16 January 2014

Torture and the 8th amendment

Most of my qualms with the death penalty have to do with the expense of using it as an extravagance rather than a necessary penalty for even for the most heinous crimes, as this appears to be. Others would be the high probability that we erred in determining guilt and that I'm not persuaded it is a deterrent.

But taking 10-20 minutes to kill someone sounds like an agonizing experience of suffering not just for the convicted criminal, something perhaps some people would be unpersuaded is a problem, but for the people associated with the execution itself who must afflict it as penalty and witness the results. Torture is not merely an affliction upon the tortured, but also the torturer.

This is little different. There are good reasons why torture and cruelty to prisoners is morally wrong and legally wrong, on top of questions of its efficacy. And a very powerful reason is because of what it does to the people who use it, or what it allows of the people who want to use it in the first place. Watching someone die in a horrible way, no matter what that person did before we encountered them, is an unpleasant experience to have to afflict and bear witness to.

I would expect a strong challenge to the 8th amendment that would hold up that this was in fact cruel and unusual and that the state (of Ohio) will at least have to use some other method of injection or some other means of imposing sentences of death.
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