Puerto Rico takes pride in opposing the death penalty since 1927. Angel Nieves Diaz, a native of Puerto Rico, was convicted of murdering a topless bar manager in Florida 27 years ago and was sentenced to die by lethal injection. After appeals for clemency from his native country fell on deaf ears, Governor Jeb Bush signed the death warrant and Diaz was executed December 13th, 2006. It took a rare two-doses of chemicals and over 34 minutes for him to be pronounced dead. He was still moving for most of the time and, according to witnesses, appeared to grimace toward the end.
After a doctor declared Diaz may have suffered a slow, agonizing death – due to the possibility of the needle going thru his vein rather than in it, Bush declared all executions in Florida halted until further notice. On the same day, a Califonia Federal Judge ruled unless the method of lethal injection is reviewed and changed, he will declare it unconstitutional. The state has 30 days to comply. Rulings like this typically set the stage for a national debate which could end up in the Supreme Court.
Many unexpected things can happen in the death chamber, the most common being the inability to locate a suitable vein in previous drug users. This can prolong the process for up to an hour. There have been over 40 botched executions in the last 25 years. Here are some examples:
March 25, 1997 in Florida – Pedro Medina was executed by electric chair and the first jolt of electricity caused flames to burst over a foot out the side of his head and fill the room with smoke.
July 8, 1999 in Florida – Allen Lee Davis was blasted with 2,300 volts which caused blood to spew from his mouth, nose and seeped thru buckle holes of the straps holding him down.
May 24, 1989 in Texas – Stephen McCoy had such a strong reaction to the drugs injected into his body that he started heaving, choking and gasping. A male witness fainted.
Sept. 2, 1983 in Mississippi – Jimmy Lee Gray was executed by asphyxiation and officials had to send witnesses out of the room when his gasping became so desperate it was unbearable. He tried to end his suffering by banging his head against a steel pole in the gas chamber.
I am firmly against capital punishment. There is proof that the death penalty is no deterrent to crime and contrary to popular belief, it costs more money to have someone executed than it is to keep them in jail for life. State by state statistics show taxpayers spend millions more on capital cases. The United States is one of the only developed democracies that still executes people aside from the Caribbean and some countries in SE Asia. All of Europe and the UK have abolished the the practice for all offenses. Eleven countries, mainly in South America, only execute people under special circumstances.
Crime is much lower in Europe. I have a theory for why this is true. All European countries have taken steps to give services to the poor. They have taken a much more effective route with drugs, some by decriminalizing it and offering help to addicts. They have also banned citizens from owning guns which is a touchy issue here. The majority of crimes in United States (the ones that fill up our jails) are committed by poor minorities, drug addicts, or a combination of both with access to guns. More cops and more jails isn’t going to combat what many crimes are connected to. Once we address the root of the problem, crime will go down. At this point our country is too emotional and reactionary when dealing with these types of social issues.
It’s interesting that as technology advanced in the 20th century, the means of executing people became less humane. At least in previous centuries they were quicker and more efficient about it (except when they were burning heretics of course)! A swift hanging or beheading is much faster than electrocution or lethal injection. The guillotine, for example, was the most effective method ever invented with little chance of malfunction. The only problem is that it’s a bit messy, and we don’t like that. But it’s more humane to strap someone to a chair and electocute them to death? When I debate this with people, I am often asked “what if someone murdered your mother, or your sister – how would you feel then”? My response is I’d probably rip the person apart if I got my hands on them… My argument is not out of sympathy for a murderer, but executing criminals is an outdated practice that is no longer effective.
America should rise above state sponsored execution. It’s expensive and doesn’t solve anything. As long as dangerous criminals are removed from society, it shouldn’t make a difference. It’s almost 2007 and most of the world has realized there is no good logical reason for capital punishment anymore.