Patterico's Pontifications

9/29/2010

Needed: An Initiative to Get the Death Penalty Working Again

Filed under: Court Decisions,Crime,General — Patterico @ 7:24 am

As I noted last night, a Clinton-appointed judge named Jeremy Fogel has granted a stay of execution in the case of a man convicted of raping and killing a 15-year-old child in 1980.  There is no denying he is guilty.  Yet his execution will be held up until at least next year so that the judge can “conduct an orderly review” of a new execution protocol that the judge admits has not been shown to be deficient — and that the judge admits is superior in several demonstrable ways to a Kentucky protocol found constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The decision points up the need to have different methods of execution available to a condemned man in California, so that illusory deficiencies in one method will not hold up the execution of a clearly guilty man who has committed a monstrous crime.

As I see it, realistic possibilities include:

  • Firing squad.  To my knowledge, the firing squad has never been held unconstitutional anywhere.  Several bullets to the head should produce a rapid and certain death.
  • Gas chamber retrofitted with carbon monoxide.  As far as I know, California’s gas chamber, which formerly used cyanide, is still around and functioning.  Death by cyanide was improbably ruled unconstitutional by Carter appointee Judge Marilyn Hall Patel in the 1990s.  Her decision was affirmed by the Ninth Circus in a decision written by Carter appointee Harry Pregerson, and not appealed. But there is absolutely no reason we can’t retofit the chamber to use a non-painful gas such as carbon monoxide.
  • Overdose of barbiturates.  Even our friend the liberal judge Fogel claims that this would be constitutional. Of course, there are issues: there is currently a nationwide shortage of the drug we used to sedate prisoners, and it could be discontinued almost entirely. Furthermore, the method found hunky-dory today will be declared horribly cruel tomorrow. Best to have several alternatives on the table.

This will have to be done by initiative.  Our Democrat legislature will not vote to authorize new methods of capital punishment.  Nor would any any such law be signed by Jerry Brown if were to be elected Governor.  (I will have more to say about the conduct of the Attorney General in this case in a future post.  Suffice it to say that he has not defended capital punishment in California as he claims he has.)

What we need is someone to bankroll an initiative authorizing these alternatives. Commenter Dana notes that a poll conducted this summer (.pdf) found that 7 in 10 Californians continue to support capital punishment. Citizens don’t want to see it used in every case, but they want it available for the worst of the worst. Over 700 such people currently sit on Death Row. If we don’t fix the situation they will all die of old age.

Albert Greenwood Brown raped 15-year-old Susan Jordan and strangled her to death with one of her shoelaces. The courts say he can’t suffer too much pain when he dies. That’s outrageous enough — but letting him live is more ridiculous. Let’s do what it takes to dispatch this fellow to the fate he deserves.

68 Responses to “Needed: An Initiative to Get the Death Penalty Working Again”

  1. you left out the other method of execution:

    mix him in with the general prison population. It worked with Dahmer.

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  2. Am I correct in recalling that the defendant called the mother of the child and told her she would never see her child alive and never find the body. There must be a special place for this pig.

    bald01 (3771f4)

  3. Why is cyanide painful ? I would think carbon monoxide would take much longer to kill and that alone would make it subject to challenge.

    Mike K (568408)

  4. I am for the IDEA of capital punishment, I just don’t trust the government (or anybody else for that matter) to not make a complete mess of it.

    But beyond the for/against argument, and as far as methods go…forget carbon monoxide. Just use 100% pure nitrogen. It’s cheap, non-toxic, and very humane.

    See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nitrogen_asphyxiation

    Thing is? It’ll never happen. Those in favor of the death penalty don’t want a method that is divoid of the pomp and circumstance that other methods involve. And those opposed would find their argument losing a lot of relevancy in the face of a pure and completely humane method.

    Nate_MI (8efdaa)

  5. Other choices to offer:

    Pressing.
    Stoning.
    Flaying.
    Boiling in oil.
    Buried alive.
    Drowning in a bucket.
    Torn apart by bears.
    Thrown out of a helicopter.
    Half-hanging, drawing and quartering

    and my personal favorite: Suicide bombing other death row prisoners.

    Kevin M (298030)

  6. OK, maybe that’s not very constructive, but I don’t think that the injunction against “cruel and unusual punishment” requires painlessness and banality.

    Kevin M (298030)

  7. Do we need yet another example? How about Richard Allen Davis. Sentenced to death in 1996 for the murder (and rape) of then 12-year-old Polly Klass. At his sentencing, Davis read a statement claiming that Klaas had said to Davis, “Just don’t do me like my dad,” just before he killed her. Why is he still breathing our air?

    Old Coot (93a74d)

  8. Exsanguination by leeches.

    Initiatives are obviously subject to the whims of judges.

    JD (a99479)

  9. i liked Rich Ducamin’s (sp) idea. drop our psychos into countries we hate. He pictured kicking Hinkley over Iraq, back when Saddam was still in charger, and shouting, “Hey Hinkley! Saddam f—ed Jodi Foster!”

    So let’s dump him out of a plane, without a parachute over iran. best case scenario, he kills that idiot president of theirs. worst, he dies. i call that a win-win.

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  10. No, it just proves the rule, never elect a Democrat to anything, Clinton nominated, and I’m sure both
    Boxer and Feinstein, confirmed them.

    ian cormac (6709ab)

  11. You ever notice how fast the death penalty can be carried out if you kill people while attacking the federal government?

    Timothy McVeigh: sentenced to death June 1997, executed June 2001.

    Dave Surls (c9a2bd)

  12. I have an idea, subject them to endless music from radio middle east!

    The Emperor (6e616b)

  13. Of course, the rules for right wing terrorists are a little bit different than the rules for Muslim terrorists (Muslim terrorists being the darlings of the left).

    Thousands and thousands of Americans have been killed by Muslim terrorists over the last 40 years…but, not one Muslim terrorist has ever been executed by any government in the United States (as far as I know). And, for sure not one has ever been executed by the feds.

    Weird, ain’t it?

    Dave Surls (c9a2bd)

  14. Dave

    Well, at one point mcveigh gave up his appeals. he literally ordered his lawyer to stop appealing the decision. so i am not sure how good that is as an example.

    The other thing is that the states are subject to federal review. but the feds are not subject to state review. so the appeal is streamlined just by the fact that there is one less level of government to appeal to.

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  15. In the US at least, firing squads aim for the heart, not the head. Although, if I was to be on the receiving end, I would prefer the head; seems more likely to be quicker and less painful.

    Anon Y. Mous (32180c)

  16. re #13… how many of the ones who have killed others, have been actually captured by us.

    And of course you can’t count gitmo, because there they are using the rule of war allowing them to detain for the duration of hostilities. when the end comes they might also choose to charge them with war crimes and execute them for that, but they are quite reasonably waiting.

    and there is the matter of gathering intelligence. take KSM. obviously if anyone deserves execution it is him. But by keeping him alive, we could waterboard out his secrets. by comparison mcveigh was probably just a one-off and thus of no value to us alive.

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  17. We need to do what we can to undermine conservative senatorial candidates so we can get more judges like this confirmed.

    Don’t rip Christine O’Donnell and then cry about liberal judges.

    Jim (844377)

  18. I don’t think resistance to the death penalty is necessarily a party issue. I think it’s more of a personal thing. Some folks just don’t want to see people executed. Maybe because of their religious beliefs or make up. Some on the other hand think it’s more of an issue of justice. An eye for an eye, a tooth for tooth. Life for life. If you don’t want to lose your life, don’t take another person’s life. It’s just that simple. We don’t take pleasure in the death of murderers like Brown, we just want to see justice done. I also personally think that the issue of “painless” death is just crap talk. Death is death.

    The Emperor (6e616b)

  19. “take KSM”

    A Muslim terrorist.

    Responsible for the deaths of thousands of American citizens, in U.S. custody for SEVEN YEARS…and hasn’t even been tried yet, much less executed.

    Timmy McVeigh captured in 1995, tried and executed by 2001.

    Funny how that works. And, funny how it always seems to work out that way.

    Google Zayd Hassan Abd Al-Latif Masud Al Safarini for another example of a Muslim terrorist who killed Americans…but, somehow the Feds couldn’t be arsed with executing the guy.

    Dave Surls (c9a2bd)

  20. Dave

    But come on. i don’t want KSM dead, yet. i want him waterboarded to get all his information. then when the war is over, waterboard him one more time and then apply electric current… :-)

    The point is there is a reason why AQ terrorists are treated differently.

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  21. Greetings:

    I think that I would go with the overdose of barbiturates with one addendum, that they be administered in the prisoner’s food without prior warning or announcement other than the actual death warrant. Here’s your dinner, enjoy.

    11B40 (5b2da3)

  22. “How about Richard Allen Davis”

    A career scumbag, convicted of numerous crimes over the years, including thefts, kidnapping, sexual assaults and various other serious offenses.

    Released by the state over and over and over again.

    Finally kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered a 12 year old girl in 1993.

    Has been on Death Row for the last 14 FUCKING YEARS, kicking back, enjoying three hots and a cot…while we pick up the tab.

    Your tax dollar at work.

    Dave Surls (c9a2bd)

  23. I would think carbon monoxide would take much longer to kill and that alone would make it subject to challenge.

    What would be the legal ground for such a challenge?

    Thousands and thousands of Americans have been killed by Muslim terrorists over the last 40 years…but, not one Muslim terrorist has ever been executed by any government in the United States (as far as I know). And, for sure not one has ever been executed by the feds.

    It is cheaper (and much more fun) to bomb them from the air.

    Michael Ejercito (249c90)

  24. The courts say he can’t suffer too much pain when he dies.

    What is the legal foundation behind that?

    Michael Ejercito (249c90)

  25. “It is cheaper (and much more fun) to bomb them from the air.”

    I don’t know that it’s cheaper, but it’s definitely more fun blowing them straight to hell, than capturing them and feeding them for the next ten zillion years.

    Dave Surls (c9a2bd)

  26. Hey, I have an idea: starve the bastards to death.

    What “cruel and unusual”?

    Here in Texas, big old tough conservative meanie Texas, a mother starves her baby to death, gets a twenty year sentence, and does…

    Wait for it…

    Seven months, then out on parole.

    I guess starvation can’t be all that bad, right?

    ===

    “The Texas parole board uses a release formula that includes an inmate’s prison time, county jail time served, and credits earned for good behavior. Valencia served at least 30 actual months behind bars, most of it in the Harris County Jail until her conviction. The remaining 2½ years were earned in “good time” credits, totaling five years served — enough to release her on parole.”

    Of course, what the Texas Parole Board does not do is look at the fact that this woman starved her baby to death. That doesn’t factor in to the formula.

    DJMoore (dfc510)

  27. Part of the problem with the DP is that it’s almost impossible to get a woman executed, no matter what she does. Personally, I’d have strung Susan Smith (the SC baby-drowner) up after running a pool betting on how long she could do the Tyburn two-step. Same-same for Myra Hindley, Karla Homolka, and a bunch of others.

    Technomad (f667ed)

  28. If the current administration can get behind health care rationing based on expense, you know, “maybe its better to take a pain pill” – why can’t they get behind the speedy execution of the death penalty. It is very expensive to house a killer for life. Just give then a pain pill ,and flip the switch.

    carlton (41997b)

  29. The idea that a method of EXECUTION that causes pain somehow constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment” is entirely a liberal creation.

    Icy Texan (9b7145)

  30. Can’t use CO, as it usually induces a very painful headache before unconsciousness; and, as we all know, the Federal Judiciary is filled with weenies that think that if a condemned person suffers even the pain of a hangnail, that his punishment is “cruel and unusual”.

    Why don’t we just hook them up to a wide-open morphine drip ? They won’t feel a thing when their system shuts down, and we could be buying the opium from Afghan farmers to help with the problem over there.

    But, ultimately, a 230gr, JHP delivered to the back of the skull will take care of everything!

    AD-RtR/OS! (4c7111)

  31. Perhaps scissors could be jammed into the back of their skulls, then the scissors could be opened up, and then their brains could be sucked out.

    This particular form of execution has already been approved by the courts, correct?

    ras (b7f440)

  32. Why don’t we just hook them up to a wide-open morphine drip ? They won’t feel a thing when their system shuts down, and we could be buying the opium from Afghan farmers to help with the problem over there.

    I never understood why they didn’t do this.

    I don’t really see the compelling need to make execution into this tremendous ordeal of painlessness, but just shoot him up with dope and he will die in euphoria. It would actually send a good anti-drug message, too.

    But ras makes a good point. The legal system tolerates suffering. Sometimes atrocious suffering, too. The suffering of a noose or a firing squad shouldn’t be seen as cruelty.

    Dustin (b54cdc)

  33. Ironically, I oppose capital punishment, albeit reluctantly, because I do not trust govts not to abuse it.

    700 on death row? Compared to … what? … a hundred million innocents killed by their own govts in just the last 100 years? All done by equally disgusting people in both cases; only the scale is different.

    Better to not give the killers such authority in the first place, I think, even when it seems ok to do so, because when it gets out of hand, it really gets out of hand. So says history.

    Why would anyone think that they can control the govt’s killing better than they can control its spending? Seriously. Solve that and I’d switch my position in a heartbeat.

    (And in anticipation, if I were asked the Dukakis question, what would I do if my wife and child were raped and murdered by one of these guys, my answer would be, “kill him with my bare hands; take my chances in front of a jury,” which is wholly consistent with the above.)

    ras (b7f440)

  34. Good point, ras. Of course the liberals would argue that the unborn have no feelings.

    PatAZ (9d1bb3)

  35. ras, you forget that under our system of republicanism, we The People, are supposed to be Sovereign, and the Government is supposed to be a servant of our will.
    Therefore, the power of life and death over miscreants, is the power of society to impose its’ will upon those who have transcended, or just plain broken, the Social Contract.
    Cancers, of the body of man and the body-politic, must be excised for the common good.
    It does no good to segregate them, as eventually they, in fact if not in influence, escape their bounds and wreak further havoc upon the good people of the community.
    Death does have a certain finality to it.

    AD-RtR/OS! (4c7111)

  36. Of course the liberals would argue that the unborn have no feelings.

    Which must make them conservatives, since liberals – if nothing else – are consumed by their feelings.

    AD-RtR/OS! (4c7111)

  37. I think firing squads aim for the heart, not the head. And I think that only one rifle has a bullet, the others have blanks. That way, none of the men firing know who exactly killed the individual. Note the “I think”s. I’m not sure about any of this.

    Jim S. (eb486e)

  38. PatAZ, the liberals would argue that the unborn can’t feel anything. It is those self-same liberals that have no feelings.

    Icy Texan(formerlyAZ) (9b7145)

  39. “Ironically, I oppose capital punishment, albeit reluctantly, because I do not trust govts not to abuse it.”

    No argument there. That’s why we want to make sure that the people are making the decision, and not agents of the government.

    Hence, the idea of juries.

    Dave Surls (c9a2bd)

  40. This is depressing. On top of housing and feeding the criminal all these years, we are paying judges, prison personnel, attorneys, etc. etc. etc.

    For a guy who should be dead. I can go in anytime and have my dogs, that I love, killed humanely for $50.

    jodetoad (7720fb)

  41. PatAZ,

    Good point, ras. Of course the liberals would argue that the unborn have no feelings.

    To do that, given all that we now know about development and what happens in the womb, one would have to put one’s faith above science.

    AD-RtR/OS!

    ras, you forget that under our system of republicanism, we The People, are supposed to be Sovereign, and the Government is supposed to be a servant of our will.
    Therefore, the power of life and death over miscreants, is the power of society to impose its’ will upon those who have transcended, or just plain broken, the Social Contract.
    Cancers, of the body of man and the body-politic, must be excised for the common good.
    It does no good to segregate them, as eventually they, in fact if not in influence, escape their bounds and wreak further havoc upon the good people of the community.
    Death does have a certain finality to it.

    Other than the parts of your comment that I have hilited above, I see no cause for concern; your points are totally valid.

    Dave Surls,

    No argument there. That’s why we want to make sure that the people are making the decision, and not agents of the government.

    Hence, the idea of juries.

    1. Except it’s a judge who does the sentencing, no?

    2. Jury manipulation, both via the selection process (a la O.J.) and via the selective allowability or disallowability of evidence, corrupts the process too much for me to bet 100m lives on it.

    I’d love to see the scum erased permanently, believe me, but not at risk of what history says is an inevitable cost. Botany Bay, anyone?

    ras (b7f440)

  42. Jim S.,

    One gun has a blank, the others have live rounds.

    Depending on the scenario, firing squads can be infective in immediately and humanely killing the condemned, requiring someone to administer the fatal round.

    Fritz (3036f6)

  43. Personally, I’d have strung Susan Smith (the SC baby-drowner) up after running a pool betting on how long she could do the Tyburn two-step. Same-same for Myra Hindley, Karla Homolka, and a bunch of others.

    Susan Smith should have been executed.

    I do hear that child killers are not terribly popular in women’s prisons.

    Why would anyone think that they can control the govt’s killing better than they can control its spending? Seriously. Solve that and I’d switch my position in a heartbeat.

    Who else is going to do it?

    The government is part Jim Crow, part Manzanar, and part Trail of Tears. That does not mean I would entrust the War on Sand Nazi Terror to mercenaries who sell themselves to the highest bidder. Nor does it mean I would trust administration of justice to vigilante death squads.

    Michael Ejercito (249c90)

  44. Just lock them in a room with Alan Grayson until their head explodes. Should only take about 30 minutes.

    iconoclast (c91a7c)

  45. ras, I used “supposed” because I believe the system has been totally corrupted by the Progressives,
    requiring a Restoration of the Republic and the re-imposition of limits, as devised by the Founders, to the powers of government.

    AD-RtR/OS! (4c7111)

  46. That does not mean I would entrust the War on Sand Nazi Terror to mercenaries who sell themselves to the highest bidder.

    Straw man args accomplish nothing.

    So I will presume you were just venting per the frustration of seeing known killers left alive. I share the frustration, but in comparing the historical results of allowing govts the right to kill – and I speak of those cases outside of warfare, as are the topic of this thread – the choice seems clear, albeit unsatisfying.

    I remain open to genuine arg, however. Could you, or anyone else who wishes to chime in, name for me the most compelling historical examples you can think of that meet the basic criteria, examples where:

    1. the govt had the right to kill; and
    2. the govt did not ultimately abuse that right; and
    3. the results stand the test of time, no one-week wonders or anything like that.

    In terms of playing the odds, given 100m innocents dead in the last century alone, I see it as a longshot that the number of innocents risked because of the continued existence of those on death row would come anywhere near the number whose risk of death-by-govt would soar if the govt were given a strong mandate to kill, but perhaps you know of historical evidence that proves otherwise.

    ras (b7f440)

  47. AD-RtR/OS! ,

    ras, I used “supposed” because I believe the system has been totally corrupted by the Progressives,
    requiring a Restoration of the Republic and the re-imposition of limits, as devised by the Founders, to the powers of government.

    We’re in raging agreement, then.

    But I’d also add that corruption is historically to be expected, and that during the time from the establishment of good government, thru its long decline into corruption, and finally to its reestablishment in proper form again, far too many innocent will be executed.

    At least, them’s the totals from most of history, and that’s what worries me. The original libertarian conception was/is a beautiful one, and the Constitution almost succeeded in implementing it so well as to limit the institutionalized corruption to a fraction of its historical norm, an amazing accomplishment in and of itself, but, well, here we are.

    ras (b7f440)

  48. Patterico’s suggestion sounds like a good idea. I’m not that familiar with the California initiative process but this seems like a perfect candidate: The death penalty is legal in California, prescribed by California law, and has been imposed by duly constituted juries according to state and federal laws … and yet state officials and courts have repeatedly frustrated its use. If this happened in any other area — e.g., integration, government-funded medical or education services, or any government refusal to act that frustrated a state purpose — wouldn’t an initiative be appropriate?

    DRJ (d43dcd)

  49. Ras–the set up here in Florida, which I believe is standard in almost every other state that has the death penalty, is that once the trial proper is over and the defendant found guilty, a sentencing phase begins, in which the jury hears evidence and testimony from both sides, and decides whether or not to recommend the death penalty or as the alternative life in prison (might be with or without possibility of parole–not sure about that). I’m not sure if unanimity is required for this. This is the phase during which the defense will try to prove as many mitigating factors as possible and the prosecution as many aggravating factors as possible. I believe that in at least some states, if the jury decides on a life sentence, the death penalty can not be imposed. After the jury, the judge makes the final decision; in at least some states he must find aggravating factors to justify a death sentence, and if such factors are lacking, he can not give the death penalty.

    I should add that personally I can find no justification for the death penalty, both on religious grounds and practical (the possibility of executing innocents and the lack of real deterrant effect among them). Justice is not possible in such a case, unless you can arrange for the murder victim to be resurrected.

    I’ve also found over the years that most neurotypicals find the prospect of being alone, without human contact, for an extended time, is extremely terrifying–and they are perpetually bewildered by my preference to be alone as much as possible and for as long as possible. (For those that don’t know me or don’t remember what I said several years ago when I first wandered into this blog, I’m autistic, and even compared to most autistic people, extremely introverted. And I’ve found that even I need to interact IRL with someone, even if only for a short period of time, once or twice a week to stave off a bout of depression. )

    So I think that replacing the death penalty with perpetual solitary confinement (arranged so that the prisoner has the least possible amount of interaction with other humans) would be at least as powerful a deterrent. And it would force one of the more leftist components of the legal profession, lawyers who devote themselves to death penalty appeals, to find honest work :)

    kishnevi (3a3033)

  50. Hanging was the standard method of execution when the Eighth Amendment was proposed and ratified, so it’s clear that the Framers of the Constitution and the legislators in the ratifying states did not believe that hanging was either particularly cruel or unusual.

    However, we might as well face it: capital punishment is pretty useless. We sentence thousands to be executed, yet in practice execute very few people. It costs gobs of additional money and still normally results in the prisoner dying in prison from some cause other than execution by the state.

    Right now, capital punishment isn’t really a sentence for execution, but simply the way our legal system says, “We are really disgusted with you.” Then, after the judge and jury and prosecutor and community have shaken their fingers sternly at the defendants and told them just what we thing of them, they disappear into the prison system where their most probable cause of death will be inmate-on-inmate violence or old age.

    The historian Dana (8a8a86)

  51. Dana,

    Hanging was the standard method of execution when the Eighth Amendment was proposed and ratified, so it’s clear that the Framers of the Constitution and the legislators in the ratifying states did not believe that hanging was either particularly cruel or unusual.

    This brings up a long-standing q of mine, towit: Must a punishment, to violate the 8th amendment, be both cruel and unusual?

    Your own phrasing indicates that either of cruel or unusual would proscribe a punishment but … well, are you sure? If so, why? Is there a precedent on this?

    I’m a Canadian layman, so apologies if this is something blindingly obvious to everyone else here, but it strikes me that if the Founders had wished to ban punishment that was either cruel or unusual, then they would have said so. Instead, they said cruel and unusual, presumably to a purpose.

    Aren’t all punishments cruel to some degree? Isn’t that what a punishment is? And what about those punishments that are not cruel but are unusual, such as the case where a man was ordered to take yoga classes for a year. That’s an unusual punishment and if all punishments that are either cruel or unusual are unconstitutional, then this judge is woefully in the wrong, yet I suspect he isn’t.

    So if it’s truly a case where a punishment, to be unconstitutional, must be both cruel and unusual (presumably as the terms were understood in 1789), then the death penalty would be completely constitutional. If cruel or unusual is the standard, then the yoga judge should be disbarred.

    Um, right?

    ras (b7f440)

  52. Hanging was the standard method of execution when the Eighth Amendment was proposed and ratified, so it’s clear that the Framers of the Constitution and the legislators in the ratifying states did not believe that hanging was either particularly cruel or unusual.

    That argument can only go so far. What were accepted as normal, everyday, even laudable, methods of disciplining a child in 1790 would be the grounds for criminal charges of child abuse in our own era. And given how sporadically death sentences are carried out, they might fit the category of “unusual”.

    However, we might as well face it: capital punishment is pretty useless. We sentence thousands to be executed, yet in practice execute very few people. It costs gobs of additional money and still normally results in the prisoner dying in prison from some cause other than execution by the state.

    The costs and delays are one more reason to abolish the death penalty. I remember once reading that a state would spend less money keeping a prisoner locked up for life than it would battling all the appeals and complying with all the procedures need to carry out a death sentence. And there would be costs and delays even in a system where the convicted were not allowed to drag out appeals over trivial things–merely making sure that we aren’t convicting an innocent person and allowing the convicted person all legitimate appeals would cause substantial delay between sentence and execution.

    I was a little surprised by your reference to thousands. Thought you might be hyperbolic. Turns out I was wrong.
    http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/death-row-inmates-state-and-size-death-row-year
    California has just under 700 on death row (as of the beginning of this year) and my state of Florida has just under 400–those two states have between them one third of the total individuals on death row.

    kishnevi (3a3033)

  53. Okay. So don’t execute him. Don’t cause him any pain. Lock him in a 10 by 10 by 10 white room with a bed, a sink and a toilet. Feed him a bland nourishing meal every eight hours, if possible by automatic delivery system that involves no human contact. Keep the light soft and regular. No books, no reading material at all, or writing material for that matter. No TV, no radio and no clock.

    Take him to the doctor or the barber at random intervals. Same with the shower. No other human contact. Period.

    Ken Hahn (8faaa3)

  54. kishnevi,

    The cost arguments are minor; the deterrent effect is real if only because dead men can’t murder again; and no punishment can ever “undo” a crime or restore a life, but that’s not what justice means. Lastly, vengeance against a killer is indeed a form of justice in and of itself.

    I fear the govt as a wholesale killer more than I fear the ones operating on a retail scale, and history confirms this; it’s the singular reason I oppose capital punishment. In contrast, other arguments, of cost and deterrence and such, strike me as superfluous reasoning from a conclusion. Sorry.

    ras (b7f440)

  55. the deterrent effect is real if only because dead men can’t murder again

    Neither can someone locked up in perpetual solitary confinement.

    However,the deterrent effect is, as I understand it, the effect the possibility of being executed has on a person who is thinking about killing another person, as something that might dissuade him from doing so. From what I understand, that effect is either minimal or too vague to accurately estimate.

    but that’s not what justice means.

    Let’s just say that you and I have different ideas of what “justice” means.

    And as for vengeance–Deut. 32:35

    kishnevi (3a3033)

  56. A few arguments here strike me as wrongheaded.

    Yes, governments are dangerous things to trust with the power of life and death. They are dangerous things to trust with the power to make war and the power of taxation as well. Yet, we do so because those are necessary functions of government. I would argue that executing criminals who deserve death is likewise a necessary function of government. At least in America, we are more likely to be betrayed into tyranny by a government that refuses to exercise its proper role than by the government getting out of hand in exercising its proper role. (There are a number of ways this happens–government officials who don’t want to do their real jobs looking for things to do; refusal to deal with serious crime creating a crisis situation that might prove fertile ground for a tyrannical ambition (they said Mussolini made the trains run on time); an abdication of the government’s proper role in dealing with crime may also lead to a growing problem that would justify endless busybodying in search of solutions to root causes and such. Any of those scenarios seem more likely to lead to tyranny than capital punishment).

    Secondly, life in prison without the possibility of parole or life in solitary confinement have been offered as potential substitutes. First and most importantly, I don’t think these offer fitting punishment for capital crimes. People like the murderers discussed in this thread deserve death. Anything less is not justice. They certainly don’t deserve to be able to leach their subsistence off of productive citizens for the rest of their natural lives. But as a practical matter, the assumption that there is any such thing as the kind of life imprisonment that is being discussed here is faulty. Once the death penalty is gone, you can expect all of the usual suspects to start going after whatever the new “ultimate penalty” turns out to be. Even if the death penalty were never carried out, it still serves a useful purpose by making the pro-criminal elements of our society pretend to support severe non-capital punishments like life in prison without the possibility of parole.

    Finally, while “death by mixing in the general population” has a sense of poetic justice for those of us frustrated by the system, seriously contemplating that suggestion is a manifestation of monumental societal cowardice. If we think someone deserves death, we should kill him ourselves–not pass the buck and hope that some convict can do the job we don’t have the balls to do ourselves.

    Annaeus Seneca (5b3675)

  57. “Except it’s a judge who does the sentencing, no?”

    Usually.

    But, no judge can condemn someone to death unless representatives of the people (aka a jury) first find said someone guilty of a capital crime.

    And, that’s a real good idea, because as you noted, governments can’t be trusted with that kind of power.

    Dave Surls (11dd1d)

  58. “Neither can someone locked up in perpetual solitary confinement.”

    Problem with that is is that there are too many people in government who free heinous criminals over and over again.

    Old Coot mentioned Richard Allen Davis.

    Just read up on that case and count all the times this habitual criminal was released by the guys in the government.

    And…then he kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered a twelve year old girl.

    Dave Surls (11dd1d)

  59. I too would like to know why hanging is considered a violation of the eighth amendment when it was legal and not considered a violation by the authors of the eighth amendment. Could someone explain.

    I believe it’s been shown that inmates can and do arrange for murders while in jail. I’ve posted before that 40 executions a year prevents about 1,200 murders a year.

    I distrust our government to do the right thing, but it’s the best we have at the moment.

    Tanny O'Haley (12193c)

  60. However, we might as well face it: capital punishment is pretty useless. We sentence thousands to be executed, yet in practice execute very few people. It costs gobs of additional money and still normally results in the prisoner dying in prison from some cause other than execution by the state.

    Has it always been this way regarding capital punishment in the U.S.?

    And why is it more expensive in the U.S. than other places like ancient Egypt, Rome, or Mongolia?

    Michael Ejercito (249c90)

  61. The costs and delays are one more reason to abolish the death penalty.

    Did ancient Rome experience such costs and delays when they crucified murderers?

    I suspect these costs and delays are artificially imposed, and these artificial impositions were innovated in this country within the last fifty years.

    Michael Ejercito (249c90)

  62. Now that I’m at my computer I found the link to series of death penalty posts by Engram who is a professor at a research university and a registered Democrat. Unfortunately he is not maintaining his blog anymore so you will have to use the cached entries in this Google search.

    Tanny O'Haley (12193c)

  63. Tanny–read some of the cached posts. To put it bluntly, they are bosh. His argument suffers from the same flaw that arguments put forth by the climate change supporters suffer from. (Which is ironic, since from a stray comment in one post it appears he is a skeptic on global warming.)

    His main argument rests on linking changes in crime rates to changes the stopping of executions. Which can be valid only if you rule out every other possible reason why crime rates might differ. But even he admits there are numerous reasons for differences in crime rates:
    So, in summary, some states tend to have high crime rates, whereas others tend to have lower crime rates (for an infinite number of reasons ranging from population density, to unemployment, to the number of teenage boys from single-parent households, etc.). States with higher crime rates take steps to address that problem. That’s why New York has both a higher crime rate and more police officers per capita than Vermont. It’s also why — and this is the key point — New York has the death penalty and Vermont does not. I don’t know that the death penalty has a deterrent effect at the level of the state, but it does seem clear that the reason why high-crime states have the death penalty is precisely because they are trying to lower those high crime rates.

    (bolding is mine)
    (from cached post here)

    The rest of his arguments seem to rest on simple assertion.

    And there are also studies which show that criminals when they commit a crime generally don’t think about getting caught and the consequences thereof, or else think that they’ve arranged things to keep them from being arrested. A potential murderer doesn’t think about getting the death penalty unless he seriously thinks he’ll be caught and found guilty. He’s not going to be deterred by a penalty he thinks he’s not going to face.

    kishnevi (3a3033)

  64. kishnevi, you have no idea how many potential murderers reconsider due to the possibility of facing the death penalty. And statistically speaking, aren’t MOST murderers eventually caught?

    Icy Texan (cc5e5e)

  65. you have no idea how many potential murderers reconsider
    Neither do you nor anyone else, since there is no real way of identifying people who pondered murder but did not in the end kill someone. It’s one of Rumsfeld’s known unknowns. But they have studied people who did actually commit murder, and found that for those people the death penalty and the possibility of getting caught don’t often enter into their calculations. Think of Joran van der Sloot–you would think that he would realize that, after the death of Ms. Holloway, he would get extra attention from the police anytime a young lady met an untimely demise while he was in the vicinity. But apparently not, since he seems to have murdered another young girl in Peru–and despite attempting to flee the country, got caught.
    As to your final question–don’t know. Perhaps Patterico can supply an answer based on his experience. But even if most murderers are caught, there remain an awful lot of cold case files waiting to be solved. And some not even recognized as murder. Scott Petersen’s second wife, for example–if he wasn’t a suspect in the death of his last wife, no one would even think of reopening the case and realizing that was also a murder. However, the answer, whatever it is, is irrelevant to my point–which is not how murderers do get caught, but how many murderes are firmly convinced they won’t get caught.

    kishnevi (3a3033)

  66. Firing squads shoot to center of mass (i.e. the chest), not to the head. As to leghal injection a dose of Versed to knock out the inmate and a lethal dose of morphine to kill the inmate is all that is required. Cheap, fast, and painless.

    ParatrooperJJ (8a6914)

  67. kishnevi, it’s intellectually dishonest to assert that a person who seriously contemplates doing the wrong thing does not factor-in punishment by society as THE MAJOR REASON for not committing a crime.

    Icy Texan (c92f58)

  68. IT–to know whether your claim in true would require identifying people who contemplating committing a crime, but don’t do it, and figuring out why they didn’t do it. The problem of course is that it’s impossible to identify such people unless they do commit a crime. So while we can make statements about people who did commit crimes and their motivations, we can’t make any statements about people who did not commit crimes. Fear of punishment may well be a major reason, but we’ll never be able to know if it is, and any claim that it is would be, to borrow your phrase, intellectually dishonest.

    kishnevi (733718)


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