Magazine article The Christian Century

Hangman's Knot

Magazine article The Christian Century

Hangman's Knot

Article excerpt

KILLING PEOPLE is a grisly business, even in the case of capital punishment. In Florida last year executioners found Angel Nieves Diaz still moving 24 minutes after the first administration of lethal drugs. They had mistakenly injected the drugs into the soft tissue of his arm instead of into a blood vessel. It took a second dose and a total of 34 minutes for him to be declared dead--at least twice the time normally needed. Opponents of the death penalty have long argued that lethal injection is more painful than its advocates claim and than most people realize. Since those being executed are sedated before the lethal drug is administered, they are unable to cry out.

In Iraq, Saddam Hussein's death was widely commented on for its indignity. His executioners taunted him before he died, and a cell-phone video of the hanging was quickly broadcast worldwide. A handful of children around the world responded to the global fascination by hanging themselves.

The more recent execution of Saddam's half-brother, Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, who was head of the secret police under Saddam, was apparently more dignified and was not filmed, but it was also gruesomely botched: Ibrahim was accidentally beheaded by the hanging. The Chicago Tribune quoted Omar Abdul-Sattar, a member of Iraq's parliament: "It's really rare.... I am a doctor and I would not believe such a thing could happen unless the rope is too short or the defendant weighs 400 or 500 pounds. …

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