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The death penalty

Pro and Con

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1richardbsmith
Mar 23, 2012, 8:45pm Top

Not such a hot topic at the present time. Mississippi did just executed a man yesterday.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/22/us-mississippi-execution-idUSBRE82L0Q4...

This topic came to my mind though because of a comment on another topic about the standard of proof for a guilty verdict.

I understand that many of the laws that provide for capital punishment define the crime that justifies the death penalty.

It always seemed to me though that the laws in addition to defining the type of crime should also establish a higher standard of proof for capital pushment, higher than "beyond a reasonable doubt."

Is "beyond a reasonable doubt" the standard for determining guilt in a capital case? Perhaps there is already a higher standard that is established?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment_in_the_United_States

2OccamsHammer
Mar 23, 2012, 10:23pm Top

I'm not sure what standard that would be higher. To be beyond 'any doubt', the capital crime would almost have to have been done in front of the jury.

3lilithcat
Mar 23, 2012, 10:47pm Top

? 1

I understand that many of the laws that provide for capital punishment define the crime that justifies the death penalty.

No, ALL of them do.

Is "beyond a reasonable doubt" the standard for determining guilt in a capital case?

In the U.S., the standard for determining guilt in all criminal cases, capital or non-, is "beyond a reasonable doubt".

However, that is not necessarily the standard for determining whether the death penalty should be imposed. In my state, which recently abolished the death penalty, there were two stages. Whether a person was eligible for the death penalty had to be decided beyond a reasonable doubt. The jury (or judge) then engaged in a process of weighing aggravating and mitigating factor to decide whether or not death was the appropriate penalty, with no particular standard to guide them. (I'm simplifying just a tad.)

Other states may have different systems.

4Bretzky1
Mar 23, 2012, 11:08pm Top

The burden of proof on the government in a death penalty case is the same as it is in any other felony case. The government must prove its case against the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. I agree with Occam that that's already a very high burden for the government to meet, and something that is measurably above that would probably be nearly impossible to meet. Of course, given that I'm an opponent of capital punishment, I wouldn't necessarily be upset with that.

In theory, the added protection for the defendant in a death penalty case is that the sentence can only be imposed by the jury itself (I don't know if that's the case in all US jurisdictions that have the death penalty though). Of course, it's generally the same jury that just found the guy guilty, so they're not exactly going to be overly sympathetic to him to begin with. The Supreme Court has established a number of mitigating factors that juries are supposed to weigh against the crime itself in making their decision, and, as we all know, death sentences are subject to appellate review to a much greater extent than are other sentences, for obvious reasons. Although most people would probably be surprised at some of the death penalty cases that manage to survive multiple appellate reviews.

5timspalding
Edited: Mar 24, 2012, 1:14am Top

I am sympathetic to the notion. It would be dangerous to muck with standards—probably too dangerous. But the possibility of error—the certainty of error given large numbers—is a major argument against the death penalty. "Beyond a reasonably doubt" is high, but we all know innocent people are convicted under it; it couldn't be otherwise. But there is a difference between someone convicted of murder on exceptionally convincing evidence that is still human, and someone, say, carrying out a murder in full view of others and being caught by witnesses before he could move.

6richardbsmith
Edited: Mar 24, 2012, 5:45am Top

I would prefer a guilty person go free than an innocent person be jailed.

I would even more prefer a guilty person live than an innocent person be executed.

Perhaps the guilt or innocence could be evaluated on the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt, but the sentencing of execution might have a higher standard?

And whether that higher standard was met could be grounds for an appeal, as well as legal error and mental competency?

7margd
Edited: Mar 24, 2012, 6:41am Top

To me, sentencing can be pretty random, maybe because "reasonable doubt" is such a malleable standard? (Yet another reason not to support capital punishment.)

One would think that killing nine sleeping children with their families would warrant life-in-prison, if not the death penalty, but the loss of physical evidence or a PTSD defense might save one: http://edition.cnn.com/2012/03/23/justice/afghanistan-legal-hurdles/?hpt=hp_t1

Apparently, Lt. William Calley served only three and a half years of house arrest for his role as company commander in the Mai Lai massacre, in which 300-500 Vietnamese villagers died (Newsweek, March 26 & April 2, 2012). Three and a half years! House arrest!

8prosfilaes
Mar 24, 2012, 7:36am Top

I don't know; I've always found it a little bizarre the fact the way spending 20-60 years in a cage with violent criminals is treated as such a lighter punishment then spending 15 years in said cage then getting executed. Is it really so much more important to be right in the second case then the first?

9richardbsmith
Mar 24, 2012, 8:06am Top

My assumption is that the preference for those being executed is to live, but if their preference is to die my position would not change about the importance of being right over the guilt or innocence.

10SimonW11
Mar 24, 2012, 9:05am Top

I think that when you die your punishment ends.

11richardbsmith
Mar 24, 2012, 9:18am Top

Is life then punishment?

12timspalding
Mar 24, 2012, 9:26am Top

I would prefer a guilty person go free than an innocent person be jailed.

Really? If you really believed that, then you should abolish punishment. Because legal systems are going to err. By choosing to have one, you are conceding a certain amount of error is acceptable. There's no other honest way to look at it.

13richardbsmith
Edited: Mar 24, 2012, 10:21am Top

Tim, I don't think that follows. Perhaps it does.

But if I accept that society must provide punishment as a deterrent to actions society deems wrong, and I do accept that, then I think my preference that we allow a guilty person to be free rather than punish an innocent person, speaks not against punishment but for protections and checks.

14richardbsmith
Mar 24, 2012, 10:20am Top

But let me concede your point Tim. We of necessity must imprison innocent people in error because we are imperfect.

My question though remains, should or could there be a higher standard for the sentence of death. We might find an innocent person guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, but should we only execute if there is no doubt.

An appeals process could be established to consider the question of the certainty of guilt.

One argument that has been made is that death is the lesser punishment, so my question would have no significance. Killing becomes an act of mercy rather than punishment.

I am not persuaded of that.

15SimonW11
Mar 24, 2012, 10:21am Top

11> how can you punish something that no longer exists?

16richardbsmith
Mar 24, 2012, 10:25am Top

I think the punishment would exist for as long as the life would have continued should the execution not have taken place.

Should you end my life now, I would consider it a loss.

17jjwilson61
Mar 24, 2012, 10:39am Top

We might find an innocent person guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, but should we only execute if there is no doubt.

There's always some doubt. Maybe the 50 eye witnesses all identified the wrong person and there's a one in a million chance that DNA evidence can identify the wrong person. Can you articulate some standard between reasonable doubt and no doubt that could be the new standard?

18richardbsmith
Mar 24, 2012, 10:46am Top

I cannot.
But I think you have done quite well to suggest means to reduce the likelihood of error considerably.

19lawecon
Mar 24, 2012, 11:57am Top

This is a most interesting topic, and a number of good points have been raised above, but I believe that there are other possible points.

First of all, the argument against the death penalty that I've heard most often is that the mistake of convicting an innocent person cannot be reversed. I think that is a good argument since, basically, the procedural safeguards that are in place at the trial court level are apparently largely ineffective. Prosecutors routinely get away with all sorts of abuses in the presentation of their cases. The meaning of "beyond a reasonable doubt" is not appreciated by many jurors, and, frankly, many judges are not eager to have it explained at length.

However, I would go a bit beyond abolition of the death penalty to impose on the state MATERIAL sanctions for conviction of innocent persons. The way it is, you can serve 20 years behind bars, be then determined to be innocent (which is, incidentally, incredibly difficult once you have been convicted) and get nothing or, say $5M. $5M for 20 years from a system that incorrectly arrested you, generally lied about the evidence to convict you, and then constructed all sorts of procedural roadblocks to reconsideration of such evidence? I don't think so. Perhaps personal assessments against the persons involved in such process would be effective?

Second, however, the justice system is suppose to suppress private acts of revenge. The observation above about Lt. William Calley is an obvious default as to that function. I, personally, can't understand how he survived once he was released from house arrest. Perhaps the communist takeover of Vietnam was the only thing that saved him.

20lilithcat
Mar 24, 2012, 3:51pm Top

> 7

Whether the legal standard of guilt has been met is currently grounds for an appeal.

21richardbsmith
Mar 24, 2012, 4:44pm Top

I did not know that an appeal could be based on the verdict being wrong because there should have been a reasonable doubt. Is that a fair paraphrasing of an appeal based on the legal standard of guilt?

lilithcat, what do you think about an additional higher standard of guilt for the death penalty sentence than for the determination of guilt?

22Bretzky1
Mar 24, 2012, 4:52pm Top

#21:

I did not know that an appeal could be based on the verdict being wrong because there should have been a reasonable doubt. Is that a fair paraphrasing of an appeal based on the legal standard of guilt?

Yes, a verdict can be overturned by an appeals court if the court decides that the evidence presented by the prosecution was not such that a reasonable jury could have found the person guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But that is an extremely long long-shot of an appeal.

23richardbsmith
Mar 24, 2012, 5:02pm Top

Bretsky1,

I repeat my question to lilithcat, to you.

What do you think of a standard for the sentence of the death penalty that is higher than the standard for determining guilt?

(I almost asked how frequently that an appeal based on a bad jury decision was made and how often it was successful. But I do not think that point is really to my question. )

24Bretzky1
Edited: Mar 24, 2012, 7:04pm Top

#23:

I almost asked how frequently that an appeal based on a bad jury decision was made and how often it was successful. But I do not think that point is really to my question.

I wouldn't, in any case, be able to answer it. I am just a lowly student. I just know from what I've read on the subject that appellate courts are very loath to overturn jury verdicts, especially when the basis for doing so rests on the evidence presented at trial. (They are even reluctant to do so, I've been told, when misconduct by jurors is the basis for review.) Appellate courts say that the jurors are the ones best situated to make decisions of guilt and innocence based on the evidence, and that if the presiding judge felt they did not err so substantially as to warrant setting the verdict aside (assuming the defense requested that the verdict be set aside for lack of evidence), then the appellate court generally has no business stepping in his shoes to do so. It really has to be an egregious lapse of judgment by the jury for the verdict to get overturned on appeal in that way.

What do you think of a standard for the sentence of the death penalty that is higher than the standard for determining guilt?

It is, of course, always possible to increase the burden of proof for a trial. When it comes to trial verdicts, there are two types of burdens: (1) by a preponderance of the evidence and (2) beyond a reasonable doubt. The first one, which is used in civil trials, is easily "quantifiable." It means that the winning party has more than 50% of the evidence on his side--however the jury weighs that evidence. That is, the jury believes that either the plaintiff or the defendant is the one most likely telling the truth.

With the second one, though, it is much harder to measure the evidence. We know that a simple "Who do I believe more?" inquiry is not enough. But how much more is required? The state has to prove the case "beyond a reasonable doubt." We can't even be sure, though, that all of the jurors are using a heightened standard for judging the balance of the evidence, let alone using the same heightened standard. After all, jurors don't have to explain themselves.

So when you ask whether it would be possible to increase the burden of proof in a capital punishment case, my answer is: Yes, but I'm not entirely sure that that will amount to much in practice. Given the black box nature of jury deliberations and the extreme reluctance of appellate courts to overturn jury verdicts, you might get, say, a half dozen fewer death sentences in a decade, but is that really worth the increased uncertainty and expense that it would add to the legal system. Capital cases already cost taxpayers millions of dollars. Do we want to just throw more cash on the pile?

A far better answer, in my opinion, is to scrap capital punishment altogether. We are slowly moving in that direction. There are currently 14 states where capital punishment is not allowed. Several states where it is currently legal, like Connecticut, New York, and Indiana, are themselves considering abolition. And since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976 following the Supreme Court's moratorium, just three states (Texas, Virginia, and Oklahoma) accounted for 53% of executions. And the top ten (adding Florida, Missouri, Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, North Carolina, and South Carolina) account for 83% of all executions in that time period. So, of the 36 states where it's permitted, most of them use it very sparingly.

My guess is that by the middle of this century, the number of states that still regularly apply the death penalty will be down to no more than four or five. At which time, it might finally be a point at which the Supreme Court holds capital punishment to be unconstitutional for violating the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. Although, I would rather see voluntary abolition occur in all states.

25Bretzky1
Mar 24, 2012, 7:23pm Top

(Cont. from #24)

You really can't have, in my opinion, a different burden of proof at sentencing from the trial because there really is no burden of proof to be met.

What sentencing amounts to is a weighing of mitigating and aggravating factors to arrive at an appropriate punishment. There is an evidentiary burden that must be met in order to have the judge (or, in the case of a capital case, the jury) consider the evidence in sentencing. For example, the prosecutor can't just say that the defendant did something horrible to the victim without providing proof. The evidentiary burden is, however, much lower than that for the verdict.

By holding the jury to a heightened burden in sentencing for a capital case, what you are suggesting, I believe, is really more of a tweaking of the balance of the mitigating versus aggravating factors that the jury uses. Perhaps we require more aggravating evidence versus mitigating evidence than we currently do.

That's possible as well, but it ultimately comes down to whether the jury's sympathies lie with the defendant or the victim's family and friends. The decision to hand out a capital sentence is a highly emotional one, and I don't really see anyway of turning it into an analytical one that is susceptible to rational computation.

26richardbsmith
Mar 24, 2012, 7:23pm Top

Thanks. My question though is about a different standard for the death penalty sentence, as opposed to the guilty or innocent decision.

How might it work if there were a standard of reasonable doubt for a capital case with a sentence of life imprisonment or with a sentence of execution possible if the evidence met a higher standard of proof.

Some states make 1st degree murder with special circumstances to be a capital crime. If someone is found guilty then the sentence is execution. Could it work a guilty verdict with a death sentence to have a higher standard of proof than a guilty verdict with a life sentence?

So that it not just the nature of the crime, but also the certainty of the guilt determination, that is required for the sentence of death.

27richardbsmith
Edited: Mar 24, 2012, 7:31pm Top

Well you answered my question in 26, before I posted 26.

Although I do not think my question has to do with mitigating circumstances surrounding the crime. I am specifically asking for a greater degree of certainty of guilt. Mitigating circumstances can be allowed as well, which I take to be considerations such as mental competence.

I would add another consideration, in addition to the nature of the crime (that nature being described with mitigating and aggrevating circumstances), that additional consideration to be a higher standard of evidence to kill someone found guilty.

Thanks,

28Bretzky1
Mar 24, 2012, 8:24pm Top

#26:

Some states make 1st degree murder with special circumstances to be a capital crime. If someone is found guilty then the sentence is execution. Could it work a guilty verdict with a death sentence to have a higher standard of proof than a guilty verdict with a life sentence?.

Yes, a state could do that. And there's no reason it couldn't "work."

But I have to go back to something that I posted above: there's no real way to quantify that higher burden of proof.

There is a burden of proof that supposedly exists in between "by a preponderance of the evidence" and "beyond a reasonable doubt." It's "by clear and convincing evidence." I have yet to read, however, any legal opinion that could adequately explain how that standard differs from "beyond a reasonable doubt," other than to say that the former is less exacting than the latter.

Unless you make the burden to be something along the lines of "without a doubt," that is, 100% certainty, I don't really think it would amount to much difference from "beyond a reasonable doubt." There are only so many shades of gray that you can carve the world up into before you lose the ability to distinguish black and white, or before everything in between just starts to look like a blur.

29Arctic-Stranger
Mar 24, 2012, 8:59pm Top

In the Bible in order to carry out a death sentence there had to be eye witnesses, and they had to participate in the stoning.

I am not against the death penalty in theory, but in practice I think it has proven to be a policy failure.

30richardbsmith
Edited: Mar 24, 2012, 9:14pm Top

I would be a lousy eye witness.

Tall grey haired older man in the red car that I saw do it, would actually have been a short brown hair young woman who was walking.

31prosfilaes
Mar 24, 2012, 9:44pm Top

#9: My point is that being right has nothing to do with the death penalty. Being held in a high-security prison for the rest of your life is a hellish end. I don't know how life-expectancy curves compare between prison and the outside, especially for the subset of the population that ends up in prison. Some people die quick deaths, and thus it was functionally a death sentence; some, including those on death row, live longer then they would have outside prison (given better medical care and some protection from ill-doers). Nonetheless, I find it weird how people use the fact that some innocent people get the death penalty as a fact to abolish the death penalty, as if it is a vast improvement that we should throw them away in jail and let them rot for the rest of their lives.

32richardbsmith
Mar 24, 2012, 9:57pm Top

prosfilaes,
I understand your point. I just don't agree. Getting it wrong is too serious when we are talking execution, in my opinion. I understand that you do not agree and I now understand that you consider this line of thinking to be weird.

33prosfilaes
Mar 24, 2012, 10:27pm Top

#29: In the Bible in order to carry out a death sentence there had to be eye witnesses, and they had to participate in the stoning.

Interesting in theory, but problematic in practice. Go ahead and knife someone in front of Mother Teresa, but don't welch on Don Carleone, since he's got three people who will swear they saw you kill someone, and will take pleasure in stoning you. In practice, I know there's been at least a number of cases in the US where an eyewitness has been suspected to be the real murderer.

am not against the death penalty in theory, but in practice I think it has proven to be a policy failure.

Yeah, but I'm afraid that people will clap their hands at the end of the death penalty and then go off to other causes and not worry about innocent people spending the rest of their life in jail. I'm afraid that arguments about the death penalty are obscuring real issues about justice and fairness in our prison system.

34richardbsmith
Mar 24, 2012, 10:35pm Top

I'm afraid that arguments about the death penalty are obscuring real issues about justice and fairness in our prison system.

Not sure that arguments about the death penalty are not real issues, but I would most likely agree about the need for improvements in justice and fairness in the prison system.

35lilithcat
Mar 24, 2012, 11:33pm Top

> 26
Some states make 1st degree murder with special circumstances to be a capital crime. If someone is found guilty then the sentence is execution.

No, that isn't true. A state cannot constitutionally mandate a death sentence, no matter the crime. A jury, or judge at a bench sentencing, must be allowed to consider aggravating and mitigating circumstances.

36SimonW11
Edited: Mar 25, 2012, 6:39am Top

16> I think the punishment would exist for as long as the life would have continued should the execution not have taken place.

And after it the dead are transported to heaven?

No killing people is not punishment it is murder.

37prosfilaes
Mar 25, 2012, 8:04am Top

#36: There's basically two definitions of murder: unlawful killing, especially those defined as murder instead of manslaughter, and immoral killing. The death penalty clearly isn't the first, and the second definition here just boils down to you saying that the death penalty is wrong.

I've never found that doing things for punishment qua punishment was moral. We should be using the judicial system to discourage criminals from committing more crimes, to discourage others from committing crimes in the first place, and to physically stop criminals from committing crimes. For the death penalty, we've obviously passed the first; the efficacy of the second is debated, but it's obviously pretty good at the third.

38richardbsmith
Edited: Mar 25, 2012, 9:25am Top

We can discuss the morality of capital punishment. And that is a question that will be discussed across the wider society.

We have capital punishment, whether any individual opinion considers it to be moral or not. I will be happy to accomodate your preference of vocabulary. We have capital killing. Its use is as a punishment for specified actions.

And as a punishment it is very effective at what it does. It prevents the criminal from repeating their actions.

Do you want to discuss here whether or not the soul goes to heaven?

Is all killing murder?

39Jesse_wiedinmyer
Mar 25, 2012, 2:47pm Top

And as a punishment it is very effective at what it does. It prevents the criminal from repeating their actions.

That's a narrow lens.

40prosfilaes
Mar 25, 2012, 6:00pm Top

#39: I'm not sure what you mean. It was part of a three part analysis. Historically, it was the main solution to preventing a criminal from repeating their actions, since societies didn't have formal prisons.

41Quixada
Mar 26, 2012, 10:14am Top

>38 richardbsmith: And as a punishment it is very effective at what it does. It prevents the criminal from repeating their actions.

So does life in prison with no chance of parole.

42StormRaven
Mar 26, 2012, 10:21am Top

"And as a punishment it is very effective at what it does. It prevents the criminal from repeating their actions."

Preventing a criminal from repeating their actions is not punishment, it is specific deterrence. Punishment doesn't have to prevent anything in order to be punishment.

43lriley
Mar 26, 2012, 3:21pm Top

Personally I don't like the death penalty--that being said--a very close friend of mine had his son murdered a couple years ago in the San Diego area. He was a Marine on his second enlistment and it was devastating for both him and his wife and I don't think either will ever be over it. It's fucking horrible. I can say that I'm against the death penalty (and I am) but OTOH I've not had to deal with that kind of a loss. He was killed by a gang who mistook him or some in the group he was with (one was hispanic and most if not all had multiple tattoos) for other gang members. Completely stupid shit. Their son was EOD (a bomb tech)--dangerous enough--and it wasn't like they weren't considering the possibility that he'd be blown to bits but being murdered in his own country was really too much.

44timspalding
Mar 26, 2012, 8:22pm Top

So, I suspect that tamping with the "standard" is a very dangerous thing to do. However, in the spirit of the thing, here's a proposed standard for imposition of the death penalty.

"Is it beyond reasonable doubt that evidence might ever come up which would cast reasonable doubt upon the verdict?"

Juries must, of course, consider the evidence as it stands. A reasonable person, however, understands that "the evidence" sometimes changes—a cop was manipulating it, a victim changes their story, etc. The justice system as it is can handle that. People get out of jail all the time when it turns out something went terribly wrong with the evidence. There is, however, a difference between a case established beyond a reasonable doubt, but still resting on evidence that has—historically—turned out to be occasionally wrong, and the sort of man-caught-in-the-act that a reasonable person could not reasonably conclude rests on faulty evidence.

45CharlesBoyd
Mar 26, 2012, 8:47pm Top

I'm late to this thread, but want to say it's great to find one that's reasoned and with no name calling. Good points on both sides. Richardbsmith, I agree with much of what you write, but I do have a bit of a problem with your statement that you'd rather have a guilty person go free than an innocent one be jailed. Certainly don't want the innocent one to be punished, but if the crime's murder and the guilty person goes free, and if he is a habitual killer, then that almost insures that more innocent people will be murdered. None of these questions have an easy answer.

46richardbsmith
Mar 26, 2012, 9:03pm Top

Tim, I kind of like that stab at a higher sentencing standard.

Charles, with capital offenses the idea of a higher standard of evidence for execution would not involve letting anyone be freed. The guilty person could still be in prison.

47madpoet
Mar 26, 2012, 9:14pm Top

Wouldn't the simplest thing be to just eliminate the death penalty altogether, as nearly every other developed country has done? Even with all the safeguards and higher standards, there will always be mistakes. Judges, juries and prosecutors are all human. The only way to ensure no innocent person is murdered by the state is to stop executions altogether.

48Jesse_wiedinmyer
Mar 26, 2012, 11:03pm Top

Yes, the innocent man free vs. guilty man executed thing seems a bit of a false dichotomy.

49CharlesBoyd
Mar 26, 2012, 11:50pm Top

I'd just be a bit more comfortable if I could be assured that "life without possibility of parole" is certain to be that and that no serial killer could ever escape or murderer be pardoned by the governor.

50richardbsmith
Mar 27, 2012, 12:00am Top

51Jesse_wiedinmyer
Mar 27, 2012, 12:04am Top

In what sense? As multiple others have noted, those aren't the only two options.

52richardbsmith
Edited: Mar 27, 2012, 12:34am Top

Well I was actually trying to be funny with a short one word answer.

But the dichotomy, false or no, is the extremes of executing the innocent man vs freeing the guilty man, not freeing an innocent man vs executing a guilty man.

With that statement I intended only to illustrate my preference by contrast between two extreme positions. I had not intended to offer a choice, but only to present my personal preference that I would prefer a guilty man to be free than an innocent man to be imprisoned, should such a choice be necessary.

That illustration of my personal preference by the extremes of imprisoning the innocent or freeing the guilty was then used as a lead in to the my preference that I would rather a guilty person (in a capital case) live than to execute an innocent person (errantly found guilty in a capital case). I never suggested that the murder might go free, only that I would prefer to keep alive the guilty person (in a capital case) rather than kill a convicted but innocent person (capital case).

Those two points were offered as small illustrations of my personal preference between the extremes. My opinion is that they are minor digressions from the OP question. I conceded to Tim in >14 richardbsmith: the matter raised by that illustration of my preferences. The statement though continues to come up.

I can write a longer explanation for my "no". :)

53prosfilaes
Mar 27, 2012, 2:55am Top

#49: I was looking over the Prison escape article at Wikipedia, and it turns out that the words "death row" appear several times. Turns out condemning someone to death doesn't discourage them from trying to escape.

I don't know why the sentence of "death penalty" is any likelier to stand then "life without the possibility of parole". In any case, we hardly enact the death penalty enough to make a dent in the overcrowding that causes criminals to be released early.

How about no one get a pardon by pulling political strings? That would eliminate half the the murderers who get pardons, and most of the other half are innocent, and their supporters find circumventing the judicial system the quickest, or only, way to get some sort of justice done.

54Jesse_wiedinmyer
Mar 27, 2012, 3:03am Top

But the dichotomy, false or no, is the extremes of executing the innocent man vs freeing the guilty man, not freeing an innocent man vs executing a guilty man.

Either way actually works, if you stop to think about it. We've polarised the debate between two answers and only two answers. But I get your point now that I've reread after coffee.

55Lunar
Mar 27, 2012, 5:10am Top

#53: How about no one get a pardon by pulling political strings?

I'm not sure what this means exactly. Do you mean death row inmates being pardoned of their crime entirely or just those who have just had their death penalty commuted? Where would the public campaign regarding Mumia Abu Jamal have fit in? Or does "political strings" just include that subset of influences regarded as unethical on a "I know it when I see it" basis?

56prosfilaes
Mar 27, 2012, 6:33am Top

#55: I was speaking basically against the use of personal money, power and connections, not community actions. In some ways "that subset of influences regarded as unethical" is a good descriptor, though I would argue "I know it when I see it" applies no more here then in any other case of justice.

57CharlesBoyd
Mar 28, 2012, 12:14pm Top

#53 You're right, the death penalty is just as unlikely to stand (if by stand you mean carried out) than life without possibility of parole, but in a practical sense, it seems to serve as a de facto life without possibility of parole. (Indeed, my assumption is that the death penalty is less likely to stand than life without possibility of parole.)

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