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Monday, May 5, 2014

A botched execution doesn't appear to stir much discussion in Arkansas

Posted By on Mon, May 5, 2014 at 7:08 AM

The gruesome failed execution in Oklahoma has engendered a great deal of national talk about the death penalty, but little movement on the part of public officials in Arkansas to move away from the punishment. Not surprising. Statistics show the South remains as warm to the death penalty as places like North Korea, China, Iran and Yemen.

Stephens Media sampled some official opinion and found no one, save the Arkansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty, talking about ending the death penalty, for years unenforced in Arkansas with a resumption not likely any time soon. One candidate, extremist Republican David Sterling, who wants to be the state's top lawyer, favors making the tools of chemical execution secret and, in the meanwhile, firing up the electric chair.

New York Times columnist Charles Blow wrote on the topic today. He touches the familiar arguments against capital punishment, including its high cost versus a prosecution that ends in a life-without-parole sentence, its discriminatory application and its finality when innocent people are executed.

I liked the graphic the newspaper assembled from Amnesty International statistics.

* Two-thirds of the countries in the world have abolished the death penalty.

* Five countries — China, Iran, North Korea, Yemen and the U.S. — account for the big majority of executions.

* Since 1977, 77 percent of executions were for crimes where the victim was white, though black people make up about half of all homicide victims.

* 14 states without the death penalty had homicide rates at or below the national average.

* Since the penalty was reinstated in 1976, 82 percent of executions have occurred in the South.

In recent days I've heard many public discussions on the topic. From the conservative side, they seem to cheer a gruesome end to people accused of gruesome crimes. But isn't state-sanctioned barbarity as a response to barbarity a return to the Middle Ages, with slow and lingering executions open to the public?



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