Hey, Arizona, Next Time Try Scaphism

If America wants to kill a scrawny camouflaged terrorist on a boulder-strewn hillside thousands of miles away -- boom, no sooner said than done, vaporized in an instant. If, however, it wants to terminate someone it has under lock and key, who needs only to be walked a few yards to a chamber to get what's coming? Uh-oh, problems.

It took the State of Arizona two hours to kill convicted killer Joseph Wood using a secretly purchased cocktail of midazolam and hydromorphone. So far, it's not known why this combo was chosen, nor how much went into him before it killed him.

Killers tend to be stupid -- Texas executed one recently whose IQ may have been as low as 68 -- but they frequently manage to get the job done in seconds. By contrast, this State-run Arizona killing was so inept and took so agonizingly long that one of the killer's attorneys left the room after a while and called a judge to try and get him to stop it.

She reported that her client was "gasping, snorting, and unable to breathe -- and not dying." After a while, her appeal reached Justice Kennedy, that wavering "third freak" of the Supreme Court, who sent back word that he would not stop it. For once his decision was not determinative. Wood had finally expired anyhow.

Arizona Governor, Jan Brewer stated afterwards that "One thing is certain... inmate Wood died in a lawful manner and by eyewitness and medical accounts he did not suffer."

This kind of remark always puzzles me. If you believe killing people for killing people is the right thing to do, what do you care if he or she suffers? The Old Testament gives you 100% cover: sadistic and gruesome executions are totally kosher, beyond kosher, super-kosher. There's a list of crimes for which painful execution is prescribed, including stoning children to death for being "stubborn and rebellious" (Dueteronomy 21:18). So why do pro-death-penalty advocates put out these reassuring, almost apologetic "he did not suffer" messages?

All we're talking about here is a couple of poison-choice fuck-ups and some phlebotomy snafus leading to a spot of unintended suffocation? What's the big deal? Personally, I'm against the death penalty, but if I wasn't I'd be asking for more executions done more savagely, more effectively, and more openly.

This incompetent furtive crap seems hypocritical and un-American.

Unlike just about every civilized nation on earth, America believes execution is right and effective. Good! This is American! It's bold and defiant! But why stop half way? Why not have the courage of your convictions? Instead of hiding the whole process, do it in public outside the State Capitol building or the courthouse. Justice should not just be done, but be seen to be done. Let the lawmakers see their law being carried out; let the victims' families get the chance to yell and shout, or even participate in the killing; let the public be deterred by seeing what it's like to die for a crime.

And die painfully.

Let's stop pretending execution can or ought to be done "nicely". It's not nice. It doesn't matter how you do it, the condemned person counts the days, hours, and minutes until it happens, and when it happens it is inherently violent -- it's a killing -- and probably it's going to hurt, and most people, deep down, think it should hurt. It's hard not to feel that Jan Brewer feels this way. Continuing her statement, she said Wood's painless death was "in stark comparison to the gruesome, vicious suffering that he inflicted on his two victims -- and the lifetime of suffering he has caused their family."

If we're not ashamed of executing our lowlifes -- strange that rich people never seem to get executed, what's that all about? -- then let the Bible be our guide and let's kill lots of people for all kinds of crimes and let's do it brutally. No more lethal injection. No more hanging, shooting, or gassing either. Executions, if they are to have any value, should be agonizing, entertaining, educational, and take at least as long as a Broadway musical.

If you're in the executions business -- and 31 other states apart from Arizona still are -- I think you should look at some of the old-time ways of dispatching criminals (and heretics and rebels, including rebellious children) and think about bringing some of them back -- with modern adaptations and embellishments, of course.

First of all, animals. Why, oh, why have we stopped using this handy and entertaining method? Throughout history we've used them to devour, crush, rip apart, sting or trample people to death. There are wonderful machines that we've completely ignored the past few centuries. If you're in search of ideas, for God's sake don't overlook the middle ages and the Inquisition. There are humane machines that merely break your back, and others that cause slower and more painful deaths in more fantastic ways. If you like to keep it simple, you can bleed someone to death with a thousand cuts, or beat them to death over a period of days by rationing the blows. There's boiling, grilling, and other forms of cooking. What with the blender and the slow cooker, there must be many fun and modern methods waiting to be discovered. Crucifixion, disembowelment, flaying, impaling, and starvation still have many fans and must be ready for a comeback. For a modern starvation execution, I see something David Blaine-like: a well-lit glass box and a 24-hour video-feed. (Ha ha). There's strangulation (take your time) and, of course, every biblical scholar's favorite: stoning. "Legalize it, don't criticize it."

Last but not least, there's Scaphism.

Scaphism is so revolting I can't bring myself to describe it, but if you're one of the 32 states which still has an appetite for execution, here's a link.

Check it out, Jan, it might be perfect for Arizona, and it certainly proves your point: at least in relative terms (relative to ancient Persia at its cruelest), Joseph Wood did not suffer.