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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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:
  8. 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.

  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. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. “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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

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