I have just read the news about Saddam finally receiving the death penalty (it did not seem likely that his case would have any other outcome) and have been thinking about the death penalty in general.
Firstly I think that in a jury based system every jury member should have a hand in the execution. If they vote for the death penalty (if you use a jury then it should decide whether the death penalty is acceptable) then they should all be involved in carrying out the sentence. It would be quite easy to fit a room with a dozen switches that control an electric chair. If the jury members are unable to pull the switch then that should result in the sentence being commuted. I am against people voting for actions which they lack the courage to perform themselves.
One problem I have with the death penalty is the poor quality of justice in most courts. The US is a good example of this where poor people are the ones who get the death sentence. A pre-requisite of having penalties such as the death penalty should be that there is a reasonable chance of convicting the person who committed the crime!
In the case of someone like Saddam Hussein there is an additional problem of creating a martyr. I think that a solution to this would be to give him a life sentence and put him on TV on shows based on the Jerry Springer Show. Show him for what he is and let the audience pass judgement on him, I’m sure that he would not do well on such a show.
Another possibility is to have a glass prison where the lights are always on and web-cams show everything he does (including the toilet and shower). That might fall into the category of cruel and unusual punishment, but really the cruel and unusual stuff is what happens in Abu Ghraib (under the command of Saddam Hussein and more recently under the command of George Bush).