Governments have the right to kill
In August 2013, the head of the Texas prosecution office declared that they are in shortage of pentobarbital which is used to execute convicted prisoners who have received death penalty. This strong medication is used as an anesthetic in animals, and Texas is the first state that has used it to execute prisoners. Texas has the highest rate of capital punishments in the US and since 1982 has executed 500 convicted prisoners.
The first time this medication was used was in 2001 and it was used to execute a fifty-eight years old man who was convicted of killing his cellmate. The news of this execution was published in many newspapers, some reputable such as Guardian in the United Kingdom. The news portrayed a man with a description ‘Douglas Fieldman was executed in Texas for killing two passer-by while driving over speed limit.’
The article explained how different states use different anesthetic medication in their executions, which states have shortage of this medication and which anesthetics are cheaper and more effective. Generally, the way newspapers report these kind of news is as if this is another ordinary news amongst others and it happens every day. They desensitize their readers toward death and executions. Perhaps a reader will have breakfast while reading this news, read other news and then go about his/her daily routines. The reader is not supposed to have any feelings for Douglas Fieldman or should not question his execution because it is up to the state to decide to execute convicts.
Let’s imagine instead of the above news, a serial killer writes an article in one of the mainstream newspaper such as the Guardian. Let’s imagine that in the news, the killer discloses the names of the people he has killed and even describes how they were killed. Imagine the writer starts analysing the weapons used in these killings, explains how expensive they were and talks about the need for finding a new and cheaper ways to kill others and at the end explains how this issue can be resolved. How do you think the same reader, who read the news in the Guardian about executions in Texas without any serious reaction, would react to the article written by the serial killer? Do you think he would still react indifferently to this too? Or he would immediately call the police and locks himself indoor for fear of his safety? Do you think a serial killer even dares to send such an article to a newspaper? Wouldn’t he be arrested immediately and put behind bars?
In a real world such a serial killer, rightly so, should not be able to proudly describe his killings and brag about finding a cheaper way to do that. This does not mean that it should be done by the states either. But the reality is different and it seems that the state executioners have reserved themselves the right to kill and to brag about their killings in public.
Mansour Hekmat, the contemporary great Marxist thinker, has explained execution as:
“ Capital punishment is the state’s terminology for murder. Individuals murder each other, but states sentence individuals to ‘capital punishment.’ … Capital punishment is the most deplorable and appalling form of intentional murder since a political authority, publicly, with prior notice, on behalf of society, with the utmost legitimacy and ruthlessness, decides to murder someone, and announces the date and time of the event. “
In a world where the law is governed by the values of humanity, Douglas Fieldman would have been put under psychiatric assessments and treatments, but it seems that this would have been an expensive option for the Texas state and not as feasible as execution. Psychiatric treatment also would have raised Fieldman’s developmental issue, poverty and lack of education all of which would point to the state and other governmental institutions as the culprit. No one is born a murderer and everyone deserves a fair chance to live a normal life.
Take one more look at the picture on top of this page. My heart sinks, and I feel numb every time I look at it. A clean and orderly room, a clean bed with clean sheets and a pillow. A bed is usually for rest and sleep, but this is a deathbed. Prison’s guards tie the hands and feet of a prisoner to the bed and attach the souring with contains medication to prisoner’s body and make the person ready to die. All these procedures happen with an utmost calmness, and then the guards move outside and perhaps start drinking their coffee while watching the execution. Audience, who have been invited to watch, look at the “Gallery’, as they call the execution room, and wait until the tormented prisoner is killed. The Texan state and its judiciary system call Douglas Fieldman a murderer, but call themselves enforcers of the law. You be the judge.
Translated from Persian into English by: Saeed Parto