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Capital Punishment Debate

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August 15, 2009 1:10:10 AM

Started this because of comments by belial2k here. Anybody else feel free to jump in!
belial2k keeps saying that we cannot be 100% sure in capital punishment cases, thus we should not execute murderers. The premise is true; but we cannot be 100% sure in any court case, or indeed in anything. We can only deal in probabilities. There can be very high or very low probabilities, but they are probabilities nonetheless. Does this mean that nobody should ever be punished because we are not 100% sure the punishment is just?
Here we see a basic conflict between our worldviews (Christian vs. "anti-religion"). As someone who doesn't believe in the supernatural, you think that this life is it. In that context capital punishment does not make sense, as we would risk destroying the life of someone who would then be losing everything that was ever truly theirs. From my Christian worldview, I believe that this life is nothing compared to an eternity hereafter. Thus, mistakes of justice here are unimportant compared with eternal justice. Not to say that justice here and is completely irrelevant; I simply don't have to worry about 100% certainty, an impossibility.
You also accuse me of wanting to kill criminals; I do not. But it may be beneficial overall to do so. If someone murders a man (and I refer to humans generally, not a particular gender) in cold blood, knowingly and calculatingly, I have no qualms about making him an example, both to protect future potential victims, and future potential murderers who might themselves be deterred from committing a similar crime. While it may seem harsh to the murderer, it is mercy to those others. So it seems that even within an a-religious system, capital punishment might be for the good of society.
Finally, concerning the fact that we are the only "modernized" country with a death penalty: depending on the rational arguments, that may just indicate that the rest of the civilized world is wrong. "Appeal to Majority", as it's called, is an actual and official logical fallacy. See here
August 15, 2009 12:33:13 PM

Well if it's a serious crime like murder AND we are 100% sure they did it then I think the death penalty is OK. The problem is that it's very very rare that we can be 100% sure, if it's like 99.999999999% then that's not good enough and they would have to be sent to prison of whatever, but in those rare cases where you are 100% sure then I agree with it.
August 15, 2009 1:40:27 PM

Problem is, as humans, we can never be 100% sure. Think of witnesses to a crime; if you have 6 different witnesses you're likely to have at least 5 versions of what happened that differ in many details, and some major points.
Say we're 95% sure someone committed a murder; according to you, they shouldn't be executed, but sent to prison. What's prison? Wake up to a hot shower in the morning, go exercise outside for an hour, watch television, play card games, three meals a day. If you and your buddies are feeling rowdy, riot and tear everything apart. And when you're crammed into a cell with a bunch of others somewhere else because you destroyed the original prison, you can discuss the best ways to commit crime and get away with it. I think the whole prison system is flawed. It pretty much lets the guilty party sit around and do nothing to make restitution for his crime.
Other punishments must be devised that are actually constructive. For first-degree murder, what else but execution?
August 21, 2009 1:10:34 AM

Bolbi said:
Started this because of comments by belial2k here. Anybody else feel free to jump in!
belial2k keeps saying that we cannot be 100% sure in capital punishment cases, thus we should not execute murderers. The premise is true; but we cannot be 100% sure in any court case, or indeed in anything. We can only deal in probabilities. There can be very high or very low probabilities, but they are probabilities nonetheless. Does this mean that nobody should ever be punished because we are not 100% sure the punishment is just?
Here we see a basic conflict between our worldviews (Christian vs. "anti-religion"). As someone who doesn't believe in the supernatural, you think that this life is it. In that context capital punishment does not make sense, as we would risk destroying the life of someone who would then be losing everything that was ever truly theirs. From my Christian worldview, I believe that this life is nothing compared to an eternity hereafter. Thus, mistakes of justice here are unimportant compared with eternal justice. Not to say that justice here and is completely irrelevant; I simply don't have to worry about 100% certainty, an impossibility.
You also accuse me of wanting to kill criminals; I do not. But it may be beneficial overall to do so. If someone murders a man (and I refer to humans generally, not a particular gender) in cold blood, knowingly and calculatingly, I have no qualms about making him an example, both to protect future potential victims, and future potential murderers who might themselves be deterred from committing a similar crime. While it may seem harsh to the murderer, it is mercy to those others. So it seems that even within an a-religious system, capital punishment might be for the good of society.
Finally, concerning the fact that we are the only "modernized" country with a death penalty: depending on the rational arguments, that may just indicate that the rest of the civilized world is wrong. "Appeal to Majority", as it's called, is an actual and official logical fallacy. See here


Government shouldn’t be deciding when or how someone dies; crikey they can’t even balance a budget or be accountable. To be frank the death penalty system is an expensive and inefficient. It also doesn’t solve the core issues about crime in general. You can execute 1000's a year and that won’t cause a magical ripple effect in the general population to hold back or think things through. Fact is humans are driven by the basic instincts, and getting the chair isn’t going to change that fact.

But I do believe in hard labour, and wish it would be brought back. I remember when roads were made by convicts, it was just and it got a real return from the incarceration process. But hey if you really want a convicted murderer to chill in his 8x10 cell doing nothing, might as well let them roam free and collect welfare. The costs should be about the same.

Word, Playa.

August 21, 2009 1:38:50 PM

spud said:
Government shouldn’t be deciding when or how someone dies; crikey they can’t even balance a budget or be accountable. To be frank the death penalty system is an expensive and inefficient. It also doesn’t solve the core issues about crime in general. You can execute 1000's a year and that won’t cause a magical ripple effect in the general population to hold back or think things through. Fact is humans are driven by the basic instincts, and getting the chair isn’t going to change that fact.

But I do believe in hard labour, and wish it would be brought back. I remember when roads were made by convicts, it was just and it got a real return from the incarceration process. But hey if you really want a convicted murderer to chill in his 8x10 cell doing nothing, might as well let them roam free and collect welfare. The costs should be about the same.


I thought this thread was dead! Anyway, it's not really "the government" deciding. I mean, the way they can't seem balance budgets, botch education, etc. are done by the legislative (Congress/Parliament) and executive (President/Prime Minister) branches. In the courts, a jury of his peers decides whether or not a man is guilty. A judge (often elected, at least here in the US) then decides the punishment. I agree with you that hard labor is a much better solution than incarceration, but only for lesser crimes. I believe that first-degree murderers should be executed.
"It also doesn’t solve the core issues about crime in general." Could you elaborate on what those core issues are?
"Fact is humans are driven by the basic instincts, and getting the chair isn’t going to change that fact. " I'm not saying that it will help the murderer. Do you think hard labor will? You're right that humans are all too often driven by their basic instincts. One of those basic instincts is a desire to live. So, after a person hears about a murderer who was executed, wouldn't that instinct to live try to avoid the same fate? And the first and surest way of doing so would be to avoid the action that started it all.
And that's my main argument here: by executing first-degree murderers, we can frighten those away who would do the same thing, saving them and their potential victims.
(Another argument for me that I got into with Crashman here is whether or not capital punishment is biblical; a case can be made secularly, as here, and biblically, as there.)
August 31, 2009 2:33:33 AM

It is much more expensive to execute a criminal than to keep them in prison for life as there are mandatory multiple trials of anybody sentenced to death. Part of me would love to see murderers, rapists, etc. just hauled out back and thumped in the head with a .45 slug after the "guilty" verdict, but I don't want to have to pay even more in taxes than we already are forced to pay. So I say don't execute the prisoners, instead put them in chain gangs and make them clean up roads and otherwise earn some of their costs of confinement. It would be cheaper and the prisoners would actually do something remotely positive rather than just sit on death row watching cable TV and sleeping 16 hours a day on my dime.
August 31, 2009 3:08:17 AM

For me, I think capital punishment doesn't work anymore because it was made private and as quiet as possible. If you were setting an example this isn't the way as it should be made public for everyone to see. With the private execution people don't see or fear the process of death itself, which was what the original intention to prevent crime.

* Though for making it public you'd run into more human rights problems, so that'd be a dead end.

Some criminals don't fear the law anymore, as some would think that they'd just get sent to prison for life. They'd be alive and all, and some gangs still even profit and work behind bars so what'd be the point of a life sentence. Keeping prisoners in prison for 40~70 years only costs money and would fill up the prisons in the long run.

We need a new way to deal with such criminals, like the way DRM is being handled on computers.
August 31, 2009 1:54:26 PM

Bolbi said:
Problem is, as humans, we can never be 100% sure. Think of witnesses to a crime; if you have 6 different witnesses you're likely to have at least 5 versions of what happened that differ in many details, and some major points.
Say we're 95% sure someone committed a murder; according to you, they shouldn't be executed, but sent to prison. What's prison? Wake up to a hot shower in the morning, go exercise outside for an hour, watch television, play card games, three meals a day. If you and your buddies are feeling rowdy, riot and tear everything apart. And when you're crammed into a cell with a bunch of others somewhere else because you destroyed the original prison, you can discuss the best ways to commit crime and get away with it. I think the whole prison system is flawed. It pretty much lets the guilty party sit around and do nothing to make restitution for his crime.
Other punishments must be devised that are actually constructive. For first-degree murder, what else but execution?


So based on your statistics - it's ok that 1-in-20 of the people you execute will be innocent? Dont think its gonna happen somehow...

The interesting thing is that in most countries that have capitol punishment - if you admit to murder (probably the most reliable assurance, but by no means totally reliable) you're spared the death penalty anyway......

The main problem in my eyes is that execution is fairly permanant, if new evidence comes to light or forensic techniques change, there is no potential comeback. If you look there is surfacing research that even DNA evidence can be undetectable forged or falsified, and as this is the current gold standard in evidence I'm pretty glad I dont live in a country that has the death penalty.
August 31, 2009 3:09:36 PM

will_chellam said:
So based on your statistics - it's ok that 1-in-20 of the people you execute will be innocent? Dont think its gonna happen somehow...

The interesting thing is that in most countries that have capitol punishment - if you admit to murder (probably the most reliable assurance, but by no means totally reliable) you're spared the death penalty anyway......

The main problem in my eyes is that execution is fairly permanant, if new evidence comes to light or forensic techniques change, there is no potential comeback. If you look there is surfacing research that even DNA evidence can be undetectable forged or falsified, and as this is the current gold standard in evidence I'm pretty glad I don't live in a country that has the death penalty.

There is that risk. I did say that we must be 99% sure before executing someone, and only if found guilty on charges of first-degree murder (maybe treason, but that's rare now). There is no in-between state. The jury finds them either guilty or not guilty. If they are guilty, then I believe they should be executed.
Now, let's suppose that the 99% certainty is not met; the jury is only 95% sure, which would result in 1-in-20 found guilty of first-degree murder being falsely executed. Let's do the math.
Perhaps one-in-twenty of those convicted and sentenced to prison for life causes another murder in some way. He might escape or be released somehow; more importantly, he could influence through his getting away without execution another potential murderer to do what he did. You hear of copycat killings not infrequently. But all of the resulting victims are legally innocent. So now, if we execute all those murderers, 5% who are killed as a result are legally innocent. If we just sentence them to life in prison, 100% of the people dying as a result are innocent. Big difference.
First-degree murderers have forfeited their human right of life by ignoring that of someone else, perhaps many others. Execution is an appropriate punishment.
Finally, it's not like capital punishment is drunk driving. There is a method to it. We can be sorry for the mistakes we make, but in the end, it is better (as a percentage of legally innocent people killed) to execute than to not.
August 31, 2009 3:11:11 PM

Wanted to clarify that I am not saying the current system is without fault; many things could be improved. I'm only saying that the principle of capital punishment is both moral and effective overall.
September 1, 2009 4:06:17 AM

Yes, life is precious: that truth justifies both capital punishment and pro-life. I did not say just to execute "criminals". I said to execute first-degree murderers. They have forfeited their right to life by ignoring that of others. With that fundamental right ignored, there is a much, much, higher probability that they will ignore other rights, or ignore that same one again. Thus, capital punishment reduces crime (by getting rid of the very worst criminals), and protects the general public. The death penalty saves lives by both preventing murderers from striking again and by acting as a deterrent to other potential murderers. So you see that I advocate capital punishment based once again on an interest in protecting life.
There's my position. If you can refute it, go ahead. If not, please don't continue your name-calling and "that's not true" whining.
P.S. If you want to attack the Bible (yes, capitalized) please do so in the Religion subsection; this is not the appropriate place. You state its supposed vileness, and that of God, as a fact; even Dawkins says "arguably". Are you even more fanatical than he is?
September 1, 2009 4:28:16 PM

WTF?!?!???? ABORTION YESTERDAY AND NOW THIS!!!!!!?!??!?!??
Anonymous
September 1, 2009 8:03:56 PM

F Off
September 8, 2009 10:48:25 AM

Ladies and Gentleman,

Debates are quite alright and it is ok to express your opinions but please keep it civil or ramifications will be applied.

Thank you.
September 8, 2009 12:55:42 PM

if there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever then the following deserve capital punishment

Terrorist
Murderers
Paedophiles

like i said if the evidence is 100% correct.... then send them down for good
September 11, 2009 2:13:11 AM

ulysses35 said:
if there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever then the following deserve capital punishment

Terrorist
Murderers
Paedophiles

like i said if the evidence is 100% correct.... then send them down for good


You missed a few:

Politicians
Anybody who has produced or starred in a reality TV show
Trial lawyers and their clients
Telemarketers
Idiots who talk on cell phones and text message while trying to drive
Pop singers and rappers
Child abusers
E-mail spammers
People who come by your house and try to get you to convert to their religion
Animal abusers
Gold diggers
September 11, 2009 1:37:24 PM

MU_Engineer said:
You missed a few:

Politicians
Anybody who has produced or starred in a reality TV show
Trial lawyers and their clients
Telemarketers
Idiots who talk on cell phones and text message while trying to drive
Pop singers and rappers
Child abusers
E-mail spammers
People who come by your house and try to get you to convert to their religion
Animal abusers
Gold diggers

I hope you're not serious... Certainly some of those people might justly be punished, but executed? And unless you're completely anti-government, we need politicians!
September 11, 2009 3:20:08 PM

Bolbi said:
I hope you're not serious... Certainly some of those people might justly be punished, but executed? And unless you're completely anti-government, we need politicians!


There was only two entries in there that were serious, and that's the people who abuse children or animals. The rest of them were very tongue-in-cheek as those people are pretty darned annoying but you probably wouldn't actually want to kill them.
September 11, 2009 3:44:14 PM

MU_Engineer said:
There was only two entries in there that were serious, and that's the people who abuse children or animals. The rest of them were very tongue-in-cheek as those people are pretty darned annoying but you probably wouldn't actually want to kill them.

I definitely disagree that animal abusers should be executed. Child abusers maybe, depending on the nature of the offense.
September 12, 2009 12:20:29 AM

hey i was a telemarketer at one point!!

;) 

got me through college...
October 11, 2009 6:17:30 AM

I think they should kill all the people wanting capitol punishment, then we wont have it anymore j/k
I think if youre condemning a person to life in jail, that this is far more punishing and terrible than the death penalty
October 11, 2009 6:26:55 PM

MU_Engineer said:
There was only two entries in there that were serious, and that's the people who abuse children or animals. The rest of them were very tongue-in-cheek as those people are pretty darned annoying but you probably wouldn't actually want to kill them.

I don't know. I think that Shakespeare might have been right.

Seriously, though. I have no philosophical objection to the death penalty.My problem is with the application. I do not ever want to be responsible for executing an innocent man.
October 11, 2009 6:49:03 PM

IMO, technology will advance so that in maybe 15 or 20 years we can probe & extract information directly from the accused's mind, so that would go a long ways towards resolving their guilt or innocence. Of course, such a procedure would have to be voluntary under current law in most western countries, which basically holds that no person can be made to provide testimony to convict themselves (aka, plead the 5th amendment in the US). So that would weed out the innocent, who would most likely volunteer to prove their innocence. So having a death penalty for homicide, pederasts & other crimes where the victim's life is either taken or else ruined (i.e., the husband of the face-transplant woman in which he basically shot her face off her head), seems justifiable to me since if they were truly innocent, they would have permitted the mind probe :) .

I'd bet that most premeditated crimes would be deterred by a public execution, such as in Saudi Arabia where every Friday somebody's head gets hacked off. However I disagree with their other practices, such as lopping off hands of thieves. However I'd be for lopping off the offending body part of rapists :D . Esp. if it was then stapled to the forehead of the rapist, as an example to others.

However I'd also be for just shipping career felons to some place where they can do no further harm to society, sorta like Australia a hundred years ago! :D  IIRC that was the gist of some sci-fi story I read years ago, where they tossed the felons over a high fence and then let them live or die outside of society.
October 11, 2009 7:37:22 PM

I think capitol punishment is wrong. Executing a murderer or some criminal just as evil makes us (the executioner and those who wanted him to die) just as bad. People say that he doesn't deserve to live, may be true, but we are not allowed to take away that persons life as that would make us murderers ourselves. As Jaydeejohn said, condemning a person to life in jail is more punishing than being executed
October 12, 2009 2:46:48 PM

Actually it's "capital punishment" - capitol punishment is when you go visit the capitol and hafta listen to congressional speeches all day long :D .
October 13, 2009 2:06:24 AM

Solitary confinement for a life sentence is far, far worse than a punishment that is over within minutes.
October 13, 2009 8:49:09 PM

Crimes wouldn't be committed if we pre-emptively killed all the minorities.
October 13, 2009 9:00:00 PM

randomizer said:
Solitary confinement for a life sentence is far, far worse than a punishment that is over within minutes.


Well, theoretically anyway - I doubt anybody here has experienced both and lived to post about it :D .

IMO, since capital punishment usually takes a number of years before sentence is carried out (with all the appeals, etc), living under the threat of impending final doom is far worse than being bored for the remainder of your life. If it didn't cause panic & terror to most criminals, I'd think they'd forego their appeals and just get it over with. Instead, almost all of them fight the death sentence every step of the way.

Personally I'd like to see the electric chair make a comeback, like the one in the movie The Green Mile (??). And all the death row inmates forced to watch the coming attraction.
October 13, 2009 9:01:52 PM

strangestranger said:
Crimes wouldn't be committed if we pre-emptively killed all the minorities.


Isn't something like 54% of the world's population women?? If so, you're a minority! :D 
October 13, 2009 9:07:50 PM

strangestranger said:
Crimes wouldn't be committed if we pre-emptively killed all the minorities.


Well, since white people are the minority, let's start with them.
October 13, 2009 10:22:49 PM

White is the only pure colour, everything else is indistinguishable and so cannot be counted as a collective group.

Death to all!!!!

@Fazers_on_stun.

You assume me to be of a certain gender.
October 13, 2009 10:31:03 PM

I guess those of you who read the rest of the thread know my position... But I did want to point out that making distinctions about minorities based on skin "color" is really dumb. We all have the same pigment in our skin (eumelanin). Some of us have more, and thus darker skin, while others have less, producing lighter skin. It comes from an extremely minor variation in DNA.
October 13, 2009 11:21:38 PM

Do you know that for a fact or do you just believe everyting the media spoon feeds you.

People in fact have followed completely different evolutionary paths and branched off many moons ago.
October 14, 2009 12:21:19 AM

fazers_on_stun said:
IMO, since capital punishment usually takes a number of years before sentence is carried out (with all the appeals, etc), living under the threat of impending final doom is far worse than being bored for the remainder of your life.

It's not just being bored, it's being bored in a tiny concrete room with zero interaction with anyone (except perhaps the guy who passes food under the door for you :D ) for the rest of your life. It's enough to drive you to madness, but I suppose if you are insane then you will no longer feel the full effects of solitary confinement.

Screw that, shoot them at the scene of the crime.
October 14, 2009 12:52:37 AM

strangestranger said:
Do you know that for a fact or do you just believe everyting the media spoon feeds you.

People in fact have followed completely different evolutionary paths and branched off many moons ago.

I have heard it from biologists and geneticists and read it in their books. (I haven't done that level of research myself. :D  ) If you know a biologist, ask him. If he's honest, he'll tell you that melanin does cause the pigment in skin, and that the DNA difference between the various so-called "races" is on the order of 1%. Or you could just Google it...
Anyway, I am most certainly not making it up.
October 14, 2009 1:14:23 AM

I wasn't accusing you of making anything up, merely you believing what other people make up.
October 14, 2009 1:28:53 AM

Science: the science of making things up.
October 15, 2009 4:35:30 PM

strangestranger said:
White is the only pure colour, everything else is indistinguishable and so cannot be counted as a collective group.

Death to all!!!!

@Fazers_on_stun.

You assume me to be of a certain gender.


Actually, I assumed you're a hermaphrodite, and that way I'm always half-right! :D 

Besides, Random told me that you're an old guy who hangs out in the Old Men's club, and of course I believe everything she tells me! :whistle: 
October 15, 2009 4:47:50 PM

randomizer said:
It's not just being bored, it's being bored in a tiny concrete room with zero interaction with anyone (except perhaps the guy who passes food under the door for you :D ) for the rest of your life. It's enough to drive you to madness, but I suppose if you are insane then you will no longer feel the full effects of solitary confinement.

Screw that, shoot them at the scene of the crime.


And then charge the family 10 cents for the cost of the bullet, like they do in China :) .

Seeing as how death row is not particularly harsh in most US prisons (TV, exercise yard, library books, although I believe most of the death row inmates are kept separate from each other and the general population), it's a tolerable existence - better than the fear of non-existence.

Take the case of one of the DC snipers - John Muhammad - who is scheduled for execution next month for the shooting death of one of his Virginia victims 7 years ago (October 2002). He has filed appeal after appeal, and is petitioning the Democratic governor Tim Kaine for clemency at the same time as his appeal to the Supreme Court. This is the guy who fired his court-appointed attorneys during the trial, insisting on acting as his own attorney, and the grounds for appeal? Incompetent representation! I.e., himself!

Of course he and his then-juvenile partner Lee Malvo shot & killed 9 others in Maryland and Virginia before they were finally caught, and I believe there were a couple of victims in Texas before they took their sniper show on the road to DC. Malvo got life imprisonment due to being just 17 at the time, and he's happy as a clam. Muhammad was 40 and got an appt. with the hereafter, so he's fighting tooth & nail to avoid the final curtain drop on his sorry act.
January 9, 2011 1:49:31 PM

This topic has been closed by Reynod
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