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Noticing that its application is “inconsistent and unequal,” Jay Inslee has decided to oppose the death penalty.

Mr. Inslee is not the first person to come to this conclusion. Indeed, people have been pointing this out for many years. He is also not the first person to decide that he opposes the death penalty because of it. But he is the first person to come to this conclusion and to reach this decision who happens to be the governor of one of the United States.

As a result, that State — Washington — has, effective February 11, stopped using its governing authority to kill people in an execution chamber…at least for the next three years. By executive order, Mr. Inslee has imposed a moratorium on carrying out the death penalty as long as he is in office. His current term expires in 1016.

Why would anybody in the United States — particularly anybody in a position of political power whose ability to hold onto that power depends upon the approval of voters — oppose the death penalty, which has been an American institution for so many years?

“There are too many flaws in the system,” Mr. Inslee is quoted in media reports as saying, adding that when the ultimate decision is death “there is too much at stake to accept an imperfect system.”

Um….uh….do you think?

The mystery is not why one courageous person would risk his political future by doing what is obviously right — but why every governor in the nation is not doing the same thing.

The State of Texas, for instance, reportedly leads the nation in putting people to death — and by some accounts and appearances the largest number of that state’s residents seem to be proud of that. “Texas justice,” some have been known to call it.

Yet not only justice, but “equal justice under the law” is the primary responsibility of any government, Washington’s governor asserts, then adds that in death penalty cases he is “not convinced equal justice is being served.”

Mr. Inslee is quoted in press accounts as observing that the use of the death penalty in his state has been so unequally applied that it was even “sometimes dependent on the budget of the county where the crime occurred.”

That kind of disparity is, of course, unconscionable, and Mr. Inslee has realized this. Fortunately, there is no other state in America where the death penalty is or has ever been unequally applied.

Um….well….maybe it has…but just once in a while, just now and then…so what does it matter? Well, it doesn’t seem to matter, as few governors or state legislatures in the United States have done what Mr. Inslee has just done, which is to simply announce: that’s enough. No more state-sponsored killing on my watch.

While 32 states in the U.S. still authorize the death penalty, Maryland became the most recent state, prior to Washington, to end executions when it repealed its death penalty law outright in 2013.

Two years earlier Gov. John Kitzhaber put a moratorium on all executions in Oregon. And eight years prior to that, in 2003, Illinois Gov. George Ryan commuted all death penalties to life sentences.

But, as noted above, many states in America still kill people as a means of punishment — and they do not always do it mercifully.

Much news was made just a few weeks ago when the State of Ohio was widely accused of having badly botched the execution of a man convicted of murder named Dennis McGuire by using a lethal injection made up of a combination of chemicals that had never been tried before.

According to one journalist who witnessed the execution, the condemned man “struggled, made guttural noises, gasped for air and choked” before succumbing to a new, two-drug execution method.

In an online story about the execution, the Guardian newspaper news article said “Eyewitnesses in the death chamber reported that it took up to 26 minutes for McGuire to die, making it the longest execution in Ohio in modern times.“

The Guardian story went on to say that “the prisoner was seen to be gasping for air for up to 14 minutes in a procedure that one observer, Lawrence Hummer, described in the Guardian as horrendous and inhumane.”

Some medical experts had warned the state that the “death cocktail” would cause slow oxygen starvation, resulting in not just death for the criminal, but prolonged suffering, amounting to cruel and unusual punishment.

The state refused to listen to those opinions, or to the appeal of the criminal to at least postpone the execution until the injection had been tried on animals. It went ahead with the procedure, and the result, as described above, made headlines around the world.

At least one family member of the person the criminal had murdered appeared by press accounts to be not particularly concerned with reports of Mr. McGuire’s alleged suffering, reportedly saying to the media that the person Mr. McGuire was convicted of killing was also not spared suffering.

The spiritual question raised by all of this, of course, is whether the highest or grandest spiritual value to which humanity can aspire in cases such as this is “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”

Billions of humans embrace this notion of justice — many, if not most, of them declaring that it is a concise articulation of God’s Law. God, these believers declare, imposes just this kind of justice on all human beings at the moment of their death.

In your belief system, is this true? And where do you stand on the death penalty, regardless of what you believe about God?

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