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Supreme Court Rules Juries Must Decide on Death Penalty

By miguel in News
Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 02:14:46 PM EST
Tags: News (all tags)
News

According to this article on Yahoo! News, the Supreme Court ruled in a 7-2 decision that juries must decide on whether to sentance those convicted of murder to death. Some states allow one or more judges to decide on whether to use capital punishment as a sentence after a jury has found a defendant guilty. The Supreme Court says this violates the Constitution's guarantee of trial by jury.


The case, Ring v. Arizona, involved Timothy Stuart Ring, convicted of killing an Armored Car Driver. After a jury convicted him of murder, the judge dismissed the jury and held another hearing to determine sentencing. After the hearing the judge sentenced him to death. Ring charges that this was a "second trial", and as such he was entitled to a jury deciding on his sentence.

This decision will affect at least 150 inmates who have been sentenced to death already. The majority cited the case of Apprendi v. New Jersey, in which they struck down a law permitting a judge to impose an additional two years to a sentance if the judge deemed a crime was motivated by hate.

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Supreme Court Rules Juries Must Decide on Death Penalty | 95 comments (92 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
The fall of the US (2.00 / 5) (#3)
by boxed on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 11:49:14 AM EST

This is one of the most dangerous developments in the US ever. Having a population prepared for the eventuality that they will execute someone is dangerous, especially when that population is heavily armed. This is a decision that will lower the threshold to killing a fellow human being in cold blood.

Not a development at all (none / 0) (#12)
by riceowlguy on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 12:40:21 PM EST

It might be a new thing for the average person born after, say, 1920.  The date is arbitrary.  The point is that there was a time when a lot of people lived in rural areas with little police protection and faced the possibility of having to defend themselves against crime every day.  Since I guess your definition of "heavily armed" is having any firearms in the house, they would have been heavily armed as well.  And yet there was no rampant, out of control killing as you seem to expect will happen.  Perhaps this is because they understood that there are times when killing is good and just and right and there are other times when it is murder.  Same thing applies to all those WWI, WWII, Korean War and Vietnam War vets who came home and didn't suddenly start killing a bunch of people because they had had to adapt their minds to the possibility that they would have to kill somebody.

"That meant spending the night in the living room with Frank watching over me like some kind of Lovecraftian soul-stealing nightmare creature-Azag-Frank the Blind God of Feet, laughing and drooling from his black throne of madness." -TRASG0
[ Parent ]

You've got to be kidding... (none / 0) (#24)
by zonker on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 01:51:58 PM EST

This is supposed to be "one of the most dangerous developments in the US ever"? Are you on drugs? After George "Dubya" Bush stole the election? With Ashcroft stripping civil liberties right and left?

Compared to all the other things going on in the U.S. right now, this barely even rates mention. Get a sense of proportion.
I will not get very far with this attitude.
[ Parent ]

What are you talking about (none / 0) (#30)
by zocky on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 02:18:46 PM EST

This decision prevents judges from imposing death sentence when a jury has actually recommended life in prison.

150 people will stay alive because of this decision.

---
I mean, if coal can be converted to energy, then couldn't diamonds?
[ Parent ]

For the moment (none / 0) (#62)
by cyberformer on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 06:50:47 PM EST

There are also cases where a jury made no recommendation, because the (uncostitutional) law said that sentencing could decided by a judge instead. In these cases, the guy on death row might be sent back to court for a re-sentencing by a jury.

Of course, all this will take time, but delay is half the battle for a death penalty defence team.

[ Parent ]

On the contrary (none / 0) (#58)
by aphrael on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 06:05:02 PM EST

this is one of the best decisions the court has made with regard to the death penalty in a long time. Although it wasn't about the death penalty, per se.

What the court is saying is that a decision it handed down a year or two ago requiring that any fact which is used to increase someone's sentence be determined by a jury applies to death penalty cases. It's a re-affirmation of the jury system; if a jury says you killed bob, the judge can't add "and he did it in a cruel fashion, too" --- the *jury* has to make that determination.

[ Parent ]

Sad (3.50 / 8) (#5)
by psychologist on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 12:06:35 PM EST

Think about it - it is a terribly brutal and horrific thing to kill a man. It doesn't matter what he does, how can you take a gun, point it at a mans head, and pull the trigger?

You can rehabilitate criminals, but the death penalty should be outlawed in all cases. If you kill a man because he killed a man, are you not doing exactly the same thing he did?

If you have the right to kill a man, can you say that that man did not have a right to kill whomever he killed in the first place?

eh? (2.50 / 2) (#6)
by lb008d on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 12:25:12 PM EST

how can you take a gun, point it at a mans head, and pull the trigger

I know you're being dramatic, but Utah's the only state with a firing squad.

You can rehabilitate criminals

Can you all the time? A lot of criminals re-commit crimes.

If you kill a man because he killed a man, are you not doing exactly the same thing he did?

Yep. Next point.

If you have the right to kill a man, can you say that that man did not have a right to kill whomever he killed in the first place?

The State has rights that individuals don't. That's just how it works currently.

I'm no fan of the death penalty, but pleading rants like yours don't help people who would like to see it abolished.

[ Parent ]

Firing squad (4.00 / 1) (#10)
by wiredog on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 12:34:14 PM EST

Utah's the only state with a firing squad.
Not any more. The legislature got rid of that.

Can't sleep. The clowns will get me.
[ Parent ]
Forms of death (4.00 / 1) (#14)
by psychologist on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 12:47:32 PM EST

In my opinion, it is exactly the same thing if you shoot a man or if you burn him to death with electricity.

I would actually say that the electric chair is the worse punishment - it is only better for the officials because they don't have to clean up the splatter that comes out of a man's brain when he is shot.

Death by firing squad is the same as death by electric chair.

[ Parent ]

since when do firing squads aim for the head? < (none / 0) (#15)
by bobpence on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 01:14:48 PM EST


"Interesting. No wait, the other thing: tedious." - Bender
[ Parent ]
Of course they do (2.00 / 1) (#17)
by psychologist on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 01:29:03 PM EST

Firing Squads usually consist of 10 soliders firing into a man's body. The head will very well be hit.

If at the end of this process, the man is still alive, the commanding officer walks up to him with a pistol and shoots him in the head.

That is they way it works.

[ Parent ]

Not in Utah (none / 0) (#18)
by wiredog on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 01:33:35 PM EST

You really enjoy spouting off about things about which you know nothing, don't you?

Can't sleep. The clowns will get me.
[ Parent ]
Did I mention Utah? (none / 0) (#21)
by psychologist on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 01:45:00 PM EST

The method I mention is the method that is used on battle fields and in many countries that legally allow death by firing squad, such as Congo or Nigeria.

I'm not sure how the system in Utah is, and I don't particularly care. Utah is not the center of the world.

I am against death penalty all over the world, and I am against firing squad and electric chari in particular. And i know how the firing squad is usually organized.

So please, don't attack me when I say something unless it is always incorrect.

[ Parent ]

Did you not? (5.00 / 3) (#23)
by zonker on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 01:48:44 PM EST

So please, don't attack me when I say something unless it is always incorrect.

You originally stated it as an absolute - "this is the way it works" and you're replying to a story that is specifically about the U.S. death penalty, not Nigeria or Congo. The only U.S. state that I'm aware of that practices the death penalty by firing squad is Utah, therefore it is your error - not the other posters' error - to go on about execution by firing squad in other countries and hold that up as an absolute.

He's dead right - you really like to go on about things you know nothing about.
I will not get very far with this attitude.
[ Parent ]

Let us not nitpick (4.50 / 2) (#27)
by psychologist on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 02:09:06 PM EST

Whatever. You are right, if you must have it that way.

What is the point of all this? To prove me wrong? Does it make a difference if one is shot in the head or in the ribcage in a particular American state to my argument.

This is a tangential argument that I'd rather not go through.

[ Parent ]

The devil is in the details... (none / 0) (#39)
by zonker on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 03:25:19 PM EST

Picking your argument apart piece by piece just shows how little thought you've actually put into the argument, and how little you really know.
I will not get very far with this attitude.
[ Parent ]
Firing squad in Utah (3.00 / 1) (#35)
by Frijoles on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 02:35:56 PM EST

Firing Squads usually consist of 10 soliders[sic] firing into a man's body. The head will very well be hit.

Just thought I'd throw in the fact that one of the bullets is a blank. Supposedly this is so the people pulling the triggers can feel better about it ("oh no, I wasn't the one who did it"). 9 shots should do some damage, though.

[ Parent ]
Hardly the same... (4.00 / 1) (#22)
by zonker on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 01:45:31 PM EST

Death by firing squad is the same as death by electric chair.

Yes, in that both people will end up dead - but it's hardly an equal death. If I had to choose my method of execution between a firing squad and electrocution, it would certainly not be all the same to me which way I was going to be killed. I'd rather die quickly by being shot in the heart than dying slowly while having electricity pumped through my body. Frankly, I think they should bring back the guillotine if the aim is to be humane. While it certainly appears brutal, it is unlikely that it is at all painful and it's certainly quick.
I will not get very far with this attitude.
[ Parent ]

The guillotine is (none / 0) (#25)
by wiredog on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 01:56:52 PM EST

painful.

Can't sleep. The clowns will get me.
[ Parent ]
Used to depend... (none / 0) (#31)
by zocky on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 02:24:39 PM EST

on who you were. IIRC, noblemen were beheaded. soldiers were shot and your common thieves and killers were hanged.

I'm opposed to the death penalty, but these methods were at least fairly instanteneous. OTOH, injection, electric chair and gas chamber are clearly forms of cruel and unusual punishment.

---
I mean, if coal can be converted to energy, then couldn't diamonds?
[ Parent ]

Death penalty (4.25 / 4) (#7)
by maozo on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 12:29:50 PM EST

Well you are right and you are wrong.

Yes, killing a man as punishment for any offense, after you have caught him and put him in jail (and he is no longer a threat to others), is immorral. Imprisonment is the most severe way that a state should be allowed to deal with a criminal.

But no. A criminal justice system that executes a murderer is NOT committing the same act as the murderer himself. One side is carrying out the sentence after a (supposedly fair) trial, in which the facts are (supposedly) weighed coldly and without prejudice. The other side maybe killed a guy because he wanted to take his wallet, or because he looked at him funny.

The reason we should never use execution as a form of punishment is that our courts are made up of human beings who might be wrong. The trial might not have been fair. The judge and jury might not have been devoid of prejudice. And that is a chance we cannot morally afford to take, ever.

[ Parent ]

I'm not convinced (5.00 / 1) (#16)
by Ken Arromdee on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 01:22:35 PM EST

The reason we should never use execution as a form of punishment is that our courts are made up of human beings who might be wrong. The trial might not have been fair. The judge and jury might not have been devoid of prejudice. And that is a chance we cannot morally afford to take, ever.

By that reasoning, you can't sentence someone to jail, either. There's always a chance that you're going to be wrong.

And while jail may seem different because if you're wrong you can release the prisoner, that's only going to happen some of the time. *Sometimes* the error won't be discovered until it's too late to release him. And if you object to irrevocable punishments, you have to object to punishments that are only sometimes irrevocable.

(Besides, exactly how can you give someone back 10 years of their life even if you do let them free?)

[ Parent ]

Problems with the prison system (3.00 / 1) (#26)
by miguel on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 01:59:49 PM EST

I have big problems with the death penalty, due to the irrevocability of it all that you describe above.

However, there are other problems with our prison sytem that contribute to wrongful imprisonment and the slow rate at which they get corrected, and I think this article sums them up nicely.

I want you to be free
[ Parent ]

I think you missed my point (none / 0) (#37)
by Ken Arromdee on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 02:58:25 PM EST

Which was that not only is the death penalty irrevocable, prison is irrevocable too.

[ Parent ]
Yes but... (none / 0) (#40)
by Eater on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 03:33:39 PM EST

Prison is way more irrevocable than death. Your logic seems to follow like this: well, releasing someone from prison after they've spent ten years there isn't that great, because they lost ten years of their life, so let's just kill them to begin with instead. Shouldn't we be looking for the MOST revocable punishment here?

Eater.

[ Parent ]
eh? (1.00 / 1) (#8)
by lb008d on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 12:32:43 PM EST

how can you take a gun, point it at a mans head, and pull the trigger

I know you're being dramatic, but Utah's the only state with a firing squad.

You can rehabilitate criminals

Can you all the time? A lot of criminals re-commit crimes.

If you kill a man because he killed a man, are you not doing exactly the same thing he did?

Yep. Next point.

If you have the right to kill a man, can you say that that man did not have a right to kill whomever he killed in the first place?

The State has rights that individuals don't. That's just how it works currently.

I'm no fan of the death penalty, but pleading rants like yours don't help people who would like to see it abolished.

[ Parent ]

Oops (none / 0) (#9)
by lb008d on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 12:33:24 PM EST

Pardon the double post.

[ Parent ]
If I have to go... (none / 0) (#28)
by eyeflare on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 02:10:40 PM EST

by execution, I'd so much prefer to be shot than injected.
"There is no way to peace; peace is the way." -A. J. Muste. Go: www.eyeflare.com
[ Parent ]
Homicide (5.00 / 6) (#11)
by Bad Harmony on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 12:38:21 PM EST

If you kill a man because he killed a man, are you not doing exactly the same thing he did?

No. That is why there is justifiable homicide, accidental death, involuntary manslaughter, manslaughter, second degree murder, and first degree murder. Plus, there is homicide under the rules of war.

5440' or Fight!
[ Parent ]

Sad Logic (3.60 / 5) (#19)
by zonker on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 01:39:28 PM EST

Society has a right to collectively decide that some crimes are simply beyond the pale, and take away the criminal's life.

It doesn't matter what he does, how can you take a gun, point it at a mans head, and pull the trigger?

It does matter. If a person rapes and kills a child, I'd have no problem whatsoever being the person to flip the switch at their execution. None.

You can rehabilitate criminals

Some you can, some you can't. I don't think Charlie Manson is going to be re-joining society anytime soon. I don't think you'd have wanted Gacy babysitting your kids.

If you have the right to kill a man, can you say that that man did not have a right to kill whomever he killed in the first place?

Firstly, the death sentence is usually handed out to extreme cases - where someone has committed a particularly gruesome murder or (more often) murders. I don't think that the death penalty should apply to simple homicide or singular crimes of passion where a person might be rehabilitated and unlikely to commit another murder.

Serial killers, rapists, pedophiles - these people are usually not capable of rehabilitation, and their crime is far worse than just ending the life of one person.

The executioner does not derive the "right" to kill someone solely by themselves either - it is a responsibility handed down by the state. It is not one person deciding that another should die, but the enforcement of a law that our society has put on the books. This is not the same thing as a killer deciding to kill one or more people in cold blood - no matter how you try to rationalize your simplistic arguement, society does have the right to decide that some crimes carry a death sentence, that some crimes are so horrific that the criminal should pay with their life for commiting them - both to punish the criminal and to reinforce the mores of that society, to send the message to all people that some crimes are not be tolerated and there is no redemption once you cross a certain line.

Having said that, the way that the death penalty is enforced here and now is hardly ideal. I don't believe our system is doing a very good job of handling this particular penalty. It is applied unevenly and far too slowly and privately for it to be a deterrent to others. Executing a man ten or more years later after they are convicted of a crime is not justice, nor is executing one man for a crime but not another.

The system does need reform, but I wholeheartedly disagree with anyone who argues that the very concept of the death penalty should be done away with.
I will not get very far with this attitude.
[ Parent ]

Depends on your definition of murder (4.83 / 6) (#20)
by notafurry on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 01:39:45 PM EST

If I kill a person, am I necessarily committing murder?

What about self defense? How about the defense of my wife and children? The defense of the little old lady who lives across the street?

What about the pilots of the 9/11 hijacked aircraft? If someone had been able to kill those terrorists, wouldn't they have been justified?

Ah, you say, but that's not the death penalty. The death penalty takes place after the crime has been committed - it's not defense, it's punishment. OK, I can see your point. But is it really just punishment?

You say "criminals" can be rehabilitated. That might be true for some criminals - theft, what have you - but it clearly isn't believed to be true for all. Sexual predators are tracked continuously once they've been "rehabilitated" and released, and the justification for that is the uncomfortably large percentage of repeat offenders. Murder is the same; we might not track them as closely, but a large percentage of people who commit one murder will commit another. Crimes of passion are one thing - those people don't seem to be a serious risk - but there are also criminals who've committed murder without blinking an eye. Why are you so certain they can be rehabilitated?

If they can't be rehabilitated, then they can never be released. So now you have a person who has been judged unfit to be a part of society. You lock them up "for life" in prison. Now you have a number of problems. First, what happens if they escape? Sure, it's not very likely, but it does happen. Now you have an escaped convict, capable of murder, who knows that if they're caught they'll never get another chance at freedom. Yeah, there's someone who'll go quietly when the police catch up to him.

Second, what about the other prisoners? They're not all their for murder. Their punishments include imprisonment, not violence and the risk of death at the hands of other prisoners. Yet here you are, mixing them with known predators.

Third, why pay the cost? This person has been exiled from society. He can't be dumped on someone else, he can never be turned loose, and he's a danger to those around him. We don't pen rabid animals. Even protected species of predators are killed once they start attacking livestock or humans. Killing an animal which walks on two legs and talks like a man - but is a predator regardless, one who has already shown a willingness to take innocent lives - is defense, of society at large.

You seem to think all humans are basically good and decent, that deep down inside we're all worth the same. The real world isn't like that. Put protections on capital punishment, make sure only the worst offenders are at risk of the death penalty, allow all the appeals in the world and do everything possible to prevent execution of those wrongly convicted. But don't claim that a man or woman who would be a target of the death penalty is worth as much as their victim.

[ Parent ]

But... (5.00 / 1) (#63)
by Count Zero on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 06:55:25 PM EST

First, what happens if they escape? Sure, it's not very likely, but it does happen. Now you have an escaped convict, capable of murder, who knows that if they're caught they'll never get another chance at freedom. Yeah, there's someone who'll go quietly when the police catch up to him.

What if a prisoner escapes from death row? Sure, it's not very likely, but it can happen. What chance is there that this escaped prisoner will come along quietly when he knows that the needle is waiting for him? I'd say he's be even more likely to shoot it out with the police since he knows he's going to die even if he surrenders.

Second, what about the other prisoners? They're not all their for murder. Their punishments include imprisonment, not violence and the risk of death at the hands of other prisoners. Yet here you are, mixing them with known predators.

Good point, but prisons can and do seperate particulary dangerous prisoners from general population.

Third, why pay the cost? This person has been exiled from society. He can't be dumped on someone else, he can never be turned loose, and he's a danger to those around him.

The cost to society, at least monetarily, is higher in a death penalty case. The lenghty appeals process often winds up costing more than it would have to just put the convicted criminal in prison for life.

Of course, one answer to this is allow less appeals, make the death penalty easier to hand out. (and thus cheaper) However, I don't think we can look at the taking of a life so simply. It truly is the "ultimate price". In the end juries are human, and humans make mistakes. We have a judicial system based on the concept of "better to let 1000 guilty men go free than imprison one innocent", and this should apply even more so to taking a life.

But don't claim that a man or woman who would be a target of the death penalty is worth as much as their victim.

You're right of course, but they are still people. I see nothing wrong with taking someone who is guilty of the worst possible crimes and sticking them in the darkest hole for the rest of their life. But the taking of a life, not in self-defence, but in revenge, is not justice.




[ Parent ]
Not really (none / 0) (#90)
by notafurry on Tue Jun 25, 2002 at 12:23:53 PM EST

What if a prisoner escapes from death row? Sure, it's not very likely, but it can happen. What chance is there that this escaped prisoner will come along quietly when he knows that the needle is waiting for him? I'd say he's be even more likely to shoot it out with the police since he knows he's going to die even if he surrenders.

Actually, he's not more likely to shoot it out, because either way his life is over. Either scenario is likely to result in a shootout or hostage situation.

Besides, the risk is lessened in the case of the Death Row inmate because there's a narrower window of opportunity. The "life without parole" inmate has the rest of his natural life to find a chance to escape and exploit it. The "death row" inmate has only until his execution. Narrower window of opportunity.

Good point, but prisons can and do seperate particulary dangerous prisoners from general population.

Uh-huh. That's why prisons are so calm and peaceful, with so little violence.

The cost to society, at least monetarily, is higher in a death penalty case. The lenghty appeals process often winds up costing more than it would have to just put the convicted criminal in prison for life.

Of course, one answer to this is allow less appeals, make the death penalty easier to hand out. (and thus cheaper) However, I don't think we can look at the taking of a life so simply. It truly is the "ultimate price". In the end juries are human, and humans make mistakes. We have a judicial system based on the concept of "better to let 1000 guilty men go free than imprison one innocent", and this should apply even more so to taking a life.

The monetary cost of the appeals process is flawed. What are you paying for? The judges' time, the DA's time, possibly the public defender's time. These are all costs that would be paid whether or not the case was being heard; none of those people are paid by the hour, after all. Actual time in the courtroom is minimal unless the appeal is granted, which fits in with your argument (which I agree with, btw) that we must be certain of guilt before applying punishment.

On the other hand, there is a monetary cost of maintaining that prisoner. He takes a space and a bed, making the prison more crowded, meaning that prisoners who are "lower risk" are released early on society.

You're right of course, but they are still people. I see nothing wrong with taking someone who is guilty of the worst possible crimes and sticking them in the darkest hole for the rest of their life. But the taking of a life, not in self-defence, but in revenge, is not justice.

Here is where we disagree. You say (essentially) that all people have the same basic worth and value. I say that there are people who have forfeited their value and worth.

[ Parent ]

Cost of appeals process (none / 0) (#95)
by vectro on Sat Jul 06, 2002 at 07:07:12 PM EST

You employ flawed logic. It may be that, for any given case, the marginal costs may be low, because of salried personell, deprecation on the courtroom, etc. But overall, more appeal cases does entail more costs: More staff (judges, attorneys, clerks, etc.) must be hired and more courtrooms built.

In fact, you could make exactly the same argument about prisons: The prison is already built, and the guards already hired. So your cost for locking someone up ought to be just the cost of food, right?

The accounting doesn't work out. You amortize your fixed costs, and find the cost of an individual case.

Finally, your assertion that crowded prisons lead to shorter jail terms is lacking in evidence.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]

What is reasonable force? (none / 0) (#84)
by DodgyGeezer on Tue Jun 25, 2002 at 04:39:52 AM EST

If I kill a person, am I necessarily committing murder?

What about self defense?

Some countries would consider that unreasonable force and send you down for manslaughter at a minimum. The American perspective on this seems quite peculiar.



[ Parent ]
How unreasonable? (none / 0) (#89)
by notafurry on Tue Jun 25, 2002 at 12:13:17 PM EST

If my life is threatened, I'm going to use whatever force is necessary to protect myself or my family. The attacker has forfeited their right to protection from me by initiating the attack.

If I find a burglar in my home and shoot him in the back, that's not self defense. If I tell him I'm behind him with a shotgun pointed at his spine, and he turns with a gun in his hand, I pull the trigger. If he dies, too damned bad - he made the choice by not giving up when he found out he was caught.

[ Parent ]

Really sad (none / 0) (#44)
by godix on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 04:21:11 PM EST

"You can rehabilitate criminals"

I know a man (sadly a childhood friend) who is now in jail for the third time for sexual assault (twice under 18, once over 18). If he could be rehabilitated why did he do it 3 times?

"If you have the right to kill a man, can you say that that man did not have a right to kill whomever he killed in the first place?"

*I* do not have the right to kill a criminal, even if I was on the jury. *I* do not the right to kill a criminal, even if I was the judge who gave the sentace. *I* do not have a right to kill the criminal even if I'm the one pulling the switch. Society at large, through our laws, has the right to kill the criminal and I would be the instrument they did it with.

To put it another way: Before this criminal killed his victims, did he give them a trial to prove they're innocent? Did he give them an appeals process to overturn their death sentace? Did he represent the laws put forth by his society under our representative democracy? The answer of course is no, so how can any reasonable person claim his murder and the states death penalty are the same situation?

[ Parent ]

Well... (none / 0) (#47)
by revscat on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 04:56:51 PM EST

I know a man (sadly a childhood friend) who is now in jail for the third time for sexual assault (twice under 18, once over 18). If he could be rehabilitated why did he do it 3 times?

Whereas the original poster seemed to be saying that all criminals can be rehabilitated, you seem to be saying that none can. I would be willing to bet that the truth lies somewhere in between.

*I* do not have the right to kill a criminal, even if I was on the jury... Society at large, through our laws, has the right to kill the criminal and I would be the instrument they did it with.

Well, the argument can be made that since a democracy is made up of individuals, saying that the state can kill people but individuals cannot is somewhat contradictory. In other words: If no single individual can kill someone, why should a group of individuals be able to do so, even if that group is the state? (Excepting, of course, self defense.)

To put it another way: Before this criminal killed his victims, did he give them [due process]?

Cetainly not! But that doesn't necessarily mean that he is deserving of death.



- Rev.
Libertarianism is like communism: both look great on paper.
[ Parent ]
Must you kill a man who cannot be rehablitated? (none / 0) (#49)
by psychologist on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 05:26:09 PM EST

Why don't you just lock him away for life? You want to spare on food, so you shoot him instead?

[ Parent ]
What is a trial? (none / 0) (#53)
by RofGilead on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 05:49:18 PM EST

What is a trial, but merely judging whether someone deserves a certain fate, typically punishment. Could a criminal have simply sized up his victim, and "determined him guilty", and then executed him? How is his act any different than the state's act? They both involve a decision, and a loss of life. And in neither case does it seem that the loss of life is necessary.

-= RofGilead =-

---
Remember, you're unique, just like everyone else. -BlueOregon
[ Parent ]

The problem with your logic is.... (none / 0) (#77)
by morkeleb on Tue Jun 25, 2002 at 01:49:41 AM EST

*I* do not have a right to kill the criminal even if I'm the one pulling the switch. Society at large, through our laws, has the right to kill the criminal and I would be the instrument they did it with.

The trouble with your logic that is that the machinery that society functions on is operated by a whole series of very fallible humans from police officers to district attorneys to overloaded public defenders. And in America - the more money you have increases the likelihood that your are not going to be someone who falls through the cracks.

With the laws the way they are now - innocent people are getting murdered by the state along with the guilty and usually their only crime is being born poor. This has been shown time and again by death penalty foes who have examined the evidence for people on death row and discovered (usually through DNA evidence), that they were in fact innocent.

I want a justice system that goes out of its way to make sure there is not even the remotest possibility that an innocent person could be sent to prison. And if an innocent person does go to prison - at least the option should be available to society to realize their colossal error and release that person and in some way try to make amends for the crime it committed.

How can you make amends for killing someone by mistake though?
"If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry." - Emily Dickinson
[ Parent ]
A question (4.00 / 1) (#79)
by daani on Tue Jun 25, 2002 at 02:49:48 AM EST

I think you are correct, the idea that we can bring everyone around to "our way of thinking" is probably flawed. Hence, there will always be fugitive elements of society that do not conform to our definition of fair play and so cannot be "rehabilitated".

But (IMO) that's not the issue. We are essentially talking about the difference between life imprisonment and the death penalty. So let's say that a man has committed a crime so heinous that we all agree he can never be trusted with liberty again. Shall we kill the bugger or not?

1. What happens if we're mistaken? Is it truly better to let 10 guilty men go free than to send one innocent man to the gallows? Or is it the other way around - better to hang one innocent man than allow 10 to go free?

2. What are we doing to this mans family and other associates. Does the young child of an executed man (who naturally idealizes his dead parent) have a greater chance of growing up angry and vengeful than a child who visited his father once a month in prison?

3. What do we get out of killing him? Do we save a few bucks or what? That the practice revolts a good percentage of the public should be an argument against it - that's the argument against porn on public television isn't it? I'd rather my kids saw a naked body on TV than hear about a government killing any day. In short - what do I get out of living in a country with the death penalty to offset the fact that it creates division in the community?

So that is a simpletons view of the death penalty. Apart from a lust for medieval revenge, what am I missing? What I'd really like to know is what's in it for society at large? How are our lives better 'cos this murderer is dead, as opposed to permanently out of action?

[ Parent ]

I can never think of a good subject (none / 0) (#87)
by godix on Tue Jun 25, 2002 at 07:19:35 AM EST

A comment to all the replies I've gotten rather than this specific one: I seem to disagree with you all on one vital point, I feel that society at large is allowed to do things that individual members of that society can not while many of you seem to feel the opposite. This is an entirely different debate than capital punishment so I'm not going to go into this further, but this difference is something to keep in mind when viewing each others posts.

Now for this specific post:

1) Let me be a little more clear than I was earlier, I am for the death penalty in general but against the death penalty as currently done. Just looking at statistics and recent cases makes it clear to me that the current system is blatently racially biased, used more for political points than if it's appropriate for the individual case, and occasionally wrong on the persons guilt. I'm against all of this, but in an age of DNA testing, security systems catching the criminal on tape, and occasionally the news media broadcasting the crime live on national TV I think there is a role for the death penalty in absolutely conclusive cases of guilt.

2) What is really the difference in effects to the family between life in prison and death penalty? The child of a death penalty may be vengeful because they grow up without a father. The child of a life in prison case may grow vengeful because throughout their childhood they're being exposed to prison so they can see daddy. This is a non-issue with regards to the death penalty, although it is an interesting point if we were discussing criminal punishment in general.

3A) Contrary to what many believe, the death penalty as currently done costs more than life in prison, mainly because death penalty cases have a lot more appeals, thus more lawyer fees. Yes this is an arguement against the death penalty, although I don't think the core pro or con arguement is financial.

3B) There is a good percentage of people revolted by abortion, should that be illegal? The same can be said of speed limits, smoking, bars, taxes, strip clubs, 'satanic' books like Harry Potter, any politician, lawyers, rock stars, enviromentalist, international corperations, free speech for disagreeable groups, liberals in media, conservative talkshow hosts, violent video games, rap, or almost any other thing present in our society.
Fortunately, this country doesn't run on mob rules, we run on representative democracy (something else a good percentage of people are against after 2000).

3C) The difference between a dead murderer and one 'permanently out of action' is that you can guarentee only one of them won't do it again. That's what in the death penalty for society at large.

[ Parent ]

yes, I have the same problem (none / 0) (#93)
by daani on Wed Jun 26, 2002 at 12:50:07 AM EST

<p><i>I think there is a role for the death penalty in absolutely conclusive cases of guilt.</i> ..... <i>The difference between a dead murderer and one 'permanently out of action' is that you can guarentee only one of them won't do it again.</i><p>

<p>I think we may be comparing absolutes here - your conviction that it is possible to have "absolutely conclusive guilt" and my conviction that it is possible to put a person "permanently out of action". I think that the latter is a more reasonable assumption than the former, but I accept that it's a subjective judgement.</p>

[ Parent ]

Taking any man's life is murder (none / 0) (#83)
by DodgyGeezer on Tue Jun 25, 2002 at 04:36:20 AM EST

"*I* do not have the right to kill a criminal, even if I was on the jury. *I* do not the right to kill a criminal, even if I was the judge who gave the sentace. *I* do not have a right to kill the criminal even if I'm the one pulling the switch. Society at large, through our laws, has the right to kill the criminal and I would be the instrument they did it with."

Nazis war criminals from WW2 have tried to use that argument. They were just following orders in fear of their own lives, or so they claim.

What an example of the value of human life that state in the US sets. The death penalty is nothing more than state sponsored murder. What's worse is the incredible number of people who've been declared innocent after execution - little wonder why states like Illinios have introduced a moratorium on executions. And let's not comment on the levels of mental torture that 15+ years on death row constitutes - that makes China's human rights record look squeaky clean.



[ Parent ]
Just wondering... (none / 0) (#52)
by RofGilead on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 05:44:22 PM EST

You often bring up alot of good points, and most of your comments are very intelligent. However, the majority of the comments are, I would say, very liberal. Just, for the sake of interest, what country do you live in? By the way, I also agree with you on this. The death penalty makes no sense in the country I reside in (United States). Our country has laws derived from Christian rules, and the death penalty seems to be a clear violation. I am not a Christian at heart anymore, but I agree with this view point, as since there is no clear/pressing need, why do I have to sanction the loss of more life? Especially if one, even one, of these people on death row is innocent, it would make the crime of the state far worse.

-= RofGilead =-

---
Remember, you're unique, just like everyone else. -BlueOregon
[ Parent ]
Often ( Christian == Death_Penalty_supporter ) (none / 0) (#64)
by inonurmi on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 07:05:54 PM EST

The same conservative outlook that makes people christian, can make them more likely to support the death penalty.

OT I remember seeing the results of a poll done that showed that most people who were for the death penalty (conservative), were against abortion, and those who were for abortion (liberal) were against the death penalty.

The New Testament ( the christian bit of the bible ) does not seem to forbid the death penalty, so a society based on christian values may be more likely to have the death penalty.

[ Parent ]

...grumble... (none / 0) (#76)
by Lord Snott on Tue Jun 25, 2002 at 01:20:49 AM EST

It always gives me the shits when someone generalises "christians".

"Protestants" shoot at Catholic children as they walk to school in Ireland. "Catholics" are in the headlines again for molesting children. The KKK lynch and torchure blacks and gays. The Nazi Party committed the largest warcrime in living memory.

These groups claim to be Christians. Real Christians live Christianity, they don't enforce it.

Christians are not separatist, or secretive. And they don't make other people "fit" a mold.

Christianity is a choice, not a weapon against those you disagree with.

Like the people who generalise Muslims into women-haters. Not that the worlds largest Muslim country, Indonesia (a democracy, albeit shakey), has a female President. Or that Pakistan (over 100 million people) has had a female Prime Minister.

Generalisations piss me off.

...Sorry, I got off-topic there. You just touched a raw nerve. I'm Christian, and I WON'T be associated with sarin gas in subways, or George W Bush.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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registration number 2,347,676.
Bummer :-(

[ Parent ]
Death penalty? (none / 0) (#92)
by RofGilead on Wed Jun 26, 2002 at 12:04:14 AM EST

Well, the question is, do you support it?



-= RofGilead =-

---
Remember, you're unique, just like everyone else. -BlueOregon
[ Parent ]
Divergence (4.00 / 1) (#13)
by Vulch on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 12:44:59 PM EST

This sounds like a strange decision to me. Under English law in a criminal trial the juries only purpose is to determine a verdict according to the evidence presented. It is then up to the judge (usually with advice from the Clerk of the Court on sentences from similar cases in the past) to determine the sentence. IANAL, but as far as I'm aware this has always been the case. When did procedure in the USA diverge to involve juries in the sentencing?

Anthony

Only in capital cases (none / 0) (#32)
by zocky on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 02:29:33 PM EST

IANAL & IANAA (I am not an American), but as far ad I know, in most states it's the jury that chooses between life imprisonment and capital punishment.

---
I mean, if coal can be converted to energy, then couldn't diamonds?
[ Parent ]

It's more complicated than that. (none / 0) (#57)
by aphrael on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 06:01:39 PM EST

Most states have laws that say that the general penalty for murder is life in prison with or without parole, and that based upon the presence of [x] factors (things like it was overly cruel, or it was a murder of a peace officer in the line of duty, or a gun was used, or whatever) the sentence can be increased to death. What the SCOTUS said today is that the presence of those factors must be confirmed by the jury. The news media are wrong; the court did not say that the judge cannot issue the sentence --- just that a jury must find the aggravating factors to be present.

[ Parent ]
Maybe some background on sentencing? (none / 0) (#29)
by disgwylgar on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 02:15:39 PM EST

It would help this article to do a little research on sentencing - how it works at the federal and state level. When do judges sentence, when do juries sentence, what determines who sentences?

I assume that judges determine sentencing for other crimes - every now and then you hear of a bizarre sentence, like the guy sentenced to standing in a fenced in area with a pig in a downtown area, because he called a cop a pig. So when do juries do it?

Does this ruling extend to all sentences, or just death penalty sentences? If not all, why not?



the decision link; and what it's all about (5.00 / 5) (#33)
by startled on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 02:31:09 PM EST

You can find it here:
http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=000&invol= 01-488&friend=nytimes

It's actually pretty straightforward, as evidenced by the 7-2 decision (which would've been more lopsided except the 2 dissenters are concerned about the turmoil this will cause with existing cases).

Here's a key bit: "Because Arizonas enumerated aggravating factors operate as the functional equivalent of an element of a greater offense, Apprendi, 530 U.S., at 494, n.19, the Sixth Amendment requires that they be found by a jury.".

So this isn't that the jury is now supposed to be involved in sentencing. It's that judges can't look at evidence the jury didn't look at, make decisions about aggravating circumstances the jury didn't make, and then decide that qualifies the defendant for a new penalty. Here's what the judge decided: "The judge then found two aggravating factors, one of them, that the offense was committed for pecuniary gain.". Doesn't that sound like something the jury should decide?

We can all agree (well, most of us-- this is k5 after all) that if a jury convicts someone of manslaughter, the judge shouldn't be able to up that to murder. But that's essentially what happened here. The jury convicted him of murder during an armed robbery, but deadlocked on the charge of premeditated murder. But then, the judge made findings beyond what the jury made, and sentenced Ring to death.

Note of clarification: I'm not saying the judge screwed up; he did as he was directed to by the Arizona legislature. I'm saying the Arizona legislature screwed up.

One of the fun things (5.00 / 3) (#55)
by aphrael on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 05:59:36 PM EST

was the way the case played through the courts: the Arizona Supreme Court basically said "uh ... look, the way the Supreme Court interpreted our law as an example in Apprendi v. New Jersey was wrong, and we think that means that the decision in Apprendi conflicts with the decision in Walton v. Arizona (an earlier case which had affirmed the Arizona death penalty) but the Supreme Court said in Walton that we have to rule this way and so we will." Then the Supreme Court looked at it and said "oops. you're right. Walton and Apprendi do conflict." :)

[ Parent ]
Capital punishment (4.00 / 4) (#34)
by marx on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 02:34:55 PM EST

If capital punishment is ok, then why isn't chopping off someone's hand ok? Or castration?

Let's say someone steals a family heirloom, perhaps a gold ring, then melts it down and sells the gold. Is prison going to satisfy you? Of course not. You need to be assured that the thief will never be able to do something similar in the future. A painless amputation of both hands would probably suffice. It would also serve as a strong deterrent, hence lowering crime. In other words, a win-win proposal.

Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.

yep, it's contradictory (5.00 / 1) (#36)
by miguel on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 02:41:23 PM EST

courts have ruled that harsh punishments for lesser crimes are deemed "cruel and unusual", while the death penalty has been upheld as constitutional by the supreme court. go figure.

I want you to be free
[ Parent ]

Cruel and unusual... (none / 0) (#43)
by zonker on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 03:52:56 PM EST

This has always struck me as poor phrasing. Of course a punishment is "cruel" or it wouldn't be punishment. I think what they should have said is "overly cruel" or "disproportionate to the crime" or something. It doesn't disturb me that someone like Gacy would be put to death, it would disturb me greatly for someone to have their hand chopped off just for stealing a candy bar.

Unusual... My interpretation of "unusual" in that phrase is that a punishment has to be consistent. That is, if you murder someone and I murder someone, we should both receive roughly the same punishment. It would be quite unfair for me to receive the death penalty while you receive only a flogging. (Of course, we don't do that either...but I'm just making a comparison here...)

As I mentioned in a previous post - there's the hypothetical set of arguments and the set of arguments that take into account the way we do things here and now and the state of our court system now.

The system we have now badly needs fixing - but it's foolish in the extreme to suggest that a society never has the right to sentence someone to death.
I will not get very far with this attitude.
[ Parent ]

cruel AND unusual (none / 0) (#45)
by miguel on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 04:36:31 PM EST

that makes the difference. capital punishment supposadly fits the crime so its considered "usual" punishment, though it may be cruel.

I want you to be free
[ Parent ]

Ah, the slippery slope argument... (4.00 / 1) (#41)
by zonker on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 03:46:32 PM EST

If capital punishment is ok, then why isn't chopping off someone's hand ok? Or castration?

First, it depends on who you're asking and under what circumstances. I believe it's been determined that castration and chopping off someone's hand is "cruel and unusual" punishment by our courts.

I have mixed feelings about these punishments, for a few reasons. For argument's sake, I believe that castration would be an appropriate punshiment for rape or child molestation. If a person is definitely guilty of either of these crimes, I would have no problem with this - unfortunately, in this day and age, many people are falsely accused of rape. While some people may be wrongly convicted of murder, there should be no doubt that a murder has taken place. It's only a matter of determining who murdered the person. It is often questionable whether or not rape has taken place.

The point is not whether to satisfy the victim of the crime, but to set a punishment that deters people from commiting the crime in the first place while also being in proportion to the crime. If I steal a family heirloom from you, it's hardly proportional to demand a limb from me. I've not deprived you of the ability to use your limbs, merely of some property. A more fitting punishment , then, would be to confiscate some of my property.

Also, there are two ways of discussing the death penalty. One is discussing the current implementation as practiced in the United States - I'm fully prepared to admit that our system is flawed and perhaps we should put the death penalty on hold until we can fix the system.

The other way to talk about the death penalty is to talk in hypotheticals and whether the death penalty is ever proper, whether society and the state ever have the right to kill a person for crimes committed. It strikes me as absolutely stupid for people to claim that the death penalty is always, always wrong no matter what the circumstances. If a state has a right to wage war on another state, then it obviously has the right to kill to enforce decisions of the state. If you decide that a state does not have this right, then you've essentially doomed the state and prevented it from protecting itself.

If this is unpalatable, and I would think that it is, then you must agree that the state has the right to decide to kill to enforce its decisions on some occasions. The only thing left is to quibble over which decisions the state is allowed to enforce with a death penalty. Surely it is more just for a state to impose the death sentence on one of its own when that citizen has willingly vilolated a law knowing that the consequence is death than it is for a state to send soldiers to kill citizens of another state who may or may not have done anything wrong at all.
I will not get very far with this attitude.
[ Parent ]

No slope here (5.00 / 1) (#59)
by marx on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 06:11:54 PM EST

I believe it's been determined that castration and chopping off someone's hand is "cruel and unusual" punishment by our courts.
This was not a slippery slope argument. What is cruelest: chopping someone's hand off or killing him? You're already at the bottom of the slope, so there's nowhere to slip.
A more fitting punishment , then, would be to confiscate some of my property.
Ok, now you're talking about "eye for an eye". The appropriate punishment for a rapist would then be to raped himself.
If you decide that a state does not have this right, then you've essentially doomed the state and prevented it from protecting itself.
If a state gives itself the right to kill its citizens or not is not really important to me. It all comes down to some value judgement at some point, and I'm not going to start claiming I have better values than anyone else.

What I get pissed off at is the dishonesty. If "cruel and unusual punishment" is forbidden by law, and you interpret this to forbid for example amputation, whipping etc., then you can't possibly claim that killing can be allowed. You're forbidding amputation of a hand, but amputation of the head is allowed?

Since there's no rational reason capital punishment is allowed, I suspect it's an emotional issue. Either it's rage, that people get so angry at certain acts that someone has to die, or else it's the lynch mob mentality. The latter is certainly supported by (quite recent) US history. It would also explain the unproportional number of blacks executed.

Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
[ Parent ]

I disagree (none / 0) (#65)
by zonker on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 07:10:59 PM EST

You're already at the bottom of the slope, so there's nowhere to slip.

First, "slippery slope" does not denote a gradiation from one punishment to the other - it's a type of argument made. In this instance, you're trying to say "if it's logical to do X, then we should consider it logical to do Y and Z." You're also ignoring that different crimes come with different punishments - and what is deemed "cruel and unusual" for one crime is not deemed "cruel and unusual" for another. Even imprisonment would be cruel and unusual punishment for a single parking violation. Putting a serial killer to death does not, to me anyway, seem cruel nor unusual. Lopping off someone's hand for shoplifting does.

Ok, now you're talking about "eye for an eye". The appropriate punishment for a rapist would then be to raped himself.

Perhaps. It's not a duty I'd really want though...seems it'd be just as much punishment for the person assigned to carry out the duty as it would be for the rapist. "Sorry, Bob... looks like you're on rapist detail this week. Here's your Viagra, get to it..."

What I get pissed off at is the dishonesty. If "cruel and unusual punishment" is forbidden by law, and you interpret this to forbid for example amputation, whipping etc., then you can't possibly claim that killing can be allowed.

Well, again - I personally don't think that whipping and amputation should be completely ruled out, and it would certainly have been nice if the framers of the Constitution had been a wee bit clearer on what they meant by "cruel and unusual." Note that amputation, whipping and so forth are meant to be painful and serve as a warning to other potential offenders - flogging was not done in private, but in public in front of onlookers. Amputation served a dual purpose - loss of a limb and a visible sign that someone has broken the law. (I feel sorry for people who lost a limb in other ways who were assumed to have been thieves...) Our society has shied away from public punishments as "cruel and unusual" - mostly, I suspect, "unusual." The way we carry out death sentences is done with a minimum of public attendence and is supposed to be by the least painful methods. The idea is not to inflict pain, but to end the life of the criminal. This may not meet with your system of logic, but I do understand how our judges have arrived at this conclusion. If it has to go one way or the other, though, I would argue we should reinstate flogging and other punishments rather than abolishing the death penalty.

I suspect it's an emotional issue.

It certainly is for some, no doubt.
I will not get very far with this attitude.
[ Parent ]

Self-defence vs. punishment. (none / 0) (#66)
by Count Zero on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 07:12:43 PM EST

A more fitting punishment , then, would be to confiscate some of my property.

As a brief aside, most people running around stealing things probably don't have much property of their own for us to take. Well, unless they are CEOs, I guess.

If a state has a right to wage war on another state, then it obviously has the right to kill to enforce decisions of the state. If you decide that a state does not have this right, then you've essentially doomed the state and prevented it from protecting itself.

The state has the right to defend itself, just as citizens do. If someone opens fire on a police officer, going about his lawful duties, he can defend himself. If another state attacks the state militarily, the state can go to war to defend it's existance. While we can capture and lock up a murderer for life, thus preventing him from harming society, we couldn't very well ask the state of Japan to hand over it's navy for trial and imprisonment after Pearl Harbor to insure Japan wouldn't attack us again.




[ Parent ]
peace treaty follies (none / 0) (#68)
by aphrael on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 07:22:30 PM EST

we couldn't very well ask the state of Japan to hand over it's navy for trial and imprisonment after Pearl Harbor to insure Japan wouldn't attack us again

But we could, and did, require Japan to insert disarmament provisions into its constitution, and require that West Germany only be allowed to use its military within the context of NATO. And, after WWI, the victors required as part of the peace that Germany permanently disarm.

[ Parent ]

So, what you're saying... (none / 0) (#69)
by zonker on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 07:49:50 PM EST

Is that it's never permissible for a state to be the aggressor in a war. If not attacked, the state cannot enter a war. While this may be the ideal, it's hardly reflective of reality.
I will not get very far with this attitude.
[ Parent ]
Capital Punishment (3.00 / 1) (#42)
by godix on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 03:52:24 PM EST

You imply the point of capital punishment is vengence and deterrent. I gotta disagree, the point that I see in the death penalty is that some crimes are so harmful to society that society must make sure it can't be repeated by the criminal. Since there's always a chance of jail break, that leaves death as the only way of being absolutely sure the criminal doesn't repeat his crime. If you can show me a way we can be 100% sure a mass murderer won't kill again without the death penalty I'd be glad to hear it.

[ Parent ]
Solution (none / 0) (#51)
by marx on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 05:44:19 PM EST

Amputate all of his limbs. Why is this not implemented? Because it's "cruel and unusual". Hah.

Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
[ Parent ]

the purpose of capital punishment (3.00 / 2) (#46)
by tps12 on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 04:55:33 PM EST

The true purpose of capital punishment is neither to prevent the criminal from transgressing again nor to serve as a deterrent. Rather, it serves as vengeance.

To illustrate:

Imagine you are walking with a close family member. Suddenly, someone jumps out of the bushes, reveals a weapon, and declares that he has been planning to kill your relative, and will now proceed to do so. Suppose further that you are armed.

In scenario A, you respond by drawing your own weapon and shooting the attacker to death before he can act. No jury would convict you of a crime, as you acted out of necessity to save the life of your relative.

In scenario B, you are too slow, and your relative is killed. In a rage, you then shoot the attacker to death. In doing so you satisfy your desire for revenge, but also deprive the attacker of due process of law. You go to jail. :(

In scenario C, you are also too late, but rather than shooting the attacker, you simply subdue him, and call the police. He is then convicted by a jury of his peers and executed. Again, your need for vengeance is satisfied, but this time you go free.

Note that in all three situations the attacker ends up dead. The distinction between B and C is whether the proper mechanisms of law are obeyed or not.

[ Parent ]

Re: the purpose of capital punishment (5.00 / 1) (#50)
by puckchaser on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 05:34:16 PM EST

The true purpose of capital punishment is neither to prevent the criminal from transgressing again nor to serve as a deterrent. Rather, it serves as vengeance.
I disagree. It is easy and reasonable for any of those as being its true purpose; however, I think it is unfair to rule out any as well.

I'm not convinced that it is a particularly good deterrent; however, I would say that it is just as good (if not better) deterrent than the current US penal system. Doing "hard time" is a joke in the US. In fact, for some, prison life is much better than living on the streets.

Capital punishment clearly keeps the criminal from committing another crime (after execution) and is the main reason I support it.

Now considering your scenarios, I again disagree. In scenario B, while you may not have been quick enough to save the life of your relative, there are more factors to determine whether this would have been a "clean shoot". It would be easy to claim you were protecting yourself, especially given they had just shot your relative. Even if they turn their back and start running, if they still have that weapon, it could be reasonable (and legal) to shoot them depending on the exact circumstances. For example, if that person was running (with weapon in hand) towards a school or other populated area and you had a reasonable belief that someone else was in imminent danger... In the US at least, there are no guarantees on "going to jail". If you have the money and the right lawyer, even the clearly guilty can get off without punishment.

[ Parent ]

interesting (none / 0) (#88)
by tps12 on Tue Jun 25, 2002 at 08:04:27 AM EST

Capital punishment clearly keeps the criminal from committing another crime (after execution) and is the main reason I support it.
Well, why not kill them when they're born? That way they never have a chance to commit any crimes.
In scenario B, while you may not have been quick enough to save the life of your relative, there are more factors to determine whether this would have been a "clean shoot". It would be easy to claim you were protecting yourself, especially given they had just shot your relative. Even if they turn their back and start running, if they still have that weapon, it could be reasonable (and legal) to shoot them depending on the exact circumstances. For example, if that person was running (with weapon in hand) towards a school or other populated area and you had a reasonable belief that someone else was in imminent danger...
Well, call the situation with the school scenario D then. I was trying to limit the issues to vengeance versus defense, and legally regulate vengeance versus vigilante justice. And while I'd agree that you could always shoot the attacker after the fact and claim self defense, that is also beside the point.

I should have been more clear. While I agree that capital punishment can be used to prevent a criminal from transgressing again, I believe that that is a difficult defense of it from a moral standpoint; it amounts to punishing a "criminal" (a word that technically means someone who has committed crime in the past) for future potential crimes, which violates due process. It can also be used as a deterrent, but there are questions as to the effectiveness and morality of this. The only morally defensible argument for capital punishment, in my opinion, is that it represents justice, or retribution.

[ Parent ]

Castration (5.00 / 2) (#48)
by epepke on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 05:23:20 PM EST

Andrew Hodges pointed out that at the time Alan Turing was given the alternative of jail or being injected with estrogen for the crime of being a homosexual in Britain, in the United States castration was a fairly common penalty for some sex crimes, though he presented no evidence that homosexuality was one of them.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Force the jury to attend the execution (4.37 / 8) (#38)
by Nickus on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 03:02:42 PM EST

They could take this a step further and force the members of the jury to go the execution. If you are ready to sentence a person to death then you should also be ready to attend.



Due to budget cuts, light at end of tunnel will be out. --Unknown
Please... (2.00 / 3) (#56)
by countzro on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 06:01:39 PM EST

Why send the jury to the execution chamber? What purpose would that serve? ...and before you spout off about how horrible it is to take a human life, and how I should see such a terrible thing, I have witnessed two handgun suicides and an accidental killing already. It's not that big a deal, unless you don't like the sight of blood. Oh, and by the way - freedom *must* be paid for. To quote Starship Troopers (the movie, not the book), "Something given has no value.", which is why you can even think of questioning the price of freedom - you didn't pay it. Almost a million American soldiers did.

[ Parent ]
ineria of a nation (4.80 / 5) (#60)
by TheLogician on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 06:18:45 PM EST

Why send the jury to the execution chamber? What purpose would that serve?

It would force Americans to think about what they're doing. The government uses nice words like "capital punishment" instead of "murder" so the American psyche is not hurt. An American citizen, by definition, agrees to the laws that govern his state, but no one takes responsiblity for their actions. Every time a criminal is executed, every American is responsible for his death, but few Americans feel that responsibility. Americans might not be so quick to put people on deathrow if they have to watch the life they are taking away, instead of having it happen between closed doors. The connection between conviction and execution must not be abstracted in any way.

...and before you spout off about how horrible it is to take a human life

Yes, let us dismiss the idea that "taking a life" is acceptable. It's not even worth debating. Really, it wrong for a criminal to murder, but it's fine for The State to do it.



[ Parent ]
They would quickly become jaded. (none / 0) (#86)
by Rande on Tue Jun 25, 2002 at 05:01:31 AM EST

When people are used to death, then they will find ways of dealing with it...ie, cheering when the man does the gallows dance.

It's only when people aren't exposed to death all the time that they find it horrifying.



[ Parent ]

Please... (none / 0) (#81)
by Nickus on Tue Jun 25, 2002 at 03:02:10 AM EST

If there is no big deal to see someone kill themselves or see someone get killed by accident then I suggest that you should go and get your brain checked. Life is not a video game where you see people get killed all the time and you can yell "you are a looser" (BTW, I like those games but I would still not like to see a shooting in real life).

Usually something given has more value - because it means something to both the person who give and the one who gets it. It all depends on how you look at it. A lot of Finnish soldiers payed with their lives and they gave me freedom and for me that is valuable.



Due to budget cuts, light at end of tunnel will be out. --Unknown
[ Parent ]
Justice (none / 0) (#71)
by Cantara on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 10:29:01 PM EST

Justice at it's very core is based on the idea of deterrence. The entire idea revolves around the simple concept that for every action that a society considerers criminal there must be a punishment for that action. Gaols, stockades and even the ultimate penalty of death follow the same cause and effect relationship.

For better or worse I can think of no system that offers nothing more than punishment for transgressions against it's societal codes. (Employment, relationships, and any other human endeavor.)

Death is the ultimate price to pay for that transgression. Often the argument settles around whether the crime is worthy of the death penalty or whether the society is civilized to a point that the death penalty is barbaric.

The answer may not lie in forcing the jury to witness the execution of those that they condemn, but by ensuring that the members of a jury (any jury mind you and by logic everyone) see an execution prior to becoming a juror. Obviously, at that point, every member of that society would understand the finality of the sentence and would have to explicitly agree if the punishment was acceptable.

[ Parent ]
Dumb (none / 0) (#75)
by Lord Snott on Tue Jun 25, 2002 at 12:47:48 AM EST

And if you eat Weaties, you have to go watch a machine separate wheat and chaff.

And if you have a white coffee, you have to get up at 4 in the morning to witness a dairy.

If someone has done something so in-human that they lose their right to be human, why do I have to watch them be put down?

When a dog mauls a three year old to death, it gets put down. Do I have to watch that too?

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Bummer :-(

[ Parent ]

Idiot (none / 0) (#78)
by Betcour on Tue Jun 25, 2002 at 02:34:29 AM EST

There's fine difference between eating wheaties and executing a man. Sometimes the seriousness of something requires that it is done more seriously than something else.

[ Parent ]
Yes, but... (none / 0) (#80)
by Lord Snott on Tue Jun 25, 2002 at 03:00:03 AM EST

you've missed what I was saying.

Executing a man is one thing. Putting down an animal is something else.

I'm against "punishing" a person with death for doing "bad". Who are you to say what is bad? The US popularly elected government can say copyright applies to ALL electronic devices, because copyright is "good". Or it might say (as it does in my country) fast food is "bad", because it causes health problems.

McDonalds is good because it is convenient?
DMCA is bad because it infringes our rights?

Good and bad are subjective. Death is not.

I disagree with ALL verdicts, where death is a "punishment". Death is an answer, not a punishment.
The question is "how do we protect our society best?"

I used to believe nothing could warrant execution.
But we had an incident here, the "Anita Cobby" case, in which a few men tortured a woman to death. She was pack-raped, bashed and cut-up. Her fingers had been cut off one-by-one, over a couple of days. Her nipples were cut off. She was mutilated while alive. They finished by pouring petrol on her and burning her to death. They then pissed on her body. Humans aren't capable of that. I can't believe a human-being can do that. They have removed themselves from the human-race, and, like the dog who savages a child to death without provocation, they need to be put down.

Saying jury members have to watch an execution is like saying they also have to watch crimes like the above being committed to get "perspective".

Thats wrong.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This sig in violation of U.S. trademark
registration number 2,347,676.
Bummer :-(

[ Parent ]

OK, but... (none / 0) (#82)
by vectro on Tue Jun 25, 2002 at 03:12:28 AM EST

You start out well, but your argument contains a (IMHO, fatal) non-sequitor.

You begin by stating that you disagree with the death penalty as a punishment.

You then follow by giving an (emotional) example and finish by saying that the individuals in question "need to be put down". But isn't that punishment? After all, if the only question is one of prevention, it would be cheaper to just imprison them.

As for the death penalty as a deterrant (which I think you were originally trying to get at), there's no evidence whatsoever it's effective as such. And then there are all the myriad issues associated with any permanent sentence.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]

Cheaper (none / 0) (#85)
by Rande on Tue Jun 25, 2002 at 04:58:17 AM EST

It's only cheaper due to the length of the appeals process. There's certain countries where it's cheaper to apply the death penalty eg. you have 48 hours after sentencing to get an executive pardon before you are strung up. Much cheaper than 20+ years in jail. I agree that the death penalty (like all penalties) isn't a disincentive to people commiting crimes because few criminals expect to be caught. What it does prevent is repeat offenses. Don't get me wrong here, I feel the chances of executing an innocent person makes the death sentence wrong...seldom can we be 100% certain. But in cases where the person convicted _requests_ the death sentence, then it should be available to them. I can understand how a person would rather die than spend 20+ years in jail.

[ Parent ]
Voluntary death penalty (none / 0) (#91)
by vectro on Tue Jun 25, 2002 at 04:22:15 PM EST

Yeah, I'd agree with a voluntary death penalty. But that's a whole different ballgame: I agree with the right to kill oneself, and to assist someone in killing themselves.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]
Please read the decision, not just the news report (4.75 / 4) (#54)
by aphrael on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 05:50:01 PM EST

The Supreme Court did not say that only a jury can sentence someone to death, despite what the news media are saying.

What it did say is that when a state says that the punishment for murder is life in prison without parole unless one of several factors are present that make it worse, in which case the punishment is death, a jury must determine whether those factors are present.

In other words --- it is still as legal as it was yesterday for a judge to decide what the sentence is. However, the factual bases for that decision must be determined by a jury.

The opinion is here.

You may not want a jury deciding this. (4.00 / 1) (#61)
by Count Zero on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 06:28:38 PM EST

This ruling could actually work to get more death penalty convictions, as it offers an increased incentive for prosecuters to obtain "Death Qualified" juries.

The numbers show that this can lead to juries which are not representative, and are inherently biased against the defendant




could maybe still waive the jury (none / 0) (#70)
by xah on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 08:23:48 PM EST

I am not a lawyer. Don't take this as legal advice.

I think a defendant can still waive his right to a jury trial. If the prosecution also waives the jury, then it will be a bench trial. (The judge will decide whether the defendant is guilty and what the sentence is.)

In cases like Ring, the defendant was convicted by a jury, but then a judge decided the death penalty. Ring never waived his right to a jury trial.

Again, I'm not a lawyer. Please correct me if I'm wrong.



[ Parent ]

The history gets even more interesting. (5.00 / 3) (#67)
by aphrael on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 07:17:45 PM EST

It begins in 1990, when the Supreme Court ruled on a challenge to Arizona's death penalty law in a case called Walton v. Arizona. In that case, the court ruled, in an opinion written by Justice Byron White, that the sixth amendment did not require that all facts be determined by a jury. Only one of the nine justices at the time, Justice Stevens, took the opposite opinion; the rest of the dissenters argued that the eighth amendment prohibits the death penalty altogether, while Justice Scalia argued that the entire course of US death penalty cases is wrong and should be scrapped.

By two years ago, things had changed irrevocably. In a case involving hate crimes legislation (which increased the sentence for a given crime if it was motivated by an intent to intimidate people because of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc), the Court ruled in Apprendi v. New Jersey that the determination that the crime was so motivated must be made by the jury and not by a judge. That decision was written by Justice Stevens, who had been the sole justice to hold that position ten years previously! In a concurrence in that case, Justice Thomas put forward the proposition that Walton still held because it was a special case: the requirement for aggravating facts to be determined before the death penalty could be imposed had been imposed on the states by the court itself, and so therefore those aggravating factors were exempt from the more general rule put forward in Apprendi. Justices O'Conner, Kennedy, and Breyer dissented from that case, arguing that the idea presented in it (and in a case the previous year) that "any fact other than prior conviction that increases the maximum penalty for a crime must be charged in an indictment, submitted to a jury, and proven beyond ar easonable doubt" was entirely ahistoric and unreasonable.

Shortly after Apprendi was handed down, the Arizona Supreme Court heard the appeal that lead to today's US Supreme Court opinion. In their decision they said, basically, "we think Apprendi and Walton conflict, but the last time we considered this, the Supreme Court told us that our law was constitutional (in Walton, no less!), so we have to abide by that."

Which led to today's decision. The majority extended the precedent of Apprendi to death penalty cases (in one concurrence, Justice Kennedy explicitly said he still doesn't think Apprendi was correct, but that it is not possible to reconcile the two, so as long as Apprendi remains the governing legal principle, Walton has to go). The dissenters objected that Apprendi was just flat out wrong, in any case --- but by now, the court's position has switched 180 degrees in 12 years.

Hehehe... (none / 0) (#74)
by Lord Snott on Tue Jun 25, 2002 at 12:37:07 AM EST

I couldn't help but giggle at this line...

"...Arizona's death penalty law in a case called Walton v. Arizona."

"Goodnight, John-Boy," *ZAP!*

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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registration number 2,347,676.
Bummer :-(

[ Parent ]
Scalia, slight correction (none / 0) (#94)
by dachshund on Wed Jun 26, 2002 at 02:49:35 PM EST

while [in 1990's Walton v. Arizona] Justice Scalia argued that the entire course of US death penalty cases is wrong and should be scrapped

To correct you slightly: Scalia did indeed write a dissent on certain issues involving the death penalty back in Walton. However, it's important to note that he also partially concurred with the majority in that case-- specifically, he agreed with the majority in finding no 6th amendment issue.

Which is what makes his position in Ring and in Apprendi so interesting, because these detect exactly the same sort of 6th amendment issues he ignored in Walton. I pick on Scalia here in particular because of his sharp reversal, and also because he more than any of the other justices stakes his reputation on Judicial predictability. He also insists that the Constitution not be "a living document", which makes it fundamentally curious that he has recently begun finding 6th amendment issues in circumstances where he previously found none.

I have even heard that Scalia appeared to be wavering on Ring, perhaps feeling slightly trapped by his own reversal in the non-capital Apprendi and Jones v. United States. It's hard to figure it out what he was thinking from reading his opinion, though he does heaps lots of scorn on the other justices' attempts to interpret the contradictory opinions he signed.

I realize that I may not understand the issues fully, and I would be grateful if anyone could add more insight.

[ Parent ]

`*The* Supreme Court'? (3.40 / 5) (#72)
by gidds on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 11:21:23 PM EST

Which Supreme Court would that be, then?  Not even the USA Supreme Court (which I assume is the one intended) has jurisdiction over the entire planet, much as they'd like to have...

Andy/
The International Court of Justice, of course. (none / 0) (#73)
by aphrael on Tue Jun 25, 2002 at 12:32:24 AM EST

It certainly has jurisdiction over the largest part of the planet. :)

[ Parent ]
Supreme Court Rules Juries Must Decide on Death Penalty | 95 comments (92 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
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