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August 31, 2011

"Let public see executions"

The title of this post is the headline of this editorial from Newsday.  Here are excerpts:

Executions in the United States used to be carried out in the public square for all to see. They should be again, which in this digital age means on video.

The death penalty is barbaric, risks killing people who are not guilty, and provides no deterrent to those who would commit heinous crimes.  The nation should abandon the practice. But as long as people are being executed, the machinery of death shouldn't be hidden.  The criminal justice system operates in the open for a reason: It's the best way to ensure what it does is fair, just and acceptable to the public.

The issue of public executions arose recently when Georgia, one of 34 death penalty states, executed convicted killer Andrew DeYoung by lethal injection.  His lawyers wanted his death videotaped because a man executed in June using the same, three-drug cocktail was seen jerking, mumbling and thrashing after the injection, an indication the method may be inhumane....

Widely available images of executions carried out in this country might make people indifferent to the spectacle.  But they just might make people recoil instead -- and lead them to put an end to the grisly business of government-sanctioned killing.

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August 31, 2011 at 09:28 AM | Permalink


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Why stop at having them "videotaped"? When Texas counties held executions instead of the state pre-1922, hangings were huge public events. These days you could probably charge admission, fill a stadium, and even make a fortune on pay per view. There's a market for snuff films.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Aug 31, 2011 10:27:30 AM

You say that with such disdain in your tone, surprising since the prevailing wisdom on this blog is that watching diaper snipers molest children on the computer is virtually a victimless crime and laws against it only serve to increase demand for the videos.

I can only wonder what the difference is (other than the children are victims, murderers are not).

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Aug 31, 2011 12:03:44 PM

TQ, IMO every word above is true. Crowds of more than 10,000 would show up at the biggest TX hangings back when counties held them publicly, and that was in the pre-automobile era. I see no reason why the same wouldn't be true today, nor why, given multimedia opportunities, there isn't potential for much larger pay-per-view and online audiences, particularly for states with a more dramatic execution method than lethal injection. (Utah, I'm looking at you!)

The fantasy of abolitionists that making the video public might "make people recoil" runs contrary to examples from human history back to the Roman coliseum. Truth is, it'd probably generate a significant revenue stream.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Aug 31, 2011 1:43:15 PM

works for me! as long as POLITICANS are NOT EXEMPT! like they are with most laws that the rest of us have to follow!

we could make BILLIONS.....

via direct download and streaming video sales!

would also be a great way to find out about the nuts who like to watch people die and maybe help them along! LOL

Posted by: rodsmith | Aug 31, 2011 2:10:24 PM

Public executions are irresponsible.

1) They glamorize the murderer with the glare of public attention, ratings, and celebrity. Therefore cancel any general deterrence effect.

2) The execution of Saddam Hussein on Youtube induced hundreds of people to hang themselves after watching it, including dozens of kids.

3) The proposal is a false abolitionist suggestion, intended to make people feel repulsed. However, execution is a rare peaceful way to go, compared to what people see their relatives go through with cancer or heart disease, before dying. 90% of us will really suffer intensely and for a long time before we die, and we have committed no real crime.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 31, 2011 9:59:44 PM

This topic was covered in a decently balanced article in the Sunday New York Times a little more than a month ago.


Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 31, 2011 10:53:43 PM

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