A reader writes:
Your reader wrote, "If the people of Utah could see the executions, and they were horrified, they would demand change, and executions would stop."
I have heard this argument before, but there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that people witnessing an execution would be horrified. Executions in the past were public. And was the effect to cause a horror of capital punishment? No, it became an opportunity for a picnic lunch to let the kids watch. People who advance this public-execution argument have no sense of history. Consider the rowdy crowds that would cheer as they watched people being hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn, or the gleeful cheering at executions by guillotine during the French Revolution. Public executions would attract people who enjoy watching executions. Period.
I completely support your reader who advocates for the televising of executions. I often wonder how many who support capital punishment in our country have actually witnessed justice being served in their name this way. The public hanging of Stephen G. Simmons so shocked the thousands of citizens in Detroit who gathered to watch in 1830 that it led to the State of Michigan becoming the first English-speaking government in the world to abolish the death penalty. In 1846!
Bring executions back in the public sphere. Let's also get a window on some "advanced interrogation techniques" while we're at it. I suspect after a few botched attempts (and there are still botched attempts, regardless the method) we might have a different approach on how we manage criminals in our care. Even the most evil ones.
NPR did a piece on the last public execution in the US, carried out in 1936. Another writes:
I was outside the Utah State Capitol Thursday night and into the early morning with our group, Utahns for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, protesting the execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner.
The Catholic church in Utah is one of the main coalition members. We had had a solemn, well attended interdenominational prayer service at a church earlier, and afterward had been at the Capitol in the very cold wind, from about 9 pm on. We had about 200 people with us for the first two hours, but our music and speeches ended at 11 and some of us were just hanging on because, well, because it seemed like the right thing to do. Some very sad cousins of the condemned man had just heard about the gathering and had shown up; they were very quiet, didn't want to address the crowd, just said it was good to be around some kind people.
Our attorney general, the lamentable Mark Shurtleff, was not, as some of your readers inferred, tweeting from the prison. No, he left the dirty work of witnessing to his deputies, who also did all the court work as best as we can tell. He was tweeting away in his nice warm office in the Capitol Building a few yards from us. I know this because we protesters were allowed into the media room at the last minute. There were some other non-media there, probably families of some of the victims. (Others of the victims' families had not wanted Gardner executed.)
The AG emerged once, just at midnight, to tell us proudly that he had just ordered the execution to start "because there was no legal reason to delay any more" and that Ronnie Lee Gardner was "being strapped down" even as he spoke, and that he would "be back to tell us more when it was over. " He was all solemn and pompous as usual. And as usual it was all about him: he had the gall to say with a sigh that the "process" had been "very onerous" for him, and quite burdensome ... but that he had handled it with dignity. Dignity! How do you talk about dignity while you are killing someone who is in no position to do anything to anybody.
At that I told my friends I couldn't stand to see Shurtleff's face another minute and that I'd be back outside with the 50 or so solemn, mostly young people in their 20s, who had stayed on. In my opinion, and only my opinion of course, our AG is a Palin type. He does what he thinks makes him look good, sanctimonious, tells lies, big lies and small lies, is not very bright, associates with some really unethical types, and drops them when they get caught.. But even for him, I could not believe that he was tweeting. Tweeting! To my mind he was committing premeditated murder that night and should have been on his knees quaking.
I'm proud of our Church on this one.