Poll: If Your Loved One Was The Victim of a Horrific Crime, Would You Want The Perpetrator to Receive The Death Penalty?

If the unimaginable occurred, would you support the death penalty?

 

Industry colleagues often tell me they appreciate the ballsiness of The Good Men Project. Not only do I love the phrase “ballsy”, I love the fact that every person who writes for The Good Men Project is not afraid to put themselves (and their reputations) on the line by telling the world how they truly feel.

We don’t bullshit around here; we boldly speak what’s in our hearts and our minds. The Good Men Project is a visceral experience. We passionately write about what it means to be good, a lack of goodness, individual darkness, morality, gender, equality and everything in between.

What I’m about to tell you is not good. However, it is a good conversation to have, and The Good Men Project is the ideal forum. (Even though it’s frightening to publicly admit my feelings on this topic.) I wrestle with what I’m about to say. Perhaps someone will change my mind? Or maybe you privately identify with my truth and it will be cathartic to hear your sentiments spoken by another?

♦◊♦

Days after the Aurora movie theater shooting, my husband and I hosted a dinner party. The topic of conversation eventually made its way to capital punishment and the possibility of James Holmes receiving the death penalty.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a proponent of the death penalty. Yes, I believe in putting someone to death if they have unequivocally committed a heinous, unconscionable crime. I don’t believe a sadistic sociopath has the right to life. I don’t want my tax dollars keeping him or her alive in a maximum security prison. I don’t care that there is a tacit code amongst prisoners and that they “take care of” the worst of the worst in lock down. Furthermore, I don’t care that certain guards look the other way and allow prisoners to eliminate those deemed most vile. I wouldn’t want to take that chance. I would need to know that my loved one’s killer was put to death by the state – after a trial and conviction.

At times, when I’m shaken by the brutality of my emotions, I push myself further to confirm my truth. I delve deeper into my soul and consider these scenarios: if I had a child, and my son or daughter was raped and murdered, would I honestly want the perpetrator put to death? Yes, I would. If my daughter or sister was a victim of Ted Bundy’s inhumane atrocities would I have sincerely wanted him put to death by the electric chair? Yes, of course; I would have wanted him electrocuted. If one of my loved one’s was a victim of the Aurora movie massacre, would I seriously want this madman to face the death penalty? Yes, I definitely would.

What I’ve confessed is not good, but it’s my truth. Given my upbringing – and my attempt to live altruistically each day – I’m tormented by my thoughts. Cognitively, I know I should not feel this way; yet emotionally, I can’t ignore my primitive disposition.

I will always feel conflicted by my views on capital punishment. If you feel differently, I’m in awe of your goodness. I wish I could be more like you.


Editor’s note: This post will be highly moderated. Please keep the commentary respectful and on topic.

 

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Comments

  1. wellokaythen says:

    I wonder how appropriate it is to expect the justice system to provide closure for the family of victims. Is this really supposed to be a function of the courts and prisons? That sounds like overburdening a system with something that it is not very good at and which is better found elsewhere. It also sounds like letting third party feelings dictate the course of a legal case between the state and an individual. I think we already have enough emotional subjectivity built into our political and judicial systems as it is.

    • The whole idea of having a justice sysem is to substract the emotional component in morality so it’s more just.
      Emotion clouds our sense of morality and justice.

      I still believe Justice is revenge. The justice system is there only to give the victims a Just revenge.

      • Megalodon says:

        The whole idea of having a justice sysem is to substract the emotional component in morality so it’s more just.
        Emotion clouds our sense of morality and justice.

        All well and good, but you are the one saying that because you think punishment does not reduce or alleviate emotion pain and exacerbates bad emotions, then that should be an argument for abandoning it.

        I still believe Justice is revenge. The justice system is there only to give the victims a Just revenge.

        So what is a “Just revenge”? If justice and revenge are the same, isn’t that like saying “vengeful revenge” or “just justice”?

    • Megalodon says:

      I wonder how appropriate it is to expect the justice system to provide closure for the family of victims. Is this really supposed to be a function of the courts and prisons?

      For the record, wellokaythen, I do not demand that the justice system fulfill “closure” or emotional resolution for victims and families. That is not its function. Due process and justice should reign supreme. However, sometimes closure can be a collateral result when the justice system functions properly. I was responding to the contention that victims and families absolutely never ever get a sense of closure from trials and punishments. Sometimes, victims and families do feel a sense of closure when the justice system has run its course. And I see nothing wrong with that.

  2. wellokaythen says:

    A valid question, if the goal is to empathize with people who have lost loved ones to violence. Or, as a thought exercise to talk about people’s perspectives on the death penalty.

    However, there’s a good reason why people who have lost loved ones to an accused murderer are not allowed on the jury of that accused murderer and are not allowed to set the penalty for the murderer if there’s a conviction. We generally would not expect them to be objective or treat the case fairly. I assume if I lost a loved one to a murderer I would not be allowed anywhere near the accused, because I would likely do something quite un-objective and viciously contrary to due process. Then, imagine how his family would feel about my taking his life without due process, back and forth until the families are all dead.

    As awful as this sounds, I don’t think the feelings of a victim’s family should really be taken into account when figuring out the sentence for murder. This is why I think it was a bad precedent to allow family members to make statements during sentencing. I am not discounting their pain, and I’m not discounting the benefit of reminding the justice system that a real person has been killed. But, that could set up a situation where the more beloved the victim, the harsher the punishment. Conversely, someone without friends or family would have a life that’s less worthy of protecting.

    • Megalodon says:

      Most jurisdictions that permit “victim impact statements” or “family impact statements” engage in a sort of doublespeak as to the purpose and role of these statements. They try to discount that these statements will affect or change the punishment and insist that their true purpose is for the victim or family to “be heard” in court. Basically, these statements are written off as some kind of catharsis for the victim or family, with no real impact on the judicially determined punishment.

      And in most cases, that is how it works, especially if the punishment has been fixed by statute or the defendant has negotiated a plea. The punishment has been predetermined and the “victim impact” portion of the sentencing is just a courtesy to the victim. Some commentators suggest, and with reason, that these statements are a cynical way of humoring victims and families and making them think that they have a valued role in the case, and as a way of making up for the fact that most victims find the average punishment to be insufficient.

      But there are exceptions. I have seen cases in which judges specifically cite a victim’s letter or statement as reason for increasing a punishment. And when a sympathetic victim makes a poignant case at a parole hearing, Lord knows that parole boards do not want to be seen as traumatizing a victim. Of course, parole boards deny parole most of the time anyway.

      • wellokaythen says:

        I forgot about the sentencing guidelines that most states have. In a lot of places, the sentencing has very little room for any person to affect one way or the other. The sentencing has really all been worked out before the victim’s family says anything.

        I’m guessing the family statements also work as a kind of safety valve for the court system. Besides possibly being a cynical ploy to appease the community, it could also be a quite practical internal security measure. Family members who may feel like jumping over the seats and attacking the defendant in court may be able to control themselves if they know that they will get a chance to speak to the defendant at sentencing. I don’t have figures on it, but I’d guess that jurisdictions with such statements have a lower rate of in-court violence. I’m sure it makes for fewer outbursts in court, less stalking of judges, and fewer nasty editorials in the newspaper.

  3. Your Thomas Aquinas quote is an appeal to authority. If that where a valid argument then everything that Thomas Aquinas said would be completely correct, including his conclusion that something that moves without moving itself is the christian God, not the God of any other religion or a group of Gods and certainly not a blueberry muffin. I am not saying it is wrong but rather that quoting him (or anyone else for that matter) does not reinforce your argument.

    You talked about how someone who has no morality will go around hurting everyone and getting pleasure from it, giving him long term happiness. That’s like saying someone who drugs himself everyday with meth will achieve long term happiness or that someone who makes small investments every day is making a long term investment.

    Another subject you touched in your message was morality. To quote you: “Sadly, the morality of something does not always correlate with the happiness and gratification it brings”.
    I disagree. What gives you or ANYONE ELSE pain of any kind is wrong.

    Also, logic is not a matter of opinion and not all opinions are equal. (ever heard of people going to another doctor for a second opinion? Obviously they don’t value them equally).

    Anyway, you say revenge helps people achieve closure. I’d like a logical explanation on how the process works.

    • Megalodon says:

      Your Thomas Aquinas quote is an appeal to authority. If that where a valid argument then everything that Thomas Aquinas said would be completely correct

      And your insistence that taking satisfaction in another person’s pain is always condemnable, no matter what, is an appeal to yourself. I am not claiming that Aquinas is necessarily or indisputably correct on that subject (much less every subject). I only cited his statement as a historical and philosophical example of someone suggesting that satisfaction in another’s suffering is not per se bad and is dependant upon context.

      You talked about how someone who has no morality will go around hurting everyone and getting pleasure from it, giving him long term happiness. That’s like saying someone who drugs himself everyday with meth will achieve long term happiness or that someone who makes small investments every day is making a long term investment.

      Here you go again, insisting that there is some kind of strict separation between long term happiness and short term happiness, and that long term happiness is indisputably better.
      First off, not all people who hurt other people do it for the pleasure of it. Some of them are after a different interest, but they are willing to hurt other people to achieve it. A robber who steals money may actually want the money, and may not necessarily take pleasure in hurting his victims (though some robbers do have such pleasure). Secondly, not all people who harm and violate others are akin to impulsive drug users. Some of them are quite patient and endure for the long term, even though they are harming people as a matter of course.

      Madoff enjoyed a lavish, charmed life as a result of his deception and stealing from his victims. He continued his crimes for decades until he was almost 80. It was a “long term” investment for him, which amassed him hundreds of millions. Some investigators think that had it not been for the recession, he may have gone undetected until he died. Now, perhaps his moral guilt for harming his victims spoiled his comfort and happiness, but I am skeptical of that. He gave a solemn apology in court. But when he got to prison, he said “Fuck my victims.” Probably he is only sorry that he got caught and punished. And for every Madoff, there are plenty of CEO’s and corporate types who enrich themselves by deceiving and exploiting their stockholders and other people. Most are never punished, and a lot of them will live comfortable, privileged lives to a ripe old age. There are even unrepentant pedophiles who happily reminisce about the children they have violated.

      Even accepting your comparison to a methamphetamine addict, how do you know that a drug user is not happy? Granted, lots of drug users admit being unhappy and have good reason for unhappiness. But some drug users will tell you how it is wonderful to be high and insist that the drug makes them happy. And as long as they can have the drug, they will be happy in the long term, up until the day that they die of an overdose or something else. Even people who have quit using drugs and have been sober for years sometimes admit that they think fondly about being high.

      But even if you want to dismiss chemical gratification as beneath consideration, what about somebody who enjoys frequently engaging in intense, high risk activities? A mountain climber? A sky diver? A race car driver? Even though these are dangerous, intense activities with lethal risk, some people claim that these hobbies give them lasting joy, with full knowledge that they can be horribly injured or killed by doing them.

      Now about your distinction between “small investments” and “long term investments.” Why is it that you know that “long term” things are necessarily superior to “small” quick things. Some investors are long term investors. But some investors operate by making numerous, fast, small investments. It carries different risks and hazards than long term investing, but it is not without rewards. And if these short-term investments result in a gain more often than a loss, the investor can steadily add to his “long term” profit. He is not necessarily inferior or impaired compared to the long-term seeker. And this does not just apply to financial matters. Some people are happy when they marry one person and stay sexually faithful to that one person for their entire lives. And some people like having short, intense passionate relationships throughout their lives, without staying committed to any one person. And even though these relationships are brief, a person can still be happy because of them, even after the relationships end.

      Another subject you touched in your message was morality. To quote you: “Sadly, the morality of something does not always correlate with the happiness and gratification it brings”.
      I disagree. What gives you or ANYONE ELSE pain of any kind is wrong.

      I was merely pointing out that moral things do not always cause happiness and satisfaction for everyone, and immoral things do not always cause unhappiness and suffering for everyone. Caring for a dying parent is probably painful and depressing, but it is usually a morally good thing to do. If somebody’s family member committed a terrible crime, it may be painful for that person to report the crime and tell the truth. But that is usually the right thing to do. And some people may take pleasure from doing bad things, especially if they never get caught. Happiness does not necessarily require morality. Morality certainly does not require happiness.

      What gives you or ANYONE ELSE pain of any kind is wrong.

      I hope you will refine this statement. So childbirth is wrong? Surgery is wrong? Getting a vaccine shot is wrong? A funeral is wrong? If I shoot somebody in self-defense and cause them pain, is that wrong?

      Also, logic is not a matter of opinion and not all opinions are equal. (ever heard of people going to another doctor for a second opinion? Obviously they don’t value them equally).

      I agree. However, there is a difference between opinions concerning things like mathematics and biology versus opinions concerning human subjectivities and internal emotional states. You can judge between “2+2=4” and “2+2=5.” Those are not equally valid opinions. But you cannot rank and judge between opinions like “chocolate ice cream is the best ice cream” or “vanilla ice cream is the best ice cream.” There is no objective, logical hierarchy to determine whether chocolate or vanilla is superior. When somebody says “being a mountain climber makes me truly happy” or “being a Buddhist monk makes me truly happy,” there is no adjudication between these claims of personal fulfillment, or some sure way to determine whether mountaineering or monasticism are true ways of finding happiness. Likewise, when somebody says, “seeing the person who harmed me get punished makes me happy” and somebody else says “forgiving the person who harmed me makes me happy,” there is no objective basis to determine which of these two claims is the true, superior one. I am willing to believe that some people are truly happy by being forgiving and renouncing any claim to retribution for wrongs done to them. If such people claim to be happy, I do not conclude that they are necessarily lying and/or psychologically defective. You, however, make that conclusion quite readily about people who claim to be happy and satisfied when wrongdoers and punished.

      Anyway, you say revenge helps people achieve closure. I’d like a logical explanation on how the process works.

      I do not consider revenge and retribution to be the same thing, even though you like to conflate them. I do not claim that punishment always and unfailingly helps people achieve closure. I only argue that it can, and often does, help victims and families of victims achieve closure. You, however, insist that punishment and retribution absolutely never help achieve closure or happiness (or what you consider to be “real” happiness).

      First, let me ask you for some logical explanations. Explain to me how forgiveness helps people achieve closure. Explain to me how getting married helps people achieve happiness. Explain to me how having children helps people achieve happiness. Explain to me how not having children helps people achieve happiness. Explain to me how having a pet helps people achieve happiness. Explain to me how scuba diving helps people achieve happiness. All of these things, and much more, are things than can help people achieve happiness or some other positive emotional state. Conversely, explain to me how a dying relative causes someone to feel unhappy. Explain to me how being raped causes someone to feel unhappy. There is no linear explanation of how the process works and culminates in an emotional state. But I will try.

      When people are harmed and violated, they often feel aggrieved and distressed. They know that they are supposed to respect people and not do certain things to people, but somebody did those bad things to them anyway. Somebody disregarded their rights and their wills. When we punish the person who harmed and violated them, the people see that he will suffer loss and harm against his own will. Probably not the same exact kind of harm or loss he inflicted on them, but something “proportional” to his wrong. They can see that the power he assumed over them will not be without cost for him, and that what he did to them “matters” and is important. If the person who harmed them stays unpunished, people may think that they are less important than this person and that he has special power to treat other people however he wishes. When punishment happens, people may be reassured that society cares about wrongs done to them and that their rights and equal human worth can be vindicated if they are violated. They are not left worrying that they are less important than the malefactor or that he retains the power to harm them without consequence. Perhaps that is what may help people to achieve some kind of resolution or “closure.” Of course, emotional states are not strictly logical things. And that process can involve a bunch of other variables or work in some other roundabout way for other people. Some people do not achieve “closure” even with the aid of punishment. Some people can achieve “closure” without punishment. And some people you just cannot tell how they psychologically respond. I do not think that the moral propriety of retribution depends entirely on the psychological closure of victims and families of victims. However, I think that it can often be a benefit and credit in favor of the process.

    • Megalodon says:

      Anyway, you say revenge helps people achieve closure. I’d like a logical explanation on how the process works.

      Strange that you would ask this. In your August 2, 2012, 6:45 P.M. post, you said:

      It’s true that victims can get closure from taking this form of revenge.

      So, you know that it can help achieve closure, but you just want it explained?

      • Closure is when the traumatic experience stops affecting you.

        Some people do achieve closure from revenge. They are ok with the act of morally reducing themselves to the level of the criminal and in a way give the criminal a reason why they should of been victimized. They achieve closure in the least healthy of ways, by becoming similar to the criminal.

        Most cases however people do not achieve closure from revenge. It’s these cases that I wanted your explanation onto why you think it helps them achieve closure.

        Closure by this last group of people is achieved through forgiveness. The realise what their abusers did to them as being wrong but they have decided there is nothing they can do to ever get back what the abuser took away from them. They aknowledge the loss and work around it. For this process to happen it’s imperative that the victim gets rid of all the anger that is natural to have in these cases because anger makes you self destructive and self defeating. It gives you an external locus of control, meaning that you blame everything that’s gone wrong in your life on the victim and you avoid to see your responsability in your acts.
        Many people make it an issue of pride and honor. They want to take revenge (or retribution which I see as the same thing) so people don’t think about abusing them again. This is using your fears to rationalize hurting a criminal. It points to narcissistic traits and should be taken into account because they might see getting their pride back as closure but they still harbour anger.
        You cannot achieve closure and be angry at you abuser. That would be cognitive disonance or having two opposite ideas at once.

  4. My arguments against the death penalty have almost always been that i am in favour of it in extreme cases but against the governments who make the decisions. In both the cases listed in the above article i would have no problems with it.
    However if you were to add say Vince Li, who killed a man on a greyhound bus, cut him up and ate parts of him I would vote no. To put it bluntly I honestly believe he is repentant, a man who can be saved rather than a man not worth saving.
    I also have a problem with many western governments justice systems, the US has had far to many sketchy convictions some even ending in death to be given the ultimate life or death decisions and here in Canada, there is talk about the constitutionality of every jury trial ever conducted thanks to the universal use of “jury vetting”, basically stacking the jury pool in conviction happy people before jury selection. I simply have very little faith in the justice system.
    There is too much circumstance here to really say yes or no, would I logically and rationally be able to come to a conclusion on the subject, or would i simply be angry and want revenge. That poll question is one i hope i never have an answer for.

  5. “Yes, you’d want to see him put to death. You’d want it to be cruel and unusual, which is why it’s probably a good idea that fathers of murder victims don’t have legal rights in these situations.”

    -Toby Ziegler, The West Wing, Aaron Sorkin & Paul Redford

    • Megalodon says:

      it’s probably a good idea that fathers of murder victims don’t have legal rights in these situations

      Really? No rights at all? Well, in most of the US today, victims and relatives of victims are afforded some minimal legal rights, despite what Ziegler wants. These rights are just things like being informed about the charges against the defendant, being informed about the status of the case, being informed when they have to testify, being informed about what kind of punishment the defendant may get if he is convicted, being consulted if the prosecutor is thinking about a plea bargain, having an opportunity to be heard in court during sentencing and being told if the defendant is released.

      Before these “Victims’ Rights” policies, victims and families were often left in the dark about criminal cases. Prosecutors would dispose of cases without ever telling them. A defendant could get a slap on the wrist and be on his way without the victim’s family ever hearing about it. Or they would be told that the defendant was going to get a long prison sentence, but they were unaware that he could get out much earlier because of things like parole or good behavior.

      Certainly, they do not have the right to unilaterally control the proceedings and decide the punishment. But families of victims are a relevant party to “these situations” and they are entitled to some minimal considerations.

  6. Jennifer J. says:

    There is a reason that we don’t let victims or victims’ families decide the punishment of those who commit crimes against them. The legal system is not designed to be a vehicle for personal vengeance. Yes, if my child or husband were the victim of a violent crime, I would happily dismember the person who hurt them with my bare hands…which is why I’m glad that I wouldn’t bear the responsibility for that decision.

    Examining the DNA evidence of prior convictions has demonstrated that we as a society make a lot of mistakes in determining guilt: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/21/criminal-exoneration-convicted-released-23-years-study_n_1531908.html. The death penalty doesn’t allow for do-overs.

    • One of the comments makes an interesting point that hadn’t occurred to me: executing an innocent person also means that the guilty party will never be brought to justice.

      • Megalodon says:

        Not necessarily true. The fact that an innocent person is punished for something he did not do does not preclude the punishment of the actual guilty party. The guilty party could be subsequently discovered and punished after the wrongful punishment of the innocent person. Or sometimes an innocent person may be false accused of being an accomplice to the guilty party and they are both similarly condemned. Though it is bad that an undeserving person would get punished, the guilty party would still be getting punished as well in that scenario.

    • Megalodon says:

      There is a reason that we don’t let victims or victims’ families decide the punishment of those who commit crimes against them. The legal system is not designed to be a vehicle for personal vengeance.

      Indeed, but that is not the only reason. Crimes are not solely private grievances between the offender and the victim(s). On the flip side, even if the victim or victim’s family is entirely forgiving and want the offender to go free, that will not excuse or exempt the offender from punishment. The state and the community are affected as a whole and have jurisdiction over the crime, apart from the wishes of the victim(s). Though, it is good for the court to listen to the victims and families and take their views into account. Same thing for listening to the family of the perpetrator.

      The death penalty doesn’t allow for do-overs.

      Most punishments do not allow for “do-overs” and carry the risk of somebody losing their life, or years of their life, for something that he/she may not have done.

  7. Ok Monkey. Case in point. Elmer Wayne Henley accomplice to the Candy Man Murders in the 1970’s. “This man delivered into the hands of two serial killers his childhood friends for $ 1500.00 each . They were his friends from childhood who he played with as a child and was in and out of his their homes since infancy. He participated in the torture, but not rapes until Dean Coril turned on him and Henley shot him and confessed. Henely is going up for parole hearding on 08/14/12. You know this is a good example on the argument on this site for life in prison verses the death penalty. As we can see here. Life in prison does not mean anything. This man participated in over 29 murders and torture, received 6 life sentences, yet he gets to gets a chance to get out on parole? The fact is that people actually have to petition in order to keep this monster in jail, despite the fact that he received 6 life sentences? What about the victims? What about their lives?” If you read the documentary. It is horrendous, those poor kids suffer horribly. How is their any justice with this case? I ask you.

    • That is truly horrible. It still doesn’t justify a death sentence that disproportionately executes poor black and Latino men, and has been proven to result in innocent people on death row or even executed.

  8. If my boyfriend were to be killed I think I would feel as though I were betraying him if I wanted the perpetrator to be put to death. I might want the individual to die or suffer –but I don’t think it would alleviate any of my grief and would probably only make me feel worse in the long run for betraying the memory of my beloved who aspires to harm no living creature that has interests.

  9. That is why we need new laws to deal with Killers such as Duncan and others on a one to one basis. These are people that have been proven by evidence and eye witnesses. There is no question that they are guilty. There can be a difference in handling these cases in a trustworthy and timley matter. If we can send people to the moon why can’t we do this? We have extremely intelligent people in our country that can do this. We can protect the innocent while bringing swift justice to these killers. It can be done. Their are many on death row that are serial killers that have stated that they will do it again if let out. What do you do with these kinds of crimminals? Answer Death Penalty.

    • No… We really, really can’t.

      No one is convicted if there is any doubt about their guilt *at that time*. Ifsomeone is found innocent later, it’s because new evidence has been found, sometimes decades later.

      There’s no way of making a legal distinction between guilty and double-plus guilty. As long as you have the death penalty there is the chance that innocent people will be executed.

      • Peter Houlihan says:

        “As long as you have the death penalty there is the chance that innocent people will be executed.”

        Not so much “chance” as “certainty”

  10. Peter Houlihan says:

    One might as well ask: “If you discovered that the person you thought had killed your loved one was actually innocent and faces the death penalty for a crime they didn’t commit, would you want them to be executed.”

    I’m guessing that alot of people would want someone who hurt someone they love dead, but that doesn’t change the fact that innocent people will end up on the same chair.

    • Megalodon says:

      One might as well ask: “If you discovered that the person you thought had killed your loved one was actually innocent and faces the death penalty for a crime they didn’t commit, would you want them to be executed.”

      I am sure that most people would answer “no” to that question. However, that does not mean that they are all going to jump to the conclusion that nobody must ever be executed for the sake of those who may be wrongfully executed. Or that nobody must ever be punished in any way, for the sake of those who may wrongfully punished.

      • I suggest we realise nothing good ever comes from revenge and instead of using prisons to punish we use them to reform and in the worst of cases, isolate with the intention of protecting society.

        Who are you to decide the life or death of a person? We all have a right to live, no matter how big of an asshole we think it’s clever to be. This person could be reformed into a very valuable person for our society. I’m not saying it can be easily done and maybe it’s not possible, but we don’t know wether or not is possible. Until we reform them we keep them in prison.

        However, if you kill him you remove all posibility of him reforming and becoming a valuable member of society and you are also killing his possible future reformed self. But we are biased against this idea because it would mean accepting people can and do change. We are too scared of doing that because it destroys the methods we use to decide wether or not someone is trustworthy. In other words, we are in denial.

        • Megalodon says:

          I suggest we realise nothing good ever comes from revenge

          Of course you can suggest that, and people can reject your suggestion. Even if we accept that revenge and retribution are the same, which they are not, lots of people find a moral good and moral imperative in punishment. When persons harm and violate their fellow persons, we think that there is an imperative that the malefactors suffer some kind of harm and loss commensurate to what they did to their victim(s). Perhaps you may dismiss this notion as ridiculous, and other people may dismiss your rehabilitation argument as naïve.

          instead of using prisons to punish we use them to reform and in the worst of cases, isolate with the intention of protecting society.

          I do not reject the notion of reform and rehabilitation, where appropriate. And punishment and reform and not mutually exclusive. If an offender commits certain crimes (crimes that carry less than a life sentence), he should be appropriately punished. But I also hope that he will have available resources and methods to reform himself so that he can at least be a non-offending, non-violent person when he is released.

          Who are you to decide the life or death of a person?

          I am a person who believes that certain human decisions are so severe and grave that those decisions should have grave and permanent consequences for the person who committed them. I do not think one life is worth more than another. If a Nobel Prize winner and child molesting drug addict commit the same crime, then they should receive the same punishment. But apparently, you think that it is okay to “decide the life or death of a person” because you say that we may have to take the criminals who are “the worst of cases” and “isolate” those criminals “with the intention of protecting society.” Well, if you isolate a person from free society because we think that he is particularly incorrigible, then you are deciding that person’s life. Or at least deciding the supposed value of their life and how they should be able to live it.

          We all have a right to live, no matter how big of an asshole we think it’s clever to be.

          Yes, we have a right to live, but most people accept that this right can indeed be forfeited, even if you do not support the death penalty. If somebody tries to harm another person, that other person has every right to use force, even deadly force, to defend their own life. Is a victim prohibited from killing an assailant because he must respect the assailant’s right to live? Even though the assailant shows no such respect for the victim’s right to live? And even if an assailant does not plan to kill his victim, he can still forfeit his right to live. If a person killed an assailant because the assailant tried to rape him/her, we do not condemn that person and say “How dare you kill that person! He only wanted to rape you, not murder you! Even a rapist has a right to live!”

          This person could be reformed into a very valuable person for our society.

          You condemn other people for apparently deciding about the “life or death of a person.” But now, you are again suggesting and proposing judgment of other people’s lives. You believe that it is possible and acceptable to decide if a person’s life is “valuable” for our society.

          I’m not saying it can be easily done and maybe it’s not possible, but we don’t know wether or not is possible. Until we reform them we keep them in prison.

          In some rare cases it may be “easily done” or with more malleable people like juveniles. I know that it is possible. I have known many people who committed crime(s) in their past and who are now law-abiding and even “productive” with their lives. However, your last suggestion may have disturbing implications. You would be making incarceration depend not on some predetermined sentence or punishment, but on the prisoner satisfying some improved standard of self-reformation. Imagine some poor unemployed man who drinks a lot. One day, he gets arrested for disorderly conduct or public urination, which usually gets punished with a fine or a night in jail. If he expresses no willingness to reform himself and wants to remain an unproductive alcoholic, should we be allowed to imprison him indefinitely until he reforms himself to our satisfaction? If release from prison depends upon satisfying some standard of reformation, some petty criminals might be kept in prison longer than the murderers and rapists.

          However, if you kill him you remove all posibility of him reforming and becoming a valuable member of society and you are also killing his possible future reformed self.

          Actually, that is not true. Some death row inmates have apparently “reformed” and tried to make “valuable” contributions to society while they awaited their executions. Stanley “Tookie” Williams tried to reduce gang violence and wrote books encouraging non-violent conflict resolution. Some death row inmates even become prison counselors for other inmates. If they actually do achieve positive things while they await execution, then fine. And the same thing goes for life inmates. But their good deeds do not negate their crimes, nor do those good deeds excuse them from a punishment that they deserve. If all that matters is reformation and correction, one can doubt if he should even feel guilty for his crime. After all, guilt and shame can cause him mental anguish, resentment and low self-esteem which may jeopardize his “future reformed self.”

          There may be some salt of the earth doctor who treats poor children and is a member of “Doctors Without Borders.” Then one day, bulldozers find a dead body buried on his property. He confesses that he once got into a fight with his girlfriend, murdered her and buried her body decades ago. Well, in all the years since then, he has never hurt anybody and he has been a “valuable” member of society. Does he get a free pass? What about a man who molested his children decades ago, but has apparently not abused anyone since? If he is apparently not a danger anymore, why imprison him?

          When they prosecuted James Ford Seale for murdering two black teenagers in 1964, more than 40 years had gone by and Seale was an old man. He probably was not likely to go out kidnapping and murdering people, but the government decided that he needed to pay for his long past actions, even though he was no longer dangerous. Eugene De Kock is probably not likely to assemble a death squad to murder political dissidents again, even if he wanted to. He has even expressed remorse for his actions, but he still sits in prison for a 200 year term. And perhaps he should be.

          When a person commits crimes, some people think that the issue is not just about “reforming” or “correcting” that person or benefiting society by making the offender more “productive.” It is not just about the offender and his future and our future. The past matters to lots of people. The person(s) that the offender harmed matter. The fact that an offender might never hurt anyone again or might be a beneficent, productive person does not cancel out what he did. If a murderer is allowed to go free and lives a positive, productive life, some would consider that to be insult added to injury. He now enjoys the kind of life that he permanently denied his victim. For most criminals, I hope that rehabilitation can be put to successful and productive use and that they can rejoin society as non-violent people after their serve their punishments. However, when malefactors commit certain crimes, then their reformation and improvement no longer matter, and the harm and horror of their actions outweigh the future good person that they could become. And we tell such persons that because they have taken away vital and sacred things from their victims, then they shall lose those things themselves. If they should find ways to improve themselves while they serve their punishments, that is the least of my concern.

          But we are biased against this idea because it would mean accepting people can and do change.

          We are all biased against this idea? A fair number still seem to believe in it. People who counsel and minister to inmates. People who run outreach for people fresh out of jail. People who run rehab facilities. Unfortunately, some people believe in change a little too easily, and malefactors who have not really changed know how to take advantage of that. Even a gung-ho Southern conservative like Haley Barbour apparently believes in change, because he pardoned several murderers when he fell for their sappy redemption songs.
          The fact that I believe in punishment and retribution does not mean that I believe people cannot change. I think they can. However, for people who commit certain crimes, I think whether or not they change is less important than the punishment of their deeds.

          We are too scared of doing that because it destroys the methods we use to decide wether or not someone is trustworthy.

          Some people think that the best predictor of future action is past action. And they are not always unjustified in believing that. But despite what you say, there is no one universal method of deciding whether or not someone is trustworthy. Some people are willing to trust malefactors and criminals and give them benefit of the doubt. Sometimes their optimism is confirmed. And sometimes not.

          • I guess you’ve never heard of ad populum fallacies. You really should learn to debate my stance as a whole instead of picking it apart and even separating parts of the same argument and misunderstanding some of these parts as a result.

            I believe you are not a person who knows himself and who thus thinks they are never biased. I refuse to debate with you because I feel like your phychological defences (created, I’d speculate, during childhood by abusive parents) prevent you from thinking in an entirely logical way.

            • Megalodon says:

              I guess you’ve never heard of ad populum fallacies.

              Actually, I have. I happen to agree with most of the principles that I have presented, or at least find them worth consideration. I do not think that they are true simply because lots of people subscribe to them. But I also care to point out that lots of people do subscribe to them, and most of them are not sadistic, stunted people in need of the light of your teachings.

              You really should learn to debate my stance as a whole instead of picking it apart and even separating parts of the same argument and misunderstanding some of these parts as a result.

              Your stance as a whole is this: It is our own fault that people commit violence and punishment is bad and primitive and we must reform violent people until they are productive. It does not improve upon holistic appraisal nor does it improve upon reduction of its premises. If I have separated parts of the same argument, it is to point out other different defects and implications that I did not point out the first time I picked it apart.

              If I have misunderstood your propositions, then you will just have to point out how. Otherwise, my misunderstandings will remain your cherished secret.

              I believe you are not a person who knows himself and who thus thinks they are never biased.

              “Knows himself”? Why thank you, Apollo. I am not arrogant enough to think that I am never biased. Are you? Whether or not you are, you apparently you think that your positions and principles are legitimate arguments and other people’s contrary positions are mere “biases.”

              I refuse to debate with you

              Translation: Flounce.

              because I feel like your phychological defences (created, I’d speculate, during childhood by abusive parents) prevent you from thinking in an entirely logical way.

              How kind and pseudo-Freudian of you. I guess you have never heard of ad hominem fallacies. Or perhaps you are heeding Oscar Wilde’s advice:

              If you cannot prove a man wrong, don’t panic. You can always call him names.

              Your conjecture is incorrect, insulting and irrelevant. Just like it would off-base and irrelevant for me to speculate that you formed your philosophy because you harmed and abused people throughout your life and you want to convince yourself that your wrongs are other people’s fault and maintain some kind of pretense of moral superiority. Well, since I cannot think logically and you will not offer your enlightenment, I guess that I must continue to dwell in darkness. Woe is me. Go offer your light to those that you find deserving.

              • The fact that you thought my speculative comment on how your childhood may have caused you to be biased in this debate was an ad homien says alot about yourself.

                I don’t wish to punish you for being illogical. I’m just pointing out what I feel when I debate with you in the hope that you get some help because I’ve been where you are and I know that deep inside you are just scared. Fear is the root of all evil.

                Being proved wrong won’t make people reject you. Being prooved less than perfect won’t make people reject you. Your parends, i’d speculate (given that it’s almost always the case), punished you strongly for your mistakes (possibly spanking you; thus your bias towards the use of violence against violence) and had too high expectations for you that where unrealistic for your age.

                If I had a bias towards not punishing evil it would be that I get something out of it. That something is getting rid of a load of rage from inside of me that was only making me depressed when turned inward and angry when turned outwards.
                However, I beleive my stance is also the right one, but I may be wrong. I am willing to debate it without the use of ad populums or anecdotal arguments of “this person got something good out of taking revenge thus revenge must be good”. For that to happen though, one must know their own psyche and the limits to that knowledge.

                • Megalodon says:

                  The fact that you thought my speculative comment on how your childhood may have caused you to be biased in this debate was an ad homien says alot about yourself.

                  When you tell a person that their statements or arguments are beneath consideration and must be the product of psychological damage and abuse, then that constitutes an ad hominem attack. If you truly believe that rational people are obliged to kindly accept your condescending appraisals of them, then your arrogance is as boundless as the sun.

                  What if you actually confronted a real crime victim or an abuse victim who disagreed with you on this subject? As I am sure that many would. You are not obliged to agree with them, but would you actually tell them, “you are not even fit to argue with me, because your differing opinions are clearly the product of the abuse you suffered”?

                  I don’t wish to punish you for being illogical.

                  Good, because I was not being illogical. Assuming that being illogical is even a punishable offense.

                  I’m just pointing out what I feel when I debate with you

                  Feel whatever you like, but your emotions do not come with a guarantee or validity or relevance. And what you “feel” in a debate does not bolster the merits of your claims. Unless you are arguing about emotions.

                  in the hope that you get some help because I’ve been where you are and I know that deep inside you are just scared.

                  I am almost certain that you have not. Wherever you have been, I shall pass. If whatever “help” that you received made you into what you are today, I also respectfully decline. And no, I am not scared. I just differ with things that you claim to be self-evident truth. And I take issue with being condemned as a murderer.

                  Being proved wrong won’t make people reject you. Being prooved less than perfect won’t make people reject you.

                  Well, of course it won’t and I never suspected that it would. But that really does not matter, because I was not proved wrong here. And I never claimed to be perfect.

                  Your parends, i’d speculate (given that it’s almost always the case), punished you strongly for your mistakes (possibly spanking you; thus your bias towards the use of violence against violence) and had too high expectations for you that where unrealistic for your age.

                  Swing and a miss. Maybe you should demand a refund from the place that taught you how to “read” people. I actually got away with most mistakes and misdeeds when I was a kid. My parents were lax disciplinarians. And if anything, they lavishly praised me for my achievements, like honor roll or cum laude, even when I did not find them hard to do.

                  If I had a bias towards not punishing evil it would be that I get something out of it. That something is getting rid of a load of rage from inside of me that was only making me depressed when turned inward and angry when turned outwards.

                  I guess you are arguing about emotions, then. You think that you can only “get something out of it” by embracing your ideology of “not punishing evil”? Well, maybe that is your predicament. But fortunately, many people are able to overcome their rage and find closure, and they can do this while still believing in a concept of punishment. Despite your caricature of them, people who believe in punishment are not all consumed with rage, “depressed” on the inside and “angry” on the outside. Some are quite pacific and contented. Some can move on with their lives, even if a malefactor who hurt them goes unpunished. The fact that they prefer that the malefactor be punished does not force them to retain to their “rage” forever, nor do they necessarily make crime and punishment into the focus of their lives. In fact, many victims and families of victims say to a wrongdoer, when he is being sentenced, “now that you are being punished, I can more easily forget about you and what you did. I will not waste my time on you.” Punishment sometimes facilitates the release of rage, not its retention.

                  However, I beleive my stance is also the right one, but I may be wrong.

                  Oh, so maybe you were wrong about calling the people who disagree with your stance “murderers”?

                  I am willing to debate it without the use of ad populums or anecdotal arguments of “this person got something good out of taking revenge thus revenge must be good”

                  I never predicated my arguments solely upon the fact that many people accept them, and that therefore they must be valid and true on that basis. I mentioned the fact of other people’s beliefs to show that I was not making up my own pronouncements ex cathedra and declaring their indisputability. And it is also worth implying that you are callously condemning a sizable portion of the world as morally equivalent to serial killers because they do not agree with you. Though, argumentum ad populum sounds more worthwhile than merely saying “Because I believe so, it is so!” which sounds like what you are doing.

                  As for anecdotes, those serve the purpose of disputing and debunking your categorical characterizations of retribution and people who support it. When you say that “no good” ever comes from punishment and nobody ever finds anything good from it, you speak in absolute, universal terms. Demonstrating the existence of people who actually have found something good and satisfying from a completed punishment shows that your pronouncements are not categorical or incontestable.

                  For that to happen though, one must know their own psyche and the limits to that knowledge.

                  So you refuse to exchange with people unless they have undergone preemptive rigorous therapy and meditation to know their own “psyches”? So perhaps people of certain unfit “psyches” are disqualified from discussion with you? But then again, you seem to treat disagreement with you on this subject as proof positive that a person has a damaged “psyche” and deficient self-knowledge. So the only people who are fit to debate you are those who already agree with you? Ingenious!

                  I know my psyche and my limits to my satisfaction. So far, you neither challenge nor exceed them.

                  • You could become a successful politician if you could give that ammount of spin to any subject.
                    Or maybe it’s just lack of comprehension. I suggest you re-read my comments in that case.

                    My favourite example of your spin ( to give evidence this is not an ad homien):
                    “So you refuse to exchange with people unless they have undergone preemptive rigorous therapy and meditation to know their own “psyches”?”

                    I never mentioned medication and I said debate, not all social exchange.

                    Another example of your spin:
                    Your anecdotal argument of some people getting something good out of revenge does not invalidate my universal argument “revenge is never good” because you don’t understand what I mean by good. In this case, by good I mean something that helps the long term happiness of someone and you are talking about a feeling that feels good in the moment: the sadistic pleasure (Schadenfreude) you get when you take revenge. I say sadistic because you are feeling pleasure that someone else is feeling pain. Obviously sadism is not moraly good because nobody likes to feel pain.
                    Just incase you pull out an anecdotal argument (notice how I did not say fallacy) related to masochism I suggest you research how masochism works. Here’s a hint: masochists relate pain with love, not pain with pleasure.

                    • Megalodon says:

                      You could become a successful politician if you could give that ammount of spin to any subject.

                      Thanks, but no thanks. And it is not spin, just because it happens to be contrary to your platitudes.

                      Or maybe it’s just lack of comprehension. I suggest you re-read my comments in that case.

                      Read them time and again. Read them over and over every time I respond to them. I guess I am just thickheaded. Or maybe you do not realize that just because somebody is not persuaded by what you say, does not mean that they do not comprehend what you say. Is it your contention that if only people understand what you say, then they cannot help but agree with you?

                      My favourite example of your spin ( to give evidence this is not an ad homien):
                      “So you refuse to exchange with people unless they have undergone preemptive rigorous therapy and meditation to know their own “psyches”?”
                      I never mentioned medication and I said debate, not all social exchange.

                      I never said medication either, and not all therapy equates to medication. However, when you exhort people to get “help” for what you consider to be defective psychology, pharmacological methods are an implication of the word “help.” And even if you did not specifically mean medication, your dismissal is still arrogant and ridiculous.

                      And I use “exchange” and “debate” interchangeably.

                      Your anecdotal argument of some people getting something good out of revenge does not invalidate my universal argument “revenge is never good” because you don’t understand what I mean by good.

                      I regret that I do understand. You are going to claim some kind of superior prerogative and knowledge over other people’s emotional states and assert that you and those who agree with you know what constitutes true, correct, lasting happiness for all people and that those who claim to be made happy by contrary things must be lying to themselves.

                      In this case, by good I mean something that helps the long term happiness of someone and you are talking about a feeling that feels good in the moment

                      And there you go. How exactly do you know what does and does not bring “long term happiness to someone”? And what makes you definitively know that the satisfaction of seeing a wrongdoer punished only “feels good in the moment.” How long of a moment? The very minute of execution? A few hours afterward? A few months? The violent death of one’s loved one can often cause lasting grief and anguish for somebody, even if that person successfully copes with it. And on the flip side, the satisfaction of seeing the malefactor punished can perhaps give someone lasting contentment and relief. Even if only at the back of their minds. And this bifurcation between “long term happiness” and happiness of the “moment” does not always hold up. Even feelings that we might typically dismiss as “momentary” and ephemeral can actually have long lasting effect on a person’s life. The first time that somebody has sex is usually a short lived event. But a person may think about that moment fondly for the rest of his/her life. Or a person may fondly recall the moment of birth of his/her first child for decades throughout his/her life.

                      But even if your strict dichotomy between “long term happiness” and “momentary” happiness holds up, and even if satisfaction in punishment is of the “momentary” category, it does not follow that one category is objectively “good” and superior to another. People have the right to affirm their personal conceptions of the good and what they find worthwhile. For some people, happiness is having a good job and a family. For others, it’s having lots of short, hedonistic affairs. And for some, it’s being a celibate monk. And so on. There is no grand measuring stick that determines which kind of happiness is true, authentic and superior.

                      you are talking about a feeling that feels good in the moment: the sadistic pleasure (Schadenfreude) you get when you take revenge. I say sadistic because you are feeling pleasure that someone else is feeling pain. Obviously sadism is not moraly good because nobody likes to feel pain.

                      Once again, you are assuming the prerogative to psychologically and emotionally classify every person who supports retribution. You know full well that there are some things that people do not personally enjoy, but which they still think are morally necessary. Supporting capital punishment (or any punishment) does not necessarily equate to specifically enjoying the attendant suffering of the malefactor. Not every person who wishes to see the guilty punished gets some kind of delectation at the sight of the guilty person’s pain and anguish. They may actually shrink from it, even though they accept that the person deserves it. To them, it may be some kind of solemn, unpleasant but necessary ordeal. And a person’s support of punishment does not even rule out that person maintaining some level compassion for the guilty.

                      Even acknowledging that some people experience schadenfreude or sadistic satisfaction in the punishment and loss inflicted on criminals, I believe that kind of emotion is qualitatively different from generic schadenfreude or sadism. Part of the taboo against schadenfreude or sadism is the concern that you are taking joy in the suffering of somebody who does not deserve it, or that you are even inflicting suffering on someone who does not deserve it. If a child abuse victim takes joy and satisfaction in the fact that a child molester is despondent because he will spend the rest of his life in prison, that is different from the joy and satisfaction that a child molester feels when he sees his victim cry and struggle, even though they can both be generally classified as joy in the suffering of another person. It is one thing to be happy about a man being poor and bankrupt just because you dislike him. It is another thing to take pleasure in seeing Bernie Madoff become poor and destitute, as some kind of poetic justice. I refuse to rank and classify these different kinds of enjoyments in the same way. Anyway, this conflation of all kinds of schadenfreude or pleasure in the suffering of others as uniformly bad per se, no matter what the context of the suffering, is not universal or consistent. Even Thomas Aquinas said:

                      In order that the bliss of the saints may be more delightful for them and that they may render more copious thanks to God for it, it is given to them to see perfectly the punishment of the damned.

                      Obviously sadism is not moraly good because nobody likes to feel pain.

                      I know that there are many criticisms of sadism, but I did not realize that this was the one reason why it is bad. You are going to have to explain this formulation to me. If people do not like experiencing something, then it is bad to ever take satisfaction in seeing that thing done? I did not realize that the ultimate moral determination of something is whether or not people enjoy experiencing it.

                      Anyway, this seems to be a digression from your claim about long lasting happiness and false, momentary happiness. Sadly, the morality of something does not always correlate with the happiness and gratification it brings. Immoral and venal things can sometimes bring a person happiness, even lasting happiness. A man might be happy spending his life exploiting and hurting many people, and if he never suffers any severe consequence, he may have a long term happiness. I would hope people do not gain happiness from doing bad things to other people who do not deserve bad things. But that is not always preventable. I think a person who actually harms and violates undeserving people is bad and condemnable, whether or not his actions bring him lasting happiness. I think a person who takes joy in the punishment inflicted on people who deserve it is not bad or blameworthy, whether or not he gets “long term happiness” from seeing the guilty get what they deserve.

                      Just incase you pull out an anecdotal argument (notice how I did not say fallacy) related to masochism I suggest you research how masochism works. Here’s a hint: masochists relate pain with love, not pain with pleasure.

                      Um, I was not going to say anything about masochism. I suggest that you work on your skills of calling people’s next moves. Or maybe just stop trying to anticipate.

      • Peter Houlihan says:

        “I am sure that most people would answer “no” to that question. However, that does not mean that they are all going to jump to the conclusion that nobody must ever be executed for the sake of those who may be wrongfully executed.”
        If your answer is no, the only way to prevent that from happening is not to execute people. Otherwise it *will* happen, just as it has done in the past.

        “Or that nobody must ever be punished in any way, for the sake of those who may wrongfully punished.”
        Red herring. Lesser punishments can be commuted in the light of new evidence and the victim can be compensated. This is not possible with the death penalty.

        • Megalodon says:

          If your answer is no, the only way to prevent that from happening is not to execute people. Otherwise it *will* happen, just as it has done in the past.

          You are assuming that because they do not want an innocent person to be punished, then they must necessarily value that priority above all else. And they will just tell you, “I would not want an innocent person to be punished for murdering my relative. But I do not think this person is innocent and I do not think the risk of executing the innocent is compelling enough to abolish capital punishment.”

          Lesser punishments can be commuted in the light of new evidence and the victim can be compensated. This is not possible with the death penalty.

          Not quite. Some punishments can be interrupted if the person is exonerated while serving it. If an innocent person has served 20 years of a life sentence and is exonerated, his incarceration can stop. However, he has still lost 20 years of his life which he will never get back. His loss is permanent. If a person gets a limited term of 30 years and he serves it all, and then gets exonerated, he has permanently served that punishment and lost those years. And if somebody is serving a long prison term, he may die in prison of natural causes, before any evidence can be found to exonerate him. That loss is permanent.

          If a person is wrongfully executed, or just dies in prison before being exonerated, then his next of kin can be monetarily compensated. That is not sufficient compensation, but neither is it sufficient compensation when we pay a wrongfully imprisoned person for lost decades of his life. Nothing can make up for the loss of a person’s life, but neither can anything make up for the loss of time of a person’s life. Unless perhaps the punishment is monetary, no wrongful punishment can be sufficiently righted or compensated.

  11. This Holmes guy who did the shooting. Killing him would not reduce the pain created by his acts. Killing him would be reducing ourselves to his level and using violent rage to make ourselves feel better, just like he used violent rage to feel better.

    If you support the death penalty you are also a murderer. We need to give our children a better example of what justice is than this archaic “an eye for an eye” revenge mentality or they too may believe going on a shooting spree a form of justice.

    You don’t want to pay his imprisonment? Well, that’s our punishment for not being a society that helps people like Holmes before they go on a shooting spree. This is not something that happens without warnings. Even his mother expected him to do something like what he did.

    We created this monster.

    • Megalodon says:

      Killing him would not reduce the pain created by his acts.

      So you have asked all of the surviving victims and relatives of victims? Certainly they would have preferred never to have been shot and for their family members never to have been maimed and killed. But when these irreversible acts are done, lots of wronged people claim that they want to see the perpetrator punished, and if he is not punished (or sufficiently punished), then they often claim to find that distressing and painful. You would be surprised how long victims and family of victims wait to see the closure of punishment. When a police officer was murdered in 1978, his family waited 33 years for the murderer to be executed:

      Pena’s daughter, Jeneane Skeen of Ft. Myers. Had sent three emails to Governor Rick Scott, asking him when Valle would be executed.

      When she heard that the Governor signed the death warrant, she was elated. “That’s the greatest news I’ve ever heard,” she said from her Ft. Myers home. “33 years we’ve been waiting and it’s been a long, long, long haul. We’ve never had a Governor sign the death warrant. Governor Scott is the first one to do it. We thank him very much. Manuel Valle doesn’t deserve to be alive anymore.”

      “I think it brings a chapter of closure for the whole family,” she said.

      Inez Afanador, who was Pena’s former wife, said, “It’s time. It’s been 33 years. It’s time that they put him away already. I’m happy it has come to this. Valle took him. He murdered him. And for that I don’t like him.”

      http://miami.cbslocal.com/2011/07/01/family-of-victim-reacts-to-pending-execution-of-gables-cop-killer/

      “elated” “the greatest news I’ve ever heard” “closure for the whole family” “I’m happy”

      Sure sounds to me like their “pain” has been reduced. But perhaps they are just lying and you know their true hearts?

      Killing him would be reducing ourselves to his level and using violent rage to make ourselves feel better, just like he used violent rage to feel better.

      Most people believe that there is a difference between generic, anomic anger directed against people in general and specific indignation directed against a person who has maimed you or killed people you care about. But perhaps you do not. The people that he killed and maimed never hurt him. He had no right to harm them or to take anything from them, whether or not it made him feel better to do so. He has harmed those victims. They have a right to see him suffer loss and deprivation because of what he wrought upon them, and if they find some kind of satisfaction or relief in seeing that, then all the better.

      Say that a man became angry at a woman who rebuffed him and so he beat her and raped her to make himself feel better. Then he is arrested and incarcerated for what he did, and his victim feels better that he is punished. By your calculation, those too people are morally equivalent, and the victim is supposed to feel guilty and ashamed that she takes satisfaction in her assailant’s punishment.

      If you support the death penalty you are also a murderer.

      One wonders how much you actually care about the pain that victims suffer, since you are ready to condemn a lot of victims as being no better than the person who hurt them, unless they embrace your anti-punitive philosophy. And if we support incarceration, we are also kidnappers. And if we support fines, we are also thieves. Well, I guess a lot of us will have to plead guilty to your indictment. But since you do not believe in punishment, I guess you will just have to tolerate other people committing this thought crime with impunity.

      We need to give our children a better example of what justice is than this archaic “an eye for an eye” revenge mentality or they too may believe going on a shooting spree a form of justice.

      We try to teach children the difference between different kinds of wrongs, the ones that can and should be redressed with the force of the state versus wrongs and slights that should be peaceably resolved or ignored. Usually, that is considered a part of human maturity. Most people believe that if they are stolen from, beaten, raped or murdered, then the perpetrator should be punished. And most people do not go on shooting rampages. But I guess most people have to radically abnegate themselves for the sake of people who may become rampage murderers. They have to tell themselves “I must foreswear the belief that somebody who rapes me or murders me should be punished, so that some people do not think it is okay to go on a shooting rampage! And if I should ever desire punishment of wrongs, then I am no better than a murderer!”

      You don’t want to pay his imprisonment?

      I am sure that the taxpayers of Colorado will accept paying for his imprisonment, but a lot of them would also like to pay for his execution even more.

      Well, that’s our punishment for not being a society that helps people like Holmes before they go on a shooting spree. This is not something that happens without warnings. Even his mother expected him to do something like what he did.

      It is nice of you to conclude with a serving of victim blaming. And do not go off presuming that there was some wide open opportunity to stop him before he did this. If his mother or his psychiatrist actually believed in these “warnings,” then they should have tried to commit him involuntarily. Either they did not try, or they did not have sufficient evidence to commit him. Perhaps we can fix that by having mental health supervisors who monitor the public and who can seize and commit people to mental institutions if they judge them to be potentially dangerous. And also by lowering the legal burden for proving that a person is mentally dangerous. Of course, that can unleash another can of worms entirely.

      We created this monster.

      If that is so, then we have all the more the right to destroy it.

      • It’s true that victims can get closure from taking this form of revenge. It’s also true that such a slow legal system only prolongs the pain and it might be years before you get closure. Years full of rage towards this person. I know this because I have been in that situation and let me tell you, if you hold a container full of sulfuric acid waiting to throw it to your victims face, when you finally throw it over them you’ll feel good but the container you held that acid in for so long will have been damaged. You are the container of your rage.
        The rage I held for a certain person damaged me more than the act itself. It put me into this “I am the victim” mentality and made me not see my own responsibility in my actions. Not having any responsibility in my actions disempowered me and made me feel as If I had no control over my life. If I failed an exam, it was because of that person who hurt me so much had made me depressed and thus unable to concentrate in my studies. This disempowerment caused me to not go to college and it was entirely my fault for CHOOSING to hold on to my victimhood and rage.
        Rage is poison. Learn to forgive and learn from your mistakes.
        I used to wish the worst for that person who hurt me so much. Now I realize that it was partially my fault for being too gullible and that this person was made this way through neglectful parenting, bad experiences, etc. In this world evil is passed from one person to the other. Nobody is inherently evil. All babies are born just as innocent. We need to break this cycle of evil fueled by revenge if we want to live in a better world and the only way to do it is through forgiveness.
        However, I do believe some people should be imprisoned but only with the objective of reforming them or to remove their threat to society but never as a form of revenge.

        And no, creating a monster does not mean you have the right to destroy it because you never had the right to create the monster in the first place because you never owned the subject. Holmes could of been a good person if his enviroment would of been better. However bad his crimes, they are merely revenge. He was a victim of our fucked up society until he became the abuser and did this shooting. His enviroment fucked him up and now he is fucking up his enviroment. With your “eye for an eye” idea of justice and assuming his acts where purely out of revenge we can logicaly deduct that Holmes behaviour was fair, he is now even with society and no further action should be taken.

    • Megalodon says:
  12. Michael, So true. I will have to read that book. That being said. When you read the case about Duncan there is no question at all that he did it and would do so again. We need the DP against these types of individuals to protect the innocents. To think how those children suffered. I could not sleep for weeks after reading it. What do we do about monsters like him? Why should he live one moment longer, why should we the tax payers have to support him in prison for the rest of his life. The verdict was the Dealth Penalty, there is no question that he did it, he video taped himself . He would do it again if let out. We need new laws to handle people like him.

  13. Michael Nellis says:

    There are two many prosecutors who prosecute for personal poltiical benefit, and all too often they accuse a law abiding citizen and then cover up or ignore evidence that exonerates the innocent they accused. Read _One Innocent Man_ by John Grisham. This book is biography of a heinous and vile miscarriage of justice. A prosecutor put four men on death row to close out two separate cases, and all of them had not been involved in the crimes in any way. Unless guarantees can be put in place to protect the law abiding from such prosecutions which are themselves crimes.

  14. Orianna says:

    I don’t agree. Cases such as Duncan are clear cut and if you read Bonnies Blog of Crime you will see that violence and murder are out of control in this country. Something has to be done about it. I feel for our poor Police Offfices out there every day putting their lives on the line, only to have the crimminal released, it must be very frustrating for them and mentally debilitating on a daily basis. I refuse to believe that the system is going to deliberately sentence and innocent. to death based on the fact that murderers are given every avenue open to appeal, etc. The question of innocence is a big one for a person who finds himself facing the DP. How did they come to be in this situation anyway? Its just not feasible.

  15. Orianna says:

    The issue here is not about the innocent conviicted wrongly. That is far and few between. What we are seeing now is blantant murder and disregard for life such as Duncan. We are talking about these crimminals who clearly deserve the DP not ones that are in question?

    • They are actually not few and far between – check the Innocence Project if you don’t believe me.

      The point is that you cannot separate the two, as hard as you try. There will always -ALWAYS- be someone who is found guilty who will in fact be innocent.

  16. Orianna says:

    Yes, JJ I do agree absolutely! The cost is secondary compared to what the innocent victims have suffered, but considerationof the costs does help when making decisions regarding the DP.

  17. J. J. H says:

    as long as there is disputable evidence I feel they should be executed for murder and forced rape. Its not about the cost of keeping them in prison but the cost of the emotional and physical harm they caused their victim. I also feel that they victim or if deceased the victims family should have a say in the punishment. Too many criminals make themselves out to be the victim when the real victim is the one they raped or murdered.

  18. Orianna says:

    It seems strange to value the life of a convicted murderer while taking it for granted that more than a million Americans have died by being put into war. We maintain a DoD to be prepared to have more killed in national interest. Apparently, being a convicted murderer is kind of special.

    Richard you are so correct. US Soliders die every day to protect the country, they get nothing really, a small stipend and the promise of good education, that is IF they make it! While these murderers kill helpless, innocent people at will. When caught they get housing, food, education, many have masters degrees and many have become lawyers themselves in order to overburden the system and file long, drawn out appeals for crimes that they were convicted of and in many cases they have been giving the Death Penalty for. In this way, they victimize the system all over again and they are still getting their thrills. while victims familes suffer and it sends out a message that these kinds of actions will be tolerated. It is just a joke to them. They know they themselves will not pay the ultimate price ( a life for a life) . The whole system is a joke to them.

  19. Monkey that was at the turn of the century. Here is what you seem to have a problem with : many innocent people have been sentenced to death based on “clear cut” cases. There is no separate law for people who we “really really really know did it.”

    You are correct and the fact is that we need one! Thank you

    • turn of the century? There have been cases in the past 10 or 20 years of people who were executed on questionable evidence.

      The vast number of executed in the US are poor African American or other minorities who are saddled with inadequate or even corrupt defenses.

      Read anything by Sister Helen Prejean, and tell me that the death penalty works.

      • Megalodon says:

        Read anything by Sister Helen Prejean, and tell me that the death penalty works.

        We’ll read stuff by her when you read stuff by Robert Blecker.

      • The vast majority of those executed are male which evidently does not rate a mention.

        • Megalodon says:

          The vast majority of those executed are male which evidently does not rate a mention.

          Sadly, that is true. Because of gender stereotypes and socialization, juries and courts often sympathize more with female defendants and give them lesser sentences, even though they may rightly deserve harsher ones.

    • Peter Houlihan says:

      His point isn’t that we need a separate law for convicting people who we are really sure did it and those we’re not so sure about but decided to throw away anyway.

      His point is that the justice system isn’t perfect and such a distinction isn’t possible. No matter how the law is written juries will get things wrong. If the death penalty is involved the victims of the screw up will be dead.

      • Megalodon says:

        His point isn’t that we need a separate law for convicting people who we are really sure did it and those we’re not so sure about but decided to throw away anyway.

        Yes, I think that his true, ultimate point is to disqualify the state from punishing any criminal for any crime.

        His point is that the justice system isn’t perfect and such a distinction isn’t possible.

        States could simply write laws saying that the death penalty will not be an option unless the defendant admits commission of the crime or if there is something like a videographic record of the defendant committing the murder or such. That would radically reduce the number of possible death sentences, but such laws are not conceptually impossible.

        If the death penalty is involved the victims of the screw up will be dead.

        That does not require the involvement of the death penalty. People sentenced to life in prison or at least to substantial imprisonment may simply die in prison because they cannot produce evidence to exonerate themselves (or because the state refuses to acknowledge the evidence of innocence).

        • Peter Houlihan says:

          “Yes, I think that his true, ultimate point is to disqualify the state from punishing any criminal for any crime.”

          No it clearly wasn’t.

          “States could simply write laws saying that the death penalty will not be an option unless the defendant admits commission of the crime or if there is something like a videographic record of the defendant committing the murder or such.”

          People have falsely admitted crimes before because their case was hopeless, video footage can be, and has been, faked or misinterpreted.

          “That does not require the involvement of the death penalty. People sentenced to life in prison or at least to substantial imprisonment may simply die in prison because they cannot produce evidence to exonerate themselves (or because the state refuses to acknowledge the evidence of innocence).”

          Be honest, if you were on death row for something you didn’t do, would you be happy you were being killed with no hope that evidence or a new procedure might exhonorate you?

          • Megalodon says:

            No it clearly wasn’t.

            Once one accepts the premise that the risk of wrongful punishment should proscribe the use of that punishment entirely, it just becomes a question of which punishment one can accept sometimes being applied to a wrongfully convicted person. “Well, I cannot accept the risk of an innocent person being executed, but I can tolerate the risk of an innocent person spending the rest of his life in prison.” Then it becomes “I cannot accept the risk of an innocent person spending the rest of his life in prison, but I can accept the risk of an innocent person spending 30 years in prison.” And so forth.

            People have falsely admitted crimes before because their case was hopeless, video footage can be, and has been, faked or misinterpreted.

            Indeed. Same thing with fingerprints, DNA and the whole panoply of evidence we use for incrimination purposes. The risk of wrongful punishment can only be reduced, not abolished.

            Be honest, if you were on death row for something you didn’t do, would you be happy you were being killed with no hope that evidence or a new procedure might exhonorate you?

            Of course I would not be happy. And I would not be happy if I died in prison of natural causes before my execution (which is what happens to most death row inmates). I would not be happy if I died serving life in prison before any new evidence could exonerate me. I would not be happy if I served 30 years of a life sentence before I finally got exonerated. I would not be happy if I served a limited 30 year sentence and got released, only to be exonerated after I fully suffered the punishment.

  20. Blurpo, I see you are lurking. I was sure you would show. We cannot allow people like Joseph Duncan III to just go around killing people at random. He is a danger to society and a burden to the tax payers not to mention dangerous to less violent criminals in prision.

    “Lets forget all the socio-economical issues, lets forget all the time the state has let a person down, lets forget the power dynamics i the country, lets forget the cultural support to violenc” We are not forggetting them, these legitimate issues that affect us all. The system cannot continue to support violent crimmals that pray on innocents, They need to be but down as you would put down a rabid dog, to save innocent lives. We are not looking at it “LETS KILL MORE”, we are looking at justice served to the victims and to society in general. We are saying that we will not tolerate these types of crimes against humanity and there will be punishment against these types of acts and even if it does not stop killings they will know that they will be answerable to their actions when caught.

    MOD EDIT: Please avoid personal attacks on other commentators such as accusing them of “lurking”

  21. Sorry, Here is my question. How does excuting someone like Duncan affect innocent people? It dosen’t! The fact that he killed before and was let loose to do so again was mind boggling to me! Yes, Innocents were affected! Yes innocents suffered terribly! I have no problem with the Dealth Penalty fo these types of individuals. (and there seems to be a lot of them in the news lately) Its the right thing to do. It is justice pure and simple. Victims families can get some form of relief from justice served, although their lives will never be the same, at least they know that the goverment does respect the lives of innocent people and will not condone this behavior. It also gives some form of closure whatever it is worth. Especially in the case of Duncan.

    • The Blurpo says:

      Dead sentence is barbaric, and denote more the society that support it than the criminal. Honestly you live in a country where its ok to kill criminals, then how can you blame assasins? Violence only bring violence, and dead sentence is kinda useless since it doesent prevent nothing. It doesent stop the killings it doesent scare criminals, it doesen protect people…then what the h*ll is that good for?

      Its like using war to make peace. A big fat lie. Its easier to kill people rather than fix what has gone wrong, just like authoritarian regimes suppress dissence with brute force and media blackout (unless they blame foreign powers and or terrorist groups) so is the execution of a person a act of brute force a abuse of the society. Lets forget all the socio-economical issues, lets forget all the time the state has let a person down, lets forget the power dynamics i the country, lets forget the cultural support to violence, lets forget everything thats wrong in the nation and in the world and lets show we do something for the general good. LETS KILL MORE! Now we can feel good.

      • Megalodon says:

        Honestly you live in a country where its ok to kill criminals, then how can you blame assasins?

        Because we think there is difference between an assassin paid to murder a person for whatever reason (personal, political, monetary, religious, etc.) and executing a criminal who committed severe crimes and who has been legally condemned.

        But honestly, if you live in a country where its ok to imprison criminals, then how can you blame kidnappers?

        But honestly, if you live in a country where its ok to fine criminals, then how can you blame thieves?

        It doesent stop the killings it doesent scare criminals, it doesen protect people…then what the h*ll is that good for?

        Even accepting all your objections at face value, deterrence and protection are not the only justifications for punishment. Even if the punishment serves no other social good, some people believe in retribution and that malefactors must suffer harm and loss for the harm and loss that they inflicted upon others.

    • We’ve discussed this before: apparently we need to discuss it again.

      It affects innocent people because there is no way to implement a death penalty law in such a way that you can guarantee that innocent people will not be executed.

      The “cost” of not executing innocent people is that the state cannoy kill the likes of Duncan. It sucks, but it;s the only morally sane way.

      • Megalodon says:

        It affects innocent people because there is no way to implement a death penalty law in such a way that you can guarantee that innocent people will not be executed.

        Really? Even if we limited the death penalty to people who openly and freely admit their crimes and their depravity, like Duncan?

        The “cost” of not executing innocent people is that the state cannoy kill the likes of Duncan.

        When an innocent person is punished for a crime that he/she did not commit, that is an injustice. When a guilty person is not punished (or not sufficiently punished) for a crime that he commits, that is an injustice. You consider the first kind of injustice to be non-negotiable and grounds for total abolition of capital punishment. However, you consider the second kind of injustice to be tolerable and even necessary because we must avoid the risk of executing any innocent person ever. Well, not all people value justice priorities in the same rank that you do.

        It sucks, but it;s the only morally sane way.

        Says you. The only morally sane way is to prohibit capital punishment so as to always avoid the risk of executing an innocent person? But it is okay to maintain life imprisonment as a punishment, even though it carries the risk of innocent people being imprisoned for decades or their entire lives? Maybe some of those wrongfully imprisoned people think the only “morally sane way” is to not punish or imprison anyone, so as to avoid the risk of what they suffered.

        • We can’t limit it to people who freely admit or brag about their crimes. Te law doesn’t work that way.

          • Megalodon says:

            Te law doesn’t work that way.

            The death penalty is not mandatorily imposed in this jurisdiction (as opposed to the Asianc countries). Prosecutors decide whether or not they will pursue it and juries usually decide whether or not to impose it, after they have listened to a fight between the “aggravating factors” and the “mitigating factors.” If they want to limit the possibility to perpetrators who” freely admit or brag about their crimes” (though they should not have to do so), then what is to stop them.

            And just for the record, most death penalty cases are not “whodunnits.” It is usually not even disputed that the defendant committed the crime in question. The defense attorneys usually only try to argue and contest the penalty portion, trying to prove how their client’s background mitigates their crime, or how an accomplice did the worst part of the crime, etc.

      • RIchard Aubrey says:

        Actually, the “cost” is more dead innocents, of which you were informed but chose to pretend was not an issue.

  22. Yes. But people like Monkey cannot understand the concept of Justice. All he can see is that innocent people will be killed? We can relate to clear cut cases, that Moneky cannot seem to comprehend, as in the case of Jospeh Duncan III.

    In his closing statement in that trial in 2008, Duncan told the jury, “You people really don’t have any clue yet of the true heinousness of what I’ve done.” While on the run from a child-molesting charge in Minnesota in 2005, Duncan said he’d plotted terrible crimes targeting random children, from invading day-care centers to kidnappings at campgrounds. “I was not searching for a child but rather I was on a rampage,” he said. “My intention was to kidnap and rape and kill until I was killed, preferring death easily over capture.”

    He traveled across eight states looking for child victims before attacking the Groene family in their home along I-90 at Wolf Lodge, just east of Coeur d’Alene.

    I ask you, how does excuting someone of this mentality? He was let out over and over and only INNOCENTS died! This is a clear cut case. But Monkey cannot comprehend this!

    • Comprehend this:

      Where is the justice in executing innocent people, including a 14 year old boy who was only saved because sanity prevailed and his sentence was commuted?

      Here is what you seem to have a problem with : many innocent people have been sentenced to death based on “clear cut” cases. There is no separate law for people who we “really really really know did it.”

  23. Richard Aubrey says:

    The assertion is that, because the judgment process leading to DP is not perfect, we must stop DP. If perfection is the issue, then we must question the tactic of letting murderers go–see earlier posts about the lies regarding LWOP as a substitute for the DP.
    The individual murdered by a released murderer, or another prisoner or a guard killed in prison, is actually dead at the hands of the state because the state released a known murderer which it had the means to keep. Thus it’s at the hands of the state, as the state could have prevented it.
    See, as somebody said, the crusades of Buckley and Mailer on this subject. In each case, the released murderer murdered.

  24. Richard Aubrey says:

    Monkey,

    The Central Park Five did not get the automatic appeals and all the other avenues available to capital punishment cases.
    It is not likely that anything run by the government will be perfect, the question is what happens to the no-murderer, non-criminal at the hands of the murderer who will be released. If the DP is not perfect, and thus must be eschewed, must not the release of murderers be eschewed if it is not perfect?

    • No, because one is permanent while the other is not.

      It’s not a matter of “if.” people found innocent after the fact have been executed. And these people were non-murderers and non-criminals.

      If a person is released and commits a new crime, it is on their hands. If an innocent person is executed, it’s on society’s hands.

      • Megalodon says:

        No, because one is permanent while the other is not.

        When a person is imprisoned (wrongfully or rightfully), that person suffers a permanent harm and change to his/her life. It is not reversible. If a person is imprisoned for 30 years, he/she has permanently lost those years, forever. Even if he is subsequently vindicated and released, he is not going to got those years back. I suppose he can be monetarily compensated for the loss of time from his life, but that does not undo the loss, anymore than monetary compensation to the family of wrongfully executed person would undo the loss of their family member.

        • And yet he (or she) will still be alive.

          Are you seriously suggesting tha because being falsely imprisoned is bad, killing isn’t so bad?

          • Megalodon says:

            Yes, he will still be alive. That just means that the wrongful punishment inflicted did less damage than a wrongful execution would have done. It is only a matter of degree, not a qualitative difference in my view.

            Are you seriously suggesting tha because being falsely imprisoned is bad, killing isn’t so bad?

            Of course not. It is very bad, worse than a wrongful imprisonment. But I do not think it is bad enough that capital punishment must be abolished and proscribed from the outset just for the sake of avoiding that risk.

            • Fortunately only a handful of countries agree with you.

              • Megalodon says:

                In terms of numbers of nation states, yes. But in terms of population and jurisdiction, no. Monaco is one country, and China is one country. They are not equivalent in terms of how many people they control and rule. Then add India. Then add most of the Muslim countries. Then add Africa (aside from South Africa). A substantial portion, if not a majority, of the people of the world live under death penalty jurisdictions.

                • Death penalty supporters disgust me. By their own logic, they deserve to have specious and unsound arguments thrown at them for all of eternity as punishment for constantly making specious and unsound arguments. Even murderers have mothers; not a life is lost that isn’t mourned or felt in some respect, which is why we criminalize the intentional taking of life in the first place. If you accept that life is deserving of special protection against its willful termination (read: the spirit of any homicide law), then you have no business advocating the willful termination of life. Any other position is tantamount to hypocrisy at best and sophistry at worst. Period.

                  Beyond that, the government has no claim over my life or body. Much as this opinion informs my opposition to mandatory conscription and substance prohibitions, if I accept that any other life or body can legitimately be co-opted by the government for whatever reason, I have accepted the government’s authority over my own.

                  Besides … if I truly wanted a murderer to suffer, I most certainly would NOT kill them. I would keep them alive for a very, very long time, as long as I possibly could, and I would ensure that every moment of their life they were made to feel the wretchedness of their existence, reminding them constantly that their suffering could have been averted but for the ill-advised choices they’d made.

                  But then my motivation would fall to vengeance, not justice, and I’d be no better than proponents of the death penalty who clamor for retribution while purporting to speak of morality.

                  So there: The death penalty fails the intention of homicide law, fails the civil liberties litmus test, and fails as even an adequate form of revenge. There is no reason to continue with such a barbaric practice, riddled with fallacies such as it is.

                  • Megalodon says:

                    Death penalty supporters disgust me.

                    Nobody is forcing you to engage with them, so you can spare your stomach the anguish.

                    they deserve to have specious and unsound arguments thrown at them for all of eternity

                    They already have to suffer that, dealing with melodramatic death penalty opponents who rehash every tired refrain on CNN or MSNBC every time that a semi-prominent execution is about to happen. If you have to listen to them, and they have to listen to you, then call it even.

                    Even murderers have mothers; not a life is lost that isn’t mourned or felt in some respect

                    Some if we found a person whose family died off and who had no friends, their life would have less value? Or even if some anonymous nun prays for their troubled souls, then that is supposed to be some absolute immunity from execution? If murderers care about their mothers and their other kin, they should have considered them before they committed their crimes. Why should the anguish of the perpetrator’s family only prevent an execution? Surely lots of the perpetrator’s families feel much grief when their family members waste away in prison and die there of natural causes? How much of an exemption from punishment does a family provide? And why should the perpetrator’s family only be a bar against executing the perpetrator? The police cannot intentionally use deadly force against a gunman who is shooting and killing other people, because that gunman’s mother will mourn him? A rape victim cannot use deadly force against her rapist, for the sake of the rapist’s mother?

                    If you accept that life is deserving of special protection against its willful termination (read: the spirit of any homicide law), then you have no business advocating the willful termination of life.

                    Says you. And your absolute prohibition against intentional killing would seem to rule out a whole lot more than capital punishment, like self-defense or defense of others. I guess we must immediately prosecute that teenage mother who killed the intruder who broke through her door.

                    http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/01/05/9968356-no-charges-for-teen-widow-who-killed-intruder?lite

                    Any other position is tantamount to hypocrisy at best and sophistry at worst. Period.

                    Period, eh? Well, I guess that ends all discussion.

                    Beyond that, the government has no claim over my life or body. Much as this opinion informs my opposition to mandatory conscription and substance prohibitions

                    I share the opposition to mandatory conscription and substance prohibitions. Usually, even the most radical libertarians who believe in the most minimal state still subscribe to the idea that the state can use force and violence to defend the lives and rights of its citizens and to punish persons who violate those lives and rights.

                    if I accept that any other life or body can legitimately be co-opted by the government for whatever reason, I have accepted the government’s authority over my own

                    Except maybe for monetary fines, any legal punishment involves the seizure and “co-opting” of a person’s body for certain reasons, whether it is incarceration or execution (or corporal punishments). That reason can be to accomplish some kind of retribution to redress the perpetrator’s crimes, to vindicate the rights of the victim whom the perpetrator harmed, or to make an example of a perpetrator to deter other criminal offenders. If you think that even those functions are unconscionable, then yours must be some really far off variant of anarchism.

                    Besides … if I truly wanted a murderer to suffer, I most certainly would NOT kill them. I would keep them alive for a very, very long time, as long as I possibly could, and I would ensure that every moment of their life they were made to feel the wretchedness of their existence, reminding them constantly that their suffering could have been averted but for the ill-advised choices they’d made.

                    Well, that sounds like life without parole is truly the crueler sentence. But if that were the case, then we should see more murderers asking to receive the death penalty rather than be incarcerated for a long time, instead of the other way around, which is what usually happens. And in fact, a higher percentage of death row inmates commit suicide than life without parole inmates. The inmates may be hinting to us about which is the more “wretched” existence.

                    But then my motivation would fall to vengeance, not justice, and I’d be no better than proponents of the death penalty who clamor for retribution while purporting to speak of morality.

                    Vengeance and retribution are related but separate concepts. It seems that you have taken it as a given that retribution is contrary to morality, but lots of people believe that retribution is a moral imperative and a basis for most punishments. Retribution is a factor in most punishments, not just the death penalty. When Madoff got his hundred year sentence, the federal judge explicitly declared that “retribution” was the reason for the symbolic length of the term (since 20 years would probably have been an effective life sentence for Madoff).

                    So there: The death penalty fails the intention of homicide law

                    Yeah, just like incarceration fails the intention of kidnapping laws and like how monetary fines and asset seizure fail the intention of theft laws. This denunciation of the death penalty has been recited ad nauseam since time immemorial. John Stuart Mill responded to it in the 1800’s and his response still rings true today:

                    Does fining a criminal show want of respect for property or imprisoning him, for personal freedom? Just as unreasonable is it to think that to take the life of a man who has taken that of another is to show want of regard for human life. We show, on the contrary, most emphatically our regard for it, by the adoption of a rule that he who violates that right in another forfeits it for himself

                    This is not to say that Mill is indisputable, but your insistence that the death penalty is somehow inarguably and self-evidently contrary to valuation of life is wanting.

                    fails the civil liberties litmus test

                    If your “litmus test” is based on the premise that the state can never seize and co-opt a person’s body and autonomy and such, then probably all punishments fails the “civil liberties litmus test.” Even criminal rehabilitation fails it, if the rehab is involuntary.

                    and fails as even an adequate form of revenge

                    Retribution and revenge are not one in the same, but even if they are, this argument is specious and hypocritical. This is a lovely dance from punishment opponents. They protest and argue that we must use gentler, compassionate, more refined methods of punishment. And when we heed their exhortations, then they say that since the punishments are not cruel enough, then they serve no retributive purpose and we should just abolish the punishments completely. Well, perhaps we should reinstate hanging, drawing and quartering as a punishment. Is that cruel enough to be “an adequate form of revenge”? Anyway, the death penalty opponents and the death row inmates seem to find it harsh enough for now.

                    There is no reason to continue with such a barbaric practice, riddled with fallacies such as it is.

                    Go convince your fellow citizens, then, and change the law. Though even if you do, you never can tell if the citizenry have actually embraced this new, enlightened sensibility. When an Australian citizen was hanged in Singapore for drug trafficking, a majority of Australians actually supported it.

                    http://www.roymorgan.com/news/polls/2005/3944/

                    So even though they were citizens of an enlightened, abolitionist country, they still find a way to cheer for the death penalty.

  25. Richard Aubrey says:

    Megalodon,

    Touring Ft. Sumter last spring, I asked the ranger about some research I’d seen raising the total dead in the Civil War to about 800,000. He said that was probably valid. Given the population increase, that would be the equivalent of about 8,000,000 young men dead in four years today.
    That brings the total dead in our wars to about a million and a quarter.
    They died at the behest of the government for purposes our elected officials thought worthy. Ditto large portions of the population.
    They were not there, did not die, because they committed a crime against anyone.
    It seems strange to value the life of a convicted murderer while taking it for granted that more than a million Americans have died by being put into war. We maintain a DoD to be prepared to have more killed in national interest. Apparently, being a convicted murderer is kind of special.
    And, of course, the inevitable deaths at the hands of released murderers don’t seem to make much splash, either.

    • Actuall, they died to prevent the further enslavement of American citizens. That us, frankly, worth dying for.

      “inevitable deaths?” is there some study that shows 100% recidivism?

      • Megalodon says:

        Actuall, they died to prevent the further enslavement of American citizens. That us, frankly, worth dying for.

        Fighting slavery was not the predominant justification for the war, at least not from the outset. It was sold as a fight against seccession from the Union. And frankly, a lot of them died because they were drafted and forced to fight and die. They did not want to risk their lives to fight slavery or to quell a rebellion. In some cases, we had to use violence to make them fight in the first place (The Draft Riots).

        “inevitable deaths?” is there some study that shows 100% recidivism?

        Of course not. But you do not need 100% recidivism for people to be killed by these released murderers. Just like you do not need a 100% error rate in criminal punishment for some innocent people to be wrongfully punished.

        • The difference being that the actions of the murderers are theirs alone. The state kills on our behalf. If you really cant see the difference…

          • Megalodon says:

            The difference being that the actions of the murderers are theirs alone.

            Really? Ever notice that when there is a hate crime, we are told that society is partly responsible for this crime because of its societal racism and such? Or when a man murders a woman, we are told that society is involved because of our cultural misogyny and such? Or when a man murders his wife or family, we are told that the state is responsible too because they should have enforced that restraining order? Is that all nonsense?

            The acts of any murderer or malefactor may be “theirs alone” but that does not mean that we have no responsibilities where their acts are concerned. Say that a parent knows that a man in her neighborhood is a convicted child molester and she lets him babysit her children. If he abuses them, is he the only blameworthy person? Or might the parent have some culpability too?

            The state kills on our behalf. If you really cant see the difference…

            If the difference is supposed to prove to me that the death penalty must be prohibited, then no, I do not see it.

            • “Really? Ever notice that when there is a hate crime, we are told that society is partly responsible for this crime because of its societal racism and such? Or when a man murders a woman, we are told that society is involved because of our cultural misogyny and such? Or when a man murders his wife or family, we are told that the state is responsible too because they should have enforced that restraining order? Is that all nonsense?”

              Metaphorical responsibility is very different from actual responsibility. In all thsoe cases, the perpetrator is the only one who is punished.

              • But hate crime laws are being based on those metaphorical responsibility. It’s like it’s “we don’t know/care why he did it we are going to push this motive into it and then prosecute him on that motive”.

                I’m all for the per getting punished but I don’t like the idea of forcing a motive/responsibility on them just to have something to punish him for.

              • Megalodon says:

                Metaphorical responsibility is very different from actual responsibility. In all thsoe cases, the perpetrator is the only one who is punished.

                The reponsibility does not sound so metaphorical whenever we hear these protests. Whenever an infamous crime happens, we are told that society is obligated to pass new laws, we need to purge ourselves of our racism, we need to unlearn our misogyny, the police should enforce restraining orders quickly, etc. Anyway, the money that California paid to Jaycee Dugard for what a parolee did to her was not metaphorical money.

          • Megalodon says:

            The difference being that the actions of the murderers are theirs alone.

            Does this only apply to murderers or to all malefactors? Phillip Garrido was sentenced to 50 years in prison for kidnapping and raping a woman in Nevada. But he was paroled after 10 years. Then he kidnapped Jaycee Dugard and kept her captive for 18 years. Were his recidivist actions solely his responsibility? Well, the State of California paid Jaycee Dugard 20 milliion dollars, so maybe they were worried they were going to be blamed too.

  26. Richard Aubrey says:

    Megaladon.
    Thanks. I hadn’t known it was this far advanced. But, still, their allies in the LWOP movement are pitching their pitch.
    So, do we demand perfection in the choices for those paroled?
    I understand that the execution of somebody who’s known–due to the PR efforts of his lawyers and the various advocacy groups–has more impact on the public than the inevitable death of a person not known at this time and, given the way the anti-DP folks operate, not likely to be well known after being murdered.
    You can see this in the difficulty some people have with what’s known as “targeted killing”of a known individual;, how it bothers some people more than the killing of a bunch of faceless soldiers by area weapons which might be prevented by getting the cadre.

    • Megalodon says:

      I understand that the execution of somebody who’s known–due to the PR efforts of his lawyers and the various advocacy groups–has more impact on the public than the inevitable death of a person not known at this time and, given the way the anti-DP folks operate, not likely to be well known after being murdered.

      Yes, I know, Mr. Aubrey. I think some of this heightened concern for the death of a condemned killer can be attributed to lurid interest, and some of it can be attributed to moral cowardice. One longtime, unexpected supporter of the death penalty has been Ed Koch, even though the death penalty has been only theoretical in New York for the last 50 years. In some op-ed for The New Republic, Koch said:

      When opponents of capital punishment say to the state, “I will not let you kill in my name,” they are also saying to murderers: “You can kill in your own name as long as I have an excuse for not getting involved.”

      It is hard to imagine anything worse than being murdered while neighbors do nothing. But something worse exists. When those same neighbors shrink back from justly punishing the murderer, the victim dies twice.

      • And sometimes an innocent person is executed.

        Ed Koch might know a thing or two about this. While they were never in danger if being executed, the Central Park Five spent 13 here in jail for a crime they didnt commit. Koch made many public statements in which he was sure of their guilt.

        • Megalodon says:

          Indeed, a travesty of justice. Thankfully they were eventually released and the actual perpetrator was found and punished.

          As you say, the Central Park Five were never in danger of being executed. Does the fact that they were wrongfully convicted and imprisoned mean that imprisonment should never be utilized as a punishment for malefactors?

          Ed Koch might know a thing or two about this.

          Actually, he explicitly responded to that objection in his op-ed:

          Consider the work of Hugo Adam Bedau, one of the most implacable foes of capital punishment in this country. According to Mr. Bedau, it is “false sentimentality to argue that the death penalty should be abolished because of the abstract possibility that an innocent person might be executed.” He cites a study of the seven thousand executions in this country from 1892 to 1971, and concludes that the record fails to show that such cases occur. The main point, however, is this. If government functioned only when the possibility of error didn’t exist, government wouldn’t function at all. Human life deserves special protection, and one of the best ways to guarantee that protection is to assure that convicted murderers do not kill again. Only the death penalty can accomplish this end. In a recent case in New Jersey, a man named Richard Biegenwald was freed from prison after serving eighteen years for murder; since his release he has been convicted of committing four murders. A prisoner named Lemuel Smith, who, while serving four life sentences for murder (plus two life sentences for kidnapping and robbery) in New York’s Green Haven Prison, lured a woman corrections officer into the chaplain’s office and strangled her. He then mutilated and dismembered her body. An additional life sentence for Smith is meaningless. Because New York has no death penalty statute, Smith has effectively been given a license to kill.

          Jeffrey Reiman, who is himself a death penalty abolitionist, dismissed the risk of executing an innocent person argument as grounds for abolition:

          There is invariably some cost that is prohibitive such that if, for example, capital punishment were necessary to save the lives of potential murder victims, there must be a point at which the number of saved victims would be large enough to justify the risk of executing an innocent – particularly where trial and appellate proceedings are designed to reduce this risk to a minimum by giving the accused every benefit of the doubt. Since we tolerate the death of innocents, in mines or on highways, as a cost of progress, and, in wars, as an inevitable accompaniment to aerial bombardment and the like, it cannot be convincingly be contended that, kept to a minimum, the risk of executing an innocent is still so great an evil as to outweigh all other considerations.

          “Justice, Civilization, and the Death Penalty” Philosophy and Public Affairs 14, no. 2. (Spring 1985)

          • Koch is talking nonsense. He pretty much dodges the matter by ignoring that life without parole is an option. Charles Manson, Paul Bernardo, and many others will die in prison.
            The difference between execution and life imprisonment is that someone wrongly imprisoned can be released. Someone wrongly executed cannot be resurrected (other than one historical incident,, which is of highly disputed veracity). Koch simply tries to change the subject b saying the bad guys will kill again.

            With all due respect to Reiman, “tolerating ” deaths in war and highway accidents does not compare to th state sanctioned execution of innocents.

            The whole point is that the system CANNOT be perfect. Therefore the least harmful position the state can take is to not execute.

            • Megalodon says:

              Koch is talking nonsense. He pretty much dodges the matter by ignoring that life without parole is an option. Charles Manson, Paul Bernardo, and many others will die in prison.

              The fact that they will die in prison does not render them harmless. Did you read his mention of Lemuel Smith? The prisoner who was serving multiple life sentences at Green Haven who murdered and dismembered the corrections officer? Let’s not forget Donald “Pee Wee” Gaskins, who was sentenced to death for 8 murders, got his sentence reduced to life, murdered another inmate, and was sentenced to death again (this time it stuck).

              The difference between execution and life imprisonment is that someone wrongly imprisoned can be released. Someone wrongly executed cannot be resurrected.

              The harm done may be more, but the harm done is permanent in both instances. Anyway, a person serving life imprisonment cannot always be released. What if a person dies in prison while serving his life sentence, and then he is posthumously exonerated? He cannot be released.

              With all due respect to Reiman, “tolerating ” deaths in war and highway accidents does not compare to th state sanctioned execution of innocents.

              Says you. Why is it different? Deaths in war are “state sanctioned” with full knowledge that civilians and innocents will be killed. With the volume of people who drive on roads, bad and fatal accidents are a statistical inevitability, until they come out with invulnerable automobiles. The state thinks those deaths are worth it for some kind of political/military/economic/social purpose.

              • My brother is a statistician, and I shudder to think what he would say about the phrase “statistical inevitability.”

                The death rate for executions (both of those who are guilty and innocent) is 100%. The death rate on highways and in war is somewhat less.

                Those prison murders are on the hands of Smith and Gaskins, not the state.

                “Not in my name” means “not in my name,” period.

                Your example of the harm done to siomeone wrongly imprisoned for life simply shows that the system is not perfect – so why trust it with the ultimate sanction?

                From a practicqal standpoint, the death penalty has proven to be not useful, and from a moral standpoint it has proven to be wanting. I hope for the day that the US joins the civilized world.

                • Megalodon says:

                  My brother is a statistician, and I shudder to think what he would say about the phrase “statistical inevitability.”

                  Then ask him to make your statistical arguments for you. I used the term to convey the fact that if there is percentage of accidents per number of drivers on the road, then once there is a certain number of drivers on the road, then it is inevitable or at least very likely there will be accidents and fatalities.

                  The death rate for executions (both of those who are guilty and innocent) is 100%

                  The risk that you claimed to be worried about is what percentage of those executed are innocent. The fact that execution kills 100% of those executed is neither here nor there. Also, executions do not actually kill 100% of the time, thanks to things like botched executions.

                  The death rate on highways and in war is somewhat less.

                  The “rate” is less but the numbers are not less. Since there are millions of people driving on the highways and usually at least hundreds of thousands of people involved in wars, the actual number of people killed will be much higher. Motor vehicle accident fatalities each year are in the tens of thousands. 10% of 1,000,000 is going to more than 100% of 1,000.

                  Those prison murders are on the hands of Smith and Gaskins, not the state.

                  And I as a citizen think the state could have done more to stop them and should do more. What added insult to injury about Smith’s crime was that his murder of the guard would only add up to a “paper” difference to him. For someone who already has multiple life sentences, what does another life sentence matter?

                  “Not in my name” means “not in my name,” period.

                  You have registered your objection, but not all of your fellow citizens agree with you. I do not like convicted murderers being provided with lawyers, medical care, and food at my expense, but supposedly those are fundamental entitlements of justice. Anyway, the fact that the state carries out an action does not mean that it has the moral approval of every citizen under the state’s jurisdiction. The fact that you do not want something done in your name does not give you the right to override all the other people who do want it to be done, and in their name.

                  Your example of the harm done to siomeone wrongly imprisoned for life simply shows that the system is not perfect – so why trust it with the ultimate sanction?

                  Why trust it with any sanction then (aside from small fines)? I know the system is not perfect. So why does that imperfection only disqualify it from exercising the death penalty? You have portrayed the execution of an innocent person as an incomparable harm. Does one wrongful execution outweigh, say, 1,000 wrongful lifetime incarcerations? And sometimes, the difference between life imprisonment and the “ultimate sanction” can be academic. Most American death row inmates die of natural causes, not execution. If an innocent person dies of natural causes while he is serving life imprisonment, there is not much of a difference between his fate and the fate of most American death row inmates.

                  From a practicqal standpoint, the death penalty has proven to be not useful

                  The “practical” problems are largely a result of death penalty critics and their litigation against it. And why does practicality only matter when we criticize the death penalty? If we were concerned about practicality above all else, we might not care so much about due process and the rights of the accused. We would not care about paying for their attorneys or evaluating their sanity, nor would we afford them years of appeals. Our concern for due process is very “impractical” but I do not see that as a reason to completely abolish due process rights. Supposedly, due process rights and a heightened concern for the innocent matter more than practicality. And some people think that punishment of people who committed a heinous crime matters more than practicality, even if it takes much money and time to finally punish them. If we were more practical and utilitarian, we would not necessarily be more lenient or concerned about wrongful punishment. Ever heard that phrase? “Better to hang the wrong man than no man.” I do not agree with it, but for some people or cultures, practicality can mean acceptance of wrongful punishment and execution, for the sake of law & order and setting an example.

                  from a moral standpoint it has proven to be wanting

                  Proven to who? Maybe to you, but not everyone. Lots of people found many of the recent executions to be morally satisfying. Even lots of people in abolitionist countries still think the death penalty is morally permissible or even necessary.

                  I hope for the day that the US joins the civilized world.

                  If joining the civilized world means that a guy who murders 77 people gets only 21 years in prison, then no thank you.

                  • ““Not in my name” means “not in my name,” period.

                    You have registered your objection, but not all of your fellow citizens agree with you. I do not like convicted murderers being provided with lawyers, medical care, and food at my expense, but supposedly those are fundamental entitlements of justice. Anyway, the fact that the state carries out an action does not mean that it has the moral approval of every citizen under the state’s jurisdiction. The fact that you do not want something done in your name does not give you the right to override all the other people who do want it to be done, and in their name.”

                    Again, the death penalty is permanent. There’s no comparison with housing criminals in terms of harm done.

                    “The death rate on highways and in war is somewhat less.

                    The “rate” is less but the numbers are not less. Since there are millions of people driving on the highways and usually at least hundreds of thousands of people involved in wars, the actual number of people killed will be much higher. Motor vehicle accident fatalities each year are in the tens of thousands. 10% of 1,000,000 is going to more than 100% of 1,000”

                    So what? it is not state-sanctioned death, period. that is a false comparison.

                    “Your example of the harm done to siomeone wrongly imprisoned for life simply shows that the system is not perfect – so why trust it with the ultimate sanction?

                    Why trust it with any sanction then (aside from small fines)? I know the system is not perfect. So why does that imperfection only disqualify it from exercising the death penalty? You have portrayed the execution of an innocent person as an incomparable harm. Does one wrongful execution outweigh, say, 1,000 wrongful lifetime incarcerations? ”

                    In a word, yes. It is an incomparable harm because it can never, ever be compensated or reversed.

                    “Better to hang the wrong man than no man.” I do not agree with it, but for some people or cultures, practicality can mean acceptance of wrongful punishment and execution, for the sake of law & order and setting an example.”

                    That is a monstrous view, plain and simple. Who actually proposes that, outside of an authoritarian regime?

                    “from a moral standpoint it has proven to be wanting

                    Proven to who? Maybe to you, but not everyone. Lots of people found many of the recent executions to be morally satisfying. Even lots of people in abolitionist countries still think the death penalty is morally permissible or even necessary.”

                    Some of the people who have actually been a part of the process disagree with you.

                    http://books.google.ca/books/about/Death_at_Midnight.html?id=PkqNOQK5XbEC&redir_esc=y

                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_Prejean

                    “If joining the civilized world means that a guy who murders 77 people gets only 21 years in prison, then no thank you.”

                    No, it means that the US would not be in the company of China, Cuba, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and other countries with a pathetic record on human rights.

                    There’s no point in arguing further. However, I have a feeling that your vision of the US is on the way out.

                    • Megalodon says:

                      Again, the death penalty is permanent. There’s no comparison with housing criminals in terms of harm done.

                      Says you. If my tax money aided a criminal in beating a charge for which he was guilty, or aided him in getting a lighter sentence, so that he could go out and kill and rape again, that sounds like permanent harm to me, permanent harm which I economically facilitated. But even accepting your assertion that “not in my name” only matters for state sanctioned death inflicted on innocent people, then would that mean that radical pacifists who think all war is the murder are entitled to trump and override every other citizen who thinks war is acceptable?

                      If “not in my name” only matters when the disputed state action meets this prior criteria you have for unconscionable state actions, then “not in my name” seems like a superfluous argument.

                      So what? it is not state-sanctioned death, period. that is a false comparison.

                      Why does it matter if the deaths are “state-sanctioned” or not? The deaths are just as permanent. But who says that they are not state sanctioned? The state knows that when a certain amount of people drive on roads, accidents are statistically likely to happen. They have even permitted the speed limits to be raised with full knowledge that higher speed will increase the risk of accidents and deaths. They know that a certain number of people are going to be injured and killed, but they accept this harm because the transportation serves some large, social purpose. Now, you might object that this is different because the state is not saying “let these people drive at these speeds because we want innocent people driving to die.” The state wants to achieve the goal of mass transit and it believes that thousands of deaths are an acceptable risk to achieve this goal. When the state orders a person to be executed, they usually do not say, “We know this person is innocent, but execute him anyway.” They usually say, “This person is guilty of a horrible crime, so execute him.” They want to achieve the goal of severely punishing guilty people for severe crimes, and they believe that the risk of executing an innocent person is an acceptable risk to achieve this goal. You may think the risk is unacceptable. Others do not.

                      But even if you do not believe that constitutes sufficient “state sanction,” then what about deaths in war? When governments order their citizens to attack and kill other people, those deaths certainly seem to qualify as “state sanctioned.” And if you consider all combatants eligible to be killed and not “innocent,” you know full well that killing of non-combatants and civilians is part and parcel of every military conflict. Even when our presidents and generals are told that this bombing attack is certainly going to kill around X number of civilians, they have still ordered the attack.

                      In a word, yes. It is an incomparable harm because it can never, ever be compensated or reversed.

                      Most punishments cannot be reversed, except for fines, perhaps. Imprisonment cannot be reversed, it can only be stopped at a certain point. If a man serves decades in prison and is exonerated, he has lost that time forever. True, he is not dead, but the harm he suffered is irreversible. He can be compensated monetarily for the time he lost, but that will not make up for the loss of time from his life. Of course, nobody can reverse an execution, or any kind of death, but we have this notion that deaths can be “compensated” in a manner of speaking by giving money to the dead person’s next of kin. People sue for wrongful death of their family members all the time, so it is not strictly correct that a death, from execution or anything, can never ever be “compensated.” Anyway, there is always the risk that an innocent person sentenced to a lengthy term of incarceration will die in prison before he is exonerated. His loss will be permanent and irreversible, just as if he had been executed. Your insistence that executions present a unique, singular risk of irreparable, permanent loss not found in other criminal punishments is just wrong.

                      That is a monstrous view, plain and simple. Who actually proposes that, outside of an authoritarian regime?

                      You speak as if authoritarian regimes are an aberration. They may actually be the most common regimes on this planet. I think a variant of the phrase was often used by British Tories in the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries, or at least reflected their sentiments. Specifically, the phrase was used by Hong Kong’s colonial attorney general when they were hunting for perpetrators of an infamous crime. Unfortunately, that view still has some currency, even if our court systems, as some appellate courts say that “finality” is important when they reject challenges to a conviction, like in the Fells Acre Daycare case. Just one of the possible implications of valuing “practicality.”

                      Some of the people who have actually been a part of the process disagree with you.

                      I know. And some people who were death penalty opponents are now proponents. Look at Dudley Sharp. And why would you cite Helen Prejean? She has always been an opponent of the death penalty. If she adhered to the Church’s position on capital punishment, she would always have opposed it. Her “part” in the process has been comforting and counseling the condemned, so of course she would disagree. A public defender who often represents death row defendants is also “part” of the process, and he would probably disagree with capital punishment too. And I do not much care if he does.

                      No, it means that the US would not be in the company of China, Cuba, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and other countries with a pathetic record on human rights.

                      Really? How much of the complaints about our human rights record are directly attributable to our death penalty? Will we be in the A+ club if we abolish it? Juxtaposing us with Afghanistan and Somalia is some kind of rhetorical trick to suggest that because they have the death penalty and are violent failed states, then all places with the death penalty are violent, failed states. Japan has the death penalty. South Korea has the death penalty. Conversely, abolition of the death penalty does not lift you into the club of developed, enlightened nations. Russia has no death penalty, neither does Ukraine, Mexico or South Africa.

                      There’s no point in arguing further.

                      Flounce.

                      However, I have a feeling that your vision of the US is on the way out.

                      Maybe. Death penalty support is around 64%. It used to be higher. But during the sixties and seventies, less than a majority of Americans supported capital punishment, and the Supreme Court imposed a nationwide moratorium. It looked like the death penalty was finished. And then it came back stronger. History does not always move in directions you consider to be “enlightened” and “evolved.”

                • RIchard Aubrey says:

                  Monkey.
                  Since LWOP will never fly as a substitute for DP, what’s your idea of an appropriate number of years for murder? Since incarcerating somebody amounts to ruining a second life to no purpose, I suppose it won’t be many.
                  Now, suppose this guy gets out and murders again. You insist your hands are clean, but neither of us believes it.
                  What would be the appropriate sentence for the guy after his second murder while out from the sentence from the first?
                  Then, of course, there’s the third….

                  • Why is LWOP not a substitute?

                    I have no idea whether “my hands will be clean” in that situation. However, I know my hands will be dirty when an innocent person is executed.

    • No, we don’t demand their perfection. Actually , we don’t demand perfection when we oppose the death penalty. We assume that the system isn’t perfect; thats why we can’t trust it with life and death.

  27. Richard Aubrey says:

    I’m not the first to say this: Those opposing the death penalty because the judgments leading to it aren’t perfect would never demand that the murderers chosen for release be perfectly not going to offend again.
    I understand life without parole. But, if you read other comments, you will see that life is considered worse than execution. From which I deduce that those demanding we substitute LWOP for execution are lying. They will, within, say, a week, be demanding our agreement that LWOP is inhuman and parole should always be an option.
    Then we must demand perfection in those allowed parole.
    To be consistent.
    The connection between revenge and justice is that the threat of revenge may deter offense. See E. E. Evans-Pritchard on the Nuer and how an acephalous society reduces offense to a level that, at least, keeps the lid on. Revenge. The threat of clan revenge. The interest the older guys have in restraining the younger guys so they don’t have to get up and go fight somebody again.

    • Megalodon says:

      From which I deduce that those demanding we substitute LWOP for execution are lying. They will, within, say, a week, be demanding our agreement that LWOP is inhuman and parole should always be an option.

      There is no need to wait a week, Mr. Aubrey. The organizations that usually scold the US about capital punishment (the European Union, Amnesty International, etc.) are already on record declaring that actual life imprisonment is cruel and inhuman. It used to be the case that European states would not extradite fugitives back to America unless we provided assurances that the fugitive would not face the death penalty. Now some western European countries refuse to extradite a fugitive if he may face actual life imprisonment.

      One American advocacy group called “The Sentencing Project” is already arguing for the US to abolish life imprisonment without parole. They are not even waiting for capital punishment to be abolished before they skip to that step.
      http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2009-07-22-lifers_N.htm

  28. Michael Nellis says:

    I have always thought that if some stuffed shirt pompous oaf demaned to know from me, “what if it was your child?”, I would answer accordingly:

    I’ll answer your question, but it will cost you, because I will ask you a question in return. And I require that you answer my question as honestly and forthrighty as I answer yours.

    If it was my child, I would want what any parent would want. I’d want revenge.

    Now, my question to you is this: What is the relationship between revenge and justice?

    • That’s some heavy handed stereotyping right there. Charicaturing those you disagree with as a “stuffed shirt pompous oaf” is like someone calling you a “limp wristed hand wringing idealist do – gooder” or something of that nature as an argumentative tool. At least you are honest about the perfectly understandable desire for revenge you would feel, that appears to be almost universal and I’m not convinced it is as wrong or negative as so many believe. As for the relationship between revenge and justice, I don’t believe the two are mutually exclusive and it is possible to have both rather than one or the other.

  29. I think if my loved one was a victim of a horrific crime, I would sincerely wish the perpetrator dead – but I don’t think I could bring myself to the point of wanting the state to kill them.

    For one thing, even if they are duly tried and convicted, that doesn’t provide 100% certainty that the right person has been arrested, charged, tried and convicted. It seems like every few months, I hear about someone who was duly found guilty of a heinous crime and thrown in prison, only to be exonerated years later by new evidence or a review of the evidence. You can’t release a person from being dead because you later found out you executed the wrong individual.

    In addition, the death penalty is not applied impartially, but hits hardest for those of lower socioeconomic status and those who choose white victims over those who hurt or kill people of color. If we can’t apply a penalty evenly across the board, we don’t need to be applying it to anyone.

    The death penalty does not deter future crimes from happening. I’ve read statistics (in a book I no longer have) that suggest crime goes UP immediately following a state execution.

    The death penalty is expensive. If someone is convicted and sentenced to the death penalty, that person’s case is automatically appealed. I believe holding someone on death row is more expensive than holding them in the general population, as well. To what end? Sentence them to life without parole instead, and spend some of those dollars on prevention – education, mentoring, rehabilitation, and other programs.

    I used to be a proponent of the death penalty, but I can’t any more. It costs too much, it can be (and is) wrongly applied, it is racist and classist, and it doesn’t deter or prevent further crime. All it can provide is a momentary sick satisfaction of revenge – and I’m convinced, in my own case, at least, that it would ultimately come to torment me, rather than satisfying anything.

    Now, if I came across someone in the process of horrifically harming someone I cared about, I do believe I could pick up a gun and shoot them (given the opportunity). But I can’t bring myself to advocate cold-bloodedly putting down a human being like a shelter animal, when there is little or nothing to be gained.

  30. Johnny Malone says:

    “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” — Romans 12:19

    “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” — Matthew 5:43-44

    “Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!” Wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you.” — Proverbs 20:22

    Even if a violent crime was committed against one of my family members, we should pray for the perpetrator and let the Lord exercise His wrath if He chooses to do so. It is not up to us to make judgments of whether the perpetrator should live or die. I agree the perpretator should be removed from society in order to prevent further crimes, but they must also be given a chance to repent for their sins. So I wouldn’t want them to die, I would trust in the Almighty to determine that.

  31. I don’t want my tax dollars keeping him or her alive in a maximum security prison. I don’t care that there is a tacit code amongst prisoners and that they “take care of” the worst of the worst in lock down.

    1. As I understand a prisoner on death row is actually costing the taxpayers more dollars than a prisoner sentenced to life. There are other costs than the electricity bill to the process of sentencing convicted criminals. For instance it has been said that California could save $1 billion over five years by replacing the death penalty with permanent imprisonment. (http://www.deathpenalty.org/article.php?id=42)

    2. Is your second statement a tacit support for prison rape and prison violence? A support for a second addition punishment without any due process other than some convicted criminals idea of what constitutes the worst of the worst? I just don’t get the complacency towards the problem of violence and sexual violence which exists in US prisons and jails.

    What if the killer was underage. 16? 14?, 12?, 10? What if the killer was mentally ill (insanity) or if the killer were just mentally incapable of understanding what they did (they have a cognitive disabillity)?

    None of my closes were victims of Anders Breivik some of the people I meet through work and friends of my cousins were hit by the tragedy and lost friends and family members. A month or so ago the proceedings in the court case against Breivik was finished (the verdict and sentencing remains) and the main thing getting discussed was wether he was to be considered psycothic when the crime took place or if he is criminally responsible. He is more likely to stay imprisoned (locked up in a closed mental institution is being imprisoned) for a longer time if he is being considered “insane” than if he is considered sane and can be sentenced to a normal prison sentence. My impression by media is that most victims would rather have him considered sane rather than going for the insanity which would mean a more longer sentence for him. The matter of death penalty has never been an issue outside the fringes. The last time Norway had capital punishment was after WW2 (1945-1948) as a punishment for some of the people convicted for treason against the country. One of the executed ones had a surname which later became to be another word for a traitor: Vidkun Quisling.

  32. For me I think that the issue is more about setting a societal standard. By enforcing the death penalty we are saying as a society that this type of behavior will not be tolerated here. Furthermore, we are also upholding the value of the individual in enforcing the death penalty. Perhaps it’s slightly contradicting to say so but hear me out. By allowing somebody to continue to live who has intentionally and maliciously taken the life of another person we say that the murderer has more value than murdered. If we say that all individuals are equal than the life of the murdered is just as important as the life of the murderer. So if we as a society believe all individuals are equal than we must uphold that standard when it is violated. Thus we should uphold the death penalty because we as a society say that all are created and valued equally. The death penalty is stating, through action, that we as a society will not tolerate those who deliberately choose to devalue other individual’s lives. We will not tolerate those who lord themselves over others and violate all individual’s right to life.

    • Yes nfinch, the death penalty is about setting a societal standard. The question is only which one. The standard the death penalty sets is not that something like murder is not tolerated. This is already set by the laws against these crimes. This standard is already set by punishing these crimes. The standard that the death penalty sets is simply that we are willing to do the same thing the murderer has done to satisfy our personal feelings of revenge. Because what are the laws concerning murder about? That it is not acceptable to kill in our society. We don’t give a murderer value when we “let him live”, but we take our own value away if we kill ourselves. All indiciduals are equal. That means all have to follow the laws, all have the right to live, noone has the right to kill. Changing these fundamentals means we give them up. For all of us.

  33. Put me in the room with them and there’s a good chance I’d kill them myself, but my personal feelings of outrage and hatred shouldn’t be the basis of how we conduct our affairs as a society. I veer more socialist than libertarian, but I’m very leery of establishing the government’s right to actually kill people.

  34. I would like to thank everyone who has shared their truth in this comment thread. Capital punishment is a challenging subject. As I’ve mentioned, cognitively, I know I should not feel the way I do – but I can’t ignore my truth. Thank you for sharing your truth with me and The Good Men Project. I enjoy learning from all of you; I deeply appreciate your insight and your willingness to tackle this topic with me. I look forward to hearing more opinions in the days and weeks to come.

    With tremendous gratitude,

    Nicole

  35. I don’t know. I simply don’t know how I would feel if a loved one would get killed. I might just turn into a stron supporter of the death penalty, of torture and cruel and unusual punishment. I might want revenge. And to be honest, I never want to find out…
    But exactly for this reason, that noone reacts rational and normal when such strong emotions are involved, we don’t allow personaly involved people to be involved in Court decicions. Feelings from victims are to be taken serious, are normal and natural. But they should NOT matter when it comes to punishment of criminals. Because they never are and can not be rational.
    Revenge, hate and so on should never be part of a judicial system in any way. And yes, I am strongly against torture and against the death penalty. Because it doesn’t do “justice, because is is irreversible (And mistakes will ALWAYS happen), it’s expensive and simply also because it is a much lighte Punishment then a life long prison sentence. (And yes, that is also not rational, but emotional. But my view on it)

  36. Trevor Sprague says:

    I’ve seen a number of discussions circulating taking of the topic–What Would You Do? Damon Young has an interesting post on this site about the Aurora shooting.

    Thank god most of us have never been put in this actual situation, first of all. The What Would You Do question is interesting because it allows, in a way, to practice affirming our beliefs. Damon’s point–you have no idea what you would do until you’re actually in the situation

    I’m opposed to the death penalty, absolutely and in all cases, because it doesn’t solve anything. There’s no restoration brought about by the death penalty. There’s no way to turn back the clock, which is what many people I’ve heard seem to be hoping for. I try to weigh in on these types of questions whenever I can, just to re-affirm what I feel about the issue. I’m glad my position hasn’t changed, because I think I’ll be mentally more well-prepared to look for a more restorative justice should the time ever come.

  37. Someone feeling differently does not automatically equate with goodness. Plenty of good people think that bastard should be executed because they ARE good and they actually want to see justice served and actaully have compassion for the vicims. That’s exactly the kind of no – bullshit straight shooting you claimed at the outset this site is apparently about, actually this is one of the few occassions when someone has displayed those traits here. More often than not this site parrots empty politically correct rhetoric and shallow approval seeking mantras of the elite intellectual left wing kind, not wanting to offend and moderating (censoring) plain english and honesty. So kudos to you. How do you know that someone who does not endorse the death penalty in this instance simply doesn’t care less about the victims and dresses up their callous indifference in pretensions of higher morality. This sort of behaviour is not unheard of in the ranks of the politically correct who are notoriously inconsistent and selective in their “ethical” positions. If someone takes exception to my use of the word “bastard” then I think that would tend to illustrate my point. An englishman once told me we have gone from being draconian and harsh to “effete and cowardly”, how spot on is that?

  38. No, no, a thousand times no. I understand all the people who say they “don’t know what they’d want” or are acknowledging that they *might* want it against their morals – but to want the death penalty in my case would be to want it to exist, ever. I won’t say I wouldn’t wish the perpetrator dead – I hope I wouldn’t, but I can’t know what now. This is why the STATE punishes crimes, not victims or their families. And I don’t believe the death penalty has any place in a civilized society, which i aspire to someday live in.

  39. Holding grudges is one of the few parts of the Scorpio horoscope that I live up.

    (I’m about to get real dark here.)

    If a loved one of mine were killed or hurt in some terrible way I wouldn’t just want them to be killed (as in state sanctioned execution). No I would want to do it myself. I don’t want the killer dying at the hands of the state. I would want the killer to die by own hand knowing that they are dying because of the pain they caused by killing my loved one.

    It wouldn’t be about resolving some grand universal wrong. No that’s for people who are blinded by their desire for revenge and grow desperate enough to want it by any means. It would be about me trying to set my own world right (notice I said “right” and not “back to the way it was”, believing that killing one will bring back another is delusional).

    So to answer your poll I’d have to offer a fourth answer.

    D. No, I’d want to kill them myself.

  40. Tim Stobierski says:

    Morally, I am against the death penalty. Theoretically it is meant to deter crime from happening, but it rarely achieves this goal; it has become a vehicle of societal revenge and blood-letting. Not only that, but I find that a life-sentence is much more of a punishment — locked up for life, no chance of freedom, doomed to die in a cell with your own guilt eating you up inside.

    But I can’t definitively say now that, if one of my loved ones was a victim, I wouldn’t crave vengeance. I haven’t been in the situation, so I don’t know that my actual response would match up with my moral response. Because of this, I can’t judge the family members that do want revenge; I haven’t been in their shoes, I haven’t felt their pain.

  41. CosmicDestroyer says:

    So if i say yes , then I have to advocate it for everyone; because morals and knee-jerk reactions are the exact same thing. If I say no, then I’m a no good tosser that can’t be relied upon to white knight the poor weak unfortunates in his life and am totally undeserving of contact with anyone.

    Sorry, victims rights lobby. Not falling into this trap.

  42. Matthew Vega says:

    The death of my loved one’s killer wouldn’t fix anything. It could potentially satisfy some primal desire for revenge that I might have but in the end, it wouldn’t be an accomplishment; just another person who’s life was lost in the name of murder.

    • It would accomplish preventing them from killing anyone else, that’s fixing something right there. Would you prefer they kill an indeterminate number of innocents if that were the only alternative to your moralising? Why would we not want to lose this so called person? I admit I’m oversimplifying the situation to make points that you obvoiusly haven’t considered. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating wholesale vigilantes running amok and I’m not endorsing the death penalty as a thing in itself. I’m only being honest, if someone killed one of my loved ones I would defenitely want to slice them in half with a GPMG whether anyone thinks that’s right or wrong it’s a perfectly understandable reaction. A friend of mine once remarked that not killing the criminal won’t bring your loved ones back either. I’m simply making the point that it’s easy sit on a moral pedestal and pretend that all killing is equivalent, it is not. I’ll shut up now.

      • You’re right, it’s not equivalent; the state killing someone is much worse, especially when you consider the number of wrongly convicted.

      • Malcire says:

        From the statistics I have seen murderers (who have been convicted) are much less likely to re-offend. So them being dead wouldn’t solve much in that way. As far as the cost to the tax payers some studies show it costs more to sentence someone to death than life in prison (through appeals and such on top of housing) . Others even claim to show that capital punishment isn’t an effective deterrent. Even knowing all of this I am ashamed to say I would want someone whom I believed killed my family to die.

    • Nicole Johnson says:

      @ Matthew and @ Keevo – Thank you for sharing your truth.

  43. Wirbelwind says:

    If my relative was a victim of murder I would like to have the murderer locked up for the rest of his life, no parole.
    If my relative killed murdered somebody, I would like him to receive death penalty.
    If you ask why… life sentence is a much more cruel punishment than death penalty. It’s a very cruel mercy, quick death is preferable.

  44. My brother was murdered six years ago and the police still haven’t apprehended the killer but if they did I wouldn’t want the person to recieve the death penalty.

  45. Yes

  46. I think the opposite question should be asked: if your loved one was convicted of a horrible come, would you OPPOSE the death penalty? People like to assume that all killers exist in a vacuum with no familial relations.

    • Nicole Johnson says:

      @ Monkey – “If your loved one was convicted of a horrible come, would you OPPOSE the death penalty?” That’s a great question. If any of my loved ones unequivocally committed a horrific crime (or series of sadistic crimes), I would still support the death penalty.

      • A lot of people have been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt who have later been proven innocent. Some have been on death row. That’s why I oppose the death penatly.

        • Nicole Johnson says:

          @ Monkey – Excellent point. Our justice system has its flaws. I can’t imagine going to jail for a crime that I did not commit. As mentioned, I support the death penalty for people who have absolutely, unequivocally committed a heinous, unconscionable crime(s).

          • But that’s the problem – anyone in jail has been proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt (based on the evidence up to that point). There’s no special provision for someone who is unequivocably guilty because everyone is considered unequivocably guilty.

            • Nicole Johnson says:

              @ Monkey – I’m referring to people who have absolutely, unequivocally committed heinous, unconscionable crime(s): Ted Bundy, Anders Behring Breivik, Nidal Hasan, Jeffrey Dahmer, Charles Manson, etc. When the evidence is 100% undeniably true, I am a proponent of the death penalty.

              • “absolutely unequivocally committed” anything is a difficult bar. At some point, someone still has to judge the evidence, and I think that means the system will always be and can only be fallible. Right more often than not, one hopes, but fallible. For anyone who wants a really personal and compelling story of an exoneration & its aftermath, read Picking Cotton by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, Ronald Cotton, and Erin Torneo.

              • I’m repeating myself, but the point is that you can have people who are deemed 100% guilty who have been found not to be guilty. In terms of the law, there is no difference between Ted Bundy and Randall Dale Adams, who was in fact innocent.

        • Megalodon says:

          As long as the state prosecutes and punishes people, there is always the risk of an innocent person being wrongfully convicted and punished. This is the case whether it is the death penalty, life imprisonment, 20 years in prison, probation or a monetary fine. We can attempt to minimize that risk, but it will never be entirely eliminated, unless we decide not to prosecute at all.

    • Megalodon says:

      I think the opposite question should be asked: if your loved one was convicted of a horrible come, would you OPPOSE the death penalty? People like to assume that all killers exist in a vacuum with no familial relations.

      Remember those trials in Connecticut for the two men who broke into a house and murdered the mother and two daughters? Joshua Komisarjevsky, the younger perpetrator, has an uncle who publicly supported the victims’ family and he publicly declared that his nephew was guilty and deserved to be executed.
      http://articles.courant.com/2011-12-11/news/hc-op-komisarjevsky-uncle-speaks-on-death-penalty–20111211_1_families-theodore-komisarjevsky-crime

      Last November, Florida executed a man named Oba Chandler for a triple murder that he committed back in the 1980’s. Whenever there is an execution, the prison authorities separate the protesters on two sides of the prison yard, one side for the anti-death penalty protesters and one side for the pro-death penalty protesters. Chandler had children on both sides of the yard, some protesting against his execution and some cheering for his execution.

      And, of course, this ignores situations in which the family of the victim is also the family of the killer. Not an uncommon situation today.

      • Was the uncle an eyewitness? If not his opinion makes no difference.

        • Megalodon says:

          Was the uncle an eyewitness? If not his opinion makes no difference.

          Family members of the defendant are usually not there at the scene while their relative is committing a capital crime. I brought this up to show that not all family members of a condemned defendant will necessarily oppose the death penalty.

          Anyway, the only eyewitness to this crime was the only surviving victim, Dr. Petit, whose wife and daughters were murdered. And his opinion of the murderers has always been clear.

  47. Of course I would. I’d want them dead. But that doesn’t necessarily mean justice is served by the death penalty. I wouldn’t just want them electrocuted, I’d want them burned at the stake. I’d want it to be painful. To borrow the words from the US Constitution, I’d want it to be cruel and unusual. We don’t give victims or their families final say in justice system specifically because they’re too emotionally involved in the case to weigh the interests of justice fairly.

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