These are sick, sick people

I am opposed to the death penalty, seeing it as an utterly barbaric practice that no society that considers itself civilized should countenance. In the US, some states allow it, while others do not. The federal government does allow it but it has been very rarely carried out. But Trump and his attorney general Bill Barr seem to have a relish for it, so much so that they are rushing to carry out executions before they leave office, presumably because Joe Biden, who opposes the death penalty, might not carry them out.

As President Donald Trump’s days in the White House wane, his administration is racing through a string of federal executions.

Five executions are scheduled before President-elect Joe Biden’s 20 January inauguration – breaking with an 130-year-old precedent of pausing executions amid a presidential transition.
And if all five take place, Mr Trump will be the country’s most prolific execution president in more than a century, overseeing the executions of 13 death row inmates since July of this year.

“This is really outside the norm, in a pretty extreme way,” said Ngozi Ndulue, director of research at the non-partisan Death Penalty Information Center.

Since the federal death penalty was reinstated by the US Supreme Court in 1988, executions carried out by the national or federal government in the US have remained rare.

Before Mr Trump took office, only three federal executions had taken place in this period.

All were carried out under Republican President George W Bush, and included inmate Timothy McVeigh, convicted of the Oklahoma City federal building bombing. Since 2003, there have been no federal executions at all.

Even if you are a supporter of the death penalty, surely basic humanity would suggest that you do not affirmatively push them through quickly by bypassing norms. What kind of person actually welcomes killing someone so much that they want to make sure that it is done on their watch?

As I said, these are sick, sick people.


  1. sonofrojblake says

    I’ll quickly lob in my usual contribution to discussions of capital punishment. I believe we (wherever we live) should have a national referendum on the subject, a referendum with two simple questions:
    1. Do you want the death penalty to be legal for some crimes? YES/NO.
    2. Given that the criminal justice system is administrated by fallible humans and that therefore the execution of innocents is unavoidable and inevitable, do you personally volunteer to be the first innocent person executed? YES/NO.

    Anyone voting NO/NO gets their vote counted.
    Anyone voting YES/NO does NOT get their vote counted, because the NO makes it clear that they only mean the YES if it applies only to other people.
    Anyone voting YES/YES gets their voted counted, and as a bonus gets a bullet in the back of the head as they leave the polling place.

    This vote counting system would be made absolutely clear in the run up to the vote and would be absolutely fair and transparent. It would have the benefit of being honest and weeding out those who haven’t really thought about what a YES to the first question really means. It would have the additional benefit of weeding out those who HAVE really thought about it, raising the national average IQ by a few points. Literally the only downside I can see is the bother of having to dispose of the bodies. There’d be plenty of volunteers to do the actual shooting from all the YES/NO timewasters, and as a bonus they would, just for polling day, be able to indulge their sickness.

    On the off chance that YES/YES gets more votes than NO/NO (the only two combinations that get counted, remember), then one need only run the referendum again with the same rules.

  2. KG says


    You remind me of a similar remark made by the late Ted Heath (Tory, last British Prime Minister but 9 for those who aren’t up with mid-20th century UK politics). Not a man I had a great deal of time for, but opposed to the death penalty. During a debate on the question in the House of Commons (these have always been “free votes” i.e. without any party whipping), some odious pro-execution Tory said that he would be prepared to act as hangman himself. “That’s not the question”, Heath responded, “The question is whether you are prepared to be hanged by mistake”.

  3. says

    The day there is an argument for murdering . . . I mean, “executing” people is the day you can bring the innocent back from the dead. Those who believe no one has ever been falsely convicted and executed are either woefully uninformed or wilfully ignorant. Life without parole stops people from reoffending.

    A 2014 study showed that 4% of those on “death row” were innocent. Never mind the entire 15,000+ the US has “executed” since 1700, 1491 were killed by the state in the US since 1976. That’s at least sixty innocent people whose lives were taken unjustly and likely would still be alive.

  4. jenorafeuer says

    And even being demonstrated innocent, or at least demonstrating that the original trial was fatally flawed, doesn’t stop some people. See also, then-governor of Texas Rick Perry on the subject of Cameron Todd Willingham, which involved the firing of members of the forensics committee that asked him to hold off on the execution while the evidence was verified.

    And his supporters cheered him on even because the man being executed might have been innocent.

  5. flexilis says

    Did I read correctly that the feds are researching other execution methods (gas chamber, firing squad) since there is a shortage of the lethal injection drugs? Lethal injection has problems as far as being cruel, but do Americans really countenance a firing squad? ( I know that when Utah used a firing squad in 1977 at the request of the condemned man Gary Gilmore there were hundreds of volunteers to pull the triggers.)

    It is long past the time that the US halted executions.

  6. says

    #5 flexilis:

    Lethal injection has problems as far as being cruel

    The “problems” have been known for a long time, but that has not stopped executions. So we should assume that the cruelty/torture is intentional, i.e. sadistic in nature.

  7. Allison says

    there is a shortage of the lethal injection drugs

    From what I’ve heard, the reason for the shortage is that the manufacturers of the drugs in question (which were developed to save lives, not to take them) have been doing everything they can to prevent them from being available to governments. Nobody wants their company to be known for manufacturing drugs to kill people.

    Execution is sadistic in nature

    But killing by lethal injection doesn't look sadistic. Lethal injection is preferred because it spares the sensibilities of the witnesses, not because it’s less horrible for the victim. It’s a way of covering up the essential brutality and barbarity of execution, making it seem like nothing more than a medical procedure.

    It’s not that the older methods of execution were less horrible, but they were more honest about the essence of what they were doing.

  8. Silentbob says

    @ 5 flexilis

    Did I read correctly that the feds are researching other execution methods (gas chamber, firing squad) since there is a shortage of the lethal injection drugs? Lethal injection has problems as far as being cruel, but do Americans really countenance a firing squad?

    I remember there was a post on Pharyngula a while back which referred to Sophie Scholl. I had to look her up. She’s was a student political activist who bravely resisted the Nazis in Germany, and so was executed at the age of only 21… by guillotine! I had no idea the Nazis did that. In the movies it’s always firing squad.

    Anyway, I bet Trump would love to bring that back -- but he’d want TV rights so he could boast about the ratings. *shudder*

  9. Who Cares says

    you are correct about the shortage. Due to the major screw-ups (people screaming on television due to the pain isn’t exactly a good advertisement for either the executioners or the process of executions) with the usual 3 injections, 1 sedative, 1 muscle relaxant and then the stuff that kills, the federal government decided to start using Pentobarbital (Trump government decision when they started up executions again) as a single injection solution to combat the problems inherent in the three injection option.
    There is however one minor problem with the acquisition of Pentobarbital. The main producer of the stuff, Lundbeck in Europe, refuses to sell to the US government, federal or state, due to it being used in executions and they got some pretty stringent contract clauses to prevent third parties reselling it to, among others, the US government. This problem is compounded by the problem that the only way to legally make Pentobarbital, or something that closely resembles it, in the US results in such a variation in quality that it is better not to use then botch an execution repeatedly.

    Which basically leaves only the possibility of other forms of execution.

  10. Deepak Shetty says

    What kind of person actually welcomes killing someone so much

    American pro-lifers of course.

  11. Deepak Shetty says

    What kind of person actually welcomes killing someone so much

    American pro-lifers of course.

  12. Deepak Shetty says

    I am against the death penalty but your gotcha is not thought out. You could pose the same question for any crime
    a. Do you want federal punishment to be legal for
    b. Given that the system sucks , do you personally volunteer for the punishment ?
    So then are you advocating for abolition of the entire legal system ?

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