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  #1  
Old 06-28-2004, 07:54 PM
START START is offline
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Would you rather let a thousand guilty men go free or put one innocent man to death?

Would you rather let a thousand guilty men go free or put one innocent man to death?
I know I wouldn't want to be the innocent man who gets executed so I would rather let 1000 scum loose on the streets than sacrifice one innocent person.
That is why I would make a terrible juror I would probably want to let everybody off because I wouldn't want to take a chance with them being innocent.
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  #2  
Old 06-28-2004, 08:00 PM
Reeder Reeder is offline
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You have just posted what is probably the best arguement against the death penalty.

Well that..and it doesn't work.
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  #3  
Old 06-28-2004, 08:11 PM
Brutus Brutus is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reeder
Well that..and it doesn't work.
The recidivism rate for executed convicts is a happy 0%. Can't get better than that!
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  #4  
Old 06-28-2004, 08:20 PM
El_Kabong El_Kabong is offline
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Would you rather let a thousand guilty men go free or put one innocent man to death?
Easy one, since the thousand guily men would most likely not go free at all, but simply receive sentences less harsh than the death penalty. Let 'em "go free". Saving the one innocent is more important.
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  #5  
Old 06-28-2004, 08:35 PM
Unregistered Bull Unregistered Bull is offline
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a happy 0%

Recidivism rate (against the public) for life without parole isn't too high either. I believe that it's usually cheaper considering all the appeals.
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  #6  
Old 06-28-2004, 08:38 PM
Jonathan Chance Jonathan Chance is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brutus
The recidivism rate for executed convicts is a happy 0%. Can't get better than that!
As may be the case it's also certain that innocent people put to death cannot be brought back to life. It's not like anyone one death row has ever been later found to be innocent.

And that's always the crux of the biscuit for me. Give that that law is a human institution ('The LAW? The law is a human institution') a system designer must be able to acknowledge the probability of error. And in this case the error would be one without recompense.
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  #7  
Old 06-28-2004, 09:01 PM
AHunter3 AHunter3 is offline
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Well, would you rather let a thousand guilty people go free or put one innocent person in prison for 20 years or thereabouts?

i.e, don't turn this into a death penalty debate at the expense of considering the underlying question, which is provocative with or without the death penalty.

(My answer: yes, I would)
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  #8  
Old 06-28-2004, 09:12 PM
Reeder Reeder is offline
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Brutus

I take it you are of the "kill them all let God sort them out ilk".

Right?

So what if a few innocent people die. At least we took care of a few guilty ones!
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  #9  
Old 06-28-2004, 09:24 PM
Brutus Brutus is offline
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Originally Posted by Reeder
I take it you are of the "kill them all let God sort them out ilk".

Right?

So what if a few innocent people die. At least we took care of a few guilty ones!
I presume that you are of the 'kill them, cut 'em into little pieces, and keep 'em in jars' ilk.

Right?

Hey, it's about as relevant as whatever the hell you going on about.
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  #10  
Old 06-28-2004, 09:25 PM
vanilla vanilla is offline
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My first thought was of course, rather the innocent man should live.

But the I thought, what if those guilty ones go out and injure many more?

Difficult choice and I'm glad its hypothetical.
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  #11  
Old 06-28-2004, 09:29 PM
JoeSki JoeSki is offline
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I'd probably have the one innocent man die.

Just what sort of crimes are the 1000 men guilty of? Stealing candy bars out of 711s or stealing cars and hurting people?
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  #12  
Old 06-28-2004, 10:10 PM
pervert pervert is offline
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And what if you tweak the number a bit. Would you set 100,000 free before killing the inocent man? How about 10,000,000? If you find that an inocent man had been wrongly convicted, woudl you scrap the current system of jurisprudence, that is let everyone out of prison, just to make sure that no innocent people are killed?

You have to remember that the formula of X guilty men going free to protect 1 innocnet man is rhetoric. It is not realy meant as a formula for justice. Specifically, it means that we put the bar very high indeed for the state to take away someone's freedom. And we try and place ti higher still for taking away his life.

Personally, I am opposed to the death penalty because I do not think the bar can be placed high enough. On the other hand, if we are going to have it, I think executions should be public.
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  #13  
Old 06-29-2004, 12:35 AM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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It's a false dichotomy. One needn't worry about the lone inocent man put to death to be against the death penalty.

I don't favor the death penalty because I don't see that it is necessary for justice to be served. Life in prison w/o the possibility of parole does the job.
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  #14  
Old 06-29-2004, 01:38 AM
Largo62 Largo62 is offline
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To accept START's premise you would have to believe that only one in a thousand people executed in this country has been innocent of the crime for which he (usually "he") was convicted. Since DNA evidence has become prominent, a number of individuals who were convicted have been found to be innocent. Before DNA those people would have been executed. I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the ratio is much higher than one in a thousand.

DNA isn't the only reason innocent people languish on death row (relatively few are actually executed...except in Texas, maybe). Inadequate representation by court appointed attorneys who have huge caseloads and too little time to devote to any one client plays a large role as well. The poor are far more likely to be convicted than the rich. I think it's unlikely that that is only because they are more likely to be guilty. Clearly a rich guilty man has a much better chance of walking than a poor innocent one, particularly if the poor man is being prosecuted by someone with political ambitions along with public pressure to get "somebody."

Before somebody points it out, I have come down on the other side of this argument in these fora in the past, even to the extent of suggesting that an individual who destroyed priceless works of art should be executed. I must have really had my shorts in a knot that day. In any event, I have given the matter a lot of thought subsequently, inspired in no small way by posters to the SDMB.

There is no doubt in my mind that some people deserve to be killed for the crimes they have committed. But I think the standard of reasonable doubt is just not high enough. Consequently, whereas even a year ago I would have said that I supported the death penalty, if asked to serve on a capital jury today I would have to demur.
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  #15  
Old 06-29-2004, 01:48 AM
Ilsa_Lund Ilsa_Lund is offline
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Quote:
Life in prison w/o the possibility of parole does the job.
And the outcome of that sentence differs from the death penalty exactly how?


I'd say kill the innocent man. I would give my life so that one thousand murderers (I'm assuming they are murderers who will kill again), so should anyone, IMO.
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  #16  
Old 06-29-2004, 01:52 AM
Call me Frank Call me Frank is offline
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That is indeed a tough question, and one I posed to a friend just recently...though I said 100 guilty men instead of 1000.

I'd rather let the guilty go free than execute an innocent. Here's my thinking: the guilty people you released could be re-captured and might not commit another crime (presumably a violent one, if they are in the running for capital punishment). However, the innocent person will be dead. Whatever your feelings towards capital punishment, surely it is murder to kill an innocent person and if we were to execute them it would make us no better than the thousand we'd kept in the system for similar crimes.

To kill the innocent person is akin to sacrificing a virgin to appease the gods, and that's something I think we all would recognize as barbaric, no?
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  #17  
Old 06-29-2004, 02:42 AM
gouda gouda is offline
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Many moons ago, I started a thread on this very topic.
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  #18  
Old 06-29-2004, 02:48 AM
gouda gouda is offline
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And about two months before my thread, Blalron started this one .
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  #19  
Old 06-29-2004, 03:18 AM
Largo62 Largo62 is offline
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Thanks, gouda, for the links, since the second one allowed me to revisit my expressed opinion of only a little less than two years ago. It's interesting to see in what degree it differed from my opinion of today. But isn't it likely to kill this thread? I have no doubt that this and just about every other topic has been debated before in these fora. But only the foolishly consistent never change their opinions. Furthermore, most dopers like to state and restate their opinions even in the same thread.

So I ask you, is it better to let a thousand thread "killers" go free or to incarcerate one innocent of that heinous offense?
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  #20  
Old 06-29-2004, 05:38 AM
BobLibDem BobLibDem is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ilsa_Lund
And the outcome of that sentence differs from the death penalty exactly how?
It differs in that if you imprison the wrong guy, you can undo it. Life in prison without parole protects society just as much as capital punishment, yet can be undone when mistakes are discovered. I see no logical argument for capital punishment.
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  #21  
Old 06-29-2004, 06:01 AM
KidCharlemagne KidCharlemagne is offline
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I'd easily let 1000 guilty go free. I can't believe this country still has the death penalty if for no other reason than the sentence can't be revoked if new evidence comes to light.
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  #22  
Old 06-29-2004, 06:03 AM
Alan Owes Bess Alan Owes Bess is offline
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Actually, the 1000-1 ratio provided by this hypothetical makes the answer relatively easy to assess, particularly if certain effects could be calculated with a reasonable degree of realism and accuracy.

For example, if a mere 100 of those 1000 guilty (but unproven to be) so capital crime committing perps murdered one innocent person each after release, then letting the 1000 guilty capital crime perps go free ends up being one hundred times worse than executing an innocent person.

In this case, One hundred innocent persons would perish as a result of the legal system having faithfully observed this “better 1000-1” doctrine.

The “break even” value is easily calculated and can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, and with geometric logic, that: -

Setting <10 guilty persons free is better than executing one innocent person.
Setting 10 guilty persons free is equally as bad as executing one innocent person.
Setting >10 guilty persons free is worse than executing one innocent person.

Now, where did I put my ball bearings?
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  #23  
Old 06-29-2004, 06:46 AM
Aeschines Aeschines is offline
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Death penalty be gone

First off, the "A or B" fallacy of the OP title. If you put the 1,000 men in jail, then no one dies and no one goes free. If they're later found to be innocent, then just the innocent ones get to go free. Sounds right, doesn't it?

Then you have the standard arguments against the death penalty, all of which I agree with:

A. In the US, it ends up costing more anyway.
B. Innocent people get killed.
C. It doesn't really work as a deterrent.
D. Only a few "advanced" countries still have it: the US, Japan (rarely used), and anywhere else? We look stupid and barbaric to the Europeans for having it.

And my arguments:

E. It really is barbaric and has a generally demoralizing and negative effect on the general population. It creates a pageant of death in which the original crime become obscured by both sides going at it over the punishment. I hardly think it's worth it. Why should convicted killers have candle-lit vigils in their honor? Pen them and forget about them.

F. It requires non-experts to kill people whose innocence they know nothing about. If you look at who designs the equipment and performs the executions, they are often amateurs who quite often botch the process. In my view, also, if you are going to kill someone, you need to take personal responsibility for that. Just having some judge say that it's "OK" is not good enough.

G. Having the death penalty in place is a constant invitation to unethical use thereof by bad people. Saying this can't happen in the US, because we're "good," is naive. Think of Abu Graib.

Death penalty, be gone.
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  #24  
Old 06-29-2004, 07:26 AM
gouda gouda is offline
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I fullheartedly agree with all your points. There has often been debate in India about the necessity and effectiveness of the death penalty, but it always gets lost in politics

I have just one question, re: F - amateurs design and perform the executions? And often screw up? I'm not doubting you... I just find it hard to believe!
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  #25  
Old 06-29-2004, 07:58 AM
Kalhoun Kalhoun is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pervert
If you find that an inocent man had been wrongly convicted, woudl you scrap the current system of jurisprudence, that is let everyone out of prison, just to make sure that no innocent people are killed?
No, you don't let them out. But you don't kill them. Why is that so hard for the death squad types to understand?
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  #26  
Old 06-29-2004, 08:06 AM
Evil One Evil One is offline
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If by "go free" you mean remain the 1000 remain in prison for life rather than be executed, then I say "go free".

If "go free" means open the gate and let them out, the innocent man dies and the 1000 stay in jail.
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  #27  
Old 06-29-2004, 08:09 AM
Alan Owes Bess Alan Owes Bess is offline
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Aeschines

The OP had nothing to do with your: “put the 1000 men in jail” claim. It was about letting 1000 guilty men go FREE.

That makes nonsense of the rest of your thesis, doesn’t it?

Besides, if a 1000 guilty perps are regularly let loose by an over cautious legal system to go forth and cause mayhem, then the rule of law does not prevail and there would be enough death and destruction to satisfy anyone.
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  #28  
Old 06-29-2004, 08:14 AM
BobLibDem BobLibDem is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alan Owes Bess
Setting >10 guilty persons free is worse than executing one innocent person.
Suppose you are the innocent person being executed? Would you feel the same way?
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  #29  
Old 06-29-2004, 08:29 AM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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Originally Posted by BobLibDem
It differs in that if you imprison the wrong guy, you can undo it. Life in prison without parole protects society just as much as capital punishment, yet can be undone when mistakes are discovered. I see no logical argument for capital punishment.
Exactly. Thanks for making that point on my behalf.

I've noticed that I've been agreeing with your posts a lot lately. I may need to get my "political compass" recalibrated...
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  #30  
Old 06-29-2004, 08:34 AM
Annie-Xmas Annie-Xmas is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BobLibDem
Suppose you are the innocent person being executed? Would you feel the same way?
Suppose you or your child were killed by a guilty person being set free. Would you feel the same way?
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  #31  
Old 06-29-2004, 08:43 AM
BobLibDem BobLibDem is offline
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Originally Posted by Annie-Xmas
Suppose you or your child were killed by a guilty person being set free. Would you feel the same way?
Good question. BUT- I'm not advocating that guilty go free. I'm saying that executing the innocent doesn't have to happen because it isn't necessary to execute anybody. If my child were killed and the murderer went free, I would feel much the same as Fred Goldman. But I would always hope that the perpetrator was caught. I would feel worse if someone was wrongly executed for killing my child.

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Mace
I've noticed that I've been agreeing with your posts a lot lately. I may need to get my "political compass" recalibrated...
Thank you. Glad to see that somebody reads.
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  #32  
Old 06-29-2004, 08:44 AM
Stonebow Stonebow is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeSki
I'd probably have the one innocent man die.
Ah, but are you willing the BE that one innocent man?

I think that this is the crux of the question. It's easy to consign someone you don't know to a fate like execution for a crime they are innocent of, but what if it were you? Or your father? or your brother? or your son?

If I could see into people's heads and see The Truth, I might be willing to concede the death penalty as a legitimate law enforcement tool. But I can't. As far as I know, neither can anyone else. So until then, it should go. Even one man is to much.
I've often been told that none of the folks are death row are truly innocent. Many of them have had priors, a history of some sort or another with the system, so even if they didn't do this crime, they'd done something to deserve it. It just seems like rationalization- because deep down, we know that knowingly implementing a system where we execute people innocent of the crimes they have been convicted of is simply Evil.


I also think that there is a false dilemma being created here- as was pointed out, no one is 'going free'- they are just not being killed.
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  #33  
Old 06-29-2004, 08:46 AM
Stonebow Stonebow is offline
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In retrospect, I could have just quoted BobLibDem, slapped a 'ditto' at the bottom, and called it a day.
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  #34  
Old 06-29-2004, 08:48 AM
Captain Amazing Captain Amazing is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brutus
The recidivism rate for executed convicts is a happy 0%. Can't get better than that!

Apparently you don't watch horror movies.
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  #35  
Old 06-29-2004, 09:05 AM
Optihut Optihut is offline
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I have the optimal solution: I would neither let the guilty go free, nor would I kill the innocent man. Everyone wins.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brutus
The recidivism rate for executed convicts is a happy 0%. Can't get better than that!
The problem here is that the number one criminal - a state that kills people - never gets punished and kills again and again and again. So much for your happy 0% there.
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  #36  
Old 06-29-2004, 09:20 AM
Revtim Revtim is offline
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I find this question one of the toughest out there. I honestly do not know.

Here's a question, though, for those who'd prefer to let the guilty go free. Were any of you using similar logic in your decision to be for or against the Iraq war? I ask this, because perhaps the biggest reason I was against it was because of the inevitable innocent Iraqi civilian deaths that I assumed would happen. I suppose those who are for the war in order to take bad guy Saddam out made the decision that innocent deaths as a result of taking him into custody were acceptable, or at least less than the civilian deaths they though Saddam would be the cause of in the future. There are some analogous aspects to the question in the OP, I feel.
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  #37  
Old 06-29-2004, 09:31 AM
Hamlet Hamlet is offline
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Originally Posted by Alan Owes Bess
Actually, the 1000-1 ratio provided by this hypothetical makes the answer relatively easy to assess, particularly if certain effects could be calculated with a reasonable degree of realism and accuracy.

For example, if a mere 100 of those 1000 guilty (but unproven to be) so capital crime committing perps murdered one innocent person each after release, then letting the 1000 guilty capital crime perps go free ends up being one hundred times worse than executing an innocent person.

In this case, One hundred innocent persons would perish as a result of the legal system having faithfully observed this “better 1000-1” doctrine.

The “break even” value is easily calculated and can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, and with geometric logic, that: -

Setting <10 guilty persons free is better than executing one innocent person.
Setting 10 guilty persons free is equally as bad as executing one innocent person.
Setting >10 guilty persons free is worse than executing one innocent person.

Now, where did I put my ball bearings?
According to this site 6.6% of all murderers released from prison were rearrested for a new murder. Using your thought process (If I understand it), then the release of 1,000 guilty murderers would result in 66 more people killed by those murderers. Keeping the same rate, for every 15.1515...... murderers released from prison, another victim will be killed. Should that imply that the proper standard should be "Better that 15.15151515.... guilty people go free than one innocent be killed?"
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  #38  
Old 06-29-2004, 09:48 AM
pravnik pravnik is offline
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A lot of guilty people go free because we don't have enough evidence to convict them. Theoretically, we could fix this problem by lowering the burden of proof from "beyond a reasonable doubt" to "preponderance of the evidence", making it merely more likely than not that the person committed the crime. Presumably this would save lives as well. Would anybody advocate this?
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  #39  
Old 06-29-2004, 10:39 AM
erislover erislover is offline
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When I saw your name, pravnik, I knew I'd been beaten to the punch. But, as is my style, I'd elaborate more.

The essential question is a nice, abstract sort of moral dilemma--but in practice, "guilt" or "innocence" are not obvious, objective qualities but rather inter-subjective appraisals that need to be made. In short, determining guilt or innocence is a decision procedure we more or less agree upon because we do not have a pure perspective from which to judge.

In such a case, the question is rather, "Would you rather we raise our standards of proof so that it is more difficult for anyone to be prosecuted?" Or, contrariwise, "Would you rather lower our standard of proof, so that more people can be prosecuted?" I just saw a case on CourtTV last night where a man was acquitted of all charges--only later did irrefutable evidence arise and he confessed. Except for that pesky fifth amendment, we'd prosecute him. Should we remove protection from double jeapordy?

The question, in an abstract, is an interesting one. But putting any answer in to practice, one realizes that what is at stake is the burden of proof the state is compelled to meet. For example, shifting "beyond a reasonable doubt" to "a preponderance of evidence", or lie detectors being admissable in all courts (not all accept them), removing barriers to search and siezure (not that these are that big anyway), and so on. The question is not whether we punish the innocent in order to get more guilty people, but how, precisely, we will convict more people in our justice system, what barriers we would like removed in order to make this "sacrifice". Similarly, for those of us who favor the innocent over the guilty, should we increase the burden on the state, restrict their abilities more, and so on?
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  #40  
Old 06-29-2004, 11:52 AM
AHunter3 AHunter3 is offline
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I don't believe in punishment for its own sake. If I knew for sure that there wasn't going to be any recidivism, or that the commission of the crimes of which they were guilty was not indicative of an attitude to tendency that made it highly likely that they'd do something downright evil but of a different nature, I'd not only let a thousand guilty people go free to avoid roasting one innocent person, I'd let a couple hundred octillion guilty people go free to avoid detaining one innocent person for more than 48 hours in uncomfortable surroundings.

Recidivism changes the picture, of course.

I have the same problem with capital punishment that many other people have (it's hard to say "oops" if you realize you hung the wrong cowboy) but I also have major problems with imprisonment: unless it's permanent, it's a pisspoor deterrent for recidivism, it's cruel, it's expensive, and it actually, by making the people subject to it less able to obtain employment, makes its alumni more likely to commit subsequent crimes for reasons that have little to do with whatever they originally did. And, of course, as with capital punishment, it horrible if you do this to an innocent person.

Problem is, we need to respond to criminal behavior somehow. I may be an anarchist but I'm a pragmatic anarchist, and for the time being we do need to have our laws enforced.

We need to rethink how we do prisons.
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  #41  
Old 06-29-2004, 02:08 PM
Shodan Shodan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hamlet
According to this site 6.6% of all murderers released from prison were rearrested for a new murder. Using your thought process (If I understand it), then the release of 1,000 guilty murderers would result in 66 more people killed by those murderers. Keeping the same rate, for every 15.1515...... murderers released from prison, another victim will be killed. Should that imply that the proper standard should be "Better that 15.15151515.... guilty people go free than one innocent be killed?"
Thanks for the cite. Even I, a death penalty proponent, did not guess that the repeat murder rate was so high.

Indeed, it may even be higher, as some murderers kill more than one person.

But it does seem to imply that those who agree "better to let 1000 guilty go free than one innocent die" are actually saying "66 innocent deaths are better than one".

If you want to change the argument away from "go free" to "lock them up forever", that is slightly different.

But I have the same issue with the "life in prison is better because it can be reversed" argument as I generally do when it is coupled with the "life in prison is better because it is cheaper". Arguing that convicts in prison would be released on appeal as they occasionally are from death row* would seem to imply that the whole process of appeals we now experience with those on death row would continue just the same for those in prison for life with no parole. Thus life without parole would be no cheaper than the DP - indeed, it would be more expensive, since the appeals could (in theory) continue for life, instead of eventually coming to an end with the execution of the convict.

And if you are going to argue in favor of limits on the right of prisoners to appeal, I see no reason not to accept those limits - and then execute the prisoner at the end of it. If it has been established beyond doubt that the prisoner in prison for life is definitely guilty, and we aren't going to go on trying to square the circle of guilt beyond even the most contrived objections, then what do we gain by feeding, clothing, housing, and otherwise supporting a person whose guilt has been established?

So I don't think those two arguments (life in prison is cheaper, and life in prison is reversible) work taken together.

And, for those arguing that locking someone up in prison is just as effective in reducing the danger they pose to the public, I disagree. As evidence, I offer George Rivas, Lem Tuggle (and five others), , James Earl Ray, Willie Horton, Christopher Scarver, the Birdman of Alcatraz, and so forth.

Regards,
Shodan

*Keeping in mind that no person executed in the US since the reinstatement of the death penalty has ever been shown to be factually innocent. In every instance that I am aware of, the appeals process worked. If you have evidence to the contrary, I would be interested. But I will need a cite.
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  #42  
Old 06-29-2004, 02:35 PM
scule scule is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AHunter3
We need to rethink how we do prisons.
The best answer yet (and I'm no anarchist).

Meaning no offence to the OP, but these kinds of either-or questions are pretty ridiculous and generally never yield useful, practical answers because the world just doesn't work in such a simple, cut-and-dry way. In truth, the real issue should be how do we deal with those 1000 guilty men (or women) and make sure they don't commit future crimes. Prison serves as a perfectly effective deterrent for me, because I can imagine anything worse than ending up in prison, but since I have pretty much zero inclination to ever commit a crime, this doesn't mean much. It's the folks who do who need to be dealt with, and since recidivism rates are so high, it would seem prison terms don't really help. So what then? I don't know, but there's got to be something that can help. Certainly not killing people.
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  #43  
Old 06-29-2004, 02:37 PM
pervert pervert is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kalhoun
No, you don't let them out. But you don't kill them. Why is that so hard for the death squad types to understand?
Perhaps because the question is so often presented in the false dicotomy way that this one was?
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  #44  
Old 06-29-2004, 02:39 PM
BobLibDem BobLibDem is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shodan
If it has been established beyond doubt that the prisoner in prison for life is definitely guilty, and we aren't going to go on trying to square the circle of guilt beyond even the most contrived objections, then what do we gain by feeding, clothing, housing, and otherwise supporting a person whose guilt has been established?
But juries are not perfect. Nor are police and prosecutors 100% flawless in their work, no matter how hard they try (even if they never try to frame someone). Innocent people can and do get convicted. The only thing we do by killing them is making it impossible to correct a mistake. It is not always true that it is "established beyond doubt that the prisoner in prison for life is definitely guilty". DNA evidence has on occasion exonerated people convicted of murder. What do you say if you've already executed them, "oops?"
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  #45  
Old 06-29-2004, 02:41 PM
scule scule is offline
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The other concern is that you can never know what someone is going to do in the future; you can never be sure of what will come to pass. You can't condemn people for their potential actions unless they have consistently proven beyond a shadow of doubt that they are likely to re-offend (by having done so many times before), and even then there is contention.
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  #46  
Old 06-29-2004, 02:45 PM
Largo62 Largo62 is offline
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Originally Posted by pravnik
A lot of guilty people go free because we don't have enough evidence to convict them. Theoretically, we could fix this problem by lowering the burden of proof from "beyond a reasonable doubt" to "preponderance of the evidence", making it merely more likely than not that the person committed the crime. Presumably this would save lives as well. Would anybody advocate this?
I wouldn't. If anything the standard should be raised, at least in capital cases (as long as there are capital cases). As I have said, there are people whose guilt is absolutely not in doubt (Timpthy McVeigh and Ted Bundy, for example) who deserve to be utterly destroyed. But some juries seem to apply preponderance of evidence anyway. Not every jury is capable of making the distinction. Lowering the standard would no doubt convict more evil doers, but it would also incarcerate or execute more innocent people.

[quote=Shodan]But it does seem to imply that those who agree "better to let 1000 guilty go free than one innocent die" are actually saying "66 innocent deaths are better than one".
I think we're losing sight of who is killing the innocents. If 1000 guilty people released actually resulted in another 66 deaths, that would be deplorable. But the society that released the killers because it couldn't prove they were killers would not be responsible for the 66 new deaths. If, on the other hand, the society executed one innocent man, they would be entirely responsible for his death. In the one case, a criminal commits murder; in the other the society becomes a collective murderer. There will always be murderers. I prefer not to be in league with them.
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  #47  
Old 06-29-2004, 02:59 PM
Hamlet Hamlet is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shodan
Thanks for the cite. Even I, a death penalty proponent, did not guess that the repeat murder rate was so high.
I was quite surprised also. I did a little more checking, and a more recent study found at this site indicates that the percentage may be a good deal lower, setting the recidivism rate at 1.2% of murderers who are rearrested for murder. Of course, this second cite only considers rearrest within 3 years of release, so it is not necessarily a good indicator over the entire life of a released murderer. Even accepting the lower, 3 year rate of recidivism, thats still 12 murder victims for those 1,000 murderers going free. And that's only in 3 years after release.

Of course, none of that deals with the issue of life in prison without possibility of parole versus the death penalty.
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  #48  
Old 06-29-2004, 03:16 PM
pervert pervert is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shodan
*Keeping in mind that no person executed in the US since the reinstatement of the death penalty has ever been shown to be factually innocent. In every instance that I am aware of, the appeals process worked. If you have evidence to the contrary, I would be interested. But I will need a cite.
I'm sory to disagree with you Shodan. But on this point I think you are mistaken. Here is a list from the ACLU. I did not look up a more definitive source on any of the cases. But if you can show that any of them is falsely portrayed, I'd be happy to continue the research.

The link lists that particulars about 23 people executed in America who were later shown to be innocent. Most of them are from quite a long time ago (before 1950). But the first one is instructive (as well as the best example).

Quote:
1. Adams, James. Florida. Adams was convicted of first-degree murder, sentenced to death, and executed in 1984. A witness identified Adams as driving the car away from the victim's home shortly after the crime. This witness, however, was driving a large truck in the direction opposite to that of Adams' car, and it was later discovered that this witness was angry with Adams for allegedly dating his wife. A second witness the day after the crime stated that the fleeing person was positively not Adams. A hair sample found clutched in the victim's hand, which in all likelihood had come from the assailant, did not match Adams’ hair.
This is a much more detailed list of innocents executed (thier claim). Significantly, it includes this argument:
Quote:
As we noted in our editorial in Issue 10, one leading reason for our stance is the astonishing number -- now well over eighty and rising rapidly -- of prisoners who in the past quarter century were sentenced to death but were released from prison because of the likelihood of their innocence. A frequent rebuttal to this argument is that no innocent person has actually been executed. In this article we examine the weakness of that claim.

The rebuttal is fatuous partly because of its circular logic. There is no judicial mechanism for review of guilt or pronouncement of innocence after an execution. The courts are done with it. Therefore, it should go without saying that no court has announced that an executed person was innocent, since American courts by definition do not make such findings.
If I recall correctly, I remember reading an article about a case where an attorney wiched to do a DNA or some other such test on evidence to determine once and for all that an executed man was innocent. The courts denied his request. That is, far from proving that innocent have never been killed, the courst actively prevent the sorts of tests which could decide one way or another.

For anyone interested, this is a much more detailed study of the death penalty as used between 1973 and 1995.
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  #49  
Old 06-29-2004, 03:19 PM
Shodan Shodan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BobLibDem
But juries are not perfect. Nor are police and prosecutors 100% flawless in their work, no matter how hard they try (even if they never try to frame someone). Innocent people can and do get convicted. The only thing we do by killing them is making it impossible to correct a mistake. It is not always true that it is "established beyond doubt that the prisoner in prison for life is definitely guilty". DNA evidence has on occasion exonerated people convicted of murder. What do you say if you've already executed them, "oops?"
I would guess the same thing you say if some murderer escapes from prison, or is released, and then kills someone else.

But yes, occasionally innocent people get convicted. And so far, none of them ever got executed. Therefore the system of "the death penalty after appeal" is working as well as can be expected - perfectly, as far as the hard evidence goes.

Perfectly, that is, as far as reducing the number of wrongful executions to the absolute minimum. It has failed far more often in its core function - protecting the innocent from the threat posed by violent felons. According to Hamlet's cite, it fails on average at 6.6%. Sixty-six innocent deaths vs. one, if you accepted the parameters of the OP. Isn't it better to accept one innocent death, if the alternative is sixty-six times worse?

The system is not perfect, and cannot be made so. But to increase its imperfections such that the number of innocent deaths goes up - that is a very large step in the wrong direction. Or maybe sixty-five steps in the wrong direction.

On the one hand, we have these 6.6% that we know, definitely and unmistakably, would not have occured if the murderers were dead. As Brutus points out, the recidivism rate for executed murderers is 0.0%

On the other hand, we have a theoretical possibility of somewhere, somehow, despite our best efforts, maybe one wrongful execution. Although no evidence exists that this has actually happened.

So we knowingly sacrifice sixty-six innocent lives, on the off chance that we might spare one along the way. This sounds like a good deal to you?

Quote:
Originally Posted by DesertGeezer
think we're losing sight of who is killing the innocents. If 1000 guilty people released actually resulted in another 66 deaths, that would be deplorable. But the society that released the killers because it couldn't prove they were killers would not be responsible for the 66 new deaths. If, on the other hand, the society executed one innocent man, they would be entirely responsible for his death. In the one case, a criminal commits murder; in the other the society becomes a collective murderer. There will always be murderers. I prefer not to be in league with them.
No offence, but this does not sound like good reasoning to me.

I don't think it is morally relevant who is the murderer. The purpose of the criminal justice system is to minimize the impact of crime on the community. To simply say, in essence, "I care less about how many die than I do preserving myself from the icky feeling that, despite my best efforts, one in a thousand might possibly be innocent. Even though I know that sixty-six people who would otherwise be dead are alive and unharmed. " I hope you will excuse me if it sounds to me like saving innocent life is not your top priority here. In which case, your argument that we want to avoid innocent deaths by eliminating the death penalty does not strike me as very consistent.

If, as in my view, the purpose of the criminal justice system is to punish the guilty and to protect the innocent, then it is a mistake to allow a sort of moral squeamishness to paralyze our decision-making capability.

If more people die from locking murderers up instead of giving them the needle, then it seems to me to be beyond question that we ought not to waste prison space on these people. Give them a fair trial (a fair trial, not a perfect one - there ain't so such), give them a reasonable chance to appeal. Then do what needs to be done to protect the public.

Regards,
Shodan
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  #50  
Old 06-29-2004, 03:33 PM
pravnik pravnik is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DesertGeezer
I wouldn't.
I wouldn't either. The actual quote is "it is better that ten guilty persons escape than one innocent suffer," and it's not by some left-wing anti death penalty kook. It's from Commentaries on the Laws of England by Sir William Blackstone (1723-1780), the first comprehensive treatment of the English common law and the dominant influence on the development of U.S. law. It's not meant as an ethical puzzler of the "who do you save from the burning building, the baby, the painting, or the old woman?" variety. It's a simple statement on the burden of proof and the presumption of innocence in criminal proceedings.

We could safeguard the public in many ways by taking away the fundamental rights of criminal defendants. We could lower the burden of prrof required by the state to prove guilt We could.place the burden of proof on the defendant to prove his own innocence. We could dispense with trial altogether. However, we don't do any of these things. We instead have a system in place that deliberately favors the defendant and on occasion allows the factually guilty to go free. If we did away with those rights we could in theory guarantee more convictions and be safer from criminals than we are now. We wouldn't be very safe from our governent.
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