Can An Execution be Done Without Being Cruel and Unusual?

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by CalBoy, Dec 16, 2008.

  1. CalBoy macrumors 604

    CalBoy

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    #1
    So the eye for an eye thread has veered a tad off topic, so I thought this would be an appropriate place to continue death penalty discussions. :)

    I'm going to repeat my argument from that thread so we have a starting point:

    "I find it hard to believe that you can execute anyone without inflicting cruel and unusual punishment.

    Even if the procedure itself is flawless (which even lethal injection, largely considered the least painful, cannot promise all the time), the simple fact of knowing that one is going to die instills psychological torture of the highest magnitude.

    Death row inmates have a suicide rate that is 6 times higher than the standard prisoner, and nearly 13 times higher than the population in general. If this doesn't speak to psychological torture, I don't know what does.

    The courts have upheld their legality, but are gradually shrinking the pool of acceptable candidates for the death penalty. And let's not forget that the death penalty has not been free from dissent. The courts have generally upheld the death penalty by fairly thin margins."
     
  2. robanga macrumors 68000

    robanga

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    #2
    I think you can take someone out in a pretty humane way, particularly compared to how the majority of the world's people check out when " helped" by others.

    We all know we are going to die, its a nature of being human and as we get older that day always gets closer.

    If you define the greatest fear anyone can ever have as death, yes I suppose they get to experience that, but then again that depends on the individuals values etc.

    Its distasteful IMHO but I understand why it has to be done by the state, and it end the end from a rather cold perspective, it is ultimately less expensive to do than housing the individual into their ripe old age.
     
  3. EricNau Moderator emeritus

    EricNau

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    #3
    Not exactly.

    University of Florida - Experts Agree: Death Penalty Not A Deterrent To Violent Crime
    "[T]he cost of executing a prisoner in Florida averages about $3.2 million, mostly in trial costs. Keeping that same person in prison for life costs only about $600,000, and the millions of dollars spent on executing prisoners could be put to much better use . . ."​
     
  4. robanga macrumors 68000

    robanga

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    #4
    That is one study based on a current paradigm that may not hold into the future, I am not sure about its current deterrence value but one thing is for sure if you make all penalties across the board harsher, there is a deterrence value. I lived in Singapore for a time, and the cultural buzz there is very aware of how the state is capable of correcting you.

    Also if you place limits on the legal process, you could reduce the overall costs. Of course you will risk execution of more innocent parties as a price.

    I'd like to see the same cost analysis for Texas for instance, where the process seems to occur somewhat faster. I haven't seen such a study but it would be interesting.
     
  5. gilkisson macrumors 65816

    gilkisson

    #5
    I understand the concern about "cruel and unusual" punishment. But, the death penalty was not originally included within that definition. By itself, Constitutionally, the death penalty is neither cruel nor unusual.

    And while we are feeling sorry for the convict on death row, who is worrying every day about his future... why do we spare no concern for the victims? For the children killed, women tortured, bodies mutilated and tortured. Why no concern for their families?

    I don't advocate the application of the death penalty. I wish it would be never issued again. To get there, I would have no more of the crimes committed that cause that penalty to be invoked. I would have no more families living the rest of their lives with their last memories of their dead loved ones being a trip to the coroner's freezer to identify the body parts.

    Not eye for an eye. It's removing a clear and proven threat to society from our midst. And then hoping we will never have to make that decision again.
     
  6. EricNau Moderator emeritus

    EricNau

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    #6
    You're going to need evidence to backup that claim. According to the press release I linked to, "After a while, increases in the severity of punishment have decreasing incremental deterrent effect. So if you haven’t deterred somebody by life, you are not going to deter them by death."

    That sounds like a fabulous idea. :rolleyes:

    We've undoubtedly killed innocent people in the past; if abolishing capital punishment could save so little as one life, then that's what we ought to do.
     
  7. robanga macrumors 68000

    robanga

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    #7
    Good points. Although having been a contractor for the correctional system at one time, I can tell you given the food and conditions in those places, execution may be the more humane treatment then 20-30 years in there.
     
  8. robanga macrumors 68000

    robanga

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    #8

    The question is where does the line begin? Its plain to any human or parent that penalty equals deterrence. I'd rather err on the meaner side of that equation.
     
  9. EricNau Moderator emeritus

    EricNau

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    #9
    What definition, and according to who? There are no definitions associated with amendments to the Constitution. Our Supreme Court Justices have been granted the authority to interpret the meanings of the Constitution, and many have found the death penalty to violate the eighth amendment.

    Completely irrelevant to this discussion. In what way does an additional death show concern for a victim's family? Surely we can show concern without taking another life?

    A direct contradiction to your statement above, and also, irrelevant. There are other ways to remove threats to our society, without killing them.
     
  10. hulugu macrumors 68000

    hulugu

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    #10
    Well, here's the text: "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted"

    I think there's great concern for the victims after a crime has been committed, but we spend a great deal of our legal energy to ensure that people are "innocent until proven guilty." This is a good thing, IMHO, because it defocuses undue attention to the victim and tries to protect all citizens from abuse by legal authorities. But, ultimately, what can the state do? Will putting the convict through mental or physical abuse help the families? Heal wounds? Bring back the dead? If it could, then we could have a different conversation, but right now, there's nothing to be gained by vengeance except an authorization to the state to abuse its citizens. This is a bad road.

    I hate to think you're referring to a specific case, especially one that touches you personally, but I will say this, few murder cases are this dramatic. Most are accidents or the result of chemical-fueled conflicts. Many murders are about money, sadly often pitiful amounts, or love. Most murders are sad and wretched.
     
  11. gilkisson macrumors 65816

    gilkisson

    #11
    Incorrect. The Fifth Amendment does indeed state that parson cannot be deprived of his life for a crime without due process of law. Therefore, with due process, the death penalty is indeed constitutional.

    You are confusing two issues. Killing and murder are not the same. Murder is why the criminal is in jail. Killing that murderer, with due process, is not murder. It is the same as a soldier killing his enemy in time of war. That is also not murder. He is then removing a threat to his Nation. The repeating murderer, the child predator, is also a threat to the nation.

    Your personal bias may disagree with the death penalty, and I respect that -- but the Constitution is quite clear.
     
  12. CalBoy thread starter macrumors 604

    CalBoy

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    #12
    How exactly can a state take anyone "out" in a humane way?

    In order to grant a person full due process they have to know of the crimes which they are charged with and the potential penalties. Many death row inmates have their fates sealed for years before execution; can you imagine the mental anguish we cause by telling them that they are going to die?

    This isn't a case of "putting Lassie down" where Lassie has no idea what's happening.

    Not to mention the fact that even lethal injections are botched often enough where medical professionals are increasingly objecting to its use (imagine feeling your heart stop but being unable to express this pain to the world).
    This is irrelevant to the question of whether or not capital punishment is cruel and unusual by nature. By this logic, murder ought not be a crime because that person would have "died anyways."
    I think we can both agree that death scares most people (not me in particular, but many people are scared of it). It's a generally consistent finding amongst all walks of life. So why do we impress this fear needlessly onto some of our own kind?
    Why must it be done by the state?

    That's not true at all. The lengthy appeals process for capital crimes costs many times more than a standard life term.

    Even so, we should not be basing our decisions off of economic efficiency; that's not what justice is based on.
    I hardly think the appeals process is going to get cheaper as time goes on.

    What's wrong with life in prison? Fairly large sentence if you ask me. You could also implement a prison worker program or other programs as needed.

    There's no need to kill the individual, especially given the fact that crime rates in the US are higher than other developed countries (which incidentally don't use the death penalty).
    Texas is also notorious for having very sloppy due process and postmortem evidence turning up proving the innocence of the now killed inmate. Is that what a justice system should be doing?
    Well truth be told, there are evolving standards of decency. 230 years ago the Constitution would have likely stood in the way of a black man or a woman from being President.

    The Constitution evolves so that we can use it today and make it relevant for today. In 1787 there wasn't a well developed study of psychology so the founding fathers couldn't have imagined the extent to which death row inmates ponder and attempt suicide.

    Of course we could always say that the death penalty is constitutional, but that any method used to achieve it is unconstitutional (because it is cruel).
    No one said they don't care about the victim, but justice is not about vengeance. Frankly I'd much rather see the money we save from the death penalty go towards more counseling and social services for victims of violent crime.

    Imagine how far ~$1 million more dollars per victim's family could go in that regard.

    If you are advocating the death penalty for the "sake of the victim" then that is an 'eye for an eye' argument.
    Life in prison removes them as effectively as death. At least with life we can always make up for a bad prosecution or bad evidence collection. With death, it's permanent.
    You can err on the side of life in prison so that you remove the threat from society while leaving yourself an out incase you made a mistake.
     
  13. gilkisson macrumors 65816

    gilkisson

    #13
    I've responded indirectly to your other comments in another post, so I'll jump to the end of yours.

    I do have a personal view on this issue, yes.

    And most murders are sad, wretched, petty, stupid. Yes they are. And I am not advocating the death penalty in those cases. There is a huge difference between stupid and evil*. Stupid can be cured, or at least blunted. Evil cannot.

    *I do not use "evil" in the moral or "biblical" sense. There are synonyms to the word, but "evil" has fewer letters. You know what I mean.
     
  14. mgguy macrumors 6502

    mgguy

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    #14
    Until the Supremes get a majority ruling in your favor, it is still legal. A lot of rulings have dissent; rarely is there unanimity among the judges. You are entitled to your personal point of view, but as long as it is legal your opinion should not override the will of the majority of people who support this form of punishment.

    You are addressing only general deterrence, which is still debatable. If punishment were swift and certain, it would probably be more effective in deterring someone from killing in the first place.

    You have neglected to address specific deterrence. They will not be able to kill again if they are dead.

    I don't agree with this equation. I question the wisdom of withholding punishment from all those who are guilty in hopes of sparing one person who may be innocent. I do however believe that there should be overwhelming convincing evidence of guilt before this punishment is used.
     
  15. robanga macrumors 68000

    robanga

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    #15
    Yes sparing all the guilty because you may have it wrong in a few cases, seems unproductive.
     
  16. CalBoy thread starter macrumors 604

    CalBoy

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    #16
    Technically he's right on this one; the Constitution specifically allows death for treason and leaves open its use via the 5th Amendment by saying, "no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property..."
    But is it just? The Supreme Court held for 58 years that segregation was legal. Did that make segregation between 1896 and 1954 anymore correct?
    On the contrary most cases are unanimous; we only hear about the closely divided ones because they tend to be more sensationalistic. ;)
    If the majority is wrong, then it should be allowed to carry out its will.

    If we use majority opinion as the basis for law, then we would likely have no standing Bill of Rights since each of those rights protects a minority, not the majority.

    We're also discussing the nature of cruel and unusual punishment here; if modern science finds death penalties to be cruel and unusual, why do we allow the majority, which is not educated in the matter, make the decision? We have a republic for a reason; so the majority's idiocy is checked.
     
  17. mgguy macrumors 6502

    mgguy

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    #17
    But you can't do that because by your definition it would be cruel. Can you imagine the anguish of sitting in prison for years for a crime you know you didn't commit and no one would believe you. It would be enough to drive you crazy and want to kill yourself.
     
  18. EricNau Moderator emeritus

    EricNau

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    #18
    Again, these proposed changes would only ensure one thing: more innocent lives would be lost.

    Nor would that be possible if they received life without parole. Why is the death penalty a better option than life in prison?

    Very odd, coming from those who showed so much concern for victims. Would not an innocent man put to death be a victim? Why do they not deserve our concern?
     
  19. gilkisson macrumors 65816

    gilkisson

    #19
    You bring out flaws in our Constitution that have, thankfully, been patched, fixed or repaired. We have grown a great deal. We are all indeed created equal, it's what we do individually from there that makes the difference.

    Yes, the methods of execution have changed, and that is good. As our society has changed, we have redefined what we consider cruel.

    I would be more than willing to see the end of the death penalty. I have no love for it. However, I am not willing to accept the "collateral damage", the cost of doing business, of the cruel and unusual crimes that merit death. Why should be accept it as fact that such murders will always happen, we must shrug our shoulders and move on? By abolishing the ultimate penalty, with no thought for prevention of the crime, is that not what you are doing?

    Again, why do we accept that we must live with violent crime? The idea of abolishing these most hideous of crimes is no more pie-in-the-sky than the thought that a life sentence can somehow rehabilitate the murderer.

    There is no dollar value. Trust me, there is not. To suggest the grief can be bought off is callous indeed.
     
  20. EricNau Moderator emeritus

    EricNau

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    #20
    To suggest revenge is an adequate cure for grief would be even more callous.

    Besides, that's clearly not what CalBoy was advocating. Certainly more money devoted to victim services would be beneficial.
     
  21. CalBoy thread starter macrumors 604

    CalBoy

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    #21
    Are we done with the sarcasm?

    The fact remains that death row inmates have a suicide rate that is 6 times higher than all other prisoners.

    No matter what, every death row inmate is appealing his sentence until the last possible moment to any judge who will listen. This doesn't happen with life in prison. There is a clear difference in the level of cruelty.

    And not always by amendments either.

    It took some fancy reading to get things like desgregation, women's rights, etc, through the courts. For some reason the Court likes evolving standards of decency. Even Scalia isn't against it all the time.

    And who says we can simultaneously prevent crime?

    Punishment is only a minimal deterrent to crime, and with the death penalty there has been no deterrent factor to be found as of yet despite quite a lot of searching by advocates.

    You know what's a better deterrent to crime? Education, anti-poverty programs, health and human services, etc. Invest in your fellow man, and everyone reaps the rewards.
    Because no utopia has yet to exist on this planet. Humans are imperfect by nature. The best we can hope for is that those of us who are rational don't sink to the level of those whom we detest.
    A life sentence probably won't rehabilitate a murderer, but it has a very slim chance of doing so. You know what has no chance of doing so? Death.

    In either case, the point of life in prison is more quarantine than it is reform.
    I never once mentioned that the grief can be "bought off." The money would go towards counseling and other social services for the victim's family/friends. That to me sure as hell beats saying, "here's the guy who killed Suzie; wanna sink to his level and watch us kill him now?"
     
  22. EricNau Moderator emeritus

    EricNau

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    #22
    Interesting Map. Does anyone else see a pattern?

    [​IMG]


    Color scheme:
    Blue: Abolished for all crimes
    Green: Abolished for crimes not committed in exceptional circumstances (such as crimes committed in time of war)
    Orange: Abolished in practice
    Red: Legal form of punishment for certain offenses​
     
  23. gilkisson macrumors 65816

    gilkisson

    #23
    I would like the record to show that I do not associate myself with the comments of certain others who may make contrarian comments on this topic.
     
  24. 63dot macrumors 603

    63dot

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    #24
    I believe the death penalty is wrong. Period.

    Does it bring back the murdered person? Does it rehabilitate the defendant who committed the homicide who now resides under the care of the Department of Corrections? Life imprisonment is the answer if the key is to get the guilty party off the street.

    As much as I cannot stomach a person like Charles Manson, he is no longer doing anymore harm and will never get out.

    Knowing what it's like to die is terrible and I only felt that once and never want to be there again. I was a Belfast Christian missionary and the missionary sent before me was killed on Falls Road and that's where I was headed. Though I had no real stats on this area of conflict, it was a bad year with UK/IRA violence and there were six groups, either on one side or the other, or somewhere in between and all were armed. I had to call everybody I knew before I left to say goodbye. Unless somebody is in a position where they believe they are going to die, or face a strong possibility of that, they don't know how cruel any armed conflict or execution is.

    We were British missionaries working as aid workers and some of us got tortured by the SAS as the British government had no tolerance for anybody butting their noses in this area/region.

    Years later when my 2nd cousin was going to Bosnia during the war also as a missionary, those thoughts came back to me.

    My belief is that anybody who has ever had a gun pointed at them, once, or many times, may have a very strong view about simply putting a felon to death.

    An eye for an eye makes the world blind. If I had the money, I would give any pro death penalty people a ticket to Falls Road in Belfast so they could see how well an eye for an eye has worked.

    Rant over.
     
  25. gilkisson macrumors 65816

    gilkisson

    #25
    And I am not arguing against that position. I agree with it. Let's do it! And again, because it gets glossed over, I am not saying "murder == death penalty". There are crimes, and there are Crimes.

    Sorry, it sounded that way. Thank you for clearing that up, and I herewith retract my "bought off" remark.

    However (and you knew there would be a however), although you trivialize the situation, there is something to be said for catharsis. There are some things a man can do which are beyond the pale.
     

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