It is time to ban the death penalty

Arkansas execution spree sparks national debate on capital punishment.

independent.co.uk

independent.co.uk

Justin Yun, Writer

The execution of the fourth inmate by Arkansas and the state’s attempt in carrying out eight executions by lethal injection in 11 days has rekindled a national debate on the morality of the death penalty. The United States has a long history of capital punishment, and lethal injection should be classified — like hanging, electrocution and the firing squad — as an archaic and inhumane way to kill a human being. In light of what has been described as Arkansas’ “tradition of assembly-line killing” by The Intercept, the death penalty should be banned based on the simple premise that there is no moral or simple way to kill another human being.

Far from perfection

“I was watching him breathe heavily and arch his back,” described Jacob Rosenberg, a reporter for the Arkansas Times, as he witnessed the recent execution of Marcel Williams — one of the latest inmates to be killed by the state of Arkansas. According to The Guardian, “Williams, 46, was sent to death row for the 1994 rape and killing of 22-year-old Stacy Errickson, whom he kidnapped from a gas station.”

Williams committed an unspeakable and atrocious crime any functioning democracy would consider punishable with imprisonment and long detainment away from society. Rosenberg describes in the aforementioned article what seemed to be a far from perfect execution of Williams. If the death penalty was premised on the intent of inflicting physical pain, then states should bring back the execution methods used by medieval societies hundreds of years ago. However, this is not the purpose of the death penalty. There is no systematic way to kill another human being — regardless of the crime they have committed — in a humane way.

Alarming to everyone

Critics consider the latest execution spree by Arkansas to be indicative of the state rushing to execute death row inmates before the supply of Midazolam — a sedative used to in the execution process — expires near the end of the month. This intent to execute as many inmates on death row as possible before the expiration of the drug should be alarming to anyone — not just lawyers and members of watchdog organizations. The execution of Williams should at least provide a modicum of proof that lethal injection should be considered a “cruel and unusual punishment” due to its history of failure in successfully ending an individual’s life in a peaceful way. In 2014, the execution of an Oklahoma inmate named Clayton Lockett garnered national attention when he died from a heart attack after the drugs failed to work in a proper way.

“If it’s not right to torture someone for torture, abuse someone for abuse, rape someone for rape, then how can we think we can kill someone for killing?” Bryan Stevenson asked in an interview with Brigid Delaney for The Guardian. Stevenson is a lawyer, author, academic and the director of the Equal Justice Initiative — a nonprofit organization whose website describes itself as an entity “committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, to challenging racial and economic injustice, and to protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.” Stevenson has made an appearance on TedX and is considered by many as the leading lawyer on issues concerning the death penalty and mass incarceration. In an interview with NPR, Stevenson explains how he and his staff have won cases for inmates on death row who have been wrongly convicted. Stevenson and his staff have won 115 cases for wrongly convicted inmates.

Patrick Crain, a former Arkansas death row chief, explains in an article by The Intercept on how his staff “came close to killing an innocent man.” There needs to be major systematic change in how our justice system convicts individuals, including a way to end the death penalty.

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