Cal  Thomas

Which of the following scenarios constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, as prohibited by the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution: (1) aborting a baby with a fully developed nervous system and probably inflicting great pain; (2) murdering a nightclub manager in cold blood; (3) taking 34 minutes - twice the normal time - to execute the murderer of the nightclub manager?

Anti-death penalty forces want us to believe number three. They claim the Dec. 13 execution in Florida of Angel Nieves Diaz took too long and required a second injection, thus, violating the Eight Amendment. Florida's outgoing governor, Jeb Bush, has suspended all executions in his state pending an investigation into the state's lethal-injection process. In California, U.S. District Judge Jeremy D. Fogel declared California's execution procedure unconstitutional and lethal injections - the preferred execution method in 37 states - an offense to the ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

One wishes such considerations were available to relatives of the deceased, and to the deceased, themselves, who are not given a choice in the method of their execution, much less the option of continuing to live. Diaz spent more than two decades in prison before he was executed. That probably inflicted cruel and unusual punishment on the relatives of his victim.

Before too much blood spills from "bleeding heart liberals," it might be helpful to look at Mr. Diaz's criminal resume. According to court records, Diaz was convicted of second-degree murder in his native Puerto Rico. He escaped from prison there and also from Connecticut's Hartford Correctional Center in 1981. In Hartford, he held one guard at knifepoint while another was beaten. Diaz was responsible for three other inmates escaping with him.

As to the constitutional issue regarding cruel and unusual punishment, here too, some history may be helpful. This is why "original intent" of the Founders is important to consider, because what they meant by the phrase and what we think we believe about it differs considerably.

Cal Thomas

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Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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