The death penalty and civil liberties. : LUSENET : Open Discussion Board : One Thread

The loss of civil liberties in the current administration is really a thorn in my side. I'm less sure how I feel about the death penalty. I don't condone it for someone with the mind of a six-year old, and I don't condone it for someone whose lawyer slept during the trial of his client, providing absolutely NO defense.


Death Penalty and civil liberties

-- Anita (, November 27, 2001


Do you condone execution for mass murderers, serial murderers, rapist-murderers, torture-murderers, lynch murderers, thrill killers, terrorists (anonymous murderers)? Why not? Why should society be obliged to shelter and feed such people for the next 40 years? Do you seriously think that such people are redeemable? Do they deserve redemption?

I am taking it for granted that executions are only performed on those who are truly guilty. If your overriding concern is that an innocent person not be executed, then I share your concern.

-- (Kendric Carlisle@Cambridge.MA), November 27, 2001.

I condone the death penalty in all the instances you mentioned. I don't condone it for the mentally retarded or folks who had no legitimate defense presented. Unfortunately, that was the case in many of the executions in Texas.

-- Anita (, November 27, 2001.

Wait a minute. I might have to exclude terrorists in my last statement. I'm not particularly fond of the lack of definition being offered for terrorism these days. I'm also not fond of the thought of military tribunals being used to try terrorists. What bothers me about that is that hearsay can be used as evidence and the whole thing can be done in secret. I understand that many folks don't want to see a repeat of the O.J. thing with the whole thing sensationalized, but I'd prefer marginal justice.

In addition, I don't think that it's appropriate to hold these military tribunals on foreign nationals that exclude the death penalty in their homelands. Spain is complaining about that, currently. OTOH, I don't think that US citizens should pay to jail these people for the rest of their lives. I guess my hope would be that if a Spanish national committed an egregious event in the US that the Spanish government would be willing to foot the bill for the deportation and punishment that followed.

It's nice to say "You're in my country and you obey MY rules", but I don't think those missionaries that went to Afghanistan and were recently returned truly understood how their mission could be misinterpreted by the Taliban. I wouldn't have liked to stand by and see them executed. I'm sure the Spanish government feels the same way.

-- Anita (, November 27, 2001.

Ah, yes, the death penalty question. It was covered pretty thoroughly once before but it is always worth a few comments.

For me the difficulty lies not in the absolute punishment of the wrongdoer, but the absolute establishment of their guilt. Our courts and juries may be the best system yet devised for winnowing the guilty from the innocent, but as anyone who has observed them knows, police make mistakes. Prosecutors make mistakes. Witnesses make mistakes. Juries make mistakes. Judges make mistakes. Innocent people are convicted.

Just in the past couple of years, (IIRC) the Illinois governor stopped all executions in his state, after several inmates on death row were proved to be innocent. It was new DNA evidence that freed them.

Death is absolute and irreversible. Imprisonment is not. Justice is not well served by eliminating the chance to reconsider guilt or innocence in the future.

My second point is that society has a legitimate interest in safety - but that interst is not compromised by choosing life imprisonment over execution. An 'lifer' inmate may be a danger to prisoner society, but not to society at large.

The only interest of society that is not well-served by life imprisonment is the need for revenge.

So it boils down to these two competing interests: the need for more perfect justice, as represented by preserving the option to free the innocent who were convicted by malice or mistake, and the need for the emotional satisfaction of revenge. When it comes down to it, I'd rather see our society choose on the side of more perfect justice rather than more perfect revenge. Some people see it differently.

-- Little Nipper (, November 27, 2001.


I do not think I have ever heard that argument made as eloquently or succinctly. Remind me to never debate a point with you.


-- Uhhmmm... (, November 27, 2001.

Here's more on this. I'd seen Spain's complaints, but I hadn't realized that this was something agreed on by the EU. I guess Spain was simply the first country in Europe to be affected.

-- Anita (, November 28, 2001.

-- (, November 28, 2001.


-- (fix@fix.fix), November 28, 2001.


I agree with you, except for your glib talk of a conviction being reversible if the wrongly-convicted are still alive. I suspect if you'd spent a decade or two in prison, and then were finally released as an ex-con and formerly-convicted-murderer, you'd find that those lost years and reputation weren't quite so reversible as you imply. It's an open question, in many cases, just how much better off they are than those executed, considering we don't exactly compensate these people commensurate with the error that was made.

All we can do, it seems to me, is try to err on the side of making conviction as difficult as possible (as we do), and regret the many errors that are still made for various reasons (not all of which are as innocent as you seem to be saying).

-- Flint (, November 28, 2001.

Flint: "I agree with you, except for your glib talk of a conviction being reversible if the wrongly-convicted are still alive."

Actually, what I said was: "Death is absolute and irreversible. Imprisonment is not."

Whether that is glib, I don't know. But it is true.

Flint: "It's an open question, in many cases, just how much better off they are than those executed..."

You may be of the opinion that someone freed after some decades of imprisonment is no better off than someone who was executed. Such a judgement is purely personal. It can't be generalized to anyone else. As such, it seems no more relevant to the discussion than the opinion that executions are "icky".

Flint: "All we can do, it seems to me, is try to err on the side of making conviction as difficult as possible (as we do), and regret the many errors..."

In spite of your assertion to the contrary, just being regretful is not the only option open to us. The subject under discussion is precisely about something we can do that we are not doing. Either you have reasons for doing it, or for not doing it, but dismissing it as not within the realm of choice is... well... extremely glib.

-- Little Nipper (, November 29, 2001.

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