The doubts we have about capital punishment in Nevada tend to be erased every time a case comes up for execution at the state prison, and Robert McConnell's is no exception.
Those doubts are substantial and worth pondering anew with each scheduled lethal injection. Does capital punishment deter crime? Are the safeguards and appeals process adequate to ensure there can be no mistake en route to an irreversible punishment? Is the state, as executioner, guilty of the same barbaric stain against mankind as the criminal?
But each abstract argument is countered by the specific facts of the situation.
And in the case of McConnell - who waited until the 11th hour to exercise his right of appeal - our justification of the death sentence is only reinforced by the pain he managed to inflict again on the relatives and friends of the victim.
What a selfish, pathetic excuse for a human being.
One day after calling a press conference, admitting to murder and saying he should have murdered his ex-girlfriend as well, McConnell didn't have the guts to follow through on the promise he made to society to accept his own death.
It's a mighty small man who shoots another nine times, then says he didn't really mean it. He should have sought some redemption with God.
Instead, McConnell whined about his treatment at the prison where he claimed he had come to die, then waited a day to sign his appeal. He will get his day(s) in court. Perhaps there was some error along the way. Perhaps laws will change. Perhaps McConnell will succumb to old age before his case is finally settled.
That won't change the fact that Brian Pierce, who was 22 at the time, is dead. Nor the fact that McConnell killed him.
McConnell on Thursday got his hug from his mother, for whom we have nothing by sympathy.
For the family of Pierce, though, the opportunity for a last hug was stolen forever back in August 2002. Society's obligation is to them.