Rethinking the Definition of “Life” in the Grand Canyon State

By Grace Hardy

In the state of Arizona, the Attorney General has given the go-ahead to resume executions for inmates on death row, with the first executions beginning in the first quarter of Executions in the state had previously been halted pending a review as to whether Arizona could administer humane executions to prisoners.

However, this statement in itself is a contradiction. What even is a humane execution? What makes an execution supposedly humane? Is painless execution humane? Is a fast execution humane? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, humane is “having or showing compassion or benevolence”. Is ending any person’s life, regardless of their crime, showing compassion to that person? Is it a sign of goodwill or kindness? I would think not.

While one might contend that the execution of violent offenders shows compassion to the families of their victims, how similar is an execution of a prisoner to the crime many of them committed, first-degree murder? In the state of California, any intended and premeditated killing is prosecuted as a first-degree murder. In Arizona, the Attorney General plans the execution (premeditation) and then intentionally ends the prisoner’s life. While these situations are by no means identical due to the innocence of the victim, they are too similar to justify the morality of the execution of inmates in Arizona prisons.

One must remember that this is a state that prides itself on the protection of human life. The Arizona state legislature passed a ban on abortions after 15 weeks to protect human lives. However, how can anyone call themselves “pro-life” if they do not protect life from the womb to natural death? Similar to Arizona, Texas also prides itself on the protection of human lives, with a ban on almost all abortions being passed by the state legislature in 2022. However, four Texan prisoners are currently scheduled to be executed before the end of 2024. This glaring contradiction in the definition of what constitutes a human life with inherent value makes these seemingly “pro-life strongholds” not very pro-life at all.

If one wants to be so bold as to say that killing human beings, outside of combat and self-defense is always wrong, then one must acknowledge that the death penalty lacks the ethical standing to be a legal form of punishment in the United States.

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