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[P]
Another US prisoner vindicated through DNA evidence

By valeko in Op-Ed
Wed Aug 28, 2002 at 04:33:01 PM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)
Freedom

Mr. Eddie Joe Lloyd has become the 110th American convict to have his sentence overturned in light of new evidence from DNA testing. This development adds weight to the suggestion that the American judicial system is so flawed as to impose prison sentences -- and sometimes the barbaric condemnation of death -- upon innocent persons who are not guilty of the capital crimes of which they are accused.

BBC article.
Washington Post article.


Mr. Lloyd served 17 years out of a life imprisonment sentence for the rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl in 1984. He insisted upon his innocence, but to no avail until recently, when DNA tests of the evidence confirmed that he is entirely innocent.

Needless to say, this deals yet another blow to the case for maintaining capital punishment in the United States. At the time of Mr. Lloyd's conviction, his state of Michigan did not permit the death penalty. If it did, in all likelyhood Mr. Lloyd would long be dead. Advocacy groups have argued extensively that it is likely to be the misfortune of many innocent prisoners currently on "death row" that they shall be executed before the possibility of renewing their lease on life through the use of DNA testing laws. However, in a larger sense, it is the misfortune of all who are on death row that they are the mercy of legally institutionalised murder.

With more than 100 convictions now having been overturned in the US in light of DNA evidence, such news is rapidly becoming unextraordinary. But a small and unclear detail of this case makes it especially intriguing - a detail neglected by the press: according to the article, Mr. Lloyd was a patient at a psychiatric hospital at the time when he supposedly "confessed" to the rape and murder of this teenage girl.

I concede that I know nothing about the details of this. However, it takes only an elementary acquaintance with the psychiatric institutions of the United States to understand that "confessions" extracted in such a setting should not be admissable in any court of law, irrespective of the "mental health" of the subject. The American methods of psychiatric "treatment" with a vast array of pharmaceutical innovations have an enourmous destabilising effect upon the psyche. This allows coercion and confusion to be woven artlessly into the fabric of a police interrogation, deliberately or not. I propose that no rational judicial system would admit confessions given by a subject receiving psychiatric treatment.

The original trial judge in Mr. Lloyd's case was unsympathetic, stating, "I never heard this gentleman say, 'I didn't do it.'" Yet, it is disturbing that one should expect otherwise from a person whose mental health could be called into question, and especially one that was probably acting under the influence of psychotropic drugs - - an integral part of one's stay in a psychiatric hospital.

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Another US prisoner vindicated through DNA evidence | 168 comments (133 topical, 35 editorial, 0 hidden)
I've said it before and I'll say it again (3.95 / 23) (#1)
by leviramsey on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 05:34:47 PM EST

I'll support the death penalty if and only if, should DNA evidence come to light which exonerates, the judge and prosecutor shall be charged with murder.



What about the jury? (3.25 / 8) (#4)
by Humuhumunukunukuapuaa on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 05:47:23 PM EST

Remember - they have a choice. If they admit they're not prepared to apply the death penalty they will be removed. I say get a row of 12 electric chairs for the jury. Just not in CA, I don't think the power grid could cope with it.
--
(&()*&^#@!!&_($&)!&$(*#$(!$&_(!$*&&!$@
[ Parent ]
That is the most idiotic thing I have ever heard. (4.00 / 7) (#7)
by qpt on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 06:00:16 PM EST

Well, maybe not, but it must be close.

Generally speaking, murder is deliberate, unlawful killing. Now, in many states, there is nothing unlawful about sentencing someone to death for certain crimes by way of a properly conducted trial. Basically, you are demanding that people be criminally liable for behavior that is not illegal.

That is stupid. Moreover, by your logic, judges and prosecutors would be charged with unlawful imprisonment if an imprisoned inmate's conviction were overturned. That is also stupid. Ideally, the individuals involved in the legal process do their best to see that justice is served, but honest mistakes are inevitable. Treating these honest, legal mistakes as crimes would be a travesty of justice.

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.
[ Parent ]

However (4.00 / 6) (#8)
by leviramsey on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 06:04:52 PM EST

Killing someone is something that should not be undertaken lightly. The purpose of the deathpenalty is, allegedly, to at least make people contemplate the aftereffects of their actions. This is merely extending the concept.



[ Parent ]
Sure. (2.50 / 2) (#10)
by qpt on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 06:15:25 PM EST

It should not be undertaken lightly. However, charging prosecutors or judges with murder is idiotic.

Remember, murder is illegal killing. It is not illegal to sentence someone to death. Are you thinking we should amend the law to make sentencing an innocent person to death illegal? How does that make any sense?

Trials are what our legal system use to determine whether someone is guilty or innocent. Someone convicted in a legally conducted trial is, in the eyes of the law, guilty.

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.
[ Parent ]

Well (5.00 / 2) (#13)
by Bob Dog on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 06:22:52 PM EST

It is not illegal to sentence someone to death. Are you thinking we should amend the law to make sentencing an innocent person to death illegal?

Why not?

[ Parent ]
I already told you. (4.00 / 3) (#14)
by qpt on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 06:26:33 PM EST

A trial is what determines a person's guilt or innocence. In the eyes of the law, a person convicted by a legal trial is guilty.

With that in mind, how does making it illegal to sentence an innocent person to death make any sense? If the person is convicted, he is legally guilty. Basically, the only time such a law would be violated is if someone were sentenced to death without a trial, which I am not sure ever happens.

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.
[ Parent ]

Because the process has been proven flawed (5.00 / 2) (#50)
by libertine on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 11:01:26 PM EST

Not just once.  Repeatedly.  Part of how a trial is presumed to be just, and justice carried out, is that all parties have performed due diligence.  If they got the wrong person, I would hazard to say that someone wasn't very diligent.


"Live for lust. Lust for life."
[ Parent ]
Look (none / 0) (#57)
by qpt on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 11:38:42 PM EST

You are missing the point.

I am not saying that every legally guilty person did in fact commit the crime of which he was charged. Unfortunately, there are many legally guilty people who did nothing illegal.

Now, here is my point. Pay attention for this bit.

It makes no sense to craft a law forbidding the punishment of innocent people, since punishment is meted out after a trial and trials are the mechanism by which legal guilt and innocence are established.

Did you manage to follow that? Great. That is why it cannot be illegal to convict an in fact innocent person in a legally conducted trial. Consequently, no one can be held criminally liable for the outcome of a legally conducted trial.

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.
[ Parent ]

Good distinction + tangent (5.00 / 1) (#113)
by Josh A on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 04:05:14 AM EST

I don't think much of the suggestion at hand (to punish judges/attorneys) but it's an important distinction for arguing for or against the death penalty.

The simple fact is, we cannot in most cases determine de facto guilt, and de jure guilt is just not good enough to KILL someone.

---
Thank God for Canada, if only because they annoy the Republicans so much. – Blarney


[ Parent ]
That makes no sense (3.33 / 3) (#15)
by Lord of the Wasteland on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 06:26:38 PM EST

The judge and the prosecutor both operate based on the evidence provided to them. Sure, sometimes they distort or ignore evidence, but just because a false conviction is made doesn't mean that either did anything improper.

Would you also suggest the death penalty for defense lawyers if their clients kill again after getting off or getting a reduced sentence?

[ Parent ]

Well (5.00 / 1) (#19)
by greenrd on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 06:31:30 PM EST

The practical effect would be that it would force all prosecutors to have a DNA test done, and make sure it was done correctly. Unless a DNA test wasn't possible with evidence available, I suppose.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Wrong person for the job (5.00 / 1) (#51)
by Lord of the Wasteland on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 11:03:05 PM EST

It is the responsibility of the government to provide competent defense lawyers who will ask for a DNA test if they think it could exonerate their client, and to pay for said DNA testing. The prosecutor should only ask for a DNA test if he believes it would be helpful to his case. In this way, tests won't be done in the many cases where the evidence would be inconclusive or superfluous.

[ Parent ]
Your phrasing reveals a loaded mindset. (4.00 / 2) (#104)
by rodgerd on Wed Aug 28, 2002 at 09:54:27 PM EST

If someone is found not guilty they're, well, not guilty. And they can hardly "kill again" if they didn't kill anyone in the first place.



[ Parent ]
My phrasing implied what I wanted it to imply (none / 0) (#128)
by Lord of the Wasteland on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 02:36:28 PM EST

If you believe that everyone found not guilty is not guilty you're as idiotic as someone who believes that everyone found guilty is guilty. I phrased my statement the way I did intentionally. I wanted to consider only cases where it later comes to light that the first crime was in fact commited by the accused.

[ Parent ]
Your phrasing was unclear to me. (none / 0) (#131)
by rodgerd on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 03:27:05 PM EST

Since it appeared you did, in fact, believe that many people found not guilty is really guilty of something. Which is a nonsense.



[ Parent ]
not the judge's fault; (4.66 / 3) (#21)
by aphrael on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 06:35:47 PM EST

the judge is just there to interpret the law. Blame the arresting police officer.

[ Parent ]
The arresting officer (3.50 / 2) (#31)
by leviramsey on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 07:19:44 PM EST

Has nothing to do with the conviction (apart from testifying).



[ Parent ]
except that a lot of the time (4.00 / 2) (#32)
by aphrael on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 07:23:07 PM EST

the guy is convicted because of sloppy police work or outright lies by police officers. :(

[ Parent ]
True (4.00 / 1) (#35)
by leviramsey on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 07:32:08 PM EST

However, ultimately, it's the DA's who get the conviction. The police departments play fast and loose with the rules often at the behest of the DA.



[ Parent ]
110 overturned (4.33 / 9) (#2)
by DesiredUsername on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 05:36:07 PM EST

Out of how many convictions total? And how many checked via DNA?

Play 囲碁
well (4.00 / 6) (#73)
by tps12 on Wed Aug 28, 2002 at 07:00:05 AM EST

How many does it take, before it matters?

What if it were your brother being sent to the gallows? Your son?

Every life counts. Every life deserves the protection offered by the Constitution. "Beyond reasonable doubt," in the 21st century, means DNA evidence. The courts need to wake up to that fact.

[ Parent ]

hypothetical question (5.00 / 4) (#18)
by demi on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 06:31:26 PM EST

If the DNA testing had produced no overturned sentences at all, and the efficacy of the results were scientifically confirmed, would that change any of your misgivings with regard to the death penalty or the criminal justice system? I have a feeling it would not.

Of course not. (5.00 / 1) (#22)
by valeko on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 06:35:49 PM EST

What's your point?

Some critics of the death penalty base their criticism on the fact that it executes innocent people who are not certifiably guilty.

I am opposed to it in principle, and I think I indicated this quite blatantly in my article.

"Hey, what's sanity got going for it anyways?" -- infinitera, on matters of the heart
[ Parent ]

so (5.00 / 1) (#29)
by demi on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 07:11:34 PM EST

Some might argue that if the DNA tests had come up positive, i.e., indicating that Lloyd had indeed raped and killed the girl, that the death penalty would be justified in that case. Of course, if the DNA tests came up positive, I doubt that the Innocence Project would publicly proclaim that he was rightly convicted with the same alacrity as they have used to exculpate him.

From the BBC article:

Mr Lloyd became the 110th convicted person in the US to be exonerated by DNA testing, according to the Innocence Project, which advocates DNA probes to help innocent prisoners.

It sounds like they are out to help people that have been unjustly imprisoned, which is certainly a noble endeavour. However, it doesn't appear that their goal is to improve the efficacy of murder and rape convictions, which the widespread use of RFLP testing has begun to do.

[ Parent ]

Yes. (none / 0) (#30)
by valeko on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 07:15:54 PM EST

Of course, if the DNA tests came up positive, I doubt that the Innocence Project would publicly proclaim that he was rightly convicted with the same alacrity as they have used to exculpate him.

I agree.

However, it doesn't appear that their goal is to improve the efficacy of murder and rape convictions, which the widespread use of RFLP testing has begun to do.

I agree here too.

I still don't understand what your point is. Is it to expose that the Innocence Project actually has a... *gasp* wide anti-death penalty agenda that is cleverly disguised as a project to help those who are wrongly sentenced?

"Hey, what's sanity got going for it anyways?" -- infinitera, on matters of the heart
[ Parent ]

No. (none / 0) (#34)
by Kalani on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 07:30:22 PM EST

I still don't understand what your point is. Is it to expose that the Innocence Project actually has a... *gasp* wide anti-death penalty agenda that is cleverly disguised as a project to help those who are wrongly sentenced?
I think that his point is that the fact that the man was proven innocent via DNA testing alone does not suggest that the death penalty should not be used. The argument that assurances of guilt in death penalty cases become more certain with DNA testing is an equally valid conclusion to draw.

-----
"Images containing sufficiently large skin-colored groups of possible limbs are reported as potentially containing naked people."
-- [ Parent ]
And ignores... (5.00 / 2) (#36)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 07:35:01 PM EST

...the overwhelming majority of cases for which no DNA evidence exists to prove guilt or innocence. There is no reason to suspect that the government is any better at avoiding false prosecutions in the case of those who cannot later be exculpated by DNA evidence.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
That's not the point ... (5.00 / 2) (#37)
by Kalani on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 07:39:39 PM EST

... unless you presume that in all of those cases, the majority of convicted people are innocent. A single overturned conviction isn't a good argument to get rid of the death penalty. In fact, if half of the people convicted of murder were later proven innocent, you could make a better argument for revising the whole justice system that convicted them rather than getting rid of the death penalty.

-----
"Images containing sufficiently large skin-colored groups of possible limbs are reported as potentially containing naked people."
-- [ Parent ]
It absolutely is the point! (5.00 / 2) (#38)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 07:57:59 PM EST

The argument is that absent a perfect justice system, which is provably incapable of rendering a false conviction, the death penalty is unacceptable. Of course, this argument rests upon the value judgment that a state execution of an innocent person is absolutely inexcusable in principle. You make your own value judgments and I'll make mine: as far as I am concerned, the intolerable status of the state putting an innocent person to death is axiomatic.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Different argument (4.33 / 3) (#39)
by Kalani on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 08:20:48 PM EST

Of course, this argument rests upon the value judgment that a state execution of an innocent person is absolutely inexcusable in principle.
... meaning that this case adds nothing to the argument that wasn't already there.

-----
"Images containing sufficiently large skin-colored groups of possible limbs are reported as potentially containing naked people."
-- [ Parent ]
I wasn't... (4.66 / 3) (#43)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 09:01:25 PM EST

...adopting valeko's argument in its entirety, I was making a more narrow logical point. That said, valeko's argument is rhetorical and this case has obvious rhetorical value, in that it plainly demonstrates the criminal justice system wrongly convicts people of capital crimes. At the very least, it provides an occasion to persuasively advance the argument that the death penalty in combination with our current criminal justice system has a high likelihood of resulting in the execution of an innocent person. It is an argument worth making.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
As long as you don't introduce it that way (5.00 / 1) (#47)
by Kalani on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 09:34:36 PM EST

You can argue that people should hold the value that not a single innocent person should be killed, but you can't use this case as "evidence" except to say that in this instance the person would not have died. There are much better examples of administrative ineptitude than this one (from the reports I've read about this case, the guy never told the judge that he was innocent) anyway. If you hold the value that no innocent person should be put to death, you're not making a "logical point" at all by using this case as an example, except to show that if you hold the value that no innocent person should be killed, then the man in this case should not be killed. In essence, you need to make a different argument if you want to convince people that they should hold the value you've espoused here. The idea that some innocent people will be convicted of crimes is just a simple consequence of the uncertain nature of many crimes, though convictions usually are made when it's "highly improbable" that the convicted was innocent (but in enough "highly improbable" cases you're bound to find some innocent ones). So you're left with a couple of questions that are very simple to state. The first is: should people be judged guilty only when guilt is absolutely certain (ie: should we dismantle the justice system)? The second one is: what punishments should be associated with which crimes and why? The death penalty question comes in after this. It is: knowing that a certain percentage of innocent people will always be convicted wrongly, do the costs of penalizing certain crimes with death outweigh the benefits? The person who is willing to answer "yes" to this question is already prepared to hear about the unfortunate case of an innocent person wrongly killed. The person who is not willing to answer "yes" to that question will see the case of an innocent death as a grave injustice. But the case itself does not a priori mean that the answer to the question above must be "no."

One last point:

the death penalty in combination with our current criminal justice system has a high likelihood of resulting in the execution of an innocent person
This one case does not prove that the liklihood is high. If out of every M cases, N were later shown to be innocent, and N / M is greater than some acceptably "high" amount (20%? 10%?) then you could certainly make that argument. However, by the knowledge that we have from this case alone we can only possibly conclude that, given that all other cases resulted in convictions of guilty people, the liklihood of the justice system executing an innocent person is very low.

-----
"Images containing sufficiently large skin-colored groups of possible limbs are reported as potentially containing naked people."
-- [ Parent ]
Well said, but... (4.00 / 1) (#49)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 10:54:14 PM EST

...you misunderstand my argument in a few key places (not surprising given the rapid and careless nature of my responses).

You can argue that people should hold the value that not a single innocent person should be killed, but you can't use this case as "evidence" except to say that in this instance the person would not have died.

It is also evidence which establishes as fact that the current justice system has convicted someone of a capital crime who was later conclusively demonstrated to be innocent. Its evidentiary value is that is demonstrates the inadequacy of the current system when held to a standard of inerrancy. Establishing this fact is important as there exist many who argue that the current system is adequate to ensure that nobody convicted of a capital crime is, in fact, innocent of that crime.

There are much better examples of administrative ineptitude than this one (from the reports I've read about this case, the guy never told the judge that he was innocent) anyway.

Agreed, if for no other reason than because Lloyd never really faced the death penalty because it was not in effect at the time of his conviction. What it does conclusively show is that a conviction, which currently could result a death penalty, was falsely obtained.

As for the claim that Lloyd never proclaimed his innocence, it's nothing but a rationalization on the part of the judge. The defendant technically maintained his innocence by pleading not guilty.

If you hold the value that no innocent person should be put to death, you're not making a "logical point" at all by using this case as an example, except to show that if you hold the value that no innocent person should be killed, then the man in this case should not be killed.

Agreed, my contention that no innocent person should be killed stands apart from this or any example. It is an assertion which, as I indicated, I employ axiomatically.

In essence, you need to make a different argument if you want to convince people that they should hold the value you've espoused here.

I've, as yet, offered no argument to substantiate the assertion that no innocent person should be killed. I apologize if I was unclear.

But the case itself does not a priori mean that the answer to the question above must be "no."

Agreed and, again, I never intended to claim that it did.

This one case does not prove that the liklihood is high. If out of every M cases, N were later shown to be innocent, and N / M is greater than some acceptably "high" amount (20%? 10%?) then you could certainly make that argument. However, by the knowledge that we have from this case alone we can only possibly conclude that, given that all other cases resulted in convictions of guilty people, the liklihood of the justice system executing an innocent person is very low.

What this case, in itself, demonstrates is sufficient cause to not assume the given you present: that all other cases resulted in convictions of guilty people. Further, when one takes into account the fact that this is the 110th case of someone cleared of a capital crime after conviction by exculpatory DNA evidence, the likelihood of a false conviction does indeed seem high. High, of course, being a subjectively determined threshold.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Two things (4.00 / 1) (#62)
by Kalani on Wed Aug 28, 2002 at 12:01:04 AM EST

First:

It is also evidence which establishes as fact that the current justice system has convicted someone of a capital crime who was later conclusively demonstrated to be innocent. Its evidentiary value is that is demonstrates the inadequacy of the current system when held to a standard of inerrancy.
Yes, the current system when held to a standard of inerrancy fails to meet the standard. However, so does any other justice system that exists or can exist. That's why juries are encouraged to convict only when there is no "reasonable doubt." They don't say "any doubt at all" because it is absolutely impossible to prove a person's guilt with complete certainty. These are court cases, not math proofs. So with a very small but nonzero probability that a convicted person is innocent, it is to be expected that an innocent person will eventually get convicted. That's not a failing of the justice system, it's a failing of your expectation of any justice system. One bad conviction (or even 110) out of many hundreds of thousands does not indicate that the system is unreasonably flawed.

Two:

What this case, in itself, demonstrates is sufficient cause to not assume the given you present: that all other cases resulted in convictions of guilty people. Further, when one takes into account the fact that this is the 110th case of someone cleared of a capital crime after conviction by exculpatory DNA evidence, the likelihood of a false conviction does indeed seem high. High, of course, being a subjectively determined threshold.
Well the "given" was meant to demonstrate that we don't know the exact failure rate of our system, but we do have a lower bound on it. However, you don't have enough information to conclude that the probability of any given convicted person being innocent is high (unless you have the unreasonable standard of perfection). 110 cases have been overturned out of how many attempts? Are only "reasonably likely" cases being attempted in this way or is there random sampling? What's the geographic distribution of the improper convictions? What kinds of crimes are being looked at? Even if the sampling shows that there really is a high occurrence of mistaken convictions, answers to these latter questions might restrict your conclusion to "therefore convictions for larceny in South County Georgia have a high probability of being mistaken." In any case, my point was that if you're going to try to make any far-reaching generalization from this one case, you can only conclude that the probability of being wrongly convicted in any given case is still very low (and even then, only if you take the majority of the other cases as being correct convictions).

-----
"Images containing sufficiently large skin-colored groups of possible limbs are reported as potentially containing naked people."
-- [ Parent ]
Continuing (5.00 / 1) (#66)
by cr8dle2grave on Wed Aug 28, 2002 at 12:47:57 AM EST

Yes, the current system when held to a standard of inerrancy fails to meet the standard. However, so does any other justice system that exists or can exist.

This is the core strength of the argument against the death penalty -- or at least the pragmatic argument. Most people are loath to admit that executing an innocent is an acceptable price to pay in the pursuit of justice. The old adage, "it is better that a thousand guilty men go free, than one innocent man be convicted," is a upheld by most people in principle.

That's not a failing of the justice system, it's a failing of your expectation of any justice system. One bad conviction (or even 110) out of many hundreds of thousands does not indicate that the system is unreasonably flawed.

That is, of course, the meat of the matter and what represents an acceptable rate of failure is up for debate. One thing is for sure, the only way to absolutely ensure that no innocent person is wrongly executed on the alter of justice is to refrain from executions as a means of punishment.

In any case, my point was that if you're going to try to make any far-reaching generalization from this one case, you can only conclude that the probability of being wrongly convicted in any given case is still very low (and even then, only if you take the majority of the other cases as being correct convictions).

You're considering the numbers apart from the very real human facts they enumerate. This isn't an engineering problem in which an acceptable rate of failure marks a clear point above which a solution is obviously successful. Each one of those data points on the side of failure represents a real person who, through no fault of their own, is condemned to death in your name. And we haven't even begun to deal with the tragedy of those people unjustly deprived of their liberty for an extended an period of time who were unfortunate enough to be falsely accused of a crime requiring a lesser standard of evidence than a capital charge.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
And of course two people on k5 won't solve it, but (5.00 / 2) (#69)
by Kalani on Wed Aug 28, 2002 at 02:10:02 AM EST

the question is always (as stated before): are we willing to accept the cost of the death penalty (ie: innocent convictions) over the benefits?

You say:

You're considering the numbers apart from the very real human facts they enumerate. This isn't an engineering problem in which an acceptable rate of failure marks a clear point above which a solution is obviously successful. Each one of those data points on the side of failure represents a real person who, through no fault of their own, is condemned to death in your name.
I don't think that I'm considering them apart from the "real human facts." I acknowledge that actual people die based on these judgements and that it's a very difficult issue to weigh. Besides all of that, my actual point of view on the death penalty isn't so rigid (but I'll get to that in a bit). I think that the reality of this choice is in weighing the benefit that you get out of having a death penalty. It's a lot like sending people in to war. We know that people will die in a war, but we send them in anyway because we think that our lives will all be better off in the long run if the war is fought. Sometimes the nature of the conflict requires death. I think that the same thing often drives people to apply the death penalty. There are a lot of things that need to be accounted for. Do you let a person out of prison if he's very likely to go on a killing spree again? Do you keep him in prison for life instead of killing him? What do you do when the influx of prisoners exceeds your ability to house them sufficiently? What price are you willing to pay to feed/house the people for life? On another level, is it much better to put an innocent person in jail for life, where he'll probably be raped and subjected to all sorts of the "hidden crimes" of jail than to kill him? There are all sorts of different costs involved, and I don't think that saying "there will be no death penalty" is necessarily taking the moral high ground.

All of that having been said, I think that the death penalty is often overused. I think that it's useful to pull out in general lawless situations or when society just can't afford the risk of letting out people who will probably murder again. Most people who get the death penalty, like these child rapists and so on, probably should get life in prison (with psychiatric help) for the rest of their lives, so long as we can actually afford it. Still, I think that there is a point at which the benefit of having a death penalty can override the possibility of the loss of innocent lives. The goal is always to find the solution that results in the smallest loss of innocent life (so clearly, letting dangerous people back into society must be factored into that evaluation too).

-----
"Images containing sufficiently large skin-colored groups of possible limbs are reported as potentially containing naked people."
-- [ Parent ]
True enough... (5.00 / 1) (#91)
by cr8dle2grave on Wed Aug 28, 2002 at 03:48:53 PM EST

...but what possible benefits of the death penalty outweigh its risks?

Cost Analysis:

The cost of implementing a system capable of reasonably minimizing the occurrence of false convictions in capital cases will always exceed the cost of securely imprisoning someone for the remaining duration of their life. This is currently the case in the US, and were we to go to greater lengths to improve upon the current system the cost would rise even more. I'm assuming most advocates of the death penalty would agree that it is a moral imperative that the risk of false convictions be reduced as much as is possible, otherwise the position becomes, to some degree, one of, "kill them all and let God sort them out." Not a very compelling argument in an ostensibly civilized society.

You must also keep in mind the limited number of criminals eligible for receiving the death penalty. Currently fewer than 4000 inmates in the US are on death row and they represent only a small fraction of the overall prison population. Advocating their execution for strictly economic reasons makes little sense, unless of course, you're advocating that the range of crimes punishable by the death penalty be increased.

Criminal Intransigence and Recidivism:

Execution does have in its favor the distinct benefit that it absolutely assures against criminal re-offense. Of course, its merits must be balanced against the risk of false convictions. Given the fact that we currently have the facilities to imprison someone in such a fashion that almost no realistic chance of escape exists, I don't believe this concern outweighs the moral imperative to limit the number innocent executions as much as is possible.

The Cruelty of Imprisonment:

An interesting theoretical point, but I believe that in practice very few people would actually choose execution over life imprisonment. Of course, it is always possible to allow for an elective death penalty in which the convicted may voluntarily choose execution over imprisonment.

---

I see no benefits to the death penalty in a stable and civilized society which convincingly outweigh its risks. On the other hand, in an anarchic society the exigencies of establishing order could justify a much greater tolerance for unjust executions.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Briefly ... (5.00 / 1) (#95)
by Kalani on Wed Aug 28, 2002 at 05:06:25 PM EST

... because the thread continues growing and circling back in on itself, and I have a lot of other things to do:

The cost of implementing a system capable of reasonably minimizing the occurrence of false convictions in capital cases will always exceed the cost of securely imprisoning someone for the remaining duration of their life.
Not according to the definition you've given here it doesn't. For instance, requiring hard evidence (physical evidence, that is) before issuing death gives what many people consider to be a reasonably minimized chance of false conviction, and at the same time costs less on the whole than imprisoning a person for the rest of his/her life. This inequality of yours does not hold for all values of "reasonably minimiz[ed odds of false conviction]."

I'm assuming most advocates of the death penalty would agree that it is a moral imperative that the risk of false convictions be reduced as much as is possible, otherwise the position becomes, to some degree, one of, "kill them all and let God sort them out."
Actually there's another position between those two extremes, and that is to reduce the risk of false conviction as much as is economically possible. That doesn't immediately imply, "kill them all and let God sort them out" (a sophist argument in and of itself). It means that the justice system does not operate in a vacuum and funds must be distributed according to our priorities as a society. If we did throw all of our money at the justice system to the detriment of everything else, we might have people dying or becoming destitute for other reasons (eg: no military, less standards enforcers and regulators in the various food industries (or any industry for that matter), no public funding for education, no public funding for health programs, etc). The problems all coexist at once, and you don't have to pour every available resource into the justice system to do an adequate job of ensuring low odds of false convictions within those constraints. That's just the nature of the problem, and it applies to more than just funding for courts. To use a classic example, it's in the public interest for the airlines to cut funding for security precautions at a certain point because as the ticket price goes up (as it must for the airlines to recover the costs of security) more people take to driving ... and as is common knowledge by now, the odds of getting into a fatal accident go up if you're in a car. That's just a very simple example, but there are many other factors that are affected by your allocation of funds within a society. Neither does that fact dispatch with the arguments for a death penalty. If the drain of supporting prisoners who can't be rehabilitated is too great or the risk of increased murders (inside of prison or out) goes up because seriously dangerous people are not removed, then it's natural for the people to turn to the death penalty.

You must also keep in mind the limited number of criminals eligible for receiving the death penalty. Currently fewer than 4000 inmates in the US are on death row and they represent only a small fraction of the overall prison population. Advocating their execution for strictly economic reasons makes little sense, unless of course, you're advocating that the range of crimes punishable by the death penalty be increased.
The economic issues become important in a variety of circumstances ... the building of maximum security prisons, costs of housing them for extended periods of time, sufficient security to keep them from being killed by "regular" prisoners (who often enact their own kind of justice on people who've committed crimes that are disgusting even to them), and so on. And of course, the economic issues pale in comparison to the safety issues for society if certain extremely dangerous people get out. For instance, if you knew that a man would kill 20 innocent people if you didn't kill him first, would you kill him? It's not such a cut and dry question, and the wide variety of answers to it just illustrates that there's a lot of uncertainty and fuzzy thinking involved. You can't prove your value judgement in this case; at least not yet.

Execution does have in its favor the distinct benefit that it absolutely assures against criminal re-offense. Of course, its merits must be balanced against the risk of false convictions.
Right, that's what this whole thread with you has been about.

Given the fact that we currently have the facilities to imprison someone in such a fashion that almost no realistic chance of escape exists, I don't believe this concern outweighs the moral imperative to limit the number innocent executions as much as is possible.
Yet in the limit that you allow a large number of prisoners to go through the prison, a dangerous one will eventually escape (just as with the low odds of a false conviction you'll eventually have a false conviction if given enough chances). So why do you arbitrarily choose that unwelcome situation over the unwelcome situation of killing a small number of innocent people? It's just a shot in the dark without a reasonably accurate estimate of which choices will result in the smallest loss of innocent life.

An interesting theoretical point, but I believe that in practice very few people would actually choose execution over life imprisonment.
There's a strong argument that putting a person in a situation where he's likely to be repeatedly sodomized constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Besides, the preference of the prisoner doesn't define the validity of the punishment. Personally I'd prefer to have one of my testicles ripped off than to die, but that doesn't make such a punishment legal or justifiable.

I see no benefits to the death penalty in a stable and civilized society which convincingly outweigh its risks.
Yet the majority of the people accept it in the case of crimes like high treason or the attempted (or successful) murder of great numbers of people. Sometimes rehabilitation does nothing, and killing a threat to the public peace removes the concern related to that person forever. Hell we're willing to do it with enemy nations, a little bit of domestic policy is nothing compared to that.

Anyway, I'm mostly having to take the role of devil's advocate now just to keep showing that the answer to this question isn't so obvious and simple. It's not really getting anywhere and I think I'd rather put my attention on something with some hope of resolution.

-----
"Images containing sufficiently large skin-colored groups of possible limbs are reported as potentially containing naked people."
-- [ Parent ]
PS (none / 0) (#63)
by Kalani on Wed Aug 28, 2002 at 12:02:09 AM EST

"Preview" would help me avoid silly number labeling. :)

-----
"Images containing sufficiently large skin-colored groups of possible limbs are reported as potentially containing naked people."
-- [ Parent ]
One Bone To Pick (5.00 / 1) (#134)
by virg on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 05:38:46 PM EST

I have one bone to pick about a statement you made. You said:
(from the reports I've read about this case, the guy never told the judge that he was innocent)
The judge who presided over this case (and the original trial) stated, "I never heard this guy say 'I didn't do it'." This judge, however, is covering his ass, since Mr. Lloyd did indeed profess his innocence. The defendant was never in a position to state one way or the other to the judge, except when he entered his plea. That plea was "not guilty", so even though the judge never heard the statement directly from the Eddie Joe Lloyd himself, the plea should have been sufficient, and the fact that the judge said this is just dodging that fact.

To summarize, Mr. Lloyd said, "not guilty" and the judge said, "he never denied it". Sorry, but that doesn't ken.

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
OK (none / 0) (#135)
by Kalani on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 06:28:50 PM EST

I didn't read that in the linked story, but if he did actually plead "not guilty" then obviously that's equivalent. Thanks for the information.

-----
"Images containing sufficiently large skin-colored groups of possible limbs are reported as potentially containing naked people."
-- [ Parent ]
re: Yes. (5.00 / 5) (#44)
by demi on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 09:03:51 PM EST

I still don't understand what your point is. Is it to expose that the Innocence Project actually has a... *gasp* wide anti-death penalty agenda that is cleverly disguised as a project to help those who are wrongly sentenced?

No, that it does not well serve the ethical protest of the death penalty if the arguments are based on practical concerns that can ultimately be mitigated. And while I strongly agree that no one wrongly convicted should be imprisoned, much less executed, I believe that the motivating animus of the Innocence Project also involves political expediency and a concrete financial interest in resultant civil lawsuits (read the Case Profiles and you will see that almost all of the victims have been, or are in the process of being, very generously compensated). According to their 'Mission', their intention is to help prevent wrongful convictions - presumably by force of large punitive and compensatory settlements. It doesn't hurt to offer pro bono services in this capacity if you are able to reap a share of the judgements from civil suits, either.

Anyway, my point is that strategically, it's a bad idea for death penalty opponents to concentrate on aspects of accuracy and fairness. It's much the same situation with the ACLU's opposition to national ID schemes: their chief complaint is "that it will never work". As a result, their philosophical opposition is weakened by their pragmatic opposition, which can be easily countered if a reliable system is proposed and implemented.

[ Parent ]

Wow ... (5.00 / 1) (#60)
by waverleo on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 11:55:26 PM EST

... great comment.

Though I'm not clear on what your stance toward the death penalty is, your philosophical analysis is practically dead on ...

... with one exception. Are applications of the death penalty always going to be when there is 0% chance of innocence?

The problem is, you can never get 0%, so what percentage-chance-of-innocence would you produce as acceptable for the use of capital punishment?

While you're right that the grounding for anti-death penalty would be stronger if it avoided references to practicality, the truth is, in the case of the judicial system, you will never get 100% accuracy (Statistics, 101), ensuring the practicality argument validity virtually forever.

[ Parent ]

personal threshold (5.00 / 1) (#65)
by demi on Wed Aug 28, 2002 at 12:34:04 AM EST

The problem is, you can never get 0%, so what percentage-chance-of-innocence would you produce as acceptable for the use of capital punishment?

Normally the death penalty is only used in the most egregious cases of premeditated violence, and (normally) only in cases where there is a conviction from direct physical evidence. I think if you achieved a wrongful sentencing rate of less than 1%, and a wrongful execution rate of less than 0.1%, most neutrally or favorably-inclined people would be comfortable with that margin of error. However, just to play with some numbers, there have been about 700 executions in the US since 1976 and ~3,700 people currently on death row. At my hypothetical rate, there would then be only about 37 people currently unjustly convicted and sentenced, and somewhere around 1 unjustly executed (both numbers are too low). My rates, then, are unrealistically low to describe the present, but are probably less than an order of magnitude off and may be attainable with reform and improved technology.

Personally I am not sure what my opinion of the death penalty is, call me agnostic perhaps. I can see some instances where its application could be justified but I am not sure if it is consistent with my other beliefs.

[ Parent ]

0.1% error is too high for me (none / 0) (#67)
by iwnbap on Wed Aug 28, 2002 at 02:01:37 AM EST

Especially given the readily available alternative of life inprisonment.  

[ Parent ]
Numbers,numbers. (4.00 / 2) (#84)
by FredBloggs on Wed Aug 28, 2002 at 12:18:26 PM EST

If you cannot *prove* there is no error, then how can you support the death penalty? You`re moving away from a dry, philosophical abstract argument if you go "weeeeeellllll, most people will be ok with a few dead innocent people", aren't you?

Why is it so important to kill people? If you can't be sure, why not put them in prison so there's a chance they can be freed if there's a mistake? Why is that worse than killing them?

Whats the difference to the public, the victims family, other potential killers (assuming you go for the deterrant argument) etc?  It can't be the cost, can it? I mean, if the wrong person gets killed, won't there be payouts by the state. If the wrong person is incarcerated, they`ll get money too. How much will depend on a case by case basis. You can't really get any sensible result from such calculations, can you?

The only time I can see the death penalty having any use is if someone is convicted having admitted to the charge (and being found to be mentally competant), and having requested their own death on the grounds that they`d rather that than spend the rest of their life (60 odd years if they committed the crime early in their life) inside.

[ Parent ]

Well... (none / 0) (#150)
by Ken Arromdee on Fri Aug 30, 2002 at 10:36:23 AM EST

The same thing goes for prison. We know tht if we put people in prison, there will be some innocents in there. While there is a chance they could be exonerated later, that is only probabilistic. There will always be some innocent people that don't get exonerated later.

So, "if you can't *prove* there's no error, how can you support prison"? Is it really okay to have just a couple of innocent people in jail for 50 years each?

How can you say that it's unacceptable to kill a few innocent people, yet okay to give 50 year prison sentences to a few innocent people?

It's an inherent part of any justice system that it is not 100% perfect, and that it will hurt innocent people. It's even inevitable that some of them will be hurt in ways that you can't compensate for, whether because their innocence was never discovered, or because there's really no way to compensate someone for 50 years of their life, or whatever. The death penalty is by no means unique here--if you're worried about irreversible damage to innocent people, you should be against all sentencing.

[ Parent ]

Oh, and btw ... (4.00 / 3) (#61)
by waverleo on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 11:59:58 PM EST

... using the "they have private interests at heart" argument in the US will never fly. Almost every successful American endeavour has had as its engine a strong capitalistic imperative. It's up to the project designers (eg the original conceivers of the Innocence Project, who may or may not have a financial interest) to realise where there is money to be made, and use it as their "energy source".

Leo

[ Parent ]

Ethic and efficiency (5.00 / 1) (#77)
by linca on Wed Aug 28, 2002 at 08:12:42 AM EST

Well, which is the most efficient way to get people out of the death row when one opposes wholly against the death penalty?

It seems the US is not ready for wide support against death penalty on ethical basis; but showing that it is sometimes misapplied has worked at least in one state, and might work in others, thus saving lives.

It might not be the purest ethics to lie about one's true reason to be against death penalty, but the method that works faster is the one that'll save more lives.

And convincing that the death penalty is ethically wrong will probably be easier if it is already unused because of errors; which seems to be a good bet, right now.

[ Parent ]

DNA evidence (4.00 / 1) (#70)
by Herring on Wed Aug 28, 2002 at 03:41:01 AM EST

There are problems with DNA evidence. Frequently, figures are bandied around in front of the jury like "one in a million" which the jury could take to mean "there is a one in a million chance that he didn't do it". Of course, what it actually means is that there are a few hundred other people (in the US) who would also match the sample. More than that, where there is a small closed community (a small ethnic minority ghetto) then clearly the chances of a match of someone in that area are vastly increased.

To summarise, DNA (in a rape case of where you have a verifiable sample of the culprit's material) will not give a false negative. There is a chance that it will give a false positive though.


Say lol what again motherfucker, say lol what again, I dare you, no I double dare you
[ Parent ]
Statistics pet peeve (none / 0) (#98)
by rhino1302 on Wed Aug 28, 2002 at 06:44:54 PM EST

Of course, what it actually means is that there are a few hundred other people (in the US) who would also match the sample.

No, what it means is that there is a one in a million chance that a randomly selected person will have the same genetic markers.

What you said is the equivalent of saying a 100 storm happens once every 100 years, rather than saying that it is a storm with an average return period of 100 years, or has a probability of 0.01 of occuring in any given year.

Dumbing down is lossy.



[ Parent ]
Just ask David Dougherty! (4.50 / 2) (#103)
by rodgerd on Wed Aug 28, 2002 at 09:50:03 PM EST

The David Dougherty case in New Zealand was a very clear cut case where bad DNA evidence played a part in a wrongful conviction - essentially police scientists mishandled and misreported their findings through the case and appeals.

The difficulty in getting a fair deal through the legal system can be seen in the fact that Dougherty had to appeal to the Queen's representative in New Zealand (equivalent to bigging the Queen herself), and the slew of wrongful convictions around the time has caused the government of the day to cust back compensation for people wrongfully imprisoned.



[ Parent ]
Yes it did (5.00 / 4) (#100)
by borful on Wed Aug 28, 2002 at 07:55:22 PM EST

I used to be a pretty much uncritical supporter of the death penalty. "An eye for an eye"; it's the will of the people, and all that. They have special "death penalty certified" juries and they take extra care, with automatic appeals, and so forth.

Once I got on a jury and I heard peoples' comments - like "they wouldn't be here if they weren't guilty" I started having doubts about the jury system . . . but I didn't really think anyone would convict without good evidence.

Reading over some of the Innocence Project's case descriptions was when I started to have doubts about jury trials and the death penalty. There was one guy convicted with three positive eyewitness identifications. When he was exonerated by DNA, and they DNA'd the guy who really did do it, somebody took photos of the two guys to the eyewitnesses. They refused to believe they picked the wrong guy. A persuasive eyewitness will convice a jury.

I still don't want to get rid of the death penalty; it's still the will of the people. I think it will deter some criminals. What do we do about failures of the system? This is not an error we can fix by restoring from tape...

My solution is this: Give all death penalty defendants the exact same budget as the prosecution. If the DA can assign 4 lawyers, 12 DA investigators, 25 police, the local and FBI crime labs, and hire outside experts then they can pay for the defendant to hire that many lawyers, investigators, criminalists, and experts.

The cost of that would be prohibitive! Well, that's exactly the point. It's expensive to give the accused a fair trial. If you're going to require that the defendent put his life on the line, the very least the State can do is make him do it on a level playing field.

I think this would do two things: 1) fewer death penalty prosecutions - it's just too expensive for the DA. 2) More findings of Not Guilty. When the defendent has the resources to prove his own innocence and to disprove the State's evidence, there will be more aquittals. These two things will reinforce. The DA will only ask for the death penalty when he's absolutely sure he'll win - it's not worth risking that much of the budget on a non-sure thing. We then have a much lower rate of conviction for innocent defendents.

-borful
Money is how people with no talent keep score.
[ Parent ]

"matching funds" for public defenders - (4.00 / 1) (#118)
by waxmop on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 10:51:15 AM EST

public defenders are meant to guarantee everyone with adequate legal defense, but they are overworked and poorly compensated. furthermore, they are hated just a little less than the criminals they defend.

and no politician will campaign to raise the budget for public defenders -- that's a really hard sell in this "tough on crime" climate.

another solution to raise the quality of public defenders would be to require everyone to use them. at that point voters would find a way to improve the system.
--
We are a monoculture of horsecock. Liar
[ Parent ]

You are correct (4.00 / 1) (#123)
by borful on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 12:46:26 PM EST

Not only is my idea unworkable because no candidate would ever support it, but it may well be unconstitutional.

We are supposedly guarenteed "equal protection under the law". If a death penalty guy gets, say 5 million dollars for his defense but a life-in-prision guy gets 50 thousand, he could well argue that he is being denied equal protection under the law. Our choices would then be to either 1) ramp up ALL defense spending or 2) drop the idea.

It would work for a while . . .

- borful
Money is how people with no talent keep score.
[ Parent ]

Equal Funds (none / 0) (#143)
by wnight on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 10:04:54 PM EST

If everyone matched the funds their prosecutors had, it would be equal.

Perhaps both sides should get an ammount based on the type of trial, murder more than assault, more than theft, etc. Then either side can ask for more money, but the other side gets matching funds.

By keeping it from being open ended you stop people trying to just milk the system. By letting either side increase the ammount you prevent, for instance, the prosecutor keeping the ammount of money low intentionally, knowing that the prisoner appears guilty and will have a hard time clearing themselves.

btw, your sig doesn't completely fit...
I've proposed something like this for civil trials. Quite often you see evidence of a large company keeping a trial going, waiting for their opponent to declare bankruptcy. With matching funds you can't prevent one company from outlasting the other, but you can prevent that impending bankruptcy from removing much-needed legal funds.

[ Parent ]

So what? (none / 0) (#145)
by bigsexyjoe on Fri Aug 30, 2002 at 04:54:34 AM EST

What you say does not undermine his arguement. You have engaged in ad hominem attack. It is not a valid form of logical arguement. It is the tactic of one who knows he is incorrect.

[ Parent ]
Show me a system where there is no chance of error (2.50 / 12) (#40)
by mingofmongo on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 08:24:29 PM EST

and then I'll listen to whiney dorks talking about the flawed, barbaric justice system in the US.

How is it done in your country? Does the wise old witch doctor dance around the entrails of a freshly killed llama?

Out of hundreds of thousands of cases a year, having an all time 110 turn out mistaken is a pretty good record.

You'll notice if you read the articles in your links that the man in this article never once in his trial said that he didn't do it. How would you have corrected this 'flaw' at a time when there was no capability of using DNA as evidence?

"What they don't seem to get is that the key to living the good life is to avoid that brass ring like the fucking plague."
--The Onion

Uh... (5.00 / 2) (#45)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 09:11:30 PM EST

...he pleaded not guilty, which I think is a pretty clear indication that he maintained his innocence. He may not have directly said it himself in trial, but that is almost certainly due to the fact that he, like most criminal defendants, didn't testify on his own behalf. Think about it, if you were his lawyer and believed in his innocence would you put him on the stand after he confessed in an interrogation? Who knows what he might have said in trial.

Your point about the relative merits of the US judicial system is well taken. Despite its shortcomings, it remains among the very best in the world.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
can be improved (none / 0) (#154)
by animal on Fri Aug 30, 2002 at 01:51:16 PM EST

a quick and simple improvement: get rid of the death penalty

[ Parent ]
I think that (3.00 / 3) (#78)
by highenergystar on Wed Aug 28, 2002 at 09:26:36 AM EST

you might better appreciate the significance of this number when it is YOU that is one of the ones that got falsely arrested. Then blame it on the luck of the draw and then try and stop whining c.f. the rest of the recent submissions and how people are being arrested on the merest whim, and how the FBI lied to courts to get the convictions they wanted

[ Parent ]
And I think that... (3.00 / 1) (#86)
by nsgnfcnt1 on Wed Aug 28, 2002 at 01:13:56 PM EST

you might better appreciate the significance if it was the killer of one of your family members that goes free on a "technicality". The system is the best we have. No system is perfect. And until someone presents a viable alternative this discussion is widely void of merit.

[ Parent ]
I'm sorry... (5.00 / 5) (#87)
by cr8dle2grave on Wed Aug 28, 2002 at 01:46:30 PM EST

...but I hardly think being denied the satisfaction of vengeance, no matter how well adorned in the trappings of justice, can even begin to compare to the egregious violation of individual liberty represented by unjust imprisonment and execution. The innocent must weigh heaviest on the scales of justice.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Better ideas? (none / 0) (#115)
by nsgnfcnt1 on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 09:56:46 AM EST

Hey, I think we're all in agreement that imprisoning the innocent is a bad thing. My point is that, until there are brain-scanners that can prove guilt or innocence there will always be the few that are imprisoned falsely. Does it suck? Yes. Would I change the system if there were a "better" way? Yes. Would I blindly change the system to become more lenient for the sake of reducing the already low error rate? Hell no. It is what it is. It's a good system. When someone proposes a better one I'm all ears.

[ Parent ]
How about... (5.00 / 2) (#132)
by cr8dle2grave on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 04:02:09 PM EST

...as a start, we stop executing people until we get some of those brain-scanners which can absolutely assure us of somebody's guilt.

We may never be able to absolutely assure ourselves that we have not imprisoned somebody unjustly, but we can absolutely insure ourselves that we don't unjustly execute somebody by refraining from executions.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Viable alternative to capital punishment: (none / 0) (#163)
by magney on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 03:54:12 AM EST

Life without possibility of parole.

Do I look like I speak for my employer?
[ Parent ]

hundreds of thousands? (5.00 / 3) (#126)
by ethereal on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 01:42:05 PM EST

There are not hundreds of thousands of death penalty convictions per year, otherwise most prisoners would be on death row. The important ratio is the number of death penalty convictions versus the number of death row exonerations due to DNA evidence.

For comparison, the State of Illinois has exonerated more death row inmates than it has actually put to death. That is a scary ratio. 110 innocent men nationally that may have died due to the laziness or incompetence of the legal system is a scary number.

--

Stand up for your right to not believe: Americans United for Separation of Church and State
[ Parent ]

DNA evidence (1.14 / 7) (#48)
by medham on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 10:25:52 PM EST

Undermines the justice system, and it should be banned. It is far more harmful to our social fabric, as a whole, for an innocent man to spend his life in jail than for many convicted criminals to be freed or have DNA verifications at public expense. The man in question admitted his guilt; we're all guilty, and he should have been left with his burden.

The logical consequence of this is a surfeit of judicial democratization, which will lead to problems you can't even imagine at this point.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.

I'm afraid ... (5.00 / 3) (#58)
by waverleo on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 11:42:24 PM EST

... you're going to have to justify that one. One of the major tenets of the American system, or at least so I believed, was that it was better to let 10 criminals go free than to convict one innocent person - hence the "innocent until proven guilty" and "beyond a reasonable doubt" aspects of your legal system.

Leo

[ Parent ]

So (1.60 / 5) (#59)
by medham on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 11:44:56 PM EST

I'd guess you rather have ten child-predators running free than have one maladjusted individually "improperly" imprisoned. I guess that's a difference between you and me.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

I would be willing to bet (4.66 / 3) (#68)
by Greyshade on Wed Aug 28, 2002 at 02:08:28 AM EST

That your view would change radically if you were the 'one maladjusted individual improperly imprisoned'.

[ Parent ]
Improperly imprisoned vs. improperly killed (none / 0) (#152)
by hatshepsut on Fri Aug 30, 2002 at 01:17:12 PM EST

We all admit that no justice system is perfect, and the current state of justice in the US is certainly better than "throw her in the lake, if she sinks she is innocent, if she floats she is a witch and we can burn her".

Given that the justice system isn't perfect, there are GOING to be people "improperly" imprisoned for various reasons (I would use the term "mistakenly", but whatever). Why, however, compound the error by using the death penalty? You can set someone free, you can't bring them back to life.

[ Parent ]

Sides of the coin (5.00 / 1) (#71)
by SanSeveroPrince on Wed Aug 28, 2002 at 04:08:27 AM EST

I am certain that your manly stance would crumble very quickly if you were unjustly accused of any crime warranting capital punishment.

On a side note, most capital punishments and fascist attitudes tend to crumble once the coin turns the other way, and the mindless masses pronouncing their martial dogmas are faced with the consequences they had previously inflicted on others.

There unfortunately is an enormous discrepancy between running society humanely, and running it efficiently. I'd just pick humanely any time of day, personally.

----

Life is a tragedy to those who feel, and a comedy to those who think


[ Parent ]
Major Flaws (5.00 / 3) (#133)
by virg on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 05:13:56 PM EST

Holy crap. I hardly know where to begin.

> DNA Testing undermines the justice system, and it should be banned.

Would you care to explain how it undermines anything? It's like a fingerprint done deeper, and it merely shows that a particular sample of genetic material does or does not belong to a certain person. By your logic, fingerprinting should also be banned.

> It is far more harmful to our social fabric, as a whole, for an innocent man to spend his life in jail than for many convicted criminals to be freed or have DNA verifications at public expense.

I can only suspect you meant to say this the other way around, because I agree that it's far worse to imprison an innocent person than to let a guilty person go free. If not committing a crime is no longer sufficient to avoid being punished for it, there's not much justice in your justice system, is there?

> The man in question admitted his guilt; we're all guilty, and he should have been left with his burden.

This statement shows just how dumb your stance really is. You say that it's better to jail this guy despite his innocence than to let criminals go free? Well, guess what? Your solution does both, you moron. While this innocent man is "left with his burden", the person who really raped and murdered that girl walks around with nobody looking for him. Nice work. At least now, the case can be reopened, and there's some remote chance that real justice will be served.

Now go away until you get a clue.

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
I find your distain for the truth disturbing.[n/t] (none / 0) (#166)
by RyoCokey on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 11:13:50 AM EST



If there really is a causation between porn and rape, then I say bring on the bukkak
[
Parent ]
what's the scale of the problem? (5.00 / 2) (#56)
by semaphore on Tue Aug 27, 2002 at 11:36:13 PM EST

... 110th American convict ...

out of how many? in what period of time? is the rate increasing or decreasing?


-
"you want enlightenment? stare into the sun."


110th since 1990 (4.00 / 1) (#117)
by waxmop on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 10:43:39 AM EST

1990 was the first time DNA evidence was allowed in court. Frontline did a story on dna evidence here, and a google search will provide plenty of background on the science and laws involved.

However, i don't see why it really matters how many people are being proven innocent, or if the rate is increasing. if an innocent man is in prison, then the system has failed.
--
We are a monoculture of horsecock. Liar
[ Parent ]

No shades of grey here, huh? (none / 0) (#159)
by roystgnr on Sat Aug 31, 2002 at 08:07:08 PM EST

You realize that the only way to be 100% sure that there are no innocent men in prison is to release every single convict and bulldoze the prisons down, right? If every murderer, robber, and rapist is let back out on the street, would that not be a failed system as well?

[ Parent ]
no subject (none / 0) (#162)
by magney on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 03:49:42 AM EST

I don't ask that there be no innocent men in prison. But I do insist that there be no innocent men on death row. And although abolishing death row isn't a sufficiently popular position in the US, it certainly isn't as wild an idea as abolishing prisons altogheter.

Do I look like I speak for my employer?
[ Parent ]

Answer: (none / 0) (#161)
by magney on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 03:46:11 AM EST

In 2001, the number of people on death row was 3711.

To my mind, a 3% failure rate is unacceptable, given that we're talking about killing people here. As for the rate, that's difficult to gauge, given that a lot of people being found innocent by DNA testing were convicted before DNA testing was possible.

Do I look like I speak for my employer?
[ Parent ]

Psychiatric institutions (4.50 / 2) (#64)
by docvin on Wed Aug 28, 2002 at 12:14:32 AM EST

However, it takes only an elementary acquaintance with the psychiatric institutions of the United States to understand that...

Unfortunately, some of us don't have an elementary acquaintance with the psychiatric institutions of the United States. Would you like to provide more information?

Of course, the confession of a truly insane or heavily drugged individual isn't quite conclusive evidence, but I don't see that every confession from any psychiatric inmate should be disallowed as evidence.

The modern justice system. (2.50 / 6) (#72)
by Graham Thomas on Wed Aug 28, 2002 at 05:34:52 AM EST

The modern justice system is becoming less and less competent, worldwide, as time goes on. This is just one more example. DNA testing should be mandatory, cases should not be based on emotional evidence, and the number of judges should be greatly reduced, because unfortuantely, a lot of them are completely incompetent. The whole idea of "jury" duty is also completely ridiculous.

What we're starting to see, as well, is the system slowly moving away from the death penalty for murder, and towards imprisonment for petty crimes. Prisons in a lot of areas in the world are becoming overcrowded because of this stupid arrangement.

The death penalty should be reintroduced for murder (after mandatory DNA testing), and birching should be reintroduced for the majority of other crimes. This would leave prisons more able to deal effectively with the reduced number of inmates.

Prison time generally doesn't work for most criminals, and in fact can make even harder criminals out of them, leaving the only option for the prison route life imprisonment, which is a huge burden on taxpayers. Birching would solve a lot of this problem.



Ummm ... (4.50 / 2) (#82)
by sonovel on Wed Aug 28, 2002 at 11:50:05 AM EST

DNA testing wasn't available when many of these cases were tried.

Also, past mistakes are being corrected and better testing is being used today. Seems like better results are happening today than 15 years ago.

So do you have any real evidence that the modern justice system is becoming less competant? If these 110 cases make you think that, you've got it completely backwards.

[ Parent ]

a healthy purging? (5.00 / 3) (#101)
by sesh on Wed Aug 28, 2002 at 08:37:34 PM EST

i dont understand how any civilised person can say with a straight face that people should be killed because they are overcrowding prisons.

that seems to be the quickest, easiest and most barbaric solution to the problem, and a tidy way of avoiding recognition of the social issues that creates the criminals in the first place.

[ Parent ]

Perhaps instead of a descent to further barbarism (5.00 / 4) (#102)
by rodgerd on Wed Aug 28, 2002 at 09:40:29 PM EST

...we could try for something a little more enlightened. For one thing, if crimes are genuinely petty, why prosecute them? In the United States the prisons are filling up because of the War on Drugs putting people away for, well, doing nothing worse to thier body than you see in any given smoke-filled bar on a Friday night. Vice squads still bug prostitutes (but rarely, you'll note, their customers). Police find time to bust 248 people hanging out in a parking lot, but can't catch burglars.

There's a lot more that can be done outside of the field of decriminalising what are essentially victimless crimes. The learning disability dyslexia is found more commonly in prisons (often hitherto undiagnosed) than outside in many countries, suggesting that spending more time in early education looking out for learning disabilities and helping kids with them would pay off in the long term.



[ Parent ]
Correction: "War on SOME Drugs" [n-t] (3.00 / 1) (#111)
by Josh A on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 03:47:36 AM EST


---
Thank God for Canada, if only because they annoy the Republicans so much. – Blarney


[ Parent ]
correct (4.00 / 1) (#153)
by animal on Fri Aug 30, 2002 at 01:43:23 PM EST

but how many voters relise that a lot of drugs are legel. How many will admit that alcohol, nicotine, caffine etc are addictive harmful DRUGS! very few.
when people say cannabis is the gateway drug, what about alcohol, most people I know got drunk before they every got stoned.
 

[ Parent ]
Crimes (none / 0) (#112)
by Graham Thomas on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 04:01:15 AM EST

On the Isle of Man, crime levels increased drastically after birching was ruled illegal. There can be no denying that, and the fact that birching is a deterrant to criminals. It would also keep prisons free for more serious crimes and/or crimes for which prison time would be more suitable.

[ Parent ]
correlation, meet causation (5.00 / 1) (#116)
by lordpixel on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 10:22:45 AM EST

methinks that you are a troll, sir.

Clearly stating that 2 things happened in the same decade, or even the same year, isn't demonstrating causation, merely correlation.

To put it another way, what other factors are you not telling me about Britain and the Isle on Man in the 1970s? (yes, I saw your other post above). Could the economic depression have had something to do with it?

Lets ask another question - what do you suppose the experience of a tiny island (73,000 people, about 3 times the size of Washington DC) might teach us about the 60 million people of the UK or the 200 million of the US? Very little I fear.

You can choose to believe in a silver bullet if you like, but you'll have to work harder than that to convince me.


I am the cat who walks through walls, all places and all times are alike to me.
[ Parent ]

Cite? (5.00 / 1) (#130)
by rodgerd on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 03:25:42 PM EST

More to the point: Since the addition of the prase "under God" to the United States pledge of allegience and the addition of "In God We Trust" to its currency in the post-war period, the illict use of drugs, divorce, rape, child abuse, and pornography has increased dramatically. Clearly the removal of these phrases will do more to decrease crime than birching.



[ Parent ]
Boy do I agree! (none / 0) (#122)
by dooglio on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 12:42:09 PM EST

Dumping the idiotic war on drugs would empty our prisons out, not to mention reduce the burden on the taxpayer. You have a good solution overall: eliminate the petty crime laws. One wonders why suggestions like these are never seen in the mainstream media (with the exception of John Stossel's War on Drugs expose on ABC a month or so ago).

[ Parent ]
DNA Testing (5.00 / 1) (#79)
by Merk00 on Wed Aug 28, 2002 at 10:55:09 AM EST

The calls for their to have been DNA testing in this case are rather silly. Eddie Lloyd began serving his sentence in 1985. That was the same year that Polymerace Chain Reaction (PCR) was first developed. PCR makes DNA testing possible because it is a reliable method for increasing the amount of DNA strands geometrically. Without this, DNA testing is not possible.

------
"At FIRST we see a world where science and technology are celebrated, where kids think science is cool and dream of becoming science and technology heroes."
- FIRST Mission

The Innocence Project (4.00 / 1) (#85)
by Burning Straw Man on Wed Aug 28, 2002 at 12:47:59 PM EST

The Innocence Project shows that Eddie Joe Lloyd is the 110th person to be exhonerated.
--
your straw man is on fire...
I love your blatant assumption (2.40 / 5) (#89)
by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Aug 28, 2002 at 02:39:50 PM EST

You implicitly assert that only the US has a "flawed" criminal justice system, yet you provide no facts to back this up. Is that because no other country convicts innocent men? Or is it because no other country allows convicted felons so many chances to prove their innocence?


--
So many freaks, so few circuses.


Are You (4.66 / 3) (#99)
by icastel on Wed Aug 28, 2002 at 07:39:29 PM EST

"implicitly asserting" that he is wrong? or are you merely "implicitly" putting words in his mouth?

Troll.




-- I like my land flat --
[ Parent ]
Oh, I see. (2.00 / 1) (#120)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 11:11:05 AM EST

You disagree with me, so I must be a troll.

Incisive reasoning, I must say.


--
So many freaks, so few circuses.


[ Parent ]

Rest assured (none / 0) (#125)
by StrontiumDog on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 01:39:12 PM EST

The article I am currently preparing stating that you have a small penis will not make the mistake of "implicitly" assuming that yours is the smallest penis in the world. We will stick strictly to the subject matter at hand, or, to be more accurate, in the tweezers. Any misapprehensions, doubts, or prepensities to engage in penis measurement contests with others will be wholly yours.

[ Parent ]
Penis size. (none / 0) (#147)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Aug 30, 2002 at 09:37:53 AM EST

Hey, it works well enough to father children. I have no fears on that score.

Bring on the micrometer, baby.


--
So many freaks, so few circuses.


[ Parent ]

Sure (none / 0) (#129)
by icastel on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 02:37:43 PM EST

Why not? I disagree with you, therefore, you are a troll. Right? Wrong. Where's the proof to back that up?


-- I like my land flat --
[ Parent ]
Are you paying attention? (none / 0) (#146)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Aug 30, 2002 at 09:36:52 AM EST

You called me a troll. What other proof do I need that you called me a troll?


--
So many freaks, so few circuses.


[ Parent ]

Are YOU Paying Attention? (none / 0) (#151)
by icastel on Fri Aug 30, 2002 at 11:50:24 AM EST

Prove that the only reason I called you a troll is because I disagree with you. You were quick to scream about that, so you must have a good reason to say it. I think you're just the type that shoots "off the hip." Or, even better, you're just a troll.


-- I like my land flat --
[ Parent ]
Rather (4.66 / 3) (#105)
by acheon on Wed Aug 28, 2002 at 10:11:21 PM EST

... or is it that other countries' "performance" has nothing to do with it ? That if the U.S. performs badly and the others do worse, then all of these systems are flawed ?

... or is it that these numbers are probably a dramatic underestimation of the actual number or innocent people convicted, since not all of them may get the chance to get the verdict overturned ?

... or is it that you're a complete moron ?

I can't be bad since the others are worse than myself. Hmmm...

[ Parent ]

Sure he did. (4.00 / 1) (#110)
by magney on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 03:40:29 AM EST

He only really needs one more fact to back up the assertion: the number of people on death row, which was 3711 in 2001.

I don't care whether this represents "flaws" in the system or just the inherent uncertainty of any criminal process - a nearly 3% failure rate is simply NOT acceptable, given that we're talking about killing people.

Do I look like I speak for my employer?
[ Parent ]

This is true. (none / 0) (#148)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Aug 30, 2002 at 09:39:59 AM EST

And I am whole heartedly against the death penalty.

It just drives me nuts when people make sweeping claims about how poor the US justice system is compared to, say, China, or Saudi Arabia, for example.


--
So many freaks, so few circuses.


[ Parent ]

True enough. (none / 0) (#156)
by magney on Sat Aug 31, 2002 at 03:42:19 AM EST

But I'm not sure if the author was saying what you think you're saying. He's just saying that the system is flawed enough to sentence far too many innocent people to death - he's not necessarily saying it's more flawed than that of other nations.

Indeed, the reason I'm opposed to the death penalty is not that I think the US's system is especially flawed, but because I think no system we can possibly conceive of now is accurate enough to be trusted with the right to officially kill.

Do I look like I speak for my employer?
[ Parent ]

It's not the effect, it's the process (2.00 / 3) (#94)
by decaf_dude on Wed Aug 28, 2002 at 04:53:41 PM EST

I fully support death penalty for the heinous crimes it is currently reserved for. People who murder and rape do not deserve a place in society, it's that simple (in my books).

Unfortunately, the record shows our ability to convict correct people is horrendous and as such the capital punishment should be suspended until our investigation techniques and legal system in general are sofisticated enough to guarantee the guilt of the convict.


--
http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=89158&cid=7713039


you can't get the death penalty for rape (5.00 / 1) (#119)
by waxmop on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 11:04:51 AM EST

the supreme court ruled rape doesn't warrant the death penalty. here's the link.

furthermore, rape often warrants a lesser sentence than the average mid-level pot dealer.

how's that for social priorities?
--
We are a monoculture of horsecock. Liar
[ Parent ]

Re: Death penalty for rape (5.00 / 1) (#168)
by physgreg on Mon Sep 02, 2002 at 11:19:51 AM EST

It's a good job you can't get the death penalty for rape, otherwie I bet you'd see a lot more rape/murders, as the rapist decides to eliminate the main witness.

[ Parent ]
Getting a Confession (4.83 / 6) (#97)
by frankwork on Wed Aug 28, 2002 at 05:50:54 PM EST

I'd suggest that everyone listed to Act Two of this episode of This American Life.

It basically details the sorts of lies that are routinely and legally told to suspects in order to get them to confess. The piece is a recording of a police interrogation of a 14-year-old boy who police suspected of killing his sister. At the beginning of the interrogation, he believes he is innocent, but by the end the police convince him (by telling a series of outright fabrications) that he is guilty.

I can really describe it as anything other than deeply disturbing.



if only it were mandatory... (3.50 / 2) (#107)
by SvnLyrBrto on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 02:31:33 AM EST

... that in cases like this; the cops who decided it was easier to frame an innocent man than arrest the real culprit, and the DA and judge who went along with the scheme; were all required to be imprisoned for an equal time as the victim of their conspiracy...

... we might actually start down the path towards a "justice system" that is actually JUST.

cya,
john

Imagine all the people...

Conspiracy? (4.00 / 1) (#124)
by greenrd on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 01:20:41 PM EST

When someone is later found innocent with DNA evidence, that doesn't necessarily imply a conspiracy. Human memory is frighteningly fallible. Some studies I have read about on human memory cause me to doubt that even two or three eyewitnesses are enough to safely convict a person alone.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

A Fundemental Problems of the U.S. Court System. (4.91 / 12) (#108)
by NateTG on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 03:17:46 AM EST

A fundemental problem of the U.S. court system is that it is a competition between two teams, and not an attempt to find the truth.

Since the system is not particularly interested truth, or fact , but instead in political goals (see Salem Mass.), both sides often go to great lengths to falsify things. Attorneys are certain to engage in irrelevant ad hominem attacks on witnesses in attempts to discredit them, and cases can be won and lost on the merits of individuals (e.g. Mark Furman).

Moreover, the system allows flagrant emotional appeals by witnesses and attorneys. An excellent example of a questionable trial is Timothy McVeigh whose trial included a parade of witnesses crying about the lost loved ones at the bombing. Although I do not deny that they have suffered, I cannot concieve of any reason that their testimony is apropos to the trial. They certainly weren't witnesses, or experts on the bombing.

The McVeigh trial also reeks of kangaroo court for other reasons -- the defense was laughable, lasting a whole two days after several weeks of prosecution. It's improbable that the jury was impartial before the trial considering the scale of the bombing, and even less likely that the public defender was competent. McVeigh certainly did not have the courtroom resources that the procecution was able to mount in such a high profile case.

Of course police techniques for manipulating evidence are not limited to abusive interrogation, but also include rigged lineups and planting information so that the confessions can be verified.

The court system also relies much to heavily on eye witnesses, witnesses that are notoriously unreliable. It boggles my mind that cases based on circumstatial evidence , i.e. evidence that is not eyewitness testimony are considered weak, and that eyewitness testimony is considered strong.

Trials have become a duel of arcane and obscure matters. If you are charged with a crime, you end up watching a wizards duel between the attorneys. Of course pandering to the jury or buying the judge won't hurt either.

The jury system is also quite questionable. As I recall the defendant is entitled to a jury of his peers. Now, does that mean that an affluent buisnessman is entitled to a jury of buisnessmen, or a ghetto dweller is entitled to a jury of people from his neighborhood? No. I suppose an extreme example is the Rondey King trial. As you may recall, there was a change of venue to Simi Valley, an area that has an extremely high population of retired policemen, so the jury was likely to be extremely sympathetic.

There is also a massive and lucrative prison industry in the United States. Although it's a cynical attitute, I'm almost certain that the system has been rigged to produce large prison populations by the 'tough on crime' political candidates who recive funding from the prison industry.

Now, if you consider that it is cheaper to imprison someone for life than it is to put them to death through the legal system, and that it's just as effective at removing them from society, then you're out of pragmatic reasons for applying the death penalty. If it ever becomes more economical to execute people as in China, then there may be pragmatic justification for it.

In the US the death penalty is used for political purposes, and for revenge. I suppose that people want to believe that it's for some other reason, but I cannot concieve of any other plausible motiviations.

No more jury duty! (5.00 / 1) (#109)
by Josh A on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 03:34:53 AM EST

Thank you! I have memorized your post and can repeat it verbatim to judges and attorneys. I will never have to serve jury duty again.

---
Thank God for Canada, if only because they annoy the Republicans so much. – Blarney


[ Parent ]
Any suggests beside Deus Ex Machina? [n/t] (none / 0) (#165)
by RyoCokey on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 11:12:49 AM EST



If there really is a causation between porn and rape, then I say bring on the bukkak
[
Parent ]
Justice system. (3.50 / 2) (#114)
by Graham Thomas on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 05:39:14 AM EST

It's long been held that the reintroduction of judicial birching would have a great impact on the crime rate and a far better deterrent than a lot of currently passed sentences.

For those of you who may not know what a birch is, it is comprised of a bunch of birch-tree twigs tied together to form an implement which can be effectively used to administer whippings.

Crime rates on the mainland UK skyrocketed after 1948 when birching was banned, while the crime rates of neighbouring islands such as Jersey and the Isle of Man, where birching was still legal, remained far lower. In the late 1970s, after birching was banned on the Isle of Man, crime rates jumped to levels almost as high as the mainland.

If the United States and other countries implemented (or reimplemented) such measures, it's conceivable that crime levels would decrease similarly.



Cause and consequences (4.50 / 2) (#121)
by Betcour on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 12:31:58 PM EST

The very important thing when talking about crime rate and deterent is to know if the deterent was enacted/removed because of increasing/decreasing crime rate or the other way around. Causality is not easy to find in this situation.

[ Parent ]
While (4.00 / 1) (#127)
by StrontiumDog on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 01:56:29 PM EST

I doubt birching will have much of an effect on certain categories of criminals, I strongly support its introduction on all forms of football hooligans, indeed on anyone who insists on expressing his enthusiasm for football in public in any form more boisterous than a polite handclap.

[ Parent ]
About all I'll say in favor of birching... (none / 0) (#155)
by magney on Sat Aug 31, 2002 at 03:37:22 AM EST

...is that it's less of a cruel and unusual punishment than being raped in prison, like in the US. Mind you, if we can't come up with a way to prevent prison rape, that in itself might be enough of an argument in its favor...

Do I look like I speak for my employer?
[ Parent ]

the death penalty should be (1.00 / 1) (#136)
by techwolf on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 06:45:33 PM EST

EXPANDED to other crimes, yes thats right to even more crimes than it is now. In addition it should be done within say 6 months of conviction.
the is a thing called acceptable loses


"The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." - Thomas Jefferson

Deterrence and acceptable loss? (none / 0) (#138)
by marc987 on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 08:33:10 PM EST

Go to a state that has the death penalty and confess to the most horrible unsolved capital crime.

Not.

[ Parent ]

if there was (none / 0) (#142)
by techwolf on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 09:57:30 PM EST

enough proof that I was convicted even though I knew I hadn't done it than yes, I would call myself an acceptable loss.


"The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." - Thomas Jefferson
[ Parent ]

Enough proof... (none / 0) (#158)
by demus on Sat Aug 31, 2002 at 05:12:51 PM EST

It is comfortable to know about the high standards of evidence - as evinced by the continuing tales in the New York Times regarding Tullia, Texas -, that your conviction could be based on.

I also saw a very interesting bit on discovery, about how a particulary "vigourous" investigation, resulted in some 4 convictions based solely on a chain of confessions, where one man implicated the next. There was even contradicting evidence in some of the cases, that was ignored, because of the confession.

Daniel



[ Parent ]
And such a thing as unacceptable losers. (none / 0) (#149)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Aug 30, 2002 at 09:52:01 AM EST

I really don't want anyone's blood on my hands, thank you - and having the state kill them for me just makes it worse; it makes me a killer and a coward.


--
So many freaks, so few circuses.


[ Parent ]

DNA is not the Absolute Truth (5.00 / 1) (#137)
by phliar on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 07:59:45 PM EST

Disclaimer: I'm opposed to the death penalty. If Dubya should pull out a pistol during a nationally televised press conference and shoot a little girl in cold blood, I'd still oppose his execution.

I fear that the anti-death-penalty camp is getting too hung up on DNA as perfect. Look at fingerprints: even if you buy the thesis that no two people have the same patterns on their fingertips (and I think this is a reasonable belief to have), the way the criminal justice system uses it is totally bogus. It is too subjective; some "expert" comes to the stand and testifies that there were 11 "points of similarity" or whatever, and that's supposed to be the final word. That's bullshit.

Similarly, it is reasonable to assume that no two people have the same genome. However, an RFLP gel "signature" is quite removed from the genome. How are we to make sure that RFLP is not similarly misused by over-zealous police departments and the DA to push through a conviction where they "just know" that the suspect is guilty?

I oppose the death penalty not just on the grounds of innocent people being killed by the state -- a process that makes you and me murderers -- but that we can never have absolute knowledge, so we should never administer the ultimate penalty.


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...

No it isn't (none / 0) (#157)
by epepke on Sat Aug 31, 2002 at 01:29:16 PM EST

Similarly, it is reasonable to assume that no two people have the same genome.

Identical twins share the same genome. Hence the name "identical."


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


[ Parent ]
Examiner biases in DNA testing (5.00 / 3) (#139)
by phliar on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 08:35:55 PM EST

After my earlier comment I did some research (i.e. google). I came up with this interesting case: Examiner Bias in Forensic RFLP Analysis dealing with People v. Marshall (Los Angeles County Superior Court, No. BA 069796, 1996) where DNA tests "proved" that Marshall was guilty of rape; however, the defense attorney asked for a re-evaluation while being present. This is what he reports:
During this re-scoring, the claim that the process was objective evaporated. In order to detect bands in the male vaginal extract lane that corresponded to those of Suspect 1, the analyst had to increase the sensitivity of the computer to the point that it detected many additional "bands" that matched neither suspect. The analyst then performed a "manual override" of the computer's scorings, instructing the computer to "delete" (i.e., ignore) all of the bands that matched neither suspect. An image of the autorad appeared on a computer screen, with green lines indicating places where the computer had detected a "band." The analyst was able to delete any bands that were not deemed to be "true" bands though a simple point-and-click operation with the computer mouse. The software program also allows an analyst to re-position the "bands" using the mouse.

When asked to state the basis for deleting some bands while leaving others, the analyst responded that he could "tell by looking" that the undeleted bands (which happened to match my client) were true bands, while the others were not. A number of the deleted bands had higher optical densities than the bands scored as matching my client. So much for objectivity.

Let's not pin all our hopes on any one "magic bullet" but work to ensure a fair justice system. In the case of RFLP testing, we should make sure that examiner biases are removed as much as possible by using standard protocols of "science" i.e. the DNA lab must not know anything about the case or which samples correspond to suspects and which are controls (double-blind).


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...

that should be criminal (none / 0) (#140)
by mattw on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 08:54:46 PM EST

I can't even imagine what a DNA tester is thinking in such a circumstance. Does the person realize they are skewing information believed to be impartial? That should be a crime, just as much as planting evidence on the scene.


[Scrapbooking Supplies]
[ Parent ]
Examiner biases are not intentional (none / 0) (#141)
by phliar on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 09:14:15 PM EST

I can't even imagine what a DNA tester is thinking in such a circumstance.
I can, quite easily -- which is why I think this is of vital importance. The technician does not think s/he is doing anything wrong, merely helping justice be done. If I thought that some action of mine would help bring a rapist to justice, would I ease off on my professional objectivism? Yes, I would. Especially if I felt that most people brought to trial are guilty. Add to that today's "tough on crime" crap, and....

(I happen to be fortunate that in my profession, another person's health or liberty will never depend on my work.)


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

False positives and false negatives (none / 0) (#144)
by epepke on Thu Aug 29, 2002 at 10:56:58 PM EST

A negative result with DNA testing is way, way stronger than a positive result, for this and many other reasons. Since it is the negative result that is used to exonerate, I think this is pretty safe.


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


[ Parent ]
Playing with the Devil's avocado (none / 0) (#160)
by epepke on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 03:15:52 AM EST

I've been going on about DNA evidence and what it says about the criminal justice system for a long time.

But, what if it isn't a flaw? What if convicting innocent people is part of the purpose of a justice system under a democratic government?

I hear people all the time, when someone says something about the rights of the accused, say, "Hah! What about the rights of the victim?" Lots of police departments have victims' advocacy groups who get to have a say in the whole process. Well, since the concept of the rights of the accused is pretty obviously about making sure that the wrong person isn't convicted, it follows that such groups consider the innocence or guilt of the accused a matter of secondary importance.

I hear all the time about how that families and friends of victims just want things to be over, just want "closure." It doesn't seem to matter much how many eggs you gotta break to get "closure."

I hear all the time about how when a crime is particularly heinous that the accused doesn't deserve any rights or protection. It seems to me obvious that in the case of heinous crimes, the midbrains of the judge, juries, police, and everybody else are most likely to jump up and stomp that neocortex flat. So, in those cases, the accused should logically get even more anally-retentive preservation of their rights, to protect them from people who are so angry they aren't thinking straight. But noooo!

And, if just getting somebody for a crime, doesn't matter who, is what The PeopleTM want, then what does that say about democracy?


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


Our justice system isn't democratic (none / 0) (#164)
by RyoCokey on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 11:10:02 AM EST

Thus, it says nothing about democracy. It's not like there's been a whole lot of legislation passed that alters the right of the accused (in general.)

However, it does say that when it's someone's job to convict people, that they generally are more interested in that result than the specific justice of the subject.

I think these DNA tests reveal more that witness testimony is unreliable, and that if we were somehow able to go back and DNA test through history, we'd find a lot more criminals who weren't really guilty.



If there really is a causation between porn and rape, then I say bring on the bukkak
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Parent ]
I'm not so sure (none / 0) (#167)
by epepke on Sun Sep 01, 2002 at 09:01:49 PM EST

Surely, "democratic" isn't an on/off switch. There are certainly clearly democratic aspects to the U.S. justice system, such as electing judges in many places.

I was alive during the 1970's, and there were quite a lot of Dirty Harry-inspired public efforts to make the justice system "tougher." Many of them affected the system. 3-strike rules, minimum sentencing laws, and victim advocacy departments were largely created on public demand.


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


[ Parent ]
Another US prisoner vindicated through DNA evidence | 168 comments (133 topical, 35 editorial, 0 hidden)
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