Last night we watched the Green Mile, which starred Tom Hanks. I’m not particularly wanting to talk about the movie and its supernatural aspects; rather I want to talk about the Death Penalty in general.
This afternoon I watched Foreign Correspondent and its documentary on the death sentence in America. There the majority of executions are done through lethal injection. Supposedly its a painless and quick method of execution; yet according to testimony its often far from it. Many of the executions can take up to 35 – 40 minutes to complete and in one case it took 2 hours…during that sentence – they allowed the man to get up and go to the toilet after the first botched attempt and then tied him down again for the 2nd attempt.
Incredibly; the executioners don’t have to have any medical training and many have never been trained how to insert a needle / catheter into the vein of the person being executed. A doctor said that even for trained medical staff; it can be hard to find a vein and insert a needle properly – yet alone someone without training. The result of a botched execution means that the drugs are pumped into the flesh of the person, resulting in an agonising torturous death.
Getting back to the movie the Green Mile, there is a seen where the executioner deliberately botches the execution by electric chair. The execution becomes agonisingly torturous and the body catches fire. The visual effects of this are so horrifying that the witnesses get up and try and stampede with horror from the witness room. It’s easy to discount this as Holly Wood drama; yet according to an executioner who has executed people through both the electric chair and lethal injection – it was common for bodies to catch fire, during the electrocution process. Yet despite the horrible physical visual effect this has on the body during the process; its supposedly instant and better than what lethal injection is.
Under the American constitution; any execution has to be quick and relatively pain free and so there is a ban in America on executions taking place, while the Supreme Court hears a case on whether lethal injection is instant or not. The documentary had a doctor who said that the only instant execution method known to man was invented by the French and that is with the guillotine.
It appears that while most Americans believe in the death penalty – they want it to happen in a way that doesn’t disrupt their sensibilities. And therefore it doesn’t matter so much if a drug induced execution goes terribly wrong – what matters is that it appears to be going right.