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Expand execution methods to save more innocent lives

Utah just changed its laws to allow once again the use of firing squads to carry out capital sentences. Louisiana should follow suit with this and/or other methods.

The controversy comes over the difficulty in gaining access to the drugs needed to make the lethal injection method work in the least tortuous way possible. Political activists have tried, with some success, to pressure manufacturers of those drugs not to sell to jurisdictions that permit capital punishment. This has delayed one scheduled execution in Louisiana at least a year, where now the earliest it could happen would be the latter half of this year.

As state law permits only lethal injection, like Utah, which faced the same difficulty, Louisiana would have to make a change. Last year, an idea for legislation was floated to provide for alternative methods of carrying out a capital sentence, and it actually got far long in the process until its author state Rep. Joe Lopinto abruptly shelved it in favor of a study resolution for the Department of Corrections. That study presented an alternative heretofore untried, essentially inducing hypoxia, but Lopinto said of the fiscal-only session upcoming, with its restrictions on the number of non-fiscal bills that can be introduced, this doesn’t leave him room to go with any recommendation.

All of this deliberation has intensified a detrimental dilatory impact on the deterrent effect of capital sentences. In the past couple of decades, rigorous research, mainly in the econometrics area, even as it has been resisted by other social scientists fairly clearly establishes that consistent application of the death penalty does deter future serious crime.

But one of the conditions of the deterrent impact is that it is taken seriously by criminals willing to use deadly force, and the sitzkrieg strategy of capital punishment opponents and sentenced felons to cause delays for any number of reasons, including the drug availability issue, all serve to reduce the deterrent impact. Louisiana provides a perfect example of how the deterrent effect can be eroded that thereby threatens to create a self-fulfilling prophecy of those who allege there is none: only 28 executions have happened in the state since the reinstatement of the penalty almost four decades ago, with the last occurring nearly five years ago.

Thus, to avoid cheapening the unpleasant but necessary task of seeing through executions that provide a credible deterrent that saves lives, the state needs to remove method as an impediment to this. This means a legislator must step up and forward some kind of bill to do so and his colleagues must approve and gain the governor’s assent. It requires leadership, but with innocent lives in the balance, that should not be an issue.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is simply mindless to say that capital punishment DOES or DOES NOT deter horrible crimes.

You cannot prove it in any scientific way, and you know that.

We do it because of our innate need for retribution.

We don't need to change our methods; we need to stop doing it.

If is so effective as a deterrent, let's start doing it publicly in the courthouse square again, like we used to, and leave the body for a period for everyone to see.