Thursday, March 10, 2011

Feel Better Now?

They say Johnnie Baston confessed on Friday.
So we can all rest easy.
But you know, confession or not (and there's at least some dispute), factual guilt or not? That's a distraction.
The choice of drug, switching from thiopental to pentobarbital?  That's a distraction.
Marginally greater access to a lawyer during the execution?  That's a distraction.
We talk about those things, I talk about those things, because they're relevant to the individual cases,  because they move some people, because they point to intractable problems and because there's a legitimate interest and concern with how we go about it.
But they're distractions.
On the listserv of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and in the wake of what happened in Illinois yesterday, there's been a whole lot of fussing about how it is or isn't possible to believe in the death penalty but still defend the capitally accused.  It's a distraction.
We let those other things distract us. This is about murder. 
Shortly before this morning's killing, Tim Young, Ohio Public Defender, said this.
Today Ohio will kill Johnnie Baston.  Johnnie will be executed using pentobarbital, a first in Ohio.  He will also have unprecedented access to his attorneys during the process.  There are those who look to Ohio as setting a new standard for ‘humane executions’ -  what a strange and inherently contradictory term.  But what is there to look to here in Ohio?  That we are only second to Texas in the number of executions?  That we only use one drug instead of three?  That the condemned man can talk to his lawyer?  All this talk about the process is but a diversion from the fact that Ohio is still going to kill Johnnie Baston today.  Instead of looking to Ohio as an example of anything to do with the death penalty, we should look to  Illinois, New Mexico, and the other states that have repealed the death penalty.  For it is those states that understand that to be humane there cannot be executions.
He's right. 
This is about murder.  Plain and simple.  And it's not about the murder of Chong Mah.  That is, sadly, over and done.  We cannot bring him back.  We cannot undo the horror, the pain, the loss. Adding a murder does not change that.
And it is murder.  Aggravated murder, in fact.  I've quoted this section of the Ohio Revised Code before.
No person shall purposely, and with prior calculation and design, cause the death of another or the unlawful termination of another’s pregnancy.
This morning, a team of state employees, acting at the specific direction of judges, justices, and the Governor of the State of Ohio, all pretending to be acting in our interest, caused the death of Johnnie Baston.  Purposely.  And with  prior calculation and design.
So we can all rest easy.
Or not.

1 comment:

  1. Jeff, I'm wondering what thoughts cross your mind when you read this quote:

    “For a long time I didn’t see a lot of value in myself,’’ Baston said Thursday in the death chamber, the Toledo Blade reported. “It wasn’t until this moment, till I had to go through this ordeal, that I have seen so much love from so many people, letters from people all over the world, and even Ohio.’’

    This is out of a CNN article about the execution; apparently the event was newsworthy only because of the one drug thing.

    Aside from the tragicomic reference (...even Ohio), do you see any larger meaning here? Is there a flip side to the death penalty that undercuts the abolitionist position, which I should state again I have some sympathy for even if I'm not entirely in agreement?

    I'm not challenging you here in any egotistical sense. I just genuinely want to know your thoughts, if any, in light of that quote.