One more reason to abolish the death penalty.

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by Taft, Feb 27, 2004.

  1. macrumors 65816

    Taft

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    #1
    Here's a Chicago Tribune story (free registration required) about Steve Manning, who was a Chicago cop accused of murder and kidnapping. At trial, he was convicted and sentenced to death.

    After the trial, it was learned that the FBI used a paid jailhouse informant to try extract a confession from Manning. Further, the informant had a history of lying under oath after being paid by authorities. Further, the supposed confession entered into evidence was in the form of a audio tape. However, upon reviewing the tape, no confession existed, just two gaps where the confession was "supposed to be". The informant blamed the gaps on the audio recorder failing.

    Basically this cop was sentenced to death with a complete lack of evidence. I'm making no comment about the character of this cop or whether he actually committed crimes; thats not the point. The point is that in many cases the cops or federal agents who are collecting evidence for cases are as sleazy as the criminals themselves. Can we really trust their evidence 100% and sentence people to death based on it?

    The more cases such as these that come to light, the less we can trust the justice system to act justly in every case. And if we can't trust the system to provide justice, how can we possibly act on that supposed justice to kill a man? There is far too much uncertainty.

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-0402270182feb27,1,7627177.story?coll=chi-news-hed

    Taft
     
  2. macrumors 68040

    mactastic

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    #2
    Oh but by all means, let's streamline the process. No appeals, just a 50¢ bullet with the word JUSTICE stamped on it in the back of the head. Who needs all these formalities when we_know_we're_right.
     
  3. macrumors 601

    zimv20

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    #3
    why bother w/ a trial at all? i think simply being accused is reason enough. worked in Salem.
     
  4. thread starter macrumors 65816

    Taft

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    #4
    Why would the police accuse them if they weren't guilty in the first place, right?

    Seriously, though. I think that someone is eventually going to have to be a martyr in order for change to occur. I think someone is going to have to be wrongly executed and their family will have to raise a big stink (ie. lawsuits against the government). If that makes national headlines, maybe people will start to think.

    And of course, the more affluent the martyr (and the more white the martyr) the more people will listen. Its a sad fact, but people probably wouldn't care too much if a black man with a shady past were put to death wrongly. I can hear the, "He had it coming" from ignoramuses now. Now, if a white banker were wrongly put to death, that'd be a different story.

    But would a white banker be put on death row to begin with...

    Taft
     
  5. macrumors 6502a

    Sparky's

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    #5
    Without wanting to go through all the "registration crap" for the Tribune, If what was said are the facts, it sounds like the cop was railroaded for some reason.
    It also has the overtones of a TV episode of Law & Order or something.

    If he is really innocent and his lawyers are worth anything, they'll probably get an aquital at some point in the appeal process. I'm no lawyer but I believe that in most states Illinois included the appeals are automatic in a death sentence.

    Someone care to elaborate?
     
  6. macrumors 601

    zimv20

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    #6
    illinois put a moritorium on executions a couple years ago
     
  7. macrumors 68000

    SilvorX

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    #7
    up here in canada, there was a ban on executions nation wide back in the '60s.
     
  8. macrumors 68020

    revenuee

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  9. thread starter macrumors 65816

    Taft

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    #9
    The cop was already aquitted. And it does seem like this guy was railroaded. Thats kind of the point: how can you trust a system in which even those collecting and presenting evidence are corrupt?

    The prosecution (and associated federal agents) used a jailhouse informant who had a past history of lying under oath. They also paid him for his testimony. THEN, they used a recording as evidence which didn't even contain a confession because the informant said there was a "recorder malfunction."

    But all of these details are somewhat irrelevant to my point. In a system with such obvious possibilities of imperfections, how can you trust it to dole out the "ultimate justice." I mean, with a death sentence, its final. There is no turning back. Therefore, if you execute a person, you had better be 100% sure they are guilty because there is no going back. But, by the very nature of humans, the trial's judge, the prosecuting attorney and arresting/investigating officers are just as prone to corruption and misdeeds as anyone else. So given that we can't trust (at least implicitly) the people running and participating in our system of justice, how can we trust the outcome of that system? I challenge anyone to deny this logic.

    I am willing to accept our system the way it is, complete with flaws. We need something to maintain justice and order in this country. But to end a person's life based on the imperfect justice that our system deals out is completely unacceptable.

    Taft
     
  10. macrumors 65816

    tomf87

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    #10
    What if a murderer of a family of 5 pleads guilty to it, just for robbery purposes? I think the death penalty applies here.

    However, I do believe there are many cases for uncertainty in our justice system.
     
  11. macrumors 6502a

    Neserk

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    #11

    Canada has generally been ahead of the US on these things.
     
  12. macrumors regular

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    #12
    and did you see that Canada's growth rate was 3.8 % last quarter and they are creating new jobs and they have universal health insurance and their deficit is not ballooning out of control. Seems like they know what they are doing up there.
     
  13. macrumors 68040

    Naimfan

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    #13
    The problem with capital punishment is procedural, not substantive. The subject of this thread is a perfect illustration. In states where capital punishment is used, dare I say, correctly, there simply aren't questions about whether someone is guilty or not. So the process is what is attacked, and what needs to be corrected.

    Best,

    Bob
     
  14. macrumors 68040

    mactastic

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    #14
    Maybe your problem with capital punishment is soley procedural, but others see it as both substantive (or moral) AND procedural (or capricious). Others see neither as an issue and have no problem with the state killing people to prove conclusively that killing people is wrong. Reform the system all you want, sooner or later someone will be executed on a provable lie, because of an incompetent attorney, an overzealous prosecutor on a high-profile trajectory to elected office, or a simple and honest mistake not found until too late. Capital punishment is neither a deterent, nor a time or money saver. It is a barbaric practice designed to exact vengance instead of provide justice. You may call eye-for-an-eye tactics justice, but we are supposed to be better than those who kill.
     
  15. thread starter macrumors 65816

    Taft

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    #15
    You can believe that if you like, but many people, myself included disagree. I do, however, agree that the only productive way to discuss the issue is by framing it in terms of procedure.

    Where you and I disagree on procedure is that you think it can be perfected, while I think that human error will always render the procedure imperfect.

    Taft
     
  16. macrumors 68040

    Naimfan

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    #16
    Perhaps I should have said the "legal" problem with capital punishment is procedural and not substantive. What I mean by that is that capital punishment is clearly legal in the formal sense of the word. The problem that I have with capital punishment is HOW it is used, not with the penalty itself. When Texas courts say that since someone's lawyer did not sleep through a critical witness and that therefore there is no harm, the court makes a mockery of the Texas legal system. However, it does NOT diminish the two valid (IMO) rationales for capital punishment--retribution and incapacitation. On the other hand, Colorado, where I live, has, at last check, only two people on death row. In neither case is there ANY question of guilt. There are also four people who were on death row but whose sentences were commuted to LWOP due to their being sentenced by a panel of judges instead of by jury.

    Perfection will never exist in any legal system. That does not mean we do not punish those guilty of a crime, and it does not mean that we try to punish the innocent.

    I completely respect others opinions on capital punishment, whether for or against it, provided they are based on actual knowledge and thought, as yours (Taft and Macstatic) clearly are. I simply believe it the only appropriate punishment in certain (very rare) cases, and that there is no legal or moral issue with it--provided it is used properly.

    Best,

    Bob
     
  17. macrumors 68040

    mactastic

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    #17
    So where would you put the line for the 'very rare' cases? Murder? Multiple murder? Murder during the commision of another felony? Mass murder? Genocide? All the above?

    And what do you consider beyond any doubt? A confession? An airtight case? Is 'beyond reasonable doubt' good enough? Can't any of those be faked/lied about/screwed up?

    Thanks for the civil discussion though, I fully respect your opinion on this, I'm just wondering these things.
     
  18. macrumors 68040

    Naimfan

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    #18
    I'd say any of the crimes you listed provided that the (required and legislatively defined) aggravating factors are present. There are probably others that would fit that I'm not thinking of at the moment.

    Proof--BARD (Beyond A Reasonable Doubt) is the appropriate level of proof, to use any other would raise equal protection (and other) problems. While it's true that evidence can be faked, that's true in ANY criminal proceeding and is extremely rare. And in a properly tried capital case, I've not heard of evidence being faked, tampered with, etc.

    And thank you back for the civil discussion--often these can bog down into ad hominem debates.....

    Best,

    Bob
     
  19. macrumors 68040

    mactastic

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    #19
    So how would you go about reforming the system to guarantee that we never execute an innocent person?
     
  20. macrumors 6502a

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    #20
    Maybe Canada should take care of its own defense then. Last I see, Canada has been sucking on the US teat for defense. Doesn't take a whole lot of treasure to fund two inflatable navy patrol boats. :p
     
  21. macrumors 68040

    pseudobrit

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    #21
    Really? Canada's still under the protective arm of Great Britain.

    I didn't know the US was so involved in keeping Canada free from those evil... wait... who are you trying to say Canada needs defended against, anyway?
     
  22. macrumors 6502a

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    #22
    I think that capital punishment is fine.

    There are some people in society that are plain old predators. Society should not have to live with predators in its midst, or keep them alive when society (jury) has decided to put the predator to death. Prison funding should be only used for people that have a reasonable chance of being rehabilitated. Medication is not rehabilitation.

    Maybe exile from society would be a more platable substitute for capital punishment detractors.
     
  23. macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

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    #23
    No, since Australia isn't available for this purpose any longer, and Elbe just isn't big enough, life imprisonment without parole would be fine with me.
     
  24. macrumors 6502a

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    #24
    Siberia is still available.
    Parachuting onto the Himalayas is fine too.
     
  25. macrumors 68000

    Sayhey

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    #25
    IJ, isn't it Elba not Elbe? At least if you are referring to the island of Napoleon's exile and not the river in Germany.
     

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