution. It took LeGrand eighteen minutes to die.

Frank Atwood and Clarence Dixon are the next people to be executed in Arizona and while their lawyers attempt to raise legal arguments the two men have a choice to contemplate. Which way will they choose to die if their appeals fail? In my opinion, both are cruel and unusual punishments for us to inflict upon other human beings.

Source: Death Penalty Information Center

TEXAS

The state of Texas put Quintin Jones to death on May 19, 2021, without any media witnesses present to observe the execution. Since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld its death penalty statute in 1976 Texas has put to death 571 individuals. This is the first time there were no media witnesses. 

Officials blamed the problem on “miscommunication” by inexperienced members of the execution team. Some of the new personnel who had not been a part of an execution before simply forgot to summon the media into the waiting/witnessing area they said. My question is, why were inexperienced people in charge of an execution? What else might they have forgotten to do? No wonder we read about botched and painful experiences of those being executed!

According to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), Texas law authorizes five media witnesses to observe each execution specifying that one witness must be from the Associated Press (AP). Later AP coverage of the event highlighted the importance of media witnesses in revealing problems such as have been seen in AL, AZ, OK, and OH where inmates were seen gasping for breath for several minutes or writhing in pain. Per DPIC Executive Director, Robert Dunham, “If the state with the most experience in executing prisoners lacks the competence to carry out this most basic execution function, what does that tell us about what else in the execution process states and the federal government can’t be trusted to perform properly?”

Qintin Jones

Photo by DPIC

Quintin Jones’ case had already attracted national attention because his was a resumption of state executions which had been on hold during the pandemic, but also because the victim’s family had requested clemency. That and a petition with more than 150,000 signatures didn’t convince Gov. Greg Abbott to grant clemency to Mr. Jones. 

Death Penalty Cost

Have you ever considered what it costs to carry out an execution? Have you given thought to the fact that you and I pay for our fellow citizens to be executed? That’s right, it is tax payer money which makes it possible to take the life of a convicted prisoner.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons spent nearly $4.7 million dollars on the five executions carried in July and August 2020. With an average annual federal incarceration cost of $37,449.00, the burden to U.S. taxpayers for each execution exceeded the price tag of incarcerating a federal prisoner for 25 years.

Source: ACLU

The Death Penalty

In July of 2020, President Trump reactivated capital punishment for federal crimes. This declaration was in spite of a lack of public support for the death penalty. There had not been a federal execution for 17 years, but he made up for lost time by executing more than three times as many as the federal government had put to death in the previous six decades.. Thirteen people have been executed in these few months, three during the lame duck period of his administration. For the first time in history the US government executed more citizens than did all states combined.

Twenty-two states do not have the death penalty. They are: Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin, as well as the District of Columbia.

An average of 3.5 prisoners on death-row have been proved innocent. Since 1976 more than 171 people have been exonerated. Those statistics alone should be enough to stop the death penalty in this country. The number of executions since 1976 is 1,531. How many of those people were innocent?

For more information on this subject see the website for the Death Penalty Information Center at: https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/state-and-federal-info/state-by-state

Thorough statistics are available at DPIC Fact Sheet at: https://documents.deathpenaltyinfo.org/pdf/FactSheet.pdf

Photos by Pixabay

According to the ACLU which obtained documentation through the Freedom of Information Act, the first two months that the death penalty was re-instituted the expenses were over $4.7 million. This included all expenses for staff brought in from other federal prisons so they could learn how to carry out lethal injection. I was surprised to learn that the federal government pays all expenses for victims’ families to travel by air to witness the execution. In addition their hotels and food are covered as well as any expenses while they are in town. Other expenses include security for protestors who gather at the time of the execution.

“The Second Grave”

“The Second Grave” by Carl Wedekind

Attorney Wedekind writes about violence in Kentucky’s history beginning in 1742 and through the end of the twentieth century. His purpose is to demonstrate that as the state has transitioned from the days of lynchings, duels and family feuds abolishing capital punishment should naturally follow.

The reasons most often given in favor of the death penalty are:

  1. Executions will deter murder by others in the future
  2. Society’s sense of justice demands executions
  3. Victim’s families loss and grief requires executions for justice and closure
  4. It is a waste of taxpayers’ money to keep a murderer locked up for life with free room and board
  5. Rehabilitation of a murderer is unlikely or impossible

The author addresses each of these and gives both examples and statistics to disprove each. He is for the abolishment of capital punishment and presents a strong case.

Because this book is dated (copyright 1999) I started to not review it here, but after more thought I changed my mind. It is still relevant to the discussion of capital punishment and the history of Kentucky is similar to that of other states. The truths apply universally and over time.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in the subject of capital punishment whether for or against. It will also be of interest to any Kentuckian.