Videotaping executions

First, this: “A Georgia man convicted of killing his parents and sister was executed on Thursday after the courts allowed what was likely the nation’s first video-recorded execution in almost two decades. Andrew DeYoung, 37, was put to death by lethal injection on Thursday night at the state prison in Jackson after courts turned down his appeals. He was pronounced dead at 8:04pm. DeYoung blinked his eyes and swallowed for about two minutes, then his eyes closed and he became still. A video camera and a camera operator were in the execution chamber about 5 feet away from DeYoung.

The execution was set for Wednesday but was pushed back a day as the state tried to block the video recording. Lawyers for death row inmate Gregory Walker, who sought the recording, argued that would provide critical evidence in his appeal about the effects of pentobarbital. Walker’s attorneys want to show that Georgia’s reconfigured three-drug lethal injection procedure does not adequately sedate the inmate and could cause pain and suffering.

In court filings, state prosecutors argued that having a videographer in the execution chamber could jeopardise the state’s carefully planned security. They also said creating a video came with the risk of it being distributed.”

As todd Krohn notes, “Kind of ironic, isn’t it? Damn near everything we do today is under some sort of camera surveillance, but the state is pulling out all stops to get video cameras out of the execution chamber. And after the state’s last gruesome execution, I would imagine corrections officials are as nervous as the condemned.”

Why yes, yes indeed, but public authorities and private companies like the imbalance in the power to collect, retain and use data, hence things like people being arrested for videotaping cops in action. The Surveillance society is an extension of the neoliberal state, not a transparency tool to be used by civil society actors against the state or corporations.

Krohn continues: “Wait, what? A state-sponsored execution is “not public”? Isn’t the state the people? Isn’t it we, the public, jamming in the needle and turning on the chemicals? Is there is a more grave and important “public” event than the state/people taking a man’s life? And “sensationalism and abuse” in what sense? Afraid it might find its way onto AFV (America’s Favorite Videos)? Isn’t that what deterrence advocates want anyway? (…) But the notion that somehow an execution is “not public” is equally frightening. It’s enough to make one wonder what, precisely, the state is trying to hide.”

I suspect, things like this:

As noted by Kurdish Blogger who posted the video,

“What is so alarming about this video is the apparent normality of the event. Thousands of people are watching as if it were a football match. People are shouting and cheering. But what is most shocking is the participation of children in this barbaric ‘spectacle’.”

I have to say that, for supporters of the death penalty, it is inconsistent to not want to have public and videotaped executions. After all, wouldn’t that promote the deterrent effect of the death penalty (an imaginary notion, as the data shows, but proponents believe it nonetheless)? And as Krohn noted, these executions are done in the public’s name. Or do these proponents know that the public spectacle of a crowd doing the countdown and cheering would have effects that would not support their policies?

Because, I don’t suspect these people have read Foucault’s Discipline and Punish. Clearly, it would expose the state as the violent social actor it is, the one with the Weberian legitimate monopoly on violence that might be contested. After all, imagine if Texas had to conduct all its executions in public.

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