REGISTER VIEWPOINT: The killing joke

Cruel and unusual? Christopher Newton laughed until the end. Seems the mirthful, girthful murderer from Huron gave the jailer
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

Cruel and unusual? Christopher Newton laughed until the end.

Seems the mirthful, girthful murderer from Huron gave the jailers some consternation Thursday, when they couldn't find a vein in his chubby arm into which to drip the death-dealing chemicals the state decreed he must receive for the grisly death of his cellmate.

The delay between Newton's appointment with his maker and the actual stoppage of his heart was the longest in the history of the state's death penalty, it was reported. And that fact was duly noted and entered into the ledger by those who would argue the death penalty is cruel and unusual.

Cruel? Maybe. What good way is there to take a life? But the history of state-sanctioned death has gone, the last few centuries, from various forms of S&M to the rope to the firing squad to electrocution (and our own native son, Thomas Edison, wasn't above using electrocution as a sort of backhanded marketing scheme for his direct-current electricity, showing how rival George Westinghouse's alternating current was much more efficient at killing) to gas to the almost clinical sterility of lethal injection. Progress, if you want to call it that, or an attempt to salve our societal conscience, but there was little societal concern in Newton the day he stomped and strangled Jason Brewer for -- well, the excuse changed with the day of the week and the person to whom Newton was talking.

The fact is, our various forms of civilizaton have always depended on designating certain of us to do dirty work for the sake of our peace of mind. Sometimes we call them soldiers, sometimes we call them executioners. We've decided we need them, and so we have them.

Newton's laughter may have been a form of whistling past -- or into -- the graveyard.

But we have to ask ourselves, in the hour he lay bloodied and beaten on the floor of the cell of their shared cell before Newton deigned to tell the guards what he'd done -- how hard was Jason Brewer laughing?