Utah recently enforced its death penalty statutes by executing convicted killer Ronnie Lee Gardner by firing squad. The mid-June execution has brought the debate on the death penalty to the fore once again.
Many people and organizations like Amnesty International seek to abolish the death penalty sentence in general, claiming that it is “savage” and a violation of the most basic human right- the right to live. Proponents of capital punishment often cite such issues as deterrence and cost evaluations when seeking to justify executions by the state.
And then there’s the debate on the methods used in executing the death penalty. Traditionally the inquiry has been whether the firing squad method is more humane than lethal injection, which is the one of the more common methods of execution in the U.S. While the firing squad method technically is supposed to be less painful (the defendant usually dies within a few minutes), some view lethal injection as more humane due to the absence of bloodshed.
But many people might not be aware that the idea of bloodshed might be one of the reasons why Utah had retained the firing squad method as a choice for inmates. Some historians claim that the firing squad method was originally adopted in relation to 19th century doctrines of Mormonism, the state’s predominant religion.
Early members of the movement believed that certain crimes could be atoned for only through the spilling of the offender’s blood. However, the Mormon Church currently does not advocate such principles, and Utah has eliminated the firing squad as an option for defendants who were convicted after 2004. It is unclear whether Gardner’s religious views had anything to do with why he chose the firing squad.
Utah’s history of firing squad executions may actually help make sense of the antiquated method. In a somewhat unconventional op-ed piece on the constitutional issues involved in the Utah execution, Douglas Miller portrays firing squad executions for what they really are: a ritual. In his article, Miller questions whether the state may constitutionally administer a ritual that he considers to be an important part of a person’s religious views.
Whether they are religious or not, firing squad executions are in fact a ritual. Everything involved- the last meal, the blindfolding, the fact that it happens at midnight- is part of an intentionally orchestrated ritual that dates back centuries. As David Dow writes in his blog, rituals such as executions exist to help people (particularly the victim’s family) in emotionally obtaining a sense of justice. Some also claim that the firing squad ritual allows some dignity for the offender as it is supposed to be a “heroic” way to “face justice” (the idea actually does personally conjure up images of revolutionaries who were executed in that manner- but maybe that’s just me).
The problem with this particular ritual is that it just may be too outdated and disconnected to have a relevant impact. This is not only because a great number of people are desensitized by the media, but also because I think our whole culture is a bit far removed from rituals in general. Rather than having any type of ritualistic meaning, as Dow put it, the execution simply makes our nation into voyeurs.
To illustrate how surreal the entire ordeal has been, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff announced the execution on Tweeter, where he stated that he’d given the corrections officer the “go ahead” to proceed with the execution. Really, Twitter? This is what I mean when I say that we may be far removed from ritual- we’re not always too keen on perceiving the gravity of the situation.
The death penalty is one of the most delicate subjects out there, and after thinking about it as a ritual, I can see why. Capital punishment raises the question of whether one person is ever justified in taking the life of another. It involves ultimate decisions of life and death, and may implicate (dare I say it) the rift between church and state.
While the death penalty debate is here to say, the firing squad method is well on its way to becoming extinct- Utah is one of the few places remaining where it is applied, and even it revoked it as a method of execution for crimes after 1984.
Remember in elementary school how your teacher would constantly harp on you about penmanship? No? Apparently, once again, I’m the odd man out as my first-grade teacher said my handwriting was comparable to Jeffrey Dahmer’s. Well Mrs. Donaldson, at least I haven’t wasted my life for the past 20 years teaching a bunch of snot-nosed kids… Anyway the point I was trying to make is that all that emphasis your parents, teachers, and adults in general have been putting on you since you were young about making things neat had a purpose after all.
It seems that our justice system is being run by a bunch of Catholic school nuns hell-bent on tidiness because court cases are being thrown out for completely arbitrary reasons. How arbitrary you ask? How about poorly-stapled-document arbitrary?
Yes, that’s right people, if you’re planning on filing a claim in the New York Supreme Court, you better make sure your papers are aligned properly and the sharp points on your staples are filed down because the nuns running that court are also made out of sugar. According to Justice Charles J. Markey, “[T]he poor stapling of the papers was so negligent as to inflict, and did inflict repeatedly, physical injury to the court personnel handling them.” That must’ve been one incredibly bad staple job…
I’d hate to be the attorney on that one, what an uncomfortable phone call you’d have to make to the client.
“My motion was denied? But how, I thought my case had a sound legal basis?? What, a staple??”
Now to be fair, that staple from hell did draw blood, twice. And at the very least the court gave a reason for denying the motion, as unjustified as it may be, which is much better than what some courts give those trying to shove their cases before an almighty judge. The court also claims that the reason for the denial stemmed from the lawyer forgetting to include his signature as well as missing affidavits from the plaintiff. Way to recover…
Seriously though, a staple? Reading this story, one can’t help but think of the first rule of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure: “all civil actions and proceedings in the United States district courts…should be construed and administered to secure the just…determination of every action and proceeding.” Which any smart-ass first-year law student can tell you basically means that the court is supposed to look at all claims so as to do justice for all those involved. Justice. Denying a plaintiff’s motion because the staple they used to keep their documents from flying apart doesn’t sound very fair to me (and I hope it doesn’t to you either). Whatever happened to, oh I don’t know, judging claims on their merits? Call me crazy and old-fashioned, but I’m just one of the nutty guys who still believe that courts were created to judge everything fairly. They should really start tearing down those blind justice statutes all over the place.
So what’s the moral of this story? Evidently, it’s that when you hire a lawyer make sure you insist that they include their kindergarten teacher on their list of references.
Originally posted on legalmatch600.vox.com
Few people object to the existence of government agencies charged with protecting children from abuse and neglect, nor do they oppose giving these agencies the power to remove children from abusive environments, at least as a last resort.
However, this post from the Wall Street Journal Law Blog shows what can happen when the legitimate mission of state Child Protective Services agencies can become sidetracked by puritanical hysteria.
According to the post, parents took innocent pictures of their children in the bathtub. When they went to a local Wal-Mart to have the pictures printed, an employee decided that these pictures constituted child pornography, and turned them over to the police.
The parents were arrested, and their daughters were taken away from them for over a year. During that time, they were required to register as sex offenders. The couple spent $75,000 in legal fees, and the mother was suspended from her job. According to recent interviews with the parents, it took a long time before they were comfortable taking any pictures of their children again, regardless of the setting.
In the end, they were cleared of all wrongdoing, the charges were dropped, and their children were returned…after a year living away from their parents.
All sane people recognize that sexual exploitation of children is one of the most evil and disgusting things that human beings are capable of. I don’t know exactly how pervasive the problem is, but one instance of it is one too many. I also don’t know what has happened to our society that people would consider innocent pictures of children, the type which the vast majority of parents take, could be construed as child pornography by any person capable of obtaining employment (even if it is a job at Wal-Mart’s photo department) as child pornography.
Furthermore, this case used up limited resources that could have been used to investigate and prosecute actual instances of child sexual abuse. An argument could be made that, because of the actions of this employee, and the decision of the police and CPS to pursue this frivolous investigation for so long, real cases of abuse went unpunished, and children suffered as a result.
According to recent LegalMatch statistics from the last 12 months, reports of child abuse continue to be common. In most of the cases, the alleged abuser was a parent or someone else who had a confidential relationship with the child, such as a teacher or coach. This demonstrates the need for a robust system that protects children from abuse, and that any frivolous allegations should be dismissed, after being sufficiently investigated, lest real cases of child abuse go unpunished.
Originally posted on legalmatch600.vox.com