Why is there a death penalty?

Did you read the part you quoted, about how they don’t deserve to be supported for life? Or do you not want to address it? Or do you disagree?

I believe that they deserve to be permanently removed from society. I just think that given the facts, life in prison is overall a better way of doing so than execution.

Then it needs fixing. The appeals process needs to be streamlined and made less expensive.

I suppose we could do that, but it would inevitably increase the risk of executing an innocent person. Are you willing to accept that?

I’m sure that remedy will be oh-so-comforting to the innocent person executed for a crime he did not commit. How terribly humanitarian of you. Meanwhile, the actual perpetrator goes unpunished, unjailed and unexecuted. Good plan.

I would. See, I may be indulging in fantasy here, but I think that if the original process of investigation and prosecution were carried out correctly (far from the shameful mess that we see today!) the appellate process would consequentially be quicker and cheaper.

Sarcasm aside, where it belongs, can you quickly come up with a better, quicker method for focusing the attention of the judicial system on the quality of it’s work?

In addition, should I infer from your helpful comments that there is no value to introducing some responsibility to the process?

How does my suggestion lead to your conclusions?

I’m willing to read your problems when they also come with attempts at solutions.

Given that no matter how hard we try, mistakes will happen, what exactly is the acceptable number of innocent citizens you would allow the state to execute before deciding that capital punishment, as practiced IRL, not as a hypothetically perfect system, is a bad idea?

There are quite a number of people who have been executed in the UK for crimes they never committed.

There are a goodly number of those who would almost certainly have been executed but were found to have had evidence fabricated against them by police forces who were under huge pressure to catch ‘someone’.

Some were innocent, some were not guilty of what you would call first degree murder but were guilty of what we call manslaughter(2nd dergree murder?).Some were incompetant to plead, on some who were freed evidence proving innocence was witheld by police, interviews were conducted in ways that were simply illegal in other cases, others were proven innocent by advances in forensic technology.

It is fairly easy to cite cases like say serial killers with a mass of evidence who should be executed but for every one of these there’s a large number of other cases that are not so clear cut.

In the US the problem seems to be, where do you define the boundaries? Most of the rest of the developed world does not deem itself as being perfect enough to be able to do so.

Every system has flaws, always will, but how do you feel about killing innocent persons in the haste for revenge ?

Sometimes the issue of cost is brought up, why should we pay for such non-contributors? IMO this is a smokescreen. we can find the money for our governments to do odious things in our name(real-politic), we find money to support the lazy and greedy, the weak, the helpless and the undeserving and yet the risk of killing an innocent to balance the books is acceptable ? Really!

I doubt that Geoffrey Dahmer or others ever seriously thought about execution to hold back and it certainly never stopped him.The real deterrance for criminals is the liklehood of being caught.

In the UK there has been a program of remote camera installation in city centres and it is not surprising that crime of all types has fallen in those places.
We have the option of being able to see the phone number of a caller, the number of harassment calls has fallen dramatically.
One credit card company etches a photograph of the holder onto their cards, they are hardly ever stolen or used in fraud.(Royal Bank of Scotland)

In short deterrance is not about execution it’s about catching the perps.

There seems to be an idea that if the punishment for an offence is great enough then the criminal will stay honest, like a kind of risk/punishment cost benefit analysis criminals simply do not think that way, let me tell you that the overwhleming majority of repeat offenders genuinely do not expect to get caught.
There might be plenty of evidence to the contrary but each time they spin the wheel by reoffending they think the ball will never land in a ‘go to jail slot’
To reduce crime you have to change the perception of the offender from thinking there is little risk of detection to one of high risk.

*Originally posted by Screwtape *

Sure. All these persons being released from prison in the last few years due to newly revealed exculpatory evidence or DNA testing should receive a stipend of 50% of the responsible prosecutors’ salaries for the rest of their lives. That will probably work about as well as your proposed “solution.”

See, my concern is with preventing innocent people from being executed and imprisoned, not with punishing officers of the court after the fact. If the threat of execution does not deter potential killers, how much less does the threat of prosecution deter sloppy prosecutors?

Oh, and the appeals process that you wish to “streamline” is, in fact, the existing mechanism for focusing the attention of the judicial system on the quality of its (note, no apostrophe) work. If anything, I think the appeals process needs to be less streamlined and more rigorous.

You may infer whatever you please. I am not terribly interested in the opinions of people who will accept the executions of innocents as “acceptable losses.” The word normally used to describe such persons is “monstrous.”


You appear to be laboring under several misimpressions here. Would anyone care to venture a guess as to one or more of them?

*Originally posted by Screwtape *

Not unless you first suspend the convicted’s right to appeal. That’s what costs money, not the needles or gas or volts for the chair. I just hate it when people pretend to be ignorant just to support their own weak arguments.

I can see no moral problem with that.

Which I agree is a fine thing.

Well, it may surprise you to learn this, but I’ve never been a mass-murderer. However, I suspect that the mind of a prosecutor is a little more cause-and-effect oriented than that of a serial murderer, for example.

Wow. Correcting my grammar? I must have really gotten you enraged. What fun.

[ul][li]I never said that. I don’t find even a single one as acceptable. That is not the issue.[/li][li]Assuming the first was true, which it isn’t, you’re spending a lot of keystrokes on someone in whom you’re not interested. [/ul][/li][QUOTE]
** The word normally used to describe such persons is “monstrous.” **

Yes, and the place normally used to call other posters “monstrous” is The Pit.

In any case, if we can’t have a reasoned discussion without name-calling, ad hominum and tu quoque attacks, I suggest we drop it.

Can anyone really name a person who has been executed for a crime they didn’t commit. I’m not talking about in the year 1200 in England. I mean with the current system we have today in the United States. Everyone here claims that it happens all the time or at least happens too often. What is the person’s name that was executed for a crime they didn’t commit.

Timothy Evans

This very subject was discussed about 3 weeks ago in the following thread:


My position: The wide use of the death penalty in the USA is proof that we are too intellectually lazy to examine in depth why our murder rate is so much higher (five times that in the UK!) than other countries that somehow scrape by without capital penalties. If we are really serious about reducing murder rates in this country, rather than simply providing an institutionalized revenge system, drop the death penalty, and restrict the availability of guns.

I don’t think that eliminating the death penalty is the answer here. As Pyrrhonist mentioned early on, it is about retribution, not deterence. Some people just need to be put down permanently. I do think the whole system needs an overhaul (I don’t think anyone disagrees with that), and sentencing someone to death should be subject to some very exceptional rules.

Just as a suggestion, I would like to see an independant judicial review panel put together, maybe 5 experienced judges appointed for two-year terms, who automatically review every case that has resulted in a death penalty. The panel would look over everything about the way the case was handled, and if even one has the slightest doubt of the defendant’s guilt, they have the power to commute the sentence to life. They also have the power demand a re-trial for any cause. They cannot overturn the jury’s original ruling, but they can overturn the sentence. Also, this review could be independant of any other appeal, so anyone still on death row after this review could continue to appeal.

Ideally, this situation would eliminate as much of the human error as possible. Certainly, the self-confessed murderer found standing over the lasted of 53 victims with an ax and a map showing where he buried the rest of the bodies would probably end up getting the needle, and rightly so, but convictions based on faulty process, sleeping lawyers, questionable evidence, or noose-happy judges would be commuted, and in most cases re-tried or declared a mis-trial much more quickly.

Now, if you want to get into the issue of what should be done about damaged, sociopathic serial killers like Jeffery Dahmer, that’s another thread altogether.

*Originally posted by Screwtape *

[list][li]I never said that. I don’t find even a single one as acceptable. That is not the issue.**[/li][/QUOTE]

Oh, heavens, of course you did. You really should read your own posts. RoboDude asked you, as regards “streamlining” the appeals process, **“I suppose we could do that, but it would inevitably increase the risk of executing an innocent
person. Are you willing to accept that?” ** To which you answered, simply, “I would.” If there is an alternate reading of that reply which excludes, “I accept the inevitably increased risk of executing an innocent person,” I’d like to know what it is.

In any case, it appears you believe that, in handling the prosecutorial process, the threat of punishment at the back end will clean things up at the front end. I, on the other hand, being a pragmatist, believe that the front end will inevitably be messy, so it’s best to leave things open at the back end.

Part of the reason I believe things will continue to be sloppy at the front end is because the errors being made are not procedural–they are cultural and institutional. The Federal Government increasing the scope of crimes for which the death penalty is an option invariably will lead to a greater number of such penalties being sought, with all the attendant screwups. Not to mention that nonwhites are given the death penalty at a rate far greater than that of whites. Those are the kinds of things that won’t be solved by the threat of a negligent homicide prosecution (which is itself not a capital offense, anyway).

All of it is academic, as far as I’m concerned, as I am categorically opposed to capital punishment on the grounds that I don’t want the State invested with the power of life and death over its own citizens. States given such power tend to exercise it in an arbitrary manner.

Wilburn Henderson , Alvin R. Moore, Jr, and Bennie Demps


also Leo Jones


it would appear that the above url didnt make it entirely into the vb code…you’ll have to cut and paste

Remember: one of the neat little quirks of our justice system is that once found guilty or innocent, it is not enought to merely produce information that the person was in fact innocent (or guilty) to win a new trial. You have to prove that there was a problem with the trial itself, either in procedure, or in process, or in a legality; or prove that those involved in the trial were incompetent or failed to perform their duty up to the standards required of them, or that they were not in a position to offer fair judgement.

So when people make snide remarks about people ‘resorting to technicalities’ to ‘get off’ – well, guess what: being innocent isn’t enough.

In his novel “A Philosophical Investigation”, Philip Kerr described a possible near-future in England, in which the government was elected (partly) on a platform of retributive justice. Part of the campaign was a promise to support “punitive coma”, in which parties guilty of very serious crimes were rendered unconscious for a period up to the rest of their natural lives.

The punishment couldn’t be said to be inhumane (misgivings of the protagonist aside), since deep-space travelling astronauts and certain medical cases would undergo the same procedure. The cost of incarceration was negligible, and escape impossible. The punishment removed the guilty from society as effectively as with capital punishment, but in cases where the guilty party was later proven innocent, they could be revived and released, which mitigates the effect of erroneous verdicts.

What was surrendered was any hope by the system that those punished this way could be rehabilitated.

Would this be an acceptable compromise between the pro and anti death penalty camps?


If for no other reason think of the prison officals who carry out the execution. I understand that it is a stressful process that can take an emotional toll on prison officials. Asking them to torture or otherwise be cruel to an inmate just isn’t right. And to be honest I’d rather not have cruel guards in our prisons. Most of the prisoners are getting out eventually and i don’t want them any more pissed off then they already are.


Paging Dr. Mengela…

I don’t think I’m willing to endorse any such program. Nor do I think are the majority of Americans prepared to endorse such a cruel, inhumane, and morally repugnant program.


Let me know what other viruses that we’ve found cures for…that’s right, there aren’t any.