LIVINGSTON, Texas — Condemned inmate Cary Kerr acknowledges that the prospect of becoming the first Texas prisoner to be executed with a new drug is unsettling…. “It’s very scary,” Kerr said recently from a tiny visiting cage outside death row. “I’m not volunteering to test nothing for the state.”…. Texas will use pentobarbital as one of the three drugs in its lethal injection process because of a nationwide shortage of sodium thiopental, a sedative used in the drug mixture in the 466 executions since the state resumed carrying out capital punishment in 1982.
In it’s drive to be known for being #1 in something…ANYTHING…it seems Texas has settled on being #1 in state-sanctioned murder. OK, so I’ve just copped to the fact that I oppose the death penalty, but Texas is by far the national leader in biblical retributive “justice.” [Far too] Many Texans are proud of their place at the top of these rankings, but there’s really nothing to be proud of. Texas executes inmates at an unprecedented rate, and it would hardly be an exaggeration to use the term “death factory” to describe the Texas criminal justice system.
Evidently, not even a shortage of sodium thiopental will slow down the Texas death factory. So determined is the state, and so popular is the death penalty, that it seems even being forced to change the lethal “cocktail” is no deterrent. Not that I (or anyone) will attempt to make an argument on behalf of Cary Kerr or other convicted murderers, of course. Still, do we want to be the sort of society that exacts retribution come Hell or high water? Does that make our world a better place? Does that make us better people? And what if, God forbid, an executed murderer turns out to be innocent? What if the state of Texas, even in good faith, executes an innocent person? What if even one of the previous 466 murderers turns out to have in fact been innocent? Corrupt prosecutors, inept defense attorneys, incompetent and incomplete investigations- all of these things can and do contribute to people being on Death Row even though they may have committed no crime. Are Texans willing to debate acceptable losses? Is the occasional execution of an innocent person an acceptable price to pay as a deterrent? It’s not exactly out of the realm of possibility to think that one (or more) of the 466 executed murderers was in fact NOT a murderer at all. What then? How do you “un-kill” someone?
It’s not a perfect system- not by a long shot. Given that our judicial system is administered by humans, there’s no reasonable way to rule out human error (or worse, ineptitude and/or malevolence). How, then, can we justify a system which executes human beings regardless of possible error(s)? What’s an acceptable margin of error? One life? Two? Three? And who gets to tell the families and loved ones of the innocent that their loved one’s death served the “Greater Good”?
From where I sit, when it comes to the death penalty perfection is the minimal acceptable standard. Since perfection simply isn’t possible from a system administered by (occasionally inept, error-prone, and/or malevolent) human beings, how can we justify capital punishment? And if you do support capital punishment regardless of the imperfections, then how do you set an acceptable margin of error? Does “serving the Greater Good” justify occasionally killing an innocent person? Would you want to explain that to the family of an innocent victim of state-sanctioned murder? Until and unless we can find acceptable answers to these questions, how can we in good conscience continuing a system that may on occasion kill and innocent man?
WE DESERVE BETTER.