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United States Crime Government

How To Execute People In the 21st Century 1081

HughPickens.com writes Matt Ford writes in The Atlantic that thanks to a European Union embargo on the export of key drugs, and the refusal of major pharmaceutical companies to sell them the nation's predominant method of execution is increasingly hard to perform. With lethal injection's future uncertain, some states are turning to previously discarded methods. The Utah legislature just approved a bill to reintroduce firing squads for executions, Alabama's House of Representatives voted to authorize the electric chair if new drugs couldn't be found, and after last years botched injection, Oklahoma legislators are mulling the gas chamber.

The driving force behind the creation and abandonment of execution methods is the constant search for a humane means of taking a human life. Arizona, for example, abandoned hangings after a noose accidentally decapitated a condemned woman in 1930. Execution is also prone to problems as witnesses routinely report that, when the switch is thrown, the condemned prisoner "cringes," "leaps," and "fights the straps with amazing strength." The hands turn red, then white, and the cords of the neck stand out like steel bands. The prisoner's limbs, fingers, toes, and face are severely contorted. The force of the electrical current is so powerful that the prisoner's eyeballs sometimes pop out and "rest on [his] cheeks." The physical effects of the deadly hydrogen cyanide in the gas chamber are coma, seizures and cardiac arrest but the time lag has previously proved a problem. According to Ford one reason lethal injection enjoyed such tremendous popularity was that it strongly resembled a medical procedure, thereby projecting our preconceived notions about modern medicine—its competence, its efficacy, and its reliability—onto the capital-punishment system. "As states revert to earlier methods of execution—techniques once abandoned as backward and flawed—they run the risk that the death penalty itself will be seen in the same terms."
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How To Execute People In the 21st Century

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  • HOWTO (Score:5, Insightful)

    by facetube ( 4023065 ) on Saturday March 14, 2015 @08:12PM (#49258261)
    • Re:HOWTO (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Saturday March 14, 2015 @08:32PM (#49258407)

      Really simple. And that nobody is willing to supply the Propofol should tell you that some nation is stuck in the deep and dark past on this issue (and apparently has some problems with manufacturing some medical drugs...). The world has moved on and realized that there are no acceptable excuses to execute anybody in a modern society, it is time to join it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Why are you americans so squeamish about executing people? Surely you want to just watch them suffer, take a life for a life etc etc?

      Just make sure it's barbaric, if you're executing somebody, you should see what that means? At least ISIS is honest about their barbarity, take a note from them.

      In the mean time the rest of us in the civilised world will continue to look on with horror and disgust.

      • Re: HOWTO (Score:4, Interesting)

        by slasher999 ( 513533 ) on Saturday March 14, 2015 @10:52PM (#49259193)

        The death penalty is not vengeance in the least. It is a possible penalty for very serious crimes. Generally it's only reserved for the worst of the worst. It's not something taken lightly, but it is one alternative. This is very different from ISIS kidnapping innocent people, touring them and finally publically murdering them. Don't think ISIS is "honest" or have any other redeeming qualities. They are the Nazis of this century and are deserving of being wiped from this planet as quickly as possible.

    • no, the answer is nitrus oxide. its painless and you pretty much feel great, and fall asleep, and dont wake up

      the other question is does it really matter? if they committed a crime* big enough to command death, does it really matter how?

      * - take out cases where people were found innocent after the fact. I am generally talking about clear cut cases with witnesses that hold up, maybe even video evidence. - example of people who deserved it, timothy mcveigh and the boston bomber when his time comes
    • Re:HOWTO (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 14, 2015 @09:03PM (#49258613)


      It isn't enough to say don't. You need to tell the lovers of death WHY it's a stupid idea.

      Here goes.

      1. It's pointless. It's not an effective deterrent, at least not for all people, otherwise you'd never need to use it.
      2. It's prohibitively expensive. Most of the costs involve legal wrangling, after all, but that's still part of the cost.
      3. It is irreversible. If you figure out you got the wrong person, you can't fix it.
      4. Even if you have the right person, it's not actually punishing HIM (or her,) since death is the ultimate fate of all living organisms.
      The person you would execute is receiving the exact same thing your own beloved child is doomed to get the day you conceive him or her.
      If that's a punishment then why, oh why, would a person EVER become a parent knowing that the child would be condemned to such a horrible fate?
      What did any (and indeed, EVERY) innocent child do to deserve that?
      5. If you think you're getting the person being executed an earlier start on his/her eternal punishment, consider that eternity is the exact same duration,
      regardless of when it starts.
      6. In as much as there IS no eternal punishment, in the place many people believe their imaginary friend consigns "bad" people when they die, as it turns out.
      Magic-evil-fire-land is just as imaginary as the men and women in red body-suits with pitchforks. Even were the PLACE real, why would someone who rebelled against "god" punish people for DEFYING him? Wouldn't "the devil" reward people rather, making Hell a cool, hip, happening place to spend eternity, rather than a boring, sordid "heaven" where all you get to do is tell "god" what an awesome, amazing, wonderful creature he is? Also, remember he created everything, including evil... so yeah, there are so many logic holes in the narrative to which Magic-evil-fire-land belongs that it's not worth the time to continue to examine this point. The place is fake, the punishment nonsensical and its occupants are imaginary.
      7. The people you punish are the friends and family of the people you kill, who often had nothing to do with the crime, even when you DO have the right person.
      8. If you DO have the right person, consider the very real possibility that he or she is performing suicide-by-court-system and that you are playing right into a would-be suicides hands, by allowing, condoning, or supporting this stupid, counterproductive, barbaric practice.
      9. The executioner is morally and ethically no better than the person being executed; the "state" saying it's okay to kill the person being executed, which is often for killing someone, cannot be done without it saying, PERFORCE, that SOME killing is okay. The state sanctions the exact thing, ironically, that it's punishing. You'd have to hire someone to kill the executioner after the deed is done if you're really interested in justice.
      10. The idea that it's a punishment of the guilty having been thoroughly debunked, now let's briefly examine vengeance. You don't get, as an individual, or as a society, revenge on or against a person you've killed, or else, the act of conceiving a child is VENGEANCE exacted upon that child as by conceiving him or her, again, you're condemning an innocent person to DIE. In fact, the individual concerned is ESCAPING justice, since the DEAD don't suffer AFTER they're dead. Executing a criminal is like asking people for tickets to prove they've paid for something after that something is done, and if a person turns out not to have a ticket, ejecting the individual from the thing, when he or she was GOING TO LEAVE ANYWAYS!
      11. It's a cowardly act to execute someone using someone else's hand. If you're going to have the death penalty, the person passing sentence should be obliged to execute the person, and in as grueling and gruesome a fashion as possible. Maybe if the judge had to take the condemned's life with HIS OR HER OWN

    • Re:HOWTO (Score:4, Insightful)

      by beelsebob ( 529313 ) on Saturday March 14, 2015 @09:03PM (#49258617)

      Yep, came here to say this. The solution is to realise that we're in the 21st century, and we no longer need any of this "eye for an eye" nonsense.

      It's more expensive than life imprisonment, it's more likely to have catastrophic consequences if a miscarriage of justice occurs, and it's less of a punishment.

      • It's more expensive than life imprisonment, it's more likely to have catastrophic consequences if a miscarriage of justice occurs, and it's less of a punishment.

        If the prospect of life imprisonment is more of a punishment than death why do most of the prisoners on death row fight tooth and nail and tie up the appeals process to get out of the death penalty?

    • Re:HOWTO (Score:5, Interesting)

      by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Saturday March 14, 2015 @09:14PM (#49258687) Homepage Journal

      Most humane way to execute someone:
      Bullet (or bolt gun) to the head, followed by organ donation to more worthy human beings. This may be ugly, but it is very humane.

      Least humane way to execute someone:
      Put them in a box till they die, funded by money that could have been spent saving lives.

      I'm opposed to the death penalty, but my opposition starts at the most common method -- putting them in a box until they die because someone was too afraid of the automatic appeals process required for a faster death penalty.

  • by Charcharodon ( 611187 ) on Saturday March 14, 2015 @08:13PM (#49258265)
    Nothing like a little "Pay Per View" to cover the costs of justice.
    • by theshowmecanuck ( 703852 ) on Saturday March 14, 2015 @10:42PM (#49259133) Journal

      Execution is not a deterrent because they take place behind walls and virtually no one sees them. Out of sight, out of mind. If they are going to execute people, then do it in the public square in a way that shocks people (hanging, guillotine, etc). Couple that with executing prosecutors and cops who through malice or complete incompetence cause an innocent person to be executed. Like as not, the latter will reduce to an absolute minimum the former. And when an execution does happen, people will be shown the consequences if they murder in no uncertain terms.

      If you don't do it in public, then don't execute people. Without being a real deterrent it serves no purpose and is more merciful than keeping them in a cage (but for fuck's sake, stop giving them TVs and other shit that makes the time go fast).

  • What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Saturday March 14, 2015 @08:13PM (#49258267) Homepage Journal
    Just get a New York City cop to choke them. That seems very effective. Problem solved. You're welcome!

    I mean, you could just not execute people. You know, seeing as how so many innocent people have been sent to death by racist juries or prosecutors extracting confessions from them with unethical measures. And how it costs a lot more to execute someone than it does to keep them in prison for the rest of their life. But that's just crazy talk! We can't have a vengeance-based legal system with thinking like that!

  • by DanDD ( 1857066 ) on Saturday March 14, 2015 @08:16PM (#49258289)

    Please stop killing people in the name of justice. Just stop.

  • job description? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by k6mfw ( 1182893 ) on Saturday March 14, 2015 @08:18PM (#49258297)
    I wonder what kind of occupation of how and why someone would pursue a career in designing execution methods.
  • by Jeremi ( 14640 ) on Saturday March 14, 2015 @08:18PM (#49258299) Homepage

    It's a bit odd that there isn't more consideration given to the idea of death by nitrogen asphyxiation [slate.com]. It seems to be a fairly foolproof and painless method of execution, if we must have the death penalty.

    • This. Several states still have old disused gas chambers that should be easy to retrofit for nitrogen asphyxiation. I'm not a fan of the death penalty because even today we have innocent people being jailed and/or executed, but if we must do it, this is probably the best and most humane method.

    • by demonlapin ( 527802 ) on Saturday March 14, 2015 @08:55PM (#49258577) Homepage Journal
      The problem with nitrogen asphyxiation is the optics suck. One critical insight into the three-drug death penalty method was the paralytic. As neurons die, they "wave goodbye" by triggering muscle contractions. So even though they're utterly unconscious, they will still have seizure-like activity if you don't paralyze them.
      • by Drishmung ( 458368 ) on Saturday March 14, 2015 @11:51PM (#49259455)
        That is very much the heart of it.

        Consider at one extreme, public decapitation. However, only 'barbaric' cultures do this. So, the quest in the USA in particular was for a more 'humane' method, one that, incidentally, does not traumatise the executioner or the witnesses too much. (And that's a thing to consider. You probably don't want the sort of person who really, really enjoys their job to be an executioner in the first place [the normal solution to this is to appoint a condemned prisoner, but that has other problems]); and you probably don't want to send your humane executioner insane simply from doing their job either).

        And so, the quest for 'humane' methods that don't traumatise anyone, which historically got side-tracked by the shiny of technology (poison gas, electricity).

        Lethal injection goes to extreme lengths to pretend that all is sweetness and unicorns: victim is put gently to sleep, then paralyzed (so on-lookers don't freak out---of course if prisoner is not unconscious, this is the stuff of nightmares), then heart is stopped (apparently agonising if not unconscious). So. Many. Ways. To. Go. Wrong.

        And it's all down to the pretence that the state can kill someone 'humanely'. Without upsetting anyone, not even the condemned.

    • by Twinbee ( 767046 ) on Saturday March 14, 2015 @09:56PM (#49258955) Homepage
      You're absolutely right. We HAVE found a humane way, and nitrogen (or argon) asphyxiation is not just just painless, but also maybe even pleasant. Here is the proof (you only need to view the first 5 mins, but the whole 10 are fascinating):

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

      I think the death penalty's quite barbaric, but if we must have it, then that is the way to go.
  • Its strange (Score:3, Interesting)

    by execthis ( 537150 ) on Saturday March 14, 2015 @08:18PM (#49258301)

    Considering that assisted suicide techniques are well-researched and well-documented, it seems very strange that they wouldn't simply use any of the preferred, pain-free methods such as the exit bag. What gives?

  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Saturday March 14, 2015 @08:19PM (#49258309)

    Give them the choice of suicide or ______________. (fill in the blank)

    I'll start: Using /. beta on an old smartphone while waiting in line at the DMV.

  • by Jarik C-Bol ( 894741 ) on Saturday March 14, 2015 @08:20PM (#49258319)
    So here's how you do it. You build a chair, adjustable to the height of the condemned. The condemned is seated, strapped in and sedated. A headrest is positioned very precisely at the back of the skull. The headrest contains a captured bolt projectile system, and is precisely aligned with the Medulla Oblongata. This captured bolt system is wired to a bank of seven switches, where one is randomly connected. The "firing squad" stands prepared, and at the allotted time, each member of the squad flips their switch. The bolt destroys the Medulla Oblongata, causing instant death.
    No messy chemicals, no "everyone in the firing squad missed on purpose" no accidental decapitations, no trashing around under electrical shock, just a thin rod removing the part of the brain that makes humans function.
  • Why not hypoxia? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ZorinLynx ( 31751 ) on Saturday March 14, 2015 @08:23PM (#49258331) Homepage

    With hypoxia (lack of oxygen), you just fall asleep and, if continued long enough, die painlessly.

    Hypoxia is easy to implement, just replace the air in the room with 100% nitrogen. There will be no suffocation reflex, since that requires carbon dioxide. It is a completely painless way to die.

  • by MrKevvy ( 85565 ) on Saturday March 14, 2015 @08:23PM (#49258335)

    * Our atmosphere is around 80% nitrogen so usage can't be restricted, very inexpensive to purify, doesn't consume resources needed elsewhere (ie medically)
    * Painless and humane: the victim just goes to sleep. They may become giddy beforehand
    * No risk of leaks or poisoning as long as the areas around the chamber are open to the outside air... the chamber needs only be moderately airtight

    Ideally this would be the time to reflect that perhaps, after numerous proven instances where innocent people were put to death or narrowly avoided it with a death-row exoneration, that a 21st century civilized society should abandon this barbaric practice, but if saner heads don't prevail at least there is this ideal method of it.

  • by eyepeepackets ( 33477 ) on Saturday March 14, 2015 @08:24PM (#49258353)

    The guillotine was originally adopted by the French as an evolved and humane method for taking a human life and, considering what we've seen with alternative methods this past century, I have to agree: It's fast, relatively painless (quite possibly completely painless when one considers the shock reaction of the body,) somewhat messy, but has great symbolic and even theatrical value. Granted, the upper classes world-wide hate this device with a fearful passion, but that is actually part of its value.

    • The guillotine .. It's fast, relatively painless

      So several seconds of awareness and sensation (see here [howstuffworks.com]; SFW as it discusses the physiology) is perfectly acceptable to you?

      I don't agree that the State murdering a person when the State has deemed murder illegal to be anything other than hypocrisy.

  • by Kekke ( 236130 ) on Saturday March 14, 2015 @08:26PM (#49258359) Journal

    If you guys attach one with duct tape to every missile you shoot at foreign country, your death rows would be empty in a few days ....
    Win/Win ?

  • by gotan ( 60103 ) on Saturday March 14, 2015 @08:27PM (#49258369) Homepage

    Head ripping off is considered a most humane, swift and painless method:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfsMMVgIToA [youtube.com]

  • There is no way. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chris Katko ( 2923353 ) on Saturday March 14, 2015 @08:28PM (#49258379)
    It has been proven (as if it needed to be) that we've executed an innocent person.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/nat... [theatlantic.com]

    Any idea that you can "humanely" murder someone is a damned lie.

    Moreover, remember the Central Park jogger case? Where they rounded up five minority scapegoats and said they brutally raped a pretty white girl? Everyone, including Donald Trump himself, was rallying to execute these kids. Now, it turns out they were all innocent. They spent 15 years of their lives in jail and they were LUCKY because they weren't executed. They had all of their primes taken away from them but they still get to live what's left.

    The death penalty is for revenge, not justice. And the ones who pay the price when we're wrong isn't the prosecutors. Life in jail means innocent people have a chance. Death penalty removes that chance and replaces it with a false sense of faith in the system.
  • Or how about (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DiSKiLLeR ( 17651 ) on Saturday March 14, 2015 @08:33PM (#49258411) Homepage Journal

    Or how about we stop this barbaric practice? It's 2015. We're not living in the fucking middle ages anymore.

    What the fuck is wrong with Americans, I swear.

  • by lorinc ( 2470890 ) on Saturday March 14, 2015 @09:39PM (#49258829) Homepage Journal

    constant search for a humane means of taking a human life

    There is no such thing. Either you accept the fact that by killing someone you leaving the humane domain, or you renounce killing people.

    I'd prefer americans to stop that archaic and illogical practice.

  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Saturday March 14, 2015 @09:46PM (#49258883) Journal

    Every example I've seen of someone executed "who was innocent" has been scum otherwise. Certainly, they may have been innocent of that specific crime, but they've generally been worthless wastes of human flesh causing misery to the people around them for their entire lives.

    And even IF they were perfectly innocent people, so what, really? This world is infested with 7 billion people. They're not precious snowflakes, they're utterly, completely, expendable. We cheerfully will cut out healthy tissue to excise a tumor; if we occasionally sweep up a non-scum person, really, so what as long as the bulk of bad guys are correctly executed.

    Oh, and to the original point? Gravity's free. Put them in a cement 100' silo with a stair to the top. Either they starve to death, or jump off the top. Either way, it's toxin-free, zero-cost, energy-efficient, and afterwards crows get to eat, so it's green too.

  • by Chess_the_cat ( 653159 ) on Saturday March 14, 2015 @10:01PM (#49258983) Homepage
    The USA is the only G7 country that still executes people and they don't care if it's a woman, a juvenile, or someone with autism. The only other countries that execute people with the gusto of the USA are China, Iran, and North Korea. Instead of trying to come up with new methods the US should be phasing out this barbaric practice.
  • by duck_rifted ( 3480715 ) on Saturday March 14, 2015 @10:09PM (#49259015)
    1. It gets the deranged out of our society.
    2. Their life to that point is effectively over.
    3. We avoid all the problems with execution.
    4. Considering that the only countries that would take them would probably enslave them, they'll die anyway.
  • by obarthelemy ( 160321 ) on Saturday March 14, 2015 @10:47PM (#49259165)

    Executions are by no means done the most humane way, nor is anyone attempting to do them the most humane way. They're done the most telegenic way, so as not to bother the audience: Having your butt stuffed with cotton *before* being executed is not humane, but hey, that way no shit comes out when they kill you, and you die clean and smelling great !
    To me, humane (if there is a "humane" way to kill people) would be quick and painless. Drugs or electrocution aren't. I'm fairly sure guillotine is the most reliably quick and painless way, but the blood ! You almost feel like you just killed someone !

  • by Tony Isaac ( 1301187 ) on Saturday March 14, 2015 @11:21PM (#49259349) Homepage

    There are a lot of posts here and elsewhere saying that we should "just stop," that capital punishment is immoral and should be abolished forever.

    Is ANY kind of punishment moral and justified?

    Is it logical that the severity of the punishment should be proportional to the offense?

    How do you decide what is the most severe form of punishment that is moral and justified, if punishment of any kind is moral and justified?

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