The Son of the Bride of the Ghost of the Death Penalty Thread

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Lowbacca_1977, Jun 29, 2010.

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  1. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    I initially intended to just bring up discussion on this, but as it seems the thread is now over 6 months old, I figured I'd stat it anew.

    So, a brief background first. Currently, the U.S. is one of only 4 developed countries that still use the death penalty, the others being Japan, Singapore, and Taiwan, and even in many countries not considered 'developed' capital punishment has been abolished. In 2009, the United States executed 52 people, taking place in only 11 states, led by nearly half in Texas.

    In its implementation in the U.S., at least in accordance with the Supreme Court's ruling in 2008 on Kennedy v. Louisiana, the only crimes against individuals that can result in the death penalty are those in which the victim's life is taken.


    Now, the reasoning I wanted to bring this up is that I recently think I've gone through a change of thought on the matter and would like to really put this to the test to see just what my thoughts are now. Best way to show what's changed is to start with what hasn't.

    First and foremost, and one of the big questions with capital punishment is if it is viewed as a punishment, as removing a threat, or as deterrent. Personally speaking, I've always viewed capital punishment very directly as a punishment for taking someone else's life, with the reasoning that if you kill someone and deprive that person of life, I don't think it is fair that you are able to continue to enjoy life on any level. Eliminating that they might kill again or deterring others isn't really the main point of it to me. I also don't view it as state-sanctioned murder in that sense, in that it's carrying out the punishment for a crime, in the same fashion as that imprisoning someone isn't just state-sanctioned kidnapping. Ultimately, I think there is an element in that the person that murdered opened themselves up to such punishment by killing, and they ultimately bear that responsibility and have, in a sense, forfeited their life.

    However, the greater issue, to me, is not the government involvement in killing someone, but the presumption of government infallibility, something that I've been reassessing at every point. I've said elsewhere, although it's tangential here but I provide for context, that I don't trust turning over my health solely to a government entity, and feel that anything in regard to my body should ultimately be my choice, ranging from health care to seat belts to trans-fats. Not that it should be a matter of legislation. If there are adverse effects because of that, then the responsibility is mine, and I'm not forced into something that might turn out to be bad for me and retain the higher level of freedom. That the government hasn't YET abused a power is not a reason that they should have it, and that the fewer their powers, the better, keeping only that which is absolutely necessary. I've recently been realising, then, that when it comes to the risk of someone being executed that was innocent of his or her crimes, I would have to presume both perfect performance on the part of the government, and that it would never be misused by any individual or system. I'm not willing to treat the government on that basis for ANY other system, and so with logical consistency, I can't apply that to the death penalty system either. Particularly as the stakes here are higher than they are in many other circumstances.

    Consequentially, and my main conclusion here I've realised, is that the death penalty, while conceptually I consider acceptable as a punishment for the taking of another's life, is not something that I can, in good conscience, endorse as a government policy because I simply don't feel it logical, or even possible, to presume that the government can be guaranteed to prosecute such crimes efficiently without either mistakes or bias, and a flawed system like that has no place in government.
  2. Rouge77 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 11, 2005
    star 5
    I oppose death penalty for all crimes, but you can't expect government or any other human creation or any invidual human being, to be infallible. It's impossible. I don't think it can be used against death penalty beyond the fact that supporters of death penalty tend to be utterly naive in their belief in correctness of all death sentences - when at the same time, in US at least, many of these same people rage against the Big Government otherwise. ;)

    Which is a kind of black comedy, people who don't overall believe in a strong or even a modest sized government and similar role for it in a society, support it wholeheartedly when it is killing people, executing prisoners or waging a war. Especially when, in US, they happen mostly to represent themselves a religion that demands forgiveness and the turning of the other cheek.
  3. Jedi_Keiran_Halcyon Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 17, 2000
    star 6
    I've noticed an interesting correlation between death penalty supporters and religious folks, which makes sense when you think about it - it's a lot less of a big deal to be sending someone to the afterlife (where, if they're innocent, God will sort things out and they'll have an eternity of bliss) than to be snuffing out their entire existence.
  4. New_York_Jedi Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 16, 2002
    star 6
    I rarely have strong convictions on issues, but the death penalty is one of them. I don't like it at all. I'd be against it even if we knew 100% only guilty were executed, but possibly to a less ardent extent. But with the uncertainty? That New Yorker article from last year on the guy from Texas who was executed made me literally sick to my stomach. The idea that the government could execute an innocent man is deeply troubling.
  5. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    I oppose the death penalty on the same grounds as Low. The issue is not whether a murderer deserves death but whether a government has the capacity to ensure with absolute certainty that it avoids executing the wrong person. Or another way of putting it is whether the death penalty is so valuable a component of our system of justice that a certain level of error in the system is acceptable.

    That's the main reason the Illinois death penalty moratorium remains in effect to this day and hopefully will never be lifted.
  6. Darth_Smileyface Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 22, 2004
    star 2
    I gotta go with Lowie and Jabba on this one. While I might personally get satisfaction from the death penalty, I am entirely unconvinced of the government's ability to get it right all of the time (or even most of the time). I find that outweighs my personal desire for vengeance/justice.
  7. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    Well, the reason it gets used against the death penalty this way is that it's something that isn't inherently necessary but if it goes poorly, the consequences are that an innocent person dies in a situation that could be easily avoided.


    Jedi_Keiran_Halcyon, my stance has always been that being an atheist has played a role in me being more supportive of the death penalty because it makes murder, imo, a MUCH more heinous crime.
  8. Kimball_Kinnison Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2001
    star 6
    I support the death penalty, but believe it should be saved for the most extreme cases to permanently remove dangerous individuals from society.

    Personally, I find the idea of an innocent person being executed troubling, but I don't find it more troubling than the danger of having an innocent person convicted and put in jail for a dozen years (or more). It's not as though the death row inmate is taken to the gallows directly from sentencing and hung on the spot. On average, inmates spend over 12 years on death row before execution. There are numerous reviews and appeals.

    I see little philosophical difference between ending a man's life and destroying that life by sending him to prison for a prolonged period of time. Either way, you cannot return to him what you have taken.

    Kimball Kinnison
  9. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    While agree with your last point, I think there's one big difference. Prolonged time in prison, while not something get back, IS something where they have something left after. And I mean, I live in California, I'm VERY familiar with how long the death penalty takes to happen, where it's been over 20 years, and a majority of the 13 executed since 1976 (from 1992 to 2006) had multiple victims. I don't have an issue saying that some people in some cases are deserving of the death penalty. My trouble is entrusting the government on this, when the death penalty isn't a necessary thing.
  10. SithLordDarthRichie London CR

    Chapter Rep
    Member Since:
    Oct 3, 2003
    star 8
    I have heard that in the US DNA is not useable in a court case, but I'm not sure if that is true.

    Certainly I think that the death of a few innocents that caused outrage by the public was a big reason for the UK abolishing the death penalty (except allegedly for Treason). You can't simply go and pardon someone wrongly killed for a crime they didn't do. If they're simply in jail, you can release them.

    Execution does reduce prison overcrowding, a problem common in many countries. But that alone is not a reason to have it.

    I read that a man in the US was apparently allowed to choose an option for his own death and chose a firing squad. I don't think that sort of execution should be allowed, I was not in favour of the electric chair either.

    "An eye for an eye" is not always the best mentality.
  11. LostOnHoth Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 15, 2000
    star 5
    In some cases that is true. If a person is wrongly convicted and spends 30 years wasting away in a prison to be released at aged 72 then certainly his life has been utterly destroyed. However, if a young person in their 20s or 30s serves say 10 years before being released then they will be out in their 30s or 40s, leaving quite a lot of time to rebuild their lives. I would rather have 10 or 12 years taken from me than the alternative of being executed.

    Personally, I object to the death penalty simply on the grounds that I don't think the state should be allowed to kill people as a government action. I hold to the ideals of the 'social contract' theory that we give up some of our freedoms in return for social order and so we risk being deprived of our liberty if we disrupt social order by breaking the law. However I don't think this should ever be extended to being deprived of our lives.
  12. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    First link I found, but as of 2002, DNA testing had already gotten 108 people out of jail in the US, including 12 that had been on death row. Beyond that, it's entirely usable in court cases in general.

    I've not heard prison overcrowding cited before, largely as the executions as a percentage of those in prison is still minute, though I'd also say I don't see an issue with the person to be executed choosing the method of execution.
  13. SithLordDarthRichie London CR

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    Member Since:
    Oct 3, 2003
    star 8
    Execution should be as civilised and painless as possible, regardless of what the prisoner wants.
  14. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    Although if that is what they want, then where in that is the offense? It would, I think, still ultimately be their choice over their body and their life (and death).
  15. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    My state (Rhode Island) abolished the death penalty back in the 1840's, I believe it was the second state in the union to do so at the time.

    Wasn't abolishing the death penalty for everyone but terrorists one of John Kerry's campaign proposals?
  16. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    I can't imagine that he'd go for anti-death penalty on a presidential campaign.
  17. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    I thought he did want to abolish it nationally (with special exception for terrorists), and it was one of the reasons he was branded as an out-of-touch liberal elitist, but I could be wrong.
  18. LtNOWIS Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 19, 2005
    star 4
    I'm for the death penalty because it eliminates a threat to society in a way that's more irrevocable and final than life imprisonment, where the offender could escape, or kill someone while behind bars.

    Also, as a states' rights supporter, I support letting individual states decide whether they want to have the death penalty or not.

    I don't really understand the argument that the State shouldn't kill people; the national government already kills people in wartime, and that's generally accepted as a lawful and accepted course of action. I listened to a liberal talk radio host the other day, discussing a potential change in strategy in Afghanistan, when General McChrystal was about to be fired. He was hoping (in vain) that Obama would end the counterinsurgency strategy, and go for a more limited counter-terrorism strategy, as Biden wanted. The point is that even a hardcore leftist was quite supportive of sending in special forces and predator drones to violently kill people we believe are our enemies. Obama himself has given the go-ahead to kill an American citizen in Yemen, on the basis that he wants to attack us. The US always has and always will commit lethal violence on people, generally with far less deliberation than a court of law. Killing abroad doesn't justify killing at home, but the notion that state-sanctioned killing is incompatible with any mainstream ideas about our foreign policy.

    Also, the "uncertainty" argument doesn't hold much water for me. The whole point of our criminal justice system is that prisoners are convicted "beyond a reasonable doubt," and that's doubly true with the extensive appeals process in death penalty cases. If we can't have a reasonable degree of assuredness about our criminal justice system, then we have larger problems than "death penalty vs. life without parole."

    No, the system will never be 100% infallible. But nothing is. The idea of an unjustly killed prisoner isn't abhorrent to me, not when hundreds of people are unjustly killed by police, hundreds of unjustly convicted prisoners die in prison, and thousands of people are accidentally killed in American wars. People who shouldn't die die all the time; I'm not going to let abject fear of unjustly killing someone dictate policy.

    Of course, waiting until a decade or so has passed before the actual execution takes place is probably wise, in case there are any developments in forensic science or other new evidence. That level of delay is pretty common in the US.

    Utah was the last state to use the firing squad; they banned it years ago, but, previously convicted prisoners were grandfathered in under the old rules.

    I don't think the firing squad is any more painful than any other method.
  19. SithLordDarthRichie London CR

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    Member Since:
    Oct 3, 2003
    star 8
    I've talked to some people who think with should just Nuke the Middle-East because "they all want to kill us" o_O

    I'm in favour of trying to change other nation's views of the western world and try to make allies of them. In the same way I'm in favour of using the prison system to return people to society. A lot of people murder others because they are mentally damaged, those people need to be treated, not just killed because they killed someone else. Of course, there are some cases where people are not able to be cured, in which case maybe the death penalty is effective.

    I've certainly never rated it as a detterent, people who commit crimes don't worry about the punishment because they don't think they'll be caught.
  20. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    I'd agree that is true we can't have any of those things perfect, however, capital punishment is the easily avoidable one. The only way to prevent anyone from ever being killed unjustly by police is to disarm the police, which I think is untenable. The only way to keep innocent but convicted prisoners from dying in prison is to not have prisons. The only way to keep accidental casualties from happening in wars is to surrender. All three of those, the cost in life would be drastically higher because of the situations they are intended to control. Innocent deaths should certainly be minimised, but because lethal force is needed, they can't be eliminated altogether.
    However, capital punishment is something that isn't necessary. I don't think it's immoral for a murderer to be executed, but it's not necessary in the same way that a police officer being able to open fire if they feel is needed, for example, can be. Capital punishment is just that, it's a punishment. It's not a control measure or a protection.
  21. LtNOWIS Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 19, 2005
    star 4
    I'll grant that capital punishment something we absolutely need to have. But I'd argue that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, especially for legitimately dangerous people that we have a real interest in permanently removing from the system.

    The guy who was killed by firing squad in Utah, for example, was sent to prison for robbery, then escaped and tried to confront someone who was sleeping with his girlfriend. He gets recaptured; 3 years later, he's undergoing treatment at a hospital, where he overpowers a guard and takes his gun. Then he shot a bartender in the face, killing him, before being recaptured. As he headed to trial for the murder, one of his friends slipped him a pistol. In the failed attempt to escape, he shot and killed an attorney, and wounded a bailiff. In prison, he stabbed a fellow inmate 67 times, killing him. He also got drunk on prison-brewed alcohol and stabbed another inmate repeatedly. Lastly, he "barricaded the door in the prison visiting area, holding a SWAT team at bay while he had sex with his girlfriend," according to the Deseret News.

    Transferring him to SuperMax and letting him rot there might have been the end of it. But I would say there was a very real possibility someone like that would have attacked and possibly killed someone there to. The prison system spent over a decade failing to contain him; killing him is the only way to be totally sure he doesn't cause more problems.
  22. LostOnHoth Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 15, 2000
    star 5
    Well the argument is not that the government shouldn't kill people, clearly it does and should in wartime, rather, the government should not be empowered to kill its own citizens for offences which violate or threaten social order. The government protects your freedoms but that protection is conditional upon you playing nice- if you don't play nice, the extent to which the government should be able to act is limited to deprivation of your liberty. The government in effect grants you, for all practical purposes, your liberty by providing the infrastructure and social institutions necesarily to fulfil your social and personal needs. In return for this, you must obey the laws of the land for this is the only way to guarantee the efficacy of those social institutions. If you do not obey the laws then the government rescinds its protection and deprives you of your liberty. The social contract does not extend to the giving and taking of life, just freedom and liberty within a social system regulated by laws.
  23. Jedi_Keiran_Halcyon Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 17, 2000
    star 6
    But it also makes execution that much more extreme a punishment, and even a .001 percent risk of executing an innocent that much more unacceptable.

    Insufficient as they may be, there are at least SOME methods of reparation for wrongful imprisonment. There's no way to even partially apologize to the victim of wrongful execution.
  24. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    Exactly, although that's why my issue isn't with the validity of the death penalty as a punishment, but with the accuracy with which it can be used.
  25. Alpha-Red Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 25, 2004
    star 5
    I guess I'm still ambivalent about the death penalty. On one hand I do think there's certain crimes that do deserve capital punishment, while on the other I don't want to see innocent people being executed.
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