"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Alabama: Bringing back electric chair would be unwise

Alabama's "Yellow Mama"
Leave Yellow Mama where it belongs - in deep storage at the Holman Correction Facility in Atmore.

That's the only sane response to an effort to reinstate use of Alabama's infamous electric chair, nicknamed for its garish color.

The electric chair bill, which passed the state House of Representatives last week, purports to offer a practical alternative to death by lethal injection, should that method remain unavailable.

Lethal injection executions are now stalled in Alabama and elsewhere by legal challenges and because pharmaceutical companies increasingly refuse to supply states with the ingredients needed for fatal drug cocktails.

Botched executions of death row prisoners in several states show why lethal injection is rightly under review by the U.S. Supreme Court on the grounds it may constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

In a number of cases, injections using different drug combinations have led to long, atrocious death scenes, including that of an Arizona inmate in 2014 who took almost 2 hours to die.

The solution to the stay on one questionable capital-punishment method, however, isn't to revive the even more barbaric electric chair option.

Yellow Mama was retired in 2002 precisely because of legal challenges over gruesome cruelty including inmates roasting alive while strapped in.

Bill sponsor Rep. Lynn Greer, R-Rogersville, says electrocutions will save Alabama money if a dearth of lethal injection drugs means inmates sit longer on death row.

He's wrong. Death penalty appeals will only become more costly for taxpayers if the electric chair is brought back and opponents who believe it is inhumane inevitably challenge its constitutionality.

But the Alabama Senate should refuse to take up reinstatement of the electric chair for a more fundamental reason:

The rank role unfairness and bigotry play in application of the death penalty, particularly in Southern states.

Study after study reveals that black defendants get the death penalty far more often than white defendants, for similar crimes. Black defendants convicted of killing white victims are put on death row in higher proportions than white defendants who killed black victims.

Add to that the horrifying number of death-row prisoners who've been exonerated, victims of shoddy legal defense or misconduct by prosecutors more interested in winning convictions than the truth.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 150 innocent death- row inmates have been exonerated since 1973, including 5 from Alabama.

Yellow Mama, ugly artifact of a morally indefensible death penalty system, shouldn't be returned to service.

Instead, Alabama lawmakers should follow the lead of Nebraska, where legislation to ban execution in favor of life sentences without chance of parole has received bipartisan support.

Source: al.com, March 16, 2015

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