Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, wants Americans to know that executions are dirty, "savage" business.
In his written dissent to a Ninth Circuit ruling on Monday that puts the death penalty on hold for an Arizona killer, Kozinski appears to praise the guillotine and criticizes the idea that killing prisoners can be done in kinder, gentler fashion.
Though Kozinski's comment about the machine used infamously in the French Revolution to chop off thousands of heads seems to be sarcastic, it's certainly an eye-opener.
Executions are "brutal, savage events, and nothing the state tries to do can mask that reality," Kozinski writes. "Nor should it. If we as a society want to carry out executions, we should be willing to face the fact that the state is committing a horrendous brutality on our behalf.
"If some states and the federal government wish to continue carrying out the death penalty, they must turn away from this misguided path and return to more primitive--and foolproof--methods of execution. The guillotine is probably best but seems inconsistent with our national ethos. And the electric chair, hanging and the gas chamber are each subject to occasional mishaps."
But as much as Kozinski seems like to guillotine, he reserves additional high praise for firing squads, which he deems "most promising:
"Eight or ten large-caliber rifle bullets fired at close range can inflict massive damage, causing instant death every time. There are plenty of people employed by the state who can pull the trigger and have the training to aim true. The weapons and ammunition are bought by the state in massive quantities for law enforcement purposes, so it would be impossible to interdict the supply. And nobody can argue that the weapons are put to a purpose for which they were not intended: firearms have no purpose other than destroying their targets. Sure, firing squads can be messy, but if we are willing to carry out executions, we should not shield ourselves from the reality that we are shedding human blood. If we, as a society, cannot stomach the splatter from an execution carried out by firing squad, then we shouldn't be carrying out executions at all."
Point taken. Firing squads would be an awfully cheap method of execution, too.
We're sure he's wrong about one thing: No doubt, some would argue that firearms have purposes other than destroying targets.
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