Killing them softly, again

The big death debate in Raleigh continues today with all the grace of a hundred grease monkeys tearing apart an old Chevy truck. At issue is not the question of state-sponsored killing per se, but rather the amount of pain we inflict on the soon-to-be dead person strapped to our tables.

The Council of State, a panel of top elected leaders that will plunge into the death-penalty debate today, has been inundated with e-mail messages, letters and phone calls from people who want it to ask the legislature to decide what role doctors should play in executions.

Late Monday, one of those leaders -- Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue -- called for an execution moratorium in North Carolina until the settling of constitutional questions about how and whether a physician can help in a lethal injection.

But a key group of lawmakers on Monday gave up a chance to weigh in on the issue that has derailed three executions. Instead, the House Select Committee on Capital Punishment, which met to approve bills for the legislative session, proposed only minor changes to the administration of the death penalty.

"It was disappointing," said Dick Taylor, who heads the N.C. Academy of Trial Lawyers. "These are policy issues that will have to be resolved in the legislature. They could have begun to work on that."

If there was ever any doubt that the whole situation is screwed up beyond repair, just go read the whole article in the News and Observer. Anyone who doesn't support taking time to sort through the issue is either an idiot or theocrat.

I'm glad to Perdue taking a clear position on this, no matter how offensive her underlying support for the death penalty.