Choosing the death penalty for another human being is a serious matter. Unless and until there is a direct connection between those on the jury who impose the sentence of death and the actual carrying out of that sentence, this barbaric and immoral practice will not cease to exist.
There is a way to end the death penalty. If it were up to me, this would be mine:
The following wording would be added to each summons for jury duty:
Effective immediately and retroactively, please be advised, any person serving on a death penalty jury wherein the death penalty is imposed, shall be required by law to attend the execution of the one convicted. Conscientious objectors will not be excused. Every reasonable accommodation will be made for those needing medical assistance in order to attend. A lottery will be held to select one member of the jury to carry out the execution, with oversight from medical and prison staff. Conduct yourself accordingly while serving on a jury!
In preparation to understand and appreciate the full scope of the consequences of rendering a death penalty decision, those chosen for the jury will be required to attend a one-day class prior to the start of the trial. This class will expose those in attendance to the testimony and experiences of a former executioner and warden where statements such as the following will be discussed at length:
“If you care about human life, it isn’t just the fetus you care about. You care about all human life. An execution is the most premeditated murder you have ever seen. A lot of people were complicit in the execution – the governor, the parole boards, the courts. But they call on a very few to commit the actual murder with the sanction of the state. Let me tell you that the first one shook me to the core… And after the fifth execution I could not do it anymore. I couldn’t rationalize it anymore.”
– Dr. Allen Ault, former Warden, Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison
“There is nothing commonplace about walking a healthy young man to a room, strapping him into a chair (or onto a gurney), and coldly, methodically killing him.”
-Donald Cabana, former Warden, Mississippi State Penitentiary, from his memoir, Death at Midnight: The Confession of an Executioner
“At night I would awaken to visions of executed inmates sitting on the edge of my bed.”
– Ron McAndrew, Retired Warden, Florida State Prison
One woman likened the decision to choose death for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, if convicted, to the decision she had faced in the past to fire employees. That woman, if memory serves me correctly, became the jury foreperson. And if I am further correct, she was the one seen glaring at Judy Clarke as she delivered closing statements at the trial.
I firmly believe if what I proposed here had been in effect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev would most certainly not be facing the death penalty today.
As it stands now, not only did the jurors make a decision to take a life, but they did it with total anonymity, thanks to an unprecedented, unsupportable decision by one Judge O’Toole, whose own remarkable bias before, during and since the trial has gone unchallenged though not unnoticed.
I wonder: will the jurors ever get honest with themselves? Will they ever admit, even privately, that they did not see or hear evidence at the trial, only graphic reminders of the carnage and tearful stories of the suffering from victims who themselves did not see the one who caused their suffering?
If the jurors ever reach such a place of self-awareness, will they then realize that they handed young Dzhokhar Tsarnaev a death sentence based not on evidence but on how those stories and images from the trial made them feel?
I would not want to have to face my mirror every day knowing I sent a young man to his death who had never been in trouble with the law before to satisfy the anger and bloodlust of a – what were the judge’s words again? – a community aggrieved…
If and when they do realize their mistake, I wonder… will the jurors still seek mercy for themselves, knowing that when mercy was theirs to give, they could not find it in their hearts to give it?