The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia


June 21, 2014

States 3 for 3 in new era of successful executions

From The Back Porch column

Yee haw! America is back in the successful killing category. Three executions went off this week without a hitch.

A great irony exists in this civilized world in which state authorities go to so much trouble to kill people the correct way. Why, shoot, in the old days they would just — well — shoot the rapscallions who ran afoul of the code of the hills, the code of the West or the code of wherever the resident rapscallions hung their hats before they were hanged.

Nowadays, it’s a bona fide state secret what states are putting in the veins of the worst among us. Nobody wants to ’fess up to what the Grim Reaper cooks in the cauldron to put people to sleep with the fishes.

It’s also amazing the terminology that’s used to talk about civilized deaths. Many of the reports of this week’s slam dunk of death included the word “botched” to refer to the writhing and moaning of that poor Oklahoma slob who went out the hard way.

How can an execution be botched if the person dies when the goal of an execution is to kill the person? The Washington Post and NPR ought to use words such as “irregular,” “anomaly” or “unusual.” It wasn’t the prettiest package that’s ever been wrapped, but it wasn’t botched. He’s just as dead as if the execution had gone according to plan.

People get all kinds of heebie-jeebies when talk of capital punishment comes up. Some think humans are too civilized for it. Others think Christians who support the death penalty aren’t really Christians because God is a big, loving Santa Claus, not Dr. Death. And others still think it’s inhumane.

Yep, the systemized, state-sanctioned killing of human beings does bring on the willies. But capital punishment is a lot more than that, which is why it’s such a controversial subject.

What is the definition of civilized? The Charleston Daily Mail reported this week that a mother cat carried each of her six kittens to safety from a burning building only to be overcome by smoke inhalation. Mother kitty died; she gave all she had for her babies. A lot of humans don’t exhibit that degree of fidelity to their offspring.

Some Christians believe God is a holy, righteous God who cannot accept sin in any form. Because humans are imperfect, God provided a way through his son so humans can be sinless in his sight if the humans choose. A loving God can still love but expect humans to live with the consequences of their actions.

Does anyone remember Karla Faye Tucker? She was the pretty, sincere Texas death-row inmate who became a Christian in prison. By all accounts, she was a changed person who lived her life to improve others’. Yet President George W. Bush, whose name is a political epithet these days, refused to interfere when Tucker’s execution date arrived. While saying he hoped she was sincere and he would pray for her, he noted that her conversion did not erase the consequences of her drug-induced murder rampage when she and friends used a pickax to kill two people in their bed.

The inhumanity issue is tough. Murderers on death row are usually tame, not at all like the people they were when they committed their crimes. That’s why they are sympathetic and why Americans have a hard time consenting to their deaths.

George inmate Marcus Wellons was executed this week following his conviction of the rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl. That’s not very humane treatment for the 15-year-old girl.

Clayton Lockett, the poor Oklahoman whose execution was “botched” last month, was convicted of murdering Stephanie Nieman, who had graduated from high school two weeks before her death. According to the Tulsa World, Lockett and accomplices robbed the home where Stephanie had stopped with a friend. Nieman was killed because she wouldn’t give up the keys to her Chevy truck or agree to not tell police. Nieman watched the men dig her own grave before they shot her and threw her into it for burial, reportedly while she was still alive.

That wasn’t very humane, either.

People who oppose the death penalty and want to live safely in their gated communities need to get a reality check. The law of the jungle is kill or be killed, and the jungle never took a humanity class.

— Young is a freelance Register-Herald columnist. E-mail:

© Nerissa Young 2014

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