As I write this, John Allen Muhammed is awaiting death in a Virgina jail. He will be killed by lethal injection. He will be given a series of three injections.
According to Wikipedia they are :
1 Sodium thiopental: ultra-short action barbiturate, an anaesthetic agent capable of rendering the offender unconscious in a few seconds
2 Pancuronium: non-depolarizing muscle relaxant, causes complete, fast and sustained paralysis of the skeletal striated muscles, including the diaphragm, and the rest of the respiratory muscles; this would eventually cause death by asphyxiation.
3 Potassium chloride: stops the heart, and thus causes death by cardiac arrest .
I've often wondered why the Unites States is one of the few countries to cling onto this brutal punishment.
Then I found this piece from one of their Supreme Court Justices, Antonin Scalia.
In January 2002, he gave a lecture to the University of Chicago Divinity School. His subject was the Death Penalty. You can read it in full here.
"This is not the Old Testament, I emphasize, but St. Paul.....[T]he core of his message is that government-however you want to limit that concept-derives its moral authority from the moral authority from God...Indeed, it seems to me that the more Christian a country is the less likely it is to regard the death penalty as immoral....I attribute that to the fact that, for the believing Christian, death is no big deal. Intentionally killing an innocent person is a big deal: it is a grave sin, which causes one to lose his soul. But losing this life in exchange for the next?... for the nonbeliever, on the other hand, to deprive a man of his life is to end his existence. What a horrible act!...
The reaction of people of faith to this tendency of democracy is to obscure the divine authority behind government should not be resignation to it, but the resolution to combat it as effectively as possible. We have done that in this country (and continental Europe has not) by preserving in our public life many visible reminders that -in words of a Supreme Court opinion from the 1940s-"we are a religious people, whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being"........All this, as I say, is most un-European, and helps to explain why our people are more inclined to understand, as St Paul did, that government carries the sword as " the minister of God," to " execute wrath " on the evildoer".
If you read this, slightly edited by the removal of "Old Testament", "St Paul" and "Christian", then this lecture could easily have been given by an Iranian Ayatollah....But Iran is a theocracy? And happily, it is unthinkable the speech given by Scalia would be given by a " continental European" Supreme Court judge.