September 28, 2007

Supreme Court Stays Executions
— Gabriel Malor

On Tuesday I noted (external link) that the Supreme Court has accepted a lethal injection case for its coming term.

It looks like the Court will be putting a halt to all lethal injection executions until that case is resolved. A Texas inmate set to be executed last night asked for a stay until the Kentucky lethal injection case is resolved. The Court, by at least five members, agreed.

Although the court gave no reason for its decision, the inmate, Carlton Turner Jr., had appealed to the court after it agreed on Tuesday to consider the constitutionality of lethal injection, the most commonly used method of execution in the United States. The decision suggests that until it issues a ruling on lethal injection, the court may be receptive to requests to delay such executions, at least for defendants whose cases raise no procedural issues.

Expect all death penalty inmates who have exhausted their appeals to petition the Court for stays. This won't be a setback for many states who already have placed moratoriums on capital punishment until the courts have resolved the question. But Texas had intended to go on with its scheduled executions.

One interesting thing I hadn't heard before was that states are finally getting creative with plans to continue with capital punishment:

In Alabama, where politicians rarely challenge the death penalty, the state is developing a “consciousness awareness test” for inmates being executed, but state officials maintained that the action was unconnected to the Supreme Court decision.

“Somebody would come in and do something to assess consciousness, after the anesthesia is delivered,” Assistant Attorney General Clay Crenshaw said. For now, he said, "the consciousness-awareness is being done visually by the warden.”

The idea is that an inmate who is unconscious cannot suffer a terrifying, excruciating death.

As ever, I remain opposed to the use of capital punishment in this country at this time, but not for what are almost certainly bogus "cruel and unusual punishment" reasons.

Posted by: Gabriel Malor at 06:00 PM | Comments (97)
Post contains 337 words, total size 2 kb.

1 personally, i feel that the death penalty is ineffective as a punishment or a deterant... its obvious that it does not work... plus with as many people that have been exhonorated by DNA over the last few years, i really dont like the idea...

that being said... lethal injection, electrocution, hanging, firing squads and even beheading.... they all might indeed be cruel... but none of them are unusual... so i dont see how any of them meet the constitutional criteria of "cruel and unusual"



Posted by: chris at September 28, 2007 06:17 PM (qz/By)

2

Maybe we can just hug them to death.  Or smother them with teddy bears.


Granted, there's always the caveat with the death penalty of screwing up and killing the wrong guy.  But seriously; they stick you with a sterilized needle, you go to sleep, you don't wake up.  Unusual?  Certainly, but most people aren't executed, so that doesn't really count.  And how less cruel can you get?


Posted by: Secundus at September 28, 2007 06:21 PM (QrZI2)

3 ineffective as a punishment or a deterant... its obvious that it does not work

AFAIK, there has never been a repeat crime committed by an executed criminal.  Sounds 100% effective to me.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at September 28, 2007 06:31 PM (iuG/e)

4 As Far As I'm Koncerned?

Posted by: Secundus at September 28, 2007 06:34 PM (QrZI2)

5 Where's that 'ultra conservative court' we keep hearing so much about?

Seriously, we  could save a lot of money and just abolish the legislative branch. The judiciary basically looks at every law as just a first draft and they are the ultimate editors. Let's just cut out the middlemen.

Note to jackass judges: just because something may be painful does not make it cruel. Hanging is certainly  more painful than lethal injection and yet it was common before and after the adoption of the 8th Amendment. Let's go back to that if that's what it takes.

Of course this isn't about facts, it's about activists and judges (but I repeat myself) simply imposing their beliefs through the courts. Representative government be damned.

Posted by: Drew at September 28, 2007 06:35 PM (hlYel)

6 How is putting a murderer to death not going to deter them from doing a crime again?

I support the death penalty, just because I believe that there are times when that punishment is the only acceptable one. In 1996 my Grandfather was shot in the head in Canada (yes, full gun control has failed there too). The man who shot him got less than 2 years.

Had my grandfather died, I would have hoped (in vain) for the death penalty.

I believe that additional measures need to be used when going for the penalty, I think that DNA evidence, or two eye witnesses, or a confession is sufficient... I don't care how bad a punishment death is, since when should the state pay $50,000 a year for murderers and rapists to rot in jail? The death sentence is cheap and the best punishment overall for the worst offenders.

Posted by: Canerican at September 28, 2007 06:39 PM (mgIXK)

7 In 1996 my Grandfather was shot in the head in Canada (yes, full gun
control has failed there too). The man who shot him got less than 2
years. -
Canerican

Are you kidding me?  You have got to be kidding me.  Less than 2 years.  For shooting a man in the head.

Shooting a man.  In.  The.  Head.

That is ridiculous.

Posted by: z ryan at September 28, 2007 06:46 PM (PDeVA)

8

As ever, I remain opposed to the use of capital punishment in this country at this time . .


I can't think of a better country or a better time. We are, by far, the fairest country on earth, without even the prejudice issues of our grandparent's generation, and we now have the best scientific methods to determine true guilt.


Evil hasn't changed. Fry them.


 


Posted by: adolfo_velasquez at September 28, 2007 06:49 PM (FZp4j)

9 Two years? Happens.

Posted by: See-Dubya at September 28, 2007 06:49 PM (1gdFs)

10

I think it is next to impossible to measure deterance; why didn't you commit a crime today?  Why didn't you rob a bank or strangle a hobo (is that last one still a crime?)?  People are detered from criminal acts by a whole host of reasons.  If the death penalty contributes to this, then I say keep it.  As for innocent people being executed, it is a terrible thing, but so are highway traffic deaths. We could reduce highway traffic deaths to near zero with a 20mph speed limit, but we haven't done so.  Why? Because our society is willing to sacrifice lives for the benefits of faster transportation. 


We should be willing to trade lives for benefits concerning the death penalty, too.


Posted by: eman at September 28, 2007 06:59 PM (hc1YY)

11

Which Amendment allowed the Federal Government to usurp the states' powers? The 14th? I'm really not sure.


Anyhows, we gots ourselve a whole lotta' people whats be needin' capital rehabilitation here and Fed.gov is making the waitin' lines stack up something awful.


Shouldn't the Federal Government be watching the border or something?  Seems to me, that's the first and ONLY reason we set them up in the first place.


Posted by: USCitizen at September 28, 2007 07:00 PM (4HWub)

12 I am against the death penalty for 2 reasons.

Reason 1: Possibility of putting to death a wrongfully convicted person.

Reason 2: With the appeals process, you have people being put to death sometimes decades after they have committed their crimes. For me, this makes the execution an act of revenge and not an act of justice.

 

Posted by: McLovin at September 28, 2007 07:06 PM (ipez1)

13 A few commenters write separately to express the same idea:

AFAIK, there has never been a repeat crime committed by an executed criminal.  Sounds 100% effective to me.

How is putting a murderer to death not going to deter them from doing a crime again?


There's a difference between deterrence and recidivism. While it is true that an executed individual will not commit any further crimes (i.e. no recidivism), that says nothing about the amount of crime prevention a specific punishment regime causes in a community through the application of fear (i.e. deterrence).

The "no recidivism" benefit to capital punishment can be gained through life sentences without the possibility of parole. That's why the deterrent effect of capital punishment is so hotly debated. If it provides no or very little deterrence, then it is very difficult to justify a system which favors execution over life sentences...at least for utilitarians.

Retributivists, on the other hand, are unlikely to be convinced by that argument. They don't care if there's no social utility in executions. For them punishments are simply fit to the crime.

Posted by: Gabriel Malor at September 28, 2007 07:15 PM (1Ug6U)

14 We should be willing to trade lives for benefits concerning the death penalty, too.

I would be interested in hearing what benefits you're referring to, eman.

Posted by: Gabriel Malor at September 28, 2007 07:16 PM (1Ug6U)

15 So, McLovin, what's the statute of limitations on justice vs. payback?  Does it depend on the crime?

Posted by: Secundus at September 28, 2007 07:19 PM (QrZI2)

16 "personally, i feel that the death penalty is ineffective as a punishment or a deterant... its obvious that it does not work...


Posted by: chris at September 28, 2007 11:17 PM (qz/By)"

Why should public policy be based on what you feel?  And why is it obvious?

The supreme court effectively abolished capital punishment for about 11 years between (I think) about 1966 and 1977.  This went along with a general slide by the courts to leniency, even indulgence.  The result?  Crime exploded in this country from the mid sixties into the mid seventies - the crime rate doubled.  Some of this has been laid to the demographic bulge of the baby boom -but that doesn't explain all of it.

Some anti-death-penalty advocates have recommended life, perhaps even life without parole, for murderers.  Why wouldn't that work?  Here's how:

Guy holds up a gas station - armed robbery.  Let's say he's got a long list of priors.  If he get's caught, he's going away for a long time - for so long that's it's effectively a life sentence (i.e. he wouldn't be released until, given life expectancy in prison, statistically, he'd be dead).  However, if he kills everyone in the store and eliminates all the witnesses, his chances of getting caught and convicted are a lot less.  He gets away.  And even if he does get caught, hell, he's only looking at life, which is what he was facing otherwise anyway.

Not a deterrent?

Then again, the argument is often made: what if the wrong man is executed?  How can we let that happen?  It's an irreversible mistake.

The problem is, the same thing applies to incarceration.  What if you lock up the wrong man for life, and he is only exonerated after 20 years.  Society has robbed him of 20 years of his life (probably the best 20 years too).  He can never get that back.  That too, is irreversible.  So should we never lock up someone for life?

And surely, incarcerating someone for life, or 50 years, or 20 years, or even 10 years is cruel.  Just perhaps, but also cruel.  Will the same argument someday be made that no one should ever be imprisoned?

There was a guy in Washington state about 15 years ago, who was facing execution (at that time, they used the noose).  This sack of crap had shotgunned a couple of women during a bank robbery.  He moved for a stay, on the grounds that - grossly obese has he had become in prison - if he was hanged, his head might pop off, which would be cruel and unusual.

I remember a stand-up comic mentioned this guy in his routine.  His recommendation?  Put the guy on a diet.......and then guillotine him.

Posted by: Martin at September 28, 2007 07:31 PM (DRd0Y)

17 Gabriel Malor, a.k.a. RINO.

It is certainly true that raising the penalty above some threshold level will not add to deterrence. We could safely say that we deter up to some asymptote but that nothing further is possible. And of course that effective deterrence would be variable across individuals. But that, of course, would be an argument to not have penalties above which no more deterrence could be promulgated.

Would 15 years have greater deterrent value than 14 years in jail? I think not. First of all, nobody can effectively value risk and cost. Therefore, your argument leads naturally to the two years somebody got for shooting Canerican's grandfather. Because criminals aren't able to be deterred at some point well below the death penalty.

But the criminal law isn't about deterrence regardless of what your whacked out CrimLaw prof told you. Criminal law is meant to do two things -- (1) separate those who cannot operate within a society from those who can, (2) stop people from attempting to self-help. All that other shit you learned in CrimLaw was created by fancy-pants pussies.

If somebody popped me and that fucker didn't get the death penalty, they'd have to have a second trial for my dad 'cause he'd damned sure kill several somebodies on the way to vengeance. And he couldn't be deterred either. (He's a Viet Nam era Marine familiar with the necessary skills and I'm his only family.) So we put the criminal law out there to keep violence solely within the purview of the state which must maintain that monopoly.

Anybody who argues otherwise unlearned what they knew to be true as a child.

Posted by: Nom de Blog at September 28, 2007 07:48 PM (6Ie+q)

18

As ever, I remain opposed to the use of capital punishment in this country at this time.


?


Posted by: Cuffy Meigs at September 28, 2007 08:22 PM (uOvAE)

19 There's a big difference between being for the death penalty in theory
and for the death penalty in practice. Let me put it this way: I have
no problems with the death penalty as being a just punishment for
certain crimes in this country. JUST retribution is OK by
me. But if you people think that every person sitting on death
row right now is guilty, you are living in a naive little fantasy
land. This is what I am concerned about (and what I'm willing to
guess Gabriel Malor is concerned about as well). I'd just as soon
pay to keep the miserable bastards who did commit murder alive then
kill one innocent person who was unjustly convicted.


Posted by: D-Rockity at September 28, 2007 08:37 PM (ZQZFW)

20 As an aside, what you people are talking about it is the distinction
between "specific" and "general" deterrence.  Specific of course
referring to the perp and the general to the population at large--his
friends, their friends, society at large, etc.  The death penalty
clearly has no "specific" deterrence on the person...because they are
dead.  Deterrence of course pre-supposes a rational actor, one who
is able to weigh the reward/punishment of a particular action.  In
the USA, at least, it is unlikely that the death penalty has any
general deterrence effect.   I tend to be of the opinion that
if it were enforced more often and more swiftly, it would have a
deterrent effect (but as I wrote in my previous post, the likelihood of
putting to death an innocent person is simply too great).  Thus, I
am against the death penalty.

Posted by: D-Rockity at September 28, 2007 08:45 PM (ZQZFW)

21 Another issue that wasn't brought up above is how simply having a death penalty option affects plea bargains.

Gary Ridgeway pled "I'll confess and tell you where all the bodies are for a life sentence."

Without the existence of a death penalty, that would easily have passed the $20 million dollar trial mark.

Posted by: Al at September 28, 2007 08:59 PM (Lk931)

22

"As ever, I remain opposed to the use of capital punishment in this country at this time."



?


Ditto what Cuffy said.. Butch up, Gabriel, and lay out your reasoning.
This sort of thing reminds me of a now ex-friend who liked to play the
1st year sophist's game, monkeying his clever professor's inquisitorial
method and inflexible but oh-so-shiny textbook labels (utilitarians and
retributivists -- jaysus on a frickn rubber crutch, could you be more
of a tool?) to cover up his lack of actual reasoning and cow his
opponents with his two-dollar words.



Now, don't get me wrong Gabriel... I played that game too... when I was
a first-year sophist. It is fun to poke holes in everyone else's
arguments while artfully dodging submitting one of your own to be
prodded. But, as was so succinctly put by T-bird in my relevant
cinematic reference of the day 'The Crow', "this is the really-real
world", where the theoretical rubber meets the blue-collar asphalt. In
other words, where your idealized notions of justice cultivated in the
rarefied air of University have little to do with the actual world the
rest of us live in.



For those who say it's not a deterrent, well, I say it is. I'll source when you do. The best you'll get is a draw on that count.



For those who claim it's immoral, I would cede the point for the sake
of brevity and counter that far greater moral harm is done to the
victims and their survivors, as well as society, every moment justice
is delayed.



What exactly do you suggest is a fair punishment?



Nom de Blog nails it. Unless you want a return to lynch mobs, the
punishment damn well better be severe enough to keep the populace
convinced that justice is being done.

Posted by: krakatoa at September 28, 2007 09:14 PM (vVXH5)

23 The death penalty IS a deterrent... maybe against criminals, but definitely against vigilante justice.

Frankly, how other criminals react to the death penalty is beyond my concern.  The state only better do its job or you can bet that "neighborhood watch" will take on a whole new meaning.


Posted by: Sydney Carton at September 28, 2007 09:16 PM (xdyjV)

24

We all know that the lethal injection is to make us- the public- feel less squeamish about putting a person to death. But the person who dies from the lethal injection is no less dead than Gary Gilmore was after the firing squad lit him up. The lethal injection is gentle and humane FOR THE WITNESSES. The guy on the table? It's going to KILL HIM.


Dead is dead. How is one method more or less humane than another? I'm not talking about old barbaric practices like drawing and quartering or being burned at the stake. Hanging, when done right, is instantaneous. The guillotine worked great. The firing squad- quick, effective.


But those methods are macabre, gruesome, or just too darn loud. Might upset us. So we give the condemned an IV Highball Of Death. It's a copout, but WE feel better.


By the way, I support capital punishment, and think hanging and firing squads are the way to go.


Posted by: Barry in CO at September 28, 2007 09:17 PM (kKjaJ)

25

This much is clear: Gabriel Malor would prefer to see Bin Laden, Zawahiri et al. behind bars for life.


Posted by: Cuffy Meigs at September 28, 2007 09:24 PM (uOvAE)

26 Not only does the death penalty stop the murderer from murdering again, it also acts as a deterrent. 

But as others already said, I'm for the death penalty because it is the just thing to do. And I don't see why we are affording rapists/robbing/murdering thugs a painless death. How many natural deaths are painless? None.  I have lost all respect for those who oppose the death penalty. All they do is tell lies to support their position.

At least he didn't hat tip TalkLeft. That crap is getting old.

Posted by: dave at September 28, 2007 11:09 PM (bGPt5)

27

Secundus at September 29, 2007 12:19 AM (QrZI2)


There is a group in this country that believe incarceration is wrong and rehabilitation is the only answer for every crime.  This group is funded by Sorus.  They are having some success in getting judges and DAs installed who believe in this principal.


Justice and laws are about what society will bear.  If some in society reach the conclusion that the laws of the land do not protect them and theirs you wll have to lock up the vigilantes.


When a reasonable percentage of the population reaches the stage where they feel the criminals are getting away with murder you will get a backlash.  The backlash may come at the ballot box or, especially if it seem as if there are no controls over what unelected judges can do to circumvent laws on the books, it may come with wholesale disobediance and rough justice.


 


Posted by: davod at September 28, 2007 11:19 PM (llh3A)

28

Opponents of the death penalty (quite rightly) point out the possibility of executing someone for a crime for which he or she has not comitted.  (The entire Nifong fiasco should cause us to question the reliability of the system.)


However, death penalty opponents always seem to ignore crimes that utterly shock the conscience and little doubt exists about the convicted criminal's guilt.  (E.g., the Carr brothers who sexually tortured and murdered five people.)  I would like to know why Grabiel would oppose the death penalty in that case.


Or what about a person who committed crimes against humanity?  What if we had Hitler, Stalin, Mao ZeDong, or Pol Pot in our custody?


 


Posted by: Darth Vitter at September 28, 2007 11:29 PM (I/h9P)

29 There is a group in this country that believe incarceration is wrong
and rehabilitation is the only answer for every crime.  This group is
funded by Sorus.  They are having some success in getting judges and
DAs installed who believe in this principal.


That is true. They want us to be like Europe where murderers do an average of 10-15 years in prison.  The few lwop sentences that the UK imposes are being attacked in the, cough, European Court of Human Rights on the grounds that it is a violation of human rights. Also, look at Africa where they applied that same principal of rehabilitation. Machete a couple of thousand people to death, say your sorry, and your home free. Disgusting. Look at Franz Stangl, the commandant of Treblinka -- life sentence, died of natural causes after only one year.  I just don't get it. Fucking euroweenies. And fuck  the anti death penalty people who want us to become euroweenies.

Posted by: dave at September 28, 2007 11:31 PM (bGPt5)

30 Reason 1: Possibility of putting to death a wrongfully convicted person.

Reason 2: With the appeals process, you have people being put to death sometimes decades after they have committed their crimes. For me, this makes the execution an act of revenge and not an act of justice.


You realize that those two reasons contradict each other?

Either you have a risk of putting the wrong person to death through not enough appeal and investigation (which is why we shouldn't kill them), or you have them sitting around for years because of too much appeal and investigation (which is why we shouldn't kill them).

The Constitution clearly contemplates capital punishment. Black letter text. These arguments about "cruel" and "unusual" are bullshit, because an execution should be BOTH "cruel" and "unusual". Cruel, because you are taking the life of a helpless individual. (It's a fact, like it or not. Just like they had done to their victim(s), fwiw, so don't think I'm arguing against it on this basis - I think all punishment is cruel, and deservedly so.) "Unusual" because we shouldn't be executing for spitting on the sidewalk, but only for the very worst crimes (murder of a child, murder for hire, premeditated murder/lying in wait, murder of a witness, judge or prosecutor, murder of a police officer, etc.).

Posted by: Drumwaster at September 29, 2007 12:03 AM (JxTHJ)

31
Texas should make each prisoner facing lethal injection apply for cert from the ussc. There should be no blanket stay by Texas. 

Posted by: dave at September 29, 2007 12:04 AM (bGPt5)

32 When it comes to the DP, all nuance and reason goes out the window. If you're truly innocent and you still get the chair? I really don't think that's possible, and if it is, sorry, you lost life's lottery. Tell me, what have we as a society  gained form keeping a dick like Charles Manson alive? Anyone remember Richard Speck, who made videos from death row of himself doing coke and getting a sex change while incarcerated?

I could care less. Execute 'em all.



Posted by: Dr. Remulak at September 29, 2007 12:24 AM (odRXY)

33

>They want us to be like Europe where murderers do an average of 10-15 years in prison


No, they want you to be like Europe where murderers are SENTENCED to that.


They don't actually spend more than a couple of years in prison. Because - the poor things - prison is baaad. And it doesn't help their feeeewings. See, they need to recover. From their mistake. ("Sorry, your honor, I set my foot down wrong, I lost my balance, and next thing you know, I was raping a ten year old while killing her mother! Could've happened to anyone!")


The result, by the way, is that murder is effectively no longer a crime or even a taboo in Italy and large parts of Europe. Well, if you're part of the so-called "underprivileged" class, of course; if you shoot an armed intruder in your house you're going away forever, buddy. Same if you steal from the state by not paying enough taxes.


(By the way, it's currently legal for any yahoo to take over your house, because apparently having a roof over your head is a basic human right that is not tied to the ownership of said roof.)


Me, I'm completely in favor of the death penalty. It does save lives, which means the choice is between innocent lives and the life of a barely-human scumbags. To me, the choice is clear; what's yours, peeps? 15-18 innocents (that's 5-6 nuclear families), or one murderer? Choose.


This is where adults are separated from the children (or Republicans from liberals, but I repeat myself). It's all fine and easy and dandy complaining that the death penalty hurts your precious feeeewings and therefore needs to go, but unfortunately the world does not work that way.


>Opponents of the death penalty (quite rightly) point out the possibility of executing someone for a crime for which he or she has not comitted. 


Ah yes. They get sentenced to prison, they protest the sentence; they get sentenced to death penalty, they protest the existance of said penalty. A double standard that's just another crock. Unless those people want to argue that spending 15 years in prison for a false accusation is somehow different than spending 15 years in death row waiting for a death sentence?


Unfortunately, most of those protesting the death penalty don't give a rat's ass about the penalty itself; note how they protest America's death penalty, but never put out a peep when Iran, China, Cuba and the rest of the usual suspects kill their citizens - often without so much as a trial? They're not against the death penalty - they're just on the other side.


Posted by: Francesco Poli at September 29, 2007 12:30 AM (4/86e)

34 nom de blog writes:

But the criminal law isn't about deterrence regardless of what your whacked out CrimLaw prof told you. Criminal law is meant to do two things -- (1) separate those who cannot operate within a society from those who can, (2) stop people from attempting to self-help. All that other shit you learned in CrimLaw was created by fancy-pants pussies.

I agree that these two things are goals of a criminal justice system, but disagree that they are the only goals. Many states specifically refer to deterrence as a justification or goal for their penal codes. For example, the Texas Penal Code declares as one of its objectives, "to insure the public safety" through deterrence, rehabilitation, and recidivism reduction.

Also, most people consider criminal punishment to be linked to some concept of justice whereby fairness requires that a convicted criminal "get what's coming to him." That's what D-Rockety was talking about in Comment #19. The purpose here is to see that criminals get their just desserts; satisfying people's sense of justice so that they do not seek self-help is just a secondary benefit.

But lets set these other goals of criminal law aside for a minute and look at just the two listed goals. The first is equally served by life incarceration without the possibility of parole. Once sentenced and imprisoned, the lifer can safely be ignored by society as it chooses. There is no reason to believe that the second goal would be hindered by ending the death penalty. We do not see a rash of "self-help" in the 12 states that have no capital punishment regime.

Furthermore, nom de blog, from your hypothetical it appears that you think the death penalty applies in more cases than it really does (assuming you aren't a police officer or fireman). In almost every jurisdiction, the penalty is not applied for single murders alone.

To get the death penalty in the vast majority of jurisdictions requires multiple murders, murder of a law enforcement or fire protection officer, or murder in conjunction with another serious felony like arson, kidnap, or rape. A few rare jurisdictions extend the penalty to things like aggravated rape or aggravated kidnapping.

As far as your comment regarding the inability of people to effectively value risk and cost, I agree. At some level criminal punishments may have deterrent value. But those committing the types of crimes we actually punish with the death penalty are probably not spending much time contemplating what will happen to them once they've been caught.

Posted by: Gabriel Malor at September 29, 2007 12:42 AM (1Ug6U)

35 Several have asked what's up with this from the post:

As ever, I remain opposed to the use of capital punishment in this country at this time, but not for what are almost certainly bogus "cruel and unusual punishment" reasons.

I'll explain, but first I'd like to mention that I included that in the post almost as a disclaimer. The last time I posted about the death penalty, I said nothing of my own beliefs and just presented the news of the thing. Later on in the comments, after my opposition to the penalty had come up, one of the commenters had a little fit because I hadn't been "up front" with my opposition.

I encourage you to scroll up and re-read the post, ignoring the last paragraph, and decide if my personal beliefs really made any difference in sharing the news that the Supreme Court stayed a Texas execution and that Alabama is getting creative with finding ways around "cruel and unusual punishment" objections.

In other words, I wasn't trying to be "cute" with you guys; I was trying to avoid the comments of indignant readers who discover later that I am opposed to the death penalty under some circumstances and that I posted news about it anyway.

Regarding my opposition to capital punishment, I am against capital punishment in this country at this time because it's unnecessary. I simply don't see the point.

Before I go through this step by step, it's important for me to note that it does nothing for me to simply say that capital punishment is "bad." Capital punishment is bad when compared with its closest alternative, life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. (This point becomes important when I discuss situations when I am not opposed to capital punishment below.)

First, I don't think that capital punishment provides greater social utility than life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. By "social utility" I mean things like crime prevention, rehabilitation, and deterrence. Obviously, in terms of recidivism, there is no difference between capital punishment and life imprisonment. It also has no rehabilitative effect; with either punishment rehabilitation is not desired. Finally, the policy of execution has either no deterrent effect or an indemonstrable effect.

On the point of deterrence, comparative studies consistently show that executing some criminals has had no effect at the same time that econometric studies have varied greatly in their conclusions with some showing deterrent effect--sometimes great big effect--and others not. In other words, we can have a duel of statisticians until we're blue in the face. Deterrence is by no means a settled question and the econometric studies that were linked to by a commenter upthread haven't been subjected to much methodological analysis. Econometric analysis isn't a science; the results are not replicable.

I suppose another type of social utility would be nom de blog's suggested avoidance of self-help. As I replied to him upthread, I doubt that abolishing the death penalty would really result in a rash of self-help killings. We haven't seen that type of things in the states that have no capital punishment. I cannot justify a punishment regime on the mere whisper of a possibility that self-help would occur, especially when there's no indication that self-help would be widespread or especially disruptive to the system.

Second, the argument that capital punishment is the necessary expression of societal condemnation of certain crimes seems questionable in light of polls showing that 46 percent of Americans if given a choice between punishment regimes of capital punishment and punishment regimes of life imprisonment choose life imprisonment.

Third, in terms of expenditures of resources, it takes up more judicial and executive resources in its execution (no pun intended) than are freed up in its completion. Capital murder trials are around 10 times more expensive (11.4 in North Carolina) than murder cases in which the prosecutor instead seeks life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

States often end up paying for both the prosecution and the defense of capital offenders (and of, of course, the cost of paying for the courthouse, the judge, the staff, etc.). They go on to pay for at least one appeal in capital cases in which they may also be paying for both sides (in the case of indigent capital offenders). The Texas criminal justice system estimated the cost of appealing capital murder at $2,316,655.

On the other hand, the projected cost of incarceration for 40 years (a generous average for lifers' time imprisoned) is roughly $900 thousand per prisoner. The point is not just that executions are expensive, but rather that they are uneconomical when compared with the next best alternative, life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Finally, there is the argument that some criminals simply deserve to be killed. This idea relies at its most fundamental level on the principles of fairness and proportionality. Proponents of this theory of punishment are advocating execution because executing the offender is "fair" for the victims, the victims' families, and all others affected by the capital offender's crimes, including the offender's families.

This one theory seems to support the use of capital punishment, but only because "fairness" is so subjective. It is this subjectivity that I cannot support. Society, in setting punishments, cannot and should not create a system in which severity of punishment depends solely or even substantially on the whims of legislators. (You expect legislators to somehow get it right on this when they so often mess up everything else?)

Furthermore, I'm not even sure I buy into the idea that some punishments are simply fit to certain crimes. Severity of punishment is entirely arbitrary. For example, disparities in drug sentencing reflect not the idea that fairness requires some specific punishment, but rather that punishment is rather easily divorced from crime. Purple Avenger was posting on this just yesterday when he noted that one fellow, a police officer, was facing a potential 10 year sentence for putting a contract out on another police officer while another fellow was facing 20 years for bouncing two checks. Fairness? I don't think so.

From all this, you can get the sense that I think there is only one useful result of capital punishment in this country: a person is removed from society. But that can be achieved through life imprisonment.

Note, however, that these conclusions break down when capital punishment is compared with lesser punishments than life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. For example, if the situation exists where it is impossible to imprison someone for life, as in the colonial and pre-Civil War eras, it would be better to have a policy of execution. Hence, when I say I'm opposed to capital punishment I include the qualifier "at this time" because I recognize that the situation has changed.

Similarly, if the deterrent effect or other social utility of executions were increased, capital punishment may be justified on utilitarian grounds. But that situation does not exist in the contemporary United States. For the average capital offender, very little social utility is gained by his execution. This conclusion very obviously breaks down when you consider capital offenders other than the average like genocidal tyrants (Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein) or international terror leaders (Osama bin Laden). Their executions would have immediate and demonstrable social utility.

As far as the argument that the death penalty should be opposed because it may kill a
mistakenly-convicted innocent, I do not think that is very compelling. Essentially, the argument is that there's no problem with
the death penalty if it worked perfectly. Restated, if I could prove to
you with 100% certainty that a person was guilty of a capital crime
then you'd be okay with executing him. Obviously, I disagree with that.

In short, we have the capability to live in a society without capital punishment. Financial considerations alone lead to the conclusion that we should lose the death penalty. Just because some folks think that revenge is enough of a reason to kill someone does not make it so.


Posted by: Gabriel Malor at September 29, 2007 01:57 AM (1Ug6U)

36 Incidentally, this has been a fun little exercise in insomnia, but my parents just flew into town and I'm taking them to wine country today. I look forward to your comments, but I won't be able to read or respond to them until late tonight or maybe tomorrow.

Posted by: Gabriel Malor at September 29, 2007 02:03 AM (1Ug6U)

37 On the point of deterrence, comparative studies consistently show that
executing some criminals has had no effect at the same time that
econometric studies have varied greatly in their conclusions with some
showing deterrent effect--sometimes great big effect--and others not.
In other words, we can have a duel of statisticians until we're blue in
the face. Deterrence is by no means a settled question and the
econometric studies that were linked to by a commenter upthread haven't
been subjected to much methodological analysis. Econometric analysis
isn't a science; the results are not replicable.


Thank you for once again proving that you are so full of shit. You yap that there is no deterrance without anything to support your statement. In the next breath you dismiss the evidence that states it does act as a deterrance. And the best criticism you can muster is that it lacks methodological analysis.

Posted by: dave at September 29, 2007 03:08 AM (bGPt5)

38 If you are going to cite statistics, start linking them to where you found them. It's obvious you are omitting them because you know the sources are sketchy and you don't want them attacked.

Posted by: dave at September 29, 2007 03:15 AM (bGPt5)

39 The "no recidivism" benefit to capital punishment can be gained through life sentences without the possibility of parole.

The problem is that LWOP isn't always what its claimed.  People getting those sentences have been paroled for various and sundry dubious reasons and they have gone on to kill again.  Of course they pose a constant threat to the rest of the less murderous prison population as well unless kept in solitary forever.

How many internal prison murders have been committed by the LWOP's?  I never see that question asked or answered.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at September 29, 2007 03:37 AM (iuG/e)

40 Of course, we'll never know how many criminals were deterred from doing truly horrendous things to their fellow human beings because of the death penalty, but given the natural desire of a living creature to go on living I'd say the deterrence factor has been significant.

Posted by: ricpic at September 29, 2007 03:47 AM (tng3f)

41 So these judges are trying to be convinced that the founders opposed capital punishment.  Yeah in what reality would that be true?

Excuse me but you could be hung for much lesser evidence back then.  This is just another example of pampered people inventing new morals the rest of us should live by.  Capital punishment is a state issue just like abortion should be.

For instance a year or 2 ago some 17 year old killed a woman by putting her in a sack and throwing it in a river.  His friend (who confessed to what happened) said he told her : "I will get off because I am a minor"

Vicious murders deserve death.

Posted by: DavidM at September 29, 2007 03:50 AM (Jc8L3)

42 What Malor refuses to accept is that it is in the Constitution and that the majority of Americans support it. Those that don't, can vote for their own state to abolish it.  I'm not sure why Ace has allowed his blog to become an arm of Amnesty International.

Posted by: dave at September 29, 2007 04:07 AM (bGPt5)

43

Let's look at this from a new perspective.


This argument is very old, so I'll go with a very old example. Take England during the Renaissance. In the 17th century, a huge list of crimes were punishable by death. Everything from theft to murder was an instant death penalty. Quite different from the US today, yes? And here is where I think Martin above makes a very convincing argument.


Namely, that we need a gradiation of sentences, or else people will just do the most horrible crime knowing they have nothing to lose.


In the 1600's, in England, where a huge list of crimes were punishable by death, crime became rampant because murder was functionally the same as theft. If someone was going to steal, they might as well murder their target because the crimes garnered the same punishment: death.


Now project that into the modern world, only instead of Death, you have Life in Prison. Martin's example is appropos in that life in prison is functionally the same as any large sentence. They might as well just murder the target and witnesses because the crimes garner the same punishment: life in prison.


Without the death penalty, the returns on longer sentences diminish significantly, as does whatever deterrent exists for commiting a string of thefts vs. a string of murders.


Posted by: DoDoGuRu at September 29, 2007 04:23 AM (72nfo)

44 Jesus, guys, give Gabriel a break, here. I used to be for the death penalty, but now I am against it as well. Too many DNA tests have been finding out that the rapist wasn't really the guy she picked out of a line up...just lock the guy up and throw away the key. Prison has a lot of deterrence by itself, i.e. I'd rather die than have to toss some thug's salad every day.

I think the latest study shows there is some deterrence, and the idea
of the plea bargain aspect makes sense to me, but I am still against it
because of the recent DNA cases.

P.s. Just because I am PERSONALLY against the death penalty, doesn't mean the people of Texas can't kill as many murderers and child molestors as they want. It's their state and if they have the votes, then fine. I also retain the option of changing my mind.





Posted by: Aaron at September 29, 2007 04:32 AM (KkY9n)

45 DoDoGuRu,

Keep it on the books but use it extremely rarely in practice? The problem is there sure are a lot of heinous crimes these days, and people get antsy to convict the bad guy. Just remember the Duke case, and imagine if stripper hadn't been so stupid. What if she was more cunning and started off and stuck with a credible story?

Posted by: Aaron at September 29, 2007 04:38 AM (KkY9n)

46

Aaron,


I'm aware of exceptions, but I'm not aware of which slippery slope has more power: the "we fry inoccent people" slope or the "in for a theft, in for a murder" slope.


My field is Medieval and Renaissance studies, so given the historical record in England regarding capital punishments, I'm partial to the second. I'll admit I have very little information regarding the first.


Posted by: DoDoGuRu at September 29, 2007 04:44 AM (72nfo)

47

PS, Aaron,


Yes, I'd say keep it on the books and rarely use it. My example is gun control law. It's anecdotal, of course, but there have been several towns where crime drops once gun control laws are abolished just because criminals assume everyone has a gun. No one has to get shot, no one has to defend themselves with the weapon, but crime drops nonetheless. My thinking would be the same with the death penalty: criminals assume you're going to use it, even if you don't.


Like most things, I don't think we're served by taking options off the table.


Posted by: DoDoGuRu at September 29, 2007 04:47 AM (72nfo)

48 The death penalty is definitley a hot button issue. I seriously doubt one side will ever convince the other that their view is best.

Personally, I endorse it. But that's from 30 years as a cop. Any of you ever meet a stone cold killer? Very unsettleing to look into the dead eyes of someone who looks at you as if you were nothing more than a bug.

There may be murders committied as 'crimes of passion', but there are others that have no meaning other than one person's desire to take the life of another. Unfortunately, those who should be carrying out the laws are the one's who have been obstructing it. Hence, 25 year delays of sentencing.
Which leads to such absurd statements like "your not executing the same person that commited the crime, people change".

Sorry, but you won't change my mind, there are some people who deserve the death penalty. As for LWOP, ever wonder why there's so much violence in prison? What have they got to lose?

Posted by: GarandFan at September 29, 2007 05:29 AM (+tCxF)

49 If the penalty for killing someone is no greater than some other crimes, criminals may as kill the witnesses.

I'm sure they have done this, for exactly this reason.

Posted by: qrstuv at September 29, 2007 05:56 AM (Z3lex)

50 This is why federal judges should be subject to retention elections. When state judges do this (the most famous instance being California Chief Justice Rose Bird and two associate justices), the public can find itself some judges who'll do their job and not the legislature's.


Posted by: km at September 29, 2007 06:00 AM (ZeIkZ)

51 When state judges do this (the most famous instance being California
Chief Justice Rose Bird and two associate justices), the public can
find itself some judges who'll do their job and not the legislature's.


Good point in the sense that the California legislature is controlled by leftards. Not democrats, but leftards.

Posted by: dave at September 29, 2007 06:06 AM (bGPt5)

52

The anti death proponents never mention the homicide recividism of people previously convicted of homicide. They also cannot name one definitive execution of an innocent person.  They also don't mention the murders of guards and fellow prisoners by those murderers that have received their preferred mode of punishment of life w/o parole.


I would also like to note that most of the anti-death penalty proponents are also pro choice.  Ironic isn't it?


Posted by: alabaster jones at September 29, 2007 06:20 AM (GczzL)

53 I really don't like the death penalty, mostly because I simply don't trust the government.  I have no moral qualms with it, and I like having an armed citizenry so we can apply the death penalty in the fairest way possible: Immediately, and by the  victims during the crime.

I would be a lot more comfortable opposing the death penalty in this country if we could at least set up a 'life without parole' option that was actually life without parole.

Posted by: Ryan Frank at September 29, 2007 06:24 AM (/a9/x)

54 "...satisfying people's sense of justice so that they do not seek self-help is just a secondary benefit."

Ha, ha, ha! You've learned so much that you forgot what you used to know was true. How... sad. Or maybe funny. Now I can't decide which one you are. Entertaining for sure.

Posted by: Nom de Blog at September 29, 2007 06:40 AM (6Ie+q)

55 WTF was Ace thinking?

Posted by: digitalbrownshirt at September 29, 2007 06:44 AM (/rgAZ)

56 Ryan Frank,
I'm with you on the handguns preventing future crimes aspect. No need for DNA evidence or photo arrays when the perp isn't going to move.

Posted by: Nom de Blog at September 29, 2007 06:49 AM (6Ie+q)

57 The "no recidivism" benefit to capital punishment can be gained through life sentences without the possibility of parole

Gabriel, what should be the recourse against one of these lifers who kills a prison guard?

Posted by: OregonMuse at September 29, 2007 06:49 AM (dtQ3T)

58 "Personally, I endorse it. But that's from 30 years as a cop. Any of you
ever meet a stone cold killer? Very unsettleing to look into the dead
eyes of someone who looks at you as if you were nothing more than a
bug.
"

I don't doubt that at all. The problem is that there have been people exonerated by DNA. There have been people exonerated after the witness becomes Christian after 10 years and wants to come clean that they probably chose the wrong guy out of a line up.

"Sorry, but you won't change my mind, there are some people who
deserve the death penalty. As for LWOP, ever wonder why there's so much
violence in prison? What have they got to lose?"

Yes, and they also happen to be violent criminals - let me the know the rate of violence at Club Fed. If you think about it, who has the least to lose? Someone who knows they will get the death penalty. Shot one cop. Might as well shoot two. Three. Four. Why not, I'm dead anyways?

Regardless, its a tough question on where to stand.



Posted by: Aaron at September 29, 2007 06:55 AM (KkY9n)

59 I agree that there should definitely be a true "life without parole."

Posted by: Aaron at September 29, 2007 06:57 AM (KkY9n)

60 I don't doubt that at all. The problem is that there have been people
exonerated by DNA. There have been people exonerated after the witness
becomes Christian after 10 years and wants to come clean that they
probably chose the wrong guy out of a line up.


And have any of them been executed? And please don't repeat that copy and paste job Malor took from the extremist website dpinfo. Since the dp was reinstated, no one has ever proved we have executed an innocent person. And believe me the anti-dp people have tried.  My God, look at that Coleman fiasco! There was overwhelming evidence of guilt including a dna test and they convinced enough numnuts that he was innocent and demanded another dna test years after his execution. Well, guess what ... you should have heard the crying, seen the gnashing of teeth when they found out a GUILTY man was executed. That's how sick they are.

Plus, what objection do you have to executing someone whose dna does match?

Posted by: dave at September 29, 2007 07:16 AM (bGPt5)

61

I'll second (third?) the question for Gabriel, what do you do with people who have been sentenced to (a true) LWOP who then go on to commit murder or rape while in prison?


How do you protect the prison guards and other prisoners from people who quite literally, have absolutely nothing whatsoever to lose?


Do you have one prison where all prisoners with LWOP go? I'll tell you what, that's tantamount to a death sentence for at least some of them, as they will be with people who literally have absolutely nothing whatsoever to lose. I mean, if you're for that, and want to sell the DVDs, that's one thing. But somehow I don't think you are.


Or should they all be in solitary confinement for the whole time? That's the only way to protect others from them and them from each other, deny them any human contact at all.


As an aside, I think LWOP is much more cruel than capital punishment. And, since the only way to protect others from such people who have absolutely nothing whatsoever to lose is solitary confinement, I suggest you read Papillon some time. Solitary confinement is about the cruelest punishment the French (who are notoriously cruel) could think up.  They went overboard (you can't talk and guards will not talk around you), but solitary confinement, for life, is darn cruel.


I could be argued into executing convicted murderers in the same manner they killed their victims. That would be appropriate and unnecessarily cruel and unusual.


Posted by: Veeshir at September 29, 2007 08:10 AM (ThMnZ)

62 All these death penalty projects and groups have been gearing up for years to attack lwop. If the dp goes away, that's next on their hit list.  A couple of years ago, WaPo had a several full page article attacking life sentences.  They are also going after super max prisons and segregation units. So, no, they really don't give a shit about murderers murdering in prison.

Posted by: dave at September 29, 2007 08:17 AM (bGPt5)

63 Malor, you are a dipshit. Take the fucking Supremes off the bench and hang them. Take all the pukes on death row and crucify them. Bugger a bunch of bedwetting libs.

Posted by: Mark at September 29, 2007 09:21 AM (AUvbM)

64

Gabriel Malor, a.k.a. RINO.


Does opposition to the death penalty ultimately define whether someone is a RINO? Exactly what are the metrics for RINO determination?


Posted by: ConservativeBelle at September 29, 2007 09:28 AM (/v6Id)

65

It's their state and if they have the votes, then fine. I also retain the option of changing my mind.


I agree.


Posted by: ConservativeBelle at September 29, 2007 09:31 AM (/v6Id)

66

Taking multiple positions contrary to the Republican platform or conservative majority would make you a Rino.  Being in favor of the death penalty is one of the foundations of the law and order section of the Republican party.  One contrary position would not make you a Rino. Though I believe the flavor of Gabriel's other postings have given the perception that he holds more than one.  


Posted by: alabaster jones at September 29, 2007 09:55 AM (GczzL)

67 ConservativeBelle,

Have you missed the long string of RINO posts Gabriel Malor has offered? This is just one example.
Much like obscenity, one knows when one sees it.

Posted by: Nom de Blog at September 29, 2007 11:06 AM (6Ie+q)

68 And as for being a conservative -- meaning a classical liberal-- that boat sailed long ago for Gabriel Malor.

Posted by: Nom de Blog at September 29, 2007 11:08 AM (6Ie+q)

69 Big Deal.

Here in CA we have the death penalty, and I'm sayin' that stopping executions adds maybe a couple more years to a killers life.

Posted by: Terry at September 29, 2007 11:12 AM (/Soh5)

70 Not too surprising, this seems to be fairly standard in this kind of case. I'm just worried they'll pull another Roper v Simmons.

Posted by: Christopher Taylor at September 29, 2007 11:31 AM (wmgz8)

71 I'm just worried they'll pull another Roper v Simmons.

Gasp! You mean they will rely on -- International law!!!!!

Posted by: dave at September 29, 2007 12:03 PM (bGPt5)

72 dave--

I would much prefer that they relied on the will of the people (you know, citizens). It's what this country was founded on.

Posted by: qrstuv at September 29, 2007 01:10 PM (Z3lex)

73 But if you people think that every person sitting on death row right now is guilty, you are living in a naive little fantasy land.


Why on earth would it be naive to think that the few people on death row with their endless retrials, careful checking of data, and super high level of difficulty to even get on death row to begin with must be riddled with innocent people. There's no evidence or even reason to believe it.


Gasp! You mean they will rely on -- International law!!!!!


Partly, yes. I'm worried they will make the decision based on how the world views us and pressure from the elites than on US case law and history.


And Belle, milady, you have to understand Nom is one of those "pure conservatives" who reserves the right to declare anyone that doesn't live up to his exact definition of conservatism as a heretic. Usually guys like that are Ron Paul supporters too.

Posted by: Christopher Taylor at September 29, 2007 01:43 PM (wmgz8)

74

Well, that is what Justice Kennedy did in Roper v. Simmons -- cited international law, which was a dangerous and unnecessary precedent.

Posted by: dave at September 29, 2007 01:55 PM (bGPt5)

75

Christopher Taylor: Define "conservative" please, so the rest of us will know how Nom was mistaken.


Posted by: digitalbrownshirt at September 29, 2007 02:52 PM (/rgAZ)

76

Have you missed the long string of RINO posts Gabriel Malor has offered? 


*shrugs* Maybe so.


The death penalty is one of the few issues on which I part company with the GOP. Just checkin'...


Posted by: ConservativeBelle at September 29, 2007 02:53 PM (/v6Id)

77 Gabriel, in your recap above you deemed the DP 'unnecessary', but you left out the reason I brought up.

When the sliding scale of punishments goes all the way up to execution, you can get plea bargains on a pile of stone cold killers. Otherwise - unlike every single other part of of the criminal justice system - you have nothing "further" to charge them with. What the hell is the difference between 140 year sentence and 180 years? Nothing real.

But you _do_ get plea bargains out of people who would otherwise just laugh.

Posted by: Al at September 29, 2007 03:22 PM (Lk931)

78 "And Belle, milady, you have to understand Nom is one of those "pure
conservatives" who reserves the right to declare anyone that doesn't
live up to his exact definition of conservatism as a heretic. Usually
guys like that are Ron Paul supporters too
."

I'm more libertarian and classical liberal than modern-day Republican, Christopher. But I know a fucking RINO when it makes its opinions known.

I'm quite sure that if we ever had a sit-down about my opinions you'd be surprised on quite a few levels.

But to accuse me of Ron-Paul-level nuttiness is simply beyond the pale.If you paid attention during the Ron Paul baiting posts you'll note that I'm as big a critic of teh stoopid as anybody on these Tubes. But then since I've disagreed with you a few times I'm sure that doesn't matter.

Posted by: Nom de Blog at September 29, 2007 03:37 PM (6Ie+q)

79 Nobody has to be a nut to support Ron Paul, he just tends to attract them. So you don't support Ron Paul for president, then?


Christopher Taylor: Define "conservative" please, so the rest of us will know how Nom was mistaken.


How bout you or he define how Malor is a RINO.

Posted by: Christopher Taylor at September 29, 2007 03:45 PM (wmgz8)

80

I get the impulse to argue with a whole lot here, but I'll restrict myself to just 1 point.


"Revenge" is an intrinsic and important part of our justice system. Revenge is not a wrongful reason to punish someone. Our justice system does and allways has acknowledged it's purpose.


And frankly, we ain't got shit else going for us anyway. Our prisons certainly aren't reforming anyone at all, nor is it really restorative. In many, perhaps most cases, restorative justice is plainly impossible.


It's called retibutive justice.


Posted by: Entropy at September 29, 2007 04:00 PM (HgAV0)

81 It's called retibutive justice.

I prefer to call it "some people just deserve killin' justice." Or,  "no, not all life is precious and has value justice."

One of the best examples of why we need the death penalty was that Richard Speck video.  Jeesh! The guy raped and strangled how many young women? And that guy gets to live to flash his man boobs at us???

Posted by: dave at September 29, 2007 04:45 PM (oR8jC)

82

How bout you or he define how Malor is a RINO.


I'm not the one defining him as a RINO. I'm curious about YOUR definition of conservative. How does he fall into (or not into) that category? There's lots of Republicans that don't follow the party platform. That doesn't make them not Republicans. However, it does make them not "conservative".


Posted by: digitalbrownshirt at September 29, 2007 05:11 PM (/rgAZ)

83

A Conservative is someone who has enough sense to disagree with Progressives on everything. Everything.


Posted by: Bart at September 29, 2007 06:26 PM (lj3WK)

84 "Nobody has to be a nut to support Ron Paul, he just tends to attract them. So you don't support Ron Paul for president, then?"

Yes, the fuck they do. They have to be nuts to support Ron Paul.
And, no. I don't support bat shit crazy.
Never have and never will.
Don't be a jack ass just because you want to defend RINO Malor.

Posted by: Nom de Blog at September 29, 2007 08:06 PM (6Ie+q)

85 Purple Avenger writes:

The problem is that LWOP isn't always what its claimed.  People
getting those sentences have been paroled for various and sundry
dubious reasons and they have gone on to kill again.  Of course they
pose a constant threat to the rest of the less murderous prison
population as well unless kept in solitary forever.


How many internal prison murders have been committed by the LWOP's?  I never see that question asked or answered.

Actually, life imprisonment without the possibility of parole is exactly what it's claimed to be. Release for those who receive that sentence comes only with a commutation.

The stories you've heard of lifers being released who commit further murders or other crimes are about those given a life sentence, but not a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. For example, in most states a capital murder convict is eligible for parole in 35 years (and "good behavior" may shorten that period), despite the fact that they were sentenced to life imprisonment.

Life imprisonment without the possibility of parole statutes were enacted to fix that problem. (Texas, in 2005, became the latest state to adopt such a statute.) Jurors want to know that when they choose life imprisonment over the death penalty the convict will actually be imprisoned for life.

Even if we assume that the life without the possibility of parole system is messed up, the answer isn't to say, "I guess we have to kill them instead." The answer is to say, "I guess we should fix the life without parole system."

The challenge now is letting jurors--and the general public--know that the old life with parole scheme has been changed. Unfortunately, some blood-thirsty states like Texas actually prohibit the judge, prosecutor, or defense attorney from telling a jury that life imprisonment without the possibility of parole means imprisonment for life.

Regarding prison murders by those sentenced to life, I've heard conflicting stories, but I don't have much other information. On the one hand, I've heard that lifers are often "model inmates." On the other, I've been told that here in California at least the lifers often end up being the ones you go to when you want to kill a fellow inmate.

Okay, taking the folks to the airport. More later.

Posted by: Gabriel Malor at September 30, 2007 05:31 AM (1Ug6U)

86 Unfortunately, some blood-thirsty states like Texas actually prohibit
the judge, prosecutor, or defense attorney from telling a jury that
life imprisonment without the possibility of parole means imprisonment
for life.


And your authority for this is????  Seriously, start sourcing your numerous screwball assertions or stfu.

More later.

Please, God, no.

Posted by: dave at September 30, 2007 07:37 AM (oR8jC)

87 DoDoGuRu writes:



we need a gradiation of sentences, or else people will just do the most horrible crime knowing they have nothing to lose.



I agree completely. Proportionality is important, not just because it
provides a clear escalation of sanction for offenders (and thereby has
some deterrent effect) but because it is indispensable to satisfy
people's expectations of a justice system.

GarandFan writes:

The death penalty is definitley a hot button issue. I seriously doubt
one side will ever convince the other that their view is best.



I agree with this as well. I wrote here not to convince anyone to change their minds, but because I was asked about my own beliefs. He goes on to write:

As for LWOP, ever wonder why there's so much violence in prison? What have they got to lose?

Even lifers can be punished. I don't want to minimize the severity of the issue of violence in prison; it's obviously a problem. However and once again, the problem of prison violence has solutions short of "well, I guess we'll just have to kill them all."

OregonMuse raises the same issue by asking a related question:

Gabriel, what should be the recourse against one of these lifers who kills a prison guard?

As I said, lifers still have freedoms to lose. The most dangerous of the dangerous, those who still go on killing after imprisonment, can be placed in solitary confinement. Beyond that, I don't know.

Aaron writes:

It's their state and if they have the votes, then fine. I also retain the option of changing my mind.

I thought that was very well put. I haven't written to say that the death penalty is unconstitutional (it's plainly not); nor have I discussed the moral implications of capital punishment. Because I recognize that the penalty was necessary and useful in the past and may be so in the future, I also retain the option of changing my mind.

Al writes about a death penalty secondary benefit:

When the sliding scale of punishments goes all the way up to execution,
you can get plea bargains on a pile of stone cold killers. Otherwise -
unlike every single other part of of the criminal justice system - you
have nothing "further" to charge them with. What the hell is the
difference between 140 year sentence and 180 years? Nothing real.


That makes perfect sense. But is the purpose of the death penalty to kill capital offenders or to get plea bargains? I do not believe the benefit we gain from bargaining with capital offenders outweighs the costs associated with capital punishment. I recognize that others may disagree.

Posted by: Gabriel Malor at September 30, 2007 07:51 AM (1Ug6U)

88 And finally, nom de blog, ConservativeBelle, Christopher Taylor, and digitalbrownshirt had a short conversation about nom de blog's labelling me RINO.

I originally chose not to respond to that portion of nom de blog's comment. Frankly, I don't care how he defines a Republican. Calling RINO in the comments wasn't responsive to my post or to my later comments, so it just didn't seem worth the effort. But since it received some discussion...

nom de blog says I have made a bunch of RINO posts. I'd sure like to see him point them out. All my posts are compiled over at my blog, so feel free to scroll through and pick out the non-Republican ones. You might also notice the clearly Republican ones while you're there, though.

Yes, I like to use international law against liberals for fun and profit. By some of the comments here, it seems like even admitting that international law exists is enough to get kicked out of the GOP. But that's their problem, not mine.

By my count I've abandoned social conservatism, not Republicanism. With the exception of abortion, I think social conservatives are wrong about, well, almost everything.

I'm sorry, but gambling is just not a moral issue that should be reached by the state. Gays are not going to end civilization (or even make it a little bit worse). Contraception should be legal and so should IVF and the like. Stem cell research shouldn't be prohibited no matter the source of stem cells (which is why I like the elegant solution of the Bush Administration simply not to fund it; that also satisfies my fiscal conservative principles).

And paleocons? Well, I'm decidedly NOT a proponent of any isolationist "Fortress America" crap (thank you, Pat Buchanan) or a fan of so-called realist pragmatism in international relations (ahem, Kissinger).

Does that mean I'm not a "real" Republican? Of course not. The most accurate label for me would be neoconservative and fiscal conservative.

Posted by: Gabriel Malor at September 30, 2007 08:25 AM (1Ug6U)

89 Just like I thought  -- you can't back up your statements.

I don't know if you are a RINO or not, but I do know you have a habit of misstating the law and facts and not backing up your assertions with authority. Just cloaking your arguments in legalese and trying to bullshit your way in arguments doesn't fool anyone. I advise everyone not to accept anything you say at face value. 

Posted by: dave at September 30, 2007 12:00 PM (oR8jC)

90 You're not a conservative by any definition I've read; definitions matter.

Posted by: Nom de Blog at September 30, 2007 12:19 PM (6Ie+q)

91 "Contraception should be legal and so should IVF and the like."

Just so we're clear: Do you think there's a clamor amongst conservatives to go back to a pre-Griswold world where rubbers are illegal in Connecticut? Are you really that fucking stupid?

And when did conservatives argue against in vitro? How many decades ago? Holy shit but that's stupid.

Posted by: Nom de Blog at September 30, 2007 04:28 PM (6Ie+q)

92  Nom de Blog, so what you're saying is that conservatives and I actually agree on the topics. I believe you've just contradicted yourself.
 Heh.

Posted by: Gabriel Malor at September 30, 2007 06:10 PM (1Ug6U)

93 No. I didn't contradict myself. I did point to your ridiculous and unfounded claims.

And I am saying you're a dumb ass.

You clearly indicated that you're set against some number of things that conservatives support and then you detailed what some of them supposedly are. Except that conservatives are not opposed to some of the things you falsely claimed they oppose.

(Your attempt at wit to cover your idiocy is appreciated in the same way I applaud small children for doing things they'll take for granted a few months hence. Only small children are supposed to act that way at their age.)

And I love the further false claim that some conservatives believe "gays are... going to end civilization." As opposed to you who believes "gays are not going to end civilization." How very wonderful of you to set up this false dichotomy to satisfy your own need to posture at self-importance.

Posted by: Nom de Blog at September 30, 2007 07:24 PM (6Ie+q)

94

Gabriel,


I am not an expert at this issue, but I have some problems with the your reasoning against the death penalty. 


In a nutshell, you are saying the dp is unnecessary because there is an equal or better alternative in LWOP based on social utility and financial considerations.


For social utility, you provide some characteristics citing no difference in effect from LWOP and then the poll numbers.  What about piece of mind?  There are other social utility values or characteristics than the three described.  How do those poll numbers jive with states where the death penalty is a part of the law?  Those areas must find more social utility with dp as expressed through their votes.  I know you say you respect this, but you are still against.


The financial considerations argument leaves me with a lot of questions.  Are opportunity costs considered and how so?  If everything changed to LWOP, would the appeals process resources be taken up by those cases?  In other words, does the death penalty add to the overall legal costs in the system or just help prioritize its allocation? 


If the dp became cheaper than LWOP and social utility is equal (as defined by you), would you change your mind?


My brother used to always use the financial one as his basis for rejecting the dp, but I convinced him that was a process problem.  If the process duration could be reduced (make it cheaper) and maintain the current quality level, then what?


Just so you know, I am on the revenge or "taking out the trash" side of this issue. 


 


Posted by: pwr at September 30, 2007 10:18 PM (thEjo)

95 pwr,

Peace of mind is most definitely an example of social utility. I discussed those limited examples of social utility because those are the ones cited by states and the federal government as goals for their criminal justice systems. (For example, check out §1.02 of the Texas Penal Code.)

The poll number I referenced is from a Gallup poll conducted in 2004. Unfortunately, I no longer have a Gallup subscription, so I can't tell you who exactly was polled. If you have Gallup access, the poll and report is here.

If I remember correctly (and if the poll was conducted in Gallup's usual fashion) it is probably ~1,015 adults from across the U.S. polled by telephone. In other words, the poll probably included a majority of responders from states with the death penalty (since they are the majority of states).

The most recent free information on that question that I could find is here, also at Gallup. Scroll down.

Regarding the financial considerations, the inordinately expensive parts of capital cases are the trials and appeals. When the death penalty is on the table, the prosecution and defense are more likely to call multiple expert witnesses or require expensive reports. The reason for that is that the prosecution knows that juries expect solid work when a person's life is on the line. They must also defend against the defense, which, in death penalty cases, spares no expense.

Appeals are also costly, more costly than the initial trial in many states. And it's difficult to eliminate these costs. Our system gives the right to appeal. For indigents it provides the right to state-provided counsel on the first appeal (later appeals or other motions must be paid for by the indigent or someone else).

As for your hypotheticals, yes, if the social utility were increased and the financial burden decreased I would change my mind on the penalty in this country. As it stands now, we are not getting enough benefit from a system with considerable costs.

Posted by: Gabriel Malor at October 01, 2007 06:26 AM (nYdKb)

96

As for your hypotheticals, yes, if the social utility were increased and the financial burden decreased I would change my mind on the penalty in this country. As it stands now, we are not getting enough benefit from a system with considerable costs.


You could have cut to the chase a whoooole lot sooner. The fundamental ethical arguments for/against the dp do not factor into your judgement at all, just the numbers on a utilitarian ledger and the polling of the mob. Got it.


Posted by: Cuffy Meigs at October 01, 2007 07:43 AM (uOvAE)

97 "Stem cell research shouldn't be prohibited no matter the source of stem
cells (which is why I like the elegant solution of the Bush
Administration simply not to fund it; that also satisfies my fiscal
conservative principles)
."

Can anybody find the internal and logical consistency here? Stem cell research is not prohibited, as you concede in your parenthetical. And yet you set up another false dichotomy.

Can you say s-t-r-a-w-m-a-n? I knew you could.

Posted by: Nom de Blog at October 01, 2007 10:17 AM (6Ie+q)

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