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On Sunday, the Atlanta Falcons got a ridiculous roughing-the-passer call against Tom Brady that even the Bucs quarterback himself joked about. In response, a four-year-old video from Kevin Hart on how to safely sack a quarterback started circulating again. In side-splitting satire, Hart plays a quarterback who demands that the defenders have two guys pick him up, set him down gently, place his head on a pillow, cover him with a blanket and read him a story as he goes to sleep.
Hilarious as Hart’s video was, it made me think that we’re seeing something similar transpire in the legal world. Over the last month, drama surrounded the execution of triple-murderer Alan Miller. When he was set to be executed, Miller’s attorneys moved to block the execution, claiming he elected to be executed by nitrogen hypoxia instead of lethal injection, but the Department of Corrections lost the paperwork. After that mess, the State then tried to execute him by lethal injection but had to call it off when they couldn’t find a vein. Now, the state is having to try again to execute him while a new lawsuit ensues.
Now, which is more absurd: To argue a quarterback should feel no pain when he’s sacked or to argue that a murderer should feel no pain when he dies?
Yet for many attorneys, the latter is a matter of supreme importance. Anti-death-penalty groups will fight tooth and nail to spare murderers from any pain. A very good friend of mine remarked a while ago, “The Eighth Amendment is becoming the right of murderers not to feel pain when they die.” That was an apt observation. Yet the Eighth Amendment does not guarantee that murderers are not entitled to discomfort when they are executed. Instead, it prohibits only capital punishments that are “cruel and unusual.”
Our desire to spare murderers pain when they die is, I think, an admirable notion. It provides an element of mercy, even as justice is served. But anti-death-penalty groups are making it harder and harder to carry out executions by lethal injections or other merciful means. In the meantime, murderers live decades and decades as their lawyers invent ways to flirt with frivolity as they bring more and more lawsuits.
The truth is, anti-death-penalty lawyers will always find problems with execution methods. For instance, if a state selects to execute someone from nitrogen hypoxia, these groups will argue that it’s inhumane because we don’t know how it works. If the state chooses lethal injection, they will claim the use of needles is painful and a person might not be asleep as they are executed. Thus, the fact is, we’ll never find a way that’s guaranteed to be painless enough to satisfy these people.
So I think Alabama should consider another solution that’s cheaper and takes away a lot of these complications: execution by firing squad.
While it may seem shocking to “progressive” minds, let me ask: If you accept the premise that someone is going to be executed, how does a well-trained firing squad not solve the objections that we see to lethal injections? Assuming the shots pierce the vital organs like the heart, the execution will be over as soon as the convict hears the word “fire.” It’s not drawn out like a lethal injection, nor is it experimental like nitrogen hypoxia. It’s quick, and if done properly, painless (or at least extremely brief).
Another aspect to consider is that it is more cost-effective than lethal injections. The states have had a difficult time acquiring the drugs needed for lethal injections. So even if frivolous litigation weren’t a factor, the drugs for the cocktail would still be expensive. Ammunition, on the other hand, is far cheaper.
If Alabama were to adopt this method, it would not be alone. Utah, South Carolina, Mississippi and Oklahoma have all authorized it, and many inmates have said they would prefer the firing squad to a botched lethal injection.
So the question is whether we want to continue to let anti-death-penalty groups abuse our attempts to show mercy through lethal injections and the like, or whether we want to try something that seems older but is still valid, quick, cheap and pretty painless. If we elect the former, then so be it. But don’t be surprised when the murderers of Alabama continue to insist that they be put down as gently as Kevin Hart did.
Matt Clark is the President of the Alabama Center for Law and Liberty, a conservative nonprofit law firm that fights for limited government, free markets, and strong families in the courts. His column appears every Friday in 1819 News. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com.
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