« Churches interested in sentencing redemption retribution | Main | Interesting justification ruling from the Fourth Circuit »

August 6, 2007

NY Times against hiding the executioner

This editorial, entitled "The Executioner's Hood," appears in today's New York Times. Here is a snippet:

Even those who support executing their citizens must see the need to ensure that the process is not barbarically cruel and is fully open to public scrutiny.

Last month, however, Missouri’s governor signed a law that makes it a crime to reveal the identities of current or former executioners.... Under the new secrecy law, Missouri’s capital punishment system may plunge deeper into incompetence and cruelty, and it will be harder for citizens to stop it.

Some related posts:

August 6, 2007 at 08:44 AM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference NY Times against hiding the executioner:


Strangely, enacting such a law probably encourages people to reveal the name of the executioner, since it is probably a matter of public concern.

Obviously, it is questionable whether such a law is enforceable.

What I also think is neat about this, is that if it were enforceable, it would be essentially a license to someone that likes killing people (and there are many Americans that deeply want to kill other humans), to do so as barbarically as possible, inflicting as much pain as possible (and there are many Americans that like to inflict pain on others). Strangely, most of the time we want to put these psychopaths in jail as inmates. Now, Missouri has found a way to not only employ them, but ostensibly wants to protect their identities.

I have a better idea. Maybe Missouri could set up a system that appears humane, but, by virtue of the way it is set up, it is difficult, if not impossible to know which of many different people actually pressed the button (or whatever) to kill the person that must die in the name of the state of Missouri! Instead of all this rigmarole involved in hiring malpracticing doctors, the state of Missouri could hold an essay contest for fourth graders. They would write why they want to kill a man! The best four entrants (as adjudged by a panel made up of the governor, two virgins, a creepy guy named Arvin, and the next person scheduled for execution) would be given an all-expenses paid trip (with their families) to the prison (complete with breakfast at the Motel 6), and they would be allowed to be one of the possible executioners. The families of the “junior executioners” would also be allowed to watch their kids push the button.

While it would not be a crime to reveal the name of one of these lucky fourth-graders, there would be no way of knowing which one actually caused the person to die. Moreover, nobody would really want to embarrass a fourth graders, the way one would want to embarrass a dyslexic doctor.

If you disagree with this plan, then you are a liberal that hates the death penalty and is in favor of crime.

Oh, the state would give the parents of the “junior executioners” bumperstickers that say “I watched my son/daughter kill a man.” But putting them on cars would not be compulsory.

Posted by: S.cotus | Aug 6, 2007 9:05:22 AM

Scotus: You have repeatedly said that you are in favor of having young children watch an execution. Are you also in favor of having those children watch an abortion?

Posted by: | Aug 6, 2007 9:36:38 AM

The issue of abortions is a little bit more complicated. However, since you asked for my analysis, here goes.

If the abortion is not performed by the state, then there is an attenuated 1st amendment interest in having kids watch it.

Assuming that either there is some 1st amendment interest in watching an abortion, it is generally outweighed by the privacy interests that the Supreme Court has articulated. Since, as it stands now the state-organized killing of people is constitutional, the Supreme Court has never (and probably will never) articulate a privacy interest (on behalf of the condemned) in such a killing.

However, should the woman getting an abortion agree to waive whatever interests she has in not being shown to a class of schoolkids, (i.e. agree to be videotaped), then, yes, I think that schoolkids should watch abortions. That said, since abortion is a constitutional right, the children would only be shown the abortions because they might, someday, want to change the constitution. Usually, however, kids stop repeating their parents’ political views on abortions after they have one, or pay for someone’s abortion.

Posted by: S.cotus | Aug 6, 2007 11:10:40 AM

Ah, S.cotus, there you are! Did you have a good weekend taking the kids on a picnic to see a public hanging? You are SO 18th century!

Did you see, I deciphered your pseudonym (or perhaps more accurately, your acronym). That was truly a joyous moment. I didn't hear a heavenly choir, but I did feel kind of like I was listening to Rachmaninov Opus 24, No. 2. Oh, since you travel in rarified circles you probably think Rachmaninov is tacky. How about the last movement of Shostakovich's Fifth? But you are a purist, I'm sure--back to at least close to the 18th century: "Freude, schone Gotterfunken Tochter aus Elysium..." Sorry, there aren't any umlauts on my keyboard.

Actually, it is interesting that you suggested I check out the 14th amendment. I had just heard a very interesting interview with the author of a new book on that very topic. It is coming out in September, and I have pre-ordered it. The author is a man after my own heart: he teaches both constitutional law and creative writing at the University of Oregon. I think you should look him up. Maybe he could help you with your use of sarcasm, which you don't do very well.

Now, don't get upset about my being insulting or engaging in name-calling. After all, you called me irrelevant, rude and uneducated. Now I don't mind irrelevant, because that can be dealt with. And rude is positively a compliment coming from you. But don't you call me uneducated! Gritsforbreakfast and I have both discovered that having a bunch of letters after your name doesn't necessarily have anything to do with your level of either intelligence or education. I have met some really dumb people in this life who have something that sounds like "FUD" after their names.

Well, ta for now. You keep driving you legal humvee over the citizens, and I'll keep coming up with verbal IED's to plant in your path.

Posted by: disillusioned layman | Aug 6, 2007 12:13:40 PM

I'm confused and thought S.cotus wrote a rather clever Swiftian modest proposal.

Posted by: George | Aug 6, 2007 1:34:11 PM

The New York Times . . . always sooooo concerned about criminals, unless they are white males from Durham, North Carolina, in which case the NYT will do everything it can to frame them.

Posted by: William Jockusch | Aug 6, 2007 4:37:22 PM

I seriously doubt that the NYT tried to frame anyone. While it is possible to quibble with their reporting (but really, who cares? they are speaking to non-lawyers), I highly doubt that they affirmatively supplied erroneous evidence to a court or offered perjured testimony.

Posted by: S.cotus | Aug 6, 2007 6:55:33 PM

They supported the attempt to frame. See their front page story of August 25, 2006. This shows that they simply cannot be trusted on any criminal justice issue.

Posted by: William Jockusch | Aug 7, 2007 2:22:26 AM

William, I don't know what you are thinking but reading a newspaper of any kind for legal matters is silly. They are not aimed at practitioners, but rather at the general public. The people that write any newspaper of general circulation simply don't have the time or expertise to actually develop an understanding of a complex issue. Anyone that expects otherwise is naive.

Your argument that they "supported an attempt to frame" is a little far-fetched. Even assuming that Nifong was attempting to convict them, knowing that they were legally and factually innocent (as opposed to just behaving professionally irresponsibly), you would need to show that the New York Times' management and editorial staff also knew this and intended to aid in the erroneous conviction of people they knew to be factually and legally innocent. This is a pretty tall order. Also, newspapers are not bound by ANY legal code of professional responsibility, or even Brady.

Somehow, I think that because you are now changing your theory of how a newspaper (aimed at non-lawyers) is "framed" someone, that you did not like the New York times from the start for political reasons. Political motivations (just like relying on newspaper for your law) have no place in legal discussions. Quite frankly, it is childish.

Now, on the other hand, since the New York Times' editorial board has been considered a political "actor" of sorts in the past (i.e. making endorsements of political candidates) the fact that they printed this shows their POSITION on a matter. It doesn't matter if the position is support by strong legal reasoning or not.

Posted by: S.cotus | Aug 7, 2007 7:58:01 AM

Look, S.cotus, ignore Jockush's nonsense, which seeks to impugn the Times for racism against whites. That's an insupportable charge. The Times has evinced just as much concern over the years about the wrongful convictions of whites (of which there have been numerous instances in New York) as about the convictions of members of minority groups.

The notion that the Times actively sought to "frame" anyone is ridiculous on its face -- unless, like some, you're blinded by an idealogy that sees whites as the primary victims of injustice in this society.

Posted by: David in NY | Aug 7, 2007 1:09:33 PM

Oh, that is what he was on about? I thought he was mad about them not having a comics page.

Posted by: S.cotus | Aug 7, 2007 1:23:29 PM

Layman, your "straight talk" take on some of these issues is occasionally refreshing and necessary.

You seem to have run out of productive things to say and have stooped to congratulating yourself on your perceived cleverness and announcing to the rest of us that you're nuts.

You write:
Did you see, I deciphered your pseudonym (or perhaps more accurately, your acronym). That was truly a joyous moment. I didn't hear a heavenly choir, but I did feel kind of like I was listening to Rachmaninov Opus 24, No. 2. Oh, since you travel in rarified circles you probably think Rachmaninov is tacky. How about the last movement of Shostakovich's Fifth? But you are a purist, I'm sure--back to at least close to the 18th century: "Freude, schone Gotterfunken Tochter aus Elysium..." Sorry, there aren't any umlauts on my keyboard.

Please stop polluting the blog. There are occasionally some good discussions here.

Posted by: | Aug 7, 2007 3:38:13 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB