The fifth commandment: thou shall not kill. Or at least, do not do so unless you are sure that death is not going to provoke atrocious suffering to the condemned. This seems to be the reinterpretation made by the US judiciary system, in the light of the last events, among which there is the case of Dannis McGuire, 53, condemned for having raped and killed a 22-year-old young woman. He died in January, after 25 minutes of atrocious agony due to ”malfunctioning” of the lethal injection.
Pope Francis’ appeal during his recent visit to the US Parliament, relaunched the question. At the Danish pharmaceutical company Loundbeck suspended the production of pentobarbital because of its devastating collateral effects.
In many US States, executions have been suspended till January 2017; enough time carry on a discussion on the legitimacy of the executioner’s institution. In relation to this, the position of Antonin Scalia, one of the ”wise men” of the Supreme Court, of obvious Italian origins, who opened the possibility of a decision on the unconstitutionality of death penalty, made sensation. ”I would not be surprised” if it were abolished, said the Judge during a speech at the University of Minnesota, according to the US media.
In the opinion of the Judge, 79 years of age, a conservative, it has been ”virtually impossible so far” to impose the Supreme Court’s decision about death penalty. ”But – he stresses – we have not yet considered it formally unconstitutional”. Moreover, according to Scalia, up to present times, the sentences of the Court have added extenuating circumstances which must be taken into consideration, or have rendered inadmissible to automatically condemn people to death for certain crimes, such as murdering a policeman.
The Supreme Court which has just begun its session, is already examining an appeal against the execution in Kansas. Even if the case is of limited scope, it is the first one to be brought to the Court after the clashes on the procedures of lethal injections, which split the judges’ opinion. The Court will examine a case from Florida, in which is being considered the hypothesis that it will be up to the judges, and not to the juries, to impose death penalty, especially in cases when the jury is unable to reach an unanimous decision.
With his 30 years at the Supreme Court, Scalia is the judge who has the longest term. To the audience in Minnesota, which applauded him for his comment on death penalty, he said that at the moment he has no intention of leaving office. “When I become lazy and unable to do my job anymore, I will quit”.
Thus, America begins to question some fundamental problems concerning human life: starting from arms trade – which has caused so many tragedies lately – ending with death penalty. A long process, full of resistance, but which may be able to make the country which exports democracy become more civilized.