Moving Toward An Unwelcome Record

Ohio is on pace to break its modern-day record for capital punishment executions in a single year.  In 2004, Ohio executed seven prisoners.  Last week Ohio executed its fifth death-row inmate this year, and the state is on pace to kill a total of 11 this year.  Only Texas has executed more people in 2010 than Ohio.

There is no doubt that many of the death-row inmates committed heinous crimes.  The most recent prisoner to be executed was known as the “Homicidal Hitchhiker” because he killed and injured people in the Cincinnati area who had helpfully offered him a ride.  The inmate, named Michael Beuke, had exhausted all of his appeals and habeas corpus arguments.  Like Beuke, the other occupants of Ohio’s death row also are people convicted of committing horrible crimes that show no regard for the sanctity of human life — and they too are slowly, but surely, working through the fruitless appeals that are the only things that stand between them and imminent execution.

I am opposed to capital punishment.  Killing people is a crime because it is the ultimate immoral, criminal act.  I don’t think the morality equation changes when the State takes a life in a cool, calculated way.  I would like to think that, as a society, we have moved beyond the death penalty, and it saddens me that Ohio is on pace to kill so many people this year.  I also think the death penalty is a waste of our resources.  Our courts spend inordinate amounts of time hearing death penalty cases and appeals, we hire lawyers to push for the death penalty, and we pay for lawyers to represent the accused.  When an execution date draws near, we hear about the constant requests for leniency, the last-minute arguments to stay the execution, and the charges that the lethal injections that are supposed to cause a painless death aren’t so painless after all.  It all seems unseemly, wasteful, and wrong to me.

I am sure that, if a loved one were killed in a senseless crime, I would want revenge — but an individual’s desire for revenge should not dictate the State’s response to criminal acts.  I think our state’s policy should be to throw a person convicted of murder into prison for life, there to live out his days in a harsh and brutal existence among the dregs of society and perhaps to reflect upon his heinous act and his wasted life.  That sounds like punishment enough to me.