Execution? What execution?

Amid much fanfare and the inevitable revisiting by the Main Stream Media of that tired old debate over the merits and demerits of the death penalty every time one actually gets carried out, murderer Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed by a Utah firing squad Thursday night.

The crime happened in 1985 and Gardner was sentenced to death in 1986. He was executed in 2010...24 years after receiving the ultimate in Green Mile therapy.

Who in their right mind can legitimately regard this as a death sentence? 24 years of court appearances, appeals, counter appeals, motions, meeting with attorneys - …all the while living and breathing (unlike his victims) is hardly what one can describe as an "execution". This was a legal process that more often than not leads to the sentence being commuted to life in prison. To actually be executed at this stage of the process is rare and when compared with life in the non-homicidal demographic (i.e. us regular Joes) is within the bounds of normal actuarial death. At this point, it becomes merely incidental.

Experiencing death at the end of a 25 year span (after his crime) for a 49 year old male is not needle-in-haystack territory. Actuarially speaking, 5% of all 24 year old males will die by age 49 (see: http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/STATS/table4c6.html). One out of 20. If there were 20 students in your humanities class in your last year of college and you‘re 49 today, the crap-shoot of life expectancy says that, on average, your alumni newsletter has already announced one of them has died.

Indeed, out of the myriad ways in which one can experience death, a bullet to the heart can, by comparison, be a most graceful, painless, instantaneous and welcome means to experience what will be visited upon us all one day. And it is entirely unnecessary for me to belabor the point by reciting all the horror stories of suffering one can go through as a result of, say, receiving a “sentence” of a cancer diagnosis or a decade being a paraplegic culminating in choking to death on your own vomit because one of the chips in your artificial lung machine was on the fritz.

Under the Gardner scenario, I can't get too worked up about the horrors of the death penalty. Nor can I celebrate that “justice has been served” under an eye-for-an-eye paradigm. Once a round-trip execution schedule is down to say, 3 weeks, from crime to pulling the switch, then let’s talk. But this 25 year cycle of living, breathing, and eating has absolutely nothing -- and I mean nothing! -- to do with anything remotely connected to victims’ closure, justice or sending the message that “crime doesn’'t pay” to slippery-sloped felons predisposed to moving up to the hard stuff of homicide. 25 years is a mockery of any well-intentioned policy that could possibly be attached to a sentence of death.

The only issue I can get excited about is the rap sheet of legal invoices that I can only assume total several millions of taxpayers’ dollars which the justice department of whatever jurisdiction was responsible for Gardner got stuck with as a result of said executee’s inability to pay. Keep in mind that, like 99% of his fellow Old Smokey honorees, Gardner was at the receiving end of "if you can't afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you" and never had to worry who was on the clock on his behalf.

Here’s a novel idea: cut the process down to three weeks and we'’ll not only save several million but we'’ll get a measure of that “pound of flesh” justice we are all craving, to boot. One-stop shopping. Otherwise, sentence the criminal to life and we’ll save ourselves a whole lot of aggravation, to boot.

Tony Kondaks lives in Mesa, Arizona. His most recent book "Why Canada must End" is available in its entirely online at the link.

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