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Burke and Battle At Cape St. George Admiral Arleigh


"When the fumes enveloped Don's head he took a quick
breath. A few seconds later he again looked in my
direction. His face was red and contorted as if he were
attempting to fight through tremendous pain. His mouth was
pursed shut and his jaw was clenched tight. Don then look
several more quick gulps of the fumes. At this point Don's
body started convulsing violently....His face and body
fumed a deep red and the veins in his temple and neck began
to bulge until I thought they might explode. After about a
minute Don's face leaned partially forward, but he was
still conscious. Every few seconds he continued to gulp in.
He was shuddering uncontrollably and his body was racked
with spasms. His head continued to snap back. His hands
were clenched. After several more manuals, the most violent
of the convulsions subsided. At this time the muscles along
Don's left arm and back began twitching in a wavelike
motion under his skin. Spittle drooled from his mouth. Don
did not st! op moving for approximately eight minutes, and
after that he continued to twitch and jerk for another
minute. Approximately two minutes later, we were told by a
prison official that the execution was complete. Don
Harding took ten minutes and thirty one seconds to die."
(Gomez v. U.S. District Court, 112 S.Ct. 1652) Since before
the day of Caesar, to the present, governments have used
the death penalty as a crutch to try to circumvent the
issue of violent crimes and their retribution. In any
government system, the death penalty is a sentence that can
be handed to an individual who is wrongly accused because
no matter how blind the law says it is, discrimination and
basic human emotions still play a role to the jurors. The
many forms of executions in American is overwhelming; none
of which are human, as seen with Don Harding's death in the
gas chamber. Public opinion and the Cost of execution shows
that Americans would prefer a alternative form of
retribution and the cost! of execution is far more
expensive then life sentences. The case against the death
is strong, and this paper will further strengthen the
argument. However, we must never forget that the victims
are what we are fighting for and we must ask ourselves, "Is
death to death what we want in this country, or shall we
stand strong and look for an alternative form of
retribution." Unlike all other criminal punishments, the
death penalty is irrevocable. A french Chamber of Deputies
once said, "I shall ask for the abolition of the punishment
of death until I have the infallibility of human judgment
demonstrated to me."(Ancel, p55) Although some proponents
of capital punishment would argue that the cause warrants
the occasional execution of innocent people, most of the
population believes that it is unlikely for innocent
citizens to be executed. However, evidence and case studies
have proven that, in this country, since the 1900's, there
are on the average four wrongly accused people per year
that are sentenced to death. "In 1980, a black high school
janitor, Clarence Bradley, and his white co-worker found
the body of a missing 15-year-old white schoolgirl.
Interrogated by police, they were told, "One of you two is
going to hang for this.: Looking at Bradley, the officer
said, "Since your the nigger, you're elected." In this case
of rush to judgment! , Bradley was tried, convicted, and
sentenced to death. The circumstantial evidence against him
was thin, other leads were ignored by the police, and the
courtroom atmosphere reeked of racism. 

In the 1972 Furman v. Georgia case, the Supreme Court, by a
5-4 majority, found that the manner by which the death
penalty was being administered made it cruel and unusual
punishment and therefore violating the Eighth and
Fourteenth Amendments. Justice William Brennan and Thurgood
Marshall concurred, stating that, "...the death penalty was
a denial of human dignity..."(S.C Decisions 208) This
denial of human dignity can be examined by the five
different forms of death served in the US. The first is by
hanging. This traditional mode of execution is available in
Washington state and Montana. In this style, death is
executed by placing a rope around the person's neck and
dropping down from the gallows. The hanging is easily
bungled in two different ways. First, if the drop is to
short then the person will die a slow and agonizing death
by strangulation. Second, if the drop is to long the head
will be torn off from the body. The second and more common
form of execution is de! ath by electrocution. In this
case, the condemned prisoner is led-or dragged-into the
death chamber, strapped into a chair, and electrodes are
fastened to the head and legs. Then a switch is thrown. The
body strains, jolting as the voltage is raised and lowered.
Often smoke rises from the head. There is the awful odor of
burning flesh. No one knows how long the electrocuted
individuals retain consciousness. Only two states still
authorize the firing squad, Idaho and Utah. In this case,
the prisoner is strapped to a chair and hooded. A target is
pinned to their chest and five marksmen , one with blanks,
take aim and fire. The forth form of execution is death by
the gas chamber. In this case, the prison is strapped into
a chair with a container of sulfuric acid underneath. Then
the chamber is sealed and cyanide is dropped into the acid
to form a lethal gas. At the beginning of this paper, you
witnessed this type of horrendous death on a Don Harding.
Lastly, the gov! ernment has made an attempt to hide the
external torture of an execution by devising the lethal
injection. In this case, an I.V is inserted into the
prisoners veins and a lethal dose of cyanided is
administered. As the US court of appeal observed, there is
"substantial and uncontroverted evidence...that execution
by lethal injection poses a serious risk of cruel,
protracted death...Even a slight error in dosage or
administration can leave a prisoner conscious but paralyzed
while dying, a sentient witness of his or her own
asphyxiation." (Chaney v. Heckler, 719 F.2d 1174 [1983])
Justice, it is often insisted, requires the death penalty
as the only suitable retribution for heinous crimes. This
claim will not bear scrutiny. In any case, execution is
more than a punishment exacted in retribution for the
taking of a life. "For there to be equivalence, the death
penalty would have to punish a criminal who had warned his
victim of the date at which he would inflict a horrible
death! on him and who, from that moment onward, had
confined him at his mercy for months. Such a monster is not
encountered in private life."(Social Deviance, p68) It is
also often argued that death is what murderers deserve, and
that those who oppose the death penalty violate the
fundamental principle that criminals should be punished
according to their deserts--"making the punishment fit the
crime." If this principle is understood to require that
punishments are unjust unless they are like the crime
itself, then the principle is unacceptable. It would
require us to rape rapists, torture torturers, and inflict
other horrible and degrading punishments on offenders. It
would require us to betray traitors and kill multiple
murderers again and again, punishments impossible to
inflict. Since we cannot reasonably aim to punish all
crimes according to this principle, it is arbitrary to
invoke it as a requirement of justice in the punishment of
murderers. If, however, the principle of "! just deserts"
is understood to require that the severity of punishments
must be proportional to the gravity of the crime, and that
murder being the gravest crime deserves the severest
punishment, then the principle is no doubt sound. But it
does not compel support for the death penalty. What it does
require is that crimes other than murder be punished with
terms of imprisonment or other deprivations less severe
than those used in the punishment of murder. Criminals, no
doubt, deserve to be punished, and punished with severity
appropriate to their culpability and the harm they have
caused to the innocent. But severity of punishment has its
limits -- imposed both by justice and our common human
dignity. Governments that respect these limits do not use
premeditated, violent homicide as an instrument of social
policy. Some whose loved one was a murder victim believe
that they cannot rest until the murderer is executed. But
the feeling is by no means mutual as observed by one wid!
ow, "As one whose husband and mother-in-law have died the
victims of murder assassination, I stand firmly and
unequivocally opposed to the death penalty for those
convicted of capital offenses. An evil deed is not redeemed
by an evil deed of retaliation. Justice is never advanced
in the tacking of a human life. Morality is never upheld by
a legalized murder."(Bowers and Pierce, p102) Kerry
Kennedy, daughter of the slain Senator Robert Kennedy, has
written: "I was eight years old when my father was
murdered. It is almost impossible to describe the pain of
losing a parent to a senseless murder... But even as a
in turn, to be killed. Now the question rests, "What
should be done to the legally convicted murder or rapist,
etc.?" First, I believe we should look into deterring the
crime before it is even committed. Persons who commit
murder and other crimes of personal violence either
premeditate them or they do not. If the crime is
premeditated, the criminal ordinarily concentrates on
escaping detection, arrest, and conviction. The threat of
even the severest punishment will not deter those who
expect to escape detection. If the crime is not
premeditated, then it is impossible to imagine how the
threat of any punishment could deter it. Most violent
crimes are committed during moments of great emotional
stress or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, when
logical thinking has been suspended. Impulsive or
expressive violence is inflicted by persons heedless of the
consequences to themselves as well as to others. If,
however, severe punishment can deter crime, then long term
imprisonment is severe enough to cause any rational person
not to commit violent crimes. Furthermore, cases have been
"clinically documented where the death penalty actually
incited the capital crimes it was supposed to deter. These
include instances of the so-called suicide-by-execution
syndrome -- persons who wanted but feared to take their own
life and committed murder so that society would kill
them."(Ward, Carter and Perrin, p56) 

It must, of course, be conceded that inflicting the death
penalty guarantees that the condemned person will commit no
further crimes. This, it is too high a price to pay when
studies show that very few convicted murderers ever commit
another crime of violence. A recent study examined the
prison and post-release records of 533 prisoners on death
row in 1972 whose sentences were reduced to life by the
Supreme Court's ruling in Furman. The research showed that
6 had committed another murder. But the same study showed
that in 4 other cases, an innocent man had been sentenced
to death.(Source book of Criminal Justice Statistics--1992)
There is no way to predict which convicted murderers will
kill again. Repeat murders could be prevented only by
executing all those convicted of criminal homicide. Such a
policy is too inhumane and brutal to be taken seriously.
Society would never tolerate dozens of executions daily,
yet nothing less would suffice. Equally effective but far
less in! humane is a policy of life imprisonment without
the possibility of parole. 

An American author, Ernest Hemingway, once said, "About
morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel
good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after."
This is where the final judgement on the Death penalty
should lie. We cannot continue to use the death penalty to
gain vengeance. The death penalty is inhumane and in no way
deters violent crimes. Our efforts should be put towards
more humane alternatives like life inprisonment.



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