The Last Mile…

I chose the The Green Mile for several reason such as capitol punishment and a few other ethical issues throughout the film.  This film takes place in 1935 at a Prison located in Louisiana.  This Prison is known as The Green Mile due it’s green tile floor.  The Inmate known as John Coffey (Michael Clark Duncan) is on death row for the murder and implied rape of two small girls.  Prison Guard Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) is a lead guard in charge of carrying out the execution but has an extremely difficult time giving the execution order after discovering Coffey did not commit the crime.  Coffey was executed and Paul left shortly afterwards for a different post.

During this film, I noticed two with the first being capitol punishment.  Does capitol punishment such as electrocution, gas chamber or lethal injection actually deter murder?  The perpetrator committing such heinous crimes could careless about the manner in which they will die.  Coffey was executed even though the Guards knew he was not guilty of the murder(s) and implied rape.  Since Guard do not make the laws, just enforce them, it is quite difficult to ignore an order made by a judge.  Death row has several more issues although not covered in this film.  One other example is that of a doctor administering a lethal injection.  Doesn’t this go against the Hippocratic Oath that states all doctors must practice medicine ethically?

The second ethical dilemma occurred when Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) and the guards transported Coffey to the Warden Hal Morris (James Cromwell) residence.  The Warden’s Wife is ill with a tumor in her brain.  Edgecomb puts his well-being as well as those of three coworkers when he makes the decision to break the law by transporting Coffey off the prison grounds.  Edgecomb knows Coffey has the power to heal and this could be the only chance before Coffey is executed.  For the Warden and Guards, this risk pays off and the Warden’s Wife is healed through the powers of God.  Discussing both sides of this ethical issue raises even a bigger question, what is a perfect punishment for those who committed murder?  Execute them or let them live life in prison where they too may be killed?

The Warden initially believes Coffey is guilty of all counts and towards the end of the film, he realizes and changes his opinion about Coffey.  This doesn’t negate the fact there is a court order for Coffey’s execution, however, he feels a huge burden about what is the right thing to do.  As for Edgecomb, if he would release Coffey, he would eventually be caught again and for sure be executed by a different set of prison guards.  Edgecomb would then be the subject of a criminal investigation, thus facing prison time and humiliation by the general population.  As sad as this may be, it is the only solution to this problem facing Paul Edgecomb.

Coffey was discovered holding the victim’s bones and was automatically guilty of these crimes.  This is a terrible way of thinking and racial profiling has always been a huge player in the decision making process.  During the film, it is evident Coffey does not have a mean bone inside his ginormous frame and shows his love for all including Mr. Jingles, Paul Edgecome and the Warden’s Wife.  Coffey has the ability to heal and someone who is convicted of murder would not use this power for the greater good.

I have always believed in capitol punishment.  I have over 13 years of law enforcement experience so my belief has never wavered until the past November elections.  So I ask myself again, what is the best punishment for murder, execution via the gas chamber, lethal injection or electrocution?  I’m not so sure execution is the best choice since we are relieving them of all responsibilities for their actions.  I’m beginning to change my opinion and think life in prison is the best punishment.  Life in prison will give them the opportunity to fight and attempt to stay alive each and every day of their natural life.  The odds are they won’t live such a great life and possibly die sooner than we expect.

What do you think about death row?

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