FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Death Penalty is Getting Crueler

For years, most of the U.S. has been changing death penalty laws in the direction of phasing it out, or at least applying it in a more humane way.

In 2002, the Supreme Court ruled that people with intellectual disabilities cannot be executed. In 2005, another ruling held that the U.S. cannot execute anyone for committing a crime as a minor.  Twenty states have banned capital punishment.

The most recent to ban it are Washington in 2018, Delaware in 2016, Maryland in 2013, Connecticut in 2012, and Illinois in 2011.

Unfortunately, our newly right wing-dominated Supreme Court recently made a move in the opposite direction.

The Eighth Amendment bans cruel and unusual punishment. Capital punishment has been becoming more unusual over the past decade or so. Now, with the court’s help, it’s becoming more cruel.

The state of Missouri is set to execute Russell Becklew, a man who suffers from a rare condition that will make death by lethal injection unbearably painful. He’s requested to be executed by a different method that will be quicker.

Established precedent was that inmates contesting their method of execution must provide an alternative that would cause less pain. Becklew has.

In the two previous cases that established this precedent, the court ruled that states should try to minimize pain when carrying out executions. In a new decision, Trump-appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch has just accepted an interpretation of this — promoted earlier by Justice Clarence Thomas — that it only means that states should not “intentionally” make executions more painful than necessary.

Why?

Honestly, why? If the prisoner is going to be executed anyway, and we are no longer debating his or her innocence, or the fairness in how we apply the death penalty, or whether it can ever be just to kill another human, what interest is there for the state in making the execution more painful?

Russell Bucklew has requested to be executed via a less painful method, and the court has just ruled against him. He will suffer more as a result. How does this benefit the American people in any way?

Humans make mistakes, and sometimes we execute the innocent. Even when the person executed is guilty, courts give harsher sentences to more marginalized peoples than to more privileged people for committing the same crime. The wealthy can hire top notch lawyers whereas the poor receive public defenders. People of color are disproportionately sentenced to death.

Given that the death penalty is applied imperfectly, even when lawyers, judge, and juries all do their best to make it as fair as possible, we should aim to move in the direction of less cruelty, not more.

More articles by:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
July 18, 2019
Timothy M. Gill
Bernie Sanders, Anti-Imperialism and Venezuela
W. T. Whitney
Cuba and a New Generation of Leaders Respond to U.S. Anti-People War
Jonathan Cook
How the Goliath of the Jerusalem Settler Movement Persuaded the World It’s Really David
William Hartung
Merger Mania: the Military-Industrial Complex on Steroids
John G. Russell
The Devolution Will Be Televised: Our Body-cam President
Judith Deutsch
Psychology Stories: Children
Dean Baker
The Coal Industry is Not a Major Employer
Binoy Kampmark
Corporate Gangster: Adani’s Pursuit of Scientists
Thomas Knapp
National Polls Don’t Mean Much. Here’s Why.
Thomas Mountain
Africans Solving African Problems; Bringing Peace to Sudan
Ann Garrison
History Is Happening: WikiLeaks, the Global Fourth Estate
Elliot Sperber
Don’t Open the Door 
July 17, 2019
Manuel García, Jr.
Ye Cannot Swerve Me: Moby-Dick and Climate Change
Charles Pierson
Sofi’s Choice
Gary Leupp
Epstein, Jane Doe, and Trump
Rebecca Gordon
I Had an Abortion and Now I’m Not Ashamed
Peter Bolton
In the US and Brazil, Two Trends Underline the Creeping Fascism of Both Governments
Michael Kidder
“Go Back Where You Came From:” an Episode From Canada
Steve Early - Rand Wilson
How Big Strike 30 Years Ago Aided Fight for Single Payer
John W. Whitehead
Sexual Predators in the Power Elite
Michael Welton
Teach the Children Well: the Unrealized Vision In Teaching and Learning in the Residential Schools
Khury Petersen-Smith
Iran’s Not the Aggressor, the US Is
Russell Mokhiber
Kip Sullivan and Dr. Matthew Hahn on How Value Based Programs Are Undermining Medicare and Single Payer
George Ochenski
A Fearless and Free Press is Essential to Our Democracy
Lawrence Wittner
Billionaires and American Politics
Dean Baker
Cheap Shots at the Trump Economy
July 16, 2019
Conn Hallinan
The World Needs a Water Treaty
Kenneth Surin
Britain Grovels: the Betrayal of the British Ambassador
Christopher Ketcham
This Land Was Your Land
Gary Leupp
What Right Has Britain to Seize an Iranian Tanker Off Spain?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Democratic Virtues in Electing a President
Thomas Knapp
Free Speech Just isn’t That Complicated
Binoy Kampmark
The Resigning Ambassador
Howard Lisnoff
Everybody Must Get Stoned
Nicky Reid
Nukes For Peace?
Matt Johnson
The United States of Overreaction
Cesar Chelala
Children’s Trafficking and Exploitation is a Persistent, Dreary Phenomenon
Martin Billheimer
Sylvan Shock Theater
July 15, 2019
David Altheide
The Fear Party
Roger Harris
UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Bachelet’s Gift to the US: Justifying Regime Change in Venezuela
John Feffer
Pyongyang on the Potomac
Vincent Kelley
Jeffrey Epstein and the Collapse of Europe
Robert Fisk
Trump’s Hissy-Fit Over Darroch Will Blow a Chill Wind Across Britain’s Embassies in the Middle East
Binoy Kampmark
Juggling with the Authoritarians: Donald Trump’s Diplomatic Fake Book
Dean Baker
The June Jobs Report and the State of the Economy
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail