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September 30, 2006

Ohio's minute-by-minute execution logs

The Associated Press obtained the records of the final hours 23 people executed in Ohio since 1999.

The executions are carried out at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, where guards maintain a running computer log from the time a condemned inmate arrives at the prison in the Appalachian foothills to the moment a funeral director leaves with the body a day later.

Through a public-records request, The Associated Press obtained copies of the logs to more fully examine how the state carries out the death penalty. The request was filed after one execution was delayed because of problems finding a vein for the injection.

Peppered with intimate details yet deliberately emotionless in tone, the logs' exhaustive entries sweep up the mundane and the moving in the sparsest and at times coldest of diaries. The log keepers offer no opinion, attempt no creative flourishes.

[...]

Prison employees, who volunteer for the job and are not identified, compile the log, with occasional spelling or grammar errors, at a Dell computer. They sit at a desk directly across from the 12-foot by 14-foot holding cell where condemned inmates spend their last day, 17 steps from the death chamber. [AP]

Read the whole thing, it's a truly horrifying story.

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This reminds me of the official Texas state prisons website that documented the last meals of their condemned. They took the website down after foreign magazines like Der Speigel invited readers to peer in on the American freak show. What was most striking, and sickening, about what was on the menu was its banality: hot dogs, chocolate ice cream, mashed potatoes, etc.

George Orwell says it better than I can:

“It was about forty yards to the gallows. I watched the bare brown back of the prisoner marching in front of me. He walked clumsily with his bound arms, but quite steadily, with that bobbing gait of the Indian who never straightens his knees. At each step his muscles slid neatly into place, the lock of hair on his scalp danced up and down, his feet printed themselves on the wet gravel. And once, in spite of the men who gripped him by each shoulder, he stepped slightly aside to avoid a puddle on the path.

It is curious, but till that moment I had never realized what it means to destroy a healthy, conscious man. When I saw the prisoner step aside to avoid the puddle, I saw the mystery, the unspeakable wrongness, of cutting a life short when it is in full tide.”

What is truly horrifying are the crimes these men committed and the terror their victims felt. While the case against capital punishment is a strong one, please don't expect me to feel any twinge of sympathy for these guys in their final days. A clean bed, access to a chaplain, the time to say goodbye and resolve all personal affairs, plus a last meal of choice are much more than they deserve. My only reget from being opposed to capital punishment is having my views confused or exploited by others as sympathy for the despicable human beings in that link.

A clean bed, access to a chaplain, the time to say goodbye and resolve all personal affairs, plus a last meal of choice are much more than they deserve.

And they deserve what? They’re already going to die. In most cases they’ve spent a decade or more in prison waiting. Of course they should be punished, and for murder, punished severely. Some are despicable snots incapable of remorse or pity and deserve no pity themselves. Then there are those who acknowledge their guilt and are genuinely remorseful. Do they both deserve to die? And if they all deserve to die, is that, their execution, “more than they deserve”? In the context of the Senate last week ditching Habeas Corpus and approving torture at the request of a president who mocked a condemned woman, Karla Faye Tucker, whose execution depended on his word, what additional punishment is appropriate? Should we dispense with lethal injection and break the condemned on the wheel?

If we make executions common, they won’t be unusual, and if we all decide that lethal injection, a last meal, etc. is not cruel, then we won’t have to go through the tedious formality of repealing the eighth amendment. Everything will be peachy. A few innocents will die, but then, when you make an omelet . . . A few Governors will cravenly curry favor with voters by executing the innocent or demented, as Clinton did with Ricky Ray Rector. But who cares? This is the post 9/11 world. Everything is different now. We’re not buying any of that pansy-ass, milksop, European-style human rights crap anymore.

Christians make a lot of fuss over forgiveness, mercy, and redemption, but in the largest “Christian” nation in the world, we don’t have time for that stuff.

forgiveness, mercy, and redemption

Oh, I forgot compassion, as in "compassionate conservative".

Has anyone actually been able to get a hold of these logs the AP reporter allegedly has?

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