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January 25, 2014

"Bring back the firing squad for the death penalty: The best way to dispatch the monsters among us"

Sqaud_s640x499The title of this post is the headline of this interesting and provocative new commentary by Tammy Bruce appearing in the Washington Times. Here is much of the discussion:

Has the left’s attempt to use the lethal-injection process to ban the death penalty backfired? Consideration of firing squads for implementing the death penalty is not a fringe issue and would bring back the humaneness the left claims it wants in the process.

As often as I can, I laud the importance, value and decency of the death penalty. As a feminist, I’ve spent a great deal of my adult life as an advocate for women, educating on violence against women and agitating for justice for women in a system that far too often forgets the victims on the receiving end of a beast’s rage.

Wiping monsters from the face of the earth is a good thing, and the death penalty provides the ultimate statement from society that we refuse to pamper the heinous and cold-blooded among us. Victims’ families also deserve the closure and respect of a society that takes decisive action against those who dared to rip their worlds apart.

Now, with the use of DNA evidence to confirm guilt, the argument of mistakenly executing an innocent man is also off the table. We all want to eliminate doubt, and modern science now allows us to do just that.

So last week I was especially pleased to see lawmakers in Missouri and Wyoming arguing for the use of the ultimate in fast and humane executions — the firing squad. Finally, common sense is prevailing after years of trying to placate the left by doing everything possible to make an execution seem like a visit to the spa. The only thing we aren’t doing while “putting to sleep” the most craven among us was reading them a bedtime story and surrounding them with puppies.

This renewed call for firing squads hasn’t come out of the blue. A shortage of the drugs (owing to the one U.S. drug manufacturer responding to pressure from anti-death penalty activists) used in the three-drug execution cocktail has forced states to determine exactly how they can carry out the process while making sure the condemned doesn’t get too uncomfortable.

Me? I’d feed the jerks more than a few cocktails (martinis to be exact), put them behind the wheel of a Pinto and let them loose in one of those crash-dummy test ranges. I’d enjoy telling them freedom is just past that brick wall over there and invite them to hit the gas. Next.

A case in point just last week: Dennis Maguire was finally put to death after being found guilty of the torturous and sadistic murder of Joy Stewart in 1989. Joy was seven months pregnant when Maguire raped and sodomized her, slit her throat and stabbed her to death. Her body was then dumped in the woods.

The coroner thinks her unborn baby possibly survived the initial assault and could have lived hours more in his dead mother’s womb. Carl would have been his name. Joy’s husband, Kenny, unable to cope with the atrocity of what happened to his family, killed himself a week before Maguire’s trial.

Finally last week, Ohio got on with the business of execution a quarter of a century after Maguire had been sentenced to die. Yet the media and anti-death-penalty trolls were beside themselves when Ohio opted to execute Maguire with a two-drug cocktail instead of the usual three. The hand-wringing over the possibility that rapist-murderer-child-killer Maguire wouldn’t see kittens in his dreams before dying in his sleep was pathetic....

The lethal-injection system, by its very process, gives credence to the notion that executing someone is a bad thing and, therefore, needs to be made “nice.” Executing the evil among us is a necessary thing, but for those who insist it be compassionate, the firing squad is the answer. Quick, painless and inexpensive, it is, in fact, the ultimate in humane dispatching.

I can hear those, some of whom are well-meaning, who worry about the lives of monsters, appalled about the imagined cruelty and inhumanity of my argument. I’ll tell you what’s inhumane — forcing the innocent to watch society herald the murderers in our midst.

The inhumanity is ignoring the innocent whose worlds were destroyed by craven savages like Maguire, condemning their families to lives devoid of closure and whatever peace might be possible. The death penalty provides justice to those who deserve it. It’s time we take that seriously, end the atrocious delays in executions and bring back the humaneness of the firing squad.

Some recent related posts on Ohio's struggles and execution by firing squad:

January 25, 2014 at 10:30 AM | Permalink


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The author is dead wrong when she asserts that DNA testing has somehow eliminated wrongful convictions for crimes.

I am for a firing squad of Six. The Governor of the State must be a member and give the order to fire. No victims or relatives of victims can be members of the squad. Three are directed to aim at the head and three directed to aim at the heart. They are to be fifteen feet away. Convicted human is to be tied to a pole standing up. The killing must be televised live and on tape. The setting should be on the Capital Plaza or steps to the State Supreme Court. All State Representatives and Senators are required to attend. All Supreme Court justices are required to attend. Failure to attend suspends their respective offices and pay for one year. Two times and they are fired. Rifles shall be high caliber. If the convict is not dead after six shots then the Governor is required to shoot him with a pistol in the head at close range. Body to be burned and ashes thrown into a sewer. Last Rites must be given four minutes before shooting.

Last Rites shall inform the convict that after death he has a right to remain silent. That anything he says will be used by Saint Peter to determine his destination, be it Heaven, Hell or Limbo which is a suburb of Saint Louis called Florissant. He does not have the right to consult with counsel, wife, grandma or any person prior to shooting after Last Rites are administered.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Jan 25, 2014 10:46:16 AM

My watching of Buffy (the vampire slayer) suggests that when dealing with "monsters," stakes are useful.

If "wiping away monsters" is a concern, does the author support a mass increase of the death penalty to deal with child molesters and the like? Not only "the left" has shown no major desire to expand it to cover many of the "monsters" out there. This dehumanization language only goes so far.

Moving past the "troll" language and the like, which will turn off many people who (unlike myself) support the death penalty, the firing squad has been put out there by certain commentators as possibly a better option than lethal injection. One commentator cited in various recent articles noted:

"Maybe states will give up and say we'll try firing squads and hanging again. But then there's a question about whether courts will allow that," said Berman."


The 8th Amendment requires some minimum level of "nice" but it has been noted that if put to a poll, many amendments would not be popular, at least in some communities. As to use of the firing squad, such a blunt direct multiple participant method is not generally supported by the people. It wasn't even back in the day when hanging was the favored usage. By the "left" and "right."

If we have the death penalty, there is a certain direct honesty to it and it might even be better for the condemned. Some like Mr. Gilmore prefer it. But, and not just "the left" (which is why these sorts of rants are tedious ... well one reason), don't want that. There continues to be a concern about killing people, even "monsters." You know, the whole "do not kill" thing. The biblical command does allow for a death penalty, but even then, it was interpreted strictly since a human life was still be taken away.

So, I understand the desire to dehumanize.

Posted by: Joe | Jan 25, 2014 12:30:21 PM

This lady's an idiot. Does she honestly think that DNA has taken innocence questions off the table?

Posted by: Evan | Jan 25, 2014 2:28:43 PM

I agree with Evan about the lady being an idiot. The DNA routine can indeed impune and convict an innocent person.

So, along with the Firing Squad of Six, including the Governor, we need each state to adopt the federal jurisprudence of cases such as Jackson v. Virginia which require a trial court and then an appellate court to examine the evidence apart from how the jury examined the evidence and require the state to prove each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. So, DNA of the defendant is found on the dead victim's fingernail which are clipped by some dufous who cross contaminates everything he touches. Nevertheless, the jury is told that this proves that the defendant was at the crime scene when she was killed. Defendant does not have any scratches on him and victim had no tissue under the nails. Defendant was indeed the live-in lover of the victim and had slept with her the night before. Evidence of his DNA on her fingernail does not prove a thing. Nevertheless, defendant is convicted on this new breakthrough called DNA!

States which refuse to adopt the federal holding in Jackson v. Virginia want to have their own little version and usually, like in Mizzoura is it "I know it when I see it" standard. See State v. Samuel Freeman 269 SW3d 422. That is the MoSup.Ct. opinion. The Southern District Ct of Appeals had it right. Missouri is now Unreconstructed. Google that word and see what you find. Missouri is a former slave state and this opinion in Freeman demonstrates what Unreconstructed means.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Jan 25, 2014 3:54:24 PM

There is no killing more premeditated than an execution. It defies everything we stand for when it comes to justifiable homicide because there is no immediate threat of death or bodily harm and therefore no reason to stand your ground in terms of self defense. And as others have pointed out, crime labs are not perfect.

F.B.I. Audit of Database That Indexes DNA Finds Errors in Profiles By JOSEPH GOLDSTEINJAN. JAN. 24, 2014.

The errors identified so far implicate only a tiny fraction of the total DNA profiles in the national database, which holds nearly 13 million profiles, more than 12 million from convicts and suspects, and an additional 527,000 from crime scenes. Still, the disclosure of scores of mistaken DNA profiles at once appears to be unprecedented, scientists said.

Therefore just deserts can be the only justification for executions, which means killing the (innocent?) defenseless can be good.

Posted by: George | Jan 25, 2014 7:37:14 PM

Another good element of a Firing Squad statute would be to impeach the Governor if he misses the target while shooting at the human tied to the pole. Another would be to allow the Governor to pardon the human right up to the moment of yelling Fire!.
Have the Firing Squad killings occur on Sunday at high noon. That way the church goers can go to church and get there in time for the event. Government business will not be impeded if this happens on a Sunday. If it is perfectly acceptable to the Lord on any other day then how can he complain about a Sunday killing. It is not being done in His Name.

There is already a proposal in the Missouri Legislature for a Firing Squad method. I hope that the members of the General Assembly there read this Sentencing blog and consider some of my proposals and consider the thoughts of others here. It is time for you folks out there to Show Me something different. You can also legislatively adopt and require the courts to follow the federal jurisprudence on guilt and adopt the holding in Jackson v. Virginia on the requirement that guilt be found beyond a reasonable doubt on each element of an offense and that a court re-examine the guilt without regard to the findings of a jury. Right now you are Unreconstructed in the Show Me State. The appellate courts there adopted the standard of: I know it when I see it. State v. Freeman. Look it up.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Jan 25, 2014 8:06:07 PM

Liberty1st --

For years, Supremacy Claus was widely regarded as the most, shall we say, exotic, if not unhinged, commenter on this blog.

You have replaced him. Congratulations, I think.

P.S. There is one conspicuous difference between the two of you: He knows a lot more.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 25, 2014 10:03:31 PM

Bill: Unhinged? Am I the one that believes in mind reading, in future forecasting, and that standards of conduct must be set by a fictitious character? Why fictitious? To make the standards objective, of course. Cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo, ding.

Why does no lawyer know why, reason, is the central word of the common law, even Harvard Law grads with PhD's in Medieval Legal History from Oxford. This is despite their having passed 10th Grade World History and freshman Western Civ 101. That is where high school grads learned that St. Thomas argued that intellect was misled by the fall from Eden and the deadly sins. Reason is the ability to perceive God, and that the New Testament is the most reliable guide to moral decision making. The New Testament is the story of one mythical person, like Thor or Zeus. So the reasonable person is really Jesus in disguise and in total violation of the Establishment Clause.

Am I the one that repeatedly says, we have the greatest legal system in the world? When every self stated goal of every law subject is in failure. The worst is, of course, the criminal law, allowing tens of millions of serious crimes a year, 5 million being violent. Cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo, ding.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 26, 2014 2:13:13 AM

SC --

You know a lot of stuff, do not play blog politics, call it as you see it, are willing to say unpopular things, and are non-partisan. You are also at times quite insightful and generous. But when so many of your posts refer, somewhere in the first two lines, to the vile feminist lawyer conspiracy, then, yes, you qualify as unhinged.

If you'd quit with that, you could be a player here, but you seem reluctant to give it up.

Your post here is a good example. Yes, American law has many Christian underpinnings, some developed in medieval times, but you take that fact and run with it off into the Twilight Zone.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 26, 2014 2:58:41 AM

"You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension - a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You've just crossed over into the Twilight Zone."

Posted by: Joe | Jan 26, 2014 11:30:16 AM

Bill: I appreciate your being the only lawyer here who shows any concern for crime victims. I am speaking of helping them avoid victimization, not victim impact statements which are Trojan Horses for more lawyer representation.

I think Prof. Berman has been removing my comments recently. I still enjoy this blog, and its stimulating new ideas in the reader. However, most of my points have been made. I may take the act on the road to real courts, in the form of habeas motions, intervention claims and amicus briefs, if standing cannot be found.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 26, 2014 1:02:31 PM

So, if I am unhinged for advocating killing convicts by rifle fire instead of the recent American methods, then please vote your preference, if any. Electric chair, gas chamber, hanging, poison through a needle in your arm while tied to a gurney? Other?

Bill Otis must have an opinion on the method. Other folks please chime in.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Jan 26, 2014 7:49:13 PM

Liberty1st --

"So, if I am unhinged for advocating killing convicts by rifle fire instead of the recent American methods, then please vote your preference, if any."

That must set some kind of a record for a non-sequitur. My choice of execution methods has zip to do whether you're unhinged.

Nor did I say that you are unhinged for preferring firing squads (if in fact you do, which I doubt). You're unhinged because you seem to believe that good commenting consists of puns, songs, rhymes, obscure and out-of-context Biblical references and other very, very bizarre stuff for a legal blog. Also because you never seem to make a serious argument.

P.S. I really don't much care whatever decently humane method is used. I would note that the Supreme Court has never disapproved ANY method that has been used in the United States.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 26, 2014 8:59:05 PM

If you were the condemned man or woman in Ohio, which method of your killing by the Great State of Ohio would you prefer? How about you Bill Otis?

Posted by: Liberty1st | Jan 26, 2014 9:26:27 PM

I have not removed any or your comments, SC, though a few of mine have not shown up recently. Blame anonymous.

Posted by: Doug B. | Jan 26, 2014 10:31:14 PM

Liberty1st --

"If you were the condemned man or woman in Ohio, which method of your killing by the Great State of Ohio would you prefer? How about you Bill Otis?"

It makes not a particle of difference to the constitutional (or policy) question what I would prefer if I were the condemned. Individual preferences have zip to do with it.

But if we're going to go down that juvenile path, Liberty1st, if you were to stop beating your wife, what penance would you prefer?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 26, 2014 10:39:36 PM

Bill Otis:
If I stopped beating my wife, what penalty? Ok. The penalty I would prefer would be divorce, half the assets, no alimony owed either way, visitation rights with the dog.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Jan 26, 2014 10:55:52 PM

Liberty1st --

Very cute.

If you ever want to make a serious argument about the abolition vel non of the death penalty, feel free.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 27, 2014 12:35:26 AM

S. Clause,

May I suggest a book? Call it serrendipty because the author just appeared on C-span and the Kindle sample is good reading. You would probably enjoy it.

Let's Get Free: a hip-hop theory of justice.

Posted by: George | Jan 27, 2014 3:17:19 AM

To be dead, or not to be dead, when you are Dennis Maquire. After all these years. The death penalty vel non, i.e. execution of defendant (kill the human). Does Maquire deserve to be killed and do The People of the Great State of Ohio have a "right" and duty to kill him for raping a pregnant woman and killing her?

A. I would substitute the word "power" for "right" when it comes to the State's power to kill. The Constitution of the United States talks about Rights when it addresses the Rights of persons and "Powers" when it addresses the federal entity and the individual states. People individually have rights, states have powers. This is not to say that the individuals who vote and take matters on behalf of the People of the Great State of Ohio into their own hands are not accountable when they go meet their maker for sins committed on Earth.

B. If we set aside the religious arguments such as the Sixth Commandment, then what arguments for or against the killing of humans by the State exist. The notion of eye for an eye or justice is one. A second would be the perp will not be able to commit crimes again. A third argument is economics. It costs a lot to house an inmate for life or for years.

Argument For killing humans who commit crimes. Society as a whole may be more secure in its persons and effects if we adopt an eye for an eye, an end to the perps capacity to commit crimes again, cheaper public expenses and additionally, getting bad things behind us. I categorize these things as The Good Reasons to kill criminals.

The argument Against killing humans who commit crimes. If society, through the Great State on behalf of the People thereof can kill to obtain justice and save money and put things behind us then individuals might be more likely to take the law into their own hands and seek justice and retribution. The converse is true if there is no public killing of humans who commit crimes. A majority of people in The Great State of Ohio believe in killing criminals. There are several states which have abolished the death penalty. Some of these states were the first or earliest to abolish slavery too and most of the killing states with strong sentiment were the last to abolish slavery. Just an aside.

We can choose to leave a killing state such as Texas and move to a non killing state. Or vice versa. If you think that you will personally be penalized by Saint Peter and sent to Hell for merely being a citizen of the Great State of Ohio or Texas, then move somewhere that does not kill persons in your name.

I personally do not sit on a fence. I believe that Ohio was right to kill Maquire for his crimes. They were wrong to have waited so long. How they killed him and what would be a better method was discussed previously. My opinion that if you are gonna be a bear be a grizzly and shoot Maguire by firing squad, is part of the last discussion.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Jan 27, 2014 7:25:56 AM

I don't know bill. liberty might have a point. If the gov't stooges who pass the laws are required to be part of cleaning up the mess they make. They MIGHT just MIGHT think about them a little more and maybe stop voting for a fucking bill they admit they haven't even read and have no fucking ideal was is in it!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jan 27, 2014 1:50:59 PM

rodsmith --

I dearly and truly wish that you have been at Nancy Pelosi's ear when she said that we should pass Obamacare to find out what's in it!

P.S. I would be willing to watch the execution of, say, Dzokahar Tsarnaev, and I don't care how it gets done.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 27, 2014 3:55:19 PM

It might be appropriate to kill the Tsarboy with a bomb. Tie him to the pole and then tie the bomb around his neck. Everyone but the camera leaves the room and boom. No more Tsarboy. Video the event and run it live on Fox Tv. The schumck deserves death and bombing is appropriate. Eye for an eye.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Jan 28, 2014 2:06:46 PM

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