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Flamewar: The Death Penalty--Your thoughts

edited May 2006 in Flamewars
You want a flamewar, you got it. (Pssst, Rym/Scott: how about some polls in this forum?)

Do you support the death penalty or not, and why?


  • edited May 2006
    In theory, yes, but only as a means of removing very dangerous elements from society.

    It is NOT effective as a deterrent, and in the current legal system, way too expensive to be viable. If we could have some way of reliably and undeniably proving someone's guilt, and find a way to make it cheaper, and the crime were sufficiently heinous, I would support it.

    EDIT: Euthanize the elderly.
    Post edited by TheWhaleShark on
  • Death penalty bad. It can't be undone. At least with jail if you find out someone was innocent you can let them out of jail and say you are sorry. Not so if you kill them.

    To go even further, I'm against prison. Most people in prison are not dangerous to society. Putting them in prison just ruins their lives without fixing anything. All it does is keep the economics of the prison complex working. Don't ask me what we should do instead of prison. I don't know. Maybe nut-houses?

    Killing people is wrong, period. If you think it is ever ok to kill someone, then come over to my house, if you dare.
  • I support the death penalty as a means of removing dangerous and unviable members of society (TheWhaleShark beat me to it).

    I don't, however, support the death penalty as it is applied in the United States. Our legal system is fairly shoddy, our penal system is a massive complex of corruption in and of itself that dwarfs the so-called "military-industrial complex," and our bureaucracy surrounding it is maddening, inefficient, and costly.

    Woe betide the judge who has me on his jury...
  • I don't like the death penalty....but I ask you, what do we do with those who are in fact a true danger to society?
  • Mail them to societies we don't like?
  • Exile is awesome.
  • The death penalty is a bad idea because our government can't (and shouldn't) be trusted.

    No one is a great danger to anyone at society at large if they are kept in a prison idefinitely.
  • Speaking of which Rym, has anyone here actually served on a jury once? I have always wanted to hoping I would get a really awesome case and go Twelve Angry Men style haha! Just my personal feelings though.
  • I can see a few situations where killing someone to prevent them from taking further harmful action is acceptable, but it should be a method of absolute last resort ("removing dangerously unviable members of society", as has been suggested by others). And I tend to agree with others here in that our current legal system is both a) very bad at applying punishments correctly and b) needlessly expensive in its application of the death penalty. So at least in the current world, it's not practical.

    I also conjecture that matters of life and death should never be impersonalized. So even in situations where a death penalty is considered justified by a judge and jury, it's up to the victims (or their next of kin, in murder cases) to make the final decision and pull the trigger. If they're not willing to do that themselves, they should not have the option of foisting the responsibility onto the executive arm of government.
  • I hereby start the first tangent. It is in response to the suggestion that the victim(s) or their next of kin should execute the death sentence.

    I always hate how victims and their relatives are brought into criminal trials. A criminal trial is when someone breaks a law of the state. If there are victims, they have nothing to do with it at all. A criminal trial is a matter between the state and the defendant. Sure, victims might be witnesses, or even evidence(autopsies eww), but the verdict and sentence have absolutely nothing to do with the victim(s).

    Hypothetically, let's say someone killed one of my relatives. Shot them dead. Would I be upset that my relative is dead? Yes. Would I hope that person is caught? Yes, but no more than I hope any other dangerous criminal is caught. Would I care what their sentence or verdict is? No, I would only care that anyone on trial for the crime got the fairest trial possible, just like everyone should get. Unless the person is dangerous, and they are going to continue to pose a threat to other humans, I would not care what the verdict turned out to be. Sideshow Bob needs to stay in jail because you know he's going to try to kill Bart if he is free. If there is no evidence that he will continue to pose a danger, then what difference does it make to the Simpsons or Krusty if he is found guilty or innocent? Innocent until proven guilty, not vice-versa.

    I see a lot of people who are relieved when someone is finally put to "justice" for inflicting pain upon themselves and people they were close to. I look down upon that attitude as hateful and vengeful. Revenge doesn't get you anywhere, it just makes you a shitty person. It won't bring back your loved one, and it won't make the world a better place. I can understand why most people feel differently about this than I do. Revenge is sort of an instinct everyone has. But people who can see past that are the really awesome people. To be happy that someone who killed your relative is going to be put to death or locked away, I think makes you a shitty person. Good people do not take pleasure in the suffering of others.

    For a final example. What if a drunk driver crashes into your brother's car and paralyzes him. What difference does it make to you what happens to the drunk guy? It doesn't make any difference except to your personal feelings. And it will only effect your personal feelings if you are, as I said, vengeful and hateful.

    In short, if you want to duke it out with someone, get a civil case. Criminal cases are between the state, the defendant and the jury. Just because you or someone you know was the victim doesn't mean you have any role in the case beyond potentially being a witness.

    What's even worse is that victims and their families often don't seem to care if they get the right person or not. They just need someone at which to direct their hate and anger. They don't care who it is, evidence be damned.
    It is better that ten guilty persons escape than one innocent suffer.
    --William Blackstone
  • Scott, I think you hit the nail on the head with your comments about revenge, because I think it is the essence of why we have the death penalty. We have mixed up the idea of justice with vengeance. We confuse the two ideas to varying degrees, gaining a vicarious feeling of satisfaction from the laying out of vengeance.

    I blame westerns, to a certain extent, or at least our current fantasy of a Cowboy, that brings us to our current position. We fantasize about "frontier justice," the idea of taking a man and hanging him from the nearest tree. This very idea is suspect, it allows us to let our worst instincts out to run free when you push the idea too far.

    I have mixed feelings on the subject of the death penalty, but I think that my above comments give good reason as to why we should not use it. It is a tool that we aren't able to use properly, and perhaps there is no way to use it properly.
  • Waste! Absolute waste!
    The death penalty is a wasteful and expensive process, which is exasperated by the attempts to create a painless execution. Here we are, getting rid of perfectly viable human lives, executing them when more productive measures could be taken.
    I agree that the problem of a death penalty is the absolute finality of the option, that mistakes will be made. So alternative methods of punishment could be taken.
    We should also not forget that data from certain tests, while the majority of the scientific community would balk at the ethical breaches, can provide valuable insights.
  • I feel that if someone has done something horrible enough to deserve the death penalty, then they usually aren't afraid of death. For many people, death would be an escape so they don't have to reflect on what they've done, and so as far as punishment goes, life in jail is probably just what they deserve. Also, for the people that are wrongfully imprisoned and dont deserve the death penelty, a few years in prison is better then death.
  • I agree with you Katsu. The death penalty is not the proper way to deal with crime. In fact, it's a fairly sloppy and effortless action taken by our justice system to try and deter crime.

    Not only that, but believe it or not, putting a man/woman to death is much more expensive than holding them in prison for their lifetime. Any time a person is going toward the path of execution, the idea must go through several levels of appeal. That means paying lawyers, attorneys, and judges to run the courts. That's more money than would ever be spent on keeping the criminal alive.

    It's sad that the religious ignorance has caused so much grief for our country and its ideals. I myself am not religious, but I know quite a few individuals who are, especially since I live in the Bible Belt of the United States (Kansas). I've talked with people such as that, and the most they can come up with is the New Testament. What about the New Testament? Where the hell did Jesus go?
  • I am strongly against the death penalty, because I'm against killing for any reason, with the exception of defense from an immediate threat. I'm also somewhat of an absolutist in that I don't believe that doing a bad thing for good reasons makes the bad thing good. It may be the least worst option, but it's still bad and should be avoided.

    So what to do if they are a danger to the rest of society, well lock them up until they aren't. And help them while they're there, so they can become suitable members of society again.

    Then of course there's all the other arguments against it if you do accept that killing can be condoned in some case that have already been mentioned, although I was surprised at TheWhaleShark's argument that it is too expensive, as this seems to be such a minor facet of the issue. I personally would like any process that involves killing someone to be as long, arduous and expensive as possible for those involved in the

    I agree that the victims should in no way be involved in deciding the innocence/guilt or penalty and the enforcement thereof. I would think that if anyone from the trial process should be involved in the actual killing of someone found guilty, it should be the jury. Give them each a key, nuclear weapon style, and if they're all willing. Of course, this is after the full appeals process, etc.

    And finally, a somewhat relevant quote: "The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons" - Dostoevsky.
  • Just one thing to say about justice. In a society of perfect justice everyone would get exactly what they deserve, no more, no less. You can always tell who the good people are because they are the only ones who desire real justice. People who accept unjustice deserve shit.
  • The Japanese system for executions is a step in my direction. It gives enough time to file appeals while minimizing the costs of keeping a person alive for that long. Also, while the mind may retreat from physical pain to a place where it can no longer be hurt, there is no such escape from despair.
    Essentially, each prisoner is kept in a single small cell, sound-dampened and continously lit in a white light. The only sounds that they hear are the footsteps of the guards come to either give them their meals of nearly expired foodstuffs, or to drag a prisoner away for a quick execution. There is no set time or day, nothing but the years of monotonous solitary confinement, with the perpetual fear and uncertainty that this day may be the last.
    There are far better ways to break a man than to kill him, ways which leave the mind shattered but the body unscathed. More subtle forms exist, and there are some questions that I would like answered, questions which an ethical scientific community cannot easily answer.
  • As soon as a case becomes about what someone "deserves", it has become a matter of personal vengeance. And as Scott rightly pointed out, that is not the purpose of the criminal justice system. Laws are not about enforcing karma or even morality - they are there to provide a minimum level of safety to all members of society. Criminal punishment (a far different thing from rehabilitation) can only possibly serve as a deterrent, either for the accused or for others who wish to avoid his fate.

    The death penalty, and for that matter life imprisonment, are a very special kind of deterrent because they amount to a statement that the accused is incapable of learning to act in a socially acceptable way. In a system of justice based on the presumption of innocence (as ours is, a fact too many people forget), both must be applied only when all else has failed. Life imprisonment is a little better in that society has the option of saying, "Oops, we were wrong, sorry for ruining your life," but that hardly means it should be applied any more lightly.

    To clarify my earlier conjecture: I do not mean to suggest that the sole determiner of life or death should be the victim. I do mean to suggest that a matter of life or death is far too important to trust to an abstract body such as government. We seem far too able to deal out death and destruction when no one person must stand out and say "I am responsible for this." A judge and jury or state-sponsored executioner is not responsible for the sentence, because they represent the state as a whole. The most they can ever do is stand by and allow such a thing to happen, a task much easier than that of wielding the axe/pulling the trigger/pushing the button. Killing is irreversible, and the responsibility for such a decision should rest on the shoulders of a single individual and no other. That is the only way I see to ensure that such a decision is made with the proper gravity.

    If no one is willing to take responsibility for someone's death, they should not die at human hands.
  • edited May 2006
    If you truly think about it, sitting in a jail cell for the rest of your life is probably the worst punishment, besides torture. Instant death could hardly be called a harsh punishment, especially when it comes in the form of an injection.
    Post edited by MrPeriod on
  • Heh... This isn't much of a flame war, just people giving their opinions on why killing people is a no-no.

    Last person round here to get the death penalty was Eric Edgar Cooke in 1964. He killed at least 7 people, and did a bunch of other nasty things that the wikipedia entry don't mention.

    Personally, I don't believe in it, though it does save taxpayer dollars in not having to feed them... Thats the only benefit I can think of. Except that they can break out, or commit crimes in gaol. That happenned here recently; A guy took his therapist (?) Hostage and raped her and stuff. This is even after warnings that he might do it again, since it was the second or third time...
  • As soon as a case becomes about what someone "deserves", it has become a matter of personal vengeance.
    How so? Deserving is more economic than anything. There is no right answer to what people truly deserve, but it is generally accepted that we reward people for their benefit to society and punish those who detriment. Although we can never do this perfectly, the purpose of courts and capitalism is to strive towards perfect justice as much as possible. Deserving has nothing to do with vengeance whatsoever.
    Laws are not about enforcing karma or even morality - they are there to provide a minimum level of safety to all members of society.
    Laws aren't just about safety! Laws are there to protect peoples' rights. The right to life is just one of those. Laws are the specific directives from the legislative to the executive branches of government which specifically state how the constitution(s) should be upheld. When you've commited a crime it is because you have infringed upon the rights of others be they individuals, groups or society as a whole. Deservedness and sentencing has nothing to do with karma or morality. It has to do with placing blame for damage done and rectifying the situation as justly as possible.

    I do agree that nobody should be put to death, especially not by the government. Forcing someone to take the responsibility for the death is clearly better than not. But I do not agree that death, or prison, is a useful deterrent. I also think it's pretty hyopcritical to on one hand punish someone for murder, and then kill them. That hypocrisy really depends on your answer to the question "Why is killing wrong?"

    All in all I think we need to work towards a system which strives towards the following goals:
    1. Create citizens who are less likely to infringe up on the rights of others.
    2. Prevent people from infringing upon the rights of others.
    3. Rectify situations where rights have been infringed upon in the best way possible.
    Killing people doesn't work towards any of these.
  • "For great justice!!"

    /zero wing

    Sorry, I couldn't resist :)
  • Why do we have such a large amount of violent crimes in this country?

    I mean, it's part of why we have such support for these harsh penalties, well that and the war on drugs.
  • Laws aren't just about safety! Laws are there to protect peoples' rights. The right to life is just one of those.
    Point taken. My earlier statement was overly simplistic.

    You're correct in that deserving is economic - the problem is that there is no absolute guide for what is right and wrong, or to what degree. Therefore any judgement about the "economy" of justice is necessarily personal and subjective. The rights given a person under the law are likewise choices on the parts of the lawmakers (be they modern or historical). Much as I enjoy (and agree with) the right to free speech, for example, there is no cosmic force or physical law that gives me that right; it is an aspect of my relation with the Constitution of the United States and the bodies empowered by that document.

    All laws and enforcement can do is create consequences.
  • Of course there is no universal right and wrong. Universally we are insignificant specs of jittering biomass. But within the constructs of our society we can define a right and wrong, a good and a bad. When those definitions have a foundation as strong as the US Constitution it becomes hard to disagree on the fundamentals. Universal justice is left to the realm of the philosophers. Real justice within our society is something which we can achieve to a significant degree. Certaintly we could have more justice than we have right now. See the news for innocent people being found guilty, being fucked over or receiving punishments which are too extreme considering the crime.
  • I think that instead of the death penalty, people should be given the 13th amendment. Specifically, this part of it:

    Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

    Yes, I want them to be slaves. Seeing how it costs ~$30,000 to house prisoners, I think that forced manual labor is appropriate. I would have no problem with killing them, but in the current situation, this is a better solution.
  • Babylon 5 had an episode where a psycho was punished for a particularly brutal crime by being brainwiped - he was given a totally new personality, so that he could spend the rest of his life peacefully repaying society. It is a creepy concept to consider, but a hell of a lot more palatable than state sanctioned killing, IMHO.
  • Was it a Niven book that had people who did insane things, like killing people, "fixed" in a similar manner?
  • edited May 2006
    I submit that being brainwiped is about the same thing as killing a person. I say this because it sounds like this is an irreversible action taking away all that the person was. Basically, the person that comes into the procedure would cease to exist, and the person who comes out would be somebody completely different. It has a lot of the same problems as the death penalty, in that if the person was found to be innocent there is no reversing the action.
    Post edited by Jameskun on
  • You're right, it is about the same, but Bab 5 was sci-fi, and who's to say that the procedure couldn't be reversed?

    Actually, that type of surgery can probably happen today, except it is a one way street right now. In the future, maybe that will change, and 'brainwiping' might become a viable option. But only if it is reversible, and only in the most extreme of cases.
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