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The ability to take a citizen's life as punishment for committing a crime is one of the defining attributes of a sovereign nation. It is something that should never be imposed lightly.
Tonight we saw two state executions take place, one in Georgia, the other in Texas. The execution in Texas was that of Lawrence Brewer. The crime for which he was executed was so brutal it was part of the inspiration for hate-crime legislation.
The other execution, that of Troy Davis in Georgia, has been surrounded by controversy. And in my mind, should be the inspiration for new laws that set very clear, definitive and absolute standards for seeking the death penalty.
Davis was convicted on the sole basis of eye-witness testimony.
We have heard many times how such testimony is unreliable. We have also heard many times how people have been released from prison (often on death row) after serving 10, 15 or even 20 years and more when new forensic evidence (such as DNA) proves them innocent.
It is my belief that the death penalty should never be imposed without the presence of incontrovertible forensic evidence. It is better to let every prisoner go free than to kill an innocent person.
I agree on the need for stricter standards. However, it is impossible to be 100% ceertain. No matter how good we get, there's always a chance that someone innocent might slip by.
OTOH, there's the virtual certainty that some of these people will kill again if we don't execute them.
It's another place where we need balance.
Which is why I believe that capital punishment should be eliminated altogether. Life without the chance of parole should be the requirement for those who commit horrific crimes that would currently fall under the punishment of death. I understand that the cost of housing prisoners for decades is substantial, but I believe there are three reasons for eliminating the death penalty:
1) It is a far greater punishment for a criminal to spend decades in prison, as opposed to a lethal injection taking him out of his misery.
2) What about those who were released after years on death row, because new evidence came to light? Do we really need/want to take the chance of murdering an innocent person?
3) My belief is that we do not have the right to take the life of another human being under such circumstances. (Self defense, military actions, etc. are a different story.)
Life without parole instead of the death penalty would be a more attractive option in the view of some people if those sentenced to such were given some means to commit suicide if they so desire. This would at least address the concern over long term costs of caring for such prisoners.
That said, it can be argued that if suicide is the ultimate expression of individual liberty then taking that option away is the ultimate punishment.
1) I'm not interested in punishment as much as I am in removing a danger to society. If they're locked up, they're still a threat to other inmates & guards, and there's always the possibility of escape. One innocent killed by an escaped killer is one too many.
2) Much of that has been due to advances in DNA technology. As I said earlier, we need to be as careful as we can be. I'd say that should include severe penalties for corrupting an investigation or trial.
3) To me, it is self defense. And I don't see that much difference between executing someone and locking them up in a cage for the rest of their life, as long as we do as much as reasonably possible to ensure that we get the actual guilty person.
Punishment is a tool to correct behaviour.
If we deem a person too unfit to reside within the rest of society, despite corrective actions, it requires removal - therefore punishment is unnecessary and, being unnecessary, inhumane.
This leaves the question: Is execution a punishment or a tool for removal? And how is it viewed in the psyche of American people?
I'm not sure if any of you were following the case of Hank Skinner, and I do apologize because I will have to summarize some of what I want to say, or some of what I read, because I can't seem to find the particular article that REALLY blew my mind, but let me start with a quote from an article by Adriane de Vogue of ABC legal news ... "At his trial his lawyers chose not to ask for additional testing of knives found at the scene, the axe handle, vaginal swabs, fingernail clippings and additional hair samples. Skinner was convicted and sentenced to death." The other article I had read just days after the Troy Davis execution which really made me start looking at public officials differently had said (and again I am summarizing) that the D.A. said that it was too late. Mr. Skinner should have asked for this DNA testing during his trial. That sickened and appalled me, but from the quote above it seems to me that he had a pretty shoddy defense team. He was actually granted a stay of execution last week with (I believe) just hours to go, pending the outcome of whether or not his case falls under the new rules for DNA testing in the state of Texas. My question is, if these items had never been tested, how can there possibly be any rule that supercedes taking a mans life without every benefit that he should be afforded? Any thoughts on that?
The biggest arguement would be the immense amount of time and money it would take to re-open every case of each person who requests for it and test all untested evidence.
But how can this be an arguement when it comes to possibly avoiding the execution of an innocent person?
While I can see the logic in not wanting an innocent person to have their life taken I can also see the logic in removing threats from society. All one has to do is watch NatGeo or Discovery and you will see stories of prisoners that control prisons and continue to run criminal organizations that take the lives of individuals, take the lives of other inmates that are not incarcerated for violent crimes, and the lives of guards and detention officers. I am sure that most reasonable people see the taking of a human life reasonable in war but for some reason don't make that correlation when the enemy shares their nationality. There is a need to remove enemies from within our country just as much as their is to remove them from outside our boundaries.
Absolute standards in itself might prove a problem. The problem with standards is that there is always an exception.
I am a retired Homicide detective. I agree with the forensics requirement. I did not have the luxury of DNA as a routine tool back then. But, there has to be evidence to test. Sometimes it just isn't there.
You are correct on eyewitness testimony. You can put 10 people in the same room and ask them to describe something they saw 30 minutes earlier. You will get 10 different descriptions. Eyewitness testimony should not be the sole deciding factor but it should be a mitigating factor. Heck, I can recall several times when a person of interest admits to a murder when I knew they did not commit it.
There is no easy answer. Though I support the death penalty, allowing decades of appeals pretty much negates the sentence. Every death penalty case should be re-investigated after the trial before sentence is passed. Let an Appeals Board hear the additional evidence and examine the circumstance to determine if death is the correct punishment. It's not perfect, but it might prevent what happened to Troy Davis.
It has always been my personal belief that if someone takes a human life then they themselves have left their life to void. No doubt others in the past have shared this opinion, and that is how capital punishment came about. Many can argue, debate, and agree that there is a problem with the death penalty, but I think the consensus is that America needs to be bigger than the individual and consider the value of human life over revenge. Where is the fix to be made? It is definitely not an issue that can be put to rest in one sentence, let alone nine comments. Regarding trial, these key points are always brought up: irrefutable evidence, eye witness testimony, forensic evidence, and mental stability of the defendant. Regarding sentence, issues such as intent, societal reparation, and appeal are discussed. But to dig further, if one is not sentenced to death, and given life imprisonment without parole, what are they doing in prison? How are long-term prisoners handled, paid, recuperated? Then it is no longer a discussion of capital punishment, but of both the prison and appeals system. To continue on that topic, even when a prisoner has been sentenced to death, they spend countless years tied up in appeals and litigation, pushing the discussion back to the prison and appeals systems. Say the death sentence is abolished; this is not a difficult concept, but it would change the focus. The focus will then be on the treatment of long-term prisoners. But, we are here discussing capital punishment. And with that I say, if a person displays gross neglect for the sanctity of human life, an inability to accept rehabilitation, repeated aggression in social settings, and no prospects for civil living, then and only then should they be considered for a death sentence. Otherwise, they should live out their lives in federal prison with no parole, and limited appeals. In long-term imprisonment rehabilitation, hard-labor community service, construction, farming, sanitation, and education should be the focus of an inmate's term. The days of sitting in a cell, plotting, building prison community and hierarchy in the yard, and collecting a wage should end. Prisoners should give back to the country and local communities they are taking from, earn their room and board, develop beneficiary skills, and gain higher education. If a person did the crime, they should pay for it in sweat and blood, not just in time; they shouldn't have to pay for it with their life.
I used to believe in the death penalty... until I took forensic "science" courses and saw just how flimsy the proof could be. Very few of the techniques used have been scientifically validated, or even have universal standards. There is way too much emphasis on closing cases instead of finding the truth. Part of that is cost, and I've heard the argument that "we'll never close a case this way" or it'll cost too much, and that does not hold water with me. You either do it right or not at all. Until the deficiencies in forensic "science" are addressed universally, and practitioners are held to a validated standard and audited to ensure compliance, then I do not have enough faith in the system to be able to justify the irrevokable ending of a person's life.
While I support the concept that "the punishment should fit the crime," my faith in elected officials to use the death penalty responsibly and as something other than emotional manipulation of the public to their own benefit is quite limited. As others here have stated, there are too many instances of willful prosecution in the face of contridictory evidence and actual knowledge of a person's innocence. Mistakes are compounded because of the political stakes at risk for police and prosecutors seeking to advance their careers. Life without parole will at least provide a chance to those wrongfully convicted and not make us all complicit in the most imaginably horrible miscarriages of justice.
No man has the right to take another man's life. This includes government, terrible crimes may have been committed, but death is no justification. It is against the law to murder an individual, so why should the government be allowed to put a man to death even for punishment. Life in prison without parole should be the highest sentence.
The problems with the death penalty are four: 1) the killing of a killer does not provide any restitution to the victim or society; 2). there is no deterrence factor, as demonstrated by number of murders committed every day; 3) the potential of conviction error makes the finality of capital punishment in an imperfect world questionable; and 4) the costs are astronomical.
So, what's the alternative? The eye-for-an-eye folk believe that capital punishment is justified by this concept as "justice." Since there is no retribution to the victim or society provided by the execution of the convicted murderer, no return-on-investment is received for the penal costs, and there is no deterrence to future murders, perhaps the time has come for an alternative capital punishment.
Eye-for-an-eye does not need to mean kill the killer. It means that if a life is taken, then justice requires that life needs to be restored by the killer. Since raising the dead is not possible, then the killer's life needs to be dedicated to the preservation and restoration of life. This means the killer now becomes a societal resource to be used as necessary to make life more possible for society's members.
What does all of that mean? Well, the imprisoned killer now becomes a mandatory blood, bone marrow and other such donor. If the blood or bone marrow is too diseased for transplant, then the blood and bone marrow goes to medical research. The same holds true if the convicted killer is diseased in any manner - the killer becomes a mandatory test subject for medical research. Upon the killer's eventual death, all harvestable organs are taken and redistributed as needed, and the corpse becomes a research cadaver. Eye-for-an-eye occurs, as life is given back to society for society's use as opposed to unproductive sustainment leading to unproductive disposal.
Capital punishment of this kind solves two problems - a quantum of retribution is received from the convicted killer and, if a conviction error occurred, then the wrongly convicted was not executed in horrendous error. Currently, from conviction to execution can take 15 years, what with the mandatory appeals and such. Roughly, a quarter of those on death row die of natural causes during the process.
So, instead of killing the killer - an expensive and many-year process - the mandatory participation of that killer as a provider of life-sustaining and life-protecting products/services for society's overall good may make more sense. Justice happens, as life-in-prison still occurs, and retribution in some measure is provided by the wrongdoer. There is also some societal return-on-investment for all of that penal expense. Capital punishment still happens, as the killer's life is now society's life, put to mandatory uses which aid society.
Postscript: What led me to this is the hypocrisy of the two major parties regarding life and death. One party endorses the killing of the unborn while demanding the life of the convicted be spared. The other party believes the opposite. In both is the inherent "to kill is okay, sometimes." Either society-endorsed killing is okay or it isn't, and selective killing is hypocritical on its face.
I am new here and I would like to give my opinion on the death penalty. You may consider me at first to be a far right winger, but the in not the case. Yes, I'm a very spiritual pro-life Christian and I oppose abortions and the death penalty. However, I do not wish to force my political views on you, but anything that has to do with blood shed, I'm against. The death penalty is one of my most concern issue. In Texas you just have to be found guilty of murder regardless of proof. So I oppose the killing of people and that means I oppose the death penalty.
Life in prison is also very cheap compared to the death penalty.
On the Death penalty, I would have no problem with doing away with it.
If only one the basis of cost it is ineffective. But you will have to consider something first, the alternative, life imprisonment, will come under the same assault as cruel and unusual after the Death Penalty is ended. That is the basis of the whole argument.
Also, the Death penalty has no effective deterrent value only because it is so unevenly and irregular. You can commit a murder, get caught, tried and convicted, and the chances of getting the Death penalty is still astronomically low. If the Death penalty were a sure thing, you can trust it would be an effective deterrent. But the odds are you will never get executed. That is the only reason it does not serve as an effective deterrent.
But let me again point out the fact that the alternative, once it is the primary punishment, will come under the same pressure as the Death penalty is now. You also need to look at who opposes the death Penalty. Some have very high ideals. As a Catholic most people I attend mass with oppose the Death Penalty, just as they oppose abortion, on the same principle.
But others? Where it is not a political ploy, it is anarchism or straightforward anti-government agitating.
The ACLU, please do some research, their actions are, ideologically, geared to undermine the Republic and nothing more. They were the legal wing of the American branch of the Communist International. They only severed their ties with the American Communist Party when the American Communist Party sided with Lenin and Stalin, and they only did that because they were, and are, Trotskyites. Trotsky, like Lenin and Stalin, had no issue with the suppression of speech they did not agree with, or the use of “Capital Punishment’ to rid themselves of murderers, rapists, and of course political Opponents, or even troublesome populations. And I am sorry, if there is one Ideological group who owns the prize for most likely to execute people in the millions, the mass application of Capital Punishment, it is the socialists. They hold the record, be it Lenin and Stalin with Marxist Socialism, the Leaders of the Cultural Revolution with Maoist Socialism, the Kim Dynasty with North Korean “Juchi“ socialism. or Adolf Hitler with National Socialism. I am making no case about the actual Socialist credentials of any of those degenerates, but the real problem with Socialism is it requires the kind of power that makes the mass murder of millions possible. And thus the perfect creed of anyone seeking that kind of power.