Established 1826 — Oldest College Newspaper West of the Alleghenies

The death penalty is a gamble that we are not willing to take

The following piece, written by the editorial editors, reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.

On January 16, 2014, using the two-drug cocktail of midazolam and hydromorphone, Ohio executed Dennis McGuire, who appeared to writhe in pain for 26 minutes during what should have been a 10-minute sedated execution - the longest in Ohio's history.

Nearly seven months later, on July 23, it took Arizona inmate Joseph Wood nearly two hours to die. Officials had to pump Wood with the same two-drug combination 15 times before he finally expired.

The recent spell of botched executions is just one of the many facets to the controversial issue of capital punishment in the United States that stems from human error.

On November 1, 2014, inmates Riley Jackson and Wiley Bridgeman were officially exonerated of their crimes and released after Eddie Vernon, the key witness in their jury trial, recanted his damning testimony. Each spent 39 years behind bars - many of which were on death row - on a wrongful conviction.

In response to the botched lethal injections and wrongful convictions, Ohioans to Stop Executions (OTSE) has enacted a Fix It or End It campaign and Ohio Senator Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) is leading a charge to turn 56 recommendations to improve the fairness of Ohio's death penalty system into law.

This is laudable, but not enough.

If the issues were completely fixed, if there were no human error and there existed an omniscient power that could tell right from wrong, the death penalty would still be inhumane.

It has long been harkened that the only criminals put to death should be the worst of the worst, but how can you tell who the worst of the worst are without blanket covering an entire crime? There are too many shades of grey - too many "what ifs?"

What if someone is innocent? This is not a gamble that states should be willing to take. Death is too finite. It is better to release an inmate after 39 years in prison than it is to kill a guiltless man.

Opponents of the death penalty sometimes ignore or look over the fact that the majority of death row inmates have committed heinous crimes, but the depravity of the act a criminal is facing punishment for is irrelevant.

This begs the question: if the death penalty were not the highest form of punishment available, would the jury feel more inclined to dish out life without parole?

Because of their innate humanness, inmates have a right to live. The act of killing a person for having killed another is counterintuitive, a vicious cycle - it only serves to continue the crime that they started

The United States perceives itself across the board as the moral authority and the policeman of the world; however, after China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, we are the fifth leading country in the world for number of executions - far ahead of Sudan, Yemen, Egypt and Somalia.

The worst punishment by far should be life in prison without the opportunity of parole; however, what about the prisons that aren't so bad - the white collar prisons with tennis courts and flat screen TVs? Is life in prison in the United States truly a form of punishment?

The point of a prison is not to make a person suffer, no matter how much they may deserve it. The point of a prison is to remove a dangerous person from society, and if states have the means of doing so in a humane way, then they should.

The surest and simplest way to make sure that the human error involved in every component of the death penalty process is avoided is simply to end it.