Convicted murderer Paul Hill was executed by means of lethal injection Wednesday evening. Hill served nine years on death row for the double murders of a Pensacola abortion clinic doctor and his bodyguard. A former Presbyterian minister, Hill, admitted that he felt no remorse for shooting Dr. John Britton and his companion James Barret. Hill was the first person to be executed in the United States for anti-abortion violence.
Hill has lodged no appeal against his sentence and used the publicity surrounding his execution to promote his anti-abortion beliefs, raising grave concerns about the suitability of the death penalty in this situation.
“I believe the state, by executing me, will be making me a martyr,” Hill stated Tuesday. For a man facing execution, Hill admitted feeling no fear, rather just “natural apprehension.” He also bragged that he felt God would welcome him into heaven for his obedience. This is not exactly the reaction one would expect from a man who was just hours from his demise. Capital punishment should strike fear in the hearts of convicted killers and deter potential criminals. When the execution becomes consensual, it begins to resemble an assisted suicide.
Florida has performed 56 executions in the past quarter century, with 5.9 percent of them consensual, excluding Hill. Compare that with Delaware at 36.4 percent of killings consensual, Indiana with 50 percent and Washington state with an astounding 66.7 percent. It may be difficult to believe, but it seems that capital punishment is losing its aura as the ultimate form of retribution.
Cesare Beccaria wrote in 1764’s On Crimes and Punishment, “…the death penalty cannot be useful, because of the example of barbarity it gives men.” In an age when the media reflects the public’s intense fascination with executions, Hill has been allowed to use his execution to garner media attention and instill terror in those who perform abortions as permitted under current U.S. law.
The state of Florida rationalizes killing Hill as justice being served. But is justice really served if Hill uses his execution to announce to the world his lack of remorse?
Maybe letting him rot in a 9 by 11-foot cell for the rest of his life without visitation rights and media access would have been true justice.