Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Getting stoned has been a phrase familiar to most people under the age of 75. Doubtless many of our older citizens, too, have first hand familiarity of that term. The words "getting stoned" took on a modern connotation in the 1960's when drugs, particularly marijuana became de rigueur. So the suggestion of getting stoned always brings a few silly giggles and remember whens in almost any crowd.
The phraseology goes back a longer way than the '60's. You might need the Rocky and Bullwinkle's Show's WABAC machine to get back to the time when getting stoned meant death by stoning (lapidation). Traditionally the condemned is buried to the waist (men) or chest (women) and a crowd hurls stones at the victim until death occurs. The punishment of stoning occurs from time to time, although many countries have forbidden this practice as a form of punishment. Both Christianity and Judaism have abolished stoning, whereas under the laws of Islam the practice may still be enforced. It is a traditional punishment for adultery.
The majority of Islamic countries have abolished stoning. The practice, however, is still applied in Afghanistan, especially in local and less well controlled areas. An egregious stoning incident occurred in Somalia in 2008, when a 13 year old girl was stoned to death with 1000 witnesses in a stadium setting. Iran, in 2002, placed a judicial restraint on the practice. The punishment was still meted out subsequently but not generally applied. In 2008 the judiciary stopped the sentence of stoning, but as of 2009 the legislature still had the issue under review.
Despite judicial restraints, Amnesty International reported Iranian stoning deaths in 2006 and 2007. Further, it claims nine women and two men are under arrest awaiting a stoning execution. According to A.I., Sakineh Mohamamadi e Ashtiani, a women with an alleged history of adultery with two men, may be stoned to death any time. She has already received 99 lashes, another traditional punishment for adultery. Ashtiani's case is further complicated by the murder of her husband at the hands of the alleged male consorts.
A.I. is attempting to publicize the case and to underscore the cruelty of stoning. It believes that Iran may be swayed by international political pressure. Capital punishment in any form always raises issues of fairness, humanity and equity. In the United States, each state grapples with capital punishment as a means of societal redress for defined heinous crimes. While adultery, per se, would not trigger any societal rebuke comparable to stoning, other crimes such as murder will lead to a death sentence in many US states. Here is a list:
STATES WITH THE DEATH PENALTY
- U.S. Gov't
- U.S. Military
STATES WITHOUT THE DEATH PENALTY (YEAR ABOLISHED IN PARENTHESES)
Michigan (1846) Minnesota (1911)
North Dakota (1973)
New Jersey (2007)
New Mexico* (2009)
New York (2007)#
Rhode Island (1984)**
West Virginia (1965)
- Dist. of Columbia (1981)
* In March 2009, New Mexico voted to abolish the death penalty. However, the repeal was not retroactive, leaving two people on the state's death row.
** In 1979, the Supreme Court of Rhode Island held that a statute making a death sentence mandatory for someone who killed a fellow prisoner was unconstitutional. The legislature removed the statute in 1984.
# In 2004, the New York Court of Appeals held that a portion of the state's death penalty law was unconstitutional. In 2007, they ruled that their prior holding applied to the last remaining person on the state's death row. The legislature has voted down attempts to restore the statute.
The State of Utah put to death Ronnie Lee Gardner on June 18, 2010. The prisoner opted for a firing squad. While not seemingly as brutal as stoning, the idea of bullets turning your heart into shreds is equally problematic. For some people, the idea of killing another person, no matter what the circumstances, is an impossible notion to accept. For others, the death penalty has a role. Everybody gets a chance to opine and to decide and to vote.