The state of Oklahoma demonstrated something else government can’t do right–capital punishment. Clayton Lockett was judged by the state to die, but the state’s three drug cocktail didn’t work, leaving the inmate writhing in pain, gritting his teeth, and struggling against restraints for 43 minutes until he died of a heart attack.

“This is one of the worst botches that we’ve had,” Deborah Denno, a lethal injection expert and law professor at Fordham Law School, said, “All of this was predictable and foreseeable. How many times does this have to take place?”

This is far from the first ghoulish execution at a state’s hand. Dennis McGuire, executed by the state of Ohio earlier this year, choked and gasped for breath for nearly 25 minutes before dying.

The Boston Globe’s Austin Sarat did a study of every execution from 1890 to 2010 and found “no technology has been able to ensure that capital punishment would not, on occasion, become either a gruesome spectacle of suffering or a messy display of incompetence.”

Sarat found that 3 percent of all executions were botched and lethal injections “are botched at a higher rate than any of the other methods employed since the late 19th century, 7 percent.”

Another new study using 31 years of data has determined 4 percent of those sentenced to death were innocent, adding that this percentage likely undercounts the number who were falsely accused.

But instead of rethinking capital punishment altogether, Tennessee’s governor Bill Haslam just approved electrocuting death row inmates and legislators like Wyoming state Senator Bruce Burns believe his state should bring back the firing squad.  “One of the reasons I chose firing squad as opposed to any other form of execution is because frankly it’s one of the cheapest for the state,” Burns said, according to the AP.

While I can appreciate his fiscal prudence, the senator should ask what business the state has in deciding whether someone lives or dies in the first place. Conservative columnist S.E. Cupp explains that putting prisoners to death is very expensive. Death penalty trials cost $1 million more than those seeking life without parole, and, “The cost of incarcerating a death-row prisoner can outpace the cost of housing a general-population prisoner by $100,000 a year, according to a 2011 California study.”

But one state,Texas, is proud of its efficient executions.  Huntsville, where the Lone Star state’s  barbaric business is carried out, is described by The New York Times as “the capital of capital punishment.”

The state of Texas kills so many people so often no one takes notice. Practice makes perfect and the state takes pride in its record. “When you do something a lot, you get good at it,” University of Houston law professor David Dow told the NYT, “I think Texas probably does it as well as Iran.”

Americans like to think of themselves as being the most civilized people in the world, but how can that be when the U.S. joins China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Yemen as the biggest users of capital punishment in the world?

Texas accounts for 40 percent of U.S. executions and the state has executed 515 men and women by lethal injection since 1982. An ex-warden at the Huntsville prison proudly told the Times his “tie-down” team that prepared the prisoners for execution, “can take that man back there and put those straps on perfectly and easily in 30 seconds.”

Granted, a majority of Americans are A-OK with capital punishment, but that doesn’t make it right. And besides support has fallen from 80 percent in 1994 to 60 percent today, according to Gallup. Fewer than 50 percent of Democrats believe the state should be executing people.

Some people’s logic is an-eye-for-an-eye. “But by no method of reasoning can it be shown that the injustice of killing one man is retrieved by the execution of another,” wrote Clarence Darrow in his fantastic book Resist Not Evil.

As far as capital punishment being a deterrent, Former U.S. Court of Appeals Judge H. Lee Sarokin likely put it best in 2011: “Persons contemplating murder do not sit around the kitchen table and say I won’t commit this murder if I face the death penalty, but I will do it if the penalty is life without parole.”

Once upon a time there were public hangings with the state providing a show of power to deter crimes. However, the state now executes behind closed door often in the dead of night. “In so far as the state is successful in keeping secret the execution of its victim, in this far does it abandon every claim of prevention and rests its case for punishment on vengeance and cruelty alone,” wrote Darrow.

Despite the violent crime rate dropping from 758 per 100,000 in 1991 to 425 per 100,000 in 2010, more people in the U.S. are either in jail or on parole (6 million), “than there ever were at any time in Stalin’s gulags,” writes Matt Taibbi in The Divide:American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap. “For what it’s worth, there are also more black men in jail right now than there were in slavery at its peak.”

And as of last summer, there were nearly as many black defendants on death row (1,291) as there were whites (1,334). “Those who receive the death penalty still tend to be poor, poorly educated and represented by public defenders or court-appointed lawyers,” wrote Mary Meehan for America The National Catholic Review. “They are not the wealthy murderers of Perry Mason or Agatha Christie fame.”

“To punish a human being simply because he has committed a wrongful act, without any thought of good to follow, is vengeance pure and simple,” Darrow wrote, “and more detestable and harmful than any casual isolated crime.”

With the State having a monopoly on the criminal justice system, we shouldn’t be surprised when we have bad outcomes. Economics professor Dan D’Amico, an expert on criminal justice economics, points out that Ancient Greece had a functioning justice system before the system was taken over by the state. Once criminal justice was monopolized by the state, creativity and entrepreneurship in this area stopped.

“Spend more or spend less, build more or build less, imprison more or imprison fewer criminals — discoveries and innovations for new and perhaps more technologically superior law enforcement devices do not get investigated nor experimented with,” D’Amico explains.

Those in favor of limited government often cite criminal justice as a legitimate function of the state. But when government is given the sole power to imprison or kill in vengeance, this power is the first step to the loss of all liberty.

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