Justice

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Thad
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Justice

Postby Thad » Fri Jun 05, 2015 5:59 pm

Steve Benen at MSNBC: Scalia’s perfect capital-punishment case falls apart

A little over two decades ago, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was dismissive of then-Justice Harry Blackmun’s concerns about the death penalty. In fact, Scalia had a case study in mind that demonstrated exactly why the system of capital punishment has value.

As regular readers may recall, Scalia specifically pointed to a convicted killer named Henry Lee McCollum as an obvious example of a man who deserved to be put to death. “For example, the case of an 11-year-old girl raped by four men and then killed by stuffing her panties down her throat,” Scalia wrote in a 1994 ruling. “How enviable a quiet death by lethal injection compared with that!”

For Scalia, McCollum was the perfect example – a murderer whose actions were so heinous that his crimes stood as a testament to the merit of capital punishment itself.

Yesterday, McCollum was pardoned. Scalia’s perfect example of a man who deserved to be killed by the state was innocent.


Can't really say as I can think of anything to add to that.

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Stush
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Re: Justice

Postby Stush » Tue Jun 30, 2015 1:14 am

Holy Hamburgers. Like, this is why i'm 100% against the death penalty, like, regardless of what your moral stance is on killing people, they just flat-out get it wrong so many damn times. Even if they got it wrong like, 1 in a million times, i'd be against it, but the percentage has to be wayyyy higher than that, i just can't see how anyone can be for it once they learn this.

We don't have the death penalty here, two of our citizens got caught smuggling drugs out of indonesia to australia, the AFP got tipped off by the father of one of the guys, and instead of catching them when they got here, they informed the indonesians, who gave them the death sentence. They were in prison for 10 years one of them became a religious minister while in prison, another of them became an artist, they ran a bunch of reform programs in the prison, the dudes were pretty thoroughly reformed by then by all accounts, like, you can argue that they did it because they thought they were going to die, but I think the point still stands, they got shot earlier this year, despite plenty of pleas from australia and other parts of the world.

It just feels so damn pointless, there's so much death in the world that's completely unavoidable, it's so frustrating that when we have cases where we could avoid killing someone, stubbornness and vengeance often seems to win out. I understand it feels good to punish people, but there's just nothing else to be gained from it other than satisfaction, do we really want to end lives just because it makes us feel good? I don't understand how anyone can think that's okay. :(

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Bal
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Re: Justice

Postby Bal » Tue Jun 30, 2015 4:27 am

I agree with Scalia's premise. That there are people in this world who disqualify themselves from remaining in it, though the idea that lethal injection is a peaceful death is a delightful illusion caused by the fact that first drug paralyzes the victim, making them incapable of expressing their agony. If you want to kill people, use nitrogen.

However, I don't want to kill people, and it is for several reasons that have nothing to do with the sanctity of human life. First, it is not a deterrent. Second, it is not economical in the least compared to the much worse fate of life in prison, but as bad as that is it as least frees us from Three, we do not have a perfect criminal justice system. If you are going to entertain an ultimate, irreversible punishment, then you have to be as sure as the needle, and we are not and cannot be that sure. Every wrongful execution is a murder by the people and for the people, and that's not acceptable. I watched Timothy McVeigh's execution on CNN years ago, a man who was as guilty as the day is long, and of a genuine atrocity at that. The footage was all of the outbuilding that housed the execution chamber. I saw the van bring him in, and I saw the van take out his corpse, and I didn't feel a huge swell of justice being served. As much as I believe that he really didn't deserve to breathe our air anymore, even then I couldn't help but think "What if we were wrong". If I can have any amount of doubt in a case like that, I really don't think we should be killing anyone.

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François
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Re: Justice

Postby François » Tue Jun 30, 2015 4:48 am

Right, I can get behind that. Some humans do things that should earn them their exit ticket, but the actual exit is some grim nonsense, and no human is qualified to print out the ticket in the first place.

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Re: Justice

Postby Mongrel » Tue Jun 30, 2015 12:16 pm

I think a lot of people (myself included) have that idea that philosophically they are not against the death penalty, but have no truck with the death penalty as-is and would shut it down tomorrow if they could.

More personally though, my own views are in part coloured by the development of the species. Essentially, the death penalty was a crude necessity (often misapplied). To me, the ability to imprison people for many years, or better still to try to genuinely rehabilitate people with severe mental or social problems, these are enormous luxuries we have as a species, luxuries born of our massive wealth and knowledge base. But we have them, so why should we not use them to see what can be done for some of our worst-off people?

In the past, the death penalty was (ostensibly) used to remove a threat which could not otherwise be removed. But today, a person committing a crime so severe that it warrants the death penalty will be imprisoned for life anyway. The threat to the community is removed either way, so the ugly fact is that in practical terms the modern death penalty really is not about justice, but vengeance.

Again, I am not philosophically opposed to the idea that a person can commit crimes so grave that they forfeit their right to life itself, but even conceding a person has forfeited their right to life, it speaks of those who administer justice whether or not that take that life when they have the luxury of not doing so.
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Grath
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Re: Justice

Postby Grath » Tue Jun 30, 2015 12:49 pm

Mongrel wrote:In the past, the death penalty was (ostensibly) used to remove a threat which could not otherwise be removed. But today, a person committing a crime so severe that it warrants the death penalty will be imprisoned for life anyway. The threat to the community is removed either way, so the ugly fact is that in practical terms the modern death penalty really is not about justice, but vengeance.

Yes. Removed from community permanently. Especially people that look like they're at least somewhat reformed and on good behavior, on good terms with the guards...

Even when it's not a life sentence, it can be pretty bad - someone that wrote to my parents' Quaker meeting just made parole earlier this month. He's been in jail since 1989 for a crime he committed when he was 19; now he's 48. I can't imagine the culture shock from the differences in the world now - I'm sure there's some amount of being able to keep up, but when he went to jail cell phones were bricks with antennas, which didn't do anything except make calls. Texting didn't exist yet when he went to jail.

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Mongrel
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Re: Justice

Postby Mongrel » Tue Jun 30, 2015 1:24 pm

I'd say you're just fishing for an extreme, lone example to try and disprove something that will hold true in almost all circumstances, but we are in fact discussing an action which is by definition extreme, so I dunno, maybe the point stands.

However it is also fair to say that sometimes magnanimity entails risk. We as a society much decide how much risk to bear, but I generally find that a society that refuses to accept any level of risk is an unhealthy one.

Sometimes we do dangerous things so we can grow and become better people for facing hardships, but by definition, not everyone who takes a risk will survive.
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LaserBeing
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Re: Justice

Postby LaserBeing » Tue Jun 30, 2015 1:59 pm

I agree that there are some people who deserve to be killed. I sure as fuck don't trust the prison-industrial complex to be the ones to carry it out responsibly or ethically though.
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Büge
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Re: Justice

Postby Büge » Tue Jun 30, 2015 2:53 pm

Who can you trust with that kind of responsibility, though?

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Re: Justice

Postby LaserBeing » Tue Jun 30, 2015 3:31 pm

I'm not religious in general but there's really only one reasonable answer to that.
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Grath
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Re: Justice

Postby Grath » Tue Jun 30, 2015 3:33 pm

Büge wrote:Who can you trust with that kind of responsibility, though?

LaserBeing wrote:I'm not religious in general but there's really only one reasonable answer to that.

Robocop.

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Re: Justice

Postby LaserBeing » Tue Jun 30, 2015 3:55 pm

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Joxam
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Re: Justice

Postby Joxam » Tue Jun 30, 2015 4:09 pm

Prison escapes are an aberration, we don't have an epidemic of prison escapes across the country, I have never understood why someone who is as hell bent on justice as people who want the death penalty don't think its a far better punishment to punish someone for literally the rest of their lives for the crime they committed.
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Brentai
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Re: Justice

Postby Brentai » Tue Jun 30, 2015 5:09 pm

I thought about it seriously and realized that the death penalty doesn't have a damn thing to do justice, necessity, or deterrent. Anyone nihilistic enough to earn the death penalty doesn't give a damn about being killed, and many probably see it as an endgame or even a reward. Anyone concerned about punishing the wicked would much rather have a living subject under their power than a dead one beyond their grasp. And the public is more than happy to call a problem solved once it's been locked up somewhere.

So who is the death penalty for?

It's for the victims.

It's very natural and very human to wish pain to somebody or something that has caused you pain. It's understandable that those affected by a violent or malevolent act won't really feel safe, won't really have closure until their threats aren't just contained, but buried and GONE.

It feels like people who aren't involved are the ones calling for blood the most, but violence touches A LOT of people. It doesn't have to be your daughter to make you feel angry and protective.

I'm not saying this to argue that the institutional death penalty is just or right, but it is one way of looking at it that starts to make some sense.

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Re: Justice

Postby Mongrel » Tue Jun 30, 2015 5:15 pm

Brentai wrote:Anyone nihilistic enough to earn the death penalty doesn't give a damn about being killed, and many probably see it as an endgame or even a reward.


Or, more often, they're just stupid enough to think "Nah, won't happen to me."

Any exposure to chronic criminals can only reinforce the idea that most of them are really fuckin' stoopid.
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Bal
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Re: Justice

Postby Bal » Tue Jun 30, 2015 8:47 pm

The greater issue with murder specifically is that there is really only four kinds of murderer, and nothing deters any of them.

First you have the murder for gain. Someone killing someone else in a premeditated fashion for profit of some kind. This kind of killer deems the reward greater than the risk.

Second you have the murder in the spur of the moment, or the "crime of passion". This kind of killer didn't really have control at the time, and so ideas like "I might get in trouble for this" never apply

Third is the pathological killer. For them it is a need to be filled, and so again there is really no chance that the punishment for such an act will deter, or even occur to them

And finally you have the paid or professional killer. For this killer, like most professional criminals, criminal justice is viewed as a business risk and dismissed. They of course don't want to be caught, but the idea isn't going to stop them.

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Stush
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Re: Justice

Postby Stush » Tue Jun 30, 2015 9:08 pm

Yeah, when I was debating this with people when the aussie dudes were about to get executed, my argument was that anyone who was actually deterred by the death penalty is just as likely to be deterred by a prison sentence, Like, I'm not going to do anything that could get me sent to prison, the idea of prison scares the crisps out of me, the death penalty deters me, sure, but i'm already deterred by the idea of prison in the first place.

People kept saying "They knew the risks, but they still did it, so they deserve what they're getting", and the same people would argue that it's a deterrence, it was pretty infuriating.

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Thad
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Re: Justice

Postby Thad » Wed Jul 01, 2015 9:45 pm


I really don't see the problem there as being that our justice system didn't execute two convicted murderers; I think the problem is that our justice system employed a prison guard who was the sort of person who would help two convicted murderers break out of prison so that they could kill her husband.

Even if they'd been sentenced to death, there's a very real chance their executions would not have occurred yet. It's not infrequent for there to be gaps of 15-20 years between sentencing and execution.

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Grath
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Re: Justice

Postby Grath » Wed Jul 01, 2015 9:54 pm

Thad wrote:

I really don't see the problem there as being that our justice system didn't execute two convicted murderers; I think the problem is that our justice system employed a prison guard who was the sort of person who would help two convicted murderers break out of prison so that they could kill her husband.

Even if they'd been sentenced to death, there's a very real chance their executions would not have occurred yet. It's not infrequent for there to be gaps of 15-20 years between sentencing and execution.

She wasn't a guard, she worked in the tailor shop and multiple people had recommended that she not be hired because she'd been fired from her previous job for having an affair in a company car on company time. Also there was at least one guard involved in smuggling tools to the inmates.

I wasn't so much saying "oh well we should've killed these fuckers" (although the border patrol tactical team DID shoot the first guy in the head three times when they found him... but escaped murderer, carrying a shotgun, not cooperating and following commands) as poking at your "removed from the community" point.

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Thad
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Re: Justice

Postby Thad » Tue Aug 02, 2016 1:38 am

Hinckley's getting out. Ken White has a typically well-thought-out piece on why this is how the rule of law is supposed to work: yes, the man did something reprehensible, but he was found not guilty by reason of insanity, spent 35 years in an institution, and has his doctors' word that he's no longer a threat.

A couple of commenters pointedly add that Jerry Brown just denied parole to Leslie Van Houten. There's no denying that she did something truly reprehensible in 1969. But I think perhaps the past 47 years of her life should be taken into account. If you need a symbol for justice served for those murders, you've still got Charlie and you can keep him, but she's shown remorse, been a model prisoner, and made the best of her life. She's clearly not a threat, and if she's a symbol of anything it's an old lady (six years younger than my grandmother) who went through a messed-up period in her life, did some things that were truly reprehensible, and has spent almost three quarters of her life paying the price.

What's the purpose of prison? Is it to keep the public safe? Is it to rehabilitate criminals so they can become productive members of society? Or is it simply to punish the guilty? Brown's decision is his answer.

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