Author: has written 5271 posts for this blog.

Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
Return to: Homepage | Blog Index

58 Responses

  1. anashi
    anashi December 4, 2005 at 7:44 pm |

    Yes, especially since a disportionate amount of African Americans are killed because ot it. It’s use is unfair in the extreme when you view the number of black offenders put to death over white offenders.

  2. Robert
    Robert December 4, 2005 at 8:41 pm |

    Where to begin?

    It’s not a deterrant to crime.

    It’s not intended as a deterrent to crime. It’s a deterrent to recidivism. It has a 100% effectiveness rate on that goal.

    It’s not a defense mechanism — it could just as easily be replaced by life in prison without parole, eliminating the possibility of dangerous criminals re-offending.

    Sorry, Jill. OTHER PRISONERS are people too – and most of the people on death row are the worst sort of killers, the kind of people who would contribute to the too-high toll of people who get murdered while in prison. They don’t contribute NOW because they’re locked in solitary while they wait for execution – but if they’re in for the long term, then they’re in with the rest of the population, and they will kill again.

    The lives of prisoners have value too.

    It doesn’t even save money — keeping a prisoner on death row and executing them is more costly than a lifetime jail sentence.

    Entirely because of soft-hearted liberals who keep the appeals process alive indefinitely and work determinedly to prevent the democratically-expressed, Constitutionally-approved will of the people from being carried out. The fact that the anti-death-penalty lobby is waging a semi-successful guerilla campaign to stop the government from doing its job isn’t useful evidence that the government shouldn’t do its job.

    And beyond all that, a government should not have the punitive power to execute its citizens, even the very worst of them.

    The state is the element of society which has the legitimate power to use force proactively. Take that away, and we have anarchy.

    To put it to the extreme, let’s say we introduce the 28th Amendment, and the state isn’t allowed to kill its citizens. What happens when cops are in gun battles? What happens when there are riots or uprisings? What are they supposed to do, walk sheepishly back to the squad car (dodging bullets) and drive back to the station house?

    You may quibble that you just mean the state can’t juridically kill someone, as in Death Row. Well, then, the cops will just have to make sure that the people they think are the really bad guys die in shootouts, won’t they? You won’t remove the power of the state to kill, you’ll just move it from its most responsible and reasoned processes to the street justice level.

  3. gswift
    gswift December 4, 2005 at 9:02 pm |

    To put it to the extreme, let’s say we introduce the 28th Amendment, and the state isn’t allowed to kill its citizens. What happens when cops are in gun battles? What happens when there are riots or uprisings? What are they supposed to do, walk sheepishly back to the squad car (dodging bullets) and drive back to the station house?

    Don’t be stupid. Taking away the power of the state to administer death as a punishment is in no way the same as police officers killing in self defense or in the defense of another.

    the cops will just have to make sure that the people they think are the really bad guys die in shootouts, won’t they? You won’t remove the power of the state to kill, you’ll just move it from its most responsible and reasoned processes to the street justice level.

    Um, as I recall there’s 12 states or so without the death penalty. So you think in places like Minnesota and Iowa the cops are just gunning down people in the streets? Think before you type.

    I have absolutely 0 problem with the idea that the commission of certain crimes result in forfeiting of that person’s life. If somehow the system was capable of only executing the guilty, and administering the death penalty regardless of race, socioeconomic status, etc., I’d be on board. But the system is just not capable of this, and thus I am against the death penalty.

  4. Robert
    Robert December 4, 2005 at 9:17 pm |

    So you think in places like Minnesota and Iowa the cops are just gunning down people in the streets?

    I don’t know. As far as I know, nobody has studied the question. So I imagine you don’t know, either.

    If somehow the system was capable of only executing the guilty, and administering the death penalty regardless of race, socioeconomic status, etc., I’d be on board. But the system is just not capable of this, and thus I am against the death penalty.

    But the state isn’t perfect with regard to any of its other operations, either. States get into wars of dubious righteousness, and kill innocents. States make stupid regulatory decisions, and kill innocents. States fail to prepare adequately against natural disasters, and kill innocents. Are you advocating that the state give up its powers in those arenas as well?

  5. Elizajoey
    Elizajoey December 4, 2005 at 9:20 pm |

    The lives of prisoners have value too.

    Yes, they do. So why are you advocating the murder of a prisoner?

  6. Robert
    Robert December 4, 2005 at 9:27 pm |

    I am not advocating the murder of anyone. Your use of that word immediately casts your good faith in this argument into stark question. You are aware of what murder means, and you are aware of what execution means.

    I advocate the execution of people convicted of certain heinous crimes because it prevents those people from repeating their crimes and taking more lives.

  7. BANKE$
    BANKE$ December 4, 2005 at 9:48 pm |

    That people have been found innocent after an initial conviction is evidence that our appeals system works. The death sentence is not an issue of deterance, or societal benefit, it is an issue of justice.

  8. Robert
    Robert December 4, 2005 at 10:05 pm |

    I’m sure we can all see the difference between the state mishandling an earthquake and people dying, and the state executing its own citizens as punishment.

    No, Jill. We are not comparing state mishandling with the state carrying out its ordinary duties. We are comparing state mishandling of one responsibility with state mishandling of another responsibility.

    If state mishandling of a responsibility that leads to unjust deaths is prima facie cause for the state to abdicate its power in that arena, then there are a number of arenas where the state needs to abdicate its power. That is the argument.

    Do you have a response to this argument?

    So in order to keep prisoners from killing each other, we should institute the death penalty?

    No, Jill. We should not “institute the death penalty”. We have already instituted the death penalty. Our voters have elected lawmakers who made death the penalty for various crimes. Our courts have ruled that this penalty is acceptable and within the bounds of our Constitutional order. We should carry out the penalties which our political and judicial systems have created.

    Nor are we administering the penalty which we have already instituted “to keep prisoners from killing each other”. We are instituting it – as specifically noted in my argument – to protect the general prison population (which contains a large number of relatively ordinary people) from being forced to coexist with conscienceless mass murderers.

    Prisoners deserve to be as reasonably secure in their daily lives as we can arrange. Do you have a response to the argument that eliminating the death penalty puts the ordinary prison population at considerable risk from the ruthless killers among them?

    To which Jill now responds: Note the word “punitively.”

    Yes, I understand what you mean by “punitive”. You want to remove the power of punitive death from the court. Do you have a response to my counterargument that the locus of punitive death will simply shift to law enforcement on the street level, where there are no lawyers and there are no procedural protections for the rights of the accused?

  9. mike
    mike December 4, 2005 at 10:10 pm |

    And as Steven Colbert explained this week on his show, the US is not in the best worldwide company in employing the death penalty. America joins such moral leaders as Uzbekistan, Zambia, China and Afghanistan in executing prisoners. I don’t think a single other western country does.

  10. David Thompson
    David Thompson December 4, 2005 at 10:10 pm |

    The fact that the death penalty has undoubtedly led to the execution of innocent people is deeply troubling, and a good argument for getting rid of it.

    No, it’s a good argument for more rigorous standards of evidence and deliberation in the judical process of capital trials.

    The death penalty is simply unjustifiable. It’s not a deterrant to crime. It’s not a defense mechanism — it could just as easily be replaced by life in prison without parole, eliminating the possibility of dangerous criminals re-offending. It doesn’t even save money — keeping a prisoner on death row and executing them is more costly than a lifetime jail sentence.

    The reason the death penalty exists is the principle of proportionality in punishment of crime. As a society, we have decided that some crimes constitute a greater offense than other crimes, and that the punishment for a greater crime should be greater than the punishment for a lesser crime. Some states have decided that lifetime confinement is not a sufficient punishment for some crimes (ridiculously long terms and multiple lifetime sentences are strictly a bookkeeping exercise). When the fullest deprivation of liberty does not satisfy the public’s outrage, deprivation of life is the next step (and Constitutionally, the only viable one remaining).

  11. mike
    mike December 4, 2005 at 10:12 pm |

    We are instituting it – as specifically noted in my argument – to protect the general prison population (which contains a large number of relatively ordinary people) from being forced to coexist with conscienceless mass murderers.

    Robert, why don’t we just take the “conscienceless mass murderers” and keep them on a “death row” but not execute them? Then they would be unable to hurt the other prisoners, but the state would not be participating in pointless murder?

  12. Robert
    Robert December 4, 2005 at 10:17 pm |

    Robert, why don’t we just take the “conscienceless mass murderers” and keep them on a “death row” but not execute them? Then they would be unable to hurt the other prisoners, but the state would not be participating in pointless murder?

    So to prevent the inhumanity of killing someone, you instead will lock them in solitary confinement for the rest of their life?

    And there would still be guards.

  13. KnifeGhost
    KnifeGhost December 4, 2005 at 10:26 pm |

    I’ll throw in my agreement with Jill, generally, but also suggest that this debate is about as fresh and intellectually stimulating as yet another evolution/creation. I’m staying WAY out.

  14. mike
    mike December 4, 2005 at 10:29 pm |

    Robert says:

    So to prevent the inhumanity of killing someone, you instead will lock them in solitary confinement for the rest of their life?

    If the someone is deemed so dangerous that they will kill other prisoners if given any opportunity to interact with them, it seems they have left the state little choice but solitary confinement. Given the choice between state execution and solitary confinement, I’ll chose the later every time.

    And there would still be guards.

    I don’t really understand your point here.

    David says:

    When the fullest deprivation of liberty does not satisfy the public’s outrage, deprivation of life is the next step (and Constitutionally, the only viable one remaining).

    I don’t think satisfying the public’s bloodlust and desire for revenge is a good reason for the state to do anything, let alone kill someone.

  15. gswift
    gswift December 4, 2005 at 10:32 pm |

    Robert Says:
    So you think in places like Minnesota and Iowa the cops are just gunning down people in the streets?

    I don’t know. As far as I know, nobody has studied the question. So I imagine you don’t know, either.

    You’re the one claiming it’s going to happen. The onus is on you to provide that evidence.

    States get into wars of dubious righteousness, and kill innocents. States make stupid regulatory decisions, and kill innocents. States fail to prepare adequately against natural disasters, and kill innocents. Are you advocating that the state give up its powers in those arenas as well?

    But in those scenarios there’s no alternatives. We fight wars knowing innocents will die because the alternative to not defend ourselves and be killed. Sometimes natural disaster preparation isn’t adequate. But to not prepare at all would lead to many more deaths than an imperfect plan.

    But in this case we have an alternative. We can put people in solitary imprisonment for life without parole.

    Do you have a response to my counterargument that the locus of punitive death will simply shift to law enforcement on the street level, where there are no lawyers and there are no procedural protections for the rights of the accused?

    Again, the whole no death penalty scenario isn’t some hypothetical. There’s a dozen states without it. Do you have even a shred of evidence for this street executions by the cops scenario of yours?

  16. gswift
    gswift December 4, 2005 at 10:34 pm |

    KnifeGhost Says:

    this debate is about as fresh and intellectually stimulating as yet another evolution/creation.

    True, but necessary all the same.

  17. zuzu
    zuzu December 4, 2005 at 10:57 pm |

    To put it to the extreme, let’s say we introduce the 28th Amendment, and the state isn’t allowed to kill its citizens. What happens when cops are in gun battles? What happens when there are riots or uprisings? What are they supposed to do, walk sheepishly back to the squad car (dodging bullets) and drive back to the station house?

    You may quibble that you just mean the state can’t juridically kill someone, as in Death Row. Well, then, the cops will just have to make sure that the people they think are the really bad guys die in shootouts, won’t they? You won’t remove the power of the state to kill, you’ll just move it from its most responsible and reasoned processes to the street justice level.

    Robert, cops and prison guards and prisoners deciding to kill someone does not equal the state deciding to kill someone after a fair trial.

    It may surprise you, but for a few years, I defended the NYPD in civil rights cases in just the kinds of cases you describe. Well, actually, my client was actually the City of New York, which extended representation to individual officers to the extent their actions did not require them to raise defenses that would conflict with the City’s interests.

    And the big question was whether the officer was acting within the line of duty. So, the Diallo shooters fucked up, but they didn’t fuck up so badly out of the line of duty that they were acting against the City’s interests. However, when Justin Volpe et al. jammed a plunger handle up Abner Louima’s ass, that in no way had anything to do with police business, so they were cut loose and had to put on their own defense.

    There’s also a doctrine in federal civil rights cases that limits municipal liability (I didn’t deal much with state liability, being a City lawyer), but essentially, in order to hold the municipality liable, you had to show that there was a policy, practice or procedure that was set forth or ratified by the highest decisionmakers in order for the City to be held liable (as opposed to being held liable for the actions of their officers).

  18. Robert
    Robert December 4, 2005 at 11:00 pm |

    And there would still be guards.

    I don’t really understand your point here.

    The guards would still be at risk.

  19. zuzu
    zuzu December 4, 2005 at 11:03 pm |

    I should also mention that the idea of police officers making their own justice isn’t at all new. I worked on a couple of the “Dirty 30″ 30th Precinct cases, and it was frankly a bit disappointing to learn how banal police corruption can be. Much of it was overtime scamming — because of rules regarding timing of arraignments, they would plant drugs on people so that they could get overtime for going to the arraignment on their regular day off, or they would plant drugs on someone at the end of their shift so they could collect overtime for filling out the paperwork and escorting the perp to Central Booking.

  20. gswift
    gswift December 4, 2005 at 11:20 pm |

    Robert Says:

    The guards would still be at risk.

    And again, is there some kind of evidence that guards in non death penalty states are more at risk?

  21. zuzu
    zuzu December 4, 2005 at 11:33 pm |

    Also, there are different populations of prisoners. The guards assigned to death rows are a very small proportion of all guards. There are a lot of disciplinary options available in a prison short of death, from denial of privileges up to isolation.

    Guards are at risk from any population of prisoners, though if they’re any good at their jobs, they’ve found ways to mitigate that risk.

  22. Tanooki Joe
    Tanooki Joe December 5, 2005 at 12:39 am |

    Robert, I’m intrigued. As per your argument, should we perhaps restrict application of the death penalty to those who would be considered likely to continue being a danger to those around them even in a prison situation?

  23. Robert
    Robert December 5, 2005 at 12:49 am |

    No, Joe. We should do what the voters and the courts have agreed upon.

  24. Josh
    Josh December 5, 2005 at 1:20 am |

    Robert,

    What’s troubling about your POV is your unwillingness to think critically about capital punishment. You fail to consider who’s wrongly or disproportionately affected by the death penalty (innocents, socioeconomic groups, “racial” groups), so your argument lacks credibility.

    The institution of the death penalty is the problem. Not the act of killing–at least not in sane circumstances.

    The whole “soft-hearted liberal” thing made me laugh and shake my head. (Truth: I have no idea why, but this image of the Big Hard Antiliberal Cock of Justice popped into my head.) Like if we were to just toughen up–you know, put those criminals on display and send a few volts through ‘em–the whole situation would change.

    Oh, I know! Maybe we could have a War on Violence once we win the War on Terror!

    *Soft-hearted liberal addendum: By the way, if anyone ever kills someone I love, I’ll probably fucking kill them. :)

  25. Robert
    Robert December 5, 2005 at 1:34 am |

    Josh, I have thought critically about the socioeconomic and racial arguments against the DP. They simply aren’t compelling on a rational basis.

  26. gswift
    gswift December 5, 2005 at 1:41 am |

    Robert Says:

    Josh, I have thought critically about the socioeconomic and racial arguments against the DP. They simply aren’t compelling on a rational basis.

    So does this mean you don’t think the death penalty is disproportionately given to certain groups? Or do you think it is but we should just do it anyways?

  27. Robert
    Robert December 5, 2005 at 1:47 am |

    The racial dimension of crime in the US is very complex. I don’t really have time for a huge disquisition on it. But short answer, the solution to the racial problem in the DP is to execute more white people who meet the criteria.

  28. Paul
    Paul December 5, 2005 at 5:34 am |

    What penalty would you give a cold blooded murderer?

  29. Soren
    Soren December 5, 2005 at 9:04 am |

    Interesting theory from Roboert about the police being cold blooded murderers.

    What I don’t understand is, if you think the police will kill people in cold blood if the death penalty is abolished, wouldn’t that make the police exactly the kind of people you want to use the death penalty for?

    To me your argument becomes: If we do not kill those sentensed for murder, murderers will kill other murderers to make sure the murderers are killed?

    /Soren

  30. To Be Determined
    To Be Determined December 5, 2005 at 9:41 am |

    More on execution

    Piggybacking (ok, no, “addressing in an eloquent fashion” is a better description) on the topic of my earlier snark about the death penalty (just a few posts down), Jill at Feministe notes that…

  31. That Girl
    That Girl December 5, 2005 at 10:29 am |

    I am for the death penalty in theory but not in action. 99% of my objections could be silenced if those on Death Row were represented by excellent lawyers. Wouldnt it be more cost-effective to pay for a top-notch lawyer and allow very little leeway (or time) from sentence to punishment? I have a hard time finding a reason to let a Manson or Dahmer live. There is no doubt about their guilt, nothing that could reform them and no reason for their continued existance. The mistake I think we make is to consider them human beings at all rather than mutations that look like human beings. Cancer should be cut out, not isolated for life.
    When you are talking about life in prison you are taking the chance that they can spread their evil, whether to a guard, inmate, or simply through the mail. As long as they are alive they can spread their disease.

  32. Darleen
    Darleen December 5, 2005 at 10:37 am |

    Jill

    If you oppose the death penality on moral grounds, I have no problem debating with you on such. However, just as I will acknowledge the possibility that the state may error and that an innocent may be the victim of a miscarriage of justice, so you must acknowledge the fact that convicted murderers have killed innocents that would be alive for the fact the murderer wasn’t executed. The “saving of innocent lives” cannot be your moral criteria because, frankly, it doesn’t wash. You cannot give me a name of a proven innocent person executed and I can give you the name of a convicted murderer that did murder again.

    Jack Abbott, DP opponent Norman Mailer’s pet, who six-weeks into parole murdered again. (not even that impressed Mailer who stated that Abbott’s talent warranted ‘a little risk’)

    I don’t support the dp because it is a “deterrent.” I support the dp because it is the appropriate response to balance the scales of justice in the more heinous of murders.

    It certainly is Constitutional — Article V

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

    Murders and murderers are not an abstract for me. In CA it takes special allegations and each case is evaluated carefully before the dp is sought. We are talking the worst of the worst of murders. A family slaughtered in their beds by an escaped criminal, a child molester who snatched a 9 y/o girl on her way to school raped and strangled her and dumped her body in a field, a career criminal who to rob a bank, stepped up behind the person offloading money from a armoured truck and executed the young man with five bullets to the brain, the convicted murderer brought back to court for commiting a thrill murder on another prisoner at Pelican Bay … I can give you chapter and verse on people who have forfeited their moral right to live by their own choice to become predators of human beings.

    I don’t expect you to agree. But I do hope you’ll acknowledge that the pro-dp stance is as moral and has much moral legitimacy as the anti-dp stance.

    Certainly, the “innocent blood” on our hands is less than on the hands of the anti’s.

  33. Linnaeus
    Linnaeus December 5, 2005 at 1:16 pm |

    Jack Abbott, DP opponent Norman Mailer’s pet, who six-weeks into parole murdered again. (not even that impressed Mailer who stated that Abbott’s talent warranted ‘a little risk’)

    The problem that I have with this example is that, unless I’m misreading you, you seem to be implying that somehow Norman Mailer saved Jack Abbott from the death penalty. According to the article you linked, Jack Abbott was sentenced three to 20 years imprisonment in 1965 for killing a fellow inmate while he was serving time for a forgery. He then escaped, was apprehended (after committing a robbery), and given a 19-year sentence in 1971.

    Even if Norman Mailer had done absolutely nothing, Jack Abbott would not have been executed, as he was never sentenced to death. Furthermore, the second murder charge for which Abbott was indicted in 1981 was second-degree murder, which carried a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, not execution. The jury ended up convicting him of manslaughter, in part because half the jury felt his past was tragic enough that he warranted a lesser conviction. I would argue that your complaint more properly lies with the judge (and, perhaps, the sentencing guidelines used) in Utah in 1965, if you think Abbott should have been executed.

    I’d also argue that there’s a difference between saying a convicted murderer should not be executed and saying that he or she should not be in prison. One can make a good case that Mailer was woefully misguided in advocating for Abbott’s release and that the parole board that freed Abbott made a wrong decision. Mailer’s position on the death penalty is, however, not relevant here.

  34. Darleen
    Darleen December 5, 2005 at 1:26 pm |

    Linnaeus

    Well, then Clarence Ray Allen who would have received the dp with his first murder conviction (1974 the dp wasn’t allowed in CA) and consequently ordered, from prison, the murder of 3 witnesses. He’s NOW on death row.

    My point was the Mailer saw no problem with “risking” the death of innocents for his murderer. Thus the rationale that being anti-dp is to “spare innocents” is moot.

  35. Lauren
    Lauren December 5, 2005 at 3:31 pm |

    Truth is, I’m not against the death penalty per se. I’ll have to think more on it and comment later.

  36. gswift
    gswift December 5, 2005 at 3:54 pm |

    That Girl Says:

    When you are talking about life in prison you are taking the chance that they can spread their evil, whether to a guard, inmate, or simply through the mail. As long as they are alive they can spread their disease.

    I bet a bad case of evil is like, even worse than herpes and stuff. I sense a new front in abstinence only education. “Well sure they’ve got a vaccine for HPV now, but what about EVIL? You can catch EVIL through skin contact alone, or even the mail!” And don’t even get me started on public toilet seats.

  37. gswift
    gswift December 5, 2005 at 4:11 pm |

    Darleen Says:

    so you must acknowledge the fact that convicted murderers have killed innocents that would be alive for the fact the murderer wasn’t executed. The “saving of innocent lives” cannot be your moral criteria because, frankly, it doesn’t wash. You cannot give me a name of a proven innocent person executed and I can give you the name of a convicted murderer that did murder again.

    This is a strawman. I don’t recall any of the death penalty opponents, myself included, arguing that the alternative to the death penalty was to set the perp free. The alternative is life imprisonment without parole.

  38. Darleen
    Darleen December 5, 2005 at 8:21 pm |

    gswift

    And that doesn’t preclude the murder of innocents. As I said above, unless you want LWOPs in solitary confinement with no access to any human being at any time, including communication outside of the prison via lawyers/family members/etc, (which in and of itself might be declared cruel & unusual) then there will ALWAYS be a risk of the death of innocents.

    Allen ordered the murder of 3 people from prison.

    If your moral criteria is that the state should never take a life, ok. My moral criteria is that not to execute the worst of the worst murderers cheapens life.

  39. Darleen
    Darleen December 5, 2005 at 8:24 pm |

    gswift

    Question. Do you think Gacy, Dahlmer, Bundy, Abbott were evil?

  40. Sally
    Sally December 5, 2005 at 8:42 pm |

    As I said above, unless you want LWOPs in solitary confinement with no access to any human being at any time, including communication outside of the prison via lawyers/family members/etc, (which in and of itself might be declared cruel & unusual) then there will ALWAYS be a risk of the death of innocents.

    Are you sure that risk is higher than the risk that innocents will be executed?

  41. Marksman2000
    Marksman2000 December 5, 2005 at 8:55 pm |

    It makes no sense to have an irreversible sentence when our judicial system is imperfect.

    I don’t object to Capital Punishment on moral grounds. Rather I try to imagine myself sentenced to die for a crime I didn’t commit. Could there be a worse situation?

  42. Linnaeus
    Linnaeus December 5, 2005 at 8:59 pm |

    there will ALWAYS be a risk of the death of innocents

    Couldn’t we say, however, that this is a risk that you run with any convicted criminal? If I’m posing too broad of a premise, then let’s narrow it down and say that this could be a risk you run with any person convicted of a violent offense (assault, rape, murder, etc.). The majority of those will not be on death row, at least not in my state, which can only impose the death penalty on a defendant convicted of aggravated first-degree murder.

    If we’re framing this debate in terms of risk to innocents, then the question at hand seems to be which risk is the more acceptable one: the risk of executing an innocent defendant, or the risk that a convicted murderer will harm someone again, even while in prison.

  43. Darleen
    Darleen December 6, 2005 at 12:36 am |

    Linnaeus

    But I am not framing the dp debate on the risk to innocents. I’m actually trying to say that the issue is moot. I don’t want to hear one more “but we MIGHT execute an innocent” when I can say, but what about the innocents already dead at the hands of convicted murderers AFTER their original conviction?

    My support of the dp is strictly from a moral perspective. I believe not to have a dp for the most heinous of crimes sends a societal message that life is cheap. Go ahead, Mr/Ms Predator, indulge your passions, demonstrate your lust for gore, and the worst is that you’ll spend the rest of your life with someone else providing you with food, shelter, entertainment, education, art supplies, celebrities, etc. No one really cares for justice for the victims.

    Justice deals with balance. One should not keep what one so heinously and with forethought took from another.

  44. condorcet
    condorcet December 6, 2005 at 12:39 am |

    But the state isn’t perfect with regard to any of its other operations, either. States get into wars of dubious righteousness, and kill innocents. States make stupid regulatory decisions, and kill innocents. States fail to prepare adequately against natural disasters, and kill innocents. Are you advocating that the state give up its powers in those arenas as well?

    this is a really stupid argument–government fucks up some things so why does it matter if it fucks up this?

    hmmm…..maybe there is huge issue of morality and institutional bias?
    imagine Robert’s ridiculous policy applied to other areas. not prohibiting anti-catholic discrimination b/c jews are still treated like shit. keeping discrimination against women, b/c of the discrimination against blacks, etc.
    “But the state isn’t perfect with regard to any of its other operations, either.”

    i think Robert should take this argument back to “the argument clinic” and put it on life support.

    the issue of DP to protect fellow prisoners is a facade. so, prisoners need special protection from convicted rapists, but not from all the other rapists? basically all prisoners face that threat from those on death row and those not on death row. same problem w/ DP. hmmm……..i wonder why Robert didn’t dismiss the idea of protecting prisoners by saying
    “But the state isn’t perfect with regard to any of its other operations, either.”
    i guess that the other prisoners are more important to Robert than institutional racism.

  45. randomliberal/Robert
    randomliberal/Robert December 6, 2005 at 1:20 am |

    OK Darleen, I can almost sympathize with your position, mostly because I lived in Waco around the time Kenneth McDuff was released from prison (long story short, he raped and murdered in the 60s, was sent to death row but got it commuted in ’72 to life w/parole, then was inexplicably paroled in the early 90s and raped and murdered again), but let’s not pretend that prison, even non-death row prison, is a cakewalk. LWOP sucks, and at least for me would be several times worse than just being put to death.

  46. Robert
    Robert December 6, 2005 at 1:31 am |

    this is a really stupid argument–government fucks up some things so why does it matter if it fucks up this?

    Condorcet, you are mistaking a negative for a positive argument. I am not arguing that since the state fucks up A, it’s fine that it fucks up B through Z; I am arguing that the state fucks up B through Z, and it is therefore illegitimate to argue that the state may not do A because they may fuck it up.

    i guess that the other prisoners are more important to Robert than institutional racism.

    This is a non sequitur.

  47. gswift
    gswift December 6, 2005 at 2:25 am |

    Darleen Says:
    gswift

    Question. Do you think Gacy, Dahlmer, Bundy, Abbott were evil?

    Of course.

    Hell, if I thought the justice system was up to it, I’d be all for frying A LOT of people. Child molesters, repeat rapists, murderers…they’d all go down.

    BUT, as Jill pointed out in the post, in the time we’ve executed 1000 people, we’ve exonerated over 100. That’s ridiculous. It’s alos unacceptable that race and economics affects who does or does not get the death penalty.

    The system is just way too flawed.

    I also think you’ve got an overly rosy picture of what prison’s like.

  48. Robert
    Robert December 6, 2005 at 2:40 am |

    Jill, this is a much better line of argument than your previous attempt. I commend you.

    Yes, it is really hard to do it. Even harder to do it right – as our mutual favorite President has occasionally noted, “it’s hard work.”

    My basic answer to your fundamental query – how do we know who needs killing – is that we’re looking for people with two combined traits: (a) an intrinsic amorality, someone who (probably for reasons not their own fault) did not pick up the basic “mustn’t set the doggie on fire, sweetie” instruction set at age 3, and (b) a demonstrated failure to learn to at least emulate that instruction set, as evidenced by a jail term followed by a repeat serious offense. People with those two personal characteristics in combination are antithetical to the good order of society.

    You may disagree with my characteristics, of course; I am merely offering a personal observation.

    I am very reluctant to impose the death penalty on a first offender. Maybe if it’s some one in a million serial offender who slew twelve before being caught; there I could see it. But not without giving someone a chance at redemption.

    Fortunately for my broad support of death penalty laws, nearly everyone on death row has some substantial criminal history prior to their capital offense. That criminal history isn’t contributory towards their deserving the penalty for their capital crime, but it does indicate a qualification for category (b). (As well as a being an indication that the system is on sound grounds as to the people it is killing, leaving aside the truth that there are lots of other people equally as bad who are not being caught.)

  49. Pacian
    Pacian December 6, 2005 at 5:22 am |

    I don’t want to hear one more “but we MIGHT execute an innocent” when I can say, but what about the innocents already dead at the hands of convicted murderers AFTER their original conviction?

    Then try this on for size: but we WILL execute an innocent. And it might be you or someone you love. And no matter how much we can argue abstractly that it isn’t as bad for the state to kill an innocent person by mistake as for a murderer to do it on purpose, both feel just as bad to the people they affect. I’d rather live in a country where the state doesn’t itself add to the number of people senselessly killed.

    Oh wait, I do… o_O

  50. Paul
    Paul December 6, 2005 at 5:52 pm |

    Again what penalty should be given to a person convicted of col-blooded murder? If the state has no right to execute someone who has committed murder then surely no person has the right to take another person’s life in the first place !

  51. David Thompson
    David Thompson December 6, 2005 at 6:02 pm |

    It makes no sense to have an irreversible sentence when our judicial system is imperfect.

    Judicial perfection is impossible, and every sentence not limited to financial penalty is irreversible.

  52. jhlipton
    jhlipton December 6, 2005 at 9:56 pm |

    Robert:

    We should do what the voters and the courts have agreed upon.

    The voters and the courts once decided slavery was A-OK. We’re talking about how the system should be changed, not what it is right now.

    I am 95% anti-DP (that sounds so porn-ish!). There were two brothers who escaped multiple times from a high-security prison and killed a bunch of people each time. I would have no problem putting them to death since it’s obvious LWOP is not going to work for them.

    For everyone else, I want it to very, very hard, if not impossible to execute them. The harm that Dahlmer did while in prison, and the harm that Manson does is minimal (I don’t see hordes of Manson Family members roaming the country-side, and members of the Aryan Nation are much worse) — executing an innocent is far graver in my book.

    Not for nothing, but how do the participants on this thread feel about Stanley Williams being excuted vs LWOP?

  53. Darleen
    Darleen December 7, 2005 at 12:04 am |

    Jill

    I knowprison is not pretty. The majority of people would not want to be in it for any length of time.

    But we aren’t talking about most people, are we?

    I just processed an incustody case today… 50+ y/o guy carjacked someone….WHILE he is out on bail while awaiting dispostion of another felony case! He’s been in state prison 14 times. I had to order up something like 20 priors today, the man has 30 aliases and five strikable offenses on his rap.

    Obviously he considers prison HOME. YOU and me might be horrified at the thought of loss of freedom, but for others, they are willing to do the time because following the law is for suckers. They’ll just bide their time, write to girlfriends, work out, maybe take a class …

    Capital punishment is the ultimate, and should be reserved for the worst of the worst.

    But to treat a vicious multiple murderer who kills for kicks the same as, say, a bank robber?

    Now, why shouldn’t the bank robber just murder his witnesses if he knows he’s not going to be exposed to any great punishment then if he doesn’t?

  54. zuzu
    zuzu December 7, 2005 at 12:12 am |

    So are you saying the only reason you don’t kill people is that you know you’ll be punished if you do?

  55. Sally
    Sally December 7, 2005 at 12:33 am |

    But to treat a vicious multiple murderer who kills for kicks the same as, say, a bank robber?

    Now, why shouldn’t the bank robber just murder his witnesses if he knows he’s not going to be exposed to any great punishment then if he doesn’t?

    That kind of reasoning never ends. Isn’t it wrong to treat Saddam Hussein, who has killed thousands of people, the same as you treat someone who has killed two or three? If the punishment for killing three people is the same as for killing four, what’s to stop the vicious multiple murderer from killing anyone who knew about his motive? So why stop at execution? Why not toture people to death in progressively more horrific ways, depending on the relative viciousness of their crimes?

    It may be that there’s no act so barbaric that you wouldn’t permit the government to use it as punishment. But I think decent people agree that a line should be drawn somewhere, which sort of invalidates your argument.

Comments are closed.

The commenting period has expired for this post. If you wish to re-open the discussion, please do so in the latest Open Thread.