After Tsarnaev is in the ground, should America reconsider its capital punishment policy?

Other Western democracies have abolished capital punishment. It is too barbaric on the face of it. The State dirties itself when it deals death, even to criminals, and besides, once in a blue moon the wrong person is executed.

Here in the States, the death penalty appears to have been meted out in a racist fashion. It does not seem to be applied uniformly- Texas seems to execute people all the time, while other states have done away with the death penalty. Should The Law be subject to such variance and seeming subjection to personal passions when life and death itself is at stake?

I don’t know. People say the death penalty is not an effective deterrent. Then again, some crimes are so depraved and low that no other response seems appropriate. So, assuming he is found guilty and after Tsarnaev is repaying his debt to society by acting as a bag of daisy fertilizer- heck, even immediately after the last round of lethal injections are administered, will it be time to ask, “Is this the right thing to do? Should America abolish the death penalty?”

Disagree. Plenty of people just plain don’t deserve to live, and the state is doing nothing wrong by ridding our society of them.

I don’t get the point of leading off with “After Tsarnaev is in the ground…”

If, for whatever reason, you’re granting that we as a society will of course execute the guy and so any debate has to start after that, then what the heck happens if someone else does likewise? Surely we’ll again say "Oh, right; time to be sensible again.

If America should abolish the death penalty, it is because you suck at it. Your judges are too willing to apply the death penalty in cases where the evidence doesn’t justify that degree of certainty, and then leave the appeals process to pick up the pieces. Unless a judge is so sure of the defendant’s guilt that they’d bet their own career and freedom on them being right, the harshest sentence they should be willing to pass down is life without parole. If someone has been put on death row, any later discovery that they are innocent is proof of criminal negligence on the judge’s part.

It represents my contradictory position on the subject, hence the debate. I seem to lean toward ‘life without parole’ as the maximum punishment for a list of reasons, yet I look forward to hearing that Tsarnaev has been executed. Which feels dirty.

But look, ethos and pathos, the same considerations that I think are influencing death penalty decisions.

No-one is qualified to make that distinction. No-one.

Furthermore the state, placing itself as a morally superior authority than the criminal, cannot then stoop to the same vileness as that same criminal did. Killing someone for killing someone abnegates the state’s entire moral stance against killing.

Disclaimer: I am generally anti-capitol punishment, but the OP doesn’t seem to be very persuasive here so I’ll play devil’s advocate.

True. Looking at the wiki for countries that still employ the death penalty, the only one I’d consider a Western democracy is Japan. Insert East<->West joke here.

What about killing people in wars, particularly defensive ones or particularly righteous causes (WWII and the like)? And what is barbaric depends entirely on the perspective of the person talking about said barbarism. Don’t a majority of Americans approve of the death penalty? It certainly doesn’t make it right - there are certainly things that a majority of the public wants that are not ideal - but when you’re talking about “barbarism” you imply some kind of moral code or line of thinking that rejects or seeks to distinguish itself from what is said to be barbaric.

Wrongful executions are a problem, certainly, and I don’t mean to take this point lightly, as it’s the primary reason I would advocate a very, very selective use of the death penalty.

Cite about racist application of the death penalty? I’m not arguing that there aren’t some inherent biases in the judicial system as a whole, but what you’re asking me to believe here - that there is some active, malicious misuse of capitol punishment on the basis of the convicted’s race - requires a pretty substantial leap of faith with no evidence provided.

I also fail to see why lack of uniformity among state’s use (or lack thereof) of the death penalty is a compelling argument against it. Thas is how our legal system works. Sentencing can change from state to state and case to case, within judicial/legal limits. In all honesty, isn’t the death penalty one of the most consistently applied punishments? It’s only even on the table for a small number of crimes. The reason Texas executes so many prisoners relative to the rest of the nation isn’t that it’s actively killing off brown people or that they are hanging people for adultery and usury, it’s because they have a large population (while the rates of violent crime differ, in general higher population = more individual instances of any given crime) and that they are more likely to seek to pursue the death penalty in cases where it is applicable.

Idiosyncratic? I guess. I fail to see why it’s a problem, though. Texas being more likely to execute criminals in no way makes it more likely for crime to occur in OTHER states. The only conclusion I can gather is - don’t kill people in Texas unless you want to be executed. Or maybe you think that a life behind bars without parole is a fate worse than death, in which case you might want to move to Texas before your killing spree…

Punishment in general is *never *a completely effective deterrent. There’s certainly some evidence that it doesn’t deter the punished themselves from future crimes - look at rates of recidivism among violent felons, for example, but who commits a crime if they think they’re actually be caught? We have real-world examples of countries that remove thieves’ hands - people still steal. If you’re willing to steal at the risk of losing a hand, I think you’d be willing to steal at the risk of losing your life or spending the rest of it in jail, and that’s before we even consider what you’d risk to kill someone.

That’s why draconian punishments are not the answer, but that’s not to mean that we give up entirely on harsh punishments like the death penalty or life imprisonment simply because people will still commit crimes.

The reason I am not completely anti-death penalty in all its forms and uses is simple: you yourself are asking about whether we should look into abolishing it AFTER we kill Tsarnaev. As bad as he is, there will be someone worse than him one day, as there have been worse in the past. What happens when Future Criminal X blows up a school, killing a thousand before being taken into custody? Do we have a special session on whether or not to roll the death penalty back out for this one guy?

FWIW, that’s basically the system we have now - the death penalty is applied to particularly heinous crimes, and requires more work on the behalf of the prosecution than other sentences. There aren’t nearly as many people executed in America as many would have you think, especially when you consider the number of guys doing time behind bars for murder 1.

Just don’t kill people in Texas.

There are quite a few different definitions of racism out there, and “inherent (racial) biases in the judicial system as a whole” would fit in perfectly with some of them.

Well, I’m asking about before And after. Before, we’re all vengeful and would just as soon see him fry. After? How will you feel after? The point being that the decision-making process here is grounded in feelings.

Once the law is changed, that’s that. Future Criminal X would get housed Norway-style I suppose. Some office furniture and crappy pencils, going mad. But of course, as is pointed out, intending to change the law after we execute this one guy says I don’t really want to change the law. I want it both ways.

Correct me if I’m mistaken, but the OP only asserted that the death penalty was being applied in a racist manner. That kind of assertion requires evidence to distinguish it from bias in the judicial system as a whole, which I did concede.

If racism is a problem in the entire system, abolishing the death penalty alone won’t fix it, and it may not do anything about it at all.

Put simply, just because various minorities may be more likely to be prosecuted for and/or convicted of a given crime, that doesn’t necessarily make them more likely to end up with the death penalty.

You assume that “killing” is an inherently immoral act and that any act that results in the death of a human being is wrong. I disagree and assert that it is immoral to allow people to live who have demonstrated themselves unworthy of existing in a civilized society.

While I love that quote, and am in theory against the death penalty, I am torn and undecided on capital punishment. I think that being willing to lock people up “for life” is not necessarily more moral than killing them. “Stay in a cell forever” is hardly a humane way to keep another human. Aside from the “got the wrong man” problem, what makes life imprisonment better than killing someone?

Why would people want to kill Tsarnaev?

He’s a Jihadi who believes if he’s executed that will make him a Shaheed who will immediately be taken to paradise where he will spend eternity getting serviced by 72 virgins.

Why give him what he wants. Let him rot in a cell and watch how he’s quickly forgotten by both the world and the Ummah. His uncle had him pegged. He’s a loser. Don’t give him what he wants.

Which means that you also oppose every other possible punishment without exception.

The whole point of punishment is that it should be unpleasant. Yet forcing someone to undergo an unpleasant experience without their consent is, almost by definition, a crime, that warrants punishment.

For example, you must oppose jailing people. After all, kidnapping is the most serious non-corporal crime.

Therefore the state, placing itself as a morally superior authority than the criminal, cannot then stoop to the same vileness as that same criminal did. Kidnapping someone for kidnapping someone abnegates (sic) the state’s entire moral stance against kidnapping.

For exactly the same argument you can not fine people (theft is a crime). You can’t force them to work (enslavement is a crime). You can’t even the details of their crimes to warn others (libel is a crime). You can;t even hug them into submission (sexual assault is a crime).

Based on your ridiculous argument, no criminal can ever be punished for any act.

Which is, of course, a load of bollocks. The state can, does and should undertake the exact same acts that criminals undertake. That is because the state is imbued with a mandate form the people to undertake exactly those acts. Just as a boxing instructor can beat the shit out of someone with their prior consent without negating their moral authority, the state has the prior consent of all citizens to punish them if they violate the social contract.

Can you please explain to use what punishments you think the state can impose n criminals, given that you’ve told us that the state can’t impose any penalty that would be “vile” if undertaken by a criminal?

Or, better yet, give him what he wants, and let his final thoughts before he slips into eternal non-existence be the realization that he was wrong.

The State is fallible. Given a long enough timeline, the State will inevitably execute an innocent person. It’s not a “risk”, it’s a mathematical certainty.. This is a very important point. It will happen. It’s only a matter of time.

If you’re okay with the killing of innocents in pursuit of some utilitarian idea of a “greater good”, then there isn’t really all that much difference between you and the people you’re executing.

Which is why we have an appeals process in capital punishment cases that lasts upwards of 15-20 years - to eliminate almost any doubt whatsoever that the person being executed is guilty. When was the last time someone was executed in this country who was subsequently proven to have been completely innocent?

Of course I’m OK with it. Any rational person would be. If the US hadn’t killed 50,000 civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it would have lead to the deaths of several million American servicemen and civilians in an invasion of the Japanese mainland.

The difference between me and the people we’re executing is that we’re right and they’re wrong.

By which argument we also shouldn’t jail people for life. If the state will certainly be wrong in capital cases, it will also certainly be wrong in non-capital cases.

And we can no more give a 70 year old man who dies in prison his old life back than we can an 18 year old executed in prison. In both cases the worst result of the punishment is the same: irrevocably removing someone’s entire life. The only difference is that in one case we forcibly kidnapped them for 50 years first, which makes it worse, no better.

Beyond that, there is no difference between the death penalty and imprisonment. The wrongly convicted person can never be given their life back.

Are you saying that you are OK with keeping innocents imprisoned until they die of old age in the name of some greater good?

Why is that OK, but killing them instantly not OK?

You’ve told us that you aren’t willing to accept any rate of deaths due to erroneous convictions. You’ve admitted that failure is certain in both cases.

So why do you accept one and not the other?

-“Batistuta, you have two options: either I shoot you in the head, or I put you in prison for x years, then release you”

Count me in for the second option.

And one more thing people are not really getting here: the point of capital punishment is that it is, by definition, irreversible. Killed someone? He’s not coming back.
Simply sending someone to prison is potentially reversible. If you find out that the person was innocent, you release him. The fact that these people are not killed gives us a much longer time frame to potentially find that they were not guilty. If you’re not able to see the difference, I suspect you’re blinded by your political preconceptions.

I oppose capital punishment in most cases not because I have a moral problem with it but because 1) there’s a chance an innocent person will be put to death, 2) it costs more than a life sentence, and 3) its applied disproportionately to certain racial groups. However, I think, it is more than justified in cases where the guilt of the criminal is utterly heinous and beyond doubt such as Tsarnaev where it should be applied quickly after conviction.