The Arkansas Executions, or More Evidence that Prison for Murderers Doesn't Work

Arkansas is trying to execute some people who have been wasting oxygen for many years (cite).

Most of them are standard-issue lowlifes, but two of the cases are somewhat more interesting. One was previously convicted of murder in 1977, but was allowed out and killed again in 1990. Another was convicted of murder and sentenced to LWOP, but escaped, and killed two more people.

It’s a point I’ve made in the past, but it bears repeating - if a system in which even one innocent dies is unacceptable, then not executing murderers is unacceptable. Because at least three innocent people died because we did not execute these folks, as we should.

No demonstrably innocent person has been executed in the US since the reinstatement of the death penalty, but at least three demonstrably innocent people have been murdered because the DP was not imposed. Therefore the death penalty is better than prison for murderers. QED.


I’ll ask the question I asked the last time you made this argument.

Do you know what happens when you file a writ of habeas corpus for a dead man?

Murderers can and do get reformed and live normal lives after serving their sentences.

You find out how complicated an issue disinterment can be.



Yes, I know, you’re going to reiterate the “demonstrably” part of your statement. But there are quite a number of cases where these people might possibly been exonatored, except the legal system went “too bad, so sad” and refused to grant a hearing on new evidence.

You’ve made an excellent case for better safeguards around prison security and parole processes. You’ve made no case at all for state sanctioned murder being a good thing.

Yes, I would like to keep the distinction between definitely proven, as in the cases I mentioned, and unproven speculation, as in the cases you mention.


Very convenient. But not very persuasive.

You find out that the U.S. criminal justice system doesn’t exonerate dead people. So the lack of posthumous exonerations after 1976 reflects the nature of criminal procedure, nothing more–no matter how many times you try to draw improper inferences from it.

The evidence we do have, exonerations of dozens of innocent men who would have been sentenced to death if the prosecutors, trials, and appellate courts had their way, is enough to convince anyone that we’ve executed innocent people. Anyone, that is, who reaches their opinion based on evidence and not faith.

Can you give an example of how innocence could be “definitively proven?”

How hard can it be to prove a negative, right?

Seriously, Shodan. This is weak sauce.

I’m not impressed by that list of “notorious killers who went straight”. Rare, freak cases. No Bundy, Gacy or the like.

On the flip-side, the recidivism rate for executed killers is exactly Zero.

How about an unbreakable alibi?

As someone who has a deep skepticism in government’s ability to do most things competently, but one who believes that death is a reasonable punishment for some crimes, I find myself conflicted on the death penalty.

I don’t see why. It’s perfectly reasonable to believe that death is a fitting punishment for some crimes and to understand that the death penalty is not a morally correct precisely because our system of determining guilt is so error prone.

It’s not on the basis of it being a “fitting punishment” for me, but I’d count myself among this number. I would say that death is, theoretically, the optimum response in some situations, but I don’t think the systems we have are capable of determining whether we have one of those situations or not.

Well, some will argue that means the system works.

But Cameron Todd Willingham

was executed and since there was no arson, thus no murder to start with, he was wrongfully executed. The scientific evidence is pretty conclusive. Rick Perry executed a innocent man.

It is indeed possible for a court to decide after the execution: “in 2010, the Innocence Project filed a lawsuit against the State of Texas, seeking a judgment of “official oppression”” but extremely difficult.

OTOH, yes, murderers do get out and kill again, even those sentenced to Life without Parole.

Do you favour executing first time drunk drivers? Or employers convicted of serious safety violations?

I mean, you are rather blatantly misrepresenting the creed you are referencing. The system is not expected to stop all innocent deaths. It’s expected to not directly cause that injustice.

Tangentially, I’m somewhat iffy on capital punishment in general. But my main objection is the worry of executing someone innocent. Someone who has been tried and convicted, independently, of two entirely unrelated execution-worthy crimes; is someone I would have no problem executing (assuming both trials are fully independent… not some kangaroo thing where everyone at trial #2 knew he had been convicted at trial #1 and just railroaded him). Because the odds of a truly innocent person being wrongly convicted of murder TWICE are so astronomical that I’m willing to tolerate them.
That said, I don’t find your argument persuasive at all. “if a system in which even one innocent dies is unacceptable”? That’s clearly not the metric we use for all sorts of decisions as a society. If it was, the speed limit would be 25 MPH on highways, 5 MPH on residential streets, and swimming pools would be illegal.

You are mistaking what I referred to as “definitely proven”. It is definitely proven that executing the murderers in the OP would have prevented them from killing again. We know that because it happened. Real things are real.

I know you are aware that the accused does not have to prove innocence - guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. That standard was reached in all the cases mentioned. No new evidence has been produced that would raise a reasonable doubt.

One of the murderers mentioned was convicted, in part, because his DNA was recovered from a cigarette butt that also had the victim’s blood on it. If he could produce evidence that it wasn’t his DNA, then that would be the kind of evidence that would help. But he can’t do that, because he is actually, factually guilty - he did do it, and the evidence proves it.

So, in his case, it isn’t possible to prove his innocence. Because he isn’t innocent.

Asking you to prove a claim? No, not weak at all.

I’m not asking the system to stop all innocent deaths - I am advocating for the system under which the smallest number of innocents die.

Number of innocent people who die with execution - approximately zero.
Number of innocent people who die without it - so far, three at least.

The system hasn’t caused any injustice. It has, however, allowed three avoidable deaths by not acting. How are the dead people better off because the state didn’t kill them directly?