Essay on Capital Punishment and Human Rights Watch

Submitted By vstrobel
Words: 1152
Pages: 5

Capital Punishment has long been debated. The Medina incident in Florida raises the issue: does the use of the electric chair constitute cruel and unusual punishment? Medina was a criminal tried and juried recommended to the death penalty for murder conviction. A.C. Soud, a circuit court judge in Jacksonville, Florida, does not believe electrocution rises to the level of cruel and unusual punishment. On the other hand, the “Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as an inherently cruel and unusual form of punishment and violation of fundamental human rights.” (Human Rights Watch) The Human Rights Watch is one of the world’s leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. Rogars Worthington, a Chicago Tribune writer also believes the electric chair takes advantage of social, natural, and legal entitlements proven in the Tribunes article: “Electric Chair: How ‘Cruel and Unusual?’” There are crimes that should be punishable by death; however, I do not support that death be administered by the barbaric means of electrocution: it is cruel and inhumane. In many electrocutions, not just Mendinas, many things have gone wrong. This is one major thing Soud does not talk about in his article. “Since the death penalty was reinstated in the U.S. in 1976, there have been at least 10 visible blotched electrocutions, including the 1997 electrocution of Pedro Medina in Florida”(Human Rights Watch). Soud rules that “The fire and smoke during the Medina execution was the result of the dry sponge laced onto the brace electrode burning almost completely due to a lack of saline solution in that sponge”(Soud 356). What Soud lacks to mention in his article are the other electrocutions that have malfunctioned. William Vandiver, Steven Judy, and Jesse Tafero were few out of many criminals that were claimed by the mistrials of the electric chair. William Vandiver, in 1985, took seventeen minutes to die from Indiana’s electric chair. Seventeen minutes is far beyond how long the execution should have been. On average scientists assume it takes about five minutes for someone to fully be deceased by means of electrocution. Rapist-killer Steven Judy, 1981, was sentenced to electrocution and had 2,800 volts applied to his body. “The jolt burned a hole in his temple and smoke came out of his head…”(Worthington). An electrocution case closer to home for Soud that he could have identified would have been the Florida case of Jesse Tafero in 1990. Much like Medina, “6-inch flames burst from the hooded head…” (Worthington). “State officials said an artificial sponge, a poor conductor, had been placed between Tafero’s head and the metal headpiece that carried the electricity” (Worthington) causing the error, the same exact issue Medina had when he was executed. Soud rules that the electric chair should be used, where in reality he has only examined the Medina case execution and has no right to make such a ruling. If Soud wants to make an opinion on this broad and serious subject he needs to look at all the broad facts and situations, not just one. Soud Jr. believes getting rid of the electric chair shouldn’t be an option, but do to barbaric ways it shouldn’t be used at all. Soud sticks to generally one case where the electric chair doesn’t work properly and the viewing is more gruesome than a normal electrocution. Still in a logical state of mind, even a normal electrocution is barbaric. Retired Supreme Court Justice William Brennan states, “The force of the electrical current is so powerful that the prisoner’s eyeballs sometimes pop out. The body turns bright red as its temperatures rises and the prisoners flesh swells and his skin stretches to the point of breaking. Sometimes the prisoner catches on fire… and the sickly sweet smell of burning flesh permeates the chamber” (qtd. Washington). Robert Hammerle a witness to the Gregory Resnover electrocution states that “he felt as if he was