HOLMBERG: Lawmakers want to bring back electrocutions – why not make them public?

Posted at 1:16 AM, Jan 23, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-23 09:32:16-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - Drug manufacturers have so many goodies to sell us, about half the commercials on TV are for one miracle drug or another to keep us feeling frisky.

But there’s a shortage of the drugs used to execute the worst criminals in the land.

So Virginia legislators want to bring in some back up – Ol’ Sparky . . . the electric chair to the rescue!

The House of Delegates easily passed a bill that would flip the switch if those drugs aren’t available. A Senate version of the bill is in committee.

Since 1995, death row inmates have had the choice – to “ride the lightning” or a chemical glide to oblivion.

Of the 85 inmates executed since then, only seven of them chose the chair, including the guy whose last words were “kiss my ass” in Gaelic.

Many of those executed also choose to have a sedative before they enter the death chamber. That’s why many of them look so calm and distant. (I’ve often thought that shot of Valium is for us instead of them. It’s kind of upsetting to see someone fighting their own death.)

According to published reports, European manufacturers won’t sell  chemicals for use in executions, and the big U.S. manufacturer halted production in 2011. (Couldn’t they bring in Heisenberg from “Breaking Bad” to sort this out?)

The Death Penalty Information Center reports that Virginia is just one of four states, including Alabama, Florida and South Carolina, that still uses the electric chair upon inmate request.

That’s not surprising. We’ve executed about 1,400 people here in the Old Dominion since the Jamestown days. The 'killingest' state in the Union.

We did a lot of hangings until electricity – and the electric chair – arrived in 1908.

But there were horror stories, inmates needing extra jolts, all kind of jerking and smoking and bleeding going on.

So we began offering inmates lethal injection in 1995. It’s seen as a kinder, gentler way of killing someone.

Me, I’ve always believed we switched away from electrocutions because lethal injections  made us feel better,  made us feel more humane. We’re just gently putting them to sleep, like cats or dogs. A medical procedure.

I don’t mind bringing back the electric chair at all, if we’ve got the guts to roll like that.

If we’re going to have state-sanctioned executions, I think they should be pretty shocking, so to speak. And public.

The state is doing the killing for us, in our names. So maybe even public hangings. Those worked pretty well, except for all that kicking and jerking and swinging.

Yes, executions are serious business. We should feel them, see them, maybe even smell them. The lights should dim so we can think about what we’ve just done.

That’s my take, please leave yours here.