Forward & (Almost) Backward

February 13, 2014

Recent news regarding the death penalty in the U.S. brings both good and bad news. On the positive side, Washington's Governor Jay Inslee announced this week that he would initiate a moratorium on capital punishment in his state. Calling the death penalty "inconsistent and unequal" and part of "an imperfect system," he explained he would commute sentences to life in prison. Although it would be better to see state officials end the death penalty completely, Inslee should be commended for taking this step forward. Across the nation, Virginia legislators are moving in the opposite direction. Since Virginia is struggling to find lethal injection drugs needed for executions (an issue I discussed in a post here), legislators recently considered making the electric chair the backup (currently those being executed can choose the electric chair, even though some other death penalty states have deemed it cruel, but the new legislation that passed the state House of Delegates would force its use). Fortunately, this legislation died in the state Senate for this year, but it might resurface. Number two in the nation for executions, Virginia legislators seem unwilling to kick the habit. Just as my adopted state of Virginia is looking backward to keep the death penalty alive, so is my home state of Missouri as legislators there have proposed bringing back the firing squad in case the lethal injection drugs cannot be obtained. The firing squad as "justice" in the 21st Century? Are we that desperate to kill people? As if the situation was not sad enough, the legislator pushing the Missouri bill is a "pro-life" Baptist (as long as one defines "pro-life" as meaning nothing more than opposing abortion). Hopefully Virginia and Missouri will look west to Washington for inspiration before some legislator proposes bringing back the guillotine.