Matthew Lickona 7 a.m., April 24
- Community Blog
- Vista Blues
Is It A Closure--Or Merely An End?
"For at five o'clock, they take me to the gallows pole. The sands of life, for me, are running low!"
--Iron Maiden, from "Hallowed Be Thy Name."
Tonight, at 21:00 hours (EST), there will be an execution in Virginia, at the Greeneville Corrections Center. At that time, the State of Virginia will exact from a condemned criminal the "ultimate penalty" of death via lethal injection.
Unless the President of the United States sees fit to issue a pardon, the condemned will be strapped to a modified gurney. His arms will be strapped down to boards sticking out at forty-five degree angles.
A medical technician will don gloves, then establish a intervenous cathter in the crook of each arm (one side will be used, the other is a backup). Plastic tubing will be attached to each catheter, which leads to a room outside of the execution chamber.
The condemned will be given a chance to say any final words. Once that is finished, a wash of saline fluid is pumped into the site to be used via the tube. Then the first drug goes in--Sodium Thiopentone.
A very poweful sedative, Thiopentone--supposedly--renders the condemned unconscious. A second wash of saline solution goes in after that. Then the second drug--Pavulon--is administered into the IV tubing.
Pavulon is a synthetic version of cuare, and does it's work by shutting down the respiratory system. The muscles are paralyzed, including the diaphragm--which effectively shuts down the breathing process.
A third wash of saline goes through the line, followed by the third drug...Potassium Chrloride. This is an electrolyte that regulates heart rythym. An overdose of Potassium Chrloride reverses the polarity of the heart muscles (and the vagus nerve, which controls heartbeat), inducing a fatal heart attack...and the flatline on the EKG machine that signifies the condemned has died.
John Muhammad, aka "The D.C. Sniper," is the one scheduled to die tonight at 6pm our time. All of his appeals are gone (except for a Presidential Pardon), and folks are making their way to Greeneville Correctional Facility. Some will be outside the gates to protest his demise, while others will be on the opposite side, cheering on his death. A few will be in the witness room, watching the execution firsthand.
Will this execution bring closure to the families of Muhammad's victims? Many think so, but how? After all, John Muhammad can only die once...as it is with the rest of us. And in a state that has a high rate of executions-per-capita (right behind Texas and Florida), many throughout the state regard Muhammed's demise as "richly deserved."
Truth be told, the execution of John Muhammad truly brings closure to only one man, as it closes out John Muhamad's troubled life. (Lee Malvo, who was convicted of the same crimes as Muhammad's partner-in-killing, recieved a life w/o parole sentence, since the Supreme Court ruled that homicides comitted by those seventeen-and-younger are not "death-eligibile" btw.) For the victims, they will still have to relive those horrid days, when their loved ones died to sate the fury of a homicidal pair of villains.
And when the hearse hauls out Mr. Muhammad's body to the medical examiner (and burial afterwards), will we have learned anything of real value? I feel that what we have learned only feeds the purient sides of our natures.
If a man must die to pay for killing others--then so be it! Turning executions into vicarious blood-sport via the tabloid swamps our news-gathering organizations have become is unneeded...and unwise. If the man was truly guilty--then let his punioshment fit the crimes he committed, and nothing more!
When John Muhammad leaves this realm tonight, it will not be the end of executions in Virginia...for another killer is scheduled to die next week in the same place, by the same method, and at the same time (pending appeal outcomes).
And the beat goes on...