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18 Jun, 2010 21:21

Death by firing squad heats-up death penalty debate in America

An inmate in Utah was put to death by firing squad, reigniting the debate over the use of the death penalty in the US criminal justice system.

Ronnie Lee Gardner was put to death early in the Morning on June 18th. This was the first execution by use of a firing squad in 14 years. Gardner had a choice on the manner in which he died, he option for the firing squad over lethal injection.

I think the death penalty in general is a medieval ritual of punishing people in the 21st century,” said RT Contributor and investigative journalist Wayne Madsen.

Many constitutional scholars argue that it does violate the constitutional prohibition against what’s deemed cruel and unusual punishment,” he added.

Kent Scheidegger, the legal director at the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation disagrees.

He chose it,” said Scheidegger, arguing that it is not an inhumane way to carry out the punishment of death.

The death penalty itself; it serves a number of important purposes and I don’t consider it barbaric at all,” said Scheidegger.

He argued that the punishment of death is the most appropriate punishment for the worst of criminals, including Gardner.

I think it is ironic, on the very same day this man was shot by firing squad in Utah, the nation of Vietnam voted to ban execution by firing squad,” said Madsen.

Madsen argued that the issue is bigger than simply looking at the use of a firing squad, and that we need to reconsider the use of the death penalty in general.

We’ve had people sprung from prison after serving many years because DNA evidence later proves that they were innocent. So, the question is, how many people may have already been executed who were innocent and would have been found incent had DNA testing been around at the time?” said Madsen.

Nine men were exonerated and released last year. Scheidegger said however that wrongful convections are over-exaggerated. He argues that those who are wrongly convicted have a better chance of leaving prison alive if they are sentenced to death than if they are sentenced to life in prison.

“A prisoner sentenced to life does not have the resources; he is not provided the attorneys and investigators to establish that he was wrongly convicted,” said Scheidegger .

Many states have banned the death penalty because of this very issue. I think the death penalty has become a cheap political stunt,” said Madsen.

Madsen argues that those who actively employ and support the death penalty do so to make a political statement.

Two-thirds of the world’s countries have abolished the death penalty; the US is one of the few still maintaining the practice.

Is it a deterrent or not, not really when you look at the countries who have banned the death penalty,” said Madsen.

Scheidegger said it doesn’t matter what other counties have chosen to do, arguing that there is a deterrent defect.

There are a lot of studies that demonstrate that the death penalty does have a deterrent effect and that there are fewer executions, or fewer murders, then there otherwise would be where the death penalty is in force and where it is actually carried out when you control for all the other variables,” said Scheidegger.

The majority of death penalties in the US are carried out by lethal injection, which is seen as a more humane way to carry out the punishment.

I think all the methods are bad, we should get rid of the death penalty,” said Madsen.

He argued that all methods are inhumane and doctors who participate may be violating their Hippocratic Oath.

There is no human way to take a person’s life when the state orders it,” said Madsen.

Scheidegger on the other hand argued that the method is not the issue. He said that we need to find a way to carry out the punishment that removes the debate around the process because the debate over the methods is only a distraction.

Continuing to argue that the death penalty in general should simply be abolished, Madsen noted that the punishment is heavily favored by many in the US who also claim to be religious.

Who would Jesus execute?” asked Madsen.