Alternative Death Penalties

Wyoming has a bill pending which authorizes the firing squad in the event that the state cannot obtain chemicals required for lethal injection.

This is very much the right idea because anti-capital punishment advocates have lately focused their efforts on the lethal injection supply chain, and lethal injection is presently the only authorized method of capital punishment in most of the states retaining the penalty. And aside, lethal injection is an idiotic method in the first place.

But Wyoming errs in selecting the firing squad.

This is a practice best reserved for honorable deaths, which as far as I know, isn’t a thing outside of the UCMJ today (and whether or not they still have it I assume but couldn’t really say).

Honorable soldiers got the firing squad because they deserved “a soldier’s death.”

Criminals, always joined by dishonorable soldiers, got the noose or its equivalent, and they deserve no more today.

You can always tell by the method of execution whether the condemned was deemed honorable: honorable men were killed by other men; dishonorable men were killed by the State, which in practice usually meant gravity. And even where it provided the assist, you will see a difference, as with decapitation by sword instead of axe.

Wyoming absolutely should move past lethal injection — a shortsighted attempt to appease people who will stop at nothing to abolish capital punishment — but the obviously correct substitute is hanging, not the firing squad.

Let the condemned fall under his own weight.

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Michael Brown’s Arms and the Man Who Shot Him

The shooting of Michael Brown, the (to retread WWI debates) proximate cause of the lately occurring protests/riots in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, is now available in autopsy format.

And it seems like a good example of how additional detail might result in diminished comprehension.

I mean, like, I guess, because you really can’t tell. But according to the report I’m reading on the WSJ, there were “at least six entry wounds,” but, “there might have been seven.”

Which tells us, I suppose, that (1) science might be fallible (and imagine what it will look like once DOJ has exhumed the remains and conducted its second conditional recidivist autopsy), and (2) the police officer who shot the guy was a sufficiently qualified shot and cool head to put no fewer than six rounds into his target, which is presumably at least a third of his magazine, into his apparent target, and no more than (as far as I am aware) zero, which is zero as a percent (because you can divide, though not divide by, zero) bullets into bystanders.

Except that, as we have also learned from some of the more reluctant reporting on this matter, Mr. Brown, in addition to being an “unarmed 18-year old,” was as big as the proverbial barn. The guy was freaking gigantic. And Mr. Brown used this size, as certain surveillance imagery nicely demonstrates, to intimidate the comparatively (maybe literally — Brown is so large much larger that it’s hard to tell) tiny shopkeeper from whom he brazenly, with violence implicit and otherwise, stole a handful of cigars not more than minutes before his end.

But let it not be said that the shooting officer was responding to reports of this theft.

In fact, he apparently alerted to Mr. Brown for the sole reason that the latter was walking down the middle of the street and obstructing traffic for no reason whatsoever. Which, we are to assume, is something that any number of generally law-abiding persons might do for any number of reasons (irrespective of the fact that virtually no generally law-abiding persons do this under any circumstances).

So I guess that I’m just not sure what to take from this case except that: (1) yeah, obviously, St. Louis police should have dash-cams, even if only to provide evidence when they’re inevitably faced with bogus “civil rights” lawsuits resting on chopped up cell phone video recorded by people who hate the police, and (2) a literal giant who had demonstrated (successfully, as it happens) not more than some few minutes previously the present capacity and willingness to use force against an unarmed person (whom, incidentally, I guess, he was robbing — unfortunately it’s not clear that modern English has a word aptly describing the forcible dispossession one person’s property by another, both present), was shot six or more times by an armed person, as it happened a police officer.

There are as many things to say about this situation as there are, I suppose, “civil rights activists/lawyers” descending on Ferguson.

But one of them might be that firearms are not the only deadly weapons available. In fact, substantially all able-bodied individuals (or, as it were, their bodies) are themselves deadly weapons or may become such when complimented by minimal and minimally observable quantities of inert metal or comparable material.

And it so happens that especially large individuals require little or no aid in this capacity. It’s not controversial that a welter-weight boxer (and, surely, plenty of bantams- and fly-weights) can render a professional opponent unconscious with a single punch. Mr. Brown, by appearance of the imagery available, walked around as a heavy-weight and probably would have fought as a heavy-weight. The rabbit-punches such fighters level each other with must be seen to be believed.

And you know what? We wouldn’t want to — and, marvelously, as it turns out, don’t (!) — live in a society where a person walking around at 80, 100, 125, 150, 175, 200, or in fact even 300+ pounds, is limited to resisting with muscle and bone, feebly or otherwise, the skull-crushing blows of an enraged assailant. And I mean, this isn’t legal advice, but in most states the standard permitting the exercise of deadly force1 is the reasonable belief that one is at imminent risk of death or great bodily harm. I cannot imagine a situation in which an assault by Brown would not have given an arbitrary reasonable person cause to believe that he or she was at risk of death or great bodily harm.

Violent crime is a terror and a plague on society. Its impact on the lives of every-day Americans is incalculable. We hear (probably less than we should in some cases) about murders, but the walk-a-day violence that passes for normal in some major American cities goes virtually unnoticed in the third person. It’s not, however, unnoticed by the people who have to walk to work (or avoid doing so), in fear of the casual violence, not made explicit because there’s no reason to, of the thug on the corner, omnipresent in the alley-way, dressed and presenting as violence-expressed: the literal embodiment of the junction by which violence might enter corporeally the life of such an unlucky passerby as glances askance at the corner’s bridling occupant.

It seems to me (and in this debased day, this will not be taken as granted) that people of worth — people for whom rallies might in days of reason be organized — do not by violence deprive shopkeepers of $60 worth of Swisher Sweets.

Probably not for more than 200 years (and in most cases less than that) has it been the case that someone might openly threaten violence with effective impunity. And I seriously doubt that this fact is unrelated to the fact that throughout the history of the Common Law, the commission of pretty much any violent crime (or crime that might reasonably portend violence) heralded a “short [probably a little longer, more recently] drop and a sudden stop.” Until recently, of course.

I doubt that it would be worse — morally, if there is such a thing — were one or another reign of thuggery terminated by the lethal, with respect to some culpable person, perforation of some number ~9-12mm (in the magazine anyway!) projectiles than by the disjunction of various cervical vertebrae.

A person who steals, who stares another in his face, threatens him with violence, and takes his property, ought to be killed.

This person ought to end; a mature society ought to be done with him and say so.2

And it’s not a bad thing that one such person seems to have ended because he happened to catch the attention of a police officer while walking down the middle of the street for no reason whatsoever. We might even contemplate the question whether this arbitrary disdain — the obstruction of traffic (which is to say modern lives) for no reason whatsoever — augured a character even worse than the one we see so unashamedly stealing cigars. Presumably at least these were meant for profit or consumption.

Oh, yeah, he probably attacked the cop and tried to steal his gun. (Which most people not prepared to join arbitrary “civil-rights rallies/riots” are prepared to admit is at least problematic.)

But let me be clear: I’m making the strong case here. A person who walks into your store, grabs a handful of cigars, and shoves you out of the way as he departs without paying ought to be killed.

To repeat: In an ideal society, Michael Brown would be executed.

In fact, if we are to extrapolate the kind of ideal society that might exist under conditions of ubiquitous surveillance (in which every crime occurring would immediately be identified) some Judge Dredd analogue would be motorcycle-borne toward more or less the exact location at which Brown was shot. (The ideal society, I think, accomplishes the Constitution’s goals without the need for its, or others’, prophylactics — so yeah I guess Judge Dredd is an angel in this situation.)


  1. Obviously not legal advice, but pretty much the employment of any instrument that might under some circumstances cause death, even if not presently intended to do so. 
  2. The abominable, fleshy specter of prison rape is our great shame. But it is worse that so many would make these convicts their moral agents.