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Gov Ryan and death penalty(77 posts)

Gov Ryan and death penaltyDougSloan
Jan 11, 2003 9:19 PM
I listened to his speech. I think he's right.

I know how bad the legal system can be. There is no doubt in my mind that the death penalty is not evenly applied, and sometimes even innocent are sentenced. It should be banned. (I think it's inherely morally wrong, anyway.)

He is a Republican, by the way.

I have to side with the Democrat on this oneAlpedhuez55
Jan 11, 2003 10:23 PM
I think the incoming Governor, Democrat Rod Blagojevich had a great quote. "A blanket anything is usually wrong. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. We're talking about people who committed murder."

I would have to agree with him. You can look at cases and commute a sentence if you have any questions. There are some cases that would leave no doubt. Though I favor the death penalty in some cases, life without Parole is OK with me as well. I think this type of across the board commutation is wrong though.

There were also 4 pardons issued by Governor Ryan. Supposedly they were tortured into confessing. I do not know enough details on that case to comment on it. It would be interesting to hear the coments from some of the Jurors. I saw a TV show a couple of years ago where they interviewed the jurors in a case of a politically connected rapist was pardoned. Several of the Jurors came forward saying how outraged they were. I do not remember what state it was in though.

The Pardon is one of the checks in the system, but it should be used responsibly and not as political Payola. And that holds true for both Republicans and Democrats. Lame duck pardons should also be restricted in some manner. If you are not willing to do it before an election and face the political fallout, you should not be able to do it at all.

Mike Y.
I think that by commuting every one's sentence he'seyebob
Jan 12, 2003 7:48 AM
more saying, "look, lets get serious about the review and use of this tactic." as much as anything else. I'm not sure that it necessarily political in nature but if you have evidence that it's a "lame duck" pardon with regards to being political, I'd like to hear it. Clearly there is precident for that type of crap (which I can't believe that we all stand for) but I don't see it here.

I think that by commuting every one's sentence he'sAlpedhuez55
Jan 12, 2003 10:23 AM
I do not think Gov. Ryan's commutations were political. I think he did it out of his consience. I just do not think the blanket commutation was the best way to do it. I think he or his staff could have reviewed the 177 cases based on their merits. I am sure there were some cases that may have had some questions and some that were pretty open and shut cases. I would also assume like in most states with the Death Penalty, there are mandatory appeals on these cases. His actions took power away from the next governor.

I think Lame Duck Pardons are not a good thing. Clinton's pardon of Mark Rich is a perfect example as well as the commutation of the 4 Hasidic Jews convicted of Fraud in New York. Bush's pardons of Weinberger and other Iran/Contra figures is also very questionable. These were all political in nature. I do not want to take away any president or governor's right to give a pardon. I just think if they should do it before the election.

I will contrast the Bush & Clinton pardons against Ford's pardon of Nixon in 1974. That certainly hurt his campaign in 1976 thought I doubt he could have won. If Bush and Clinton had to make those pardons before the 1992 & 2000 they or their parties would have had to face some of the political fallout. Or just maybe the pardons never would have been made at all. I think that would help clean up the pardon process.

Mike Y.
Jan 12, 2003 1:48 PM
I think the blanket approach might be justified if all the convictions and sentencings were under the same defective laws and procedures. Sure, some are going to be more justified than others.

Also, I think this approach was intended to send a message to the legislature, courts, and prosecutors. "Get it right," or this is what could happen.

I think largely it was conscience, but very well reasoned in his speech. Definitely not politically correct for a Republican constituency. Outside of Berkley, he'll never hold another office.

Jan 12, 2003 8:45 PM
Right or wrong, I admire politicians who take principled stands that are all but guaranteed to result in the end of their political careers. Sandra Day O'Connor has also made some death penalty statements that might jeopardize her career if she didn't have an appointment for life.
Jan 13, 2003 5:59 AM
Gov. Ryan was not jepordizing his political career. According to the article in Doug's original post, his career was already effectivly dead due to corruption investigations. THere were alligations of contracts for campaign donations.

I am not a strong supporter of the Death Penalty. I am not going to make a passioned argument for it. I just think it should be an option in sentenciing for extreme cases. I lost no sleep when Illinois put John Wayne Gacy to Death. That was the only of the 12 deaths done in Illinois since the penalty was reinstated that I was familiar with.

What my problem is with the actions of a lame duck politicians. I just think if Ryan wanted to make a principled stand, he would have made his statement before the election in November.

Mike Y.
I thought that he did...eyebob
Jan 13, 2003 6:49 AM
I did a quick google search and it looks like he started this debate back in 2000 when he froze all death penalty cases. My second thought is this, don't be too sure that he doesn't have a viable political career still. I don't know much about the man or his aspirations but plenty of politicos have dealt with corruption (and other) problems and come out the other side better off for it. Do you know whether he aspires to hold any other office? I'd say that if he did, these wouldn't necessarily be "lame duck" by any means. If he doesn't then, sure enough, another decision made easier by the fact that he doesn't have to face the music (politically speaking of course). My gut feeling on this based on what little I know is that he's really taking a pricipled stand on something that he sees to be seriously flawed.

as a Republican, he's politically deadDougSloan
Jan 13, 2003 6:57 AM
He'll never hold office as a Republican; I'd bet on that. He could deal with the corruption (assuming he's not convicted of something) easier than he could deal with this within his party.

At his age I doubt he had no future aspitrationsAlpedhuez55
Jan 13, 2003 8:30 AM
He was a lame duck because he was leaving office in a couple of days. Maybe he would have taken the same action if he was re-elected, but we will never know. Sure some politicians have made comebacks after corruption or criminal charges, look at Ted Kennedy, Marion Berry & Buddy Cianci the Mayor of Providence RI (though he is now going back to jail now) to name a few. All were considerably younger than Ryan when they made their combacks.

Usually the corrupt politicians go into the private sector and become lobbyists. If anything, this will help Ryan if he wants to go on the Speaking Circuit. Ryan is 68 years old. My best guess is he had no future aspirations after losing the election but I may be wrong. Strom THurman just retired at 100. If Ryan were 45, it would be a different story. Due to his age and pending ethics probes, I think this was his last elected office.

You are right BT. Freezing executions was taking a corageous stand, especially given his party affiliation. That may have hurt his re-election chances within his own party. I feel that was more corageous than the last minute commutations.

My problem is more with the timing than the actual stand he took. He essentially took a power away from the next governor and not himself. He had 4 years in which he could have commuted the sentences but he did not act on it. If he felt so strongly about the issue, I feel he should have done it earlier. THe statement would be stronger if he took the power away from himself with the commutations while still in office. Instead he took it away from the next governor.

THough pardons and commutations are the main issue on the post, I am debating on one small part of the argument, the lame duck aspect. I feel the same way about the feeding frenzy of political payola such as jobs, pay raises and no-bid contracts given by lame duck politicians in their final days in office as I do about the pardons. I do not feel Gov Ryan's stand is as courageous as some people give him credit for.

Mike Y.
Jan 13, 2003 9:11 AM
Any last minute pardon, law, land grab, etc. is suspect in it's purpose and certainly steels thunder from the cause. I'm glad he did it if for no other reason than it'll fuel more debate on the subject.

maybe eye on Nobel Peace Prize? nmDougSloan
Jan 13, 2003 9:16 AM
Jan 13, 2003 7:03 AM
If the death penalty were to be a viable option, I'd think we'd need some standards, such as these:

1. Guilt must be proven with "absolute certainty", as opposed to "beyond a reasonable doubt";

2. The defendant may have a lawyer of his own choosing, and the state must pay for it (up to a reasonable hourly rate);

3. The must be clear standards for prosecutors in seeking the penalty, such as killing a cop during or following the commission of a crime; serious threat to national security (like an Osama); 3 time murder loser, etc; if it's within the guidelines, there is no discretion.

4. The defendant is entitled to any testing procedures (like DNA) that may exhonerate him, and the state must pay, if he is unable to.

5. Not applicable for retarded or mentally ill or minors.

6. Probably much more, but that's all I can think of right now.

That's "reasoable"eyebob
Jan 13, 2003 7:16 AM
in quotes because there will be many who would say that there's never a reason to have capitol punishment, but that aside, I would like to know why #5 was resisted in some States? This really rubs me as barbaric to kill someone not in their right mind. Can you (being a lawyer) explain to me the rationale of Renny, Scalia, and Thomas all dessenting on the Atkins v.VA. decision? Were they dessenting because of the way that the 8th Amendment was trying to be applied or are they numb?

I'll read and get backDougSloan
Jan 13, 2003 7:30 AM
It will take a while to analyze, but at first glace it appears the dissents focused on the (claimed) defective reasoning of the majority, that is, that the Constitution shouldn't be interpreted based upon what the states or foreign nations have done.

YeahSpoke Wrench
Jan 12, 2003 6:41 AM
Originally the topic came up because a number of cases of convicted rapists/murderers were examined using DNA evidence that wasn't available or wasn't used in the original trials. Turns out more than half were exhonerated. Not the occassional screw up, more than half! I find that scary.

Rape is kind of a convenient crime in that the perpetrator usually leaves DNA evidence. In many other murder cases, that doesn't happen. You'd have to assume, however, that the error rate would approach that of the rape cases. As a general rule, these guys don't get OJ class defense counsel.

There was at least one detective in the Chicago Police Department who had a specially made electrical torture device that he used to coerce confessions from some of the suspects. Those were the guys who were released Friday.

There is, however, another class of convicts whose death sentences were commuted. Some of them had DNA evidence that would seem to indicate they had done the crime. The families of those victims are obviously displeased with Gov. Ryan's decision and I don't blame them.

I'm generally opposed to capitol punishment but not because I have any sympathy what-so-ever for the rapists and murderers. I oppose it because I think that it's one of the things that makes us a more cruel society. Far from being a deterent to horrible crimes, I think that capitol punishment helps to create a society that actually foster's such crimes.
Jan 12, 2003 7:44 AM
It's difficult to support the death penalty in it's current form because of the inherent flaws.

For those intereseted, here's an interesting site advocating the abolition of the death penalty, (FYI only there may be better sites like the ACLU's perhaps)

and one for it's continued use that refutes the site above

I suppose that what strikes me as curious are the questions; What are we trying to do when we lock someone up? Is the goal to protect the citizenry from immediate threat (probably)? Is the goal to try to rehad this person (hopefully)? Is the goal to punish this person (yes)? Is the goal to deter this person and others like him/her (presumably)? Why is there opposition to curb the death penalty for the mentally ill and mentally retarded? I ask this one specifically because I'm not sure that a fair and just society can kill someone who's not in their right mind. Yes, this leaves a lot of room for interpretation (e.g. is being severly depressed and killing you 5 children in the bath tup qualify you for clemency from the death penalty? Currently, it depends on which State you do it in.)

In general I do not support capitol punishment except (maybe) in the case where you murder a cop or public safety officer. These folks are incredibly important to all of our safety and well-being. That's a case where I can reasonably believe that having this fact universally known to all would be criminals would likely deter them from harming a cop. If they chose to ignore this, so be it.

Spoke Wrench, please explain you last comment where you illude that the death penalty fosters crime. Are you saying that because, as a society, we deal with violence with violence (death penalty) that this perpetuates the very idea that violence is a means to an ends? More comment por favor.

Capital Punishment is a PERFECT deterrent for repeat offendersMatno
Jan 12, 2003 8:16 AM
One issue about this debate that tends to get overlooked is how the anti-death penalty groups skew the numbers of so-called "innocents" who were wrongfully executed. Granted, even one mistake is a tragedy, but the actual number of mistakes made is FAR less than they would have the public believe. (Most of them are not "innocent" but rather might have gotten off on a technicality had their lawyer thought of it sooner). Of course, as with any crime, I think we should do all that is reasonably possible to make sure that any sentence is free of error, but then, I think our current system does a pretty good job of that already.

You said, "I think that capitol punishment helps to create a society that actually foster's such crimes." There is a fundamental difference between homicide and judicial execution. The latter in no way "fosters" the former. While I agree that the death penalty probably isn't a deterrent for first time offenders (usually they are either not in control or think they can get away with it), I certainly don't think it somehow makes society more "bloodthirsty" or even desensitized. If anything, it provides a greater awareness of just how awful capital crimes are.

Finally, I know this is anecdotal, but in law school, I had a very liberal law professor who was very anti-death penalty...UNTIL he became a state attorney general and actually had to watch the execution of a convict whose case he had followed. I can't remember all the details, but suffice it to say, his arguments in FAVOR of the death penalty were very compelling. I'd like to recommend that experience to anyone who opposes the death penalty...
We're already desenticized.Spoke Wrench
Jan 12, 2003 3:47 PM
There is no doubt whatever in my mind that the death penalty does desensitize society and is a factor that contributes to our becoming more bloodthirsty. I think that fosters more violent crime. If the things that we read about and see on television don't affect our behavior, General Motors and Budwiser are wasting a ton of money on television advertising not to mention internet pop-up ads.

The thing I halfway expected to read on the board was someone advocating a less humane method of execution so that the killers would suffer more or televised executions. I hear both of those comments regularly and they are clear evidence to me that good people are gradually becoming progressively more desentized to capital punishment.

Other than while fighting a war, I don't know anybody who has killed another person. Virtually everyone I know has sex. Yet we live in a society that tolerates violence, killing and gore in our ENTERTAINMENT more easily than showing the occasional bare boob. I think that's sick!

Oh, one other thing. Please reread my original post. The factor that originally brought the topic of capital punishment to the Governor's attention was that when DNA evidence was examined regarding rape/murder convicts who were sentenced to death, MORE THAN HALF were exhonerated.
We're already desenticized.critmass
Jan 12, 2003 4:42 PM
Manto tries to push buttons that he thinks will hurt people. He has no conscience that prevents him from pushing those buttons. He's an abuser in denial and that sustains him. Self-haters don't take responsibility for their actions or words.
interestingDuane Gran
Jan 13, 2003 11:11 AM
Virtually everyone I know has sex. Yet we live in a society that tolerates violence, killing and gore in our ENTERTAINMENT more easily than showing the occasional bare boob. I think that's sick!

This reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend from England this year. We mused about the differences between the UK and the US and we summed it up like this:

If there was a scene in a movie depicting a naked woman being shot the reactions would be different. Brittons would be aghast at such a display of violence (shooting) while Americans would be upset at such a display of nudity. There are of course exceptions, but I thought it revealed something.
2 questionseyebob
Jan 13, 2003 7:05 AM
In your first paragraph you seem to want it both ways. Are you not simultaneously saying that even one wrong death is too many while also insinuating that there are some on death row that are wrongly convicted but since the number is small, it's okay?

I want to take issue with your statement..."Of course, as with any crime, I think we should do all that is reasonably possible to make sure that any sentence is free of error, but then, I think our current system does a pretty good job of that already"

I would say that life/death decision needs further scrutiny and should stand against the highest of standards. Our system cannot do a "pretty good job" it needs to do it's absolute best and nothing less. Let's make sure that we have a cadre of defense attorneys that are well paid to ensure stellar defense so that there are no errors. Or as close to zero as we can make it. Would you, if given the decision to let someone die because you're the governor, not want every assurance that the person's defense was done well? Isn't that all that Ryan is saying?

You bring up a good point.Matno
Jan 13, 2003 3:02 PM
First, as to my apparent contradiction... I think I made it clear that I don't think there are as many "errors" (i.e. innocent people being executed) as the public has been led to believe. VERY few in fact. My comment about our current system reflects the fact that I can't think of a better system. If we lived in a world of perfect information, that wouldn't be a problem. However, I don't think that a very limited number of mistakes is worth abolishing capital punishment altogether. (I'm sure you can tell that I am a staunch supporter of capital punishment, for a variety of reasons). Closer scrutiny of each case might be warranted, but a blanket commutation of sentences that were reached under our "current best" system is not the answer. If I were the governor, I would indeed "want every assurance that the person's defense was done well." That is not what he did.

You bring up a good point though, and one to which I'm not sure I know the answer. Under the Constitution, "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence." That is different from EVERY other right enumerated in the Constitution IF you construe it to mean that the gov't has to provide such counsel. Seems to me that there is a difference between a right to counsel (i.e. a right to have someone represent you) and a right to have counsel provided for you. Thus, I question the necessity and validity of providing a "cadre of defense attorneys that are well paid to ensure stellar defense." (Of course, being as familiar with lawyers as I am, I question whether that would do any good!)
Didn't hurt OJDougSloan
Jan 13, 2003 3:21 PM
Do you think OJ would have gotten off with a public defender? No way.

For an interesting read on the subject, check out the book "
Gideon's Trumpet." I'm sure Amazon would have it.

At some point, other Constitutional considerations overlap, like due process. Even if the Constitution did not specifically provide for right to counsel, you could make a good argument that the Due Process clauses (5th and 14th Amendments) require it.

You don't seem to know much about due process.mtbxrt
Jan 13, 2003 5:14 PM
Haven't you said before that you have a law degree? For me the possibility of any innocent person being executed is reason enough to halt the death penalty. Your "limited number of mistakes" allowance seems a bit callous. Let's hope you never find yourself on death row as an innocent person. Or would you prefer that to abolishing the death penalty?
Matno, just so I understand...eyebob
Jan 14, 2003 10:23 AM
Are you saying that you're in favor of the Death Penalty even if innocent lives are lost? Yes or no.

What is the acceptable "limited number of mistakes" that it'd take to change your mind?

Jan 14, 2003 12:16 PM
I'm certainly not in favor of executing innocent people if there is a question about their guilt. With technology getting as advanced as it is (DNA evidence, surveillance cameras, etc) the error rate should certainly be going down (although I have no idea if it actually is). Suffice it to say, that I think our current system, with its standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt," is better than a blanket moratorium on all death sentences.
Not answering the questions that I asked.eyebob
Jan 14, 2003 12:35 PM
As I've done in the past, I'm not asking you to bait you into something else, I simply want the questions answered. If our current system as it now stands and will continue to be allows for less than a zero error rate of falsly accused people to die for crimes that they did not commit, is this acceptable to you? Are you in favor of the current system where innocents will die (if the track record continues) even if it's a small number? What number is big enough to warrant a change?

Here you go...Matno
Jan 14, 2003 4:36 PM
Yes. I think our current system is acceptable. As I pointed out, it is only getting better, not worse, so at what point I think we should stop the death penalty is kind of a moot issue.

I don't think there is a "threshold" number that would or would not be acceptable. I think each individual case has to be considered separately and decided on its own merits. If a case satisfies the requirements of the law and a prisoner is lawfully convicted and sentenced to death by a jury, then I support that decision. If enough people think that the law has too much room for error, it will eventually be changed legislatively. That's the way our system works, and usually it works very well.

This whole thread regarding "errors" in the death penalty is not very applicable to reality. Most people automatically assume that when you say "errors in judgment" that innocent people were actually executed. Not so. Even the Wall Street Journal pointed out that the most blatant of anti-death penalty "studies," which claimed a 68% error rate, was seriously flawed: "Paul G. Cassell of the Wall Street Journal explained how the 68 percent figure is deceptive: 'After reviewing 23 years of capital sentences, the study's authors (like other researchers) were unable to find a single case in which an innocent person was executed. Thus, the most important error rate -- the rate of mistaken executions -- is zero.'" This reaffirms my opinion that our current system actually works quite well, in spite of what the sensationalist media would have us believe.

No doubt the anti-death penalty "studies" have already added Gov. Ryan's released prisoners to their "innocent victims of the system" list, since those types of pardons are included in all of their previous numbers. This ought to make their argument much more "credible"...
Jan 14, 2003 4:56 PM
I think I'd want to see figures of how many were convicted, but not actually executed, wrongfully, when it was only proved much later (through DNA evidence, another confession, witness recanting, etc.) after the appeal process. If so, that's not necessarily the system "working," but rather blind luck or happenstance.

Also, "errors" could include someone sentenced to death, when facts might have shown that a lesser punishment was more appropriate.

This also doesn't account for others who might have deserved the death penalty under the same laws and procedures, but who did not receive it, for a variety of reasons; this raises an equal justice/fairness issue.

Finally, there may be cases of innocents executed, but we will never know. Once someone's dead, the motivation to continue investigation is rather mooted.

Don't forget...Matno
Jan 14, 2003 7:15 PM
the possibility of corruption in the system. That's the scariest possibility of all since there is very little you can do about it. I have seen innocent people go to jail over trumped up charges. Though later exonerated, it certainly did not make their lives any less complicated.

There are PLENTY of people who "should" receive the death penalty under a completely "fair" system, but our legal system is so concerned with avoiding wrongful convictions that it is a price we are willing to pay. "Innocent until proven guilty" sets us apart from nearly EVERY other legal system in the history of the world.

Really, I think the only thing we can do is hope the system works as it is supposed to. We have enough checks, balances, and mandatory appeals built in to the system that it SHOULD avoid mistakes. Human error will never fully be eliminated though, which I'm sure is why many people (including several posters here) are disenchanted with the death penalty.
Zero Tolerance for death penalty errors...PdxMark
Jan 12, 2003 2:54 PM
If we are going to have a death penalty it seems fair to expect ZERO TOLERANCE for errors in imposing the sentence. Prior to the latest action, Illinois had numerous death row inmates who were EXONERATED by DNA evidence. This means that they were proven to be innocent. Hardly a technicality. If I recall correctly, it was those exonerations that set the context for the latest action.

I don't know whether our legal system is outright bad, but it certainly is not perfect. Having just sat on a jury it was amazing to see how easily my co-jurors failed to even understand the effect of a defense to the alleged crime, much less how the burden of proof was supposed to be applied. Because of that, we spent more time deliberating than the trial took.

My current opinion about the death penalty (reached before the latest events) is that we cannot justifiably use it if we cannot know that every single one of the condemned is absolutely positively guilty. Our legal system has never even strived for that level of certainty, so why should we think it could possibly be that accurate?

Since we don't have that certainty about guilt for every one of the condemned, I think it is immoral for us to use the death penalty. Hence, I have to agree that the failure of the system IL warrants a blanket commutation.

If not a blanket commutation, how do you justifiably execute people who cannot be exonerated but whose guilt was determined by a system proven not to work? Saying that a jury decided a man was guilty based on the evidence is no answer. The system has demonstrated that it cannot be trusted to correctly reach the right decision.

How can death penalty advocates accept the possibilty that even one person could be executed wrongfully? Most law-and-order advocates love zero tolerance policies. I think they should be willing to accept with the same with regard to the death penalty.
Very well spoken (nm)Stampertje
Jan 13, 2003 2:30 AM
Zero Tolerance for death penalty errors...critmass
Jan 13, 2003 9:26 AM
True horror should be the feeling of executing just one innocent person. Until eyewitnesses never make mistakes, police never beat confessions out of suspects, police or jailhouse informants never lie, prosecutors never hide evidence and there are no more incompetent defense lawyers we face the horror of the innocent dying under a death penalty.
Never realized he was a Republicancarnageasada
Jan 13, 2003 7:25 AM
And he just gave his career the death penalty but I think he made a good decision. Being the leader of a governmental apparatus that puts people to death is a terrible responsibility. I consider myself fairly jaded and cynical but I don't think I could sleep at night if I were in charge of making sure people were being killed 'justly' in a system that seems flawed.
I'm not so sure I think that eliminating the death penalty is a good solutionKristin
Jan 13, 2003 11:10 AM
good solution to bad police work. In some of the cases in Illinios, I don't think the problem here is criminals being put to death (not for me anyway). But the problem is that sometimes innocent people are convicted of crimes they did not commit. There appears to be some clear cases in Illinios where tampering occured. Its pretty scary because, the police department actually has the power here to set someone up to be put to death. I'm for the death penalty. I am against corrupt and sloppy police agencies. I am against a justice system that can not detect that innocence. And I'm all for the police having fewer rights that the rest of society. Right now its seems to be the other way around--though I think the ideal was that everyone would have the same amount of rights. Just my uneducated opinion.
Serious AmbivalenceJon Billheimer
Jan 13, 2003 12:02 PM
I have always been in favour of the death penalty on the grounds that 1)it rids society of criminals who in my opinion have forfeited their rights as human beings by nature of their horrific crimes, 2)that they won't be able to ever offend again, 3) that society should not have to support these kinds of criminals for their natural lives, and 4)that the victims and their families deserve retribution.

However, I'm shocked practically beyond belief (I guess I'm extremely naive) that our justice systems could produce a 50% error rate in the rate of convictions. So until and unless we can "get it right" I now have very serious reservations about the death penalty. Execution roulette is unacceptable in any kind of a civilized society.
Response to your pointsbluebianchi
Jan 13, 2003 3:41 PM
I respect the reservations you express in your second paragraph, but want to address some of the points you make in the first paragraph.

1- Criminals forfeit their rights as human beings by their horrific crimes. I disagree. No one ever forfeits their basic human rights. This philosophy, as well as capital punishment itself, only brings us down to the level of the criminal himself. Do we wish to live in a civilized society, or a barbaric one?

2- The criminal won't be able to offend again. This minimal chance will never be able to be eliminated, although I find it highly unlikely. While it would be interesting to see any statistics on murderers who have escaped to murder again, I don't think the extremely slim chance justifies following one immoral act with another.

3- Society shouldn't have to support these criminals for the rest of their lives. Actually, an economic study has shown that capital punishment is more costly than life in prison.
Additionally, some value is recovered through prison work programs, etc.

4- Victims and their families deserve retribution. But does retribution equal justice? Granted, I would be extremely upset and angry if someone I knew was murdered. But this is (understandably) an emotional reaction. Do we want a justice system run by an emotional, eye for an eye reaction, or one run by objectivity and rationality? In our understandable and sincere sympathy for family members, we are too willing to accede to their wishes. It's also worth noting that not all relatives of victims are in favor of the death penalty, even in their time of grief. Capital punishment is immoral, and there is no justification.

Several other thoughts:

The deterrence factor hasn't been proved or disproved as far as I know. My understanding is that studies are conflicting. But my view of the immorality of capital punishment makes this a moot point.

Most of the developed world regards capital punishment as a violation of human rights. The U.S. is an anomaly in this respect. Who are the other nations utilizing capital punishment? China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, among others. Is this a club we want to belong to? When the U.S. wishes to criticize the human rights record of another country, what moral standing do we have when we kill our own citizens? (Not that human rights have ever guided U.S. foreign policy).

One argument that bothers me is that capital punishment is different from a criminal murder, because it's a legal proceeding, the accused has the right to a defense, etc, and the execution itself is "humane." To me, it's still killing. If anything, I find it very scary that this time, it's the government that's doing the killing. Talk about "big government"-- what other government power could be greater than the ability to kill its own citizens? When the government kills, we all have blood on our hands.

Life without parole, in a maximum security prison, is sufficient-- and civilized.
what if?DougSloan
Jan 13, 2003 3:57 PM
I think the greater deterrent to death would be a life sentence, but make it true punishment. You put someone in a 6x6' cell and essentially weld the door shut. No tv, newspapers, or entertainment of any kind (maybe a Bible if they want it). One letter from the family a week but no visits. You simply do not exit the cell except for medical emergency (or the jail is on fire). No socializing with other inmates. And, most importantly, truely life in prison. You never, ever, have a chance to get out (short of an overturned or pardoned conviction).

If it were me, I'd pick death versus a life like that thinking about why I was there.

Of course, we'd probably need to amend the Constitution to change the definition of "cruel and unusual".

The person would eventually go madKristin
Jan 13, 2003 5:48 PM
There are psych studies that show this. You can't keep a person in complete isolation long term. So in the long run it would not serve as punishment to do so. The persons ability to reflect on their crimes would eventually deminish.
If true, you bring up a good point, buteyebob
Jan 14, 2003 10:31 AM
do you have any proof of these "studies?" If so, how about a link or something. Otherwise that's bubkus.

I haven't taken any psych/soc classes in 10 yearsKristin
Jan 14, 2003 10:49 AM
So, no, I can't quote the studies. But this was the topic of one class that really captured my attention. (Well, all except my attention for detail--which doesn't really exist.) There were a couple cases stated to support this. I probably used the word "studies" too loosely above. Though I will refer to a rather famous study conducted by a rather unethical Hilter, in which we discover that infants can not even live without companionship--specifically, physical touch.
Here, I dug this up for you. Is PsyDoc is listening, perhaps he can provide something more concrete.Kristin
Jan 14, 2003 11:14 AM
I found a number of articles written by activist groups who are condemning the Marion & Florence prisons. They had some statistics, but I'd be hesitant to trust their info because--as most activists do--they didn't quote any sources. I've found that activits tend to exagerate quite a bit. This site is a research article written by a doctor documenting the psych effects of isolation.
And another resourceKristin
Jan 14, 2003 11:16 AM
Zubek, J.P., Bayer, L, & Shephard, J.M. (1969). Relative effects of prolonged social isolation and confinement: Behavioral and EEG changes. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 74, 625-631
ok; so lock up 2 killers together nmDougSloan
Jan 14, 2003 11:19 AM
Works for me.Kristin
Jan 14, 2003 12:30 PM
And if the kill each other, the whole debate is resolved. ;-)
Jan 13, 2003 5:46 PM
Please speak further about this: "I don't think the extremely slim chance justifies following one immoral act with another."

Specifically please explain how your views of capitol punishment as an immoral act? I've never seen it this way. I see it as retribution fitting to a crime--the murderer is only forfeiting what they stole from another. Therefore, I think that "consequence" is a more apt definition.

"Life without parole, in a maximum security prison, is sufficient-- and civilized."... and expensive.
different moralsDougSloan
Jan 13, 2003 8:02 PM
One of my first principles (those that are assumed and can't be questioned, sort of):

No one should kill unless they have to.

Sometimes in war, you have to kill to save lives. Sometimes you have to to defend yourself or someone else.

With life in prison as an option, you don't have to kill the convict. I suppose anything contrary to that would be immoral in my book.

Jan 13, 2003 8:41 PM
Of course criminals forfeit basic human rights. Otherwise, we wouldn't have any sort of punishment at all. Unlike some might have us believe, capital punishment, if applied according to our laws, does not make us a "barbaric" society. On the contrary, NOT using capital punishment sends a message that we don't value life enough to punish its unlawful taking.

Like Doug pointed out, what is "moral" may vary among individuals, but the death penalty is not even remotely comparable to murder.

I don't agree that families of victims need retribution. In my opinion, the purpose of prison should be to rehabilitate criminals who have committed less than capital offenses. Those who have killed should pay the ultimate price. Of course, we're getting into an area here where religion plays a strong role in what one believes is moral or immoral. My religion teaches that capital punishment is acceptable. So does the Bible. Obviously, you do not agree, and I doubt there is much either of us could do to change each other's minds...

"When the government kills, we all have blood on our hands." Actually, when laws exist, those in violation of those laws who are subject to capital penalties have their own blood on their hands. No one else is responsible for their criminal actions. Period.

For more myth debunking, read this very good article:
Well saidKristin
Jan 14, 2003 7:13 AM
Manto, you've done a good job at clearing away some misconceptions and cutting to some of the core issues.
any New Testament support for capital punishment?DougSloan
Jan 14, 2003 7:25 AM
I realize the Old Testament condoned the death penalty, with all the stonings, etc. However, I had the impression that Jesus brought us a "kinder, gentler" sort of impression of God, not the "vengeful God" prior. While obviously the death penalty is discussed in the NT, is it actually condoned by Jesus? Any thoughts?

Not the kind you're looking for...Matno
Jan 14, 2003 8:57 AM
At least I don't think so. The reason I think the Bible supports capital punishment is because it was commanded in the Old Testament. Like you mentioned below, Jesus never specifically revoked it, which may or may not convince you. Of course, Jesus continued to live and condone the Law of Moses until AFTER his atonement and death, which was the actual changing point in the law. With reference to the parts of the law that were no longer relevant, I think the New Testament was pretty clear. It did not make a blanket statement that all previous laws were erased, but rather made specific changes. The repeal of capital punishment was not one of them.

From a religious point of view (mine at least), I think it is important to remember that because of Christ, physical death was overcome. Thus, in a way, capital punishment is not so much a "final judgment" as it is a transfer to a "higher court." Paul said, "And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission." (Hebrews 9:22.) This is certainly a reference to both Christ's blood, which was shed to grant a remission of sins, as well as the sacrificial parts of the Law of Moses, which were symbolic of Christ's ultimate sacrifice. Personally, I don't think God ever changes. Thus, while the "impression" of Him may have changed from Old Testament to New, I don't think his attributes actually changed. The New Testament emphasizes that He is a merciful God, and the culminating point of that book (Christ's atoning sacrifice) serves to strengthen that point. The Old Testament sometimes seems to focus more on Him being a just God, which I don't think is a contradiction. He can be (and is) both merciful and just at the same time. We cannot expect Him to allow us to "get away with" sin, for He has made it abundantly clear that no unclean thing can dwell in His presence. On the other hand, He provided a Savior as a way for us to become clean, if we will repent. Because of the serious nature of murder, forgiveness for it is not granted in this world. Peter taught the Jews that David did not resurrect with the Saints that came forth at the time of Christ's resurrection: "For David is not ascended into the heavens" (Acts 2:34). I think the reason David was not included among the rest of the Saints who rose from the grave at the time of Christ's resurrection is fairly obvious. He committed murder. Will he never be saved? I think he will eventually, but I do think there is more to it than we fully understand. I guess that's why it's called faith...

This answer was much longer than I originally intended! :^) If nothing else, it helps to clarify where I'm coming from.
read it; thanksDougSloan
Jan 14, 2003 7:29 AM
Nice article; however, I was looking for any comment about Jesus permitting the death penalty; it doesn't cite anything but some vague statements about Him not changing the law, etc. I assume that if there were some concrete statements to be cited, they would have.

What does the Pope have to say about it?

the constitutionemptyhanded
Jan 14, 2003 8:47 AM
I've never been very clear on how killing someone by hanging, electrocution, gassing, or lethal injection did not fall under the realm of "cruel and unusual punishment." Could someone seriously explain to me the legal thinking on that matter?

It's also hard to believe that the death penalty would ever work as a crime deterrent. It's looking for logic in a place where none exists. The crimes that qualify for the death penalty would seemingly never be committed if the person were thinking rationally. I can't imagine a case of someone thinking "I better not kill this guy because I might end up in the electric chair."

"The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind."
Lets discuss it and see where we arrive togetherKristin
Jan 14, 2003 9:42 AM
What should be the penalty for...say...stealing $40 of groceries from the store?
not sure you can do thisDougSloan
Jan 14, 2003 10:49 AM
While there is a continuum of financial and incarceration penalties for many crimes, from a slap on the wrist to life in prison, death crosses a unique threshold, and is entirely different. It's not merely an extension of the continuum, but entirely different in character.

Hmmm...I think you're right. nmKristin
Jan 14, 2003 12:36 PM
That's difficultKristin
Jan 14, 2003 9:37 AM
I will say, with a degree of certainty, that the bible does not speak to the death penalty at all. America is a political nation, and its not the church. All the OT laws were established only for the Isrealites, and Jesus never really spoke directly to any political issues. Instead, Jesus' seemed to be about the business of developing new principles (new ways of thinking) in his followers. Of course the one blaring example of a death sentence that Jesus was involved in was the example of the woman accused of adultry and brought before Jesus as a test. But his response to their test was not a statement on state policy, but rather a question that was designed for form empathy in his hearers (her accusers).

(And remember the real reasons why that whole scene took place. They were not putting her to death out of some righteous indignation over her wounding her husband and damaging her family unit. There is enough in the text to at least suggest that whether or not they killed her would be determined on Jesus' response. They were trying to trap Jesus and trick him into a response that could be used against him later...used to quell and uprising--which the political leaders feared would come from Jesus movement. Also, know this. There is no OT law that suggests stoning as recompense for cheating on your spouse. That was created by the Sanhedrin much later.)

Having said all of that. You unintentionally make a point to me. Jesus was about transformation. The transformation of individuals who would unite and become his church. One of the principles that he taught was to forgive (which is not the same as having no boundaries and letting people get away with murder). I think that the hope of Christian's is the real possibility of finding forgivness for those who have inflicted harm on us. The goal being to truly and fully heal, forgive and then seek possible restoration. Its easy for me to have a cavalier attitude about the death penalty because I'm not touched by it. I'm not sure what my stance would be if someone close to me were murdered. I'm not sure how I would balance my support for the death penalty and my goal to forgive the wrong-doer. But I do believe that the two CAN be balanced.

I guess I will ponder for the rest of today how to balance my anger and indignation over harms done, with a very real desire to be healed, forgive and embrace. Because when you've been wounded, both attitudes can be very alive and well inside of you at the same time.

Finally, as I study the bible, I don't really see two Gods. I only see one. God doesn't change and become someone else in the NT, and there is harmony between the two.
You should try.eyebob
Jan 14, 2003 10:51 AM
". I'm not sure how I would balance my support for the death penalty and my goal to forgive the wrong-doer"

You may want to consider this as a serious test of your faith. To actually be able to forgive people who harm you is a vital, core teaching of Jesus. Not that I'm a scholar my any means but to me, that's what I think of when I think of the value that stands out from the man. In that context, how can you claim to be Christian, believe in forgivness, yet not always practice it? Many many, many, non-Christians point to this (and other) apparent contradiction as evidence that there is not true belief. Would Jesus allow in his life for both mercy and retribution. (And don't tell me that we're killing the convict to send him to a higher judge as someone in this thread mentioned. That's bogus. Like begging off your ownership of why you killed the person.) Can you have both? As you point out, forgivness is different than being walked on, like being selfish doesn't necessarily mean that you step on others.

What do you think?

It's a non-issue.Matno
Jan 14, 2003 12:21 PM
Allowing someone to be executed under the law and forgiving them on an individual level are NOT mutally exclusive. Society's decisions are not the same as individual decisions.
Why should they be different? Are our laws not meant to reflecteyebob
Jan 14, 2003 12:37 PM
our collective personal opinions on right and wrong?

I feel that you take my words out of context. So lets start byKristin
Jan 14, 2003 12:29 PM
Lets start with putting my complete thought down, in context. I said, "I'm not sure how I would balance my support for the death penalty and my goal to forgive the wrong-doer. But I do believe that the two CAN be balanced."

I feel as if you are trying to bait me here. I also feel that you are attempting to imply that my faith is somehow weak in order to substantiate your own argument. Which in turn, makes me doubt the strength of your own convictions on the matter. Why else would you need to tear me down?

The question I asked, is exactly the type of question stimulates growth and maturity in people. Without looking inside our own hearts, one can not change. Your thoughts on forgiveness leave me with the impression that you do not know much about true pain or true forgiveness. Forgiveness--especially where a persons loyaty and trust are betrayed--is a long journey. And, my friend, that journey can be quite a ride. I know. I'm on that journey myself. Have you ever had to forgive someone of a greivous wrong--one that altered the course of your future??

Finally. I don't define the death penalty by calling it murder. Murder is taking the life of someone innocent who does not want to die. The death penalty is a consequence for murder. It is not barbaric. We don't turn people loose into a collosium of lions and let people watch with popcorn. We do it humanly...painlessly. If I murdered someone, pre-meditated and with a clear head, then I'd accept the penalty myself. And I can say that without a doubt.
theory and applicationDougSloan
Jan 14, 2003 1:00 PM
I don't doubt your sincerity or faith one bit. Plus, you give completely well-reasoned and rational explanations of your positions.

I suppose there are two distinct, but overlapping issues.

1. Is the death penalty in any form just, moral, etc.?

2. Can the death penalty be fairly, justly, humanely, and appropriately applied?

While I answer both questions "no," I think you have been addressing primarily the first question. So, let's get past that and talk about the second.

From the trenches, my experience is that the legal system has a fair amount of arbitrariness, unfairness, and chance involved. It is almost analogous to playing poker. Skill can improve the odds of winning, and good players tend to win more than some others, there is a huge amount of chance involved.

Let's apply this to a criminal trial. First, there is the issue of where the case is prosecuted. Some jurisdictions/prosecutors are more likely to pursue the death penalty than others, without clear criteria for when they should or should not. Second, depending upon what judge you draw, some may be more likely to exclude certain evidence, or even allow the case to go to trial. Third, particularly if you are poor, there is a huge crapshoot as to what lawyer you get. While all are minimally qualified, some are certainly better than others. With a public defender, OJ would be in jail right now. Fourth, what jury pool do you draw? While we like to think jurors are a representative sample and unbiased, they are anything but. Your luck of the draw is a huge determining factor of whether you will win and what sentence you get. Remember that it just takes one juror to hang (as in prevent) on conviction or sentencing. There are hundreds of other minor occurences that could determine the outcome along the way, too.

Does it appear that I am skeptical about our legal system? You bet I am. I have seen the same case tried twice with drastically different results; I saw one case, not mine, that the first time awarded the plaintiff about $4 million, and the second time after an appeal $1. Yes, one dollar. Same case; same facts; same judge; different jury.

Now, even though I'm skeptical, and despite improvements that could be made, I think our system is the best ever devised and at least achieves the goal of provided some outlet for disputes so that we don't have vigilante justice and anarchy. It at least provides an acceptable level of perceived justice.

However, I don't think the system is good enough to justify taking people's lives. With all the chance, errors, and inequalities built into the system, I'm not confident enough that we can kill people based upon the outcomes of how we decide cases presently.

So, regardless of the initial moral issue, I think we have too flawed a system to fairly apply the penalty (due process).

I think that in reality, and this is going on a tangent a bit, all the death penalty acheives is to grant a bit of satisfaction, maybe closure, to society following a murder. It is pure revenge. Now that may be perfectly legitimate, but not at the cost of killing potentially innocent or undeserving people.

Jan 14, 2003 1:28 PM
But, that wasn't my intent. I'm not questioning your faith. I can't that's a central tenet of faith. It cannot be argued. You either believe or you don't. It would be incredibly presumptious of me to do so, and as an aside, wouldn't suit my argument. Perhaps the fact that you cannot hear my voice say the words that I type leads to mis-intended interpretation. That being said, your second paragraph need not be addressed. With regards to my original intent, my question is how do you reconcile willfully taking anothers life with the teaching of mercy? Simple question. What I hear from you is that because it's not a barbaric practice (recognize that to some any taking of life in any manner is barbaric and that electricution is anything but pain free) and it's State sanctioned that it's different and okay than murder.


Really, not trying to bait or ridicule. Sorry if the intent was confused by me.
I'm sorry if I misunderstood, and you make a very excellent point--as does DougKristin
Jan 14, 2003 2:10 PM
I thought that your primary point was that I should question my faith. Though I will say this, your words--or rather, my interpretation of your words--flustered me a little. That being the case, my faith may be a little less sturdy then I'd like to believe; for we only are shaken by that which we believe (even secretly) to be true.

You make an excellent point when you ask, "how do you reconcile willfully taking anothers life with the teaching of mercy?"

This is a sticking point for me, and its the one that gave me pause yesterday--though you expressed it better. How can I, believing that God has forgiven me, then in turn condemn someone else to death? I don't know the answer. I believe in forgiveness. But I also believe in consequence. My experience with God is that, while he forgives me, he doesn't necessarily remove all the consequences for my choices. So I guess my final analysis is that this topic is a bit over my head and I am unprepared to debate it. I fear I lack the maturity to make a wise decision about capitol punishment. So I will withdraw and give it thought. Perhaps in a couple years I will have grown closer in relationship to Christ--therefore reflecting his heart to a greater degree than I do now--and will better understand his thoughts on the matter.

One person said that we should not validate capitol punishment only on the basis of the fact that it get a problem out of our way. I think that's a tragic approach and I'm sorry I made the comment. Society never gains by sweeping problems under the rug.
No worries...eyebob
Jan 14, 2003 4:42 PM
It's easy in the heat of the moment to read something that wasn't intended like it's easy for me to come accross differently than I intend. You seem passionate about your faith which is good and like anything that's good it's okay (you won't be punished) to doubt and it's a sign of true emotional awareness to strive for greater understanding. Sometimes the greater understanding is a turning away from the faith and sometimes it's a deeper understanding/connection to the faith. That's all I do when I post questions like the one I did. Ask for a good discussion around these parts and you usually get one.

More responses, condensedbluebianchi
Jan 14, 2003 9:09 AM
Matno- you argue that not using CP sends the message that we don't value life enough to punish its unlawful taking. First, I find that logically inconsistent. Should society say "Don't kill-- and if you do, we'll kill you"? It's hypocrisy in my book, and simply perpetuates violence. Second, we *are* punishing the taking of life through a life sentence in an unpleasant place.

You argue that CP isn't comparable to murder-- but the result is the same. Instead of one person dead, there are now two people dead.

You mention the Bible, but it's full of contradictory statements. What about the 6th commandment? What about "turn the other cheek"? And the currently popular "what would Jesus do?"

You say there isn't blood on our hands-- that no one is responsible for the criminal's actions. Of course not. But we are *fully* responsible once we have that person in custody. We *are* responsible then, because we have the complete freedom to kill or not kill that person.

The website is quite right-wing and partisan, which is fine, but I just don't find it's "debunkings" convincing.

DougSloan- I agree with Kristin that solitary isn't a good idea- perhaps only for the most intransigent, and only temporarily, and only for troublemaking once in prison.

Kristin- perhaps "immoral" wasn't the right word since it has religious implications, and I'm not religious. Perhaps "unethical" -- of course there will be different interpretations. I do find it unethical for the same government that says "don't kill" to then kill.

As for the expense of life in prison, I adhere to the finding that CP is more expensive. The website calls this "dubious" yet provides no contrary evidence.

*Finally* I think it all comes down to this-- we should not kill unless it is *necessary*. To me, advocates of CP must show that it is necessary. When we have the criminal in custody, and are punishing him with life in prison, and society is protected, where is the necessity of CP?
It pretty much boils down to...Matno
Jan 14, 2003 9:54 AM
what you said: "it has religious implications, and I'm not religious." My opinion on this matter is completely based on religion, which you obviously do not agree with. I'm not going to try to convert you online, I'm just explaining why I feel the way I do.

I stand by my statement that there is a fundamental difference between murder and punishing murder under the law. Period. They are not the same, and they do not have the same effect on society or the individual. The Bible never said "Thou shalt not kill." That is a more modern translation of "Thou shalt not commit murder." The Bible is not full of contradictory statements if you understand it well. There are some minor mistakes - the result of translation errors, but when translated correctly, it does not contradict.

The fundamental flaw in the cost comparison by the so-called "study" that showed the DP to be more expensive was that it compared the legal costs of the DP with the living expenses of a "lifer." It failed to include the legal costs of the prisoner for life, which could easily be as high as, if not higher than someone on death row (with the potential to grow over a lifetime of appeals).

The death penalty isn't about "necessary" or "unnecessary." It's about right and wrong, and it is not "wrong."
Jan 14, 2003 9:48 AM
After reading the New American article I was surpised to learn that a scholar, philosopher, and big mind like Thomas Aquinas wrote in favor of the death penalty. But I'm glad you posted it. Learn something new every day. I'm curious though--and I apologize if my question seems to personel, it's motivated by the desire to learn and not debunk--how does a faithful Christian like yourself reconcile the thou shalt not kill commandment with a punishment that kills?
I thinkMatno
Jan 14, 2003 10:01 AM
I just answered that in my above posts, especially the reply to Doug's question about the New Testament. It's just the basic distinction between murder and executing under the law. The original version of the 10 commandments (ask any Hebrew scholar) clearly condemned murder, not killing. It would seem rather ridiculous (if you believe in the Bible) to say "thou shalt not kill" and then shortly thereafter, forcefully take over the promised land by killing its inhabitants under direct commandment from God.

Life here on earth is a precious gift from God, and I think murder is a horrible, horrible thing, because of the opportunities that it steals from its victims. (You only live once!)
Therefore we suffer.128
Jan 14, 2003 11:07 AM
Ok, ok poke out my eye! Couldn't resist the set up. Just teasing. (But your reasoning does conjure up the image of a Mobius pretzel.....)
I figured that was it.carnageasada
Jan 14, 2003 12:48 PM
And thanks for taking the time to respond. I guess that's the problem with translations. Don't most English Bibles use the word kill? If I were a translator I would feel remiss in my duties if I substituted the word kill for the word murder, especially knowing that many morons like myself would be struggling to make sense of what's being translated. You don't happen to know why kill was slipped in there do you?
Only 4 versions translate it with the work killKristin
Jan 14, 2003 1:03 PM
King James Version
Century King James Version
American Standard Version

The other 10 that I looked at, including the NEW King James, are all translated murder.
Oh the irony...bluebianchi
Jan 14, 2003 1:44 PM
The Atheist: "Show mercy"
The Christian: "Execute him"
The real irony...Matno
Jan 16, 2003 7:58 AM
is that, excepting Catholics, the people who oppose the death penalty are almost always the same people who support abortion! Their idea of "free the guilty and kill the innocent" is probably the biggest contradiction out there. Go figure.
Jon, let me play devil's advocateeyebob
Jan 14, 2003 10:28 AM
What does retribution do? Are well meaning adult humans somehow made any better by killing the killer or is this just something that we believe because we're taught it from a very early age (most of us at least)?

Jan 14, 2003 11:38 AM