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  1. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    Capital Punishment

    Discussion in 'Debate Room' started by JJ_Maxx, Jan 18, 2014.

    In light of recent news out of Ohio, I thought it was a good time to discuss capital punishment in the US.

    http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Justice/2014/0117/Ohio-executes-killer-Was-untested-lethal-injection-cruel-and-unusual

    On Thursday, January 16th, 2014 Dennis McGuire was executed for raping and killing a newlywed woman in 1989.

    Because Ohio had run out of their usual lethal injection cocktail, they resorted to an untested mixture of drugs which caused him to suffer for almost 25 minutes before he finally was pronounced dead.

    This opens up a discussion about the use of this new drug, obviously, but it also exposes the broader topic of capital punishment in our country.

    Since 1976, 1,264 people have been executed, a relatively small number compared to the amount of heinous acts of evil that are perpetrated.

    How do we temper any sympathy for the short-term suffering of a murderer/rapist compared to the suffering of an innocent pregnant woman who was raped and murdered?

    Discuss.
     
  2. Garball
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    Garball Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think suffering should be the intent of capital punishment. I think it is a tool to remove somebody society has deemed unfit to any longer belong. Knowing when you're going to die should be punishment enough
     
  3. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I'm against it generally due to risk of mistake and uneven application, but when I read this guy's crime I couldn't bring myself to care whether he suffered or not.
     
  4. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    I never thought of it from this angle, because imprisonment for life would accomplish the same goal. Rather, I felt that the individual should not be allowed to live, therefore removing his ability to ever hear a joke, laugh, feel the sun on their face, make a friend, watch TV, etc... These are things that the victim(s) will never get to do, so in fairness I don't see life imprisonment very fair either.
     
  5. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I'm against capital punishment for a variety of reasons. On a practical level, the legal system makes mistakes, and innocent people have been executed. There's also the high cost associated with a case involving the death penalty. Often times the cost of such cases exceeds the cost of putting the criminal in prison for life. Another thing is racial and gender bias. Blacks are more likely to get the death penalty, and women are less likely to get it than men (taken from the BJS). I wouldn't be surprised if socioeconomic status was a big factor as well.

    These are just the practical reasons; there are many more arguments to be made at the philosophical level.
     
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  6. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    ... if he was guilty. I didn't look at the case, hopefully he was.

    But too many people in jail for serious offenses have been exonerated by DNA tests demonstrating we have to stop killing people until the court system is sorted out.
     
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  7. Garball
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    Garball Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. Supporter Contributor

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    Dead people don't care what's on TV. I don't understand life imprisonment. If you are going to lock up a guy for life with no chance of ever getting out, go ahead and kill him or give him a second chance. It doesn't make since to create your own parasite to me
     
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  8. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
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    Duchess-Yukine-Suoh Girl #21 Contributor

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    This.

    I'm all for capital punishment. The guy is proven guilty, no point in keeping him alive to just sit in a jail cell.
     
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  9. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    What I want to know is how do we not have the technology or knowledge to kill someone quickly and painlessly. It doesn't seem to be that great of a feat.
     
  10. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
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    Duchess-Yukine-Suoh Girl #21 Contributor

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    Because we spent too much money on the space program? Yeah, space is great, but if we had focused that money on earth, we would be better off now.
     
  11. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah. In this case, there doesn't appear to be any question. And apparently the guy apologized to the family for what he did before they executed him. But as a general rule, I'd put a moratorium on use of the death penalty, given the flaws in the system. Maybe limit it to cases where guilt isn't just beyond a reasonable doubt, but where there is no doubt whatsoever about guilt.
     
  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with your practical reasons. It doesn't bother me on a philosophical level.
     
  13. Garball
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    Garball Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. Supporter Contributor

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    7.62x51mm nato does a pretty damn decent job
     
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  14. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    We do. That's basically what Dignitas does, isn't it?

    Much like @Steerpike, I don't like the idea of capital punishment because of the risk of error. It seems several of these debate threads have degenerated into how it's impossible to be absolutely 100% certain of anything - and usually, I'm perfectly happy to be 99.99% certain. With this topic, I'm not.

    I haven't worked out where I stand on it philosophically, so if anyone fancies laying out the arguments...
     
  15. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    I'm against capital punishment because you cannot remove human error, bias and prejudice from the courtroom. States have executed innocent people in the past and it will happen again.
     
  16. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    These people were found guilty, then after they were executed, they were exonerated.

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

    The State: Oops, sorry. Our bad.
     
  17. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    I'll say from the off that I do not agree with capital punishment.

    Ah... but Dignitas, if I remember correctly, use a dose of antiemetic, followed by a lethal dose of pentobarbital. This was the preferred drug of many correctional facilities until the manufacturer refused to supply to them.


    Regardless of how bad the actions of the convicted person, their welfare is not the only consideration. In the case of an agonising death, what repercussions might it have on children and loved ones who themselves are guilty of no crime. Not only would the perpetrator of the crime be dead, but those close would be mentally and emotionally tortured and, in effect, be given a life sentences themselves, although not incarcerated.

    To me, those who wish a violent end, or would turn a blind eye to the suffering are no better than those they would condemn and punish.

    And that is much as I'm gonna say... the subject makes me sick to the pit of my stomach.
     
  18. Simpson17866
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    There are 5 general concepts behind any justice system: deterrence, restoration, rehabilitation, retribution, and incapacitation.

    Deterrence: making it too costly for most criminals to consider doing something.

    The vast majority of murders are crimes of passion where the offender wasn't even thinking about what would happen next, so raising the cost of his action wouldn't stop him from doing it, and the most dangerous murders are either narcissistic enough to believe that they won't get caught and/or are connected enough to know that they won't. If there is a point to executions, this isn't it.

    Restoration: making the criminal repair the damage that he has done.

    Executing a murderer doesn't bring back the people that he has murdered. If there is a point to executions, this isn't it.

    Rehabilitation: taking a criminal, showing him the error of him ways, and teaching him do more good in the world instead of simply locking him up to do less harm.

    You could rehabilitate somebody who has been executed, and even if somebody could've been executed and wasn't, then his crimes were still probably enough that he won't have a chance to get out of prison even if he gets rehabilitated. If there is a point to executions, this isn't it.

    Retribution: the catharsis of establishing dominance over an offender, of getting back at him and showing him who's in charge.

    I believe that this should be a side-effect of deterrence, restoration, rehabilitation, and incapacitation; I don't believe that this should be the point in and of itself. Anyone can try to hurt somebody who has hurt somebody that he cares about, but the point of the justice system is to prevent these cycles of vengeance from getting out of control. Even if retribution is the point of executions, I don't think that it should be.

    Incapacitation: removing the opportunity to commit crimes.

    If you lock a bank robber in prison, then you have prevented him from robbing banks because there are no banks in prison for him to rob. If you lock a murderer in prison, then you have not prevented him from killing people, you have merely limited the kinds of people that he can kill.

    The people living outside of the prison can certainly feel safe, they can pat themselves on the back that they aren't going to be killed by this man, and they might get on their high horses and say that, "You should keep this man alive, no matter who he kills in prison, because at least I am safe." The family of a murdered guard would probably disagree.

    There are 4 kinds of people who go to prisons: criminals who can be rehabilitated, criminals who cannot, innocents who shouldn't have gone there in the first place, and the guards who keep them under control.

    If you have
    1) a psychopath who has tortured dozens of people to death for the mob, and is going to die in prison regardless of whether he is executed by doctors or by old age
    2) a schmuck who held up a convenience store because his daughter was starving to death, who has less than a year left on his sentence, who has been taking the rehabilitation and job training programs so that he can protect his daughter without stealing when he gets out
    3) an innocent who has evidence that will exonerate him, and is waiting for the evidence to be processed so that he can see his family again
    4) a guard who is putting his life on the line to protect you by keeping murderers under control

    and you lock the four of them in a cage for years at a time, then you are handing out the death penalty regardless of what you say to the contrary. Are you going to passively give the death penalty to schmucks, innocents, and guards, or are you going to actively give the death penalty to murderers?

    ***

    And I have no delusions that "innocent people never get executed." A moratorium on the death penalty in states where the legal system has proven to be unreliable would certainly be the lesser of two evils, but it isn't the final answer. The final answer is to fix the legal system so that the state focuses on guilt vs. innocence instead of whatever else it is focusing on.
     
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  19. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    These are just a few off the top of my head:

    1) The right to life is the most fundamental right. It is considered to be universal, secular, and unalienable (unalienable rights cannot be taken away or given away; they also can't be forfeited). Thus, capital punishment is a violation of that right.

    2) Punishments for other crimes don't involve doing to the criminal what he did to the victim. So if A stole from B, we don't take something from A to punish him; we don't rape the rapist, etc. For something like a traffic violation, we make the wrongdoer pay a fine. For other crimes, we take away his alienable rights (right to liberty). Capital punishment seems to be the only exception to this rule.

    3) You could argue that death is a less severe punishment than life in prison without parole. Thus, life without parole not only protects the right to life, it gives the criminal the most severe punishment possible.

    4) What type of crimes are deserving of the death penalty? It seems like the line between which crimes deserve death and which do not is arbitrary. Furthermore, the difference between the degrees of murder can be subtle at times, and many people, especially members of a jury, may not be aware of those subtle differences.
     
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  20. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I don't agree that the right to life is inalienable.

    I also don't agree with general deterrence as a rationale for capital punishment - I think that is immoral. An argument can be made for specific deterrence ;)

    Arbitrary application, risk of mistake, etc. are practical problems, in my view, and I agree that they are sufficient such that there shouldn't be capital punishment.
     
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  21. Aled James Taylor
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    Aled James Taylor Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think the electric chair was introduced because of an argument over which electrical supply system was the most dangerous, AC or DC. I suspect the lethal injection was introduced to discourage people from taking narcotics and in a country full of guns, guns have not been used because the gun lobby would perceive this as negative publicity. Perhaps you should follow the example of the French and use the guillotine. That seems quick and effective but would graphically illustrate what was going on and people may then find the whole practice rather more distasteful.
     
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  22. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with Steerpike's sentiments. On a certain base-level reaction, my initial instinct is to be for capital punishment. In crimes such as this, when I hear how long it took this guy to die and how horrible the death was, my first thought is, well, how long did it take his poor victim to die and how did she suffer? On some level, I want all rapists and murderers to die.

    But then there is the reality. As has been stated, there are so many problems with uneven application, with the possibility (even the very small possibility) of killing an innocent person, with the substantial costs involved, with the time that passes between crime and punishment (and the possibility of a person really changing and becoming truly repentant), and with all of the extenuating circumstances that might have been present in some crimes, but because of bias or prejudice are not taken into account (related to the uneven application problem).

    I do not believe that capital punishment itself is a deterrent to crime. In most cases (especially those for which the death penalty would be applicable), the perpetrators aren't thinking they're even going to be caught, or they're not thinking at all beyond the immediate timeframe of the crime. The only benefit is removing individuals from society who are causing great harm. But again, this goal is not really being achieved.
     
  23. Garball
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    Garball Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. Supporter Contributor

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    I think that to have rights, one must respect the rights of others. If you separate yourself from society, society has a right to separate you from it, be it temporary or permanently. I am more torn between the argument if prison should be punitive or rehabilitative. I know any time in prison is punishment, but if you are allowed a second chance, it can also be considered the latter. Perhaps we need a two prison system. First major criminal offense lands you in a "correctional" facility; do it again and you go to the bad place with no TV and check in to never check out again.
     
  24. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Then who has the right to take it away? I'm assuming your answer is going to be the government, so what gives them that right? You have to remember that being alive is not the result of giving consent in any way. Therefore, we should be able to opt out of any law requiring us to forfeit our lives.

    I've always found it weird that the same government that opposes euthanasia believes in capital punishment. On the one hand, the government is forcing you to live, and on the other, it's taking life from you. Do we really want the government to have that much power over our lives?
     
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  25. Aled James Taylor
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    Aled James Taylor Contributing Member Contributor

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    According to the Bible (that well known work of pseudo-morality) the following acts carry the death penalty.

    Murder (Exodus 20)

    Adultery (Exodus 20)

    Bestiality (Leviticus 20)

    Rape (Deuteronomy 22)

    Sodomy (Leviticus 18 and 20)

    Picking up sticks on the Sabbath (Numbers 15:32–36)

    A betrothed woman who does not cry out while being raped (Deuteronomy 22: 23-24)

    A woman who is found not to have been a virgin on the night of her wedding (Deuteronomy 22: 13-22)

    Worshiping other gods (Deuteronomy 13:6-13:10 and Exodus 22:20)

    Witchcraft (Exodus 22:18)

    Taking the LORD's name in vain or cursing his name (Leviticus 24:16)

    Cursing a parent (Exodus 21:15, 21:17, Leviticus 20:9 and Mark 7:10)

    Kidnapping (Exodus 21:16)

    Contempt of court (Exodus 21:16)

    False witness to a capital crime (Deuteronomy 19 15-21)


    Now how many of us actually think the Bible is God's perfect word for all peoples at all times and is undisputedly correct in all matters?
     
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