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Editorial: Let public see executions

A gurney where inmates are put to death

A gurney where inmates are put to death in Huntsville, Texas (May 27, 2008) Credit: AP

Executions in the United States used to be carried out in the public square for all to see. They should be again, which in this digital age means on video.

The death penalty is barbaric, risks killing people who are not guilty, and provides no deterrent to those who would commit heinous crimes. The nation should abandon the practice. But as long as people are being executed, the machinery of death shouldn't be hidden. The criminal justice system operates in the open for a reason: It's the best way to ensure what it does is fair, just and acceptable to the public.

The issue of public executions arose recently when Georgia, one of 34 death penalty states, executed convicted killer Andrew DeYoung by lethal injection. His lawyers wanted his death videotaped because a man executed in June using the same, three-drug cocktail was seen jerking, mumbling and thrashing after the injection, an indication the method may be inhumane.

DeYoung's lawyers wanted a video record in case he suffered unacceptably. The recording was made, sealed and entrusted to a judge. These days if there's a video, it seems only a matter of time before it turns up online. But that's OK.

Widely available images of executions carried out in this country might make people indifferent to the spectacle. But they just might make people recoil instead -- and lead them to put an end to the grisly business of government-sanctioned killing. hN


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