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News - Is Georgia's electric chair 'cruel and unusual' punishment?

Yes. It is the height of barbarity to carry out an execution by cooking the condemned with high voltage.

The words seem almost sterile: "The procedures will be repeated."

So said a Department of Corrections observer in the early morning hours of Nov. 14, 1996. But that simple sentence marked the second electrocution of convicted murderer Larry Lonchar.

He had been sitting in stillness, two minutes into a "lapse period" after his first execution by the state of Georgia in its barbaric electric chair. But suddenly, he began breathing.

So the state of Georgia electrocuted him again. This time it was a "success," and Lonchar actually died. A post-mortem examination revealed massive burns all over his body.

Lonchar was not the first condemned man to suffer this fate. On Dec. 12, 1984, Alpha Otis Stevens began breathing just seconds after his "execution." As in Lonchar's case, Stevens' body was horribly mutilated by the double electrocution. A few minutes after Stevens was finally declared dead, chuckling corrections officials calling from Atlanta laughingly told Warden Ralph Kemp, "Don't screw it up next time." The warden's reply? "Send us another one!"

How could it be that, in the Year of Our Lord 2001, in the new, enlightened Georgia, we are still strapping human beings into a ancient wooden chair, hooking them up to high-voltage electrodes, then roasting them with charges of 1,700 volts for 5 seconds, 1,000 volts for 7 seconds, and then finally 208 volts for 108 seconds? Hell, the guillotine was more humane!

Georgia's Supreme Court is currently deliberating whether such practices constitute cruel and unusual punishment. In a hearing last week, Susan Boleyn, a senior assistant attorney general, argued that "there is no way that a person who is being electrocuted in Georgia's electric chair is able to feel any pain, because they are rendered immediately unconscious." But Ms. Boleyn has no way of knowing this. No "authority" on such matters has ever been strapped down in the electric chair and executed.

As one of only three states that still employ the electric chair as a means to kill inmates, Georgia is in poor company. The other two are Alabama and Nebraska.

The death penalty itself is not so much about "justice," but is more to appease the mentally and spiritually weak. It is, at best, anti-Christian, and at worst (particularly given the haphazard fashion in which it is administered in this country) nothing short of state-sanctioned murder.

But regardless of one's opinion of capital punishment, it is the height of barbarity to carry out an execution by cooking the condemned with high voltage. Killing a human being in the electric chair, no matter the crime, is not justice. It is naked vengeance, intended to provide a perverse spectacle for the simple-minded.??





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