Wednesday, January 15, 2014

27 Hours

It's getting to be time for the folks in Columbus to set more execution dates.  Serious ones.

They do it every few months, typically scheduling them roughly every other month.  And they set them some 26 to 28 months in the future.  Right now, we've got people lined through January 2016, two years from now.  So it's about time for another date or two.  Simple math.  Which is, after all, how those who orchestrate the killings like to think about it as they might think about getting stale bread to the inmates - as a bureaucratic process.  So they create protocols that, well, bureaucratize. 

However much the administrators of death, from the Supreme Court of Ohio to the guy who pushes the button that actually sends the drugs into the body so that the thing there strapped to the table can cease breathing, killing people on command isn't the same as arranging food shipments.  The person to be killed isn't a can of lima beans.  He's a person.  However much we might wish to deny.

Shylock, in a less-different-than-you-might-think context made the point.
                                       I am a Jew. Hath
not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs,
dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with
the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject
to the same diseases, healed by the same means,
warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as
a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?
if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison
us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not
revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will
resemble you in that.
The other day, Judge Frost said that we could go ahead and kill Dennis McGuire.  Sure, it's a new way of killing, a combination of drugs that nobody's ever used before.  And there's some chance he'll suffer an horrific death.  But they didn't show it was particularly likely that he personally would.  Not likely enough, anyway.  The state's folks said that the Constitution doesn't entitle him to a guarantee of a perfectly painless death, which seems to be true. (Ohio's statute actually does entitle him to that, but hey, them's the breaks.)

And so, in about 27 hours, absent something extraordinary, Dennis McGuire will be killed at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio.  Killed by paid employees of the State of Ohio.  My tax dollars at work.

And then Gregory Lott in March and Arthur Tyler in May and so on through Kareem Jackson in January 2016 and then . . . .  Though probably some of them will be spared, at least for a while.

I've written from time to time about the new dates.  I've quoted Camus.
What then is capital punishment but the most premeditated of murders, to which no criminal's deed, however calculated it may be, can be compared? For there to be an equivalence, the death penalty would have to punish a criminal, who had warned his victim of the date at which he would inflict a horrible death on him, and who from that moment onward had confined him at his mercy for months. Such a monster is not encountered in private life.
And I've acknowledged that Camus was probably wrong.  There are worse monsters to be encountered, though we're supposed to be better.  Still

I've also written about that 28 month wait from the day the Columbus 7 announce the execution date until the time.  And what it must do to a person.

But there's the other end, too.  Dennis McGuire is to be killed tomorrow morning.  some 27 hours from now.  There's a prison guard watching his every move, taking minute by minute notes, keeping his bureaucratic eyes on things for the log book.  But what he does, when he pees, how many of the soggy Cheerios he eats, those are his actions.  They aren't him.

As he struggles.  Or accepts.  Sweats.  Prays.  Worries.  Wonders.

Once again, I don't know Dennis McGuire.  I never represented him.  Never met him.  Never got a letter from him or one of his friends or relatives asking me for information or help.  (You'd be amazed what I do get from people.)  I don't have any idea what's running through his mind now.  Neither do you.  Is he at peace?  Is he crawling psychological walls.  Does he expect to be going to a better place? To a worse?  To nowhere at all.

No, of course he shouldn't have killed Joy Stewart 24 years ago.  That's a given.  But this person, this Dennis McGuire, this man who's 24 years older (perhaps wiser, perhaps not), he isn't the young man, the 29 year old, who did that.  This one's 53.  Middle aged, though obviously well past the mid point of his life.  A different guy.

With 27 hours to live.

Of course, that's notice she didn't have.  Which, today at least, really isn't the point.

Joy Stewart
Dennis McGuire


  1. Well, that didn't go too well did it?

    1. I titled the post-facto blog post "They Can't Say They Weren't Warned.: