Capital Punishment - I don't understand the fallacious argument against

People who oppose the death penalty often argue that it is hypocritical. Afterall, “How can the State pass laws against killing people while at the same time taking the lives of convicted murderers?”

This particular argument doesn’t make any sense to me. There are laws which prohibit me from siezing my noisy neighbor and locking him up in my basement. Yet the government is permitted to do just that. We grant the State certain privileges in order to ensure order and compliance with legislation, including throwing people in jail. There are a lot of things the government is permitted to do that everyday citizens are prohibited from doing, so to allege hypocrisy when the government carries out executions… seems rather fallacious.

You’re right - that is a bogus argument.

However, there are plenty of other good arguments against the death penalty. Speaking as someone who used to be pro-death penalty, and changed his mind a few years ago after learning some facts.

For example, juries that know a conviction means death will acquit with greater frequency than a jury convicting for life. That means more guilty people back on the street.

Also, it costs more money to execute someone than to incarcerate him for life, because of the long appeals process.

I think the argument is made as a question of morality not government power. Keeping someone from hurting the rest of society by putting them in jail isn’t generally immoral, it’s necessity for the common good. If we can safely keep murderers in jail we don’t need to kill them.

You can let a man eventually proved innocent out of jail - you can’t resurrect him.

The UK Court of Appeals has released people in just this way.

And the same has happened in the US, where some of them have gone on to commit more murders.

yeah…SOME. so that means we should just kill all the innocent ones as well? I think not.

By that argument, maybe we should have murder suspects be guilty until proven innocent. I mean, we don’t want to take any chances with a murderer, do we?


Um, read much?

I oppose the death penalty after it was pointed out on SDMB or NPR, one of those hot beds of commie-liberal-perversion, that there have been innocent people executed. One innocent executed by the government is too many. One of those innocents may be me.

Fargin’ coding errors; hopefully the point can still be sussed out.

Shodan, if they were “proved innocent” how did they then commit “more murders,” unless you mean “more murders” in the sense of “contributing to the total number of murders in the country.”

Are there any cases you can cite of persons, convicted of death-penalty-eligible crimes, who were proven to be innocent of those crimes, released, and went on to commit murder later?

Someone could be “proved innocent” of murder and still be guilty.

Go OJ Go!

The thing is, if a jury is facing a death penalty sentence, they are more likely to acquit a GUILTY man. That was my whole point. It seems likely to me that because of this, the death penalty is more likely to put killers back on the streets. That was the key insight that caused me to change my view of the death penalty.

Maybe an attorney could chime in here as well, but I would suspect that the increased difficulty of getting a conviction with a death penalty results in a lot of plea-bargaining down to lesser charges, meaning the death penalty could also result in an overall shorter average sentence for murderers.

The problem when it comes to the death penalty is that people forget about the one thing which matters above all other factors: justice. It’s not about what costs less, what looks “nicer”, or which sentencing has a greater chance of throwing someone in jail. It’s about justice. Justice is the foundation which maintains social order in any society, and when that is not attained chaos takes over.
On the US Supreme Court Building, there is a statue of “Justice.” It is a blindfolded woman carrying a sword and a set of scales. She symbolizes the fair and equal administration of the law, without corruption, greed, prejudice, or favor. The scales balance the crime and the punishment. Now I ask you, if a person takes the life of another human being, what must that person’s punishment be for the scale to balance? It’s not like the person stole a car or robbed a bank. That person took a human life. Logically, the only true answer is for that person to forfeit his or her life. It’s not revenge and it’s not boiling hate, it is simply justice. As long as men murder each other, a punishment just as equal must exist to keep society intact and the killers in check.

(P.S. This applies to America only. If you don’t know why then there’s no need for you to respond.)

It does say “justice” above the Supreme Court, but written as part of a larger phrase, “Equal justice under the law”. The poor man should have the same justice as the rich one, the black man the same justice as the white one. Everyone should have access to justice, and the same opportunity to receive it. Do we try to live up to this ideal? I like to think we do. Do we always succeed? No.

I like to think of death penalty evaluations in two steps, mechanical and ethical. First, the mechanics of the situation: do we have a system in place that ensures that we will never execute a wrongly convicted man by mistake? When that step is satisfied, then and only then may we ask * is it even ethical to be executing murderers at all?*

I have never reached the ethical part of the argumant, because the mechanical one isn’t satisfied, and I don’t think it ever will be. People are released from death row with alarming regularity due to DNA testing; and the frightening fact is that DNA evidence isn’t present in most murder cases to either convict or acquit the accused. Show me a perfect justice system and maybe I’ll get to the ethical argument. I’ll be for the death penalty the day humans quit making mistakes.

The only thing that would balance the scale would be resurrection of the deceased. Human lives don’t exchange values like weights.
Not only that, this limited viewpoint doesn’t allow for self-defense or negligent homide, manslaughter, etc…

Is you logic based on the efficacy of punishment as a deterrent, or is your conception of justice simply “an eye for an eye?”

Bravo Pravnik! Well put! My compliments on a well written and thought out response.

indeed. bravo Pravnik!

and i’m going to venture a guess here and say that the families of the victims of Fred and Rosemary West feel better about Rose being in prison for life (no parole) than they do about Fred, who committed suicide in prison before trial.

everyone dies eventually, sometimes it’s better to make them sit out life in prison. either for punishment or redemption.

and yes. i’d rather not see innocents die.

Why is it logical?

Well, I have no cite for this, but if someone wants one I’ll try to dig one up, I’m pretty sure I’m right. Anyway, my understanding is that in the United States only a jury can hand down a sentence of death. That is to say, once they have rendered a guilty verdict in a capital murder trial, there is then a sentencing phase in which the jury chooses a sentence of either death, life without parole, or possibly a third alternative, depending on the jurisdiction. I am quite sure that the SC has ruled that an automatic death sentence, for any verdict, is unconstitutional.

I agree that balancing the scales properly should require the death penalty for murder – but there are good reasons nonetheless for not having a death penalty. The main one being that there is no way we can prevent the ocasional execution of someone for a murder (s)he did not commit. It’s a sure thing that this will happen. This alone is all the reason needed for not having a death penalty. IMO what is needed is a life sentence that really is a life sentence (as opposed to a “life sentence” that is really only 20 or 25 years).