Is Blood Thicker Than Due Process?

The Politics of HIV Testing

I woke with a start and sat upright in the darkness. He must be dead by now. The thought filled my head and gave me a weird sense of relief.

Brutal facts have immense power; they etched deep marks in my psyche. Those who commit such atrocities, I concluded, forfeit their own right to live. We tarnish the memory of the dead and heap needless misery on their surviving families by letting the perpetrators live. Still, it's one thing to feel and another to do. It's one thing to give advice to a judge and quite another to be the judge signing the order that will lead to the death of another human being--even a very bad one. Baal was my first.

I finally plunged into a deep sleep from which I awoke long after the execution was over. I was grateful not to have been awake to imagine in real time how Baal was strapped onto a gurney, how his vein was opened, how the deadly fluids were pumped into his body. Lethal injection, which has overtaken the electric chair as the execution method of choice, is favored because it is sure, painless, and nonviolent. But I find it creepy that we pervert the instruments of healing... by putting them to such an antithetical use. It also bothers me that we mask the most violent act that society can inflict on one of its members with such an antiseptic veneer. Isn't death by firing squad, with mutilation and bloodshed, more honest?

It's late Saturday night. Another execution is scheduled for next week, and the machinery of death is humming through my fax. And, despite the qualms, despite the queasiness I still feel every time an execution is carried out in my jurisdiction, I tinker away. I do it because I have taken an oath. But there's more. I do it because I believe that society is entitled to take the lives of those who have shown utter contempt for the lives of others. And because I hear the tortured voices of the victims crying out to me for vindication.

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