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[P]
Who is responsible for the lives of those executed?

By /dev/niall in Op-Ed
Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 05:32:28 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

Barring any last minute changes, on Monday June the 11th Timothy McVeigh will be executed for the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building and causing the death of 168 people.

McVeigh will be strapped to a table and intravenous tubes will be inserted into his body and begin flowing a saline solution into him. At this time, McVeigh will probably be permitted to make a final statement.

One or more executioners, who may wear hoods to conceal their identities, will inject several drugs into the IV line, most likely: Sodium thiopental (or Pentothal) which will put McVeigh to sleep and act as an anaesthetic; Pancuronium bromide (or Pavulon) which is a muscle relaxant that in high doses will stop breathing by paralyzing the diaphragm and stopping the lungs from functioning; Potassium chloride may also be given in a lethal dose to stop the heart.

Minutes later McVeigh will be declared dead.

A human has just died. Who is responsible?


As a member (albeit peripherally) of the society that is executing this man, I am responsible. Not individually, but as a part of that group.

Our society deems killing morally and ethically wrong under most circumstances. Murder (the unlawful killing of a person) is always wrong. Why? Is it because human life is valuable/special/sacred/venerable? Because it impinges on the victim's right to live? Because it damages society?

Seems like it's a lot of the third, a little of the second, and none of the first. People might say they believe a human life to be special, but the majority in the United States obviously do not believe this to be true or we as a society would not execute prisoners.

I believe human life to be special, sacred (not in a religious sense), venerable, call it what you will. I believe it is therefore wrong to take any person's life except for immediate self-defense. This is not an emotional belief, this is a rational belief.

Worst of all, I won't be losing any sleep when McVeigh is put to death, and I certainly won't shed any tears. Though I rationally believe his death to be wrong, emotionally I am glad an evil man is not longer with us. I recognize my hypocrisy, and it disturbs me.

You will note I have made no mention of keeping the streets safe, preventing multiple offenders from committing further crimes, costs associated with incarceration and execution, or problems with our justice/legal systems. These are other arguments, other problems. I'm interested in your thoughts on one thing:

Is it wrong to execute prisoners? What are your beliefs? Why?

I am not a U.S. citizen, though as a permanent resident I pay taxes and fund in part the government that is performing the execution.

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Poll
Is execution wrong?
o Yes, for moral/ethical reasons 47%
o No, for moral/ethical reasons 15%
o Yes, for social reasons 13%
o No, for social reasons 7%
o Don't know/Not sure 6%
o Don't care 3%
o Sometimes, depends on the person 6%

Votes: 91
Results | Other Polls

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Display: Sort:
Who is responsible for the lives of those executed? | 129 comments (119 topical, 10 editorial, 0 hidden)
Good topic... (3.25 / 4) (#1)
by PlutoniumHigh on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 02:27:58 PM EST

... and in the right spot. One worthy of heavy debate, as well as a well thought out, but brief opinion.

None the less, refer to Capital Punishment and You.

Responsibility... (3.66 / 9) (#2)
by ucblockhead on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 02:28:32 PM EST

I wouldn't think the act of paying taxes shows responsibility. It isn't like you have a real choice in the matter.

Obviously were someone an anti-death penalty activist, and had worked hard to fight McVeigh's execution, we wouldn't consider him responsible even if he paid taxes to the government that did it.

Maybe if someone actively voted for the death penalty in a proposition, but just being a member of a society does not make you responsible for everything the society does, even in a democracy.

You are only responsible to the extent that you support the action. (With the understanding that inaction can be implicit support.)
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup

re: Responsibility (4.00 / 2) (#4)
by /dev/niall on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 02:37:56 PM EST

I wouldn't think the act of paying taxes shows responsibility. It isn't like you have a real choice in the matter.

But I do have a choice. I could move to another country that won't spend my tax dollars in this way. If I was really upset about it, I could refuse to pay taxes, demonstrate, etc.

I don't, and so I feel I bear some of the responsibility.
--
"compared to the other apes, my genitals are gigantic" -- TheophileEscargot
[ Parent ]

The opposite argument (4.00 / 1) (#8)
by ucblockhead on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 02:55:21 PM EST

One could easily argue the opposite, that is, if you simply leave this country, you would be more responsible for the executions than if you stayed behind and actively fought capital punishment in this country politically.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Re: The opposite argument (4.00 / 1) (#20)
by /dev/niall on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 03:45:41 PM EST

I don't buy into that; am I responsible for the Taliban's actions because I don't move there? Am I responsible for crimes commited in my city because I do not wander the streets dressed in spandex combating evil?

Point is I believe I am indirectly responsible because I pay taxes. Stop paying those taxes and as far as I'm concerned I'm not responsible anymore.


--
"compared to the other apes, my genitals are gigantic" -- TheophileEscargot
[ Parent ]

Why? (4.00 / 1) (#24)
by ucblockhead on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 03:47:50 PM EST

Why does taxes make you responsible? Would refusing to pay your taxes save McVeigh's life?
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
re: Why? (4.00 / 1) (#32)
by /dev/niall on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 04:09:47 PM EST

No. It would eliminate my responsibility. I didn't vote for the death penality, I'm not involved with executions/legal system, and if I didn't pay taxes I wouldn't be funding it.
--
"compared to the other apes, my genitals are gigantic" -- TheophileEscargot
[ Parent ]
How? (3.00 / 1) (#42)
by ucblockhead on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 04:23:03 PM EST

How can you be responsible for something you have no control over?

I just don't buy the argument that you can be responsible for something you can't control. You are only responsible for McVeigh's death to the extent that you could prevent it, and choose not to.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Revenge, The Death Penalty, and Prison (4.22 / 9) (#5)
by dram on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 02:41:08 PM EST

The death penalty is a way for people to get revenge. Prisons in general fulfill a need to see people punished for dragging our society down. Many people think that if everybody acted at least as good as them the world would be a better place. And many of them are right. If everybody were a hardworking, law-abiding citizen things would be better. But everybody is not like that, its not human nature. So the people that are generally good people want to see the generally bad people hurt in some way.

This idea is nothing more than a society trying to protect itself from things that it deems harmful. We in America, and in many other parts of the world as well, have decided that murder is not acceptable. We think that rape is wrong, and that drugs hurt people. We have also decided that the people that do these things should be punished for hurting our society, and the society has every right to try and protect itself.

These are the decisions, as a society, we have made. As an individual I do not agree with all of them. I think that societies do have a right to protect themselves. But I do not think that we should be able to hurt people in the attempt to protect our society. That means I don't think we should put people to death and that we should make prisons better places for people. Prisons should be a place for us to put people that have hurt us, not a place for us to exact our revenge on the people that have hurt us.

As proof that we want revenge on Timothy McVeigh we are letting a large number of people to watch his death on closed circuit TV. As if just killing him wasn't enough, they must watch as well. Somehow I find that sick.

-dram
[grant.henninger.name]

Human nature (4.00 / 2) (#87)
by driptray on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 02:54:46 AM EST

If everybody were a hardworking, law-abiding citizen things would be better. But everybody is not like that, its not human nature. So the people that are generally good people want to see the generally bad people hurt in some way.

Alarm bells ring for me when people start invoking "human nature".

Crime rates vary enormously over time and between countries. If crime was simply a function of human nature we wouldn't have this variation. Crime is clearly related to social conditions, and as a member of a society with a high crime rate, yes, you have to take some responsibility for that.

Woah, that's not gonna be popular here...

Why do we kill people who kill people to teach people that killing people is wrong?


--
We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. - Paul Keating
[ Parent ]
Yes, maybe (none / 0) (#101)
by dram on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 05:07:42 PM EST

But has there ever been a time when the crime rate is zero?

-dram
[grant.henninger.name]

[ Parent ]
Why do you want to protect monsters? (3.85 / 7) (#6)
by theboz on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 02:48:39 PM EST

I think people have a right to live. I think criminals should be punished for their crimes. Despite what people want to believe, prison is not, and never was, intended to "cure" someone of being a criminal. It is intended to punish, in the hopes that the criminal will be shocked into not wanting to commit the crime for fear of punishment.

Now, when you look at incarceration as a form of punishment rather than treatment, then you start to see how some crimes would be worthy of death. A side benefit is that it protects the society by making this person incapable of ever committing such a horrible crime again. In the case of Timothy McVeigh, what would you want to do with him? Why should he live out his life in prison? He is worthless as a human being. Not only will he never be rehabilitated, but he would be a danger, even if it's just to other criminals. This man's life brings darkness into the world. The fact that he lives may put the survivors and those that prosecuted him in fear of their lives should he ever escape, and he's just an evil guy. There is no high and mighty "value of human life" when it comes to people like this. While I'm sure he values his own life, he was selfish enough to steal the lives of many many others.

Basically, I think the whole fight against the death penalty is very misguided. I think that people make a blanket statement about the value of human life, but ignore the value of the lives of the victims, and that this person who has taken many lives can take more if we allow him to exist. What would be more humane in your opinion? Lethal injection, which causes as much pain as getting an IV put in, or would you prefer to torture him, having big guys anally rape him, beat him up, etc. I think that the second one is more barbaric than the first option. In any case, some people should be removed from society, they only pose a risk to others and do not deserve life since they have taken the lives of many others.

Stuff.

You can measure the worth of a society... (4.00 / 1) (#10)
by Mad Hughagi on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 02:57:54 PM EST

by the way it treats it's prisoners.

Your comment:

In any case, some people should be removed from society, they only pose a risk to others and do not deserve life since they have taken the lives of many others.

This is a very thin line to walk. How do you determine who is worthy of not being part of your society? Where do you draw the line?

The death penalty is an absolute form of punishment. Sure, today you can justify it with only being applied to a mass-murderer, but what will people think tomorrow? Killing someone never results in a good thing - it only ever seems to prevent the possibility of bad things from happening. Don't you think there are better ways to deal with certain situations?


HUGHAGI INDUSTRIES

We don't make the products you like, we make you like the products we make.
[ Parent ]

re: Why do you want to protect monsters? (4.00 / 2) (#12)
by /dev/niall on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 03:11:06 PM EST

I think people have a right to live.

Me too.

I think criminals should be punished for their crimes. Despite what people want to believe, prison is not, and never was, intended to "cure" someone of being a criminal. It is intended to punish, in the hopes that the criminal will be shocked into not wanting to commit the crime for fear of punishment.

I specifically focused on the morality of execution in order to avoid exactly this sort of conversation (not that this isn't an interesting and worthwhile issue). I'm not talking about curing, rehabilitating, or punishing. A great deal of your post is speaking to these issues.

Basically, I think the whole fight against the death penalty is very misguided. I think that people make a blanket statement about the value of human life, but ignore the value of the lives of the victims, and that this person who has taken many lives can take more if we allow him to exist.

So you are of the opinion that is is moral to execute someone to prevent them from possibly doing something in the future? What if it were possible to determine to the same degree of accuracy as our legal system (ha!) using psychiatric techniques that someone was going to commit a crime "worthy of death"? Would it be moral to execute them before they had a chance to think of, let alone commit the crime?

I think that people make a blanket statement about the value of human life, but ignore the value of the lives of the victims

So human life has no value, but individual life does and is dependant on the individuals actions?

What would be more humane in your opinion? Lethal injection, which causes as much pain as getting an IV put in, or would you prefer to torture him, having big guys anally rape him, beat him up, etc. I think that the second one is more barbaric than the first option.

I agree, the latter is more barbaric. Even if that were a fact (it's an opinion) it would not make the former automatically moral.

An offtopic question for you, because I see more and more of this lately and it confuses me. If you voted against this story, why are you posting? Could you post an editorial comment for me?
--
"compared to the other apes, my genitals are gigantic" -- TheophileEscargot
[ Parent ]

Reason for voting against your story (none / 0) (#29)
by theboz on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 03:59:39 PM EST

I feel that it is too biased towards one direction. It may just be a pet peeve of mine, but living in the U.S. and always seeing how biased (and usually wrong) the news media here is, I just am tainted against opinions in news. Even Op/Ed I will vote against if it's too biased in my opinion. I try to be fair though, I'll vote against something that seems too biased on things I agree with too, if it doesn't seem fair.

Stuff.
[ Parent ]

re: Reason for voting against your story (none / 0) (#31)
by /dev/niall on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 04:08:17 PM EST

Tks for responding! ;)

Can't say I agree with your method, but I certainly respect it. I've always voted stories up/down on how much decent discussion I think they will generate. Usually end up voting for mostly stuff I disagree with.

Op-Ed is a messy section, if it's too biased one way or another it can ruin the whole discussion. I'll keep that in mind if I/next time I post one (again).
--
"compared to the other apes, my genitals are gigantic" -- TheophileEscargot
[ Parent ]

misguided? (none / 0) (#38)
by WinPimp2K on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 04:16:58 PM EST

I'm sure the people sentenced to death by the efforts of politically ambitious District Attorneys agree with your opinion about the fight against the death penalty. Especially the ones that have been refused the DNA tests that might exonerate them.(Of course, now that Bush is out of our hair here in Texas, it looks like we will get a law allowing such tests)

Of course, once we can act in perfect knowledge of the facts of a case, I'll agree with a death penalty. Meanwhile, I have reservations - not because I believe the events in Oklahoma City or Jasper TX are in any way justifiable - but because I find myself unable to trust the motivations of those who decide when to pursue the death penalty.

Maybe we need an alternative to an actual death penalty - a virtual death penalty. Declare the person legally dead - execute their will/settle their estate - and the only way they will ever see the outside of a prison cell/speak with another "living" person is if they are later found innocent (as has happened with some distressing regularity due to DNA testing nowadays).

[ Parent ]

I think you are onto something (5.00 / 1) (#52)
by theboz on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 04:52:00 PM EST

I agree with you that people should not be executed until there is no doubt that they performed the crime (I think there are some other crimes worthy of the death penalty than just murder too) and that there is no other circumstances that could possibly be a reason for them to not be as guilty as we imagine (ie. if they were a hitman working for the mafia, and if they didn't kill so-and-so they would be next) and many other things just to be fully sure that this ultimate punishment is not used unfairly.

I don't think giving someone the death penalty should be easy, and in most cases it is not. People on death row usually get a bunch of chances to appeal and get new judges and lawyers so that they can be given more chances to prove that they are innocent. I do agree that DNA testing is very useful, but I don't think even it could be used to prove a person guilty or innocent as reliably as you think. For example, if I had a full brother, if he killed someone, what is to say that his DNA isn't close enough to mine that I couldn't get in trouble? Maybe he can say that it was his knife and I stole it from him, and if I seem to be the one with a motive, then I'm busted. DNA evidence is a tool but it's no magic solution by any means to prove someone innocent or guilty. If you had a girlfriend and she was murdered in your house using a knife from your kitchen, by someone with rubber gloves, they might not have any evidence it wasn't you. Also, I don't think there are that many cases of DNA testing proving people innocent. It is being used in court with more frequency than ever before, but I haven't heard of it being used to prove anyone innocent that was previously thought guilty, or to find a correct killer very often. In fact, the O.J. Simpson case should be proof that DNA testing is fairly worthless in determining if you are guilty or innocent.

Stuff.
[ Parent ]

DNA testing.... (none / 0) (#68)
by WinPimp2K on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 05:51:34 PM EST

While it won't work in every case (as you mention), it can sometimes help out Check the bits on Ronald Jones and the Ford Heights Four for examples of where it was used specifically to prove that the people who were convicted were innocent.

[ Parent ]
Yes. (3.60 / 5) (#7)
by Mad Hughagi on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 02:50:13 PM EST

Execution is wrong.

Death is an absolute means of punishment. It is a way for society to exact some form of vengence on a criminal. I don't think any judgement made by a human should come to an absolute conclusion.

As I have gotten into before in other threads (the zero tolerance story in particular), punishment is not the best way to enforce our laws. The death penalty is an obvious example of this. People who commit mass murders like McVeigh know they are probably going to get killed. He accepts his death! The fear that most people have of the punishment does not apply in his case, and as such the system fails to work. So what will the death penalty accomplish? Will it broadcast to society "it is wrong to bomb buildings - if you do it we'll kill you"? Yes, but shouldn't people have more incentive to not perform a bombing than fear? This leads me to believe that the death penalty only exists so that society can take revenge on the criminal. When we take someone's life, we are exacting the ultimate form of punishment and revenge - termination (the only way I can see this as being untrue is if someone is suicidal - then I guess we are doing them a favor).

In our society we try to make our laws so that they run in accordance with our general concensus on ethics and morality. Most human beings believe that killing another person is wrong - fundamentally. It is odd that in certain contexts we find ourselves justified to overlook this moral/ethical stance in favor of public retribution.


HUGHAGI INDUSTRIES

We don't make the products you like, we make you like the products we make.

The death penelty is not a deterent. (4.00 / 1) (#14)
by gridwerk on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 03:22:23 PM EST

The death penalty is hardly a deterrent since it seems very rare that it is carried out. In my 25 years of living I can only recall 4. I know there has to be more people sitting on death row then that. Just the fact that they can appeal it and stay tied up in legal tape that many of them end up serving life rather then receiving death. How can you say punishment is not the best way to enforce laws? How do you enforce a law without a consequence to breaking said law? What do you suggest? A pointing finger and a harsh talking to? There have to be consequences to actions. And sooner or later if and when you cross that line you have to pay the ultimate consequence.

[ Parent ]
Punishment as a means to an end. (none / 0) (#34)
by Mad Hughagi on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 04:12:05 PM EST

The death penalty is hardly a deterrent since it seems very rare that it is carried out

Is it okay to kill criminals, just as long as we only do it once in a while? I don't see how the actual termination themselves determine it's effectiveness as a deterrent - the fact that such a measure exists is deterrent enough.

My problem with your reply, and the other one under my parent post, is that you think "within" the current system. Sure, if you want to run a country like the ones we live in, punishment is fine and dandy. That is the basis for how we control our societies. All I'm saying is that it doesn't have to be that way, and that I believe there are better mechanisms for social engineering.

I don't see how there has to be a consequence to an action. I think that "consequences" are just a means for us to justify our draconian policies. We deal with the problem after it has happened. We don't consider how the problem came about, and why it exists in our society. As such, I'm afraid that no amount of punishment will ever be enough to deal with socially negative situations (crimes or whatever you will). Maybe the punishment system isn't even needed at all. I guess it depends on how you view humanity.

The following is more or less the same thing I said in the zero tolerance article.

Punishment is employed in the hopes that it will deter people from performing socially unacceptable activities. Plain and simple. If it wasn't a deterrent then I think we would be a pretty sadistic culture indeed. Punishment is a means to an end through the use of fear - if you fear punishment, it will prevent you from taking a certain course of action.

Now if someone is rational, and can forsee the consequences of their actions in a fear-based system, why is it that they are not simply shown how to rationalize the situation for themselves so that they can come to the right conclusion? Obviously if we have enough confidence in our citizens to rationalize their consequences based on a fear of punishment then we should have enough confidence to believe that they will make the right decisions based on a rational motivation of another kind - namely education.

The point of the matter here is that criminals perform crimes because they have rationalized that the punishment is not a deterrant!!! The see the benefits of their actions as outweighing the possibility for and the degree of punishment. Obviously we need to go deeper into the problem if we want a solution. Timothy's acceptance of death is about as blatant of an example as I can think of. He didn't fear the death penalty when he killed all those people. He still doesn't fear it today. Punishment does not work when the mechanism by which it acts is over-ridden - fear. The only people that lose are those who are punished unjustly - obviously they fear the punishment but they did not expect to be punished in the first place. Using fear to control a population is exactly how dictatorships are run... any coincidence?

Also, in the specific case of capital punishment, what positive effect is produced? Someone gets killed. There is nothing to gain by killing someone.

People should think about how much they value their personal freedoms and their relationship with the rest of society before they jump to conclusions or simply ride on the fact that "hey, I'm a good citizen, I will never break the law, and therefor the government can do whatever the hell it wants to criminals".


HUGHAGI INDUSTRIES

We don't make the products you like, we make you like the products we make.
[ Parent ]

Your numbers are a bit off (4.00 / 1) (#86)
by ttfkam on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 01:27:22 AM EST

Yes, the number of people in the US on death row is larger than four.
And, with the passage of time, the number of executions has increased exponentially, from one in 1977 to seventy-four in 1997, to six hundred and ten in 1999. The size of death row has also increased, so that today's death row population of slightly more than 3,500 is the not only the largest in U.S. history, but the largest in any country in the world.

- ACLU Death Penalty Watch

And in response to the comment about laws without consequence, how exactly is the rest of your life in prison not a consequence? "On a long enough timeline, the survival rate drops to zero." Everyone pays the "ultimate consequence" sooner or later whether they be sinner or saint. In the case of the death penalty, we simply chose to speed up the bill paying.

Circumventing the appeals process to get an execution has always struck me as a ridiculous concept. While lesser crimes are given the right to appeal (even traffic tickets), we are supposed to accept that an irrevocable act (death) is to be metered out without asking "Is this right, and is this the right person?" Of all the cases seen by our legal system, capital cases should be given MORE scrutiny, not less. It does not bode well that we skimp here for the sake of fiscal policy and public appearances.

If I'm made in God's image then God needs to lay off the corn chips and onion dip. Get some exercise, God! - Tatarigami
[ Parent ]

death penalty is NOT just revenge. (none / 0) (#23)
by typhatix on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 03:47:45 PM EST

People here seem to be missing a fundamental point. When any authority figure (parents, bosses, society, etc) sets a rule, there has to be a punishment associated with breaking the rule. If a child is told not to eat cookies before dinner and does and does not recieve some punishment (say no cookies for a day or something) then the action will continue because there are no consequences to the action other than they get what they want. Not only does there have to be a punishment, but it has to be harsh enough for the crime. If every time I sped I had to pay a nickel, well I would always speed. When I get those 100+ dollar tickets I slow the hell down. Same thing with crimes that society bars as heinous. Society has laid down a rule. Society is therefore required to enforce a strict-enough punishment to keep the rule respected by everyone under it. McVeigh did what he did and wants to be a martyr. We can't really punish HIM, and the purpose of revenge is to watch another person feel pain. That's not really possible with him, but by laying down the rule that what he did was wrong we have to tell everyone else that that rule stands firm and no violation of it will be tolerated. Break a law and pay the penalties or the law ceases to exist.

[ Parent ]
Yes, I missed it. (none / 0) (#40)
by Mad Hughagi on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 04:19:00 PM EST

I missed it because I don't think that it is something we should take as being fundamental.

When any authority figure (parents, bosses, society, etc) sets a rule, there has to be a punishment associated with breaking the rule.

Why is this so? You believe that humans have no sense of altruism and therefor we should all be left with the fear of punishment, as determined by people above us, to control our actions.

I see how you arrived at your sig.


HUGHAGI INDUSTRIES

We don't make the products you like, we make you like the products we make.
[ Parent ]

not exactly (none / 0) (#70)
by typhatix on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 07:03:55 PM EST

No. Not ALL humans have a sense of altruism, and punishment does not install fear in everyone, just makes people aware "some things will not be tolerated by society as a whole." And no I am not advocating a morality determined by people above us. I am advocating that when society deems some things to be wrong enough to make a law against it, that the government of that society then has to enforce the law using punishment that fits the crime.

I don't think anyone is terrified of being killed by the government because of McVeigh's execution. I think it makes it clear to anyone radical enough to kill 163(?) people that they will not get away with their action and they will be dealt with with as harsh of a punishment as possible. It's humane that such horrifying actions are not dealt with with torture as they would have been in most civilizations in the past.

[ Parent ]
I agree with most of what you are saying... (none / 0) (#81)
by Mad Hughagi on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 11:43:21 PM EST

except for the fact that society has to enforce the law using a punishment that fits the crime. If society deems the death penalty to be a fair way of punishing someone, then I think we need to spend a little more time figuring out why that is the best solution.

Do you also believe that it is just to imprison one innocent man instead of letting ten criminals go? Surely the more time a man has to remedy his falsely charged accusations the better.

I'm just questioning why the punishment would have to exist and why we go through the lengths of killing someone.

It's like you have stated here:

I think it makes it clear to anyone radical enough to kill 163(?) people that they will not get away with their action and they will be dealt with with as harsh of a punishment as possible.

This means that you are using the punishment to invoke fear into the rationality of would be radicals. By showing them how badly society will deal with them if they go through with something is just another way of saying "you don't do what everyone says, and we'll beat you up". My arguement is that these types of criminals do not fear punishment in the first place! They have rationalized their actions to themselves and as such you cannot "scare" them out of their decisions. Why does killing them help resolve this social cancer? Why is it justified for the many to be able to conclude that someone is to die, however if it is the other way around we either label them a mass-murderer or a dictator.

Read my sig. It's very true in this case.


HUGHAGI INDUSTRIES

We don't make the products you like, we make you like the products we make.
[ Parent ]

Talking to the wall? (4.00 / 1) (#85)
by ttfkam on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 01:08:16 AM EST

...but by laying down the rule that what he did was wrong we have to tell everyone else that that rule stands firm and no violation of it will be tolerated.
Is this why there is no statistical difference in violent crime between areas with a death penalty and those without? It seems the message isn't coming across very well. We're telling the bad guys, but apparently no one is listening. If no one is paying attention and it doesn't seem to make a difference, then why do we keep doing it?

If I'm made in God's image then God needs to lay off the corn chips and onion dip. Get some exercise, God! - Tatarigami
[ Parent ]
I was wrong... (none / 0) (#110)
by ttfkam on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 10:17:35 PM EST

According to a New York Times study, ten of twelve states which have no death penalty have homocide rates below the national average.

I had thought the numbers were statistically the same. I was wrong.

Note: This does not point to the New York Times website. The article is legit, but the NYT charges for a copy of the article. Who knows the legality of this link with regards to copyright.

If I'm made in God's image then God needs to lay off the corn chips and onion dip. Get some exercise, God! - Tatarigami
[ Parent ]

nice.. (none / 0) (#64)
by Platy on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 05:38:56 PM EST

I have to admit i like your posting but i dont think it is realizable. Of course the thought of a society which works with rationality and logic and thoughtfullnes is great but unfortunately i just cant imagine in.
and by the way i dont think you are doing a suicidal a favor if you kill him. But i just think so perhaps i am completely wrong.
J.
--
Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earthbound misfit, I.
[ Parent ]
The reason I am against the death penalty (3.87 / 8) (#9)
by DontTreadOnMe on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 02:57:23 PM EST

I am against the death penalty not because I feel society has no right to take human life (I believe it does when sufficiently threatened. Examples include defending against an invasion with lethal force, the execution of people who pose immediate and severe dangers to others and cannot be restrained in any other way, of which there are vanishingly few given today's prison technology, and so forth).

I am against the death penalty because we cannot, with absolute certainly, be 100% sure we are killing someone who is not innocent. If we could be 100% certain (say, for example, if we had a technology allowing us to view past events as they actually transpired in realtime as if we were there), and if racial and ethnic sentencing biases could be completely eliminated, then I would have no problem putting cold-blooded murders (and most especially serial killers) as well as terrorists to death. A life for a life wouldn't be unreasonable if those conditions could be met.

However, the those conditions cannot be met. Indeed, here in Illinois fully half the death row cases reviewed resulted in acquitals as a result of the convicted persons having their innocence proven after the fact (often using DNA evidence). Then there is the racial bias of sentencing that everyone who has not lived under a rock is already aware of.

As long as these flaws exist it is intolerable that we are killing people, as it is statistically certain, given enough time (and enough convictions) that we will be killing innocent people.

So, while I may have privately rejoiced when Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy were executed (who wouldn't, given what they did?), and I will probably feel some emotional satisfaction when Timothy gets the needle, on a rational level I can neither condone nor support such actions. The price of killing a guilty man today, given the severe imperfections in our system, is that we will collectively murder an innocent on some other day. That is an intolerable trade-off.


--
http://openflick.org - Fighting Copyright with Free Media

In regards to that topic: (5.00 / 1) (#18)
by ucblockhead on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 03:39:46 PM EST

this
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Innocence (3.00 / 2) (#37)
by Ken Arromdee on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 04:16:44 PM EST

(By the way where did my other response in the other thread go?)

I am against the death penalty because we cannot, with absolute certainly, be 100% sure we are killing someone who is not innocent.

That's a problem with *every* punishment. If you put someone in jail for 20 years and he's found innocent, you can't give him the 20 years back. If you put him in jail for life and he dies after 30 years, but is later found innocent, you're certainly never going to be able to make up for that in any way whatsoever that matters to him.

If you're afraid that you're going to irreparably punish an innocent person, then you may as well give up on all punishment, death or not.

[ Parent ]

giving years back (5.00 / 1) (#63)
by Platy on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 05:34:28 PM EST

Of course you cant give somebody some years back but in this case at least the person found innocent is still alive, can still love+be loved and you can at least try to compensate the person with money.
Certainly you cant make the years spent in jail undone..
But if a person is already executed you cant give him/her anything back.
J.
--
Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earthbound misfit, I.
[ Parent ]
You can't... (2.00 / 1) (#94)
by darthaggie on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 10:16:07 AM EST

But if a person is already executed you cant give him/her anything back.

Sure you can. You can compensate the next-of-kin with money.

If you actually think you can "compensate" someone for missing out on all of life's little pleasures with mere money you're either sadly deluded, or are inexperienced.

I am BOFH. Resistance is futile. Your network will be assimilated.
[ Parent ]

hm.. (5.00 / 1) (#114)
by Platy on Sat Jun 09, 2001 at 10:35:49 AM EST

Sure you can. You can compensate the next-of-kin with money.
Thats not giving giving back something to the executed person...
If you actually think you can "compensate" someone for missing out on all of life's little pleasures with mere money ..
Nope. I dont think you can really compensate this completely but at least give something back.
J.
--
Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earthbound misfit, I.
[ Parent ]
Question: (3.00 / 1) (#93)
by darthaggie on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 10:10:06 AM EST

If we could be 100% certain (say, for example, if we had a technology allowing us to view past events as they actually transpired in realtime as if we were there), and if racial and ethnic sentencing biases could be completely eliminated, then I would have no problem putting cold-blooded murders (and most especially serial killers) as well as terrorists to death.

Then you must not have a problem with McVeigh's excecution, correct?

I am BOFH. Resistance is futile. Your network will be assimilated.
[ Parent ]

Some thoughts... (4.09 / 11) (#11)
by jd on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 03:04:28 PM EST

  • International Law FORBIDS cruel and unusual punishment. The US is one of only a handful of nations to consider death as neither cruel nor unusual.
  • The Geneva Convention (which the US never signed, but frequently relies upon in International matters) prohibits any mistreatment of prisoners, including the killing of them.
  • The US Constitution does NOT authorize the US Government to execute anybody, for any reason. The US Supreme Court overturned a challange that was based on that same understanding, largely on the grounds that they didn't care and didn't have to.
  • An executed prisoner can't undo any harm, or make any reparations. About all they can do is become martyrs to some perceived cause, which can be potentially far more deadly than the person ever was.
  • Most of those who have ever tackled the thorny philosophical and moral issues of life have reached the same conclusion, although not always using the same terms: Life is absolutely sacred and sacrosanct. From Christianity (the Pope even forgave the person who tried to kill him!) to the medical profession (the Hippocratic Oath does NOT leave much room for debate) to modern Wiccans ("Do what thou wilt, but Harm None!"), to the US Police Force ("Protect And Serve" is not the oath of a psychopath), the consensus is that life comes FIRST.
  • Once someone's commited a capital crime, there isn't a whole lot more that society can do to them, and the liklihood is that a vindictive society will do everything it can. So, at that point, being nice isn't going to help, and being totally sick and evil isn't going to make things any worse. It's amazing that America's still in one piece.

All in all, there are some good reasons (IMHO!) to sit down and re-think this whole issue, whilst there's anyone left to think, and anywhere left to sit.

Geneva... (4.00 / 3) (#13)
by Elkor on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 03:13:07 PM EST

Please correct me if I am wrong, but it was my understanding that the Geneva Convention applied only to prisoners of war, specifically any prisoner that was of a nationality OTHER than the government that was incarcerating them.

Ergo, therefor, forthwit, the Geneva Convention does not prevent the execution of the citizens of a country by their own government.

As far as reparations go, how can you make reparations on such a grand scale? The likelihood of the individual to make monetary compensation in an amount that would be significant is negligible. Likewise, what civic task could they perform that would atone for their behavior?

Indeed, it could be perceived that executing him would be a favor to him, as it would prevent the cruel punishment of continuous solitary confinement, and eliminate the potential of his being cruelly treated by the remainder of society.

But, that is just the devil's argument. I don't necessarily agree with it.

Regards,
Elkor
"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
[ Parent ]
capital punishment (5.00 / 3) (#15)
by Delirium on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 03:32:39 PM EST

International Law FORBIDS cruel and unusual punishment. The US is one of only a handful of nations to consider death as neither cruel nor unusual.
Well that's the main source of argument of course - is the death penalty cruel and unusual? If it was decided that it was, it wouldn't be necessary for international law to forbid such punishment, as the US Constitution already forbids cruel and unusual punishment. Since international law doesn't forbid the execution of prisoners however, the US is free to use the death penalty if it does not consider it cruel and unusual. How one determines what's "cruel and unusual" is a bit of a mystery to me anyway.
The Geneva Convention (which the US never signed, but frequently relies upon in International matters) prohibits any mistreatment of prisoners, including the killing of them.
AFAIK the Geneva Convention only applies to holding prisoners from other countries. It's a convention primarily designed to ensure that prisoners of war are treated well until they can be exchanged and returned home, and is also used to ensure reasonably good treatment when people are arrested while in a foreign country. I don't think it puts any limits on what a country can do with its own nationals though.
The US Constitution does NOT authorize the US Government to execute anybody, for any reason. The US Supreme Court overturned a challange that was based on that same understanding, largely on the grounds that they didn't care and didn't have to. An executed prisoner can't undo any harm, or make any reparations. About all they can do is become martyrs to some perceived cause, which can be potentially far more deadly than the person ever was.
My reading of it is that it specifically authorizes Congress to do so, at least in the case of treason. The relevant sections:
Clause 1: Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

Clause 2: The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

It seems from this that the only restriction placed upon what Congress may decide for the punishment for treason is that it not be a sort of punishment that carries on to the offender's descendents ("corruption of blood" meaning that everyone of that person's blood line is deemed an outcast). However, it seems to specifically allow pretty much anything "during the Life of the Person attainted."

[ Parent ]
The US constitutions doens't grant a lot of things (3.50 / 2) (#22)
by gridwerk on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 03:47:17 PM EST

to the goverment but they still do things. All your examples in 5 come from a religeious backdrop. We have gotten Morals from religeon. But what of those that have no belief in God or a highpower of any sort. Who believe that we are nothing more then a chance of being in the right place at the right time to cause the 1st spark of life. Or that we came down from the trees. If we are nothing more then ancestors of the animal kingdom where do our morals come from then? There exist no where else in the animal kingdowm a set of morals. Animals have no problem hunting each other and killing. Some even get rid of the weak. So how can you say "Life is absolutely sacred"?

[ Parent ]
Doh, excuse my lack of spell check and rambling.. (none / 0) (#25)
by gridwerk on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 03:49:11 PM EST

I usually just type then go back and make it coherent.. which I didn't this time.

[ Parent ]
Actually, that's an excellent question (4.00 / 1) (#53)
by jd on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 04:55:33 PM EST

I only hope I can give half as good an answer.

Let's start with the "random" issue. If life is a product of pure randomness, then it is infinitely rare. (The probability of life is extremely small, in comparison to any other event, statistically-speaking.) Thus, to extinguish such a life is to destroy one of the rarest, scarcest possible combination of events.

In fact, we can add some other elements here, depending on the exact nature of the belief.

First, if the person speaking believes in a totally deterministic universe, then he must ALSO believe that the person who has been "convicted" had no alternative. The events were already pre-determined. As such, if anything should be tried, it should be the events, not the person subject to them.

Second, if you allow for free-will, but believe in the concepts that the market economy esposes, then you believe that value is a direct function of rarity. Thus, as life is rare, life must also be valuable. If you would not break anything else of comparable value, for ANY reason, then to break a life must be (by that reasoning) equally unacceptable.

Ok, now we'll move onto evolution. This is a good one to argue from, as (scientifically speaking) there is no serious question that evolution is the correct hypothesis.

Evolution argues from two standpoints. First, it argues that an organism will always tend to evolve to suit the conditions it is in. (Note that this is NOT the same as arguing that the organism will always get more complex, or more "advanced". If conditions favour simplicity, then the "fittest" to survive will be the simplest.)

It also argues that there will always be a combination of evolutionary pressures - the physical environmnent, and other occupents within that environment. That organisms compete for resources, between any group and between groups, where those resources are controlled by the environment in which they co-exist.

Evolution dictates that certain "morals" must exist within all creatures capable of posessing them, where such morals offer an evolutionary edge. As such, where such an edge can be demonstrated, those morals must exist, regardless of whether we can directly perceive them or not.

Let's take some examples, here. Do dogs posess morals? The answer must be yes. When you are a single member of a collective, personal advantage is always superceded by the advantage of that collective. For example, obedience to the pack leader, sharing food, etc, will create personal advantages BECAUSE the individual has placed the collective first.

Dolphins, if threatened by sharks, will often counter-attack, even though (individually) that is near-suicide. (In fact, it usually IS suicide. Dolphins vs sharks is NOT favourable to the dolphin.) However, two dolphins charging a shark, in opposite directions, impacting the gills, will kill the shark. Where the pod's survival depends upon removal of the shark, they will do this, regardless of personal risk.

Lastly, "animals have no problem with hunting and killing". That is true. An, yes, this often involves "getting rid of the weak". That's because, in the environment they live in, the weak are a serious threat to the well-being of the group and of the environment.

When animals kill weaker prey, for food, they are preserving the health of the stock of their prey. Failure to do so could cost them that stock, altogether, and thereby their own existance.

IMHO, that kind of structured thinking and preservation of something outside the individual defines the very essence of "morality".

Oh, and a "higher power" isn't restricted to a deity. If you believe in the laws in the land you live in, then you believe that those who made those laws were a power greater than yourself.

[ Parent ]

Not exactly true (none / 0) (#74)
by tarpy on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 08:18:49 PM EST

The US Constitution doesn't specfically PROHIBIT capital punishment. In fact, the text of the fifth amendment specifically spells out the rights of the accused in a capital case. The text of the amendment is thus:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital...crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury,...nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

This systems of governance was set up with the expressed belief that capital punishment would be present.


Sir, this is old skool. Old skool. I salute you! - Knot In The Face
[ Parent ]

You're facts are way off (5.00 / 1) (#99)
by krlynch on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 03:32:08 PM EST

I don't necessarily support the death penalty (although McVeigh is an exception that causes me issues....), but you can't go about arguing against the death penalty with blatantly false information:

The US Constitution does NOT authorize the US Government to execute anybody, for any reason.

In fact, the US Constitution EXPLICITLY authorizes the death penalty, in the bill of rights:

Article V.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Very clear and explicit that, as long as you have been indicted, and you have been given due process, you can be put to death. Further, Article XIV explicitly applies the same language to the several States. The usual argument that Article VII's prohibition against "cruel and unusual punishment" should apply to capital offenses has been rebuffed by the courts. To paraphrase a famous decision (sorry, I don't ahve the reference in front of me): "The Constitution can not be interpreted to forbid that which its text explicitly permits."

The Geneva Convention (which the US never signed, but frequently relies upon in International matters) prohibits any mistreatment of prisoners, including the killing of them.

This too, is incorrect, on a number of grounds:

  • The United States has signed and ratified all of the Geneva Conventions, although only the 1949 Convention is currently in force (at least the U.S. Department of State thinks we have ratified it :-)
  • Furthermore, the Geneva Conventions only apply to prisoners of war from foreign powers, not to prisoners in general, or even to prisoners of war of your own nation.

International Law FORBIDS cruel and unusual punishment. The US is one of only a handful of nations to consider death as neither cruel nor unusual.

That may be, but you don't give a reference. What treaty does so? Has the US ratified the treaty? If not, it doesn't have any "controlling legal authority" over the US as to its definition of "cruel and unusual"; the US constitution currently forbids such punishment, and there is a large body of legal opinions as to what that means in the US.

Most of those who have ever tackled the thorny philosophical and moral issues of life have reached the same conclusion, although not always using the same terms: Life is absolutely sacred and sacrosanct.

This is also patently false: many societies in the world have a completely different view of the sanctity of life than does the Western world. Many more nations recognize capital punishment than don't, there are a number of countries that believe forced abortions and sterilizations are perfectly moral and ethical, and there are many nations where cutting off the hand of a pickpocket is considered the morally and ethically correct punishment for a convicted felon. I may not agree with them on most of these stances, but to claim that "most [people] ... have reached the same conclusion" is laughably incorrect.

[ Parent ]

A nitpick (4.00 / 6) (#16)
by KittyFishnets on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 03:34:22 PM EST

I disagree strongly with the statement that support of the death penalty has nothing to do with veneration of life. Executions are a (misguided) last resort to protecting human lives.

Now, I know that what you were trying to say was "What about Timmy McVeigh? Isn't he human too?"

Ask me that question and I'll answer a very firm "No."

Mass murderers like McVeigh or Bundy differ only from Stalin, Mao and Hitler in terms of scale. Forget all your P.C. brainwashing; there is evil in this world and the men listed above all qualify. Through their deeds they have forsaken their own humanity. I firmly believe that they should be permanently removed from society.

Now, on a personal note, I do not believe that execution is the ideal (or even an acceptable) solution. Until the courts becomes infallible they have no business taking any life. Man or monster.

re: A nitpick (none / 0) (#26)
by /dev/niall on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 03:53:22 PM EST

Mass murderers like McVeigh or Bundy differ only from Stalin, Mao and Hitler in terms of scale. Forget all your P.C. brainwashing; there is evil in this world and the men listed above all qualify. Through their deeds they have forsaken their own humanity.

P.C. has nothing to do with it. Like I said, I won't be shedding any tears when McVeigh bites it; Hell, I even think it is Just. I just don't think it is right.

It is the humanity of such monsters that allowed them commit their atrocities. Their lack of any social, moral, or ethical conscience does not invalidate their humanity. They thought, laughed, cried, felt pain and perhaps even loved much as you and I do.


--
"compared to the other apes, my genitals are gigantic" -- TheophileEscargot
[ Parent ]

Slippery slope (as usual) (none / 0) (#128)
by marx on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 07:30:40 PM EST

If you start stripping away the humanity of people, it's pretty easy to start going the path of Hitler. "There is evil in this world", there we have the Jews. Ok, evil people are not human. Ah, what are we going to do with these millions of evil creatures lurching around our streets?

Maybe as a kind of protection against ourselves (at least I can admit I can be pretty evil sometimes), we should just enforce the principle that no human can lose his humanity? I could certainly imagine myself being part of those who executed Jews in Germany, or sanctioned it, and that feeling makes me aware that human nature is not so beautiful. That's why I like these kinds of irrevocable principles (the UN declaration of human rights is also such a thing).

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

Two legitimate answers to the posed question (3.00 / 3) (#17)
by cargogod on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 03:36:05 PM EST

From one perspective, the person responsible for the upcoming death is the guy who hits the switch that starts the poison flowing. You can transfer responsibility from this guy to somebody else only by an abstract chain of causality.

From another, the person responsible for the upcoming death is the perpetrator who willingly committed a capital crime. This is where the abstract chain of causality ends.

Assigning responsibility to any but these two parties is pointless. But if you want to blame his parents, Janet Reno, the Evil Media, the fertilizer store, YHWH Lord of Hosts, Ryder Truck Rental, and/or Joe Citizen, go right ahead, you'll have plenty of company.

Mathematics (3.66 / 3) (#21)
by ucblockhead on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 03:46:06 PM EST

The trouble is that people seem to instinctually want to divide up responsibility mathematically. They seem to think that saying person "A" is responsible is the same as saying person "B" is not responsible. But that is not the case. It is easily possible for two people to be fully responsible.

If I give you a gun and say "shoot that person", knowing full well that you will follow my orders, then we are both fully responsible for the death. We do not "share" the responsibility. We are not both "partly" responsible. We are both completely responsible.

If McVeigh is executed, then McVeigh is fully responsible for his death. So is Bush, as Bush could pardon him. So are the members of the jury, and the judge. All are fully responsible because each of them could have taken actions that prevented it.

Partial responsibility only comes in when the chance that you could prevent something is not 100%. For example, the original poster is has little responsibility for McVeigh's death because the chance that he could have altered the event is very, very small.


-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

I disagree (4.00 / 2) (#39)
by weirdling on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 04:17:24 PM EST

If I am under your command, say, as an MP, and you order me to shoot some soldier, I won't question; I won't quibble; I won't argue; I'll shoot. Later, in a court of inquiry, when it is made known that I was given an express order and carried it out, I won't be liable. That is the difference between enlisted and officers: nobody can actually be tried for carrying out a genuine order unless the order is known to be egregious, and that level of proof is very high. In other words, I have to know you are making me shoot an innocent man, and, specifically in the case of the military, that is almost impossible to determine.
Specifically in the case of the military, responsibility flows uphill. The reason: a bad plan now is better than a good plan too late. In other words, one trains soldiers to simply do as they're told because in war, they won't have enough time to consider. Hence the fact that no soldier was really responsible for any act of Hitler's regime; only officers were.
This moral distinction is perhaps lost on a civilian, but remember, the military mind is very different, and so for a reason.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
killed not only by order.. (none / 0) (#61)
by Platy on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 05:26:09 PM EST

Hence the fact that no soldier was really responsible for any act of Hitler's regime; only officers were.
I wouldnt say this as this was not just a war. The soldier in the concentration camps killed innocent people even without order from some officer. Just for fun or whatever.
ok, it is questionable if these people were consious... though i think so.
J.
--
Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earthbound misfit, I.
[ Parent ]
Those soldiers (none / 0) (#66)
by weirdling on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 05:46:09 PM EST

Soldiers that expressly killed more than they were ordered for whatever reason often were tried. No soldier that I am aware of was tried for killing the amount he was ordered to kill.
Even then, soldiers aren't often tried on moral trials, as their officers are *presumed* responsible for their actions. That's the reason their officer has the authority to try them for violations, although, in the modern military, they can appeal to a courts-martial.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Oy, Oy, Oy... (4.33 / 3) (#67)
by ti dave on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 05:49:26 PM EST

Wierdling,

Perhaps you're calling me out in to a little role-playing. That's O.K.

I've experienced EXACTLY the scenario you described. Here's my official version of what will happen.

You may note that this is "anecdotal" evidence because it will be based on my "anecdote".
Let's begin~

"If I am under your command, say, as an MP, and you order me to shoot some soldier, I won't question; I won't quibble; I won't argue; I'll shoot."

Very good up until this point. You have managed to avoid the charge of Insubordinate Conduct. Now, don't get ahead of yourself and mentally add "Failure to Obey a Lawful Order", we'll get to that in a moment.

Case in Point, I ordered 2 subordinates to fire upon Armed Persons, who seemed to present a threat to the safety of Myself, my subordinates and the people in the immediate area.
My subordinates chose to follow my command, and fired upon the Armed Persons. At this point, All 3 of us had a shared moral responsibility in the application of deadly force. Being in charge of the scenario, I had the culpability of escalating the incident.

Next point:
"Later, in a court of inquiry, when it is made known that I was given an express order and carried it out, I won't be liable."

Let's fine tune this premise. If I gave you a command that a reasonable person would believe was a lawful order, you may not be liable.
If I gave you an unreasonable order, you'd be on firm ground to resist carrying it out. If I forced you to do it, you could mitigate your involvement by immediately reporting the scenario to the appropriate authorities. Notice I said mitigate, this is not "absolve".

Next Point:
"That is the difference between enlisted and officers: nobody can actually be tried for carrying out a genuine order unless the order is known to be egregious, and that level of proof is very high."

I was a Non-Commissioned Officer during the scenario in question. Makes no difference the Rank of who gives a lawful order. If you're of lesser rank and subordinate to the person who gives it, you will held accountable for your failure to follow the order. As far as "knowing the order to be egregious", there is no such standard. The standard is "reasonableness". The level of proof. Note that it's you're expected to believe that when your Commander orders you to keep moving up and take that hill, that's "reasonable".

Next:
"In other words, I have to know you are making me shoot an innocent man, and, specifically in the case of the military,that is almost impossible to determine."

No, you don't have to know that. All you have to know is which target I've selected for you, and how to use your assigned weapon to eliminate that threat. There isn't a lot of time in a combat scenario to morph in to Walt Whitman, sit down and think about it before you act. or re-act.
You got the second part of that blurb right.

"Specifically in the case of the military, responsibility flows uphill."

And I'm sure you've heard that crap rolls downhill. Responsibility is shared. This is why Commanders much higher up a Chain-of-Command can be relieved of their duties, and be indicted for the offenses happening below them, somtimes FAR below their "radar".

Next:
"The reason: a bad plan now is better than a good plan too late. In other words, one trains soldiers to simply do as they're told because in war, they won't have enough time to consider."

True enough. Best part of your comment.

"Hence the fact that no soldier was really responsible for any act of Hitler's regime; only officers were."

Individual private soldiers can only be held accountable for acts they commit, or acts they fail to prevent in their constructive presence. Not for the overall crimes of the Regime, but that alone doesn't absolve them of their individual responsibilities to the Laws of War.

Note that you didn't see a lot of Lieutenants on trial at Nurnberg. What are Lt's responsible for? Actions of their Subordinates. That would usually be a Platoon or a Company. Perhaps if they were involved in a Operations Planning Cell. Who were tried there? Field Grade and General Staff Officers. Why? They were in charge.

Back to my personal story, our opponents were armed members of a terrorist organization, and they were subdued without serious injury.

Was I held accountable for the incident?
Hell, Yeah!

I sweated my nuts off for a while, wondering if I had done the right thing. When all was said and done, we all were recognized for our actions. And for taking responsibility.

I'm not trying to punk you out, but I've had to sit through this training so often in my life, that I could repeat it in my sleep.

Cheers,

ti_dave
"If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."

[ Parent ]
re: Two legitimate answers to the posed question (none / 0) (#27)
by /dev/niall on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 03:56:24 PM EST

From one perspective, the person responsible for the upcoming death is the guy who hits the switch that starts the poison flowing. You can transfer responsibility from this guy to somebody else only by an abstract chain of causality.

And the people who ordered "he guy who hits the switch" to perform his duty bear no responsibility?

So by this logic, Hitler wasn't responsible for the massacre of millions of innocents because he didn't actually do it himself? I don't consider that an "abstract chain of causality". Do you?


--
"compared to the other apes, my genitals are gigantic" -- TheophileEscargot
[ Parent ]

Murder (4.00 / 3) (#30)
by StackyMcRacky on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 04:07:13 PM EST

i would just like to say that i don't believe murder is always wrong.

if somebody tries to rape me, i will kill him, and i won't feel a bit of remorse about it. i also feel totally justified.



But that's not murder (none / 0) (#33)
by weirdling on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 04:11:12 PM EST

That is a 'justifiable homicide', ipso facto not murder, as murder is an unsactioned homicide...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
actually (none / 0) (#41)
by StackyMcRacky on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 04:19:29 PM EST

if you are fighting with the person during the attempted rape and you kill him, that is considered "justifiable homicide". on the other hand, if you get raped and the next day hunt the man down and kill him, that is considered "murder" because you should have reported it to the police and let them take care of it.



[ Parent ]
re: actually (5.00 / 1) (#46)
by /dev/niall on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 04:32:47 PM EST

This had made me think; I think there are two questions I should have asked: "Is killing ever morally/ethically right?" and "Do we share the responsibility for executions?".

That being said, if anyone raped me I don't know what I'd do. If anyone raped my wife, my sisters, or my mother I think I'd be hunting them down.

--
"compared to the other apes, my genitals are gigantic" -- TheophileEscargot
[ Parent ]

and isn't it intersting (none / 0) (#49)
by StackyMcRacky on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 04:45:34 PM EST

that if you hunted somebody down in vengence, everybody would agree with you, but you would be arrested and probably charged with murder??

and if you did "do the right thing" and report the crime, and if the guy was caught and convicted, he would just go to jail for a bit and be released.

the law works in strange ways



[ Parent ]
re: and isn't it intersting (none / 0) (#56)
by /dev/niall on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 05:10:38 PM EST

and if you did "do the right thing" and report the crime, and if the guy was caught and convicted, he would just go to jail for a bit and be released.

I don't know what criteria they used when they came up with the sentances or sentancing guidelines for rapists, but I want some of what they were smoking. They are absolutely ridiculous. But that's a whole other discussion...
--
"compared to the other apes, my genitals are gigantic" -- TheophileEscargot
[ Parent ]

True (5.00 / 1) (#48)
by weirdling on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 04:43:24 PM EST

Hence, rape *should* be a capital crime. At one time in this country, if arraigned on a capital crime, one had to turn one's self in *immediately* or face death at the hands of someone looking to collect the 'dead or alive' reward, which almost always meant dead.
I think that if a person is charged with a capital crime, fails to appear at arraignment, after it has been ascertained that he was aware of it, the judge can issue a 'dead or alive' reward, at which point, you could go hunt them down.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
In Texas (4.00 / 1) (#51)
by StackyMcRacky on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 04:47:09 PM EST

warrants still say "Wanted: Dead or Alive"



[ Parent ]
The police... (none / 0) (#71)
by theboz on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 07:05:00 PM EST

I have found that the police in Georgia are the rapists and child molesters. On the news Monday I saw that they arrested a Sheriff's deputy for molesting a three year old boy.

Personally, I'm rather fed up with the police and if I were in a situation where a family member was raped, the police would be notified but the rapist would dissapear and they would never find his body.

Of course, that's just me talking, I hope to never be in a situation where I have to make those types of choices.

Stuff.
[ Parent ]

re: Murder (none / 0) (#35)
by /dev/niall on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 04:13:44 PM EST

I don't believe that would be murder. That's a clear cut case of self-defense.
--
"compared to the other apes, my genitals are gigantic" -- TheophileEscargot
[ Parent ]
Rational (4.00 / 5) (#44)
by Ken Arromdee on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 04:27:32 PM EST

I believe human life to be special, sacred (not in a religious sense), venerable, call it what you will. I believe it is therefore wrong to take any person's life except for immediate self-defense. This is not an emotional belief, this is a rational belief.

Calling it a rational belief doesn't make it one. "It is wrong to execute because people are special" is about as rational as "birth control is wrong because procreation is special" (an argument actually believed by the Catholic Church). The whole argument is clearly based on the idea that people are special, which is based on emotion.

Not to mention that even if people are special, it doesn't follow that it is wrong to kill them. That requires a very specific definition of "special" which is a lot harder to justify.

re: Rational (none / 0) (#50)
by /dev/niall on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 04:46:37 PM EST

spe·cial (spshl)
adj.
Surpassing what is common or usual;

The whole argument is clearly based on the idea that people are special, which is based on emotion.

Are you special? Yes, I mean you, Ken Arromdee, not a general "you". Would it be fair to say you do not think it's right for your life to be extinguished by a third party without your consent?

Damnnit, if we can't even agree that human life is worth something then what's the point? I might as well throw away my digital watch and return to the sea.

--
"compared to the other apes, my genitals are gigantic" -- TheophileEscargot
[ Parent ]

special, etc. (5.00 / 1) (#72)
by BlueOregon on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 07:10:42 PM EST

Damnnit, if we can't even agree that human life is worth something then what's the point?

First:

  • We cannot agree, in the sense that every single one of us is going to agree
  • It is a subjective matter (Kritik der praktischen Vernünft) insofar as such views on the worth of life have to come from the subject
  • As a society, or -- in a simple form -- as just a pair of people, we have to act as if we can agree on the objective value of life.
  • Such consensus is a convenient fiction (Schlegel: Versuch über den Begriff des Republikanismus), albeit it a necessary fiction, and it can't be confused for unity/agreement

Second: Surpassing what is common or usual -- it is a leap to then make the value judgment that that which is special is somehow valuable. Also, special is rarely a characteristic of an object in and of itself; it is an attribute applied -- usually -- with a goal/purpose in mind, and certain attributes of the object have been specified above other objects that make it special. Finally, if a particular person is special, and furthermore you find a way to make many/most/all people special (by virtue of them being human), they are no longer special (in the sense of surpassing the common), which either means a) we're not special, or b) our definition of special is wrong.

Third: I might as well throw away my digital watch and return to the sea. Been reading any Gottfriend Benn? Just curious. He has a wonderful poem called "Welle der Nacht" (Well of Night) that ends with "Die weisse Perle rollt zurück ins Meer" (The white pearl rolls back into the sea). One can take it as Benn's response to "what's the point?"

--SK

[ Parent ]

want/right (none / 0) (#95)
by Ken Arromdee on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 10:40:25 AM EST

Are you special? Yes, I mean you, Ken Arromdee, not a general "you". Would it be fair to say you do not think it's right for your life to be extinguished by a third party without your consent?

You're confusing two things:

Would I want to be killed without my consent? No, of course not. I wouldn't want to be jailed without my consent either, but that's no argument for getting rid of jails. All punishment involves doing things to people that they don't want--the fact that I would not want to be punished is completely irrelevant to whether the punishment is justified.

Would it be right to kill me without my consent? Well, if I blew up a daycare center, yes. Of course, in order to blow up a daycare center, I would have to be unable to tell right from wrong in the first place, and wouldn't know the difference between "what is right" and "what I want".

As for the special question: Am I special, as a human being? Yes. Am I so special that I shouldn't be punished for crimes? No.

[ Parent ]

re:want/right (none / 0) (#102)
by /dev/niall on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 06:00:02 PM EST

You'll notice in my article I make no mention of rights. There's a reason - I'm not interested in them. I'm interested in what you think and why.

Would it be right to kill me without my consent? Well, if I blew up a daycare center, yes.

Now we know what you think, how about telling us why? Why do you feel this is right?

--
"compared to the other apes, my genitals are gigantic" -- TheophileEscargot
[ Parent ]

Consent (none / 0) (#112)
by John Miles on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 10:58:25 PM EST

Would it be fair to say you do not think it's right for your life to be extinguished by a third party without your consent? Certainly. However, there are several ways I can consent to my own execution. I can either say "Please execute me," or I can blow up a building full of people.

Either way, the true meaning of the old "eye for an eye" law comes shining through: I chosen my punishment at the same time I chose to commit my crime.

In many respects, lex talionis makes a lot of sense. Don't brush it off as a simpleminded revenge ethic until you've thought about it.
For so long as men do as they are told, there will be war.
[ Parent ]

re: Consent (none / 0) (#113)
by /dev/niall on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 11:51:26 PM EST

I've learned a lot from this discussion, and I'm re-examinging why I think the way I do, but I must say I'm especially interested in the assumptions people are making.

In many respects, lex talionis makes a lot of sense. Don't brush it off as a simpleminded revenge ethic until you've thought about it.

Where did this come from? You'll note that I have gone out of my way to put aside everything except one issue: Is it right to execute a prisoner, and why? How can I brush it off if I have not mentioned it? What makes you think I haven't thought about it? Will Batman... er.

However, there are several ways I can consent to my own execution. I can either say "Please execute me," or I can blow up a building full of people.

That's fantastic. I can be reasonably certain that if I walk into a KKK rally and call them a bunch of gap-toothed inbred white-trash hicks that I will get my ass kicked. That doesn't make it right.


[ Parent ]

US Needs to be more like China (2.00 / 4) (#45)
by JoeUser on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 04:32:23 PM EST

We need to be more like China in the fact that they use a bullet $.50 and then charge the family for disposal of the body, the cost of the firing squad, and the bullet itself. We have been to soft on many Fuscked up people. Out with the trash and in with the good it is not wrong to get rid of problems that wont go away and keeping them around is not the solution. The question should pertain more to people getting fair trials and making sure they are innocent or guilty. Even the feds couldnt get this simple close the door case (example in story above) finished without screwing some sort of evidence up.

Also I am from Texas so my views may seem couded to the rest o the world. We seem to understand this problem and deal with it.

nope. (none / 0) (#59)
by Platy on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 05:18:50 PM EST

You are speaking about humans not about "problems" even if these humans are problematic for society.
Apparently the Texans really have some views i just cant understand :/
J.
--
Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earthbound misfit, I.
[ Parent ]
Texas taking the bull by the horns (none / 0) (#84)
by ttfkam on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 12:51:50 AM EST

We seem to understand this problem and deal with it.
Is that why Texas has some of the highest violent crime rates in the country? California (another death penalty state) has only slightly less impressive amounts of violent crime.

Why exactly do you understand that the rest of us don't besides how to effectively kill large amounts of people without a second's thought?


If I'm made in God's image then God needs to lay off the corn chips and onion dip. Get some exercise, God! - Tatarigami
[ Parent ]

Texas is the size of the US (none / 0) (#125)
by JoeUser on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 09:19:26 AM EST

Everyone seems to not understand that Texas is as large as most of the US states combined. Of course we have more high crime here. look at per capita though and you will see that Portland,OR. has just as bad or worse than Houston.

[ Parent ]
SO, is it in the name of Justice or Efficiency ??? (none / 0) (#127)
by Shampoo369 on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 01:30:14 PM EST

Fine, shoot 'em and charge 'em. But whenever anyone/thing makes a choice to take a life it had better damn well provide a sound enough reasoning. Cheers to you if you truly believe that people on this planet are actually so apathetic to the value and meaning of life. "Fucked up" people deserve to suffer the consequences of their action, but, pardon my generalization, to most warm-blooded humans taking EVEN those guilty lives is a serious matter that requires more than the flip of a coin to decide--which makes killing criminals for efficiency's sake a pretty damn weak basis.

"If you really want something in this life, you have to work for it -- Now quiet, they're about to announce the lottery numbers!"
  --Homer


[ Parent ]
Pragmatic position (3.57 / 7) (#47)
by weirdling on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 04:38:51 PM EST

Your position is not a logical, purely rational one. The idea of life as sacred is neither derived from nature nor derived from the Judeo-Christian ethic. It is a purely recent idea. Don't believe me? Go read the Bible. Hundreds of people were killed for all sorts of reasons. Leviticus is pretty brutal to all types of criminals. In the NT, we have Annanias and Saphyra (sp?) being killed for not giving the full amount of money that they promised to the Lord.
In nature, it is kill or be killed. Nothing in nature even remotely condones the idea that killing is wrong. Most of the mating rituals offer a high chance of death to the male, and the food chain kills off a high percentage of everything but humans. Humans are unnatural.
So, I would consider your belief to be, if not emotional, at least not rationally derived.
Now, to the pragmatic reasons for the death penalty, to which you specifically do not allude, preferring to couch the entire debate in moral terms. Well, for one, the families of the victims will see closure. This is often overlooked in the moral debate. For another, that's one less person being stored in a maximum security prison at a million dollars a year. That's not good for the person and not good for the taxpayer. Also, should the decision be reversed on appeal or the governor grant a pardon, that person will have spent quite a bit of his life in Penitentiary University, and come out much more criminal than he went in. Further, dead people simply do not repeat. I doubt if McVeigh would have necessarily been a repeat offender, but he is a unique case. Most of those executed are your common, everyday utility murderers and rapists. As the war on drugs struggles on into futility, more space is used in prisons to store essentially non-violent offenders, which often means relaxed parole hearings leading to early release of known murderers and rapists who subsequently commit all manner of mayhem. A simpler solution would be to simply execute them once their appeals are exhausted, effectively eliminating the potential for further mayhem.
And, if you think modern prisons are effective at containing prisoners, look at the Texas seven. Texas prisons are not sieves, but they got out and subsequently killed a cop. Now, Texas intends to ensure they don't ever do that again.
I guess if one is overly morally sensitive, killing for food and killing for the good of society can be seen as a bad thing, but there exist a plethora of valid, rational, pragmatic reasons to do so.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
re: Pragmatic position (none / 0) (#55)
by /dev/niall on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 05:00:21 PM EST

The idea of life as sacred is neither derived from nature nor derived from the Judeo-Christian ethic. It is a purely recent idea.

Never said it was natural or derived from Judeo-Christian ethics.

In nature, it is kill or be killed. Nothing in nature even remotely condones the idea that killing is wrong....
So, I would consider your belief to be, if not emotional, at least not rationally derived.

Because the "idea" that life is special is not found in nature does not mean that I came to that opinion by irrational methods.

I'd rather not go into the whys and wheres of it, because I don't believe it relevant to the topic at hand (and because it would take some time and effort to verbalize correctly ;)).

Nature has no concept of fair, moral, ethical, special... these are human concepts. I am basing my belief that life is special on human concepts, not on nature. I cannot scientifically prove or even theorize how or why life is special, but that does not mean I didn't come to this conclusion rationally.

Now, to the pragmatic reasons for the death penalty, to which you specifically do not allude, preferring to couch the entire debate in moral terms.

Bingo. Thanks for noticing. ;)

--
"compared to the other apes, my genitals are gigantic" -- TheophileEscargot
[ Parent ]

Not really. (5.00 / 2) (#57)
by Biff Cool on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 05:11:45 PM EST

In nature, it is kill or be killed.
In nature it is do what is necessary for survival, not kill or be killed.  Animals kill each other for food, territory, etc.  There aren't a whole lot of animals that just kill.  Animals also don't tend to have advanced systems of justice/social orders/intellect to deal with threats.

the families of the victims will see closure
This concept of closure for the victims is not pragmatic or rational either.  It's a nice way of saying revenge.  It's also a purely emotional thing.  And IMO not particularly moral

one less person being stored in a maximum security prison... That's not good for the person...
How is death good for them?

Also, should the decision be reversed on appeal or the governor grant a pardon, that person will have spent quite a bit of his life in Penitentiary University
Since you don't tend to pardon the guilty (at least not guilty on a scale like McVeigh), I can only take this to mean it's better for the innocent to die then go to jail.

As the war on drugs struggles on into futility, more space is used in prisons to store essentially non-violent offenders, which often means relaxed parole hearings leading to early release of known murderers and rapists who subsequently commit all manner of mayhem
The solution to bad legislation shouldn't kill people to make room for it, you should stop bad legislation

I guess if one is overly morally sensitive, killing for food and killing for the good of society can be seen as a bad thing
I guess if one is going for evoking similarities that don't exist one would mention being carnivorous and socially approved revenge as if they were the same thing

but there exist a plethora of valid, rational, pragmatic reasons to do so
Possibly but I didn't see many here


My ass. It's code, with pictures of fish attached. Get over it. --trhurler


[ Parent ]
Just one counter-example (none / 0) (#65)
by weirdling on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 05:43:18 PM EST

Have you ever heard of dogs attacking those who killed their master? Revenge does exist on the lower-order animals.
Other than that, your entire argument turns on what every ethicist who is against the death penalty insists is so: it is wrong to kill. At least the author admits he isn't going to consider rational reasons for doing so and doesn't merely dismiss them out of hand.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
funny that you should mention that ... (5.00 / 1) (#69)
by BlueOregon on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 06:43:28 PM EST

Have you ever heard of dogs attacking those who killed their master? Revenge does exist on the lower-order animals.

A discussion on Rorarius, "nuncio of Pope Clement VII at the court of Ferdinand, king of Hungary", in Pierre Bayle's Dictionnaire historique et critique (1696) leads to such a discussion. In particular, the example of a dog avenging his master is given. Another example, attributed to Rorarius is as follows:

"Rorarius says that there have been horses who have refused to mate with their mothers or, having done this unknowingly [...] have thrown themselves over a cliff when they realized what had taken place."

In any case, the point is that animals commit acts to which humans attribute moral decision making. The footnotes in Bayle are all about how to interpret this and whether animals in fact have souls, blah, blah, blah) And while this has little to do with the 'death penalty' discussion being waged in this forum, I thought, given your post, that it might be interesting to throw in something related.

--SK

[ Parent ]

Actually (none / 0) (#89)
by Biff Cool on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 09:01:44 AM EST

Have you ever heard of dogs attacking those who killed their master? Revenge does exist on the lower-order animals.
No actually I hadn't ever heard of it.  As BlueOregon mentioned there are curiousities about the actual motives in that but above all that's a whole other thread (one that's far more interesting than the death penalty) .

Other than that, your entire argument...
Actually I don't believe I made any arguments other than this one

The solution to bad legislation shouldn't kill people to make room for it, you should stop bad legislation

which doesn't really have much to do with the Death Penalty, other than that my comments were just critiques of your arguments.  I recognize that my opposition to it moral, as opposed to pragmatic, I was just trying to point out that your arguments (as well as the authors) were too.

turns on what every ethicist who is against the death penalty insists is so: it is wrong to kill.
Looking at this rationally: if it isn't wrong to kill why do convict murderers, if it is why do we consider it okay for us to do it.

BTW Morality and Rationality are not polar opposites, they are orthagonal concepts, unrelated.  It's just an unfortunate feature that for some reason most morallists are quite irrational.


My ass. It's code, with pictures of fish attached. Get over it. --trhurler


[ Parent ]
Of course, this is a definition (none / 0) (#120)
by weirdling on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 01:55:48 PM EST

A convicted murderer is not murdered. I guess it is a matter of morals once again. It turns on a definition that I think we will never agree on. What a murderer does is an entirely different kind of killing than what a state does to a murderer. The difference is largely in the state of the victim: in the case of a murder, the victim is presumed innocent. In the case of the execution, the victim has been determined to be guilty. So, the execution of a murderer is a result of his actions, while the murder of an innocent victim isn't necessarily a result of the victim's actions.
As a pragmatist, once a person has committed a capital crime, such as murder, rape, or any other heinous crime, including treason, their lives are forfeit and they are without rights. Once due process of law has been satisfied, their disposal is at the purvue of the state, and can be enacted in any way the state pleases so long as it is not cruel and unusual. The cheapest way to dispose of them is to execute them. Whether people believe it or not, this does provide a measure of relief to the families and survivors of the victims, as well, which is why so many people wanted to watch McVeigh die. If you've never been there, you'd never know how much that will help these people get on with their lives. We shouldn't short those victims in search of the 'rights' of convicted killers and rapists.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Bloodlust position (4.33 / 3) (#83)
by ttfkam on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 12:45:53 AM EST

Well, for one, the families of the victims will see closure. This is often overlooked in the moral debate.
On the contrary, this is commonly covered in ethics debates. It usually attributed to bloodlust. But before I get jumped on for that, let me clarify. The question of whether or not the individual will be punished is not at issue here. The question is the severity of that punishment. "Closure" is a very subjective thing. For some people, sending the guy away for the rest of his life would be considered closure. For others, they feel that they need to *see* that person die. Others would not be satisfied unless they were the ones pulling the switch. And still others would want to use a bullwhip instead. Where is the line drawn? For that matter, how does a lifer (without the possibility of parole) pose a greater threat to law-biding citizens than one who is executed? He doesn't. You have a greater chance of being killed (not just hit) by lightning than being harmed by a convict which escaped from a maximum security prison. The reason to see someone else dead may be closure, but it's a closure backed by bloodlust.
For another, that's one less person being stored in a maximum security prison at a million dollars a year.
Death row inmates cost a couple million through the course of the appeals process. The average prison inmate in the US costs about $60K-$80K a year in room, board, and their share of prison employee salaries. This is a travesty considering the relatively tiny amount of money spent per student in schools per year. But from where did you get $1 million? And note that in reality, it is cheaper to keep an inmate in prison for the rest of their life than it is to execute them. And before someone gives the obligatory retort about how we need to trim the fat off of the appeals process, note that the ACLU estimates that of all the death row convictions in the US over the course of the last 23 years, fully 2/3 of those judgements were wrong. Of course, many of these cases were found to be wrong after the inmate had spent years on death row.

A human system will only be as infallible as the humans who are a part of that system. Death has a funny way of making any mistake immutable. However some seem to think that as long as those mistakes don't happen to them or someone they know or love, it's an acceptable risk.


If I'm made in God's image then God needs to lay off the corn chips and onion dip. Get some exercise, God! - Tatarigami
[ Parent ]

Ok, so figures need to be accurate (none / 0) (#121)
by weirdling on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 02:32:19 PM EST

I have a problem with the insistance that there would be a significant difference in the appeals process between life in prison and death. I also have a problem with the ACLU's numbers. I've read up on many of the cases wherein the defendant is supposedly innocent, and most of them go something like this, which had Amnesty International fooled. I guess I have more faith in the criminal justice system than most.
Anyway, please explain to me exactly how it's cheaper to store someone in prison for life than to execute them.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
ethics? (3.00 / 4) (#58)
by alprazolam on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 05:15:10 PM EST

It's never 'wrong' to kill anybody. Nobody has the right to life. There are consequences to killing people, yes, including punishment, but there is no reason not to do it other than that. There's no right or wrong, there's no afterlife, no judgement.

Personally I consider myself pro-death penalty if it can be done cheaply, but I think it should apply a lot more often. I am also pro abortion think there need to be drive through abortion clinics.

Pro-abortion (none / 0) (#96)
by starbreeze on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 11:05:08 AM EST

This is a little off-topic but...

Pro-abortion or pro-choice? I've never heard anyone actually say pro-abortion before although I would take that to mean that if you were to be pregnant, you would have an abortion. I am pro-choice meaning that I'm not sure what I would do were i in that situation, but I believe every woman has a right to make that choice up to a certain point of age in the fetus.

~~~~~~~~~
"There's something strangely musical about noise." ~Trent Reznor
[ Parent ]

damn right (none / 0) (#100)
by alprazolam on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 04:57:41 PM EST

pro-abortion. i think there needs to be a whole lot more abortions, especially in my part of the world.

[ Parent ]
It's a redress of grievences thing for me... (4.00 / 1) (#60)
by SvnLyrBrto on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 05:24:50 PM EST

The way I see it is, yes, the death penalty is wrong. But IMO it's wrong more for pragmatic reasons than any rediculous religious dogma. How does an executed man petition for a redress of grievences?

Now, I'm not denying that there are, in fact, some people that simply need to be removed, permanently, from civilized society. I would suggest, as an alternative to execution, lifetime in solitary... perhaps in the most frigid and dismal part of the artic wasteland we can find up in Alaska.

The problem is, what if someone is, after sentencing, proven innocent? As forensic science improves, this is happening with stunning regularity. If you pay even a casual attention to the news these days, several times a year someone is vindicated and released after spending years in jail. HOPEFULLY, these people will then sue the living fuck out of the pigs and lawyers who put them there (at least I HOPE thats possible... I have a sinking feeling that the culprits have lobbied a legal exemption from civil cases against them). In an age of rediculous lawsuits, sueing into destitution the cops and DA that stole years or decades of your life from you sure seems like a legitimate use of the legal system to ME... It's that first amendment thing "petition for a redress of grievence". You can release and compensate a wrongfully imprisoned man. But how do you un-execute someone?

(Hmmm... perhaps, as an alternative to monetary compensation to the wrongfully imprisoned, perhaps it should be mandatory that the pigs and lawyers who framed him should be imprisoned for a time equal to the wrongful confinement of the framed??? Better yet.... make it an option for the vindicated... he should get to CHOOSE wether the pigs and lawyers get fined into the poorhouse, or locked up in the bighouse)


john

Imagine all the people...

Don't be so hasty (4.00 / 1) (#82)
by ttfkam on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 11:46:20 PM EST

There are some people who really like Alaska and would rather not have part of their home turned into an American gulag.

If the rest of the U.S. can produce incorrigible people, the rest of the U.S. can keep them too.

If I'm made in God's image then God needs to lay off the corn chips and onion dip. Get some exercise, God! - Tatarigami
[ Parent ]
And that's not cruel and inhumane? (none / 0) (#91)
by darthaggie on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 10:00:58 AM EST

I would suggest, as an alternative to execution, lifetime in solitary... perhaps in the most frigid and dismal part of the artic wasteland we can find up in Alaska.

A life time in solitary, with no human contact, with no hope of parole or life outside that cage? and you want to tell me that isn't cruel? that isn't inhumane?

I am BOFH. Resistance is futile. Your network will be assimilated.
[ Parent ]

The Liebman Report (4.85 / 7) (#62)
by eLuddite on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 05:29:13 PM EST

Capital punishment resumed in 1977 after a Supreme Court-imposed moratorium. 313 people were executed by the end of 1995. In 1991 the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary commissioned a study to calculate the frequency of relief in habeas corpus cases. The result was A Broken System: Error Rates in Capital Cases, 1973-1995.
The "overall success rate" of capital judgments undergoing judicial inspection, and its converse, the "overall error-rate," are crucial factors in assessing the effectiveness of the capital punishment system. The "overall success rate" is the proportion of capital judgments that underwent, and passed, the three-stage judicial inspection process during the study period. The "overall error rate" is the reverse: the proportion of fully reviewed capital judgments that were overturned at one of the three stages due to serious error.39 Nationally, over the entire 1973-1995 period, the overall error-rate in our capital punishment system was 68%.

"Serious error" is error that substantially undermines the reliability of the guilt finding or death sentence imposed at trial.41 Each instance of that error warrants public concern. The most common errors are (1) egregiously incompetent defense lawyering (accounting for 37% of the state post-conviction reversals), and (2) prosecutorial suppression of evidence that the defendant is innocent or does not deserve the death penalty (accounting for another 16%-19%, when all forms of law enforcement misconduct are considered).42 As is true of other violations, these two count as "serious" and warrant reversal only when there is a reasonable probability that, but for the responsible actor's miscues, the outcome of the trial would have been different.

In recent years, the Supreme Court and Congress have acted to speed up death penalty reviews in federal courts, and there have been 642 executions to date.
Mere factual innocence is no reason not to carry out a death sentence properly reached.
-- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia
That cant be right, not from a moral point of view.

You cannot take a moral decision without possession of fact and even with an extraordinary application of due process -- which is not happening in better than 2 out of 3 cases -- reversals happen when new facts are uncovered in capital cases. If the state asks individuals to take responsibility for the consequences of their action, the state should set its own example by taking responsibility for the consequences of their (the state's) own capital mistakes. I would question the consequences of a pardon on an innocent dead man.

---
God hates human rights.

Sick (5.00 / 4) (#75)
by F8alist on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 09:18:04 PM EST

Mere factual innocence is no reason not to carry out a death sentence properly reached.
-- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

How does an individual like that make it onto the US Supreme Court?

Whatever a person's views on capital punishment may be from a moral standpoint, I can't see how anyone could support a system that has executed so many people that have latter been found innocent, or at least had their guilt called into doubt.

And to say that factual innocence is not reason enough to stay an execution is just sick.

Libertarianism: The absurd notion that an individual is capable of running his own life, and that the government has anything but his best interests at heart
[ Parent ]

Scalia's character and the death penalty (4.75 / 4) (#97)
by boing boing on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 02:48:23 PM EST

I had never seen that quote, so I went looking. I could only find a few (~50) sites that have the quote and none of them list where it came from. I don't know that I believe he actually said that. Anybody have the source?

I have always found Antonin Scalia to be a very thoughtful and intelligent person from what I have heard through supreme court tapes and transcripts, even if I do disagree with him sometimes.

From another website I found the following that perhaps gives a better view of Scalia's view on the death penalty. He seems to feel that since the death penalty is back-handedly talked about in the constitution that there is no basis to make it unconstitutional without an amendment and that states and the federal government should have the capability to author laws that have death sentences, but clearly everyone must be given due process...

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, from an opinion concurring in the Supreme Court's decision denying review in a Texas death penalty case, Callins v. Collins, Feb. 22, 1994.

"The Fifth Amendment provides that '[n]o persons shall be held to answer for a capital...crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury...nor be deprived of life...without the due process of law.' This clearly permits the death penalty to be imposed, and establishes beyond doubt that the death penalty is not one of the 'cruel and unusual punishments' prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. [H] owever, over the years since 1972 this court has attached to the imposition of the death penalty two quite incompatible sets of commands: the sentencer's discretion to impose death must be closely confined (see Furman v. Georgia, 1972), but the sentencer's discretion not to impose death (to extend mercy) must be unlimited (Eddings v. Oklahoma, 1982; Lockett v. Ohio, 1978). These commands were invented without benefit of any textual or historical support; they are the product of just such 'intellectual, moral, and personal' perceptions as Justice Blackmun expresses today, some of which...have been made part of what is called 'the court's Eighth Amendment jurisprudence.'

Though Justice Blackmun joins those of us who have acknowledged the incompatibility of the court's Furman and Lockett-Eddings lines of jurisprudence...he unfortunately draws the wrong conclusion from the acknowledgment... Surely a different conclusion commends itself, to wit, that at least one of these judicially announced irreconcilable commands which cause the Constitution to prohibit what its text explicitly permits must be wrong. Convictions in opposition to the death penalty are often passionate and deeply held. That would be no excuse for reading them into a Constitution that does not contain them, even if they represented the convictions of a majority of Americans. Much less is there any excuse for using that course to thrust a minority's views upon the people.

Justice Blackmun begins his statement by describing with poignancy the death of a convicted murderer by lethal injection. He chooses, as the case in which to make that statement, one of the less brutal of the murders that regularly come before us, the murder of a man ripped by a bullet suddenly and unexpectedly, with no opportunity to prepare himself and his affairs, and left to bleed to death on the floor of a tavern. The death-by-injection which Justice Blackmun describes looks pretty desirable next to that. It looks even better next to some of the other cases currently before us, which Justice Blackmun did not select as the vehicle for his announcement that the death penalty is always unconstitutional, for example, the case of the 11-year-old girl raped by four men and then killed by stuffing her panties down her throat. How enviable a quiet death by lethal injection compared with that!"



[ Parent ]
Where is the source? (none / 0) (#109)
by ttfkam on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 10:05:34 PM EST

I whole-heartedly agree with the person to whom I am replying. Something smells here. I did a google search and found various people attributing this quote to Scalia, but no mention of where he said it or when.

If the quote is legit, this is truly damning. If not, many people will pass it on as truth to the point that the lie is believable only because it is common knowlege. Groupthink indeed.

Can someone please point to the source!?!

If I'm made in God's image then God needs to lay off the corn chips and onion dip. Get some exercise, God! - Tatarigami
[ Parent ]
Scalia on the Death Penalty... (5.00 / 1) (#117)
by jwilliam on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 02:12:10 AM EST

No clue where that particular qoute came from, but, closest case I can find on this here .

Scalia's concurring opinion says:

We granted certiorari on the question whether it violates due process or constitutes cruel and unusual punishment for a State to execute a person who, having been convicted of murder after a full and fair trial, later alleges that newly discovered evidence shows him to be "actually innocent." I would have preferred to decide that question, particularly since, as the Court's discussion shows, it is perfectly clear what the answer is: There is no basis in text, tradition, or even in contemporary practice (if that were enough), for finding in the Constitution a right to demand judicial consideration of newly discovered evidence of innocence brought forward after conviction.

[ Parent ]

Thanks for the search (4.00 / 1) (#119)
by boing boing on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 07:45:40 AM EST

Thanks for finding what you did. It seems as if once again people have clipped and paraphrased a quote so that Scalia '...believes guilt or innocence, they should die', just like 'Al Gore invented the internet'.

It is amazing that both Democrats and Republicans can't seem to bother to look for facts, but resort to characterizing and caricaturing each other in simple terms. I hope one day, this country can drop the concept of political parties and vote by representatives who are people, not members of a party and that political debate can reach a level of fact finding and discussion instead of petty bickering and politicking.

[ Parent ]
One thing all the posts seem to be missing here... (3.75 / 4) (#73)
by cr0sh on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 07:53:25 PM EST

Society sees McVeigh as a "monster", a "psychopath", an "evil". Victims of the bombing probably feel personally scared of him, or at least angry at him. Most of the posts here seem to reflect that. Many think should McVeigh "walk" or "escape", then they might "be next".

All of this misses McVeigh's point.

To his mind, he thought of what he was doing as "part of a war", a war against the US Government. He did what he did to "get back" - perhaps to start a revolution or something. The innocent people he knew he killed he considered "civilian casualties" - something that could not be helped.

Individuals should not be scared that McVeigh would be after them next - not even the survivors should be scared - for they were not the target of the bomb. Only one entity should be scared - the US Government.

As I have said before, the bombing is probably only the start of something much larger, that if we don't get a handle on what led McVeigh to believe what he believes, there is only going to be more.

The funny thing is, we know what the problems are - we know how we can stop it. We know it is a combination of corporations controlling the government, of corrupt politicians doing anything for some money or power. We know we can control it by putting better people in office, or by buying from companies that honestly do the right thing (whatever that may be). Instead, we continue to pander to those who look and talk good (usually out of one side of their face), and give to companies that provide our drugs of entertainment, in whatever shape that may come in.

We have at our disposal the most powerful and widespread information gathering and colating system EVER known to man - any individual can easily find out the facts for himself, cross-referenced with others, and come to the correct conclusion about our society, and what needs to be done. Yet we bitch and moan if we cant see the $uperBowl or Ms "I wanna be a slut" $pears.

You know it - I know it - and McVeigh, in his sick mind, knows it too - and that mind came up with a solution to the problem that should have sent us reflecting on the issues - instead, we only seek to point our collective finger (freshly pulled from our collective ass), to blame someone else.

I believe what McVeigh did was wrong - but we are just as wrong for leaving the problems to continue that led to his solution (bomb a corrupt government) to continue to fester. If we continue down this road - the disease will kill us all.

Curious argument (2.00 / 1) (#88)
by a clockwork llama on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 02:59:07 AM EST

Quite the impassioned post. You need to get your thoughts in order, though, as it comes across as an empty rant. It does not follow from the actions (however terrible) of a loon that our society is broken. Whether or not the government is corrupt and corporations are too powerful, there will always be people like McVeigh. He is a symptom of nothing more remarkable than the human mind's capacity for extreme idiocy. I personally think that our government and corporate system leave much to be desired. But this viewpoint need more in the way of support than the demented views of Tim McVeigh.

[ Parent ]
Of course! (none / 0) (#118)
by cr0sh on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 03:28:49 AM EST

I personally think that our government and corporate system leave much to be desired. But this viewpoint need more in the way of support than the demented views of Tim McVeigh.

I would never base this viewpoint only on the singular misguided opinion of McVeigh - he obviously has something wrong with his mind. That, however, doesn't invalidate the fact that the US government and corporations (who may as well be the government, in all but name, it seems) are out of control - by the people. You an I both know of several arguments and instances in which it could be pointed to that this is true (MS vs DOJ, MPAA vs 2600, RIAA vs MP3s, tons of others). McVeigh saw this, and his mind came up with a way to show his displeasure at not being heard (what I wonder is if he ever tried to talk first - ie, go out and make speeches or something - and was silenced in some manner - or if he only thought he wasn't being heard - ie, did nothing, but still thought nobody was listening - probably the latter, given everything). However, nobody listened - nobody has ever listened.

In a way, it is kinda like the Unabomber manifesto - how many people have honestly read it, and thought about the ideas, vs how many people haven't read it, but still express the opinion that it is a load of crap (ie, they express an opinion on something they haven't read - that sounds more like madness than writing a neo-luddite ramble, if you ask me).

Everybody is a sheep in a line being led to slaughter - a few of us know what is up, but no matter how we cry and spread our knowledge, in the end we are all doomed to slaughter. Maybe madness then is the only sane response, hmm?

[ Parent ]

Heh. (4.00 / 1) (#90)
by darthaggie on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 09:52:21 AM EST

To his mind, he thought of what he was doing as "part of a war", a war against the US Government. He did what he did to "get back" - perhaps to start a revolution or something. The innocent people he knew he killed he considered "civilian casualties" - something that could not be helped.

If he wanted to hurt the government, he could have blown up the building in the middle of the night, after the janitors have gone home. He might have killed one or two security guards, but certainly not 168 people.

And almost certainly no children. He knew there was a day care center on-site. He blew the building anyway.

The point of the death penalty is punishment, not prevention. We know that after 11 June 2001 Tim McVeigh will never kill again.

I am BOFH. Resistance is futile. Your network will be assimilated.
[ Parent ]

Hmm (5.00 / 2) (#92)
by DJBongHit on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 10:06:04 AM EST

You say...

The point of the death penalty is punishment, not prevention.

Then immediately follow it with...

We know that after 11 June 2001 Tim McVeigh will never kill again.

So which one is it?

~DJBongHit

--
GNU GPL: Free as in herpes.

[ Parent ]
It doesn't work (none / 0) (#76)
by telemark on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 09:21:21 PM EST

History shows that it doesn't work. Capital punishment has been around for a long time, and people still commit atrocious crimes. At the core of it, people are still going to commit crimes if they have the motivation to do it. Removing the motivation is going to be much more effective than any kind of deterrant.

I guess this is why I think that society as a whole is responsible for the death of a person who is executed under capital punishment.


Alright, Striker, you listen and listen close flying a plane is no different from riding a bicycle, just alot harder to put baseball cards in the spokes

By that same line of reasoning... (none / 0) (#79)
by a clockwork llama on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 10:44:30 PM EST

... no form of punishment that has ever been invented has eliminated crime, so we might as well give up, empty our prisons, and let criminals do whatever they want.

[ Parent ]
that fecisious (sp?) (none / 0) (#103)
by gauntlet on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 06:47:08 PM EST

saying that the dealth penalty doesn't work means that the death penalty doesn't work any better than no death penalty. If that's true, and if we know it to be true, then what we're doing is balancing the cost of imprisoning them for life against the value of their life.

There's virtually no one that's suggesting that we should eliminate life sentances in favour of more death sentances, so there seems to be a general acceptance that killing someone is the last thing we would want to do.

If it's the last thing we want to do, and it doesn't have any beneficial effect, why the hell are you doing it?

I like to believe that Texans believe that justice requires it. That would be honorable, in a stupid, naive sort of way. I just pray there aren't past or present administration politicians that have decided it's politically expedient and cost efficient.

"It is difficult to catch a black cat in a dark room. Especially if there is no cat there." - Confucius
[ Parent ]

Why I Am Starting to Support the Death Penality (4.00 / 2) (#77)
by AArthur on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 10:06:00 PM EST

Life in prison is horrible. Yes, the person did some really bad things to land himself there. So bad, that no matter of treatment will be able to fix him, and return him to being a full citzen who can enjoy green meadows and blue skys again.

Putting somebody in prison for life, is sort of like giving a them lobotomys, but only worst. Instead of being a vegatable who can't think, they are caged up and can think. About the stupid thing they did a long time ago.

It's plain cruelety to make these people rot away (literally in many cases) in prison, when they could be put down in only a few years -- saving them many years of pain.

The idea of an excutation is certianly very sicking to a prisoner, but it is far kinder, then knowing your going to rot away behind stone walls.

Even bad people deserve to protected from the cruelty that long prison terms give them.

That said, jailing innocent people or killing them is very evil -- and our system must take extronary lenghts to protect against that. Still is 20 years of prison, until you find your not guilty + years and years of recovery kinder then being excuted (and never having to think about prison again?)

Mercy killing isn't a bad thing. Just because somebody did a horrible thing, doesn't mean for the rest of their life we should play cat and mouse with them -- kill them now -- and spare them the pain.

No matter how evil a person is, we shouldn't strip them of their basic human rights. Killing them is the nicest thing we can do to those with life in prison.

Andrew B. Arthur | aarthur@imaclinux.net | http://hvcc.edu/~aa310264

That's pretty twisted... (none / 0) (#78)
by a clockwork llama on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 10:42:23 PM EST

Terrible as prison life may be, I can guarantee that the overwhelming majority of inmates prefer it to execution.

You might think of execution as mercy killing, but the executees would not - and it's their opinion that makes it a mercy or not, isn't it?



[ Parent ]
It's An Ideological Difference (none / 0) (#107)
by AArthur on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 08:47:17 PM EST

Terrible as prison life may be, I can guarantee that the overwhelming majority of inmates prefer it to execution.

To me, I would think being locked in a cage 24-7-365 is a far worst punishment then death, which is quick, and is over.

Then again, it's an ideological difference. I prefer death to a lack of freedom, where I can no longer make my own decessions, and generally be myself. "Live Free or Die."

You might think of execution as mercy killing, but the executees would not - and it's their opinion that makes it a mercy or not, isn't it?

This is what makes mercy killing such a controversual thing. Most mercy killing are done without the approval of the person, but in their own interests. But dictacting their best own interests is futile. So, it's probably up in the air for those who dislike the penality.

Andrew B. Arthur | aarthur@imaclinux.net | http://hvcc.edu/~aa310264
[ Parent ]

Ideological huh. (none / 0) (#111)
by a clockwork llama on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 10:35:03 PM EST

To me, I would think being locked in a cage 24-7-365 is a far worst punishment then death, which is quick, and is over... I prefer death to a lack of freedom, where I can no longer make my own decessions, and generally be myself. "Live Free or Die."

You do realize that it is incredibly easy for you to say that, sitting comfortably in front of your computer. Of course, I'm doing the same, so I have no way of proving that most inmates would prefer incarceration to death; but I suspect that would be the case.



[ Parent ]
Curious logic (none / 0) (#80)
by ttfkam on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 11:22:55 PM EST

We should kill inmates because life in prison is bad?

Why is the apparent solution to execute? Why isn't the apparent solution to change the way the penal system functions?

The "let's just kill them and get it over with" argument tends to ignore the very large disparity between the amounts of poor and minority executions in proportion to the type and severity of serious crimes. It also ignores the amount of people that have been found innocent or where there are serious doubts about their guilt *after* they have been executed.

From the ACLU website:

Whether you support or oppose capital punishment, there is mounting evidence that the system is broken. A review of death penalty judgments over a 23-year period found a national error rate of 68%. In a matter of life and death, we are getting it wrong more than 2 out of every 3 times. We need a moratorium on executions to give us time to figure out why the system is not working.

The Official ACLU position on the death penalty in the US has food for thought for anyone who believes the death penalty to be fair or is an effective deterrent. (Sorry it's a PDF)



If I'm made in God's image then God needs to lay off the corn chips and onion dip. Get some exercise, God! - Tatarigami
[ Parent ]
Re: Curious Logic (none / 0) (#106)
by AArthur on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 08:42:14 PM EST

We should kill inmates because life in prison is bad?

Yes, I believe that in cases where the inmates are rendered useless for the rest of their life, and never can become free again, should be killed. It's like keeping an old dry cow around to die, just because you think he might someday have another calf again and start lactating. True, it's not the nicest thing to send the cow to the slaughterhouse, but keeping it around is only asking for trouble -- and they will eventually become painfully sick or ill in many cases.

Why is the apparent solution to execute? Why isn't the apparent solution to change the way the penal system functions?

There are cases where you can't improve the system. Somebody who has been done something so bad to be solitary confindment, and will be locked in prison for the rest of their life, is never going to do anything -- essentially they are spirtually dead. The fact is, you can make prisons nicer -- but they will still be prison -- a cage that locks them up -- and for the very ill -- a small cage.

The "let's just kill them and get it over with" argument tends to ignore the very large disparity between the amounts of poor and minority executions in proportion to the type and severity of serious crimes. It also ignores the amount of people that have been found innocent or where there are serious doubts about their guilt *after* they have been executed.

"Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue" applys apty to this statement. Every pratical effort must be made to avoid this -- but stuff will happen. No matter the number of safe gaurds, they will fail if the circumstances are right. We can't be perfect, and shouldn't try, but we must be reasonable.

We must also consider how long people stay locked behind bars before evidence appears to the contray to get them out. In most of these cases that we find their innocence after they have died, serious damage has already occurred -- to them (mental, physical, etc.) and their families. Sometimes it's better for them to be dead then alive, even if it was an total mistake.

Andrew B. Arthur | aarthur@imaclinux.net | http://hvcc.edu/~aa310264
[ Parent ]

Death wish (none / 0) (#108)
by ttfkam on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 09:24:11 PM EST

Life sucks for some factory workers. Should we just off them too? Homeless people have a hard life. Let's kill them for their own good. A lot of us would not like a job digging ditches. Should we put them out of their misery. The Jews don't have much of a life and they spoil it for others. Let's get rid of them. Oh wait! That was the rhetoric of the Nazi party...

For all of those individuals who have been released after five and ten years of incarceration for crimes they didn't commit, how many when questioned do you think will reply, "Gee, I wish they had simply killed me so that I could have avoided the trouble?" Are you serious or have I just fallen for a troll?

This is like the IRS taking all of your money, your home, and making your life a living hell -- THEN -- finding out that you did pay your taxes after all -- THEN -- saying, "Oh well! It would have been better if we took all the money you would ever have earned and you had not fought back." It would be like this except for the fact that the death penalty is WORSE! Did you read the statistic I posted (yeah yeah, lies, damn lies...) about how slightly over 2/3 of all death penalty cases are found to be wrong? Let's say that the ACLU is wrong and it's only half. This is not a case of "We can't be perfect, and shouldn't try, but we must be reasonable." How is getting it right only half of the time reasonable by any stretch of the English language or by any loose definition of justice? How can one third be acceptable? On the other end of the scale, how can nine tenths even be considered acceptable? With a death row population of 3,500, wouldn't three hundred fifty mistaken executions be horrible? Now let's ramp that up to reality: 68% of 3,500 is 2,380. 2,380 people killed because someone thought that they were better off dead.

Are you telling me that if you had a family and close friends that it is somehow better if you are put out of your misery? Would you make this judgement for people who are close to you? Would you make this true for a sibling, a parent, a child, or your best friend? If yes, congratulations, you have just diagnosed yourself as a sociopath.

Most reasonably sane (and even most clinically insane people) people do not have a death wish. A life, however bad it may seem to others, is usually seen as better than being dead. If inmates truly believed it was better to be dead, there woud be a lot more suicides in prison. In fact, we wouldn't have any of the problems of overcrowding.

People can be very efficient at ending their own lives when they feel the need. They don't need help.

And lucky me, I've been trolled.


If I'm made in God's image then God needs to lay off the corn chips and onion dip. Get some exercise, God! - Tatarigami
[ Parent ]
Though I agree with you in principle, (none / 0) (#104)
by mindstrm on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 08:37:08 PM EST

the fact remains: McVeigh *knew* what the consequences could be for what he did, he recklessly killed a great many *innocent* people, and the society he did this in wants him dead (and has the power to do it).

It's not for ME to tell them what to do.


Not for YOU to tell them what to do? (none / 0) (#123)
by RisaQ on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 07:08:20 PM EST

Did I miss something? Are you a citizen of the US? Do you vote? As a voter, is it not your responsibility to tell THEM what to do? That's the role of a citizen, dear. "No man is an Island, entire of it self; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a Clod be washed away by the Sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a Promontory were, as well as if a Manor of thy friend's or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind..." Meditation XVII -- John Donne
J'ai les autres chats ŕ fouetter.
[ Parent ]
Well. (none / 0) (#126)
by mindstrm on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 12:57:03 PM EST

No. I'm NOT a citizen of the US.


[ Parent ]
The killer is a product of a society (none / 0) (#105)
by hattig on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 08:41:11 PM EST

Firstly, I am against the death penalty as I believe that it is wrong, and it is turning the state/society into a murderer(*).

(*)Under law, killing a person for a certain crime is permissable, thus it is not illegal to kill them - sanctioned killing, etc. I define murderer throughout as someone who kills someone else not in immediate self-defence.

What I find interesting is that no-one (that I noticed) has mentioned that the murderer has been brought up in a society(~) that has made him/her the person he/she is.

(~)I define society on a more microscopic scale here - a cult, a terrorist group, a family.

So who is to blame - the murderer for his beliefs instilled by society, or society for instilling them in him in the first place?

Should not the state seek to punish the society rather than the criminal? This is like fining the parents for their childs illegal activities, as the child has no concept of right or wrong.

However, punishing the society has implications - take the siege at Waco, which indirectly led to the Oklahoma bombing...

Also, why should the law be defined around what people defined as wrong 100/200/etc years ago. My definition of murderer is different from the law's. If a majority of the state agreed with me (which they may not), then surely they should press for the legal definition of murderer to be changed?

My take on this (5.00 / 1) (#116)
by Stephen Veiss on Sat Jun 09, 2001 at 09:00:18 PM EST

In my opinion, the death penalty should not be carried out by the state.

Premeditated killing is considered a crime - we call it murder. Yet, what is an execution, except a premeditated killing. What gives the 'state', an abstract entity, the right to perform an act an individual cannot?

One of the reasons I dislike the death penalty is that, in the US, at least, no person seems to take responsibility for the lives of the condemned. I read that in one state which practiced execution by electric chair [I think it was Georgia, before they switched to lethal injection, but I'm not certain], three prison officials pressed three separate buttons, one of which activated the fatal charge. Noone knew which button would activate the charge. This suggests to me that none of the three executioners are willing to take responsibility for the death of a human being. The three-button system passes this responsibility higher up, to that abstract entity of the state.

In my mind, the 'state' cannot be responsible for anything. The responsible entities are the people who perform the deed, or have a hand in performing it. Yet, the way the legal and prison systems are set up, it seems that the individuals involved are trying to evade their responsibility.

If you're going to have capital punishment, then at least take responsibility for that. Too many people seem to be walking away from that responsibility - "I didn't do it", "I didn't press the button" seem to be the prevalent attitudes. This is even more shocking when it comes from those who clearly *are* responsible - the judge, the jurors, the prison officials, and the executioner[s].

Now, I, personally, would not want to be responsible for the premeditated death of a person. It does not matter if I am the one pulling the trigger, or merely ordering another to do the same - either way, I am responsible. Killing in self-defence is a completely different matter, of course, but how many people here could plan, perform, and take responsibility for the death of another? And yet you allow the 'state' to perform this action.

--
Stephen Veiss.


It seems.. (none / 0) (#124)
by Lai Lai Boy on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 07:59:36 PM EST

On entering society one gets many benefits, but it also subject to its rules. In the case of the truly guilty, the prisoner is responsible for his or her own fate.

The grey area enters when one is not completely sure that the defendant is guilty. McVeigh admitted to bombing the building; he took his life into his own hands. We should not keep him around; he is a potential threat (he's offered no sympathy for his actions and considered them valid actions; who's to say he wouldn't do it again?)


[Posted from Mozilla Firebird]

Who is responsible for the lives of those executed? | 129 comments (119 topical, 10 editorial, 0 hidden)
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