Death Penalty on the Gibbet…again.

https://www.pilotonline.com/government/virginia/vp-nw-death-penalty-virginia-20191231-dgngftihgbar3jt7lpvmlfaw6i-story.html

There are many good reasons to eliminate the death penalty.

The primary one to me is that our justice system is seriously flawed. Police lie, prosecutors lie and withhold exculpatory evidence, judges are variable, juries can be swayed, eyewitnesses are notoriously inaccurate, forensics are often based on crap science and effective legal help is not available if you are poor or even middle class with limited resources.

The Innocence Project has effected hundreds of exonerations for both death row and life sentence inmates who were wrongly convicted. It estimates that at least 1% of inmates are wrongly convicted and that equates to over 20,000 people.

And most do not get overturned due primarily to limited resources, destroyed evidence or just bad representation. Without DNA evidence, which are the majority of crimes, the odds are terrible no matter how egregious the prosecutorial abuses are.

It is immoral to have an irreversible penalty with a flawed system of justice.

31 thoughts on “Death Penalty on the Gibbet…again.

  1. …”effective legal help is not available if you are poor or even middle class with limited resources.” That is probably one of the best reasons for abolishing the death penalty. If you don’t have the resources to question the validity of evidence, you are screwed.

    And while there are a certain level of crimes that rise to death penalty possibility, maybe the law should be written to take whatever the family of the victims involved desire to be the final outcome. Kind of the way judges handle it these days, but codifying it could possibly be the best outcome?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. That is why I ended with a question mark. It is a very difficult choice because there are crimes that do rise to the level of death penalty.

        As far as the errors go, even the best of us make them. The issue in this case is if the errors are not caught and corrected someone not deserving of being killed by the state, is.

        What is the solution? There are people much smarter than me who can’t effectively answer that.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. “Errors”

        Yes, and flippancy aside, WAY too many are made.

        I’m actually an “eye for an eye” type of guy, but the legal system is too fraught with opportunities to get it wrong to make retribution irreversible. By the same token, if I witnessed someone murder a child (for whatever reason) ending them would not affect my sleep patterns in the slightest…..

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Certainly the ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ standard of guilt is inadequate for the death penalty, Absolute certainty of guilt should be the minimum.

    But when we catch a John Wayne Gacey or a Jeffery Dahmer, I just can’t think of a good reason to not kill them.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. What I find most striking in Len’s argument is suddenly “crap science” exists and government employees, prosecutors and law enforcement, are all corrupt when he wants to support his pet argument. Where is this same stance when debating anthropogenic global warming where he portrays all science as settled and not refutable and government employees as the epitome of virtue?

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      1. “Crap” forensics is a fact. Not always, but there are more than enough instances of evidence either tampered with, handled poorly or the science is wrong.

        I didn’t say all of the justice participants are corrupt. You just assumed I did. I was writing about a flawed system where there are so many variables that do not always lead to justice.

        As far as global warming goes, I have mostly stayed away from those debates because I am not a scientist. I tend to believe that if thousands of scientists around the world agree, then it is either the most amazing conspiracy ever, or they are on to something.

        But if your bona fides as a climate scientist are strong, by all means, let us profit from your knowledge.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. @bobr

        I think you misconstrued Len’s argument/point.

        He was addressing the simple fact that too many opportunities exist (intentional or otherwise) to allow errors in the process that may sentence an innocent person to death.

        I’m not sure how you missed that, did you just feel the need to be contrary for some reason?

        Liked by 3 people

    2. Can’t think of a reason to not kill them?

      How about because a civilized country does not kill people as a matter of principle? The test of any principle is how it is followed when we really, really do not want to.

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        1. You see it as weak? Of course you do. Others might see sticking to principles when we do not want to as a sign of strength and reason.

          With that said, the Weak-Strong scale is a funny way to think about such matters. But, and this is doubtless its appeal for you, it leaves out all those pesky complexities such as whether state killing is a moral solution to mental illness? Or WHO is going to decide which crimes are heinous enough? Or how can we perfect an inherently imperfect system?

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    3. and even THEN, it should be a burden on the State to PROVE that the defendant cannot be safely housed for the duration of his life… and maybe only then.

      Well, you’re batting fifty-fifty.

      Dahmer got life, and good god, HE ATE PEOPLE! For that matter, very few serial killers face death. I guess it’s that “kill one and you’re a murderer, but kill 1000 and you’re some kind of a hero” mentality in America. Yea Gallagher!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. RE: “It is immoral to have an irreversible penalty with a flawed system of justice.”

    I’m not persuaded, for two reasons:

    a. All penalties, even minor ones, are irreversible after the fact.

    b. A perfect system of justice is an impossibility.

    If the death penalty is immoral based on those two factors, then so is every action the justice system takes. That obviously isn’t and cannot be true.

    I prefer incarceration for life over the death penalty as the ultimate criminal penalty, due to the problem of false convictions, but the preference doesn’t strike me as particularly virtuous or morally superior. The preference isn’t even an option if society cannot afford it.

    Sometimes we just have to accept that the ideal and the imperfect cannot be reconciled.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If a state executes an innocent person after going through a very flawed system that is known to be flawed, then that is murder.

      Murder is immoral.

      If a system of justice is not perfect, which it probably never will be, then just eliminate the irreversible penalty.

      It is bad enough that people have languished in prison for decades even though they were innocent and new evidence is ignored that they are. And that is almost a common thread through most exonerations.

      So, again, knowing we have such a system, then we are allowing state murder.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. RE: “If a state executes an innocent person after going through a very flawed system that is known to be flawed, then that is murder.”

      Known to be flawed in what sense? Do you mean because the participants are corrupt, or because despite their purity and best efforts they sometimes err? Do you mean flawed in general, or only in the instance of the conviction at hand? Do you mean becase the flaw that worries you is theoretically possible, even if it has never actually happened?

      I’m sorry, but the absolutism of the moral argument doesn’t stand up under scrutiny. It should be obvious that an imperfect justice system can still be morally acceptable in many different ways, even when it sometimes results in the the execution of the innocent.

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      1. We disagree.

        An irreversible punishment with an imperfect system of justice is immoral.

        And the flaws are not theoretical. If they were we would not have exonerations based on such things as withheld evidence, false forensics, lying police, bad witnesses, paid informants, and lack of legal representation.

        Legal representation is a Constitutional right, as much as the right to bear arms. But as a cynic, since mostly the poor lack good attorneys, who gives a hoot. There is no strong lobby like the NRA to demand better legal assistance. As a matter of fact, legal aid is often way underfunded so that poor detainees are kept in jails for weeks and months or more. Just look a Louisiana and how they are broke with regards to legal services.

        So long as justice is dependent upon wealth, we can never rely on it to be truly just.

        At least eliminate the death penalty and allow the slow grind of justice a chance in some cases, flaws and all.

        Aside from all this, why do we execute? It is not a deterrent. It costs infinitely more to prosecute and carry out than life sentences. It is applied unevenly based on race.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. RE: “We disagree.”

        I’m afraid so. The notion that our justice system is immoral because it is imperfect strikes me as unfathomably stupid.

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        1. Stupid? Perhaps the word imperfect is not strong enough. It makes it sound like the chairs in the courtroom are disarrayed or the filing system is old.

          But with prosecutors withholding exculpatory evidence, police lying, lack of competent legal representation, etc., it is more than imperfect. With the likelihood of more than 20,000 innocent people in prison and most certainly innocents that have been executed, particularly before the advent of DNA testing and in cases where DNA evidence was not a factor, then immoral is the right word.

          Why? Because the flaws themselves are immoral. And all are correctable if we truly care about justice.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. What is interesting is that you are blasé about errors through a flawed justice system when it come to the death penalty. That prosecutors and police lie, judges make egregious errors, evidence is sketchy, witnesses are inaccurate is no big deal.

          Yet, you are truly outraged at some discrepancies, errors and perhaps lying in the FBI investigation of Russian interference. And the calling the impeachment an even more egregious travesty of justice because of lack of proper representation among other issues.

          And yet you have no problem that similar problems in lower courts may execute an innocent person.

          I guess it depends on how “elite” the accused is as to whether he deserves justice or just a walk through.

          Liked by 2 people

      3. Yes, yes, imperfect justice… But the creed used to be “better to set 10 guilty free rather than convict one innocent man,” not the reversal we currently have. Best estimates, 1 in 10 on death row is innocent, based SOLELY on exoneration.

        BTW, Michigan I believe, voted down an “automatic rate of compensation” for the wrongly convicted in the hopes of stemming huge awards in civil suits back in the 1990s because it was seen as “being soft on crime”. You can’t fight that kind of stupid.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. DIs it justice you want…or is it vengeance?

    I’m thinking it’s the latter, based upon the court of public opinion as shown on blogs, social media, etc.

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  5. Thank you for this great post! I really enjoyed reading it and learning from your thoughts! I have recently published an article on my blog regarding my opinion on the death penalty. If you have time, it would be great if you could check out my post and let me know your thoughts! Thanks 🙂

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    1. I read your comment and it seems we are in agreement.

      My point is wrapped in the “irreversible punishment in a very flawed justice system”. But even if we improved the latter, the morality, deterrence, unfairness, and costs are not worth it.

      Exonerations in the last decades since DNA prove that we did, and probably continue to, execute the innocent.

      That is murder.

      I liked the layout and design of your blog.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I’ve bookmarked your site. I’ll check in once in a while to see what’s going on “down under”. I’d love to visit Australia and New Zealand. The flight is the tough part. I think it would take about 20 hours from the East Coast of the US. I’m really sorry to see the devastation from fires. This scale of destruction is hard to grasp.

          Stay well.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Thank you very much for your comment! It is a beautiful country and definitely worth seeing at least once in your lifetime. Yes, even living near the fires, I can’t begin to comprehend the size of destruction.

            Like

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