Support the Guide on Patron!

Be sure to share your comments in the Class Participation section below -- that's the best part! Also, you can use the arrows on your keyboard to flip through pages quickly.

Use this link to buy the books, and a portion of the proceeds goes to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

Join the conversation!
There are now 22 comments... what are your thoughts?
  1. chris says

    odd fact: before they give you the lethal injection; the administering the poison swaps your arm with alcohol.

  2. LordGrey says

    Why odd? Did you ever get an infection? Painful. Death Penalty should be human, they don’t want you to suffer.[/end sarcasm]

  3. Icalasari says

    To be fair, they could, by some fluke, survive the poison. And then get an infection and die horrifically

    • It is actually not about that at all. The death penalty is a ritual. This has two purposes.

      The first is to make it psychologically easier on the team of executioners. By putting more steps in, with lots of people and a lot of automation (like flipping a switch and using pneumatic plungers in the lethal injection, instead of manual syringes), “responsibility” for the killing is diffused. That way, no one person has to shoulder the entire burden of killing another human being, and the automation creates a sort of psychological distance that helps people cope. Plus, the very fact that it is a stereotyped ritual comforts the people doing the killing as well.

      The second purpose is to say that “This person has done something that our society cannot accept, that deserves the ultimate punishment. However, they are still a human being, and we still respect their life.”

      That said, lethal injection is actually a really bad way to execute people because the anesthetic is unreliable and a lot of people who are executed in that way are fully conscious but also fully paralyzed when the lethal part of the cocktail takes effect. This is both horrifying and horrifically painful, and they cannot even scream… and sometimes that scream is all you have. It is not something we should inflict on our fellow human beings.

      Which brings my opposition to the death penalty into this, but that is a separate discussion, I think.

      • ? How can you tell that they’re in pain if they’re both paralyzed at the time and dead afterwards?

        • The easiest answer I can throw to you is brain activity. This is a rather presumptuous line of thought, but I would feel safe to assume that at one point we’ve (as a society) given a lethal injection while the person is hooked up to something that can monitor brain waves. We know pain can make certain nerve endings in the brain flare up, so if the numbing cocktail were to fail and not knock the person out, the machine collecting the information would probably go nuts from the reaction.

      • Agreed – if it were a reasonable penalty to exact then I’d suggest something like inert gas asphyxiation. So painless that most people who die from it (usually industrial accidents involving nitrogen gas in confined spaces) simply pass out without realizing what is happening.

        This is because the body can’t actually detect low oxygen levels, it detects heightened carbon dioxide levels in the blood – when you can still breathe that out normally but get no oxygen in then you expire from asphyxiation without warning.

        That said I totally disagree with the use of the death penalty – looking that the earlier bits about the expanding, unknowable range of laws and those passed by people other than elected officials as well as those laws which don’t require mens rea should tell us all we need to know about why giving the state that sort of power over life and death is a very bad idea. Also history.

        • Heck, if it was about being as painless as possible…

          The people in the French Revolution had the right idea there.

          The reason it’s not practiced now: It doesn’t look humane.

            • This is a common misconception. There is an immediate and catastrophic loss of blood pressure: blood flows out the jugular so fast that the person loses consciousness almost instantaneously. Ever stand up too fast and almost faint? Multiply that effect by several orders of magnitude.

          • I’m generally against the death penalty, but I’m almost more passionate about how strongly I oppose the practice of lethal injection specifically. Maybe it’s because of my personal experiences with psychiatric abuses as an in-patient, but I’d much, much rather be simply beaten or strangled to death.

            I want to call the process hideously inhumane, but I know it’s personal bias. I can’t *understand* how a person would ever prefer being strapped to a table and put into a state of paralysis by a group of doctors and machines whose ritual is designed specifically to prevent any one of them from carrying any of the weight of taking your life over a simple, visceral destruction- though I understand that they do seem to.

            More to the point, I really don’t believe there’s any good justification for this process being carried out by any means but a couple carefully placed (not randomly scattered) bullets. We are entirely capable of doing this near instantly and near painlessly, and while to my mind the idea of making torture a taboo but keeping the death penalty is itself inconsistent, we should at least be consistent to the principle we claim to uphold.

            Where do we get the idea that someone tasked with ending a life should be given every possible out from having to feel the weight of it?

            • The executioner doesn’t decide who lives and who dies; why should they carry the weight for the state’s decision?

      • And one final point – if the prisoner gets clemency or a reprieve at the last minute, it would be really shitty if they died of infection.

  4. Sebastian says

    Alcohol makes the veins stand out more. Thus the needle will easier get into the vein.

  5. Dhamon says

    Ok, this is super controversial, but in my opinion people spend way too much time on death row. I’m not saying the sentence should be carried out immediately, but we don’t need the convict draining money from the government for 20 years. Give them a definite amount of time to come up with appeals, as many attempts as they can fit into that time period but part of the sentencing needs to be a definite date of execution. Even though appeals are probably the biggest drain the convict has on the government coffers, it is their right to pursue them.

    • There’s a very, very good reason for that. We want to give the accused every possible chance to make their case for a less harsh punishment. In the United States, and in most modern countries, punishing an innocent is seen as one of the worst things that the court can do, it’s horrifying. And KILLING an innocent? Unspeakable. They get all those appeals and all that time because we want to be really fucking sure that it’s the right person.

  6. KW says

    I’ve heard of the Innocence Project, but I wonder what percentage of convictions get overthrown. Are numbers available anywhere?

  7. stu says

    So is this a lethal injection or crucifixion?

Leave a Reply to stu Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.

Support the Guide on Patron!