In which we stew upon the death penalty...satisfying?

Hi. Some of you may know me. I’m Stoid Of The Liberals. As such, I fundamentally disagree with the death penalty on ethical grounds. But that’s not what I’m here to discuss.

What I’m here to discuss…and maybe just to have clarified for me, is why people like it so much. No, I don’t want all your canned answers about why it’s a good thing…let’s just operate from this premise: it’s the most * satisfying * punishment for bad people.

But I don’t understand that. Take Tim. While I am completely without real emotional investment in the Oklahoma deal on any level, if I were, I would be disappointed in his execution. So now he’s dead. He’s out of it. No pain. No suffering. No time to regret his acts. He just…leaves. And before he’s actually dead, he gets the irritating satisfaction of seeing himself as a martyr. How fucking annoying is * that*? Seems like a pretty easy road to me, when the alternative is rotting in prison the rest of your life, with no hope of release. (And please, no tales of how delightful prison is. TV doesn’t make prison a pleasant experience. Conjugal visits and personal computers wouldn’t make prison a pleasant experience. Prison sucks.)

Of course, if one believes in Hell, then that’s different. But let’s confine ourselves to those of us who really have no strong faith that there is an afterlife, especially one which reflects a reward or punishment for the way we lived our lives.

Take the movies…everyone seems so pleased when the bad guy gets killed. I’m not. What’s fun about that? He’s gone. No pain, no sorrow, no frustration, nothing that could be called suffering. This is particularly true when the bad guy gets it quick. Shit, if he’s gonna die anyway, make sure you make him piss himself about it first.

Do you all hear what I’m saying? Can anyone enlighten me?



Well you’ve set up the “debate” in such a way that you’ve already answered the question. What else is there to discuss?


Of course prison sucks. But I’d rather live then die and apparantly so do most death row inmates.


So again you set up the “debate” in order to come to some sort of preconceived conclusion. First we must go on the premise that it is the most satisfying punishment to not being able to believe in hell.


The fun is in the good guy winning. And in most movies it looks like the bad guy and the good guy end up fighting and during that time the villain gets his ass handed to him and then he either dies or goes to jail. Other villains get to see their entire plan go up in smoke and then they get killed. Heck, there’s your suffering right there.

It is hard to hear when you limit the possible answer so much. But hey, I’m an atheist with no belief in an afterlife so maybe I can answer. It is satisfying when a murderer is put to death. That person is getting what they deserve.


Well, I also disagree with the death penalty - moreso because I am not confident that it can be carried out properly, without error or prejudice.

However, you are assuming that McVeigh really had closure. Oh sure, he acted like he had dignity but he lost his little war. In the years since his crime, I do not recall any additional acts of domestic terrorism that were sparked by his actions. You really think he was done blabbering about himself ? He tried to be a martyr, but the only people I hear talking about him as a martyr is the media, trying to sell some newpapers.

The people who think he’s a martyr are all holed up in underground bunkers in the Midwest, waiting for the UN to invade :smiley:

Seriously though, I think taking pleasure in death is always unethical. “State sanctioned murder is still murder”, and all that other slogan stuff :smiley:

— G. Raven

Satisfying? Well, maybe it is. In the sense that a necessary (but unpleasant) job has been accomplished. To myself at least, it has nothing to do with revenge. Nor am I interested in making the guy suffer although the surviving relatives and friends of a murder victim might have a different take on that. S



Stoid, it’s all about closure. From now on we get to talk about Tim in the past tense.

Oh, and as to whether or not life in prison is a worse punishment, how many convicts would choose the death penalty over prison?

Two things.


We don’t like it. But we consider it necessary.

Asking why people like the Death Penalty is asking why people like abortion. Nobody REALLY likes it, but some people think it’s an important thing. Society has an obligation - and the right - to excercise justice within itself (this is NOT a responsibility given to individuals… that’s why it’s called “The People vs. Timothy McVeigh”, or something like that). It’s currently accepted that the death penalty is a preferable and acceptable manner to excise those that would seek to destroy society.

Second (and this really amused me)…

Bolding mine.

Okay, first you say you’re against the Death Penalty on ethical grounds. Then you pull one of the biggest hypocritical flip-flops I’ve ever seen and say that you want to see Timothy McVeigh suffer.

Which is it? Are you ethical or cruel?

Well. Remember all those people Mr. McVeigh killed? Now they’re dead. They’re out of it. No pain. No suffering. Heck, why exactly are we punishing this guy?

It might help you to speak to someone who does have a real emotional investment in the “Oklahoma deal”, as you euphemize it.

What bothers me the most-he wanted to die. They gave him what he wanted. He wanted to be executed.

The death penalty disturbs me, in the whole, “well, the victims need it, etc etc” mentality. Isn’t that kind of back asswards? After all, McVeigh himself thought he was retaliating for victims. The death penalty isn’t a deterrant, it isn’t a good thing.

“Oh, but if your friend/spouse/parent/kid etc etc was murdered, blah blah blah…”

There’s a lot of things we want, but they aren’t always healthy. Sometimes, it’s better to just let go. Killing the killer won’t bring anyone back, or do anything-it just unleashes more violence and hate upon the world.

I’m definitely ethically cruel. :smiley:

The closure thing…what difference does it make if he’s in the past or present tense? If he’s * presently * removed from society…I ask sincerely.

As to your second point, I believe that’s pretty much exactly what he did, isn’t it? It’s also what Gary Gilmore did, and many olthers who were looking at death. They dropped appeals and went for it. Hell, look at how many people who commit heinous acts top it off by committing suicide… it’s much the same mentality for others, like McVeigh.


has said anything about the satisfaction derived from fictional killing of bad guys. Moviemakers have tried to make movies where the bad guy doesn’t get killed, but audiences just aren’t satisfied. (An example I remember clearlyu: Fatal Attraction). I understand getting rid of the threat, because as we all know, bad guys are exceptionally tough and can withstand many kinds of pain, torture, and injury and revivie long enough to kill the heros, but aside from that? Or is that all there is, the hero is safe now? I’m trying to remember some of the moview where I felt the bad guy got off too easily… hmm. If I think of one, I’ll be back.


I oppose the death penalty, but I think I can answer this one.

The death penalty removes from the killer the ability to do more damage.

Let’s take as an example McVeigh’s reference to the child victims of his crime as “collateral damage.” That’s a hurtful statement if anyone at all says it. To hear it coming from the person who did the actual killings is especially painful – almost too painful to bear. Why? Because it adds to the callousness and senselessness of the murders.

Since McVeigh is dead, the surviving victims and the victims’ families are 100% confident that he won’t be on 20/20 next week, that there will be no book from him, no letters on from fawning reporters telling him what a genius he is as they try to get an interview with him, no letters to home bragging about trading stories with other high-profile inmates. People will never have to look at his face and realize that he is still “out there.”

Is that sufficient for this nebulous thing we call “closure?” In most instances, no, of course. But it is helpful to a lot of people.

In practice, I am uncomfortable with the death penalty as currently applied because we do not seem able, as a society, to use it correctly. But ethically and morally speaking, I’m for it. I’m quite satisfied that Tim McVeigh is dead, although revenge has as little to do with it (for me) as justice does. (Revenge is not the point, and justice, under these circumstances, just isn’t possible.) It’s a simple calculation, in my book:

We have limited resources. Shall we expend said resources to house (relatively comfortably!) and care for people who have done massive damge to society, or shall we expend said resources on people who have not? For me, the answer to this question is obvious. (Now, of course, there is the argument that it costs more to kill a convicted felon than to store him for life. It shouldn’t, and this is one of my beefs under the “inability to use the death penalty correctly” heading.) If we could’ve found something to do with McVeigh that would’ve kept him alive and giving back to the society he’d harmed, with no further opportunities to do harm, I’d be happy to see his sentence commuted to life in prison.

As it is, a person who commited a heinous crime, admitted his guilt, and enjoyed his considerably more than fifteen minutes of fame is gone. Good. Am I satisfied? Yes, pretty much. We’ve done what we can to mitigate the damage of a terrible situation - we’ve made certain that McVeigh will do no more harm to society, either by his hand (more bombings, etc.) or by ours (in storing him for the duration of his life, etc.). Time to move on.

Caught between Stoidy and deepbluesea. Kind of like between Iraq and a hard place. (Why, no, I have no shame. Why do you ask?)

Gotta agree, Stoidy, you have set the parameters of the debate to be a bit restrictive.

A Biblical quote sez it for me:“Revenge is mine, saith the Lord, I will repay.” I interpret that to mean “you cannot judge the heart and soul of your fellows, only God knows that. Since you ain’t qualified keep your cotton pickin’ hands off

We know for a fact that innocent persons have very nearly been executed. It doesn’t take much of a stretch to figure that innocent persons have been executed. Once is too many.

As to a cost/benefit analysis, execution versus life in prison, that argument makes my soul want to puke.

Ok, SPOOFE, a question. If you consider the death penalty necessary, because it you believe that it is a deterrent, then you have made an empirical and potentially falsifiable statement. I don’t think that is your argument.

I think you are using the retribution justification: if you kill heinously, if you violate a central aspect of the social compact, then justice demands that society respond by taking away your life.

Or maybe you are saying that certain people deserve to die, which is closely related.

Let me know if I misunderstand you.

Which was absolutely my goal. Essentially, my question is this: if you wanna punish someone, killing 'em seems pretty weak. After all, they aren’t around to appreciate the punishment. (Although for some, like myself, it would be exquisitely horrible in the anticipation.)

I liked Manhattan’s explanation. Made good sense to me.

And I, being the choir, raise up my voice in a chorus of hosannas and hallelujahs, brother!


PS: Anyone care to take on the task of defining “Justice”? Pretend I’m a Martian and make me understand.

A couple of other posters have touched on this, but I wanted to say it explicitly. The reason why I am in favor of the death penalty (“like” is not the right word) has nothing to do with revenge, nothing to do with punishment, nothing to do with deterrence. The death penalty is society’s way of protecting itself. It is not only a society’s right but their obligation to rid itself of members that have demonstrated that they cannot live in the society without doing great harm to it.

McVeigh is the perfect example. He did great harm to innocent members of our society, and for the stupidest of reasons. He had no remorse, and gave no indication that he wouldn’t do it again if given the chance. Therefore, he needed to be removed from our midst.

Life in prison does not remove someone from society. People in prison can still affect us. As has been pointed out, they can show up on TV, they can write books, they can file lawsuits, etc.

If we had a reasonable and economic way of firing people off to some distant planet where they could live out their lives, I’d be satisfied with that as a replacement for the death penalty. I don’t care about revenge, nor about punishing the person, I just want him gone. Completely and for good. Right now, killing him is the only way of achieving that.

::shrug:: Knew it wouldn’t be a popular solution. But when you think about it, all arguments are in terms of mitigating the damage. It’s just a question of damage to what, done by whom. If you’re worried about the damage to the collective soul, or the prisoner’s soul for that matter, your approach will be different than mine. I’m too mean and too pragmatic for that - all I can see is that someone, somewhere has to pay, and IMO it should as far as possible be the person who did the damage in the first place. Certainly - again, from my POV - we should not compound the damage already done by placing a drain on the country’s limited resources, solely to benefit the offender.

Let me give you a completely hypothetical, bare-bones, oversimplified example. Supposing, instead of killing Timothy McVeigh, we could’ve paid 30k per year to keep him alive but locked up. Or that same 30k per year could be spent to provide support and benefits to the bombing victims or their families. For me, there’s just no question there. Of course, some people would say there’s no reason the government can’t pay for both - except that, folks, the money has to come from somewhere. What program shall we cut? Or whose taxes shall we raise?

Or here’s another way of looking at it. What McVeigh did - that makes my soul (should I have such a thing) want to puke. The fact that we as a society have to come up with some way of a) dealing with him and b) dealing with the aftermath of his actions - well, that’s unfortunate, but it is also a function of society. I just think we should keep it as simple and further-harm-free as possible.

Now, I do grant, I absolutely grant, that our legal system seems to be incapable of properly implementing the death penalty - innocent people may well have died, for example, and that is totally unacceptable. It is better to imprison everyone for life, never execute a soul, than to take the risk of killing an innocent person. But I don’t have a shadow of a doubt that McVeigh is innocent. So this argument doesn’t apply in this case.

I hope that I have faithfully excerpted your remarks. I think I can partially agree with this version of the restrain argument. Some individuals are too dangerous to be allowed to live under certain circumstances. Pablo Escobar comes to mind. Certain Axis leaders following WWII are another possible example. And the application of the DP to treason during times of war may be related to this problem.

Whether this applies to the late Timothy McVeigh is not entirely clear. Absent the DP, I would guess that he would be approximately as influential as Kaczinski. That is, not much. As it is, Mr. McVeigh died for his twisted beliefs and may be considered a martyr by some. At any rate, he wouldn’t have recited poetry about being the master of his fate if he had been given a life sentence.

I can’t see this argument extending to the guy who holds up a convenience store and brutally extinguishes the life of a young employee. Nor can I even see how publishing the memoir of a celebrated serial killer promotes mayhem more than popular biographies of these psychopaths would. That is, any twisted soul who would be inspired by the autobiography of Charles Manson could presumably find equal inspiration by reading Helter Skelter.

So I would say that the societal self-protection argument is an exceedingly narrow one.