Thursday, September 17, 2009

If at first you don't succeed... try try again

Here are the salient facts. Mr. Romell Broom was convicted of rape and murder and sentenced to death in 1984. On Tuesday night the state of Ohio spent two hours trying kill Mr. Broom, and they failed. Mr. Broom was escorted into the execution chamber and strapped onto a gurney. After which, the next two hours were spent poking him with needles in an unsuccessful effort to find a suitable vein through which to administer an injection of lethal drugs. All the while Mr. Broom remained strapped to the gurney in some discomfort expecting to be killed. After the two hours of failed needle sticking the state of Ohio gave up for the night.

The plan to try to kill Mr. Broom again next week.

This is not the first time Ohio (or other states) have had difficulty killing someone by lethal injection. It is however the first time that the state actually gave up and plans to try again later on. It is also believed to be only the second time in modern American history where there will be a "do-over" execution. The only previous case being in 1946 when Willie Francis (aged 16 and African American) was strapped into the Louisiana electric chair for killing a pharmacist who had sexually molested him. The electric chair malfunctioned and delivered a severe but non-lethal shock. The boy could be heard screaming from under the leather hood in agony and yelling that he could not breathe. Eventually they too gave up. The chair was repaired and plans were quickly made to try again. However a lawyer took the case (pro-bono) and appealed, claiming that attempting to execute someone twice was cruel and unusual punishment. The United States Supreme Court disagreed in a 5-4 decision and the boy was again strapped into the chair in May of 1947. This time it worked.

I am sorry. But this is the United States of America, not medieval Spain. If you are going to have capital punishment it needs to be done right. You don't get to spend two hours trying to kill someone and then call it a night while planning to try again later. The Governor should have called a halt to this grotesque spectacle within the first 20 minutes at the latest. In Great Britain back before they abolished the death penalty, an execution was considered a failure if the condemned man spent more then 30 seconds on the trap door of the gallows before being hanged.

This is nothing less than barbarism.


Chris said...

If they were clearly torturing him, then I'd agree, but awaiting anxiously for the execution to occur because of technical difficulties does not meet the legal requirement of torture.

I don't want the death penalty, but a jury of his peers decided on this sentence (which was their right, de iure, to do) and as there is no proof of the man's innocence and he is truly guilty of his crime, then the will of that jury and the people of Ohio should be carried out.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Your position seems to hinge on the position that torture is an exclusively physical phenomenon. I do not agree. Telling someone you are gong to kill them at a given time date and place and taking the man from his cell walking him to his death and then playing doctor on him for two hours is absolutely torture by any even remotely moral standard.


The Archer of the Forest said...

While I don't have a huge issue with the death penalty if it is used to potentially save other lives, I start to personally have issues with it if the sentence of death is given in a vengeful, "die you pond scum!" kind of way. By that, I mean I can see the reason for the death penalty for criminals that are just so violent that it is virtually assured they will take another life in the future (be it a prison guard, another inmate, or in an escape attempt.) I don't support it for petty revenge motives, or retributive justice as they call it in law school.

All that having been said, I think this incident is over the line. I think, as in common law precedent, they should have one shot to execute the guy and if they botch it, end of line for the execution. Otherwise, you get a double jeopardy issue going, not to mention being punished twice for the same offense.

David said...

I might have felt that way once but now that I read the details of the crimes I have very little compassion for the criminals, any thing that happens to them is part of the bargain when they make the choice to commit their crime. I have never hated anyone in my life but when I read about the rape and torture of children or like yesterdays case (an 82 year old grandmother battling a painful cancer). I take comfort in the Book of Nahum, God will not at all acquit the wicked.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Two quick points. First as a human being with normal emotions I empathize with the desire to physically hurt people who do monstrous crimes. But this is a slippy slope that ends in a very dark place spiritually. Secondly we are not God.

Under the mercy,

John (Ad Orientem) said...

I am an abolitionist and staunchly pro-life both on the subject of abortion and capital punishment. That said you raise the one argument in favor of the DP which I think carries some weight. There are a very few individuals who are clearly predatorial by nature and who will pose a threat to others for as long as they are breathing whether in prison or out. I might be persuaded to support the death penalty for persons convicted of murder after being sentenced to life in prison as an act of societal self-defense.


Thomas said...

I wonder what Dostoevsky would say.

Anonymous said...

I have a hard time feeling any kind of pity for someone who took the time to rape and then kill a woman. So what if they have to do the execution twice? Do you think the vistim didn't suffer before her death? (I gotta work on my ability to forgive.)
Be that as it may, I am opposed to the death penalty for purely economic principles. It's so much more expensive to process the appeals than it is to leave the guy in prison for life without parole.

Christopher D. Hall said...

The legality and morality of the death penalty is a red herring. The issue is the barbarism (good word) of it's attempted implementation here. And it is...unless you've been desensitized by 24 and Tarantino flicks and torture-porn.

Lord have mercy.

Anonymous said...

Why did they give up using the rope?

Anonymous said...

OK, is there ANY form of execution that can't possibly considered "barbaric?" Yes, I understand, making someone wait an extended length of time to be killed does seem harsh, but it was just to get a needle in place to perform the lethal injection. Should we keep a gas chamber nearby as backup? We're trying to make a gentle death for people who often didn't give their victims the same opportunity.
Again, why not do away with the death penalty and give life without parole?

John (Ad Orientem) said...

As I have posted on several occasions, I am opposed to capital punishment.

Yours in ICXC

David said...

And just today I get a case where a kid had two felonies for non violent offences (broke into some garages) and then got popped for having Meth (an amount for personal use) and he is in prison now for life. I don't see the justice in that and knowing that he has been forced into a life of sodomy because of his crimes makes it worse. He was writing asking for mercy. I don't have a problem with capital punishment because though we can forgive someone for sin there are still consequences. Let our God ordained government (in the form of the Judicial branch) judge who should die for their crimes. I just don't think it is fairly (justly) applied which is why I am for abstaining from it until the system is fixed.

I have to pray a lot at work and my cubicle is filled with icons to help me keep my mind in the right place.

Reactionary said...

Prison in lieu of execution means that the criminal's victims must be coerced into subsidizing the criminal's room, board and medical care for the duration of his natural life.

Death row is not so much to hold the killers pending punishment as it is to protect them from retaliation by the victims' family and friends.

A just solution would be that those who are devoted to keeping human predators alive would foot the bill for those costs themselves, in addition to satisfying the civil debt to the victims.

Wordsmyth said...

I appreciate the fact that you are consistently pro-life, both in terms of abortion and capital punishment.