Ugly Irony In High Court
Death Penalty On Day The Pope Comes To Visit
By James Donahue
Those of us who have
long opposed the wickedness of our nation’s rush to execute every person found guilty of murder and other high crimes
were not surprised, but disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision this week to approve lethal injection as a form
of killing prisoners.
We find strange symbolism
in the fact that the ruling was handed down on the very day Pope Benedict XVI arrived to visit at the White House. It was
almost as if the court was handing the pontiff a special blood-stained gift. The Pope, of course, represents an old Christian
dogma that drives followers into convicting criminals to death.
The very act of killing
the killer has been an age-old formula set by ancient laws followed by the Hebrews, said to have been handed down by God to
Moses when he stood on Mount
Sinai. Indeed, it wasn’t just ten commandments received (or perhaps conceived) by Moses during that historic
event, but rather a long list of laws, now recorded in the Book of Deuteronomy, that have influenced the social legal system
for thousands of years.
Fortunately, not all
of the “sins” that resulted in the killing of the sinner remain on the books today. They included such things
as adultery, turning to other “gods” or religions, or psychic functioning. Anyone found guilty of such behavior
was stoned to death in the public square.
While Moses and his tribe
may have condoned it, the act of murdering the accused has never been the best solution, especially in cases where there may
be a question as to the real guilt of the person standing accused.
That was a problem then
and it is even more of a problem in the United States
today, where we have overzealous police and prosecutors willing to make cases against suspected killers with what turns out
to be sloppy investigative work. Proof of false arrest has been found in a broad number of such cases now that DNA techniques
have been developed and used to help prove the innocence of people living on death row.
We have to wonder how
many innocent men and women have been put to death, either by such barbaric means as hanging, the electric chair, or lethal
injection, since it all began. That the right-wing Christian-packed Bush Administration would remain in power long enough
to stack the high court with people who still support this archaic mindset is tragic.
In fairness to President
Bush, however, the vote was 7-2 to reject challenges to the Kentucky
executions by lethal injection, claiming the procedure was inhumane. And Justice John Paul Stevens, while concurring with
the judgment, wrote that he now believed capital punishment itself is unconstitutional. He suggested that this week’s
ruling might serve to stir the debate over banning it altogether.
Unless new legal challenges
are sent forth, we may be in for a bloody year ahead. Executions across the country have been on hold since the Kentucky case went before the high court in 2007. At least two dozen
executions are about to be carried out now that the court has given the green light to killing once again.