If I got a choice, I’d definitely say, “Just shoot me”

I’m hearing a lot of buzz this evening about a news story from Utah that it wouldn’t have occurred to me to put on my front page: A condemned man is choosing to face a firing squad rather than lethal injection? Between the lines of the reporting and comments I’m hearing what I perceive as a flavor of “Firing squad? How awful! How barbaric!

To which I’m going, Yeah, so? My God, who wouldn’t choose that? I know I would. In fact, of all the forms of execution current in this country, the firing squad is by far the least objectionable from the point of view of the condemned. It’s quicker and more certain than hanging.

And to me, lethal injection is by far the worst, the most blood-chillingly terrifying, the most cruel and unusual way to take a man’s life.

It’s so cold, so sterile, so deliberate, so clinical, so pseudo-nonviolent and therefore most morally chilling. Like, we’re going to kill you, casually and dispassionately, in a staged setting that makes a mockery of the healing process.

This, of course, is related to my fear of giving blood, which I overcome every time I go to the Red Cross. It’s the cold, clinical, deliberateness of that that has always chilled me. What if the point of slipping that needle into my vein was to kill me, deliberately and legally, with all due ceremony?

Maybe it doesn’t strike you that way, but it seems the most evil, Room 101 thing you could do to another human being.

But a firing squad, the straightforward, quick, honestly retributive violence of it, is to me the most morally defensible form of capital punishment. I don’t believe in ANY form of execution, but if I were king and had to choose for someone else, or if I were given the devil’s own choice of deciding for myself, that’s definitely the way I’d go.


36 thoughts on “If I got a choice, I’d definitely say, “Just shoot me”

  1. Kathryn Fenner

    Lethal injection is said to take 4 minutes to take effect, too.

    How about we stop killing people. Aside from the fact it is barbaric, doesn’t have any deterrent effect on others, etc., we have executed people who did not do the crimes they were killed for. [See, The Innocence Project] DNA evidence has proven that they did not do the crime–which is why they did not plead to a lesser offense or show remorse….

  2. Burl Burlingame

    In China, the condemned are shot in the head from behind by a pistol. They’re not told it’s coming, it’s a surprise. I actually think that’s more humane than dragging out an execution in which the condemned knows his seconds are ticking away.

  3. Herb Brasher

    Huh? What if they miss? I think I’d go for the injection, but then, I’ve never, thankfully, had to witness one.

  4. Karen McLeod

    Dead is dead. As long as the method doesn’t set out to inflict extra pain, I don’t see what difference it makes. I’m not in favor of capitol punishment, but for absolute and fast, how about resurrecting Madame La Guillotine?

  5. Kathryn Fenner

    I guess one of the overlooked issues is the stress of the executioner crew–the guillotine, shooting–lots of mess…

  6. Doug Ross

    It’s not a deterrent, it’s a punishment. There are cases where there is no doubt of the crime and the punishment should be swift and full.

  7. Steve Gordy

    I’m with Brad on this one. I’d pick the firing squad 10 times out of 10. My only fear is summed up by title character’s last line in BREAKER MORANT: “Shoot straight, you @#*$@!*%. Don’t make a mess of it.”

  8. Kathryn Fenner

    “It’s not a deterrent, it’s a punishment.”

    Actually, Doug, one of the oft- advanced justifications for capital punishment is in fact that it is purported to be a deterrent.

    We have killed innocent people in the name of punishment. Their blood is on our hands, unless we actively oppose the death penalty.”beyond a reasonable doubt” is not the same thing as “absolutely sure they did it.”

  9. Karen McLeod

    Nick, “out of society” = life imprisonment (otherwise they just keep re-invading society).
    Kathryn, I suspect that how much the executing crew is stressed depends on each of the crew members. Some might enjoy it.
    Doug, but what about those who are/were innocent? Imprisnonment is punishment too, but at least we can correct errors if it turns out we were mistaken. Also, why should we want to spend so much to execute someone, when we can keep him jailed for life more cheaply. You’re always complaining of gov’t waste. Here’s one place we can be more fiscally responsible.

  10. Kathryn Fenner

    @ Karen– Do we want to allow people who get their jollies by executing people to execute people? Sounds like Dexter to me.

  11. Doug Ross

    As I said, there are cases where this is no doubt that one person committed the murder. In those cases, the punishment fits the crime.

    You think there’s any doubt about Charles Manson’s innocence? How has society been served by his existence and a dozen parole hearings since 1978? What purpose does it serve to expend ANY resources on him? He won’t ever be released yet he will have required 40+ years of incarceration and legal system expenses. To what end? Ultimately, death in prison. Same result.

  12. Doug Ross

    And how about Susan Smith? Killed her children without a doubt. Since she’s been imprisoned, she’s been caught having sex with two guards. More legal resources expended to deal with someone who lost the right to live as soon as her children drowned.

  13. Kathryn Fenner

    It still costs more to go through the appeals process for the death penalty.

    Most death penalty cases have aggravating circumstances (help me, Mr. Shop Tart), which often suggest that the person was seriously mentally ill. Of course, we execute retarded people here, too. Nice.

  14. Brad Warthen

    OK, I am a dedicated opponent of the death penalty (a believer in Cardinal Bernardin’s consistent ethic of life), but I have to say this to some who agree with me:

    There’s something intellectually dishonest in saying it costs more to execute someone than to imprison him for life. It costs so much because we who oppose it so encumber the process, throw so many obstacles down in the way of execution, that it costs that much. If society were undivided on the matter, and took the condemned out immediately to hang right after the verdict was pronounced, it wouldn’t cost any more than the price of the rope.

    In other words, it doesn’t HAVE to cost more. The cost is not intrinsic.

  15. Kathryn Fenner

    Well, since we are already killing innocent people, what’s a few more to save a few bucks, hey?

  16. Doug Ross

    Again, Kathryn, if there was no doubt of the party being guilty (video evidence, confession, multiple eyewitnesses, irrefutable evidence), why can’t that person be punished with death swiftly?

    Life without parole is an expensive proposition with the same end result. Every dime spent keeping them incarcerated is money that could have gone to improve society.

  17. Doug Ross

    And how many additional murders have occurred in prisons by “lifers” who know there can be no worse punishment than they already have?

  18. Kathryn Fenner

    Most people don’t commit crimes in such a clear-cut way. They aren;t on a clear video, and motives matter, too. Eyewitness testimony and, indeed, confessions are notoriously unreliable, and the real world isn’t CSI.

    I repeat: we have executed or nearly executed a lot of innocent people. People who were exonerated–they flat out didn’t do the crime. There are no do-overs in capital punishment.

    If people are committing murders in prison, it seems like we need to adjust our corrections policies, just as we need to ensure that rapes do not occur—it’s not part of the punishment…we don’t just kill everybody.

  19. Doug Ross

    I would bet the number of prisoners killed by lifers is several orders of magnitude greater than those who have been put to death in error. The only way to stop the prison murders would be to put every lifer into solitary confinement for the remainder of their lives. And that’s better?

  20. Karen McLeod

    @ Kathryn, If we’re so determined to mete out capitol punishment, what difference does the reaction of the executioner(s)make. Should we only have executioners who are sickened by execution? Who are we ‘punishing’ here? For myself, I do not intellectually or morally accept capitol punishment as a valid recourse. Since I am part of “the state,” as we all are, I resent that I am made a killer each time we execute someone. I well understand the emotional appeal of capitol punishment. Our alligator-brain medullas drive us to lash out when we’re harmed. I’d just like to think that our collective reason can overcome that reaction, and behave a little more rationally.

  21. Doug Ross


    “Since I am part of “the state,” as we all are, I resent that I am made a killer each time we execute someone. ”

    Can I assume you also resent every abortion that is allowed under the laws implemented by “the state”?

    It’s a baffling mindset that condones aborting fetuses but can’t quite handle killing a murderer.

  22. Kathryn Fenner

    Well, Doug, baffling to you as it may be, many of us do not consider aborting fetuses killing human being, but rather the potential for one. The Catholic Church is, I believe, quite consistent in its position that “every sperm is sacred”–that every potential opportunity for procreation counts–thus no masturbation or birth control. I can respect that, though I do not agree with it. I am inclined to say that viability, at the earliest, or birth, is when a separate “human life” begins.

    I believe everyone agrees that people executed are/were lives-in-being.

    and I gather you have no qualms about the fact that we have also killed people who turned out not to be murderers?

  23. Doug Ross

    Sure I have qualms about those rare occasions. But there are plenty of no-doubt cases that could be addressed. They are two separate paths.

  24. Karen McLeod

    Doug, First of all, the killing of people who were later found innocent is not so rare, especially considering that only seldom was anyone actually seeking to clear the (now) dead man. Secondly, fetuses are not yet human. If they were, we’d be doing heroic measures for fetuses miscarried in the 4th month, say. Also, the state is not doing the aborting. The pregnant woman and the doctor are, and I’m not about to intrude on that decision. but just out of curiosity, lets say a 7th or 8th month ultrasound determines that the baby has only a brainstem. It will live, when born, but will require total care all its life, with no hope of rehabilitation. Not to worry, of course, Title 19 funds will take care of that. Do you approve of the use of tax payer dollars for the care of this baby-to-be? If not, should we wait until it’s born and just leave it to die? Expect the family to pay for all it’s care? (maybe Mr. Trump could, but very few others could manage it). And with the death penalty–very few cases are “no doubt.” Even eye witness testimony is very questionable. Some of those that are leave grave doubts about the perpetrators’ sanity and/or competency.

  25. Doug Ross


    I’ll address you scenario if you address mine. First, I have no objection to abortion, particularly in the case of rape, incest, and the health of the mother. I also can understand there are situations where terminating a pregnancy is the “lesser of two evils” approach versus bringing an unwanted child into the world. It’s a mother’s decision. As for spending tax dollars on the care of a severely handicapped child, that question is sort of a red herring. I wouldn’t care that tax dollars were spent for that purpose if there wasn’t so much wasteful government spending that it requires making a choice between paying for that care or paying for another bureaucrat to shuffle papers in Columbia. Unfortunately, our current system wants to provide everything to everyone. So a better question would be: “Would you rather see tax money spent on the U.S.S. Hunley museum or on caring for children?” my answer is the latter.

    So here’s my scenario for you: Should Charles Manson be alive today? How about Sirhan Sirhan? Timothy McVeigh? Susan Smith? Osama Bin Laden (if he’s caught)? How about a criminal who survives a shootout with police and kills two cops in the process? He lives?

    I’m advocating an approach that takes each case on its own merit. If there isn’t even the slightest bit of evidence suggesting innocence, the murderer should be killed as punishment for his crime.

  26. Doug Ross

    Read the summary of Sirhan Sirhan’s legal proceedings from the time he was captured immediately after shooting Robert Kennedy and then tell me that the current system of dealing with death penalty cases isn’t an utter waste of resources.


    A parole hearing for Sirhan is now scheduled every five years. On March 15, 2006, he was denied parole for the 13th time. He did not attend the hearing, nor did he appoint a new attorney to represent him. His next possible chance for parole will be in 2011.

  27. Kathryn Fenner

    Okay, Doug–I agree with you that taxpayer funds for the Hunley are, if not wasted, out of line for a state with the serious problems ours has, so, yes, I’ll take door number two, too.

    I do not believe there are paper-shufflers abounding in Columbia, though. To the extent there ever were, government is so lean, it’s about to blow away, and it provides so many useful services, from child protection to environmental protection.

    Why exceptions for rape and incest? If a fetus is a baby, else how can abortion be “murder,” do the means of its conception make it less so?

    Yes, I believe all those people you name should live, both because I oppose the State’s putting them to death, and because I believe life in prison is a horrible life. I do not believe in the overly frequent parole reviews, but I defer to corrections experts on that one–and by and large they say they need parole.

    I think a lot of the cases you mention seem to deal with seriously deranged people. They need help, or sequestering, but not state-sponsored murdering.

  28. Doug Ross


    We come from different social circles. I have plenty of references to back up my claims of government waste. Both anecdotal from friends/relatives who work in various government agencies as well as time spent working on-site for over a year for another agency. A church friend in one agency says half the people in his office do no work (including the manager who protects the non-workers). A recent trip down to the Richland County tax assessor’s office provided ample evidence of how inefficient that department is. My trips to the DMV are always informative on just how little you have to do in order to work for the state.

  29. Kathryn Fenner

    Well, I’ve been impressed with how well I am treated at the DMV on Shop Road, and how efficient it all is. People see what they want to see, sometimes.

    Are all government employees models of German efficiency? Hardly, but then everyone doesn’t come from my background, do they? I would not choose to work in a lot of government agencies, but then I am rather finicky–I also choose not to work in a lot (well no) private companies, either….I have long heard stories of how “about half” the employees in XYZ work, but again, we see what we are looking for.

    If your friend truly sees half the people in his office doing no work, literally, I bet there are plenty of elected officials who’d appreciate the heads up–as there’s a lot of hay to be made from that.

  30. Kathryn Fenner

    Well, we do spend an awful lot of money on windmill-tilting lawsuits, but for real, there is a government-funded Hunley museum in North Charleston. One of the two most powerful men in the Legislature (which means the whole government in SC) is Glenn McConnell, who up until a year ago owned a Confederate regalia store. The other powerful man (Bobby Harrell) is also from Charleston, but his Confederate sympathies are unknown to me.

  31. Karen McLeod

    Doug, How about a sentence of life without parole. That would save on parole board hearings. Susan Smith strikes me a seriously mentally ill. A shoot-out? If said person were killed during the shootout, I’d consider it justifiable. But to consider it cold blooded murder in such an emotionally charged situation as that? Manson is crazy as a bedbug. I’d much rather see people like him put quietly away rather than give them the public platform and fame they so clearly want. Also, I worked as a state employee for 32 years, first in DDSN, then with DHEC. I am here to tell you, I worked hard, trying to see that mentally retarded people got good care and training, and so did those that worked with me. Was there an occasional goof-off who managed both to avoid most work and not get caught? Yes, but not many. Most of the people I worked with worked hard, and for comparatively very little money. They can and should be proud of their service.

  32. Burl Burlingame

    The Hunley is an incredibly important piece of American naval history, and should be preserved by the government. But it’s also viewed as a symbol of the South Carolina Navy.


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