Wednesday, February 17, 2010

the death penalty still exists??

You probably heard about Martin Grossman.
If you haven't, google him, read a newspaper, check CNN.
He was executed today (Tuesday) by lethal injection in Florida after being convicted of first degree murder.

I'm not going to comment on that specific case. I don't know enough about it to say whether or not Martin Grossman deserved his punishment. The fact that he was Jewish makes me sad, but I don't think it should have any effect on anyone's opinion. I will say Baruch Da'ayan Ha'Emet.

I will say that I think it's insane that a country as 'modern' and 'advanced' as the United States of America still uses the death penalty in some states.
I know some states are still stuck in a time-warp of bad cowboy movies and tacky beauty pageants, but shouldn't the educated part of this country have a little more say on something as big as killing people?

The Torah talks about punishment by stoning and such, but I'm separating religion and state here. In a secular society (where there is no divine truth, and thus no way of knowing whether someone is 100% guilty), ending someone's life over a crime that he may have committed is a corruption of basic human natural law. How can a society that condemns murder exact the same punishment on its citizens?

Capital punishment has already been abolished in most 'western' countries, including all members of the European Union, Canada, Australia, Israel and even Venezuela.

Are we no better than Iran? The fact that we use lethal injection instead of death by stoning does not make us more humane. Would the Nazis be considered humane for their use of Zyklon B? Interestingly, some states actually allow electrocution, hanging, the firing squad - and gas chambers (thank you Wikipedia).

Does capital punishment actually work? Most studies show that it doesn't. (feel free to do the research - there's a lot out there)

I hate to get all Michael Moore-esque, but why the ___ does the death penalty still exist???

28 comments:

Data said...

I have a feeling that considering the state of the prisons in some of these countries, the condemned would prefer execution.

Dude with hat (aka BTS) said...

I think it's ok for terrorists to be executed even if their plan failed. Shot on the spot.
Or someone who had really been dangerous to masses (think terrorists, who else).
The rest... There's a lot involved including our emotions about each case. I am not into people being killed - that never helps.

DanielS82 said...

Technically, Israel does have the death penalty, they have just used it once; on Eichmann in the 60's. They have not used it since on any criminal case, not even against the worst terrorists. Although, you could argue that when Israel finds a terrorist and blows him up in his car, or shoots rockets at his car, or something along those lines, they are using the death penalty... But, maybe not.

reader said...

The statement that some states are less uneducated than others sounded, well, uneducated. Republican-leaning doesnt equal uneducated, these states have great universities and happen to be huge melting pots. (Texas and Florida, ex).

You should try to view things from a different angle. Should Saddam Hussein be sitting in prison for the rest of his life? How about terrorists? Or people who commit inhumane, unethical crimes, in public?

Vox Populi said...

>Should Saddam Hussein be sitting in prison for the rest of his life?

Why not?

>How about terrorists?

How does executing terrorists help? Many of these guys don't even see death as a turn-off.

>Or people who commit inhumane, unethical crimes, in public?

We let the deciding factor in whether we kill somebody be if they did it in public?

reader said...

Think about it from a viewpoint of the families of those who lost loved onse to unethical, inhumane way of death by murderer. Or the families of those who lost loved ones to terrorits. In my humble opinion, letting those kinds of people live, even in prison, is complete injustice.

What about Hitler? Would you say "Why not?"

Vox Populi said...

>Think about it from a viewpoint of the families of those who lost loved onse to unethical, inhumane way of death by murderer.

People who kill people are certainly douches, I grant you that. But what does killing them do? How does it make us better off?

>What about Hitler? Would you say "Why not?

Yes. What does killing Hitler do? Make us feel better for a couple of days? Once you've apprehended the man, and stopped him from killing anyone else, what additional utility do you get from killing him?

Anonymous said...

It would serve as a preventative measure. It looks a lot scarier than life in prison, which in the U.S. is relatively tame compared to most other countries.

It serves to show people: See him, see what he did? This is his consequence.

Vox Populi said...

>It would serve as a preventative measure.

The data on that is hardly conclusive. In fact, there is an equal amount of literature that suggests that state sponsored executions don't deter murder at all, and even some that suggests that they have a brutalizing effect which increases murder. Just from an intuitive perspective, does it seem to you that Massachusetts is a more violent place than Texas?

The United States is generally understood to be a more violent place than Europe. Yet we have the death penalty, and we don't.

And a lot of things might deter crime. Raping rapists may deter rape. Torturing torturers may deter torture. We don't do that.

>It looks a lot scarier than life in prison, which in the U.S. is relatively tame compared to most other countries.

Ha! Seen Oz? Our prisons suck. They are hellholes. They are controlled by violent, racist gangs intent on sodomizing anything that's not nailed to the floor. Drug use is rampant. Recidivism rates are sky-high. Petty criminals and first time offenders come out damaged psychos. Some state prisons have been ruled unconstitutional because they operate at 4x times maximum capacity. People are plenty afraid of prison.

US prisons are definitely not reputed to be nicer places than the prisons in other civilized countries (none of which have the death penalty). I'm sure a place like Egypt has worse prisons, but well, that's Egypt.

>It serves to show people: See him, see what he did? This is his consequence.

Even assuming that it does, so what? That's a reason to kill somebody? To teach someone a lesson? Put him in prison for life, what's the difference?

And who really cares about lessons? Mafia hitmen and drug dealers live with death penalties over their heads all the time anyway. Psychopaths and madmen typically don't respond well to disincentives. Crimes of passion rarely involve much rational calculation.

(same) reader said...

Vox populi: You bring up good points, but I'll still have to hold my stand, I guess we'll have to agree to disagree. :)

Maidel said...

ok - i think terrorists and those who commit crimes against humanity should be put into a different category for the sake of this discussion.
most people on death row are not charged with those types of crimes.

Vox Populi said...

Why should terrorism belong in a different category of crimes? They're just people who want to murder people. No different than any other murderers. Except, perhaps, that they don't particularly care about living. Not sure why the response to that is to kill them.

Dude with hat (aka BTS) said...

Vox - at least because it costs less for people who pay taxes while these people are better to be dead before even getting their lawyer - too many holes in the law books. At the same time if they come out of jail many years later they come back to what they started from.

Vox Populi said...

DWH,

I'm not sure I understand what you are saying. It sounds like you are advocating two reasons for capital punishment.

(1) It's cheaper than keeping them alive.

(2) Recidivism

As to (1); two points. First, it seems kind of monstrous to me that we would consider killing someone because it's cheaper for the taxpayers than the alternative. Second, death row is vastly more expensive than life imprisonment. I suppose you could advocate for an execution policy without the application of a thorough appeals process, but that also seems monstrous.

As to (2): There's always life imprisonment without parole. You can't go back to a life of crime if you're stuck in jail.

Dude with hat (aka BTS) said...

Vox - I was only talking about terrorists who don't care about their lives anyway - they are ready to die if they can kill you and as many other people as possible. IMO these particular species should be executed on the place as act of saving people's lives. Few gun shots are far much cheaper that life imprisonment.
As soon as you give these people a way to appeal they pretend to be innocent which just lacks any sense.
I wasn't talking about anyone who doesn't get into this category.

Proud MO said...

Personally, I think getting life without parole is worse than death. I would never want to be stuck in prison for the rest of my life knowing there was no chance of my ever getting out. I'd rather be dead.

Anonymous said...

These people are not only being punished to deter others from committing the same crime- they are being punished so that the victim (or the family of the victim) can have some kind of closure or vindication.

Vox Populi said...

>IMO these particular species should be executed on the place as act of saving people's lives. Few gun shots are far much cheaper that life imprisonment.

If you're talking about killing criminals who are in the process of trying to kill people, then sure, kill them on the spot. But once they've been apprehended and are no longer a threat to anyone, executing people on the spot out of cheapness seems kind of bizarre.

Tova said...

The suggestion that states with capital punishment are uneducated is childish and short-sighted.

It's true that death row is expensive, but this does not mean that capital punishment is ineffective. That a convicted murderer, sentenced to death, may be alive decades later on 'death row' due to appeals (think Mumia Abu Jamal) is what makes capital punishment so expensive. Get rid of the bullshit, and make sure that executions take place soon after sentencing.

Also, it is difficult to understand why some say that capital punishment is ineffective. Dead people can't commit more crimes, and the victims' families shouldn't be paying for years-long incarceration periods.

If murderers, rapists and child molesters want to live, let them finance their own incarcerations.

Vox Populi said...

>they are being punished so that the victim (or the family of the victim) can have some kind of closure or vindication.

But they are being punished. They're in prison for the rest of their lives. And they can't vote!

If it's a simple tit for tat that you're looking for, why not rape rapists so that their victims and their families feel vindicated?

Vox Populi said...

>Get rid of the bullshit, and make sure that executions take place soon after sentencing.

Okay, but some this "bullshit" is due process. And what with that being in the Constitution, it's often hard to work around that. I'm not sure why we would want to, either. America would be a pretty bad place to live if you could be sentenced to death without the ability to appeal.

Much of the expense of capital punishment derives from costs incurred on the prosecution's side, in the pre-trial and trial phases. Killing people requires a higher standard of evidence and also brings more focus and pressure on the prosecution to get a conviction.

>Dead people can't commit more crimes, and the victims' families shouldn't be paying for years-long incarceration periods.

How are the victim's families paying for incarceration, more than any other taxpayers? The murderer included?

>If murderers, rapists and child molesters want to live, let them finance their own incarcerations.

In most enlightened societies, people shouldn't need to finance their right to live. Secondly, it would be bizarre in the extreme if we only killed poor murderers, but let the rich ones live.

Moshe said...

Vox, unless they're in solitary, they can go on killing people in prison. They're a threat to other prisoners and to the guards. And, as DWH mentioned, I don't see why we should pay for years and years of them sitting on "welfare". If you think it's only a couple dollars per day, you're sadly mistaken.
My cousin works in prison, maybe you want a tour of the facilities and to meet some of the people you're defending?

Vox Populi said...

>Vox, unless they're in solitary, they can go on killing people in prison. They're a threat to other prisoners and to the guards.

Okay. Then hire more guards. Make sure that prisons aren't dangerously overcrowded so that prisoners are safe as well. It seems monstrous to instead say that we're going to make prison a dangerous environment because it's cheaper that way, and then say we have to kill prisoners because it's too dangerous.

And, of course, it strikes me as absurd that we're willing to kill people for crimes we're afraid they will commit later.

>And, as DWH mentioned, I don't see why we should pay for years and years of them sitting on "welfare". If you think it's only a couple dollars per day, you're sadly mistaken.

Criminal systems that don't have the death penalty are cheaper than those that do. There are a lot of hidden costs to capital punishment, especially in the pre-trial phase. Also, of course, the lengthy appeals process.

>My cousin works in prison, maybe you want a tour of the facilities and to meet some of the people you're defending?

What's the difference? You think I'm under the impression these guys are a bunch of good dudes in prison for having a broken tail light? I'm against the death penalty on principle.

Moshe said...

I think it's time you left dream land and faced reality.

Hire more guards and build more prisons? How would that make things safer? Unless you're planning on building a separate prison for each prisoner and putting 3 guards in each one.

"hidden costs"? No amount of "hidden costs" would offset life without parole where the criminal would be living in the prison until he dies. Where the "hidden costs" would come to light is when he's 80 and the state is paying for his health care.
Let's take Martin Grossman, 45. With life without parole, that's at least 25 years. Are you going to seriously tell me that death row costs more than 25 years of housing and medical care?! Go learn some math!

What's the difference? You think I'm under the impression these guys are a bunch of good dudes in prison for having a broken tail light? I'm against the death penalty on principle.
No, I think you're a liberal with no grasp of reality who sits in the comfort of his/her chair, talking about theories and concepts he/she does not understand.

Vox Populi said...

>Hire more guards and build more prisons? How would that make things safer? Unless you're planning on building a separate prison for each prisoner and putting 3 guards in each one.

Why leap to the absurd? California currently operates at close to double capacity - the danger there is so great that the Ninth Circuit ordered them to reduce their prison population by a third. There's a very large degree of good that could be accomplished by just having prisons operate at capacity. (The Court of Appeals only told them to operate at 120%-130% capacity.) You don't need 3 guards for every prisoner to keep them from killing each other.

>With life without parole, that's at least 25 years. Are you going to seriously tell me that death row costs more than 25 years of housing and medical care?! Go learn some math!

A. First of all, people don't get executed right after sentencing. These guys hang around for a while, what with the lengthy appeals process. 25% of death row inmates die of natural causes.

B. The appeals process costs the state money too. Courts are more willing to hear capital appeals, which costs the court system money. Taxes pay for the court system. Lawyers don't work for free, either. A disproportionate amount of people on death row come from low economic backgrounds. That means public defenders. Those guys cost the state money too.

C. The preparation for a death penalty case costs more money too, because a higher degree of evidence is required. Death penalty cases can take four times longer. Every death penalty defendant is entitled to two public defenders. Jury selection is more intense and longer. There are more expert witnesses, required for forensics, psychological testing, social history, etc. The state pays for all of this.

D. Incarceration for death row defendants usually involves solitary confinement, which costs more.

According to the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, the additional cost of confining a prisoner to death row, as opposed to a maximum security prison for life without parole, is $90,000 per inmate.

Moshe said...

According to the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, the additional cost of confining a prisoner to death row, as opposed to a maximum security prison for life without parole, is $90,000 per inmate.

Interesting nice round number they pulled out of their asses. At what age and with what life expectancy? Or numbers don't matter?

And life without parole don't appeal? News to me.

Vox Populi said...

>Interesting nice round number they pulled out of their asses. At what age and with what life expectancy? Or numbers don't matter?

Oh, sorry. $90,000 per inmate per year. That's according to a spokeswoman for the Corrections Department, Margot Bloch.

>And life without parole don't appeal? News to me.

A capital punishment defendant is entitled to a number of appeals. This means they get appeals that a court has to hear. In other types of cases, it is up to the court's discretion.

Maidel said...

wow - didnt think this would turn into such a great debate!

just saw Shutter Island...

There's one scene where American soldiers liberate Dachau in WWII.

They round up all the SS guards, and then fire away at them at point-blank range until they're all dead.

The main character, who was one of the American soldiers, asks - was that an act of war? Or was that murder?