Waiting for the Execution

It was a little odd in the newsroom tonight.

As many of us were working on stories and pieces for the 11pm newscast, we had an eye and an ear on the major cable networks. They were on “death watch” tonight, awaiting word on the execution John Allen Muhammad. For those who don’t remember, he was the “mastermind” behind the D.C. sniper shootings which terrorized the Capital Beltway region around Washington in 2002 in which 10 people were killed over a three-week stretch.

When word came down, Muhammad was pronounced dead at 9:11. The spokesperson for the correctional facility said Muhammad did not show any emotion, had no final words and walked into the room underhis own power and accepted his fate: death by lethal injection. There would be no 11th hour call from the governor of Virginia.

I must admit hearing the rather cold, scientific description of his manner of death was chilling in itself. The execution was carried out in a manner that sounded more like he was getting his driver’s license than being executed for multiple crimes.


John Allan Muhammad: Executed Tuesday night at 9:11pm

No matter how you feel about capital punishment, there is still of feeling of uneasiness when the government – that’s you and me in theory – kill a person. Some say its society taking and eye for an eye. For others, its society stooping to the level of the guilty party.

I remember the first execution I heard about. It was the national case of the death of Gary Gilmore by the Utah firing squad. It became national news because, in essence, Gilmore asked his sentenced be fulfilled. It was difficult at that age for me to think of someone being executed by the state.

However, it is also hard for many to worry about the guilty party when he or she has killed so many. Unlike the convicted killer, those killed didn’t have a choice in the matter.  While, in theory, an execution is to answer for the victims often we forget about those who have died so needlessly as we wonder about the “humanity” of executing the convicted killer.

Then, there is the whole issue of what the death penalty really accomplishes. Is it a deterrent? Hardly, since very few on death row will tell you that they thought about the possibility of ending up there when they committed their crime. Also, given our legal system and the endless amount of appeals, it seems the guilty are likely to die on death row than in the death chamber.

There are so many questions and so many issues that swirl around one’s head tonight. The only thing we do know for sure is that the convicted killer has joined his victims … and neither needed to be there.

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