Butte's courthouse turns 100 this week. So how do officials celebrate? With a mock hanging, followed by a kiddie parade.
One child was so inspired by the whole event that he declared he wanted to grow up to be an executioner.
For years, executions were entertainment for the masses. Some countries -- like Saudi Arabia and Iran -- still hold public executions. But is that the kind of society we want to be? One that finds killing people entertaining?
The death penalty itself shows a dark side of our society -- government sponsored killing that does not deter crime and which is imposed disproportionally on the poor and minorities. Since 1973, more than 130 people on death row have been exonerated because they are innocent. The ACLU opposes the death penalty for these reasons and more.
Together with several other organizations, including the Montana Human Rights Network, the Montana Catholic Conference and the Montana Association of Churches, we are founding members of the Montana Abolition Coalition, an organization dedicated to abolishing capital punishment in our state.
It's been shown repeatedly over the past few years to cause extreme pain and distress in botched procedures. In Ohio, for example, one prisoner was tortured for two hours as executioners repeatedly failed in attempts to insert an IV into his vein.
That's why, while executions as entertainment are repugnant, it's essential that every part of the procedure be public to witnesses -- beginning with the very first stages of preparing the prisoner.
The battle to ensure that happens is now moving to Washington and Montana. A federal appeals court recently ruled in response to a lawsuit filed by news organizations that executions must be open to public witnesses from the moment an IV is inserted. Arizona and Idaho have already changed their procedures to make sure that happens, but Montana and Washington have yet to respond to the ruling.
The ACLU of Montana is already challenging the state's lethal injection procedure. Under Montana law and in Montana State Prison execution protocol the prison warden has sole discretion to choose who executes prisoners. Executioners need not even be trained physicians or nurses. The new protocol does mandate familiarity with intravenous drug administration, but contains no details about where or how the "set-up" officer administering the complicated three-drug lethal injection protocol is to be trained.
We oppose the death penalty, but as long as it's in place, the Constitution requires that it be conducted in a humane manner. It must be open to public witnesses to make sure that is what is happening.
But being publicly witnessed is not the same as being open to all gawkers. We're glad the days of public executions in the town square are over.