In the Golden State, it costs too much to execute the guilty - and in the Lone Star State they've likely killed an innocent
In the latter half of the 19th Century, French writer Louis Rousselet traveled to India, where he observed a form of capital punishment that he deemed "the most frightful that can possibly be imagined." The condemned was bound hand and foot. A long cord was passed around his waist. And the other end was tied to an elephant.
"The latter is urged into a rapid trot in the streets, and every step gives the cord a violent jerk, which makes the body of the condemned wretch bound on the pavement," Rousselet wrote. "The only hope that remains for the unhappy man is to be killed by one of these shocks; if not, after traversing the city, he is released, and, by a refinement of cruelty, a glass of water is given him. Then his head is placed upon a stone, and the elephant executioner crushes it beneath his enormous foot."
That does sound barbaric.
But is it any worse than the end that Lynda Lyon Block met in 2002? She was the most recent American to be strapped into a metal chair and electrocuted. Supreme Court Justice William Brennan once described that process as follows: "The prisoner's eyeballs sometimes pop out and rest on his cheeks. The prisoner often defecates, urinates, and vomits blood and drool. The body turns bright red as its temperature rises, and the prisoner's flesh swells and his skin stretches to the point of breaking. Sometimes the prisoner catches fire....Witnesses hear a loud and sustained sound like bacon frying, and the sickly sweet smell of burning flesh permeates the chamber." Six days out of seven I'd prefer taking my chances with the agitated elephant.