So the state of Ohio basically slowly strangled a man to death via a drug overdose yesterday.
The only unusual thing about it, really, is that they did it slowly, slowly enough for some who think that the state should have the power of life-and-death over its citizens to find the process (not the end result, mind, but the process) disturbing.
Those who think that murder by the state is not murder, that state violence can prevent individual violence, find themselves in a sort of double bind. The state must do its killing cleanly. Otherwise those who favor the ritual of human sacrifice as a means to placate the gods of justice and protect us from violent crime, find themselves confronted with uncomfortable questions about if and how execution really differs from criminal murder.
We've come a long way from the days of public crucifixions and impalements and beheadings. Visible violence is déclassé -- just look at headlines about beheadings and stonings in other nations. The method of execution must be perceived to be humane, neat and tidy, civilized and bloodless.
But it's difficult to quickly and bloodlessly kill a human being who does not wish to die. Probably the quickest and most pain-free method would be to use high explosives to render them into a fine pink mist, destroy the brain before any sensory data could even be processed. But this would make it hard to view the process as non-violent.
The medicalization of execution, via lethal injection, seemed to offer promise. Many of us have been under general anesthesia, and the idea of "it's like that but you don't wake up" seems humane enough...until a case like McGuire's shows us the truth.
McGuire's lawyers had attempted last week to block his execution, arguing that the untried method could lead to a medical phenomenon known as "air hunger" and could cause him to suffer "agony and terror" while struggling to catch his breath.
A few minutes before McGuire was put to death, Ohio prison director Gary Mohr said he believed the state's planning would produce "a humane, dignified execution" consistent with the law.
McGuire, 53, made loud snorting noises during one of the longest executions since Ohio resumed capital punishment in 1999. Nearly 25 minutes passed between the time the lethal drugs began flowing and McGuire was pronounced dead at 10:53 a.m.