A Conversation for The Death Penalty

Pragmatic vs. moral arguments

Post 1

jqr

Well, I was talking about this with a friend on Saturday, and he pointed out that you really can't persuade people with moral arguments; both of you just get out of breath. Moral suasion involves lots of time and thinking and meditation on one's position vis-a-vis the world.
There are a couple of pragmatic arguments you can make, though. In the U.S., at least, it costs more to go through the capital-punishment appeal process than to just leave someone in prison for life. Also, research has shown that the deterrent effect is zero; no robber decides not to shoot the liquor-store owner, for instance, because he is afraid to go to the chair.


Pragmatic vs. moral arguments

Post 2

BLuE (the wierd one who thinks he has a martian living in his tree )

how can capitol punishment even be a question? the answer has to be yes. with the people like daumer and bundy they do some atrocias crimes against humanity and people think they dont deserve to pay? instead putting them in a place where they will never have to worry about making rent, where theit next meal is comming from, or ever having to pay taxes again. they deserve what they gave an eye for an eye if you will. if you use the argument you shouldt kill people it is morally wrong what about these guys they seem to not have morales so why let the ones we have save him. picture this some stranger forces his way into your home and rapes your wife or mom or sister or whover is close to you and then kills her when she is begging for mercy and then proceeds to do all sorts of things with the body. would you then say well maybe he had a bad day we could rehabilitate him and let back out on the streets or would you say lock him up and throw away the key so he will never see light again but know that in a sense he got away with it or would you say string em up. the law of the jungle is kill or be killed, and we live in a big jungle, but thankfullywe can see past that and live without actually killing but not every one can. we have to get rid of those who do these crimes or our kids will grow up thinking its bad to do those things but if i do i wont be punished to severely.
and on the point of the legal costs, there should definately be a limit to appeals like two or maybe even one.

jingle bells

BLuE


Pragmatic vs. moral arguments

Post 3

Wampus

The problem with the death penalty is that no one is sure of what it is supposed to accomplish. There is flawed logic in any proposal of intent.

If the intent is deterrence, then certainly the death penalty shouldn't be administered as it is. In the US, a criminal facing a captital crime can wait years and years before being put to death, even if he is at all. The common criminal doesn't think much past tomorrow or next week, much less whether his actions today will result in his being executed ten years from now. If we really wanted to deter people, we should make the system much faster; perhaps from crime to execution in a week would make criminals think a lot harder about their actions.

If the intent is retribution, i.e. an eye for an eye, then why not apply the same logic to other crimes? A criminal who murders shall be murdered, one who rapes shall be raped, one who maims shall be maimed. If it were truly an eye for an eye punishment, then the criminal should be executed in the same way he/she killed the victim, whether it be by shooting, stabbing, beating, defenestration (throwing out of windows), or any other myriad ways of murdering someone. Unfortunately, the US "cruel and unusual punishment" clause prohibits that sort of execution, so we have instead a painless, sanitary death for the criminals. Hardly an eye for an eye.

Another possible intent is to remove the person who committed the crime from our society, so he/she won't do whatever crime again. That intent, then, assumes that such a person is beyond any possible rehabilitation, and is guaranteed to commit another crime given the chance. But then, if one really wanted to remove this person permanently, then life imprisonment is cheaper (under the US system of appeals). Also, one could argue that being in maximum security prison for the rest of one's life, be it thirty or fifty years, is a fate worse than death. Certainly one is guaranteed room and board, but at the expense of being allowed to go outside, have human contact, learn anything, drink, do drugs, or anything else that ordinary people take pleasure in.

My conclusion is that I oppose the death penalty. My opposition is not from some moral objection to killing, but because the death penalty is not administered in such a way as it fulfills any possible intent of putting criminals to death. All it really does is make people incensed and waste taxpayer dollars. If it were to be drastically reformed, I would consider supporting it, but at the moment it is insufficient.

Wampus


Pragmatic vs. moral arguments

Post 4

Jeremy (trying to find his way back to dinner)

This is a highly controversial issue. For me it's hard to decide whether to see capital punishment (CP) as justice or as mere revenge. To send someone to the chair or into the chamber IS definitely a final decision.

All arguments have been on the table. Is life in a country with CP more secure then in a non-CP country? Leave that up to the statistics.

Did the threat of CP ever prevent a crime? As there are no statistics of "crimes not committed", we will never know.

Does anybody have the right to kill anybody else deliberately, after a long and (hopefully) fair trial? Everybody has had enough time to think about what to do. So it's no longer a passionate decision.

If a country decides to have capital punishment, I have to respect that decision (provided it's a democratic decision). What I cannot accept is the fact that capital punishments are used for public relations. That seems to happen in Texas right now. PLEASE DO NOT GET ME WRONG: I'm not a Texan. I'm not even a US citizen. That means I have no right to say "You make a mistake" to Texas or to the USA. But I have the right not to like what happens there right now. By no means do I want to excuse the crimes that sent the criminals to death row. If they had a fair trial, I assume that they deserve to be there. But is it right to execute one after the other just to please some voters? I don't think so.

Just my humble opinion.

jfsjbb


Pragmatic vs. moral arguments

Post 5

Sol

The other problem with CP as a deterrent is that technically a different (more harsh, more lenient) sentence can be given to different people whose crimes are (more or less) identical depending on what the authorities see as the particular type of crime that needs discouraging this week. I mean, that is what it is for, right?

Eg Judge thinks to himself "Hmm, we have been having a lot of armed robberies leading to killings lately" and promptly sentences the next six defendants with similar crimes to death. OK. It isn't that simple, but is the same principle as the previous point made by Jeremy.

But then you could get into a debate about whether putting people in jail on deterrence grounds (unproven to work for any crime! unproven!)
is defendable.

Personally I don't have too much of a problem with CP on retrebution grounds. If you could assure me that no innocent person would get executed. Ever. And that the similar crimes would get the same punnishment. Always. Without bias for colour, social status, sex etc etc.


Pragmatic vs. moral arguments

Post 6

Fragilis - h2g2 Cured My Tabular Obsession

But we know there is a bias.

In the US, studies done by the US Justice Department and explained to the public by Attorney General Janet Reno show that criminals of color are executed far more often than white criminals who have committed the same crime. Also, the likehood of being given the death penalty is less when the victim is black or Hispanic. Finally, the same statistics show that a woman is far less likely to be given the death penalty than a man.

Do we really believe that a black man who shot a white woman deserves the death penalty more than a white woman who shot a black man? Or put another way, is a white woman's life worth more to us than a black man's?

It's bad enough that we have many documented cases in the US where a person on death row was found innocent through DNA evidence after years of incarceration during the appeals process. Nor is it heartening that there is so much police resistance to using newer methods of analyzing DNA evidence to see whether criminals executed in the past had been convicted unjustly.

It's unconscionable that even in cases where we know that those sentenced were guilty of their crime, our courts can't even make sure that the sentence given was the one that fit the crime. Whether we are giving white women a privilege they don't deserve or punishing black men more than is fair is irrelevant. I just can't believe that society privilege should be powerful enough to determine whether someone lives or dies.

If the death penalty can't be assigned to criminals based on their crime alone, it should be abolished. That's my opinion.


Pragmatic vs. moral arguments

Post 7

Fragilis - h2g2 Cured My Tabular Obsession

But we know there is a bias.

In the US, studies done by the US Justice Department and explained to the public by Attorney General Janet Reno show that criminals of color are executed far more often than white criminals who have committed the same crime. Also, the likehood of being given the death penalty is less when the victim is black or Hispanic. Finally, the same statistics show that a woman is far less likely to be given the death penalty than a man.

Do we really believe that a black man who shot a white woman deserves the death penalty more than a white woman who shot a black man? Or put another way, is a white woman's life worth more to us than a black man's?

It's bad enough that we have many documented cases in the US where a person on death row was found innocent through DNA evidence after years of incarceration during the appeals process. Nor is it heartening that there is so much police resistance to using newer methods of analyzing DNA evidence to see whether criminals executed in the past had been convicted unjustly.

It's unconscionable that even in cases where we know that those sentenced were guilty of their crime, our courts can't even make sure that the sentence given was the one that fit the crime. Whether we are giving white women a privilege they don't deserve or punishing black men more than is fair is irrelevant. I just can't believe that society privilege should be powerful enough to determine whether someone lives or dies.

If the death penalty can't be assigned to criminals based on their crime alone, it should be abolished. That's my opinion.


Pragmatic vs. moral arguments

Post 8

Fragilis - h2g2 Cured My Tabular Obsession

But we know there is a bias.

In the US, studies done by the US Justice Department and explained to the public by Attorney General Janet Reno show that criminals of color are executed far more often than white criminals who have committed the same crime. Also, the likehood of being given the death penalty is less when the victim is black or Hispanic. Finally, the same statistics show that a woman is far less likely to be given the death penalty than a man.

Do we really believe that a black man who shot a white woman deserves the death penalty more than a white woman who shot a black man? Or put another way, is a white woman's life worth more to us than a black man's?

It's bad enough that we have many documented cases in the US where a person on death row was found innocent through DNA evidence after years of incarceration during the appeals process. Nor is it heartening that there is so much police resistance to using newer methods of analyzing DNA evidence to see whether criminals executed in the past had been convicted unjustly.

It's unconscionable that even in cases where we know that those sentenced were guilty of their crime, our courts can't even make sure that the sentence given was the one that fit the crime. Whether we are giving white women a privilege they don't deserve or punishing black men more than is fair is irrelevant. I just can't believe that society privilege should be powerful enough to determine whether someone lives or dies.

If the death penalty can't be assigned to criminals based on their crime alone, it should be abolished. That's my opinion.


Pragmatic vs. moral arguments

Post 9

Fragilis - h2g2 Cured My Tabular Obsession

Oh, dear! I do apologize for the triple post. My connection to h2g2 was wonky, and I couldn't tell whether my attempts to post were working. Sorry!


Pragmatic vs. moral arguments

Post 10

MaW

It's not a good thing, for the following reasons

1) you can't bring people back from the dead if you made a mistake
2) you don't know what happens to them when they die. At least if you keep them in prison you can make sure they're having a really nasty time of it

I also think that the way the US does it at the moment is utterly pointless. How many people actually sentanced to death actually get executed? It's like giving people life sentances and releasing them after 15 years. Stupid.

But even if the system was better I still wouldn't support it. Death is too final - unless there's an afterlife, the criminal won't be able ponder what a downturn their life has taken. But then in prison you run into the human rights people who want to supply feather mattresses and... why not just let them all go? Either punish them properly or don't bother.

And does the death penalty seem to reduce crime in the USA? Well by their crime rate figures it doesn't seem to be much of a deterrent.


Pragmatic vs. moral arguments

Post 11

Jeremy (trying to find his way back to dinner)

How about that idea:

there is always someone who decides over the CP (jury members, judges, people to whom the criminals appeal). He who makes the fnal decision should be committed to vouch WITH HIS OWN LIFE for the justness of the sentence, the absence of any mistake within the trial, the guilt of the accused person "without the shadow of a doubt".

That means that if, let's say, a governor turns down an appeal and finally sends a perons to the chair, he has to be aware that if the innocence of that person is proved later, he will be sent to the death row himself. Same should apply to jury member or all other persons whose verdict causes a CP.

Maybe this sounds rather radical, but to me it's only fair: He who thinks he has to kill shall be aware that he may be killed himself if he was not right in his decision.


Pragmatic vs. moral arguments

Post 12

Hal

I'm assuming you're playing devil's advocate.

The legal system is already (intended) to guard against mistake; that is why criminality must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. By definition, then, any authority can justifiably claim that any doubts he or she has as to the guilt of a prisoner are "unreasonable", and that any miscarriages of justice were beyond their capacity to divine.

From another perspective, you'd be ensuring that honest mistake or negligence on the part of said authority would be punishable by death.

This would effectively end the death penalty. For the wrong reasons.

If the death penalty neither deters crime, appeases victims, nor is cheaper and easier for society than lifetime incarceration, why precisely is it done?

Possible answers to that include politicians playing for personal popularity, or assuaging public fears over crime. Even those who support "eye for an eye" might question whether or not this is a valid reason for ordering an execution.



Pragmatic vs. moral arguments

Post 13

Two Bit Trigger Pumping Moron

I agree that we aren't using executions properly in the United States. First off, I belive that the decision to use executions must lie with the District Attorney. When a DA who is oppoesed to executions is elected, the people in that district have decided that they don't want people executed for crimes in their district.

Secondly, I think the Supreme Court needs to overturn it's decision that disallowed executions for crimes that don't result in death. Here in Georgia, the state law states that Murder, Armed Robbery, Kidnapping, Treason, and Rape are all punishible by death. I think it's quite reasonable to execute people for these most heinous offenses (Actually, I might limit it to rape and murder. I think treason should be legal. This nation was founded by traitors after all).

When we do allow executions, they should be consistantly applied. If I were a DA, I would require my ADA's to justify each decision to not persue the death penalty in any case of murder or rape.

Jason


Pragmatic vs. moral arguments

Post 14

wrekage

i belive in an eye for an eye but there are lot of problems if they made enough scientific advances to enable an officer to be able to electroncally analysea crime scene in minutes then it would work as you would be far less likley to comit murder if there was a risk of getting your self killed moments later however this could lead to further problems by ending up in a state of terror that if you do break the law the officer may over react and killl you for no reason or if it could lead to psychotic conditions makeing officers train as detailed above unreliable so although i would support capital punishment it will be a long time before it is effective


Pragmatic vs. moral arguments

Post 15

Wampus

So far it seems we've just spoken about the death penalty as it is applied in the United States. I would be curious to know how it is applied (if at all) in other countries, and if they have the same problems with executions serving no other purpose than to kill some (supposed) heinous criminal every couple of months or so.


Pragmatic vs. moral arguments

Post 16

Wampus

So far it seems we've just spoken about the death penalty as it is applied in the United States. I would be curious to know how it is applied (if at all) in other countries, and if they have the same problems with executions serving no other purpose than to kill some (supposed) heinous criminal every couple of months or so.


Pragmatic vs. moral arguments

Post 17

Hal

okaaay....

For some reason the words "totalitarianism" and "fascistic" spring to mind.

It completely discards the concept of due process. Thankfully this cannot be squared with the 6th amendment or with the ECHR.

Scott


Pragmatic vs. moral arguments

Post 18

Fragilis - h2g2 Cured My Tabular Obsession

Most Western nations don't use the death penalty. I have read a little about its use in other countries, though.

The most startling thing to me is that sometimes people can be executed in one country for an activity that is legal in another country. For instance, in China, the government has the option of executing religious and political dissidents. In some African nations, you can be executed for having sex with someone of your gender. And in the US, laws put on the books in the 1980s give the federal government the ability to execute people for selling reasonably large quantities of illegal drugs (including marijuana).

Again, this makes me think that it isn't simply a matter of deciding whether the crime was committed. One must also ask whether the crime justifies this ultimate punishment.


Removed

Post 19

Ormondroyd

This post has been removed.


Pragmatic vs. moral arguments

Post 20

Zorpheus - I'm so hip I have difficulty seeing over my pelvis.

I personally don't think it's right to make law abiding citizens pay to keep some scumbag alive and well until he/she dies of natural causes, when a 32 cent bullet in the back of his head (shortly after a fair trial) could take care of this problem. I know, "a little harsh don't you think". No, I don't.
I don't get why people want to keep giving these a-holes rights. When they killed a person (in my book) they just lost all their rights and became just another crazed animal that needs to be put down!
Rehabilitation, HA! Would you feel safe with a guy living in your apartment building that had previously broken into his neighbors house and slowly tourtured an old women to death, then raped her corpse, got caught, tried, convicted, spent 15 years in prison doing rehab, but he's better now? i don't think so.
So no, I guess I don't agree with CP. I think it should be harsher and faster.


Key: Complain about this post

Write an Entry

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. It has been compiled and recompiled many times and under many different editorships. It contains contributions from countless numbers of travellers and researchers."

Write an entry
Read more