Saturday, April 19, 2008

How's it hanging?

The United States Supreme Court ruled the other day that a method of execution using injections of three chemicals is constitutional. There have been questions whether the first of these drugs renders the condemned sufficiently insensitive to pain and so avoids any possibility that the punishment is "cruel and unusual". The ruling does not surprise me in the least. Perhaps the truly significant moment in the report I heard was that during oral arguments in another death penalty case in which one of the anti death penalty lawyers talked about certain historical barbarities and the unfortunate frequency of judicial killings in the past, Antonin Scalia exclaimed, gleefully according to the reporter, "you mean the way it used to be?" We'll get back to Scalia in a moment, but first let's examine an interview that followed the Court decision. It was with an official from the state of Georgia which has, if I remember correctly, a hundred and seven inmates on death row. She said that the ruling meant that Georgia could now resume its execution schedule and begin dealing with "the backlog". After that beautifully expressed and deeply humane response she responded to the interviewer's next question about when exactly the "process" would begin. Well, she said, she was not certain. There are certain rules and protocols that have to be examined and a certain rigor employed in light of all the challenges to the death penalty, just so Georgia does not fall foul of that awkward little thing, The Constitution (my interpretation, of course, she said much more politic and evasive things). Now, here's my favorite moment: she told the interviewer that there would not be a sudden surge of executions - "you know, four a week or something" because "our culture just wouldn't tolerate that sort of thing". So, in case you are wondering about our "culture" (don't get me started on that one), it essentially can be boiled down to this, according to one state official in Georgia: when killing people, make sure you space them out. You see, that's the problem with the Chinese. They kill people almost daily and that's what makes them, basically, barbarians. If they killed people. oh, say, twice a month, well,that would constitute a proper "culture". Of course then they'd have a terrible backlog, but surely that's a small price to pay for becoming truly civilized

Now, Scalia. A member of Opus Dei. A devout, fulminating, proseletizing Catholic. An apoplectic reactionary, an Old School supporter of the most deeply conservative form of Catholicism, including the absolute submission of the Faithful to the teachings and rulings of the Pope. The Catholic Church, in all its teachings, in all its pronouncements, and at every opportunity, is absolutely and officially against the death penalty in any form and at any time.

1 comment:

Jean V in Seattle said...

John, my dear, you don't expect a man of Scalia's stature to be morally coherent, do you? Consistency is for the little people. It's simply too restrictive for a capricious creature like Scalia.

Another great blog. Thanks!