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June 5, 2007

A call for truly public executions?

This new AP article, headlined "Botched injections inspire fight to ID executioners," discusses the efforts of the ACLU of Ohio to seek information about the persons involved in Ohio's execution procedures.  The article cover this ground effectively and has a quote from the DPIC's executive director that almost make a call for truly public executions:

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes the death penalty, said the public can't properly scrutinize the effectiveness of capital punishment without adequate information on those carrying it out. "Public executions should be as public as possible," he said. "They supposedly have nothing to hide, and as with anything government does, it benefits from more scrutiny. For medical personnel, yes, there may be a cost. But that's sort of like the cost that the state, or all of us, bear."

But death penalty advocates such as Michael Rushford, president of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in Sacramento, California, accuse capital punishment opponents of wanting to expose members of execution teams to intimidate them.

As I have suggested in a number of prior posts, I believe we ought to at least be making video recordings of executions.  These recordings need not be made available to the public — but perhaps should be subject to public disclosure if there are no objections from the families of the victims and the executed defendant — in order to ensure we have an evidentiary record of executions that goes beyond just eye-witness accounts.

Some related posts:

June 5, 2007 at 12:00 PM | Permalink


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Does this mean that you will be taking my views on the interplay between the 1st and 8th seriously? I get the impression that people think that I my views on this are quite outside the mainsteam.

I could see (but I don’t agree with) a privacy interest for the executed, but why would the family of the victim have an interest in keeping the manner in which the executed died secret?

Posted by: S.cotus | Jun 5, 2007 12:20:19 PM

Rushford's comments, I think, are accurate. The advocates simply want to make life hard on those who carry out executions. It's not surprising at all. Many abolitionists are so wrapped up in the supposed justness of their cause that they are willing to justify anything to further it. If it means lying to a tribunal, that's fine, or filing plainly bogus claims, e.g., Kevin Cooper. Or impugning the integrity of prosecutors, judges or jurors? Whatever--after all, "There's a life at stake." That washes away a lot of sins. But this stoops even lower. Dieter and others of his ilk are willing to risk the safety of executioners and their families to further the interests of killers. It's disgusting. Absolutely disgusting. So much for the supposed moral superiority of these abolitionists. When choosing between the safety of law-abiding citizens and the interests of killers, they choose the killers.

A similar outrage occurs with respect to jurors in the capital trial. A new trend seems to be to track down jurors and to ask them whether they'd vote the same way. Of course, the jurors' interest in being left alone is ignored. More importantly, the jurors are left with the unease that a killer's representative knows where they live and how to contact them. But who cares about these people, they were just people who voted to kill a man.

Posted by: federalist | Jun 6, 2007 1:03:14 AM

Doug, I can hear the froth emitting from tv producers' mouths! Executions could be the next reality show! If you think that sounds far-fetched, you probably have not had producers call you with their crazy crime/justice show ideas. I have already saved the world from a few of these. Let's hope they're not reading your blog...at least not while I'm still on maternity leave.

Posted by: Anne | Jun 6, 2007 10:20:16 AM

Anne, So what? The media, under most circumstances, broadcasts various views of “reality.” In fact, before there was TV, newspapers were reporting on “reality.” In the grand scheme of things, organized news programs and sit-coms are a fairly new invention.

Whatever the case, Anne, an execution is a government activity. Some treat it like a party, expressing joy at every person that the state gets to kill! There is no higher first amendment value then press coverage of the government activities.

Federalist, Now you are sounding like a political hack since you don’t offer specifics. In order to seriously accuse someone of lying, you would have had to: 1) provide their assertion; 2) provide whatever assertion you think contradicts it; and 3) show how #1 was made with knowledge of #2. It is unacceptable, and definitely non-lawyerlike to make conclusory assertions or to refer people to some vague “report.” In fact, it is usually pretty hard to show that someone “lied,” because showing their intent is pretty difficult.

I don’t see why it is wrong to make it difficult to execute people. While I don’t have a definite position on state-organized killing of humans, those people that are overly enthusiastic about it seem to be doing their very best to not only prevent judicial scrutiny of the process, but also electoral scrutiny. Granted, I don’t really trust the electorate to do much of anything (ever talk to a non-lawyer – I haven’t), but we should at least pretend that they get to have information to make their decisions.

I find it strange that we assume that jurors that have chosen to kill someone are entitled to “privacy.” I wonder what your authority for this proposition is. Perhaps if there was some real threat to their lives. But, I don’t see why they should be able to void all public scrutiny for their decision to allow the state to kill someone.

Posted by: S.cotus | Jun 6, 2007 1:09:34 PM

Where's S.cotus when you need him (or her)? Does my proposal to seize members of the family's property "work corruption of Blood"

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