Wednesday, March 08, 2006 | In what must be the shortest and most unscientific poll ever: I called three local physicians asking if they would assist in carrying out the death penalty. I was absolutely certain I’d chosen three who would validate my own aversion to our being one of the few remaining civilized countries to continue this barbaric custom. Was I in for a surprise!

This all came about because of an appeal of Michael Morales who was scheduled to be killed on Feb. 21. His lawyers successfully appealed that the current method is painful, thus cruel and unusual. His own execution is now on hold until the state can guarantee a painless death. I suppose the idea of painless ignores the feeling of terror one would have knowing that one more breath will be the last. I wonder if they have a pill for that.

But isn’t trying to make killing nice and cozy kind of silly? Probably, but not more so than the inane idea that the death penalty solves anything. Many reasons are given to oppose it, and I agree with practically every one. It surely doesn’t save money. It costs more to kill a person than it does to keep him in jail for the rest his life. It stops what should be the basic idea of our justice system, rehabilitation. It does not deter folks from crime.

I didn’t run out of “its.” I just got tired of repeating the same old arguments.

My reasons reflect my being a secular humanist. Thus they are my own and not an iteration of what someone says is divine law.

I just wish more humans would be humane. I realize how far we are from that when I see so many of them celebrating the execution of a fellow human.

Not that this is just a thing for hoi polloi. A governor who was to become president openly mocked a woman whose execution he approved. His home state, Texas, leads the union in executions. A San Diego radio talk show host, who doesn’t even need identifying, read a poem which ended “Tookie squealed like a pig as they gave him the needle.” By far the worst thing about the death penalty is what it does to us.

I fear making killing “painless” will do little except make us even more eager to do it. Even though we are trying to assuage our consciences by making it look easy, America is going against the trend. Worldwide, the number of countries with the death penalty is down.

If it’s any consolation, we aren’t the silliest. According to Amnesty International, China’s Guangdong province recently elevated the maximum punishment for purse snatching to death.

Even Texas hasn’t gone that far yet.

Keith Taylor is a retired navy officer living in Chula Vista. He can be reached at

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