Can we abolish the Death Penalty yet? - Illinois Legislature Bans Death Penalty

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by farraday, Aug 27, 2009.

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  1. CucumberBoy Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 11, 2007
    star 3
    He has a point. How many people live in these countries is irrelevant to this issue because it's about the laws of these nations, and they are not decided by the people - for a good reason. So if 50 nations have abolished death penalty - that's 50 governments, which in most countries consists of intelligent and educated individuals who want the best for the public. What the majority of the people think might be interesting, but it's certainly not relevant.

    The reason why Europe is interesting in this issue is this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy_Index
  2. Kimball_Kinnison Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2001
    star 6
    Ender tried a similar approach with me over IM this morning. He basically argued that it represented a consensus among 194 different people (representatives of the 194 nations), and because it's hard to get any sort of consensus among a group like that, it must be authoritative.

    I'm sorry, but that is a fallacious argument. If the representatives were chosen in a statistically random manner, then it would have some weight, but they aren't chosen that way. They are chosen in a manner that doesn't make them fairly representative of the world's population. When you start with a biased sampling, it is far easier to achieve a consensus. When you start by marginalizing almost 1/3 of the world's population (offering them only 1% of the "vote" - India and China make up only 2 out of 194 nations), you have already significantly biased the discussion.

    If you are trying to set any sort of universal moral standard, basing it on decisions by a majority of governments provides a clearly disproportionate voice to some people's views over others. As I said before, what makes Europe so morally superior to the rest of the world that they deserve a say 2.5 times greater than their population would otherwise justify?

    Kimball Kinnison
  3. farraday Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 27, 2000
    star 7
    I told you ES, treating governments are equivalent as an inherently false proposition, but no you had to have your world senate. Now comes KK demanding a world House of Representatives and I can't help but laugh.

  4. LtNOWIS Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 19, 2005
    star 4
    Japan and Singapore don't like democracy or rule of law?

    And let's not forget that many European nations don't have quite the same level of freedom of speech as the United States.

    Edit: Sorry that we touched on this before, I'm a latecomer to this discussion.
  5. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    I think the measurement shouldn't be on who supports the death penalty or not, but how effectively they control their crime rates. Japan has capital punishment, but its crime rate is only a fraction that of the US. We should implement or abolish capital punishment based on reasons that are our own; not what the rest of the world thinks of us. If we think it would reduce crime because that's what Europe does, then we have a reason to do so.

    If Europe simply frowns on us, that's not reason enough to do so.
  6. LtNOWIS Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 19, 2005
    star 4
    States may not control birth, but they do control conception. Many people who could biologically have children together are legally barred from marriage or sexual intercourse.
  7. Danaan Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 23, 2008
    star 4
    Note that I said "just about". The number of entrenched democracies that have capital punishment is very small, indeed, and has been constantly falling over the past decades. The trend is clear - democratic countries are phasing out capital punishment because it is becoming more and more seen as an unacceptable form of punishment for civilized societies.

    And Singapore is patently not a democracy.
  8. Danaan Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 23, 2008
    star 4
    How can you say that the governments of dictatorships are in any way, shape or form representative of the will of their people? By definition, these governments were not voted into office and are never held democratically accountable.

    Edit: and that's also the answer to why Europe would be "morally superior". It's not, it's just representative of its people, which the governments of dictatorships are not. But do please include India, which is the worlds largest democracy, if you will.

    Moreover, the reason that a comparison between states is perfectly justifiable in this case is because it is the state that has the ultimate monopoly on law enforcement over their respective territories, and that the system of rule of law, courts and penitentiary systems consequently is run by the same state. It doesn't matter that Luxembourg has a fraction of the population of that of the US, since it has its own system of justice, and that is what we are comparing here, isn't it?

    In that comparison, when the US is compared with other entrenched democracies (the only countries in which we can be reasonably sure that there is some sort of democratic legitimacy to the state and the justice system), the US is an extreme outlayer.
  9. farraday Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 27, 2000
    star 7
    In the interest of fairness, the Prosecuter in the Willingham case has written an oped.

    Cite

    I remain unconvinced.

    I would like to focus especially on the final statement.

    "The Willingham case was charged as a multiple child murder, and not an arson-murder to achieve capital status. I am convinced that in the absence of any arson testimony, the outcome of the trial would have been unchanged, a fact that did not escape the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. While anti-death penalty advocates can muster some remarkably good arguments, Todd Willingham should not be anyone's poster child."

    That is, the prosecutor is claiming that without any evidence of arson he is convinced Willingham killed his children. I would ask anyone to explain how he killed them by setting the house n fire but that the evidence there was no arson is not relevant.
  10. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    If you are trying to set any sort of universal moral standard, basing it on decisions by a majority of governments provides a clearly disproportionate voice to some people's views over others. As I said before, what makes Europe so morally superior to the rest of the world that they deserve a say 2.5 times greater than their population would otherwise justify?

    But WHAT rest of the world? And what is the standard of government in that rest of the world? How many governments in these circumstances with permission and utilization of the Death Penalty are not democracies? Does this have no weight? Remember that also the US's roots come from Europe -- as do Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Mexico, Argentina and Chile, all of which are Democracies outside of Europe that have abolished the death penalty.

    On top of that, what of the nations that have not taken a political "stand" against the Death Penalty by outlawing it altogether, but in practice it is essentially non-existant? You mention India, which does, technically, have the death penalty. However since 1995 it has only executed a single person. Brazil has it as permissable on the books but it has never been used in the country for over 100 years. Does that also have no weight?
  11. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    Don't turn this around, Mr44, because the prospect of being in the same boat as some states isn't a pleasant one.

    Who said anything about being unpleasant?

    I honestly don't know what to make of your conclusion here. My initial reply was a specific counter to your original assertion that relates to being "barbaric."

    For the entire time I've known you, you've always promoted the idea of not looking at nation/state through a foreign lens, but rather through its own lens. This has always made a lot of sense. Usually, the above also came as part of a scolding in relation to the "US-centric" reality of these boards.

    But now, you're doing the exact same thing that you've always rallied against.

    Again, how does Iran's strong ties to religion influence how it views capital punishment? How about the ancient traditions of honor and fidelity that guide Japan's use of capital punishment? China's ingrained utility and obedience? None of these are any less strong of an influence than the US's promotion of the individual and individual accountability.

    By saying "Western Europe doesn't use capital punishment so all the rest sit in a club of the less civilized" truly does a disservice to the unique cultures and traditions that the rest of the world are made up of. If you think what you're now saying is accurate, then all of the TripleB's in the world were correct when they pointed out that the Middle East really is a region of barbarians due to realities like the widespread reliance on terrorism.

    This has nothing to do with the practical side/the application of capital punishment, but I just can't believe you would view the topic through a lens like that. Or, maybe you've just changed your opinion from how it used to be. That's what I don't know.

  12. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9

    And then I worked in that field and agreed with you, but the significance of herding over a hundred cats in the same direction on this is something I can't trivialise farrie. Mostly because I can conceputalise the work required to get it to happen, insofar as a UN consensus on the topic.

    Mr44p, maybe I've lost patience pointing out what is the blindingly obvious on this topic. Like suggesting Buckethead is freakishly talented, it's something of a no-brainer. Statistically, the death penalty has absolutely no effect on rates of crimes that carry a captial sentence. The purpose of a punishment for a crime is, in part, a deterrant. Yet how many studies have shown, through statistical analysis, that the threat of a nasty death by a huge, state-owned rabbit with sharp and pointy teeth isn't deterring would be criminals from crime?

    Plenty, but yet it's still employed.

    It has no rehabilitative effect - once you've fried a murderer in the chair saying "now, don't do it again" or taking the post-lethal injection corpse and saying in a paternalistic voice, "now, son, I hope you've learned your lesson", it's a bit late.

    So it kinda boils down to being about retribution and damn if that's not an emotional response.

    So forgive me, I find it hard to take arguments seriously which skip over the points I mentioned above. This in turn strips me of any desire to see the US' perspective on this issue, mostly because I find of a number of issues you will tend, as a nation, to gravitate towards emotional, vindictive responses and that's when I find it hard to relate to you. See also: torture.

    So call me a cultural imperialist if you must, but I don't care about Japanese fidelity. I do care about the frankly terrifying notion that the state may decide, arbitrarily and without the consent of the people whom it represents, that it has a right to take my life away. It emphatically does not. It doesn't control when my life begins and it has no right to decide when it ends either. This is why I'm going to contentedly lump you in with Somalia or Saudi Arabia, because any state that arrogantly assumes it does have a right over the life of its citizens is inherently barbaric and weak. I don't care about Japanese fidelity, Saudi shari'a or American sovereignty; these states have no right to make decisions about starting or ending life.

    ES
  13. LtNOWIS Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 19, 2005
    star 4
    The "trend" may be over.

    Europe (except for Belarus) stopped executing people in the 20th Century. So did Oceania and South America. Only a handful of countries that actually use the death penalty have abolished it this decade.

    So, the remaining active death penalty countries show no signs of giving up the death penalty.

    Death penalty abolitionists consider it a major accomplishment to move a country from "non-active" to "banned." Togo hadn't executed anyone since 1978, but when they abolished the death penalty in June, people said it was a big deal.

    As a side note, the US has gone two whole weeks without executing anyone.
  14. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    But ES, you're missing the point that 900 year sentences don't have any affect on crime rates either, but there they are, being issued if the situation warrants it. The state also "exerts control over life" when it confines someone to a 1.8m room with no possibility of being released.

    You can say "we lock our skeletons away instead of burying them, which is a morally superior position to take..." and I guess I'd answer ok, I suppose.

    As I posted earlier, I think capital punishment is just a tool among many to deal with the darker side of human choice/free will. I just don't see all that great of a difference between sentencing someone to death, and locking them in a room until the same result happens. One isn't particularly more "civilized" than the other.

    I do see merits in the arguments about the finality of the death penalty, especially as it relates to false sentences, but those exact same concerns pop up with life sentences as well.
  15. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9
    I was unaware Illinois or the US for that matter locked people in a room and tossed the key...


    ES
  16. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    In Illinois, you have to be a Governor first, but yeah they seem to do that.
  17. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    The "trend" may be over.

    Europe (except for Belarus) stopped executing people in the 20th Century. So did Oceania and South America. Only a handful of countries that actually use the death penalty have abolished it this decade.

    So, the remaining active death penalty countries show no signs of giving up the death penalty.


    Actually you're wrong on this. South America outlawing the death penalty 100% in the manner "death penalty abolistionists" so love is actually recent. Many states in Central and South America have had what was essentially an abolition of the death penalty in reality but not on paper. Brazil, my first example, hasn't had an execution since the formation of the Republic in 1889, although it's technically on the books. It hasn't been alone in this with other nations going long periods without executing anyone (not as long as Brazil except maybe Costa Rica, though).

    But there's actually been a recent trend in the lower Americas of absolutely abolishing the death penalty 100%. Mexico banned it completely in 2005. Chile and Argentina did so, I believe, in 2008.

    As for countries that actually use it stopping it, that will presumedly take longer.


    Death penalty abolitionists consider it a major accomplishment to move a country from "non-active" to "banned." Togo hadn't executed anyone since 1978, but when they abolished the death penalty in June, people said it was a big deal.

    As a side note, the US has gone two whole weeks without executing anyone.


    That... wasn't really a response. I'm not sure it matters what the political groups think on the left wing and I don't know how it applies to what I was saying.

    And yeah, one can say "well the numbers killed over a period of time doesn't count" but if you can't see the real-world difference of going 14 years with only one execution, going 31 years with none or going 120 years with absolutely none compared to a WHOLE TWO WEEKS... then I don't know what to tell you. I'd think though, that there's a level of dishonesty in implying a form of pairity in the situations.

  18. LostOnHoth Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 15, 2000
    star 5
    I guess that depends on what you consider the word "civilized" to mean. Convicted murderers still have certain rights in the US. They have Constitutionally protected rights to be fed, to have access to medical care, to exercise, to freedom of religion, they have rights not to be discriminated against on the basis of their race or religion. They have rights not to be beaten or tortured. They have the opportunity to be rehabilitated, if not released. They have the right to be treated as human beings and citizens by the state, even if they don't act like human beings or treat others with the same respect for humanity.

    For me personally, I consider that to be more "civilized" than execution (even in these days of lethal injection).

    I would be more inclined to agree with your lack of distinction where convicted murderers are held in prisons in countries where inmates have no rights whatsoever and are quite literally locked in a room to be left to die without adequate food or water and without access to medical care.

  19. Brett_Bass Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 22, 2003
    star 4
    I think any attempt to claim that prison has any rehabilitaive effects is rather silly. Criminal recidivism is claimed by many to be a function of an inability to learn from past mistakes or correlation with psychopathy. Short version: They keep going back to prison because they enjoy performing the acts that put them there. Almost 70% of males arrested in the U.S. wind up being re-arrested according the the Department of Justice, with more than half of those second-time offenses resulting in repeat incarcerations. Clearly, criminals aren't deterred from committing crimes by the threat of jail time or execution; they just keep doing what they do regardless of the consequences.

    Is it any wonder that taking large numbers of criminals--many of them repeat offenders and some of them violent predators--and making them live together with little exposure to the outside world fails to rehabilitate the majority of convicts?
  20. LostOnHoth Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 15, 2000
    star 5
    I agree, that is why I said that criminals have the opportunity to be rehabilitated, if they wish, which as you point out, most do not. There is a small percentage of inmates who are rehabilited in some way, particualarly those who find "God" and try to assert influence on the younger inmates to ensure that they don't come back to prison. There are those inmates who participate in community programs which basically try and instill fear in younger members of a community by pointing out some of the horrors of prison life.

    I mean, for some, prison is necessary to establish credibility. The more time you serve. the more credibility and 'respect' you are accorded. That is really a product of the various 'sub-cultures' which prevail within the US and other countries.
  21. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    What of the threat they pose to humanity? Fighting dogs are often ephanized because they are considered too dangerous to live. Why are such people who pose a danger to other humans and disregard their rights given such privileges as all you mentioned? Some do not deserve any of it, as they stopped being humans long ago.

    This is WAY too far, I know. Only sociopaths really fall under this category. My point is that these people have had certain rights given to them, but they deliberately defied the rights of another and were given the right to trial by jury. They should be expected to earn their keep... that's their right. Not to be provided for.

    Maybe next we will be advocating that ephanizing dogs makes us just as bad as the ones who abused them?


  22. LostOnHoth Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 15, 2000
    star 5
    Ephanized?

    Yuthura - the answer to your questions as to why convicted felons are not treated the same way as fighting dogs can be found in your Constitution, Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence. I'm an Aussie so I will not presume to lecture you on the philosophical underpinnings of such documents. But I suggest you consult those authorities if you want the answer to the question of "why".

  23. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    Right, they're homo sapiens. Despite lacking moralities, they are still sentient beings.

    A point was brought up that most cons don't become rehabilitated. Because of this, condemning them to life in prison will only yield a few in many who turn themselves around and become valued members of the community. If these rates are so high, why fool with life sentences for people who show no sign of willingness to change?


  24. Danaan Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 23, 2008
    star 4
    I would seek the answer for that in the system itself. Does it offer any incentives to become rehabilitated?

    Many of those people, I'd hypothesize, are very much de-sensitized to general social norms, which means that they have to be re-sensitized and re-socialized to internalize those norms again. That is a very complex and difficult process. I'd also guess that many come from socioeconomically challenged backgrounds, including gang cultures, and have probably experienced alot of abuse themselves, and they might also have severe addictions of different sorts. All of these are very demanding to address. And yet addressing them is necessary for these people to become productive members of society again, which would, from a purely utilitarian point of view, be the best possible outcome. So, I'm guessing that it's really not so simple as to "offer some opportunities". There has to be a real effort to get convicted criminals to become interested in those opportunities, and I'm guessing that the longer the criminal career of the convict, the greater effort it takes.

    Therefore, I'd ask myself what happens in different penitentiary systems in entrenched democracies and do a comparative study: where is the frequency of turning back to a life of crime the highest? Where is it the lowest? What are the differences in the systems that might explain this?

    Which again forces us to look beyond the borders of the US for answers.
  25. LtNOWIS Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 19, 2005
    star 4
    My point is that if a country doesn't use the death penalty, banning it doesn't mean much. Nobody has been executed in South America since 1997, in Guyana. If a country goes from "We haven't used it in 20 years and it's only on the books for war crimes" to "it's banned," it doesn't really change anything. Therefore, there isn't much movement in terms of active use of the death penalty, which is what really matters I think.

    I wasn't trying to establish a similarity. Hence the term "side note."
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