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  #51  
Old 10-17-2018, 06:48 PM
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Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
...the 'justice' factor, which could be more broadly described as the "people expect specific consequences in response to specific actions and when those consequences don't occur there is societal unrest." Or put another way, it's the non-vengeance reason why victims and observers like to see criminals punished; it's related to the deterrence reason but not the same, because it effects the reactions of people who wouldn't do the act anyway and thus don't require deterrence.
I'm not denying the reality of this. But if you think about it, it's no different from saying 157 years ago that slavery is justified because people want slaves, and social unrest will follow if we make slavery illegal.

The point is that I think people are simply wrong in their near-universal belief in could-have-done-otherwise free will, and in their consequent desire for retribution*. I may be in the small minority today, but I hope that in generations to come people's beliefs, morality and expectations may change, and that's what I'm advocating.

*You have used the word "justice" for what people expect, and called it a "non-vengeance reason". That's confusing, because it begs the question of what is just. I think what people currently expect is unjust. It is precisely vengeance that people expect, and that's why it's morally wrong.

Last edited by Riemann; 10-17-2018 at 06:50 PM.
  #52  
Old 10-17-2018, 06:54 PM
DavidwithanR DavidwithanR is offline
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Odd, I haven't heard that we have a 1:1 ratio of sentences handed down to judges attacked.
... because they can't get at the judge, as I already covered. So they get as close to harming the judge as they can, by attacking those who agree with the judge, or who they view as "the system", or who represent something similar to what the judge represents, to them.
  #53  
Old 10-17-2018, 07:05 PM
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... I see a third reason beyond deterrence and sequestration that I consider relevant and I consider it to be at least as likely to be a reason why the death penalty is applied as either of those two. I'm of course speaking of the 'justice' factor, which could be more broadly described as the "people expect specific consequences in response to specific actions and when those consequences don't occur there is societal unrest."
You're talking about a fantasy in which pure revenge has somehow become good and useful simply because you've renamed it "justice". What you're talking about IS pure revenge, and has nothing whatsoever to do with justice - except for your insistence on renaming it and saying it with a mild expression on your face.
  #54  
Old 10-17-2018, 07:05 PM
begbert2 begbert2 is offline
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I'm not denying the reality of this. But if you think about it, it's no different from saying 157 years ago that slavery is justified because people want slaves, and social unrest will follow if we make slavery illegal.
Except that it is different, because I explicitly explained how a wish for justice is derived from the very same effects you say it's valid to base a justice system on.

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The point is that I think people are simply wrong in their near-universal belief in could-have-done-otherwise free will, and in their consequent desire for retribution*. I may be in the small minority today, but I hope that in generations to come people's beliefs, morality and expectations may change, and that's what I'm advocating.
Except that the definition/explanation of "justice" I provided makes no reference at all to free will, and explicitly hinges on the expectation that deterrence and sequestration will be effective - something which you explicitly say is consistent with your perspective on free will. You have no reason at all to reject "justice" as I defined it.

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*You have used the word "justice" for what people expect, and called it a "non-vengeance reason". That's confusing, because it begs the question of what is just. I think what people currently expect is unjust. It is precisely vengeance that people expect, and that's why it's morally wrong.
I reject the notion that it's impossible to have just punishment - and so do you, because you claim that punishments that result in deterrence and sequestration can be implemented and enforced morally. If these punishments can be implemented, and the populace doesn't throw them out and choose personal vengeance instead because they believe the punishments are insufficiently just, then it's possible to create a moral justice system.

Which is not to say that all theoretically possible official punishments are just - some might even be cruel or unusual! And I'm not even saying that execution is ever just. But the topic in the OP sort of presumes that it sometimes is, so there you go.
  #55  
Old 10-17-2018, 07:09 PM
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... because they can't get at the judge, as I already covered. So they get as close to harming the judge as they can, by attacking those who agree with the judge, or who they view as "the system", or who represent something similar to what the judge represents, to them.
I believe this is a gross misrepresentation of reality. As in, it's absurdly wrong - judges are not commandos that fight through the hordes of relatives of everyone in every case they ever presided over each time they go to work in the morning.

In fact, the vast majority of people who are ever ordered to pay for a traffic ticket exact no vengeance for it at all.

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You're talking about a fantasy in which pure revenge has somehow become good and useful simply because you've renamed it "justice". What you're talking about IS pure revenge, and has nothing whatsoever to do with justice - except for your insistence on renaming it and saying it with a mild expression on your face.
You aren't understanding me, and to be frank you're not in a great position to be calling other people's explanations of the world fantasies.
  #56  
Old 10-17-2018, 07:17 PM
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I reject the notion that it's impossible to have just punishment - and so do you, because you claim that punishments that result in deterrence and sequestration can be implemented and enforced morally.
Huh? Of course I don't think just punishment is impossible.

What I objected to was you apparently labeling "whatever the people want" as "justice" and begging the question.

My view is:
Unjust punishment = revenge/retribution
Just punishment = deterrence and sequestration

Last edited by Riemann; 10-17-2018 at 07:22 PM.
  #57  
Old 10-17-2018, 07:24 PM
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Huh? Of course I don't think just punishment is impossible.

What I objected to was you simply relabeling revenge as "justice" and begging the question.

My view is:
Unjust punishment = revenge/retribution
Just punishment = deterrence and sequestration
That's probably why I didn't just relabel it.

I've stated that I think that the primary motivations for death penalty charges are justice and vengeance. It could have been written "and/or" - of the people deciding the case (the jury, usually), there will be some people who...are related...to the victim...

Okay, so there probably won't be anybody on the jury with a revenge motivation. Justice motivations might be there aplenty, though.

I suppose there might also be people there with psychotic murderous motivations - nazis on the juries for jews, for example. But I try not to think about that, and to be honest I don't think that it's the primary driver for death penalty determinations in general - otherwise that would mean that on a repeated basis at least six of twelve men 'good and true' are murderous psychopaths. That seems statistically unlikely, because some of us are still alive.

Last edited by begbert2; 10-17-2018 at 07:25 PM. Reason: improved example
  #58  
Old 10-17-2018, 07:25 PM
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You aren't understanding me, and to be frank you're not in a great position to be calling other people's explanations of the world fantasies.
Maybe you aren't explaining yourself as clearly as you think, because I took what you said to mean exactly the same as what DavidwithanR thought.
  #59  
Old 10-17-2018, 07:27 PM
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Maybe you aren't explaining yourself as clearly as you think, because I took what you said to mean exactly the same as what DavidwithanR thought.
Are you of the opinion that everybody who believes that criminals should be punished for their crimes is filled with murderous bloodlust?
  #60  
Old 10-17-2018, 07:31 PM
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Okay, so there probably won't be anybody on the jury with a revenge motivation. Justice motivations might be there aplenty, though.
If you want to communicate your views clearly, I think you have to stop using the word "justice" like this without explaining what you mean. The whole discussion centers on the question of what is just.

"Justice motivation". A motivation for what, exactly?
  #61  
Old 10-17-2018, 07:32 PM
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Guys, I think we have gone way beyond the Ops question.
  #62  
Old 10-17-2018, 07:33 PM
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A death-row inmate in Alabama cannot remember the crime he committed decades ago (due to dementia) and now there is an argument that it be unethical to execute someone who cannot remember why they are being executed:
But he remembered it during the initial court cases. His dementia long post-dates the conviction.

(Granted, I'm against the death penalty anyway.)
  #63  
Old 10-17-2018, 07:34 PM
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Are you of the opinion that everybody who believes that criminals should be punished for their crimes is filled with murderous bloodlust?
Huh? Look at post 53, where David quoted you. I took what you said in that quote exactly the same way as he interpreted it. That's all I'm saying. Whatever you mean, it's not coming across at all clearly.
  #64  
Old 10-17-2018, 07:46 PM
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If you want to communicate your views clearly, I think you have to stop using the word "justice" like this without explaining what you mean. The whole discussion centers on the question of what is just.

"Justice motivation". A motivation for what, exactly?
You want I should quote myself? I didn't start extensively using the term until I wrote this:

Quote:
Originally Posted by me
I'm of course speaking of the 'justice' factor, which could be more broadly described as the "people expect specific consequences in response to specific actions and when those consequences don't occur there is societal unrest."
and
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Originally Posted by also me
I would not murder somebody, but I'm glad we punish murderers, because otherwise there's be a lot more murders (due to lack of deterrence and sequestration) and I'd be at a higher risk of being murdered myself. So when I hear of a murderer getting caught and punished, I'm pleased - not out of vengeance, but because justice was served. And justice being served benefits us all. But I don't bother constantly remembering the reason why justice is good; I just believe that justice itself is good, and am pleased when it prevails.
"Justice" is the notion that there are consequences that 'deserve' to follow from actions, that might not be natural consequences and which thus will need to be posed by an outside authority. Now, the societal notion of what, specifically, is a just response to a given crime is basically arbitrary - it feeds up from the populace (in which case it often looks like vengeance) or it feeds down from wise heads (in which case it looks more like deterrence and sequestration and other things with expected positive outcomes) or it feeds down from corrupt heads (in which case it looks like a way to fund said heads or oppress a population). It's a mixed bag, and can be good or bad or anywhere in between.

But your average joe, or juror, or even judge isn't necessary in a great position to objectively assess the merit of every single punishment that gets assigned to a crime. There are a lot of them, after all. So many of them will take the easy route and assume the system is mostly fine, because at least it's better than anarchy and vengeance killings.

A person in that position can support a given punishment without giving o'ermuch worry to how many people it will deter or contain. (An example of this will be every single judge who doesn't scale traffic tickets to match the net worth of the speeder, so every single judge.) This notion that one is supporting the system for the system's sake is a belief in the principle of justice - or more specifically in justice-as-defined-by-the-justice-system.

A belief in justice doesn't tell you which punishment should go with which crime; it allows you to accept the punishments that your society gives out for crimes so you don't have to enact your own justice system yourself (and doubtlessly get arrested for your actions in doing so).
  #65  
Old 10-17-2018, 07:50 PM
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Huh? Look at post 53, where David quoted you. I took what you said in that quote exactly the same way as he interpreted it. That's all I'm saying. Whatever you mean, it's not coming across at all clearly.
If you don't think that everybody who believes that criminals should be punished for their crimes is filled with murderous bloodlust, then the next question would be whether you think that every single person who isn't a psycho gives careful consideration to the deterrent and sequestrating effects of a given punishment before accepting it as being reasonably valid.

If the answer to that is also no, then there must be a third reason why people accept specific punishments as being reasonable punishments for specific crimes.
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Old 10-17-2018, 07:54 PM
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What you said more fully was

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Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
...I see a third reason beyond deterrence and sequestration that I consider relevant and I consider it to be at least as likely to be a reason why the death penalty is applied as either of those two. I'm of course speaking of the 'justice' factor, which could be more broadly described as the "people expect specific consequences in response to specific actions and when those consequences don't occur there is societal unrest." Or put another way, it's the non-vengeance reason why victims and observers like to see criminals punished...
[My bold.]

This is where this conversation went off the rails. You're talking about something that's not deterrence, not sequestration; you label it "justice" (begging the question of what's just), but then also claim it's not vengeance.

I have, quite frankly, no idea what you're trying to say.

Last edited by Riemann; 10-17-2018 at 07:55 PM.
  #67  
Old 10-17-2018, 07:56 PM
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What you said more fully was



[My bold.]

This is where this conversation went off the rails. You're talking about something that's not deterrence, not sequestration; you label it "justice", but then claim it's also not vengeance.

I have no idea what you're trying to say.
Why yes, I am absolutely certain I can readily prove that there's a third possible motivation for supporting a legal system besides vengeance and considered thought on the best way to deter or sequester people, why do you ask?

Last edited by begbert2; 10-17-2018 at 07:56 PM. Reason: typo
  #68  
Old 10-17-2018, 07:57 PM
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If the answer to that is also no, then there must be a third reason why people accept specific punishments as being reasonable punishments for specific crimes.
Please just stop the rhetoric and explain what you think that third reason is, if it's not deterrence, not sequestration, and not vengeance.
  #69  
Old 10-17-2018, 07:57 PM
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Guys, this argument is sorta a hijack.

Last edited by DrDeth; 10-17-2018 at 07:57 PM.
  #70  
Old 10-17-2018, 08:03 PM
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Guys, this argument is sorta a hijack.
Why? This is GD, the OP is about morality in the justice system, specifically the importance of the state of mind of the perpetrator. Where would you expect such a debate to go?
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Old 10-17-2018, 08:05 PM
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Why? This is GD, the OP is about morality in the justice system, specifically the importance of the state of mind of the perpetrator. Where would you expect such a debate to go?
In another thread, in GD. The Op asked "Morality of executing someone who cannot remember his crime".

Not for a general debate on the morality of crime and punishment or yet another general debate on the Death penalty.
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Old 10-17-2018, 08:07 PM
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Guys, this argument is sorta a hijack.
On the subject of whether a person should still be held accountable for actions they no longer remember, one possible reason why they should still be held accountable is if the reasons to hold them accountable still apply regardless of their advanced age and infirm state.

If the person is a doddering person who doesn't have any evil thoughts left in their head, then there's no longer a motivation to remove them from society.

If the goal is to deter people...I have no idea whether killing geriatrics who've lost their minds deters anybody. I sort of think the deterrence factor would still be there even if you released him, because they were imprisoned for their entire usable life. That or it's already entirely failed, because despite deserving death they didn't get it when it mattered.

If the goal is to enact revenge, it's largely failed - the people who would enjoy dancing on his grave have spent longer being denied that privilege than they'll get the chance to enjoy it, and those who like their revenge cold will be deprived the pleasure of their victim understanding their fate.

But if the goal is to carry out the punishment as legally decided then it's entirely ethical to do so - exactly as ethical as it would have been to do it when he still had his faculties. Assuming, of course, that we can recognize/admit that having a functioning justice system is a justification unto itself.

(And with that, I'm going home for the day.)
  #73  
Old 10-17-2018, 08:11 PM
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In another thread, in GD. The Op asked "Morality of executing someone who cannot remember his crime".

Not for a general debate on the morality of crime and punishment or yet another general debate on the Death penalty.
We are not debating the death penalty.

I don't see how you can reasonably expect that an OP about the relevance of the state of the mind of the criminal will not involve a debate on the fundamental principles of just punishment.
  #74  
Old 10-17-2018, 08:14 PM
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We are not debating the death penalty.

I don't see how you can reasonably expect that an OP about the relevance of the state of the mind of the criminal will not involve a debate on the fundamental principles of just punishment.
Well, that's the OP.

Because you have gone off the rails into something far removed from the Ops question.

But I am not a Mod, so have fun.
  #75  
Old 10-17-2018, 08:21 PM
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Because you have gone off the rails into something far removed from the Ops question.
In your opinion.

We may have got in the weeds, but not from a lack of intent to discuss the OP's question.
  #76  
Old 10-17-2018, 08:24 PM
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Why yes, I am absolutely certain I can readily prove that there's a third possible motivation for supporting a legal system besides vengeance and considered thought on the best way to deter or sequester people, why do you ask?
Please, can you explain what you mean, preferably briefly? I'm not trying to win rhetorical points here, I genuinely just want to know what you're talking about.
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Old 10-17-2018, 08:32 PM
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He should have been executed 29 years ago when he did remember. I don't know if that is unethical - the ones responsible for the length of his incarceration are him and his lawyers (and DP opponents in general). And I don't know if I would characterize their delays as unethical. The thirty years of incarceration are the price he assumed when he made his appeals. "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time". Also don't do the appeals and then complain afterwards that it took too long.

Regards,
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In most states, appeals are automatic and mandatory in capital cases.
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  #78  
Old 10-18-2018, 09:33 AM
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Thirty years worth of appeals?

Not to mention that the doctor who claimed Madison cannot remember was hired by the defense. A court-appointed psychologist
Quote:
Dr. Karl Kirkland, noted Madison could discuss details from his youth, such as where he attended school. His report concluded that Madison appears able to have a “rational understanding of the sentence, the results or effects of the sentence, and to still be able to discuss defense and legal theories with his attorneys.”
Cite.


As I have mentioned in the past, it is not always a good idea to accept what anti-DP advocates say at face value.

Regards,
Shodan

Last edited by Shodan; 10-18-2018 at 09:33 AM. Reason: added cite
  #79  
Old 10-18-2018, 01:56 PM
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Thirty years worth of appeals?

Not to mention that the doctor who claimed Madison cannot remember was hired by the defense. A court-appointed psychologist Cite.


As I have mentioned in the past, it is not always a good idea to accept what anti-DP advocates say at face value.
Yes, but the Op was not necessarily asking about this one case. It was a hypothetical.

Assuming that the perp really is mentally gone to the point he doesn't remember, shoudl we still execute him?

And my answer, is- if he is that far gone, he wont commit another murder, so no, we should not execute him.
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Old 10-18-2018, 02:33 PM
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Assuming that the perp really is mentally gone to the point he doesn't remember, shoudl we still execute him?

And my answer, is- if he is that far gone, he wont commit another murder, so no, we should not execute him.
Not necessarily. Verne Gagne was a very well known professional wrestler in the Midwest, and a promoter, who lost out to Vince McMahon's WWE. He suffered a decline in his later years, and while in a nursing home and suffering from dementia, killed another resident. Legally, and IMO morally, he didn't commit a murder, because he suffered from dementia to the point where he couldn't form criminal intent. But he did kill somebody.

Aggressive behavior is one of the common reasons that people with dementia are institutionalized.

So whether or not he continues to present a danger to the public, other inmates, and correctional staff, or would if he were given compassionate release, is not affected very much by his alleged dementia.

Regards,
Shodan
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Old 10-18-2018, 04:47 PM
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Please, can you explain what you mean, preferably briefly? I'm not trying to win rhetorical points here, I genuinely just want to know what you're talking about.
If you to ask a person why they think our theorized prisoner should be executed, the following are qualitatively different answers:

"Because my blood cries out to see him die!"

"Because he killed fifteen people and was legally sentenced to death for it."
  #82  
Old 10-18-2018, 04:59 PM
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The legal system takes so long that everyone will have dementia before their execution date. And it is not the inmates filing frivolous appeals.

Take, for example, Scott Peterson. He was convicted and sentenced to death in 2004 yet no appellate court has issued a ruling in the previous 14 years. Not one single ruling! So, if we assume for the purposes of argument that his trial was unfair, a person in California can serve 14 years and counting before he can get any relief.
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He should have been executed 29 years ago when he did remember. I don't know if that is unethical - the ones responsible for the length of his incarceration are him and his lawyers (and DP opponents in general). And I don't know if I would characterize their delays as unethical. The thirty years of incarceration are the price he assumed when he made his appeals. "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time". Also don't do the appeals and then complain afterwards that it took too long.

Regards,
Shodan
See my post right above yours. After conviction, an inmate is typically entitled (in capital cases and in my state all cases) a direct appeal to the state supreme court. Then begins post-conviction relief before the trial court, then intermediate appeals court (in states that have those) and discretionary review with the state supreme court.

Then federal habeas review in the U.S. District Court, appeal to U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and discretionary review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

So, after trial, one is looking at seven additional proceedings at most. Unless it is an atypical case, why does it take 30 years for seven hearings?

Well, again, look at Scott Peterson. He has yet to get one single ruling of a review of his conviction. Regardless of your views of the death penalty, even if it was a sentence of life in prison, nobody should have to wait 14 years and counting before a higher court rules on your trial conviction.

It is mostly judges who drag their feet (I am waiting now 2 1/2 years and counting on a particular post conviction ruling after all evidence has been submitted) while hammering us lawyers if we are a day late on something.

The system needs to work better and be coordinated from top down, especially in capital cases.

Last edited by UltraVires; 10-18-2018 at 05:00 PM.
  #83  
Old 10-18-2018, 05:00 PM
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If you to ask a person why they think our theorized prisoner should be executed, the following are qualitatively different answers:

"Because my blood cries out to see him die!"

"Because he killed fifteen people and was legally sentenced to death for it."
All you've said is that people expect the justice system to carry out whatever sentence is passed. What's the relevance of that? How does it speak to what sentence is just and why it is just?
  #84  
Old 10-18-2018, 05:08 PM
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All you've said is that people expect the justice system to carry out whatever sentence is passed. What's the relevance of that? How does it speak to what sentence is just and why it is just?
Sigh. I don't care as much about this now as I did yesterday.

This debate presumes that executions are just. A recognition that the execution happening today is driven/supported by the same thing it was driven/supported by thirty years ago merely demonstrates that the 'justness' of it holds steady regardless of time. The justice system was (presumably) established for reasons of punishment or incarceration or whatever back in the day, but executions carried out now are supported ethically by the fact they are legal, and they're legal because the court said that the guy in question was sentenced to die. Regardless of whatever else has changed in the years since then, the fact he was sentenced hasn't - and neither has the ethical legitimacy of the execution granted by the sentencing.
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Old 10-18-2018, 05:21 PM
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Sigh. I don't care as much about this now as I did yesterday.

This debate presumes that executions are just. A recognition that the execution happening today is driven/supported by the same thing it was driven/supported by thirty years ago merely demonstrates that the 'justness' of it holds steady regardless of time. The justice system was (presumably) established for reasons of punishment or incarceration or whatever back in the day, but executions carried out now are supported ethically by the fact they are legal, and they're legal because the court said that the guy in question was sentenced to die. Regardless of whatever else has changed in the years since then, the fact he was sentenced hasn't - and neither has the ethical legitimacy of the execution granted by the sentencing.
I agree with you in part. Although I support the idea of the death penalty in the abstract, carrying it out 15, 25, or even 40 years after the crime makes no sense and serves no purpose.

Oh, but UltraVires, what about these guys exonerated after 20 years on death row? That is why I say the system needs changed. In capital cases, I think a defendant should have gold plated counsel, gold plated experts and forensic analysts. I think the Rules of Evidence should be all but eliminated for the capital defendant to tell the jury pretty much damned near anything he likes. Do all that is humanly possible to ensure a just verdict.

But after that, a deliberate and concerted appellate and post-conviction process which, in addition to its traditional function, reviews the evidence again to resolve any doubts in favor of the defendant.

After that, though, the date with the chair should come sooner.
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Old 10-18-2018, 05:24 PM
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This debate presumes that executions are just.
The presumption is that executions are a just punishment for certain crimes, a premise that we have all agreed to stipulate for the purpose of this debate.

The OP asks then asks the moral question: if a capital crime was committed, is the death sentence still just when the perpetrator due to be executed has amnesia or dementia?

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A recognition that the execution happening today is driven/supported by the same thing it was driven/supported by thirty years ago merely demonstrates that the 'justness' of it holds steady regardless of time. The justice system was (presumably) established for reasons of punishment or incarceration or whatever back in the day, but executions carried out now are supported ethically by the fact they are legal, and they're legal because the court said that the guy in question was sentenced to die. Regardless of whatever else has changed in the years since then, the fact he was sentenced hasn't - and neither has the ethical legitimacy of the execution granted by the sentencing.
You think ethical justification derives from whether something is legal? In that case, I reiterate my prior objection to your comments: by this reasoning, slavery was once ethical.

You seem to be moving the goalposts to a factual question of whether it is technically legal to execute someone with amnesia. That is quite different from the ethical debate as to do with whether it is just to do so.

Last edited by Riemann; 10-18-2018 at 05:29 PM.
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Old 10-18-2018, 05:31 PM
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All you've said is that people expect the justice system to carry out whatever sentence is passed. What's the relevance of that? How does it speak to what sentence is just and why it is just?
I support the workings of the justice system, not because I expect Justice with a capital J, but because without a justice system we're back to blood feuds and clan warfare.

But of course this also means that the rabble has to believe enough in the justice system that they don't take justice into their own hands. And so the justice system has to conform tolerably well to the expectations of the rabble, otherwise it won't work. Or alternatively it is imposed by the authorities, and the rabble has to put up with it or get stomped.

So the justice system has to maintain its legitimacy. It can do that by superior force of the ruling class, or it can do it by a popular mandate, or varying proportions between the two.

So I can be in favor of carrying out whatever sentence is imposed by the court, even though on a single-case basis carrying out any sentence is counterproductive. Putting the killer in jail, or executing him, won't bring back the victim. The point was deterrence, and now that deterrence has failed, actually carrying out the sentence is a failure as well.

The only thing is, it's not a single case. We're going to have more killers tomorrow and the next day, and so we have to carry out the sentence even though it literally serves no purpose any more for this case. It only serves a purpose for the next case.
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Old 10-18-2018, 05:34 PM
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I support the workings of the justice system, not because I expect Justice with a capital J, but because without a justice system we're back to blood feuds and clan warfare.
Of course, so do I. My objection in the conversation with begbert was that this has nothing to do with the ethical question of what sentences are just. We can support the rule of law as it is, and also strive to evaluate its principles with a view to improving it.

Last edited by Riemann; 10-18-2018 at 05:36 PM.
  #89  
Old 10-18-2018, 05:42 PM
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The presumption is that executions are sometimes just, a premise that we have all agreed to stipulate for the purpose of this debate.
Specifically, the execution of the guy in question was deemed to be just, as far as this thread goes. There is no 'sometimes' about it as far as this guy is concerned; there was nothing unjust about the execution ordered for him.

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The OP asks then asks the moral question: if a death sentence is otherwise applicable for the crime committed, is it still just when the perpetrator due to be executed has amnesia or dementia?
And the answer to that would necessarily depend on why the death sentence was ordered for this guy in the first place. Which I don't for a minute believe is always driven by a desire for vengeance.

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You think ethical justification derives from whether something is legal? In that case, I reiterate my prior objection to your comments: by this reasoning, slavery was once ethical.
I think that the ethical validity of the execution, whatever validity it has via whatever source it derived that validity in the first place, is entirely dependent on the execution being a legal one. Which irrevocably ties the ethical merit of the execution to the conviction that ordered it and the associated legal determination that that conviction would be punished with execution.

Of course, as noted, the execution in question is presumed to be definitively ethical, at least at the time of its implementation. If we're going to talk about slavery in the same goalpost, we'd have to assume that it's definitively ethical too.

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You seem to be moving the goalposts to a factual question of whether it is technically legal to execute someone with amnesia. That is quite different from the ethical debate as to do with whether it is just to do so.
There's two ways to validly approach this question, neither of which you appear to be using.

1) What were the original justifications for the execution being ethical, and do they still apply?

2) Is the ethical validity of a punishment dependent on the current momentary state of the convicted?


Note that the second question has some merit to it - some punishments have this thing called "parole" which is allowed (or not) after a certain time to alter the punishment in established ways based on the convict's state. Of course it's worth noting that, by establishing a system for determining parole for some convictions, that implies that the court is aware that people change and that when parole isn't allowed that means that the court has already considered and rejected the notion that changes in the convict's status matter in the case in question.
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Old 10-18-2018, 06:05 PM
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Ok, I think we are out of the weeds on this. So, to clarify a couple of things:

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And the answer to that would necessarily depend on why the death sentence was ordered for this guy in the first place. Which I don't for a minute believe is always driven by a desire for vengeance.
Let's be clear that it turns out neither of us is claiming this. It arose from misunderstanding of what I thought you were saying. So let's set it aside.

What I have said is that punishment in our current justice system derive from some variable combination of factors, principally: sequestration, deterrence, retribution. And that of those, I believe that retribution is always unethical.

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There's two ways to validly approach this question, neither of which you appear to be using...

2) Is the ethical validity of a punishment dependent on the current momentary state of the convicted?
In fact this was the only issue I was debating earlier, since I thought this ethical question was the essence of the OP.

My position is that nobody ever "deserves" retributive punishment, since there is no free will. Punishment should be motivated only by any need to sequestrate the criminal plus the empirical question of whether a punishment is an effective deterrent to future crime.

So in the OP situation, the punishment is not justified by state of mind in the first place, there's no state of mind that makes someone "deserve" punishment. So I'd argue that if execution for the crime in question is ethical, it is still ethical for someone with dementia unless the change in the criminal's state of mind reduces the deterrent effect, which seems unlikely (but it's an empirical question).

Last edited by Riemann; 10-18-2018 at 06:08 PM.
  #91  
Old 10-18-2018, 06:31 PM
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Let's be clear that it turns out neither of us is claiming this. It arose from misunderstanding of what I thought you were saying. So let's set it aside.

What I have said is that punishment in our current justice system derive from some variable combination of factors, principally: sequestration, deterrence, retribution. And that of those, I believe that retribution is always unethical.
And I believe that there's another factor - that "society in general" believes that there are certain correct responses to certain actions. Are these societal expectations always prudent? Probably not. But they're doubtlessly a factor. It's part of why some people get a little antsy when they hear about the wildly successful "treat prisoners great" policies some countries have, who have decided that reducing recidivism is way more important than deterrence - because prisoners being kid-gloved seems not right.

I consider it erroneous to just blithely label this as "retribution" and dismiss it as being as immoral as a vengeance killing. Entirely calm people can say that thieves deserve jail simply because they've committed theft, entirely independent of whether the incarceration reduces current or future crime in any appreciable way.

This sort of societal perception of justice isn't guaranteed to produce optimal outcomes by any means, but I wouldn't say that makes it immoral.


Back to the point, I'm of the opinion that death penalties are ordered entirely on rationales of these societal expectations - and vengeance, but the vengeance part probably doesn't contribute much to the ethicality of it all. I don't think that sequestration is even slightly a factor in them (since they could be imprisoned for life without parole instead), so I think that any and all references to sequestration in this argument are invalid. It wasn't a factor in making the execution moral before, so it can't be less of a factor now.

The degree to which executions have a greater deterrent effect than incarceration can be debated, but given that we're apparently waiting until people are geriatrics before offing them, I suspect that the deterrent factor of killing them at that point is already comparable to just keeping them locked up.

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In fact this was the only issue I was debating earlier, since I thought this ethical question was the essence of the OP.

My position is that nobody ever "deserves" retributive punishment, since there is no free will. Punishment should be motivated only by any need to sequestrate the criminal plus the empirical question of whether a punishment is an effective deterrent to future crime.

So in the OP situation, I'd likely support execution unless it were true that the change in the criminal's state of mind reduced the deterrent effect, which seems unlikely (but it's an empirical question).
I'm having a hard time resisting the free will debate you keep teasing me with.

In any case, I don't think that sequestration and deterrence are the only ethical reasons to support a legal system. As has been mentioned, there's also the question of what you'd have without the legal system. Our current legal system isn't entirely based on sequestration and deterrence, but it's still better to hew to it than to just abandon it, which ignoring the determinations of the court would amount to. This remains true even if the determinations of the legal system are largely based on societal expectations rather than figuring out exactly how deterrent or sequestrative this particular sentence will be in this particular case.
  #92  
Old 10-18-2018, 07:04 PM
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And I believe that there's another factor - that "society in general" believes that there are certain correct responses to certain actions. Are these societal expectations always prudent? Probably not. But they're doubtlessly a factor. It's part of why some people get a little antsy when they hear about the wildly successful "treat prisoners great" policies some countries have, who have decided that reducing recidivism is way more important than deterrence - because prisoners being kid-gloved seems not right.

I consider it erroneous to just blithely label this as "retribution" and dismiss it as being as immoral as a vengeance killing. Entirely calm people can say that thieves deserve jail simply because they've committed theft, entirely independent of whether the incarceration reduces current or future crime in any appreciable way.

This sort of societal perception of justice isn't guaranteed to produce optimal outcomes by any means, but I wouldn't say that makes it immoral.
I'm still truly puzzled by what your suggesting here. You can't justify something in this circular way.

To state the obvious, punishment means harming another human being.

You're describing punishment that's not justified as sequestration or deterrence; but it's not retribution either. It's just something we do because it feels like justice but we can't explain why?

That's not good enough! If you are going to harm another human being, you'd better be ready to explain why it's justified, or stop doing it. It's absolutely immoral.

Last edited by Riemann; 10-18-2018 at 07:05 PM.
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Old 10-18-2018, 07:16 PM
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I'm still truly puzzled by what your suggesting here. You can't justify something in this circular way.

To state the obvious, punishment means harming another human being.

You're describing punishment that's not justified as sequestration or deterrence; but it's not retribution either. It's just something we do because it feels like justice but we can't explain why?

That's not good enough! If you are going to harm another human being, you'd better be ready to explain why it's justified, or stop doing it. It's absolutely immoral.
Well, some punishments are just fines. Executions are pretty harmful though, I'll give you that.

It's moral to carry out a judgement levied against somebody because failing to carry out the judgements levied by the legal system reduces the credibility of the legal system in general, which incentivizes crime across the board. Consider the reaction to Trump's pardons - their intent is to incentivize crime!

Of course things like parole hearings don't cause this sort of outrage, because they're built into the system. So I'd say that if the prospective executee is up for a parole hearing, then of course the parole board should take into account his inability to remember his past crimes. (And his habit of forming models of beheaded people out of toilet paper.) But if we're talking extralegal methods for releasing people, I think they do more harm than good.
  #94  
Old 10-18-2018, 07:44 PM
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It's moral to carry out a judgement levied against somebody because failing to carry out the judgements levied by the legal system reduces the credibility of the legal system in general, which incentivizes crime across the board.
We may believe that there is a higher moral obligation to uphold the rule of law that overrides the fact that the justice system is imperfect. But that belief is not a moral justification for the imperfection.
  #95  
Old 10-18-2018, 07:56 PM
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We may believe that there is a higher moral obligation to uphold the rule of law that overrides the fact that the justice system is imperfect. But that belief is not a moral justification for the imperfection.
I most certainly do not believe that the american justice system is perfect. However in this thread we're conveniently given to assume that the initial death penalty is morally justified, which makes things so much easier. This particular ruling is indeed perfect! Or perfect enough, at least.
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Old 10-19-2018, 01:03 PM
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It occurs to me that a large part of the problem here is that people are judging the prisoner's current execution as immoral based on standards that would also lead them to judge the original determination of punishment as immoral. To me that's an invalid approach - we're taking it as given that the original determination of punishment was moral, or at least moral enough that it's reasonable to ask if it's less moral now that the dude doesn't remember his crime. My approach has been to examine the actual reasons that people who accept capital punishment use to justify their morality - reasons which others reject out of hand because of course in their opinion the punishment has no morality to lose in the first place (which axiomatically means it's as moral now as it ever was).


But there's another way to look at the question - a rather simple one I'm surprised I didn't think of earlier.

The question is, if a prisoner forgets his crime does that mean he shouldn't be punished for it. One way to answer that is with another question: is he being punished for remembering the crime? Because if he isn't being punished for the act of remembering what he did, then forgetting it shouldn't absolve him of punishment or in fact change anything at all.

The arguments that he's now a harmless doddering old man and that incarcerating/executing him now are pointless are confusing amnesia with harmlessness - a point that has been made by pointing out that committing crimes while blackout drunk doesn't absolve you of them. If the point of the punishment is to contain a dangerous person and the passage of time has rendered the person harmless, that's fine - give him a parole hearing and if he passes release him. But being forgetful doesn't render him harmless - it might happen at the same time as other changes which do render him harmless, but the forgetfulness itself doesn't help at all, regardless of which approach you're using to determine the morality of the punishment.

...unless your motivation for punishing them is to deliver cold revenge. Then, and only then, would there be merit to the argument that mere forgetfulness defeats the point of the punishment.

Last edited by begbert2; 10-19-2018 at 01:04 PM. Reason: typo
  #97  
Old 10-19-2018, 01:51 PM
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It occurs to me that a large part of the problem here is that people are judging the prisoner's current execution as immoral based on standards that would also lead them to judge the original determination of punishment as immoral.
You are projecting about your own inability to assume the premise that the death penalty is sometimes just for the purposes of this debate. In fact, the stipulation that the death penalty is applicable to someone who creeps up behind a cop sitting in his car and shoots him in the back of the head is not a hypothetical for me. I do believe that this should be a capital crime. So I can't possibly be making the error that you claim.

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But there's another way to look at the question - a rather simple one I'm surprised I didn't think of earlier.

...is he being punished for remembering the crime? Because if he isn't being punished for the act of remembering what he did, then forgetting it shouldn't absolve him of punishment or in fact change anything at all.

...unless your motivation for punishing them is to deliver cold revenge. Then, and only then, would there be merit to the argument that mere forgetfulness defeats the point of the punishment.
Are you serious? I have raised this exact point as the key ethical issue several times in the debate already. In each case, you read my comments and responded to them. Now they are your brilliantly inspired original idea?

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It's perfectly reasonable (and more just) to set up a deterrent punishment system base entirely on the notion that "actions have consequences". The state of mind of the perpetrator should not be relevant, since retributive punishment is never justified: nobody is ever "deserving" of retribution for their actions, whatever their state of mind. If the purpose is deterrence, then everyone should simply understand that a certain set of actions always leads to certain set of consequences.
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...Punishment should be motivated only by any need to sequestrate the criminal plus the empirical question of whether a punishment is an effective deterrent to future crime.

So in the OP situation, the punishment is not justified by state of mind in the first place, there's no state of mind that makes someone "deserve" punishment. So I'd argue that if execution for the crime in question is ethical, it is still ethical for someone with dementia unless the change in the criminal's state of mind reduces the deterrent effect...
[my bold in all quotes]

Last edited by Riemann; 10-19-2018 at 01:55 PM.
  #98  
Old 10-19-2018, 02:14 PM
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You are projecting about your own inability to assume the premise that the death penalty is sometimes just for the purposes of this debate. In fact, the stipulation that the death penalty is applicable to someone who creeps up behind a cop sitting in his car and shoots him in the back of the head is not a hypothetical for me. I do believe that this should be a capital crime. So I can't possibly be making the error that you claim.
Right. Well then, let's go - why is executing the friendly cop killer ethical, and what would/could change to make a delayed execution of him not be ethical?

Presumably you hope that executing him will deter others. Will it still deter them when we finally get around to offing him thirty years later and everybody has forgotten he exists?

Presumably you think that the dude's state of mind makes him deserve punishment - specifically, sequestration, because the dude has shown that his mind includes wiring that makes him kill cops and sequestration will physically prevent him from acting on his state of mind. Would him getting old and forgetting that he committed the act be indicative that physically separating him from cops is no longer necessary?


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Are you serious? I have raised this exact point as the key ethical issue several times in the debate already. In each case, you read my comments and responded to them. Now they are your brilliantly inspired original idea?
There is a very large difference between your assertion that nothing about the state of the mind of the villain matters (which is absurd) and the recognition that memory, specifically, is irrelevant, as distinct from other aspects of the cognition which obviously are relevant (and, in fact, are the whole reason we worry about sequestration at all).

So no, you have not raised "this exact point".

As for whether I'm brilliantly inspired, I'd say I took a hell of a long time to come up with this "brilliance", but regardless of that it wasn't inspired by your posts.
  #99  
Old 10-19-2018, 02:37 PM
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Right. Well then, let's go -
No thanks. I thought this was getting back to a productive discussion, but the course of this debate has been:

From the outset, I raised what I think is the core ethical issue: since I believe a perpetrator should never be punished as retribution for his state of mind in the first place, a change in his state of mind (such as dementia or memory loss in as in the OP) should not absolve him from otherwise just punishment, unless the changed state of mind affects the empirical effectiveness of the punishment for deterrence or sequestration.

We then got stuck in the weeds essentially because
(a) you were hung up on the idea of assuming any premises (death penalty, free will) in order to focus the specific question in the OP;
(b) you were conflating ought with is.

We managed to disentangle the mess somewhat, and now you're repeating my original statement of the key ethical issue back at me.

Last edited by Riemann; 10-19-2018 at 02:42 PM.
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Old 10-19-2018, 02:59 PM
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No thanks. I thought this was getting back to a productive discussion, but the course of this debate has been:

From the outset, I raised what I think it the core ethical issue: since I believe a perpetrator should never being punished as retribution for his state of mind in the first place, a change in his state of mind (such as dementia or memory loss in as in the OP) should not absolve him from otherwise just punishment, unless the changed state of mind affects the empirical effectiveness of the punishment for deterrence or sequestration.

We then got stuck in the weeds essentially because
(a) you were hung up on the idea of assuming any premises (death penalty, free will) in order to focus the specific question in the OP;
(b) you were conflating ought with is.

We managed to disentangle the mess somewhat, and now you're repeating my original statement of the key ethical issue back at me.
There is no way in hell I am repeating back your assertion that the mind of the perpetrator doesn't matter. That assertion is based on an incoherent misunderstanding of the concept of free will, and beyond that it's an obviously false assertion.

For the benefit of any remaining observers who are not dwelling on strange ideas of why we are "stuck in the weeds", here are what I see as the established facts.

1) There are a variety of reasons why we punish people for crimes. Some of them include the fact that many people (not Riemann) believe that it's ethical to punish people for crimes - that actions have justified consequences, and that the mere act of committing a crime justifies punishment even before considering the societal side effects of the punishment. This sort of reasoning is (in my opinion) almost certainly the most significant reason by far why executions are still carried out in modern, civilized countries and are considered ethical by those who support them - most others would conclude that the (unmeasurable) increased deterrent effect of execution is probably not sufficient to justify having a government killing people.

2) The brain state of the prisoner can change in a lot of ways over time - forgetting past events, finding religion, discovering a love of show tunes. The only changes to their mental state that should effect their incarceration are ones that effect whether recidivism is likely for them (and even then, only if the reason for the punishment is to reduce recidivism rather than deterrence, vengeance, or societal expectation of punishment). That a convict has forgotten the details of his prior crime is not, by itself, a particularly good reason to believe it would be a good idea to set them free.
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