OPINION: Death penalty raises more questions than it answersIt’s tough to argue with the reasons for executing killers and yet there is still something about the process that bothers a lot of people.
By: Editorial board, Watertown Public Opinion
South Dakota is getting ready for two executions in the coming weeks. Barring last-minute legal twists involving inmates Eric Robert and Donald Moeller, both of whom have said they’re ready to die, South Dakota will carry out the final steps in its death penalty process for the first time since 2007 when Elijah Page was executed for his role in the torture and killing of a 19-year-old man seven years prior. He, too, asked to die. That execution was the first in the state in 60 years.
This month Robert and Moeller are scheduled to meet a similar fate; Robert for killing a prison guard during a failed prison break and Moeller for kidnapping, raping and murdering a 9-year-old girl. Robert is scheduled to die sometime next week and Moeller two or three weeks later.
There are no concerns in either case about the possibility of executing an innocent man, which may have happened in other states around the country. Both men have admitted their guilt, both have said the penalty is just and both are ready to die. And a lot of people believe they should die for the crimes they committed. It’s tough to argue with their reasons for thinking that way and yet there is still something about the process that bothers a lot of people.
Perhaps it’s the clinical nature of the execution process. Walking someone down a hall to an enclosed room; laying them down on a gurney and strapping them to it, and inserting the needle — or needles — into the condemned man’s arm to administer a lethal dose of a controlled substance. Outside the room are witnesses selected to watch the execution. They are there for a variety of reasons; either to cover the story for the media, to see justice done for the victim’s family or to make sure the proper rules and protocols are followed. It’s a precise process and something Robert and Moeller both want to happen.
And yet many of us wonder, both supporters and opponents of the death penalty. The guilty are gone and so are the victims yet the grief the crimes caused still lingers. Nothing will ever bring the dead back or completely eliminate the grief. Those are absolutes that cannot be changed.
But many people wonder if events like South Dakota will experience in the next few weeks will have an impact other than on those involved. Will anything really change? Will crimes like these become obsolete? Will the deaths of these two deter others from committing similar crimes? In the end we may not get whatever answers we are seeking but the questions raised are worth thinking about. Like everything else in the death penalty, it’s all part of the process.