Friday, 25 July 2014

There is no such thing as 'humane' judicial murder

America's attempts to make judicial killing as inoffensive as having a pet rabbit 'put to sleep' by a vet are the latest in a long line of scientific innovations intended to make official murder more 'humane'. The problem with most of them is that they are designed to offer emotional comfort for the executioners and witnesses rather than a painless and stress-minimised death for the victims. Blood is a no-no, as are severed body parts, so the guillotine and machine gun are out. As is detonating a block of C4 strapped to the victim's head. Calculated-drop hangings require a level of skills alien to US State prisons and are easily botched, leaving the victim either slowly strangled or with the head pulled off. Gas and electrocution are also flawed and uncertain processes. 

It would have been quicker and kinder to Joseph Wood this week for a Jihadist to have sawed-off his head with a blunt breadknife than to have subjected him to prolonged death by caustic drip. Whichever way you do it, there is really no such thing as 'humane' judicial murder.


DeeDee99 said...

If people can voluntarily take themselves off to Dignitas to take a lethal cocktail in order to have a dignified and pain-free death, it surely shouldn't be beyond the American authorities to come up with something similar for prisoners on death row.

A tube down the nose could deliver it.

Raedwald said...

DeeDee - Dignitas use pentobarbital, which usually takes half an hour to kill an elderly / infirm / compliant person; plus getting a tube down the throat of an unwilling young, healthy victim would not be easy.

English Pensioner said...

Personally, I favour the guillotine. Its one of the few things that the French have invented which really does its job in an efficient manner, and unlike hanging, needs no skill to carry out!

Sceptical Steve said...

The only real justification for judicial execution is that at least there's some transparency about it.
I'm sick to death of hearing that some violent criminal over here has been sentenced to x life sentences, only to find that he's then walked out of an open prison only a few years later.
Our justice system makes me weep....

opsimath said...

I agree and disagree, E.P. While the guillotine is an efficient killing machine, the French were not its inventors, according to some sources.

Although the guillotine was invented in the late 18th century, similar beheading machines have a longer history. The Halifax Gibbet was a wooden structure of two wooden uprights, capped by a horizontal beam, of a total height of 4.5 metres (15 ft). The blade was an axe head weighing 3.5 kg (7.7 lb), attached to the bottom of a massive wooden block that slid up and down in grooves in the uprights. This device was mounted on a large square platform 1.25 metres (4 ft) high. It is not known when the Halifax Gibbet was first used; the first recorded execution in Halifax dates from 1280, but that execution may have been by sword, axe, or the gibbet. The machine remained in use until Oliver Cromwell forbade capital punishment for petty theft. It was used for the last time, for the execution of two criminals on a single day, on 30 April 1650.



Anonymous said...

I've been under the surgeons knife only twice in my life, not including gas in the dentists chair.

On each occasion the anaesthetist was able to put me unconscious before I could count from ten to zero.

In the case of a criminal, once unconscious just pump in the poison.

What is all the fuss about?

Anonymous said...

Cyanide pills seemed to work for some of the Nazis, viz Himmler & Goering.

Anonymous said...


nisakiman said...

What I find odd is that the Americans blame this debacle on not being able to get the lethal drugs they want because the European manufacturers won't sell them drugs for executions. This is America FFS! They have a massive pharmaceutical industry, so why do they have such problems procuring the chemicals they want? Can't they just make them?

For the record, I totally disagree with state sanctioned murder. The death penalty is barbaric, does not act as a deterrent, and is too final. How many people have been put to death, only to have been exonerated of the crime after the event?

John M said...

Bloody hell use a firing squad. It's not bloody complicated!

The idea of firing squad is that no one soldier will know if his bullet did the final deed or not.

As usual politicians and the judiciary turn something essentially very simple into a complex fricking mess.

DeeDee99 said...


The British authorities managed to get tubes down the throats of young, healthy and unwilling Suffragettes.

No doubt they were held down - but it is possible.

In order to get a tube down the throat of an unwilling, healthy and strong man, all they have to do is administer a sedative.

I take your point that the drug used in Dignitas takes a while to take effect .... but again, there must be quicker options.

I'm not necessarily supporting the American regime of capital punishment; simply pointing out that there ARE ways to achieve a relatively humane execution.

Budgie said...

Nisakiman said: "The death penalty is barbaric, does not act as a deterrent, and is too final."

The death penalty is no more barbaric than the murderer is (was), and often much less so.

As for it not being a deterrent that is absurd: there has been no controlled experiments to determine this for obvious reasons. A politician once said to me that no more children were abducted and murdered nowadays than in the past. That is true, but failed to take account of differences in behaviour from one generation to the next. I had to explain to him that parents did not allow their children out on their own anymore, unlike when I was a child and roamed free.

I agree it is too final. The state seems singularly inept in finding and punishing those that are actually the culprits (sometimes politicians and bankers for example) yet is willing to shoot dead an innocent foreign electrician, a drunk in a cowboy suit, or a man carrying a table leg, as well as convicting convenient scapegoats.

Anonymous said...

Further to the 'no controlled experiment' don't make the mistake of comparing the US and UK as there are radically different cultural and racial mixes, and very different historical experiences especially over the past two centuries.

My enthusiasm for capital punishment to be applied in those tabloid headline-grabbing cases is tempered by a deep distrust of the Police, the CPS and the Judiciary!

G. Tingey said...

What do you do WHEN you get it wrong & execute someone who was actually NOT guilty of the crime of which they were accused?
That is the ultimate argument against capital punishment.
Remember Timothy Evans
And others, too .....

Anonymous said...

You have whole armies trained to kill without argument.
Don't be so dainty.

G. Tingey said...

Anonymous @ 02.25

Anonymous said...

Tingey - in this country we kill hundreds of thousands of unborn babies. We have an 'envy of the world' NHS and a geriatric care system that kills off the elderly and infirm in horrible conditions. Why are you so squeamish?

As for Timothy Evans - sure, a miscarriage of justice. Derek Bentley - the miscarriage of justice was that Christopher Craig didn't hang too. The problem isn't so much the death penalty but the miscarriage of justice which is almost as life destroying if the victim of it spends decades in jail. The victim of a murder, though, is just dead.
The failure to hang the murderers of Drummer Rigby is also a miscarriage of justice.

Sebastian Weetabix said...

I've always found it odd that most Lefties wholeheartedly approve of killing unborn babies and bumping off the old and the disabled but when faced with a psychopathic sadistic child murderer like Brady or Hindley suddenly discover their inner Dalai Lama. For the sake of moral and intellectual consistency you'd think they'd either save them all or get rid of them all.

As to Tingey's comment, well you can't do anything, can you? (except perhaps mutter oh dear, what a shame, never mind.) But since the murder rate has roughly doubled since the abolition of the death penalty, perhaps the greater good is served by bumping 'em off. The odd miscarriage weighed against a lower murder rate and no recidivists has something to commend it, does it not? Perhaps we could have a trade; if we can have the death penalty back the leftie death cult can have their 'dignity in dying' claptrap. We right wing loonies can execute murderers and the lefties can bump off granny to save on the costs of the old people's home. Sounds fair to me.

Anonymous said...

"most Lefties wholeheartedly approve of killing unborn babies and bumping off the old and the disabled but when faced with a psychopathic sadistic child murderer like Brady or Hindley suddenly discover their inner Dalai Lama."


"and the lefties can bump off granny to save on the costs of the old people's home."

Not before bilking granny during her working life for the pretence that she will be looked after in her old age.

G. Tingey said...

"We" kill many unborn babies -according to the lying & murderous RC church, yes.
But then, invisible undetectable BigSlyFairy kills even more.
Abortion has ALWAYS been more likely than live birth.
The majority of fertilisations either fail to implant, ot "drop out" naturally, within 10 days.
Yet, according to the lying doctrine of the church those drop-outs are real human beings.
Inconsistent? Yes?
Lying trash by the church?
Of course.
Now piss right off.

LYING AGAIN by calling me a "lefty" I see.
My original question was: "What do you do when you find that you have murdered someone (by "excuting" them) when they didn't do the murder in the first place?
Or even, that there wasn't a murder ...
Oops doesn't even begin to cover it.

Oh "doubling the murder rate"
In which case, countries with capital punishment will have the lowest murder rates, won't they?
Err ... umm ... perhaps not so.
Try again, please.

Sebastian Weetabix said...

Ooh, touchy, Tingey! Must have hit a nerve. Anyway, i can't resist, so let's have you spluttering into your cornflakes. (Or perhaps you will channel your inner Dalai Lama; God works in mysterious ways, after all.)

You never can maintain a civil tone of disagreement, can you? Common lefty trait, that, an inability to respect an opponents point of view, due to conflating one's own opinions with moral rectitude.

1. Didn't call you a lefty. Read the post. I didn't even mention you until the second paragraph, and then only to address the question you asked. But since you bring it up I do find it curious that you evince all the fashionable left wing prejudices yet insist you are a "one nation Tory". You actually sound like a mongrel cross of Antonio Gramsci and Ian Paisley; but Dr. Paisley was quite sound on abortion, despite his anti-Catholic bigotry, so perhaps you are unclassifiable.

2. It's a simple question: when does life begin? If one thinks/believes "at fertilisation" then abortion for reasons of convenience is simply morally wrong. If you can't see the difference between intervening to kill a healthy baby and spontaneous abortion by the body.... well, you are beyond the reach of reason. If you think life begins not at conception but some later date, which is a point of view, then when is that? When it becomes a blastocyst? When the foetus develops a central nervous system and can feel pain, at 20 weeks gestation? Or do you subscribe to pagan Roman philosophy and think exposing infants is OK too? After all, they can't sustain independent life, can they?

3. doubling the murder rate: in 1965 the murder rate in the UK was 6.8 per million population. It's now closer to 15. That's simply a fact. Since your common or garden murderer now gets out after about 8-10 years on average I would argue the deterrent effect has been lessened somewhat.

4. " what do you do," etc. I already answered this one, but let's have another go, eh? The answer is "nothing". Because they're dead, see? Collateral damage. The price society pays in return for lower homicide rates is the occasional fuck-up. I argue that 300 murders/year instead of 800 is worth the occasional mistake, or as you would no doubt call it, "judicial murder". I'm sure you don't like my views but don't pretend I didn't address your fucking silly question. Even the combined powers of Gareth Pierce and The Grauniad don't bring back the dead.

Roy Whiting and Hindley and Brady and the rest of the subhuman scum that we currently lock up should have had the long drop. A life for a life (or rather many lives). Or justice, as we used to call it. Personally I don't see how keeping someone locked up for 60 years is particularly humane. I assume we can agree that they shouldn't be let out.

Were you a teacher, Tingey? Poor reading comprehension skills and furious rage at being contradicted are common symptons. I picture you as being like Brian Glover in Kes, unfulfilled in adult life and taking it out on the poor little bastards forced to listen to your witless ravings.

G. Tingey said...

1. Yes you did, by implication, at least:
"I've always found it odd that most Lefties " & then started the next paragraph with my name - I saw you palm that card!
2. No simple answer - however, IF it begins at fertilisation, THEN BigSkyFairy is the biggest murderer
I think the cut-off point should be before pain can be felt.
3. Agreed, but that's not the point.
The point, as in 4 is that this is not acceptable.
Your breezy claim of "collateral damage" is morally repugnant to anyone with any sensibility, I would have thought.
Your CLAIM of a lower homicide rate, which I don't buy.
Which countries have capital punishment, & are at least partly similar to us? (Hence not China) - the USA.
And their overall murder rate is ...

Agreed re Hindley & Brady etc ... but, the principle remains ... it's better that one guilty person goes free than an innocent one goes to jail.
It's better to lock murderers up, rather than murder an innocent victim, wrongly accused.

Very half-perceptive of you.
Except that the subjects I taught required careful non-verbal comprehension & understanding of "systems".
My professional qualifications are in Physics & Engineering & I taught general science , Physics & a little maths .....
But, I didn't do it for long.
The appallingly soggy lack-of-thinking, often wrongly portrayed as "socialism" (though a lot were socialists) got right up my nose.

Sebastian Weetabix said...

I used to think it was 'better that 10 guilty men go free than one innocent man should be jailed'.

I was cured by jury service (I've done it a few times over the years). The first impression you get is the amazing waste and inefficiency of the court service and the legal profession ('I'm afraid the papers have been mislaid, my lord', 'sorry, the witnesses have been allowed home', 'well, it's already 11:30, we might as well stop for lunch. Reconvene at 1:30')

The second impression you get is that the police are generally a bit thick but the accused are even thicker. Intelligent criminals simply do not get caught, as far as I can see. The final impression is this: you see a procession of obviously guilty scum being let off through minor technical legal points due to the incompetence of lawyers and uselessness of the system.

Professional men
They have no cares
Whatever happens
They get theirs

Unlike you I don't find honest mistakes - for that is what a miscarriage of justice is - morally repugnant. I do find a dysfunctional system that provides no justice, offers no deterrent, inspires no fear in criminals and floods us with bullshit stats to "prove" crime is down (who reports petty crime these days?) to be exactly that.

BTW: I lived in the USA for a few years. It is a peculiarity of their society that the areas with the highest gun ownership and retention of the death penalty tend to have the lowest crime - unless you live in black or hispanic inner city areas like South Central LA with a serious gang problem (North London is going the same way.) Why that is so is quite complex, but given that anyone who gives evidence against a drug cartel is likely to see his entire family murdered - pour encourager les autres - probably has something to do with it.

In the leafy suburbs you are quite literally safer than in the UK. When homeowners pack heat, are prepared to use it, and society's view is 'tough shit: you don't wanna get shot, stay out of people's property' petty crime is not a great career.