Mary Sanchez

Execution request raises issue of death penalty’s brutality

Updated: 2013-07-03T23:24:44Z


The Kansas City Star

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is like a kid bouncing from mom to dad this week — begging the same question, hoping for a different answer.

He’s pleading to the Missouri Supreme Court for a green light to execute two death row inmates.

Gotta hurry up and kill ’em, his filing argued, because the state’s slim supply of a lethal injection drug has a shelf life! Can’t let those three allotments of propofol go to waste!

Koster went to the court with a similar request last fall. He was told to wait. Federal litigation is pending to determine the constitutionality of using propofol as a lethal-injection drug.

But the Missouri court has a new chief justice. And there is also a judge who hasn’t previously ruled on the issue. So Koster repitched his case, asking for execution dates for two inmates.

Koster is correct in arguing that prolonged federal litigation, combined with increasing reluctance of drugmakers to allow their drugs to be used for capital punishment, is eliminating the option of a death penalty, even in states where it is legal.

In filing the motion, Koster is inadvertently pressing back to the core issue people would rather avoid: Should Missouri even have a death penalty?

Is it moral? No.

Such eye-for-an-eye justice turns all of the state’s taxpayers into murderers.

Is it fiscally savvy? No.

Death penalty cases are more expensive than prosecuting for life in prison with no parole. And drawn-out challenges make any dream of capital punishment as a deterrent laughable.

So what’s a state like Missouri that insists on killing to do? The gas chamber is still a legal option. And death penalty experts — both pro and con — have long pointed out the swiftest way to kill.

Firing squad.

Do you cringe at the mere words?

Good. Seems a little too bloody, too violent, right?

In modern times, people prefer to soothe their consciences by thinking of “putting the convict to sleep” rather than blowing a hole through his heart with a bullet.

But it’s murder on behalf of taxpayers whatever the method.

Society is too complacent about capital punishment. It’s murder. Maybe if people were forced to confront more gruesome methods, they would be less apt to support it.

In a way, Koster is doing us that favor.

To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to

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