For centuries, a death sentence was often carried out without concern for the suffering of the criminal. Stoning to death was a very panful way to die as was crucifixion. Hanging was common for years and sometimes it was swift and merciful if the neck broke and sometimes it took minutes for the condemned to suffocate. With the invention of guns, firing squads became an acceptable means of carrying out a death sentence. In some countries they are still used. Thanks to Thomas Edison, the electric chair was used for a number of years and then the gas chamber.
But with the advent of social do-gooders came concern about the inhumane way condemned criminals were executed. They cared nothing for the torturous deaths of their victims. Hanging sometimes took several minutes and some criminals didn’t die fast enough while being electrocuted or gassed. Photos and films of criminals convulsing as they were being executed tugged at the heart strings of liberals.
One solution to help resolve their protests was lethal injection. A mixture of drugs was administered that rendered the criminal unconscious before the rest of the drugs stopped the heart. The first drug given was an anesthetic called pentobarbital. Only one company in the US made the drug, but they eventually stopped production. Pentobarbital is still manufactured in Europe, but those countries banned export to the US because of its use in executions.
States have struggled to find a substitute but many of those efforts have not gone well. Some have tried to use midazolam in place of the pentobarbital but those efforts failed miserably in the eyes of many as it took one condemned man 43 minutes to die. He was a rapist and murderer who put his victims through hell, but because he suffered during his execution, it’s suddenly a terrible tragedy.
A number of states have now put their executions on hold until a more humane method can be found. A number of Utah politicians believe they have a more humane answer – a firing squad. They still have lethal injection listed as an acceptable method of execution, but a bill that has been passed by the state legislature has added death by firing squad as an alternative method. The bill now goes to Gov. Gary Herbert who has not indicated whether or not he will sign it.
At one point in history, the death penalty had been banned as cruel and unusual punishment. However, in 1976, the US Supreme Court re-instated the death penalty as a legal form of punishment for capital crimes. Utah was the first state to execute a prisoner after the court decision. In 1977, they executed the infamous murdered Gary Gilmore and did so using a firing squad.
Firing squads were legal in Utah up to 2004 when a more liberal state legislature banned it in favor of lethal injection. However, any criminal condemned to death prior to the 2004 law was still given the option of a firing squad or lethal injection. A number of them have chosen the firing squad including the last execution to take place in Utah in 2010.
I know that the whole idea of the death penalty is problematic for many people including Christians. However, when God issued His laws to Moses as listed in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, He stated that certain acts were to be punishable with death. Murder, adultery, fornication and homosexuality were among those acts that God said were punishable by death.
Many Christians try to argue that Jesus nullified the Laws of Moses, but that’s not true. Jesus fulfilled and replaced the temple laws but not the rest of the law. If their argument was true, then murder, lying, stealing adultery, greed, lust, etc. would not be a sin if Jesus nullified the Laws of Moses. If Jesus had nullified the laws, then why are there New Testament passages that spell out sins such as greed, lust, jealousy, anger, gossip, slander, etc.?
Based upon my understanding of Scripture, I believe that the death penalty is a legal and justifiable means of punishment for certain crimes. I also believe in public executions as they were done in biblical times and that people of all ages should see them. A public execution wasn’t just a means of punishment but by having people, including children witness such a horrible death, it taught them a lesson of what could happen to them if they disobeyed their parents, the government and God.
Some years ago when I still lived in Arizona, I was juror number 2 called for a first degree murder case. When the defense attorney was screening jurors, he asked me how I felt about the death penalty. I told him that I’d furnish the gun if the state furnished the bullet and he immediately excused me from the jury. The prosecutor cracked up and gave me a look to say he wished I remained on the jury. It turns out the guy was convicted but was sentenced to life in prison without parole, not death. Had I still been on the jury, I would have done my best to make it a death sentence as he brutally raped two teenaged girls and then beat them to death. I would have had no problem watching him squirm and convulse for a half hour considering what he put those girls and their family through.
An Englishman once described a public hanging as being ghastly and he’s right. Watching a person jerking for a minute or two at the end of a rope and then emptying out his bladder and bowels is very ghastly, but it also made an impression on him and others that witnessed the event.
I know prison is not a joke, but sentencing is. A person sentenced to life can sometimes be paroled in less than 20 years. I’ve seen accounts of people sentenced to 10 years in prison walk free if less than 2 years. Then you have bleeding heart liberal judges or governors that order hundreds of convicts released early because the prisons are too crowded. That aspect of our judicial system is a joke and definitely not a deterrent to crime.
I firmly believe that if they held public executions and made prisoners stay in prison for the duration of their sentencing, even if they have to stack them 6 to cell or put them in tents outside like Sheriff Joe Arpaio did, that many people would think twice before committing a crime. I would do away with parole or probation as I’ve seen too many people be victimized by someone who should still have been locked up.
I hope Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signs the death by firing squad bill into law and that Utah goes a step further and makes those executions open to the public.