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Well… once those killers are killed… then those killers won’t be able to kill anyone else ever again…

March 30, 2012
Death-penalty-map

Death-penalty-map (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The government has no business in the business of killing its own people… a fact that one would think to be self-evident…

Well it is to me at any rate.

I thought I might take a look at some websites having to do with the death penalty and see how they compared to one another…

I  found the website, “Welcome to BalancedPolitics.org” to be well… to use the phrase “well-balanced” which coincidently and not too surprisingly, is in part, part of the name for the site, (no pun intended, if that is what it is).  The “about us” link says they are “…a website dedicated to balanced, non-partisan discussion of important societal issues” and as far as I could tell it lived up to its name.

Since this site did not focus exclusively on the death penalty per se but addressed a number of issues presently facing the country it was, neither… or looking at from a different perspective… both, pro and con so I cannot really say it was persuasive.  I did find it to be somewhat refreshing though.  I have included the arguments both for and against because they seemed thoughtful and sincere.  In addition, it seemed they might also provide a good base line with which to contrast the other sites.  I appreciated as well the quotes they provide on their home page (I love a good quote), as they were aimed at provoking the reader to think for themselves.  Here they are:

“The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”  —Albert Einstein

“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total, of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.”  —Robert F. Kennedy

“Let us not seek the Republican answer nor the Democratic answer but the right answer.” —John F. Kennedy

“As a rule we disbelieve all the facts and theories for which we have no use.  A great many people think they are thinking when they are really rearranging their prejudices.”  —William James

In my view, the last quote hits the nail right on the head regarding discussions of most issues, differences of opinion, or other such matters in which people have strong “beliefs” and “feelings” vs. rational thoughts.  Mr. James is almost certainly referring to one or more of a common group of problems associated with thinking known as “cognitive bias” i.e. repetitive patterns of “perceptual distortions, inaccurate judgments, and illogical interpretations, otherwise broadly called irrationality”.  This one in particular is the cognitive orthogonality known as “confirmation bias- also called confirmatory bias, my-side bias or verification bias…  [for those whom may have a bias, as to what this bias should properly be called]… i.e. a tendency for people to favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses”.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias)

Unfortunately for us as a nation, there seems to be a lot of this kind of thing going around, and around and around and around… nothing changes, null is solved.

So, instead of telling, declaring, or pronouncing which position is the “right” one.   BalancedPolitics asks the question…  “Should the death penalty be banned as a form of punishment?

The Yes column

  1. Financial costs to taxpayers of capital punishment is several times that of keeping someone in prison for life.
  2. It is barbaric and violates the “cruel and unusual” clause in the Bill of Rights.
  3. The endless appeals and required additional procedures clog our court system.
  4. We as a society have to move away from the “eye for an eye” revenge mentality if civilization is to advance.
  5. It sends the wrong message: why kill people who kill people to show killing is wrong.
  6. Life in prison is a worse punishment and a more effective deterrent.
  7. Other countries (especially in Europe) would have a more favorable image of America.
  8. Some jury      members are reluctant to convict if it means putting someone to death.
  9. The prisoner’s family must suffer from seeing their loved one put to death by the state, as well as going through the emotionally draining appeals process.
  10. The possibility exists that innocent men and women may be put to death.
  11. Mentally ill patients may be put to death.
  12. It creates sympathy for the monstrous perpetrators of the crimes.
  13. It often draws top talent lawyers who will work for little or no cost due to the publicity of the case and their personal beliefs against the morality of the death penalty, increasing the chances a technicality or a manipulated jury will release a guilt person.
  14. It is useless in that it does not bring the victim back to life.

The No column

  1. The death penalty gives closure to the victim’s families who have suffered so much.
  2. It creates another form of crime deterrent.
  3. Justice is better served.
  4. Our justice system shows more sympathy for criminals than it does victims.
  5. It provides a deterrent for prisoners already serving a life sentence.
  6. DNA testing and other methods of modern crime scene science can now effectively eliminate almost all uncertainty as to a person’s guilt or innocence.
  7. Prisoner parole or escapes can give criminals another chance to kill.
  8. It contributes to the problem of overpopulation in the prison system.
  9. It gives prosecutors another bargaining chip in the plea bargain process, which is essential in cutting costs in an overcrowded court system.

The site also provided some overview and background as follows.

“The United States remains in the minority of nations in the world that still uses death as penalty for certain crimes.  Many see the penalty as barbaric and against American values.  Others see it as a very important tool in fighting violent pre-meditated murder.  Two things have once again brought this issue to national debate.  One is the release of some highly publicized studies that show a number of innocents have been put to death.  The second is the issue of terrorism and the need to punish its perpetrators”.

Looks like the yes’s may have it if for no other reason than the number of reasons.  Still one can decide for them self.

The next site I chose is http://www.prodeathpenalty.com.  On their home page, they list the following quotes.

“If we execute murderers and there is in fact no deterrent effect, we have killed a bunch of murderers.  If we fail to execute murderers, and doing so would in fact have deterred other murders, we have allowed the killing of a bunch of innocent victims.  I would much rather risk the former.  This, to me, is not a tough call.”

John McAdams – Marquette University/Department of Political Science, on deterrence

“If we are to abolish the death penalty, I should like to see the first step taken by my friends the murderers.”  — Alphonse Karr (1808-1890)

Both quotes make interesting arguments.  The first actually had a logical to it, If one is in favor of the death penalty (except for the “bunch”- of-s) which seemed to be an appeal to emotion and thus suspicious.  The second quote is one I can and do agree with, so long as the abolishing part is not conditional on the murders doing it first.  Why should our decisions or actions hinge on what or whether they make the first move.  However, this is not what he is actually saying… or is he?

Just below this quote is an embedded video of news story about a pending execution.  The reporter relays some of the facts surrounding the tragic murders of two young girls including how the family members have had to wait for over a decade for this day of payback and closure. This snippet is clearly an appeal to emotion and contains no counter points, the audience is given one and only one “correct” conclusion, to which they must come, or in effect, they are no better than the murders themselves.  An all too frequent pattern amongst fundamentalists of any stripe.

Why do fascists and their ilk always appropriate words like freedom, truth, righteousness, liberty, etc to use in their names or themes?  One might suspect it is in an effort to dupe the feeble-minded or is it that because, on some level they understand that they have nothing in common with these words, but the perspectives and meanings they represent are anathema to them and thus must be controlled.  Prodeathpenalty.com makes no attempt at impartiality; nor does the reporter, the death penalty is a good thing and they know it.

Among the menu choices available, some of the options included, scheduled executions, death penalty links, death penalty paper, and books and tapes, presumably not the kinds of books or tapes with multiple views on this matter.  The site seemed to be asserting they were pro-victim but instead of focusing on the actual causes of crime including some real solutions to it, they highlighted the “righteousness” of the death penalty and the idea that… once those killers are killed… then those killers won’t be able to kill anyone else ever again… I suppose they have a point there, however actually addressing the causes of crime, especially violent crime would help even more as there would be fewer victims to be pro for.  All in all the whole site seemed rather vindictive and it did nothing to change my mind.

The third site is http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org, and the following is from their about page, “The Death Penalty Information Center is a national non-profit organization serving the media and the public with analysis and information on issues concerning capital punishment.  Founded in 1990, the Center promotes informed discussion of the death penalty by preparing in-depth reports, conducting briefings for journalists, and serving as a resource to those working on this issue.  The Center releases an annual report on the death penalty, highlighting significant developments and featuring the latest statistics.  The Center also produces groundbreaking reports on various issues related to the death penalty such as arbitrariness, costs, innocence, and race.  We offer a wide variety of multimedia resources, such as our free, online educational curricula and our podcast series, DPIC on the Issues.”

Here is a site containing actual information, facts, considered opinions, and science based statistics that one can use to make a personal decision.  Rather than ad hominem, hyperbole, emotional appeals, pre-digested judgments, and condemnations, this site completely leaves it up to you to choose.  The only requirements are an open mind and willingness to investigate the issues based on accurate information; it is too bad these conditions leave out a significant segment of our policy makers as well as an equally significant segment of the rest of the population.

Then I took at the history of the death penalty in Minnesota, the Death Penalty Information Center provides in part the following information.

“History of the Death Penalty

The death penalty in Minnesota has been abolished since 1911. In his 1911 speech in favor of the abolition bill, Rep. MacKenzie stated, “Let us bar this thing of Vengeance and the Furies from the confines of our great State; Let not this harlot of judicial murder smear the pages of our history with her bloody fingers, or trail her crimson robes through our Halls of Justice, and let never again the Great Seal of the Great State of Minnesota be affixed upon a warrant to take a human life”. . .  The entirety of which can be found by following this link.  http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/hinfo/swkly/1995-96/select/death.txt

However, I have included some additional text, which I thought useful.  “The executioners did not take into account one key factor: the stretch of the hanging rope.  After Williams’ feet hit the floor, sheriff’s deputies scrambled to hoist the rope.  The police surgeon counted the minutes on his watch, waiting for the pulse to stop.  A small crowd of spectators watched as it took Williams 14 and one-half minutes to die by strangulation”.

“The miscalculated hanging began a six-year movement to abolish the death penalty in the Minnesota Legislature.  Among those, leading the movement was a Republican (the party was different back then it seems) legislator from Gaylord, George MacKenzie.  Along with other legislators, Rep. MacKenzie supported bills in 1905 and 1909 without success.  On his third attempt in 1911, he implored members on the House floor:

“Mr. Speaker.  Six years ago in the first Legislature which convened in this beautiful building, I had the honor of lifting my voice in support of a bill similar to the one now under consideration . . . and as the years have gone by, my earnest conviction that Capital Punishment is wholly wrong has become deepened and settled”. . . .

It would seem the phrase; “cruel and unusual” applies to Mr. Williams’ this case.  However, Mr. MacKenzie’s appeal is not based on this aspect of the death penalty alone.  Indeed his real petition is to the inherent misguided and immoral function of any state in killing one of its citizens… for any reason, including treason as far as I am concerned.

The government has no business in the business of killing its people, a reality that seems self-evident, at least to me.

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