The Joseph Wood Execution : If You’re Gonna Kill Somebody Do It Right

Convicted killer Joseph Wood was put to death this week in what witnesses described as a botched execution. I wouldn’t say it was botched because the guy eventually died. Botched would be if they didn’t get the job done. Bungled would be a better way to describe it.

Wood was injected with a combination of midazolam and hydromorphone. He took almost two hours to die. About 10 minutes after the drugs were administered he began snorting and appeared to be gasping for air. Some witnesses said he appeared to be yawning and looked like a fish opening and closing its mouth. Defense attorneys frantically filed a motion for an emergency stay, but Wood died before the before the court could rule on the motion which was denied.

Wood was convicted in 1991 of shooting his estranged girlfriend and her father in 1989. 25 years from the time he committed his crime to when he paid for it.

Here’s my take on it.

First let me say I’m 100% for the death penalty. It should be carried out within a year of someone receiving the sentence. I believe it should be in every state. But it should be based on evidence that is not circumstantial. For instance, a case like Damien Echols where there is no murder weapon and no credible witnesses. Or cases where there is no body recovered and the defendant denies responsibility. People in those cases should be sentenced to life because we don’t want to be executing people who are possibly innocent. It does happen. It has been proven to have happened before.

But in a clear cut case like with Joseph Wood where there is no debate or question as to whether or not he did it, he should get the death penalty and it should be carried out within a year. Mass murderers like Jeffrey Dahmer where there is no doubt whatsoever that the person did it, they should be executed within a year of receiving the sentence.

There is no doubt that Joseph Wood killed his girlfriend and her father. There were witnesses. He told his girlfriend “I told you I was going to do it. I love you. I have to kill you, bitch.” When the police arrived he turned his gun on them and they shot him nine times. His attorneys tried to blame his behavior on alcohol and drugs, but there was never a denial that he committed the crime. Once the jury convicted him and the judge sentenced him, he should have been dead in less than a year.

I think it’s more cruel to receive a sentence of death and go through appeal after appeal waiting for a day that will inevitably come. Then to be put on a table and have the procedure go wrong when it’s not necessary. Many of us have had an operation where an anesthesiologist puts us to sleep. We wake up and the procedure is done. Why is it so difficult to have an anesthesiologist give someone a drug that will put them under and then administer a drug that will kill them? We have technology to create an Iron Dome in Israel to deflect Hamas rocket attacks and we have helmets for pilots that can control a plane simply by moving their head. We have artificial hearts, but we can’t figure out how to kill somebody without them waking up ten minutes in gasping and writhing in pain for two hours?

The victims were in pain. I get it. Some of these animals killed people by burying them alive. Why do we care if they suffer when they are executed? It’s not a matter of caring, it’s a matter of what the law is. If the law says that if a person kills somebody and there is not circumstantial evidence of their guilt and within a year of their sentence they can be taken outside and shot in the head, so be it. But then the law has to be changed.

The states all have different laws and procedures when it come to administering capital punishment. We can’t take two hours to kill someone and then go and point our finger at all the countries around the world and say their methods are barbaric and cruel. Other countries like Saudi Arabia cut peoples heads off and we call that savage and barbaric, but then we take two hours to put someone to death while they’re gasping and writhing and snorting. The United States holds itself up to the world as the standard of civilization and we tell other countries to be like us. Those countries can say to us “We’re better than you! We cut their heads off and they die in a split second!” So it’s not being unsympathetic to the victims, it’s saying if you’re gonna do it, do it right. Do it to where others countries can’t say “Why are you preaching to us?”

If we’re gonna send soldiers to other countries to show them a better way of life and a higher standard, we need to adhere to that standard or don’t go into those other countries. Like the torture debate. If we torture prisoners to get information to stop terrorism, we can’t cry foul when other countries do the same. If we had a society that said it was OK to water board, I would have no problem with it. It’s the hypocrisy that we can’t live with.

If people say that they don’t care that criminals suffer when they are put to death, fine. Rewrite the laws. Rewrite the constitution to where it says that we as a society are OK with cruel and unusual punishment. Bring back public hangings. If you eliminated the concept that a person sentenced to death would spend 25 years in prison on appeals and broadcast their death right after they get convicted, you would see a deterrent to commit crime. You want a deterrent to stealing? Cut their hands off like they do in Saudi Arabia. I guarantee you less people would steal. There wouldn’t be people stealing $100 from their employers at McDonald’s, I’ll tell you that. If we’re gonna go for this mentality, let’s go all out.

If we’re OK with having people who are executed taking two hours to die, let’s go all out. Behead people, shoot them in the head or give the family the opportunity to take some hands on revenge. We’re basically treading in that area when we take two hours to put someone to death. Think about this. For two hours people sat in that room and watched this guy die. That’s creepy. They sat there watching and waiting for him to stop gasping and twitching. I say if we’ve gotten to the point where watching somebody die for two hours is acceptable, let’s not sugar coat the method anymore.

All this talk about humane execution is silly. Killing someone is not humane. Humane would be choosing the fastest and most dependable method, whether it’s cutting their head off or shooting them in the back of the head. Quick, effective and it’s over in a second.

9th Circuit appeals court judge Alex Kozinski said it best. You remember Alex. He was the judge in the first Ira Isaacs obscenity trial who recused himself because he had naughty pictures on his website. He said the state tries to mask the reality of executions by making them look serene and peaceful and if the state’s gonna kill, it should at least do it effectively. He suggested the guillotine or the firing squad.

I have a method that is painless and foolproof. Have an anesthesiologist put the condemned to sleep, like they would for someone having surgery. While they’re under, simply lop their head off. They would never know an instant of pain and they would be dead almost instantaneously. Build a little guillotine machine and do it efficiently. It’s a lot less gruesome than watching somebody gasp and snort and twitch for two hours.

Change the law and deal with the consequences or follow the law and treat people humanely even when they haven’t been humane. We are either a civilized society or we aren’t. If we have a standard that we want the world to follow then we have to lead by example.

That’s my two cents.

Follow Rob Black on Twitter @RealRobBlack Email: rzblack@yahoo.com

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