Texas and Gambia, Man, You Guys are Killing Me!

Just cruising the headlines and came across this, “Gambia to execute all on death row.” I was instantly reminded of a story told me by an amateur radio friend years ago. My friend worked for a manufacturer of communication transmitters and traveled the world installing and servicing large commercial broadcast equipment.

On one assignment he was stationed in some West African nation and living in a luxury high-rise hotel. The first Saturday morning in country he was awoken by the sound of gun fire. Rushing to the balcony he was stunned by the sight of people being executed in the town square.

It was a sight he was to witness each Saturday he was there as it was the common practice to empty out the city’s jail on Saturday morning and shoot those who had not been able to win their freedom during the week.

I got a lot of mileage out of this story in teaching government over the years. It was a pretty decent example of the horror that can come out of a governmental system corrupted by unchecked power.

Understandably this announcement by Gambia has drawn fire from human rights groups from around the globe and whether the sentences are carried out remains to be seen. As horrible as this sounds I began to ask myself that in these days of austere budget cuts and insane politics there may be those in America who would see validity in this approach. Sort of a kill them all and let God sort out the innocent approach.

I once read that China was once quick to execute political dissidents and the method of choice was a single sixteen cent bullet to the base of the brain. The final insult being, the victim’s estate was billed for the cost of the bullet.

Rick Perry, the current governor of Texas, holds the distinction of having signed the most death sentences in American history. As of a year ago he had approved the execution of 234 inmates on Texas’ death row. Texas has killed so many people since the death penalty was reinstated it has become the subject of sick humor. Texas comedian, Ron White, made several house payments from these two death penalty laws:

“Texas has the death penalty and we use it! That’s right. You kill somebody in Texas, we will kill you right back! That’s our policy!”

“There is a piece of legislation floating around where if two people are witnesses to any murder you commit, you get executed right away. That means that if there are at least two credible eyewitnesses to a murder you committed, you don’t wait on Death Row for 15 years, Jack! You go straight to the front of the line! Other states are trying to abolish the death penalty. My state’s putting in the express lane.”

I’ve always been a supporter of the death penalty even though it obviously doesn’t deter homicide. The only argument I can make in its defense is the certainty the killer will not kill again. It may also provide some sort of comfort for the family of the victim. These really aren’t very strong arguments, however. The though of a single innocent person being executed for a crime they didn’t commit increasingly negates any defense of state executions. With the advent of DNA and how it has so many times demonstrated the false imprisonment of people I think it is time we revisit the subject of capital punishment. May be events in Gambia can be the catalyst to getting the discussion going. Hopefully before Perry signs any more death warrants.

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