Problem: Finding a Death Penalty to Sate "Blood-Thirsty" Public
"It's Not Whether to Kill, but How" by occasional contributor Elizabeth Weil in the Sunday Week in Review contained a passage portraying Americans as simplistic and vengeful when it comes to the death penalty.
"The history of capital punishment in the United States has been filled with a peripatetic search for a method of killing that doesn't offend a blood-thirsty, yet tough-on-crime, yet squeamish public. Nooses, if the drop is too short, leave bodies twitching; if the drop is too long, heads pop off. Electric chairs result in horrible odors and burns. Firing squads are too violent. Gas chambers take too long and are too grotesque. (One 1992 lethal gas execution in Arizona caused an attorney general to throw up and a warden to threaten to quit if he had to execute by that method again.)"
(Wit Dorothy Parker summarized it rather more economically.)
Weil's Sunday story is a follow up of sorts to her February 11 piece, "The Needle and the Damage Done" on the botching of lethal injection in cases in Missouri, and she cribbed generously from that previous work, which included this similar paragraph:
"Nooses, if the drop is too short, can leave bodies twitching for up to 45 minutes, and if the drop is too long, as it was for Saddam Hussein's half brother, the condemned can fall with so much force that his head is ripped off. Firing squads are considered too violent. Lethal gas takes too long; the 1992 lethal-gas execution of Donald Harding in Arizona was so long - 11 minutes - and so grotesque that the attorney general threw up and the warden threatened to quit if he were required to execute someone by gas again."