published Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Cook: Why not an orange guillotine?

The electric chair?

Too tame.

Too merciful.

If Tennessee legislators really want to kill inmates on death row, they should skip right past the electric chair -- which they reinstated as a viable means of execution in a bill passed last week -- and get down and dirty serious about their killing. Go Full Monty with it.

No more lethal injection.

It's too humane.

Plus, the drugs used in such executions are in short supply, prompting our legislators to give the nod -- like calling for a reliever out of the bullpen -- for some other method of execution in order to keep the game going.

Bring in the electric chair!

A little trivia: Did you know our state's electric chair has a nickname? It's called "Old Sparky," which is not only profoundly lame as far as nicknames go, but also begs the question: Why do we feel the need to nickname our instruments of death? Is it so we can feel better about them?

Did the Romans nickname their crucifixes? Old Woody? Caesar Splinter?

"A current of 2,640 volts is used to electrocute an inmate," writes Kathleen Merrill in the Jackson Sun. "It takes 2 minutes and 40 seconds to complete a cycle. If the inmate is not killed on the first cycle, the current is applied again."

Too gentle.

Bring back the firing squad. Blindfold the prisoner, dangle a droopy cigarette from his mouth, and then let a group 12 professional marksmen Swiss cheese him to death.

There's always poison gas. In the 1920s, Nevada pumped cyanide gas into a prisoner's cell while he slept.

"This proved impossible, and the gas chamber was constructed," according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Such ingenuity!

We could always let the prisoner choose his own method of death. Then again, death row is not the most pro-choice of places. In 2007, Philip Workman was executed at Nashville's Riverbend Maximum Security Prison for killing a Memphis police officer years before. When prison officials asked Workman what he wanted for his last meal, he asked that they deliver a vegetarian pizza on his behalf to a local homeless shelter.

"But prison officials refused to honor his request, saying that they do not donate to charities," CNN reported.

Of course not. How unreasonable. No one expects them to be able to fix food and execute people at the same time. They're not Sicilian.

I think the time is ripe for the return of the public hanging. Find some huge field and construct a giant gallows -- using locally harvested wood, of course -- and add in some vendors, a line of Porto-lets and several stadium-like video screens.

Charge $50 a head -- (Hey! Let's not forget about beheadings!) -- and make the execution public. Sell 10,000 tickets. If folks can't make the drive, give them an On Demand option. Stream it live. The state could make half-a-mil off pay-per-view alone.

Put your state-sponsored killing on display. Don't hide your light under a bushel, Tennessee lawmakers. Let the whole world see. Right?


By reintroducing the electric chair, our state legislators have -- as is their custom -- made a huge mistake. They've unwittingly backed themselves into a corner. Not only will the electric chair initiate a flood of cruel-and-unusual-punishment lawsuits, it puts state-sponsored killing square in the bright lights, right in the marquee of our public consciousness.

Lethal injection was easy on the eyes, which means it was easy on our conscience. Killing someone through lethal injection looks not unlike presurgery anesthesia. We the people aren't that bothered by that.

The electric chair? It's like riding lightning. You can't hide behind it, pretending to be humane and democratic. We can't condemn beheadings in Saudi Arabia but not the electric chair in Nashville.

So to reintroduce the electric chair is to make an ethical statement: If we are willing to electrocute someone, we ought to also be willing to burn them at the stake. Or drown them. Or quarter them with walking horses. Or make public their execution.

Because killing is killing is killing. Lethal injection has disguised this from us.

The electric chair cannot.

Contact David Cook at or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DavidCookTFP.

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
conservative said...

Since Mr. Cook is a huge Liberal it is easy for me to anticipate where he is going when he writes. Like today, all I had to do was read the first sentence or two.

He is against the death penalty so he made the electric chair seem barbaric. Right?

I did do a page search to see if the word "stoning" appeared. Did not see it.

I, like God, would be for stoning. This type of public execution would stop so much of the murder and raping and child molestation that goes on in this country. Would be criminals would surely cringe when they saw one of their own experiencing death by repeated blows to the criminal's body.

What a deterrent that would surely be!

April 22, 2014 at 9:09 a.m.
sangaree said...

Just like the barbarian you and your god profess to be, conservative. Thank the real GOD for true Christians like David Cook.

Betcha you'd really get your jollies from witnessing a public stoning. The only problem with that is not only the rapists, murderers, child molesters got stoned. Disobedient children, sassy wives. Innocent people not guilty of any crimes. No, making execution a public spectacle wouldn't do away with the rapists, murderers or child molesters, it would just become a public spectator's sport just like so many lynching that took place primarily in the south. Where those god fearing upstanding citizens actually paid train fairs and brought their picnic baskets and children along to watch another human being die. Often an innocent one at that. Did that make them any better than the accused? Or lesser of a human being?

April 22, 2014 at 11:54 a.m.
Pander said...

Why don't we reinstate stoning? Let people apply to watch and also participate. Then, let's just eliminate the whole lot of them, all participators and onlookers. There's something wrong with you if you want to be part of that. I don't disagree with the death penalty but I also don't have all the answers as to how/when/why we should take another's life for doing the same.

April 22, 2014 at 5:39 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

Con-man, there is only one thing that your Jesus had to say about stones and stoning and it was this: "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone." That doesn't seem to be a very strong case for capital punishment (and especially not stoning), not by any stretch of the imagination. Why do you insist on giving more credence to the Old Testament laws and the dictates of a vicious, violent-natured God than you do to anything that has to do with love and mercy and compassion? I think Susan B. Anthony might have been on to something when she said:

"I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires."

April 22, 2014 at 6:21 p.m.

Why not have crucifixions? Mr. Conservative, god's best buddy, can speed it up with an electric nail gun.

In honor of his loving god, Mr. Conservative can be paid with foreskins just like in the Bible.

Just imagine Mr. Conservative wearing his necklace of foreskins. He could entertain the Sunday School kids with "Mr. Conservative's Foreskin Follies" while twirling his foreskins.

Jesus would be proud.

April 22, 2014 at 9:23 p.m.
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