Washington Post Writer Sneers At Injustice of Death Penalty

January 14th, 2007 10:54 PM

The front of Sunday's Style section in the Washington Post carried an article titled "Dead End," wishing for an end to capital punishment, or at least the odd pursuit of painless execution. Post staff writer Neely Tucker clearly implies America is barbaric for keeping it. No one in the piece really argues for it. Tucker even reports with dismay that 67 percent of Americans support capital punishment, "though their betters -- newspaper editorial writers, the French -- tell them they shouldn't."

Tucker's essay began by joking about killer Gary Gilmore, executed in Utah in 1977 for killing a motel manager the year before:

Gary Gilmore, patron saint of the modern American execution, hear our plea.

Give us potassium chloride, give us death, but give us two good grams of sodium thiopental first.

Give us the long drop, the 2,000-volt surge, the Cor-Bon 185-grain jacketed hollow-point .45, but let the country give up this quest for a painless execution. Is it even possible? It has been the holy grail of executioners for more than a century, and we are still plodding along the capital punishment road, vast horizons ahead.

Later in the piece, Tucker starts taunting the majority of Americans:

And Americans (including the president) do support the death penalty.

They do so at 67 percent, though their betters -- newspaper editorial writers, the French -- tell them they shouldn't. The United States is one of four countries that account for about 95 percent of the world's executions (the others being China, Saudi Arabia and Iran). Americans support it three decades after all of Western Europe stopped, calling it outdated, unfair and barbaric. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch -- oh, you know.

Tucker approvingly quotes liberal Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun:  "The system is filled with what Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun once called 'arbitrariness, discrimination, caprice and mistake.'" He then laments the failures of lethal injection, starting with the death of gangster Stanley "Tookie" Williams in California, a murderer celebrities turned out in droves to spare him from what he dished out:

Nobody really knows if Williams died in pain, but the process didn't look good. When a federal judge questioned the executioners about the errors, one team member said the crew wasn't exactly broken up about it:

"[Expletive] does happen," the witness said.

It turned out the executioners had no training in mixing the lethal drugs. Also, one member had been disciplined for smuggling illegal drugs into prison. Also, the team leader had received a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. Also, a bunch of sodium thiopental -- an addictive controlled substance -- was taken from the prison pharmacy by execution team members and, um, not used or returned. (At least somebody out at San Quentin was feeling no pain.)

Four hundred years of execution in this country (the first one was at Jamestown, 1607, firing squad), and this is where we are.

Tucker then noted that the same imperfections happened with child molester/murderer John Wayne Gacy. After noting the 33 deaths he caused, Tucker still felt Gacy's botched-then-concluded execution was an appropriate juncture for humor:  

Nobody really cried, because nobody really liked John Wayne Gacy, anyway, though he could paint a nice clown picture.

Tucker thinks we should all remain uneasy with the death penalty, but there's too much sneering in this article to qualify as sensitive. But as with many liberals, Tucker seems more upset about the deaths of the killers than about the death of their innocent victims.