The Reasons I Changed My Mind About the Death Penalty

Categories: Random Ephemera

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Photo by Ken Piorkowski

Years ago, when I was still a teenager, an elderly great aunt of mine was viciously raped and murdered by a person that broke into her house one night. Despite this crime happening in another state, and her being a distant relative I'd never met, I still remember the raw feeling of wanting her murderer to face justice, and to get the death penalty. I grew up in Texas after all, and we lead the nation in executions. The idea that they are a just form of punishment was something I took for granted.

The kinds of capital crimes that can earn a criminal a state-enforced meeting with the Grim Reaper are almost always the worst possible. Very few people I know can feel sympathy for a person that has callously raped, tortured and murdered their way onto Death Row, and that is understandable. It's a lot to ask of a person, perhaps too much.

At the time of my great aunt's murder, I was completely accepting of the death penalty as an instrument of justice. It appealed to my sense of fairness, as the exchange of a killer's life for robbing an innocent of theirs seemed to make sense. Certainly not an "even trade," but the best kind of justice society could hope for in such terrible criminal cases.

As the years rolled on, I began to question my feelings on the matter, primarily because some of the arguments against capital punishment began to make more sense to me than the reasons supporting it. I began to question whether the death penalty was a just sentence for society to impose on those convicted of horrific crimes. I respectfully understand that many people will disagree with me, but several issues kept popping up that changed my mind about supporting the death penalty.


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21 comments
dudleysharp
dudleysharp

Chris:

A thoughtful review, spoiled by inaccuracy, due to lack of fact checking.

1) See California and New Jersy:

Saving Costs with The Death Penalty
http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2013/02/death-penalty-cost-saving-money.html


2) See sections 3 & 4


The Innocent Frauds: Standard Anti Death Penalty Strategy 
and
THE DEATH PENALTY: SAVING MORE INNOCENT LIVES
http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-innocent-frauds-standard-anti-death.html

3) RACE & THE DEATH PENALTY: A REBUTTAL TO THE RACISM CLAIMS http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2012/07/rebuttal-death-penalty-racism-claims.html

"There is no race of the offender / victim effect at either the decision to advance a case to penalty hearing or the decision to sentence a defendant to death given a penalty hearing."

"As blacks represent 47% of murderers and whites 37%, we see that whites are twice as likely to be executed for committing murder as are their black counterparts."


observer
observer

Given that we as a people were wise enough to execute criminals for most of our history (and indeed most of the history of Western Civilization), I would suggest your pseudo-moralistic hand-wringing is wholly illegitimate and childish, a classic example of how the modern liberal state has produced men without chests.

Deterrence, while probably quite real, is also irrelevant to both the moral and the social justification of the death penalty.
Some crimes require death as their punishment. Simple as that.

The death penalty and all other forms of legal punishment long pre-date the modern State. And the death penalty is only unnerving" to moral weaklings.

The flaws of human systems do not absolve us from the necessity of moral judgment and the enforcement of such judgment, that is why using the DP is not only just but right as well.

observer
observer

This same tripe gets old. These have been the same "reasons" that anti-Dp zealots have been trotting out for 30 years and what have you received? Nothing, and I say good.

We do not have the luxury of bleeding-heart liberals who think that all should be forgiven and will not bring someone justice who justly deserves it for the real punishment for his crimes. There must be consequences imposed on those who murder others. We have laws. If we wish to remain a just society; a society which does not descend into the inferno of chaos then we best act as if the law is vital for our very existence as a society. We must require from our representatives: honesty, justice  and action.

Daily we are reminded that crime on various levels in this society is either rewarded or goes unpunished. There is little difference between rewarding crime and not punishing it.

Nicki Stacy
Nicki Stacy

Are they? They get three, decent meals a day while there are plenty of law-abiding citizens in our country that go hungry every day. They each get a bed to sleep on while I taught students who shared a bed with multiple family members for lack of space. Why should prisoners have better conditions to live in than many of our poor or elderly citizens?

Kristina Michel
Kristina Michel

Oh they're already doing that even with the death penalty on the table.

marklipman60
marklipman60

My sister-in-law was murdered by a jealous neighbor. Would pay handsomely to get 5 minutes alone with him in a room without windows however we cannot execute individuals no matter how heinous the crime until our legal system works 100% of the time which it is not designed to do. It is still predicated on the premise that it is better to let 9 guilty people go free than to convict one innocent person. Even with a mandatory lengthy appeals process, innocent people have still been put to death. 

Nelo Maciel
Nelo Maciel

America prisons are already miserable hell hole. How much worse do you want it?

Jeremy Vorheier Molinas
Jeremy Vorheier Molinas

I believe the process for the death penalty should be sped up, so we don't waste so much time and money keeping these people alive at the taxpayer's expense. Or we should just privatize the nation's prison system, and allow private entities to put prisoners to work and capitalize on them in some way.... like "death race" style events.

Nicki Stacy
Nicki Stacy

You don't want to execute? Fine. How about we make prison a really miserable place to live in it's place? Has to be some sort of consequence for their actions.

Anse
Anse

I also oppose the death penalty. Our dogged refusal to give it up troubles me, especially when other aspects of the criminal justice system are being seriously scrutinized, like the failure of mandatory-minimum sentencing and harsh punishments for nonviolent drug crimes. This essay comes at an especially interesting moment, as there is a story going around that one of the key witnesses in the infamous Cameron Todd Willingham case is now recanting his testimony, and evidence has come out that the prosecutor in that case repaid that testimony by winning a lighter sentence for the witness, who was also incarcerated at the time.


People who emphasize victims' rights aren't wrong; I'd want to kill somebody who murdered my loved ones, too. But our system of laws is not established solely to satisfy the wronged, even if that is a big part of it. The system is set up to grant due process to the accused and limit abuses, and it is designed to lean in favor of the accused in cases where a clear ruling is not possible. The point is, if justice were merely a case of satisfying the victim, we could settle every case by giving the victim a half hour with the accused strapped to a gurney, a pair of pliars and a blowtorch at their disposal, to borrow a phrase...but it's not just about vengeance. If justice were just about vengeance, we wouldn't need courts or judges or lawyers or even laws.

jchriscastillo
jchriscastillo

I am against the death penalty, despite the fact that my mother was murdered in Houston in 1991.

People should pay for the crimes they commit, but I don’t think vengeance and state sanctioned killing is the answer. With Life in Prison without the possibility of parole, we have another choice.

I choose to remember my mother as she was, and not just how she died. I choose take control of my life. I will not let anyone make me live in fear or in a state of anger. My mother won’t have wanted that.

Anger and hatred are a normal reaction to pain, but we don’t have to give in to those feelings. We aren’t animals.

Many murder victim family members suffer through the trial and appeal after appeal, waiting for some conclusion to a case that represents the capital murder of their loved one.

Unfortunately, it is common for people to stay on death row for decades as the appeals process plays out. All that time the family is suffering and waits for an end to their case.
Life without the possibility of parole is a way to end cases quicker.

It is a civilized answer to an uncivilized act.

RoosterMcGee
RoosterMcGee topcommenter

the only problem with the death penalty is that the process should occur faster and at a cheaper price. 

malicet
malicet

I changed my mind about the death penalty because I believe it creates more victims - even a murderer has a family and loved ones usually and they will all suffer too - I feel we should aim as a civilized society to decrease suffering, not increase it by creating more victims than the murderer has created himself we are supposed to be more evolved than a murderer hopefully in the best circumstances.  It's barbaric.  And I also feel that the people responsible for carrying out a death penalty sentence would then become victims too, of PTSD and part of a terrible cycle of death.  Ick.  :( 

paval
paval topcommenter

Death Penalty is the wrong answer for many more reasons than the ones listed above. 

And a lot of it has to do with the antagonistic concept of a country that is praised by its people as the "country of the free", "the greatest country of the world", " the paragon of democracy", and has one of the largest imprisoned population of the world, executes its inmates (as it turns out, many being actually innocent (and in case of a final answer like Death Penalty, one single inmate being wrongly executed is one too many)) and by doing so, punishes in an extremely unbalanced way, its minority populations, "its tired, its poor, its huddled masses yearning to be free". Democracies stand out because they protect their minorities and their weak. 

So with so many imprisoned "criminal" elements, it is fair to ask: "Does death penalty actually work as a deterrent?" Normally punishment is seen as deterrent for others, but given the sheer numbers of jailed people criminality does not seem to go down in the US, but rather up. In Saudi Arabia, seeing someone with a chopped off hand daily may be a better deterrent to a would be thief there, than knowing that the US kills its bad guys after a 15 year of process of legal battling if they actually can. 

Also, to punish a criminal, that may have tortured, disemboweled and killed his/her victim, with a clinical efficient 20 minute procedure, seems kind of disproportionate and not really in line with the biblical eye for an eye, on which the death penalty ultimately bases its right of existence.  Of course I am sure if criminals would get punished the same way they treat their victims, everyone would be against it (with maybe the exception of the directly affected survivors of a victim), as it would be easy to tag this as a savage act and rightfully so. A functioning legal system finds an appropriate and commensurate punishment for each crime. Clinical death penalty is neither. 

Revenge is also not a factor that a legal system should base its punishment on. Because if so, then i will key every persons car that parks wrong, throw a paint ball at any one who cuts me off on the freeway, force a diaper on my neighbors dogs when they piss into my flower plot, etc. Even though its understandable that someone in the family of a crime victim (like the authors personal experience) will wish the worst on the person that took the victim away, a legal system cannot afford to give in to the anger of the victim and its survivors, but has to find a balanced and equitative way of dealing with its criminals. Legal systems should be free of any feeling associated to the 7 capital sins. Otherwise the base of a civil society is taken away forever. 

Good parenting practices will tell you almost always that a punishment for a childs misbehaviour has to be "stante pede". it has to be commensurate, just and inmediate so children can learn that someone is monitoring their behaviour, that rules need to be respected and that misdeeds get punished right away. As we are all the children of the countries we live in, why wait 15 years to punish someone with the ultimate punishment. 

- Death Penalty invites to irrational argumentation. I find it quite interesting that the more religious people are, the more they are for death penalty, but at the same time the more opposed they are to abortion and both is ending a life of a living being. 





rasclot123
rasclot123

American prisons provide healthcare, warm meals, a bed, etc.  Take a look at Russian prisons or prisons in central America.

Smedley
Smedley

Because prison is just like a trip to Disneyland, right?

paval
paval topcommenter

@jchriscastillo 

Your last sentence sums it all up. Death penalty is not a civilized answer to an  uncivilized act.

Thanks for sharing the painful memories of yours and how you still have faith in a democratic system governed by the rule of law. This should serve as an example to a lot of death penalty supporters, that even the ones affected by a heinous crime, are not always automatically for death penalty. More than once I have heard the argument that the victims survivors also need justice and justice is gained through death penalty. 

Those same supporters do not want to acknowledge that, since death penalty is such a complex case and has to be taken through the instances of the justice system, in every instance, the survivors suffer as they have to relive the whole case again and again. A rather quicker sentence to life terms without parole, will also provide closure to the victims family and not victimize more people with the committed crime. 


 

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