“The Banality of Execution”

Texas’ “Execution Record” outlining their “process” of state killing.

“Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil” is the title of the renowned 1963 book by political thinker Hannah Arendt. Arendt had fled Europe after the rise of Hitler and reported for the New Yorker on the trial of Adolf Eichmann, an infamous organizer of the Holocaust. The subtitle introduced the phrase “the banality of evil,” which in part referenced Eichmann’s behavior at the trial. He appeared to display neither guilt for his actions nor hatred for those trying him, claiming he bore no responsibility because he was simply “doing his job” (“He did his ‘duty’…; he not only obeyed ‘orders’, he also obeyed the ‘law’.”p. 135).

THIS is what I am reminded of when I look at the “Execution Record” pictured here outlining the “process” of the state-sponsored killing of Carl Buntion in Texas on April 21st, 2022, the eve of the concluding days of Passover, our holiday of redemption.   

Texas as a state is the leading executioner in the US and indeed has killing down to a “science.” The state produces these execution notes with seeming pride after every state killing. If there were any doubt as to this pride, the reality of the revving of police and biker engines outside of the execution chamber in order to blot out the final words of Carl Buntion puts that to rest. And yet, we should not be surprised when it comes to any state that has shaken hands with the Angel of Death.

Some might take issue with invoking Hannah Arendt’s famous phrase – and Adolph Eichmann – here. Many feel that even if one is against the death penalty, surely – like Israel itself allows – when it comes to mass murder or acts of terror as committed by Adolph Eichmann, exceptions must be made. And yet, for staunch abolitionists like us in L’chaim! Jews Against the Death Penalty,” there ARE no exceptions. We stand with Elie Wiesel, who famously responded to the question of the death penalty with the simple statement that “Death is not the answer.” He also said: “With every cell of my being and with every fiber of my memory I oppose the death penalty in all forms. I do not believe any civilized society should be at the service of death. I don’t think it’s human to become an agent of the angel of death.”

Indeed, even in the case of Eichmann, there were well-known dissents. Among those who asked Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion for clemency for Eichmann were the renowned philosopher Prof. Martin Buber, Samuel Hugo Bergmann, Nathan Rotenstreich, the poet Leah Goldberg and members of the Department of Philosophy at the Hebrew University. 

The application of the phrase “banality of execution” feels further warranted in the case of the picture above when one considers that lethal injection itself was first implemented in our world by the Nazis as part of the Aktion T4 designed to kill people deemed “unworthy of life,” as devised by Dr. Carl Brandt, personal physician of Adolf Hitler.

It is this very same banal “process” that we now face being repeated this Yom Hashoah – Holocaust Memorial Day – of all days, when Texas plans to use it on the evening of April 27th to put down Melissa Lucio, who is indeed innocent. As of now, five jurors on her original jury have recanted their guilty verdict and said had they known then what they know now, they would have voted otherwise. Cameron County DA Luis Saenz has indicated that he doesn’t think the execution will take place on April 27th, but he has refused to step in and rescind the execution warrant, which only he has the power to do. He said he is leaving it up to the courts. 

In my opinion, that can be a fatal error. I pray I am WRONG.

Here are actions you can take, if you wish, to help stop this abomination from happening:

  • Call Cameron County DA Luis Saenz at (956) 544-0849 and ask him to reopen the case based on all the new evidence revealed in the documentary “The State or Texas vs. Melissa” and the recanting of 5 jurors.
  • Call the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles at (512) 406-5852 and ask the same. 
  • Call Texas Governor Greg Abbott: 512-463-2000 Also: email with title Melissa Lucio #07879006 and ask for clemency.

We’ve been in correspondence with Melissa for over a year now, and also correspond regularly with her son John Lucio, who is leading the charge to save her. 

If you’d like to hear Melissa’s words, here is the video we made for her for National Prayer Day last week: 

Please…help us END the banality of execution for both the innocent, like Melissa Lucio, AND the guilty, like Carl Buntion.

Cantor Michael Zoosman, MSM, 

Board Certified Chaplain, Neshama: Association of Jewish Chaplains 

Founder: “L’chaim: Jews Against the Death Penalty” 

Advisory Board Member, Death Penalty Action 

About the Author
Cantor Michael Zoosman is a Board Certified Chaplain with Neshama: Association of Jewish Chaplains (NAJC) and received his cantorial investiture from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 2008. He sits as an advisory board member at Death Penalty Action and is the founder of “L’chaim! Jews Against the Death Penalty.” Michael is a former Jewish prison chaplain and psychiatric hospital chaplain. Currently, he is a multi-faith hospital chaplain at a federal research hospital, the National Institutes of Health - Clinical Center. His comments here represent his own opinions.
Related Topics
Related Posts