OK... The Death Penalty...

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RCC
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OK... The Death Penalty...

Post by RCC » Tue Dec 14, 2004 4:07 pm

As per Dr. X's request.... (he was being sarcastic - Ed.)

What do I think?

My position is that the human race at this point and time has largely out-evolved the death penalty.

Not as a moral issue. I think a government has and should have the authority to use death as sanction. It is neither cruel or unusual, nor is it in itself a moral problem that a government kills to punish unlawful killing.

My argument centers more around economics and the social changes driven by economics.

A few hundred years back, the DP was common for any serious offense, be it Murder, Robbery, or even Burglary.

The increase in life expectancy and quality has made life more certain and pleasant since then. This has resulted in a general sense of the value of a human life becoming greater.

What this has done is change the calculus of the DP in two basic ways:

1) The penalty is greater, since a life is more to lose

2) The risk of mistake is greater, as again, the wrongful taking of a life is seen as a greater sanction.

As a result, we have seen two changes naturally come about in the U.S. criminal justice system. First, the number of crimes where the DP applies has over time became smaller, to now where it only applies to murder, and First Degree Murder with special additional circumstances at that. No longer do robbers or even rapists face the DP.

The second is that we are now treating DP cases with extreme caution, many levels of mandatory review, and special consideration to the due process rights of the accused. Where in 1910 a condemned man was lucky to get a single appeal, now that same person has usually at least nine chances for review on direct appeal and post-conviction (habeas corpus) hearings.

These two basic changes brought around some secondary issues.

1) At some point, because of all the mandatory review, life in prison became cheaper for the state.

2) Meanwhile, the time for all this review lessened the difference between that LWOP sentence and a death sentence somewhat.

3) Since the DP was in force only for the severest and most depraved crimes, the value of the DP as a deterrent came into question as it seemed to only deter people rational enough to not commit the crime in the first place.

Add to this that the U.S. justice system is based on giving a fair trial, and not necessarily about reaching the correct outcome. All of this review generally has little or nothing to do with guilt or innocence. Thus having a good lawyer is often more important than being factually innocent.




Puting all this together, it appears that we are reaching a point where the severity of the Death Penalty is too great for the amount of certainty our legal system can provide in a fiscally realistic manner. It reaches a point where the punishment differs little from LWOP, but costs a great deal more.

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Post by Luke T. » Tue Dec 14, 2004 4:17 pm

You forgot one thing in your calculus. The value of the life of the victim has become greater as well.

edited to add: And it is my opinion that the value of the life of a murderer is about two cents.
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Post by Hexxenhammer » Tue Dec 14, 2004 4:18 pm

I didn't know that stuff about how much it must cost to have someone on death row. Interesting.

I'm in favor of the death penalty as an idea, but the application of it is terrible. When that Illinois governor commuted all those senteances because he decided he couldn't trust that they were all guilty, I thought that was great. The problem is that we've got 2 outcomes of a trial, innocent or guilty. There's no spectrum of guilt. In my perfect system, only cases with rock solid evidence would be eligible for death.
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Post by Luke T. » Tue Dec 14, 2004 4:19 pm

Arguing from economics is silly. If it is cheaper to sentence LWOP than the death penalty, think how much cheaper it would be to give a sentence of 30 days for Murder.
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Post by Nyarlathotep » Tue Dec 14, 2004 4:27 pm

I think societies need for the death penalty really hinges on two questions.

1) What exactly does society want the criminal justice system to accomplish? Deterrance, punishment, rehabilitaition, something else I haven't thought of, what?

2) Given that occasional mistakes are inevitable, do we want to err on the side of punishing the innocent or not punishing the guilty?

The problem is that we haven't come up with a concensus as a society as two the answers to these two questions. So we remain deeply divided as a society as to whether death is evr an appropriate punishment.

Personally, I think death is appropriate in certain circumstances. I beleive in rehabilitation where possible and severe punishment where it is not. I think in the case of some particularly heinous crimes, death is an appropriate punishment. Simply put, you need to have an ultimate punishmatent for ultimate crimes. However, since death is as final a punishment as is possible to get, I would prefer it not be applied unless their is a very high degree of certainty that the person receiving it is guilty.

Now sometimes death is applied unfairly, but I think that has more to do with other problems in our system than any problem with death as a punishment itself.
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Post by RCC » Tue Dec 14, 2004 4:52 pm

Luke T. wrote:You forgot one thing in your calculus. The value of the life of the victim has become greater as well.

edited to add: And it is my opinion that the value of the life of a murderer is about two cents.
That was included, and the effect identified that the DP is only now applied to First Degree Murder and not to Grand Theft or Robbery. Only Murder is in this age widely accepted as a crime worth killing over.

Plus, the whole thing about the increased cost of mistake. In that scenerio, the executed person is in fact the victim. Most of the cost analysis centered on that issue, the cost of avoiding mistake.

Arguing from economics is silly. If it is cheaper to sentence LWOP than the death penalty, think how much cheaper it would be to give a sentence of 30 days for Murder.
Nice example of a strawman/slippery slope combo.


Did you miss the part where it is explained that since evolving concern about mistaken execution has dictated more extensive review of conviction and sentence that the time taken to execute has made the DP in all practical effect to be very close to a LWOP sentence?

LWOP and the DP have one similar aspect that makes the comparison to a 30 day prison sentence completely absurd: Under either, the convict dies in prison absent pardon or escape. Pardon is a wash, escape is intersting in that while the LWOPer will have more time, the DP guy is going to be transported for hearings more often and thus have a slight edge in number of chances...

In a sense, a LWOP sentence is a death sentence, just a bit less dramatic. Perhaps if the judge sentenced the defendant not to "life without parole" but to "Death by old age hastened by crappy nutrition, bad medical care, and massive stress" people would calm the hell down over this issue...

However, the 30 day guy walks.



To restate the point....

There are two aspects to consider:

1) The cost difference in dollars

2) The difference in punishment, which can be stated in the difference between the average time to death with the DP versus the average time with LWOP.

As the first becomes greater and the second becomes smaller it reaches a point where the DP is just an insane idea. As we become more concerned with wrongful execution, that is exactly what is happening. If we stop caring about wrongful execution, it becomes less of a problem.

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Post by Luke T. » Tue Dec 14, 2004 4:58 pm

I believe the average time between sentencing and execution is nine and a half years. So "the time taken to execute has made the DP in all practical effect to be very close to a LWOP sentence" is a myth.
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Post by Luke T. » Tue Dec 14, 2004 5:01 pm

Nationwide, the average time from death sentencing to execution was 10 years and 3 months.
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Post by Luke T. » Tue Dec 14, 2004 5:02 pm

RCC wrote:LWOP and the DP have one similar aspect that makes the comparison to a 30 day prison sentence completely absurd: Under either, the convict dies in prison absent pardon or escape.
Exactly. And notice how economics has nothing to do with that? It's the sentence that matters, not the cost. As I said, silly. Or as you said, absurd.
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Post by NightG1 » Tue Dec 14, 2004 5:15 pm

Luke T. wrote:You forgot one thing in your calculus. The value of the life of the victim has become greater as well.

edited to add: And it is my opinion that the value of the life of a murderer is about two cents.
If it can be proven beyond doubt and to a level of absolute certainty that the accused actually committed the crime, I would agree with you. If you base a person's guilt upon circumstantial evidence, then I have a problem with what you are saying. "Beyond a reasonable doubt" is far too feable a standard when you are playing with a person's life. LWOP gives the state a chance to say "oops, sorry about that" if an innocent person is sent to jail for a crime they didn't commit. If the state kills that same innocent person, then the whole moral foundation of the justice system collapses.

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Post by Luke T. » Tue Dec 14, 2004 5:21 pm

NightG1 wrote:
Luke T. wrote:You forgot one thing in your calculus. The value of the life of the victim has become greater as well.

edited to add: And it is my opinion that the value of the life of a murderer is about two cents.
If it can be proven beyond doubt and to a level of absolute certainty that the accused actually committed the crime, I would agree with you. If you base a person's guilt upon circumstantial evidence, then I have a problem with what you are saying. "Beyond a reasonable doubt" is far too feable a standard when you are playing with a person's life. LWOP gives the state a chance to say "oops, sorry about that" if an innocent person is sent to jail for a crime they didn't commit. If the state kills that same innocent person, then the whole moral foundation of the justice system collapses.
Yep. That is why when DNA evidence began showing "innocent" men were on death row, I favored an immediate moratorium on the death penalty.

I put "innocent" in quotes because I believe it is a rare bird indeed who doesn't have a violent criminal past of some kind or another who is on death row. A rare bird like Scott Peterson.

But just because a guy has a violent past doesn't mean he deserves the DP if he is not guilty of the actual crime that put him on death row.

I also do not believe the DP serves as a deterrent in any way, shape or form except for the condemned man himself.

To be a deterrent, the DP would have to be swift and occur often. And that's not going to happen since we have a long appeals process to protect the rights of the accused.

So the death penalty is sheer punishment.

edited for spelling/grammar
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Re: OK... The Death Penalty...

Post by V.2 » Tue Dec 14, 2004 5:22 pm

RCC wrote: My position is that the human race at this point and time has largely out-evolved the death penalty... Not as a moral issue.
I oppose the death penalty due primarily to the inevitable(?) execution of innocent people, and by the fact that it's not reversable, which impresses me as immoral.

Certainly most of the democratic/civilized human race has evolved past it. I am always staggered by the list of countries that have capital punishment, and that the USA is on the list:

AFGHANISTAN
ALGERIA
ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA
ARMENIA
BAHAMAS
BAHRAIN
BANGLADESH
BARBADOS
BELARUS
BELIZE
BENIN
BOTSWANA
BURUNDI
CAMEROON
CHAD
CHINA
COMOROS
CONGO (Democratic Republic)
CUBA
DOMINICA
EGYPT
EQUATORIAL GUINEA
ERITREA
ETHIOPIA
GABON
GHANA
GUATEMALA
GUINEA
GUYANA
INDIA
INDONESIA
IRAN
IRAQ
JAMAICA
JAPAN
JORDAN
KAZAKSTAN
KENYA
KOREA (North)
KOREA (South)
KUWAIT
KYRGYZSTAN
LAOS
LEBANON
LESOTHO
LIBERIA
LIBYA
MALAWI
MALAYSIA
MAURITANIA
MONGOLIA
MOROCCO
MYANMAR
NIGERIA
OMAN
PAKISTAN
PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY
PHILIPPINES
QATAR
RWANDA
SAINT CHRISTOPHER & NEVIS
SAINT LUCIA
SAINT VINCENT & GRENADINES
SAUDI ARABIA
SIERRA LEONE
SINGAPORE
SOMALIA
SUDAN
SWAZILAND
SYRIA
TAIWAN
TAJIKISTAN
TANZANIA
THAILAND
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
TUNISIA
UGANDA
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
UZBEKISTAN
VIET NAM
YEMEN
ZAMBIA
ZIMBABWE
http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/ENGACT500022002

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Re: OK... The Death Penalty...

Post by Luke T. » Tue Dec 14, 2004 5:25 pm

V.2 wrote:
RCC wrote: My position is that the human race at this point and time has largely out-evolved the death penalty... Not as a moral issue.
I oppose the death penalty due primarily to the inevitable(?) execution of innocent people, and by the fact that it's not reversable, which impresses me as immoral.

Certainly most of the democratic/civilized human race has evolved past it. I am always staggered by the list of countries that have capital punishment, and that the USA is on the list:

AFGHANISTAN
ALGERIA
ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA
ARMENIA
BAHAMAS
BAHRAIN
BANGLADESH
BARBADOS
BELARUS
BELIZE
BENIN
BOTSWANA
BURUNDI
CAMEROON
CHAD
CHINA
COMOROS
CONGO (Democratic Republic)
CUBA
DOMINICA
EGYPT
EQUATORIAL GUINEA
ERITREA
ETHIOPIA
GABON
GHANA
GUATEMALA
GUINEA
GUYANA
INDIA
INDONESIA
IRAN
IRAQ
JAMAICA
JAPAN
JORDAN
KAZAKSTAN
KENYA
KOREA (North)
KOREA (South)
KUWAIT
KYRGYZSTAN
LAOS
LEBANON
LESOTHO
LIBERIA
LIBYA
MALAWI
MALAYSIA
MAURITANIA
MONGOLIA
MOROCCO
MYANMAR
NIGERIA
OMAN
PAKISTAN
PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY
PHILIPPINES
QATAR
RWANDA
SAINT CHRISTOPHER & NEVIS
SAINT LUCIA
SAINT VINCENT & GRENADINES
SAUDI ARABIA
SIERRA LEONE
SINGAPORE
SOMALIA
SUDAN
SWAZILAND
SYRIA
TAIWAN
TAJIKISTAN
TANZANIA
THAILAND
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
TUNISIA
UGANDA
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
UZBEKISTAN
VIET NAM
YEMEN
ZAMBIA
ZIMBABWE
http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/ENGACT500022002
The "we should be more like Europe" argument.
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Post by RCC » Tue Dec 14, 2004 5:29 pm

Luke T. wrote:I believe the average time between sentencing and execution is nine and a half years. So "the time taken to execute has made the DP in all practical effect to be very close to a LWOP sentence" is a myth.
In Texas perhaps.

Since the death penalty in its current state is at this point only about 25 years old, if you only look at those actually executed to date the number is going to be lower than if you consider any of the people that have been sitting on death row all that time. At this time I don't think such a number can be calculated, as it is skewed low by those that seek to abandon levels of review to get it over with, but not skewed upwards by those that are currently pushing twenty years.

The average lifespan of those sentenced to death whose sentences are later overturned to life sentences also arguably must figure in to the calculation, seeing that these people were in fact so sentenced.

The fact that a DP case takes longer to try also can add in, and that sometimes this is calculated by a final sentencing date. So in the less than rare occurance where someone is tried, senenced to die, it is reversed, and then the person is sentenced to die again, and is executed 10 years later a party seeking to make the DP appear swift will measure from the second sentence, where properly I would say it should be measured from date of arrest to better get a picture of the delay a DP case represents versus a LWOP case.

Texas also has one of the least careful systems, such as the famed "sleeping lawyer case." If a state doesn't care too much about who they kill, they can keep the time down just fine.

Execute him quick, destroy the files, and just fall back on the highly absurd but politically effective position that no executed person has ever been proven innocent in the state of Texas...



Anyway, the timing doesn't really affect that under either the person is sentenced to be in jail for the rest of his or her life. That similarity holds up

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Post by RCC » Tue Dec 14, 2004 5:36 pm

Luke T. wrote:
RCC wrote:LWOP and the DP have one similar aspect that makes the comparison to a 30 day prison sentence completely absurd: Under either, the convict dies in prison absent pardon or escape.
Exactly. And notice how economics has nothing to do with that? It's the sentence that matters, not the cost. As I said, silly. Or as you said, absurd.
Thats it... keep avoiding that there are two different aspects and keep only looking at one...


So if at some point it turns out that a death sentence lowers the average life expectancy by maybe 10 days from a LWOP sentence, but yet costs taxpayers $10 trillion yearly....

Under this hypothetical are you supporting the death penalty?

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Post by Bottle or the Gun » Tue Dec 14, 2004 5:36 pm

But the US death penalty is only for extreme crimes. In some other countries they shoot you as you sit in your car because you had a beer on a holy day.

But should we have evolved past it? Yes.
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Post by Luke T. » Tue Dec 14, 2004 5:42 pm

RCC wrote:
Luke T. wrote:
RCC wrote:LWOP and the DP have one similar aspect that makes the comparison to a 30 day prison sentence completely absurd: Under either, the convict dies in prison absent pardon or escape.
Exactly. And notice how economics has nothing to do with that? It's the sentence that matters, not the cost. As I said, silly. Or as you said, absurd.
Thats it... keep avoiding that there are two different aspects and keep only looking at one...


So if at some point it turns out that a death sentence lowers the average life expectancy by maybe 10 days from a LWOP sentence, but yet costs taxpayers $10 trillion yearly....

Under this hypothetical are you supporting the death penalty?
And if it costs 10 trillion to jail somone for 30 days and only the cost of a bullet to execute them?
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Post by Luke T. » Tue Dec 14, 2004 5:44 pm

As technology improves, so will the odds that the people on death row really are guilty of murder.

Sooner or later, it boils down to one simple question. A moral one. It has nothing to do with money or technology or human error or the appeals process. Those are all distractions from the real question.

"Is it right to kill another human being for killing another human being?"
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Re: OK... The Death Penalty...

Post by RCC » Tue Dec 14, 2004 5:45 pm

Luke T. wrote:
V.2 wrote:
RCC wrote: My position is that the human race at this point and time has largely out-evolved the death penalty... Not as a moral issue.
I oppose the death penalty due primarily to the inevitable(?) execution of innocent people, and by the fact that it's not reversable, which impresses me as immoral.

Certainly most of the democratic/civilized human race has evolved past it. I am always staggered by the list of countries that have capital punishment, and that the USA is on the list:

AFGHANISTAN
ALGERIA
ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA
ARMENIA
BAHAMAS
BAHRAIN
BANGLADESH
BARBADOS
BELARUS
BELIZE
BENIN
BOTSWANA
BURUNDI
CAMEROON
CHAD
CHINA
COMOROS
CONGO (Democratic Republic)
CUBA
DOMINICA
EGYPT
EQUATORIAL GUINEA
ERITREA
ETHIOPIA
GABON
GHANA
GUATEMALA
GUINEA
GUYANA
INDIA
INDONESIA
IRAN
IRAQ
JAMAICA
JAPAN
JORDAN
KAZAKSTAN
KENYA
KOREA (North)
KOREA (South)
KUWAIT
KYRGYZSTAN
LAOS
LEBANON
LESOTHO
LIBERIA
LIBYA
MALAWI
MALAYSIA
MAURITANIA
MONGOLIA
MOROCCO
MYANMAR
NIGERIA
OMAN
PAKISTAN
PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY
PHILIPPINES
QATAR
RWANDA
SAINT CHRISTOPHER & NEVIS
SAINT LUCIA
SAINT VINCENT & GRENADINES
SAUDI ARABIA
SIERRA LEONE
SINGAPORE
SOMALIA
SUDAN
SWAZILAND
SYRIA
TAIWAN
TAJIKISTAN
TANZANIA
THAILAND
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
TUNISIA
UGANDA
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
UZBEKISTAN
VIET NAM
YEMEN
ZAMBIA
ZIMBABWE
http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/ENGACT500022002
The "we should be more like Europe" argument.
More the "we should be less like Iran and China" argument.

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Post by Hexxenhammer » Tue Dec 14, 2004 5:53 pm

Luke T. wrote:As technology improves, so will the odds that the people on death row really are guilty of murder.

Sooner or later, it boils down to one simple question. A moral one. It has nothing to do with money or technology or human error or the appeals process. Those are all distractions from the real question.

"Is it right to kill another human being for killing another human being?"
I say yes, barring those other points. I don't mind calling it what it is either, which is basically revenge.
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