CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT--NOT--
Mr. POE. Mr. Speaker, there are a select few men and women in this world who know in advance the exact time of their death. The crime victims are not in that group. Without time to prepare, they never get to say goodbye for the last time. They never get to hug their kids goodbye, their parents for the last time. The last person they usually see on earth is the killer, the one who steals their life.
One of those victims was Pensacola, Florida, police officer Stephen Taylor. He was handcuffing a bank robber that he had captured when another bandit named Clarence Hill cowardly shot Officer Taylor in the back, killing him. This was in 1982, 24 years ago.
Hill was tried and sentenced to death, and his sentence was proper. He was to be executed with a date and time predetermined by law. He knew when he was to meet his maker.
When at the very last minute he claimed that lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment, our Supreme Court today agreed that his civil rights might have been violated and stayed the execution indefinitely. The courts have to figure this all out, according to the Supreme Court.
Today the Supreme Court's wayward ruling will undo sentences and the sanity of grieving families.
Mr. Speaker, has the Supreme Court lost its way? Soon many murderers and child rapists and armed robbers will scurry to have their sentence stopped. They will claim their deaths might be too cruel and unusual. Cruel and unusual they are not. Mr. Speaker, 37 of the 38 States in the United States that use the death penalty use lethal injection, a hardly unusual means of death when most States use it.
Note the phrase is cruel and unusual punishment, not cruel or unusual punishment. Lethal injection drugs, those are the same drugs given to surgery patients every day, just in a different dosage.
But the people on death row who hope Hill's case will serve their lives have committed crimes more painful than any drug could be, holding someone's head under water, stabbing someone dozens of times till they bleed to death, raping, robbing and bludgeoning their victims until every cry is silenced. Those folks have earned the right to be executed.
I spent 22 years as a felony trial judge and 8 years as a felony court prosecutor in Texas. I have probably tried more cases and more death penalty cases than all the Justices on the Supreme Court put together, and I dealt with the Constitution every day, especially the issues of the Bill of Rights.
I have been down there in the trial court, down in the mud and the blood and the beer with vicious criminal cases, and I have seen the families of murder victims grieve and pray and hope that justice will occur in their case when some outlaw snuffs out the life of their loved one. The death penalty is proper in proper cases. Some people deserve that punishment. Hill is one of those people.
Mr. Speaker, his guilt is not in doubt, just the means of his execution is in doubt, according to the Supreme Court. You know we went from hanging criminals to the electric chair to the gas chamber to the firing squad to this, quote, put them to a quiet peaceful death, the lethal injection.
Now those that are more concerned about the way criminals die than they are concerned about the way victims die say this death will be and may be a little painful. This ought not to be. Criminals should not have more rights than victims. This case is 26 years old. That absurd delay in sentencing is cruel and unusual to the family of the victims.
Gunning down officer Taylor by shooting him in cold blood is cruel and unusual punishment for him, the victim. Lethal injection for this killer is neither cruel nor unusual, it is just justice.
And that's the way it is.