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Capital Punishment

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serenity blaze
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25 posted 06-12-2001 01:27 AM       View Profile for serenity blaze   Email serenity blaze   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for serenity blaze

Ron...oh Ron oh ron oh ron...HOW DO YOU DO IT? Because, here I am, a vehement opponent of capital punishment, but at the same time...I ponder the implications of World War II, a war, I thought, both justified and unavoidable. And thus you brought up the only argument that gave me pause in this entire matter, is that Timothy McVeigh considered his atrocity an act of war--he considered it justifiable homicide. BUT THEN AGAIN...had it been left up to me? To find that man's vein? and poke it with a needle full of poison? His execution would not/could not have happened. And yet, I am human, and had I held the remnants of a loved one in hand? I would not have needed an implement to kill him.

So I am sadly confused, because you reminded me that I do believe Hitler needed to die...and while watching the Columbine disaster on CNN? I PRAYED that the perpetrators would commit suicide. And right now? If someone broke into my home? and threatened my children? I'd have no quarrel with killing them. There would not be a second thought. So...here I am confused..again...I do believe that life is sacred, and am quite confused as to what lengths I should go to in order to prove the point. Something in me still believes that the greatest justice is making a man understand the wrong he has committed (not sure if that's always possible) but what irks me the most? Is that McVeigh died believing he was a martyr. Was his death justified? Maybe. I do believe, though, it was premature. Somehow? He should have suffered MORE.
White Wolf
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26 posted 06-12-2001 03:27 AM       View Profile for White Wolf   Email White Wolf   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for White Wolf

The question I would ask is this.  If you warn a child that a plate is hot and he will get burned if he touches it and yet he touches it anyway, should the child get burned?  Another question I would also ask along the same lines is this.  If you tell your child that if he does what you tell him not to do that he will be spanked and yet when he disobeys you, you let him off with just another warning, what does that say to the child?  Timothy knew the consequences of his actions and if he didn't then he should have figured them out before he did what he did.  Although I may not agree with capital punishment, it is still the punishment for some crimes.  If he had not been executed for his crime what kind of message would that send to the other would be criminals out there?  Maybe it would tell them that they could commit a crime and get a lesser sentence or a different one rather than what the law has set forth.  So what I have to say is that the laws and the punishments for breaking those laws need to be kept.  If we don't like them, well lets get them changed, we do have the power given to us by our forefathers in the Constitution.  That is one of the biggest reasons they fought for it.  I could also bring religion into this to support what I have said but it might cause an arguement or debate that I would rather not get into right now but maybe later.


The White Wolf

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Brad
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27 posted 06-12-2001 05:34 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

I don't think this particular trial is a good starting point to discuss capital punishment. It's kind of like using the OJ Simpson trial as an example against the prejudical treatment of African Americans in the US judicial system.  See, he was set free, we don't have a problem. See, Timothy McVeigh deserves to die, we don't have a problem.

The government makes mistakes. Innocent people have died as a result of those mistakes.

Why is this okay?

War and on-line police duty are not really commensurable with procedural law. Procedural law is designed to repress that 'gut' feeling in order to make a reasoned choice based on the evidence. We do this, not because the alternative is one's death, the death of others, or the unfufillment of some strategic goal (well, maybe sometimes, some people do use the law for strategic purposes), but in order to avoid the incarceration and death of innocent people. It's a flawed system but going from the 'gut', following your feelings is precisely what we don't want in a political/legal system.

Because innocent people die.

Let's, however, think about using our 'gut' in other situations:

"Gee, Mr. President, why did you push the button?"

"Gee, Mr. General, why did you order the rape of Nanking?"

"Gee, Mr. Judge, why did you order the hanging of four black men?"

"I felt it in my gut."

"I was pissed off, we were losing the war."

"I didn't like the look in their eyes."

Do you want people like that in positions of responsibility?

Okay, but Timothy McVeigh is guilty. He deserved to die. What about that?

Except we live by a law system set by precedent, the more you kill, the easier it gets -- "If McVeigh was killed, why not . . .?" -- the more the chance that an innocent person will be unjustly killed. Oh, I doubt this case will have any real legal value, I doubt if it will be used in court with any kind of suasive legal force, but I also believe that the sheer popularity will taint juries for a long time to come.

I worry about the people who don't make the news, who won't have movies made about them, who won't have Barbara Walters praise his blue eyes. I worry about the innocents.

Brad  
Ron
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28 posted 06-12-2001 07:58 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

Wow, Brad. Would someone please mark this day on a calendar somewhere? I think you and I are in almost one hundred percent agreement. Well, except for one little thing (wouldn't ya know?).  

I think war, police duty and procedural law ARE commensurate, but only if we first agree on the definition of "gut" feeling. I wasn't talking about an emotional response to an individual event or person, but rather was describing the decision process for difficult moral issues. Is war ever justifiable? Should policemen routinely carry guns? Does capital punishment ever make sense?

If you argue that McVeigh deserves to die, then you believe in the moral certitude of capital punishment. Everything else is just quibbling over details, though I certainly won't denigrate the importance of those details. How you arrived at the conclusion this specific individual should pay for his particular crimes with his life is one discussion. How you decided you had the right to reach that conclusion is another discussion entirely. The former is and should be governed by logic, and suggests you "could" be swayed from your decision. I maintain that the latter, however, is governed by your gut.

I believe that many absolute moral questions (as opposed to circumstantial ones) have no logical answers. Or, rather, they have too many logical answers, argued by different people with equal conviction and often equal persuasion. I think most us make those kinds of moral decisions based on our guts, and all of the logical answers so vehemently expounded are just our justifications.

The biggest difference between an emotional response, which I agree we want to avoid, and a "gut" response is that the former is likely to change from instance to instance. The gut response, however, is who you are and changes little (if at all) over the course of your life.

Here's a more pointed example of what I mean, and perhaps a demonstration of why logic is often inadequate to the task.

If you argue that capital punishment should be eliminated because it results in the death of innocent people, that is a logical conclusion and open to discussion. One might, in return, suggest you have made a common cause and effect error, assuming a simple cause when in fact it is a Complex Cause. "The Challenger explosion was caused by the cold weather." True, but the explosion would not have occurred had the O-rings been properly constructed. Do innocent people suffer because of the death penalty? Yes, but even more suffer because of unjust imprisonment, and you end up just arguing the severity (and permanence) of the injustice. The real cause isn't the punishment, but as you pointed out, the imperfections of the system. It's a Complex Cause, and attacking the simple cause certainly isn't the only answer and probably isn't even the best answer.

Or let's go in the other direction. If capital punishment should be eliminated because of the loss of innocent life, then it naturally follows that war and police action are far more culpable and should also be eliminated. A handful of innocents may die every year because of the death penalty, but scores die at the hands of police and thousands in the cauldrons of war. If you contend that law enforcement and war are inevitable evils, while capital punishment is unnecessary, your argument just turned into one of cost versus benefit, something quite different from where we started.

On other hand, if you tell me that coldly, in premeditation, taking the life of another human being is morally repugnant - without questionable logic, without circuitous justifications -  I have no response beyond accepting that is who you are. I may agree or disagree, but I know I won't change your mind without first changing your basic nature.

My original point was that we shouldn't be deceived when someone offers justifications and thus assume their decision is a logical one which can be argued with better logic. I think it's fine to discuss these issues and I encourage such discussion.

But don't, for a moment, think you're going to change anyone's mind if they are following their "gut."
epoet
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29 posted 06-12-2001 09:22 PM       View Profile for epoet   Email epoet   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for epoet

Two questions pop out in my mind when first reading this thread.  First, is it right to kill people who killed people to show that killing people is wrong?  I personally don't believe in the death penalty, but if it helps to set an example of what will happen to someone for doing what Mr. McVeigh did, then do so.
Second, did Mr. McVeigh realize the consequences for his actions in Oklahoma?  I believe that as a former soldier, Mr. McVeigh knew full well the implications of his actions and what the results would bring if he was convicted.  He seemed resigned to his fate to me, so I suspect that he knew full well what was to come.
Myself having been a former soldier for this country and also having lost a loved one to a tragic accident (don't ask, too painful to talk about), I feel that the governments actions were justifiable in executing Mr. McVeigh.  As soldiers, we pledge our lives to protect the innocent and uphold ALL the laws of the Constitution.  He knew full well the discipline that would come for breaking the law as he did and I personally don't see where the government was wrong.
I do feel for his family, they are losing a piece of them that will never be the same.  But my heartfelt prayers are with the survivors of this horrible event.  May God give them closure and help to start the healing process.  This truly is a hard topic to discuss because morally to me, Mr. McVeigh was wrong.  Did he deserve what he got?  Only God can be the judge of that, not me.

P. J. Kotrch
carpe diem
A soul once touched is a soul once blessed by love


jenni
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30 posted 06-13-2001 02:48 AM       View Profile for jenni   Email jenni   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jenni

I don’t see any moral imperatives here based on the sanctity of life.  The fact is, there are many situations when we say taking another life is ok, many of which have been noted in this thread – war, self defense, reasonable force in law enforcement, etc.; it simply isn’t true that taking another life is ALWAYS morally wrong.  I think the better question is whether capital punishment “fits” in our criminal justice system.  I’m not sure it does.  

Any punishment, of course, must first be proportionate to the offense; capital punishment in the U.S. today is reserved for only the most serious murders, so it would seem to be ok on that score.

Why do we punish people who commit crimes?  What do we hope to accomplish by punishment, generally?  Several things, actually:

*  Rehabilitation of the offender;
*  Education (of the general public; when we set stiff penalties for DWI, for example, or drug crimes, or whatever, we are, in part, sending a message to everyone in society that we are taking these offenses very seriously);
*  “General”” deterrence (make other people think twice about committing crime in the first place);
*  “Special” deterrence (lock up the offender so he won’t do it again);
*  Vengeance or retribution.

Does the death penalty meet any of the goals of punishment?  

With capital punishment, rehabilitation, of course, is moot.  (Typically, though, with the kind of crimes we’re talking about, rehabilitation is a fantasy anyway.)

Education is rather a wash; while capital punishment certainly tells society that we take capital crimes very seriously, it perhaps sends a rather mixed message by taking another life, and one wonders how necessary it is in the first place to educate the public that heinous murders are bad.

Studies have shown over and over again that it does not serve as a general deterrent.

As a “special” deterrent, capital punishment is quite effective, to say the least.  On the other hand, so is life without possibility of parole.  

And then there’s vengeance.  Vengeance, of course, is a very real human emotion, and there is some merit to the argument that vengeance is best left to the government, which can attempt to check and control that emotion through a judicial system following legal precepts of due process and protecting the rights of the accused.  Others have noted, however, that those very principles of due process and the rights of the accused (as well as the “civilized” manner in which the death penalty is carried out) make it almost impossible to achieve the cathartic benefits of vengeance, which requires punishment to be swift, bold and certain.  

Looking at it this way, I’d say capital punishment is a very mixed bag, certainly little more effective in serving the aims of punishment than a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole.  

There is the very practical matter – which cannot be entirely ignored – that capital punishment saves the law-abiding, upstanding taxpaying citizens the not inconsiderable expense of lifetime incarceration.  This, I think, is a very valid point.  

There are other practical matters, though, stemming from the fact that our legal system is run by human beings and therefore by definition is, and always will be, imperfect.  As Brad notes, innocent people are sometimes convicted – not often, but it does happen – and with capital punishment, of course, the mistakes cannot be remedied.  Moreover, study after study has shown that the death penalty is fraught with racial and socio-economic bias.  Looking at the universe of capital cases in any jurisdiction, studies have shown that guilty minority and poor defendants are many, many more times likely to receive the death sentence than a guilty white or wealthy defendant.  Ineffective assistance of public defenders is a serious problem, and not just with capital cases – the issue deserves real attention – but I for one am not optimistic that it will ever be adequately solved; ditto on the racial biases of juries.  Because of these fairness issues, then, if nothing else, I’m against capital punishment as a general principle in our criminal jurisprudence, especially when the only function of punishment that the death penalty clearly serves – special deterrence – can also be served quite adequately with life/no parole.  In McVeigh’s particular case, the fairness issues are largely absent, and I won’t lose any sleep weeping for the man.  But as a general principle, capital punishment in the U.S. has serious problems that we shouldn’t ignore.  

Jenni
Brad
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31 posted 06-13-2001 11:07 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Yeah, I agree with Jenni.

Ron,
It's late but if I understand your idea of 'gut' (I would probably say base, Craig might say touchstone)correctly, we disagree in that I think it changes a lot more than you do. We just don't realize that it does change.

Maybe I'll change my mind tomorrow,
Brad
Ron
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32 posted 06-13-2001 12:48 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

Jenni said:
quote:
The fact is, there are many situations when we say taking another life is ok, many of which have been noted in this thread - war, self defense, reasonable force in law enforcement, etc.; it simply isn't true that taking another life is ALWAYS morally wrong.


If you change the "we" in that sentence to the more appropriate "I" or maybe even "most," I'll buy into it. But Conscientious Objection isn't just a loophole in the law. It exists. There are many, many people who believe the sanctity of human life is not situational.

quote:
There is the very practical matter - which cannot be entirely ignored - that capital punishment saves the law-abiding, upstanding taxpaying citizens the not inconsiderable expense of lifetime incarceration. This, I think, is a very valid point.


Read a few of the earlier posts, Jenni. There may be exceptions, but in every single instance I've seen documented, the long and complex process of executing someone in the United States invariably costs more than a lifetime behind bars. Usually, by a factor of at least ten.

quote:
Moreover, study after study has shown that the death penalty is fraught with racial and socio-economic bias. … Because of these fairness issues, then, if nothing else, I'm against capital punishment as a general principle in our criminal jurisprudence


The first part of your statement is certainly (and sadly) true, but I question the inferred cause and effect of your conclusion. Capital punishment doesn't cause unfairness, and I think the same logic would dictate an abolishment to imprisonment, which is equally rife with injustice.

Brad said:
quote:
It's late but if I understand your idea of 'gut' (I would probably say base, Craig might say touchstone) correctly, we disagree in that I think it changes a lot more than you do.


Doesn't matter. My point isn't the name we call it, or its invariability, or even whether it's right or wrong. My point is that it's how we make our most important decisions, and everything else is simply justification. I have yet to see an argument, either for OR against the death penalty, that didn't consist of holes big enough to encompass an entire Logic 101 classroom. I think it's important, whether you want to persuade someone or understand why you couldn't, to recognize your enemy. Are you arguing against logic? Or justifications?


jenni
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33 posted 06-13-2001 06:07 PM       View Profile for jenni   Email jenni   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jenni

ron--

it's interesting, the different approaches we're taking here.  what kind of "logic" demands that we have either an entirely perfect justice system, or no justice system at all?  i think you gotta play the hand you're dealt.  inequities will exist and injustices will occur in our human institutions no matter what we do, all we as a society can do is work hard and try to minimize them.  it would be wonderful if we could stop the world, put everything on hold, devise a perfect justice system, then go back and put all the defendants on trial, but you know as well as i that's impossible.  of course capital punishment doesn't CAUSE unfairness, such that by getting rid of capital punishment we can get rid of unfairness.  as things stand now, though, unfairness sometimes results in capital punishment.  and starting from this inescapable fact -- that the rich can buy better justice and that the poor and minorities are treated like, well, like the poor and minorities (and, you're absolutely right, this is not unique to capital cases, something i recognized in my earlier comments) -- what do we do about it?  well, figure out some way to try to remedy the unfairness, of course, or at least the more egregious forms of it.  but how long do you think that will take, ron?  i'll laugh if you say anything other than "decades, if ever."  so what do we do in the meantime?  keep putting people to death when we have reason to suspect that a good number of them have been convicted and/or sentenced unfairly?  or maybe just throw up our hands and say, well, we can't sentence ANYONE to any kind of punishment until we get this straightened out?  call me silly, but i don't think either alternative is very logical.  abolishing or putting a moratorium on the death penalty under these circumstances does not require abolishment or a moratorium on every form of punishment; this, i think, would be a good example of a foolish consistency being the hobgoblin of little minds.  people will still suffer from unfairness inherent in the system, yes, but at least they wouldn't be killed because of it.  it doesn't seem illogical to me at all to chip away at problems bit by bit, and take things one step at a time.  

jenni
Brad
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34 posted 06-14-2001 05:14 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Ron,

I accept that the government can kill people. I accept that I can kill people. I accept that you can kill people.

In all cases, I can think of a situation where punitive action should not be taken.

In this sense, yes, Lovebug's original statement:

Killing is wrong. Period.

Is something I would have to disagree with.

Actually, outside of a context, it's a statement that is incoherent. You kill to survive, if you don't kill, you end up killing yourself.

But that obviously isn't what she meant and would be absurd to pursue that line of thinking.

Or is it?

Let's make a jump and assume that she meant killing other humans is wrong.

Same problem, isn't it? It doesn't allow an individual to protect him or herself thereby contradicting itself. This statement CAN NOT apply to any and all situations.

Okay, so we start adding exceptions.

It's true except in self-defense.

But what determines self-defense? Self-defense can only be determined with certainty if it is not applied successfully, if it is a failure.

Any other outcome leaves room for doubt.

Let's make another jump, killing by the government is wrong. Period.

Therefore, the government cannot protect itself.

The police force cannot protect itself.

Thereby, the same contradiction applies. If it doesn't kill, it gets killed itself.

So again, you add the modifier 'except in self-defense'.

But again, this can only be determined after the fact.

So what do you do?

You, I, the government guesses.

You play the odds.

I hope, by now, you can see that this applies to capital punishment as well.

Or does it?

The odds that any death row inmate will topple the American government are very small.  The odds that the same death might result as a symbol, a trigger that eventually topples the government are probably about the same.

Therefore, probablistically, this argument argues that capital punishment is unnecessary at the present time because the killing of any individual neither promotes nor hinders the self defense of the American government.

Brad

PS The whole thing falls apart if you believe that killing is right. I think this is where Ron's 'gut' comes into play.

PPS I'm not done yet but don't blame me. Blame Ron. He's the one who started this discussion.


Brad
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35 posted 06-14-2001 08:33 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

To recap (and if I did it correctly): If one accepts the proposition, 'killing is wrong' one must also accept 'except in self-defense' or more precisely 'except when one's own survival is in question' in order to avoid contradiction.  Since capital punishment is not an issue of government survival (and if it were, it would be called something else), capital punishment is wrong.

Now, why isn't this a particularly persuasive argument?

Don't most people intuitively accept the first proposition?

I think yes but realistically most people also know that nobody really follows it. Certainly, governments don't follow it.

So what comes next?

Killing is wrong except in cases of capital punishment.

There is no logical reason for this but let's proceed from this proposition and see what happens?

Except not now, baby's crying.

Brad
Ron
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36 posted 06-14-2001 08:58 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

Jenni, it doesn't really matter if I agree with you or not - we're no longer having the same discussion. You have decided you have no moral problem with capital punishment, just as did Brad. That was the discussion. Some people, and I don't think the numbers are small, do have a problem. A serious one.

There is, of course, absolutely nothing wrong with running a cost/benefit analysis on capital punishment, but I think it has very little to do with moral decisions. You are convinced there is little benefit and the cost for that small benefit is much too high (and I'm sure the people wrongly executed would agree with you). One can only assume that if we could lower the cost, or greatly increase the benefit, you would be willing to change your mind? Those who have a moral issue with the taking of life won't be so easily swayed.

Though it's a bit off topic, Jenni, let me also add that, no, I don't think we should throw out the entire justice system. I do, however, think we should apply the same cost/benefit analysis across the board. I believe if that was done fairly - without politics rearing its ugly head - we would release about ninety percent of the prison population tomorrow. But I suspect that's a different thread…

quote:
You kill to survive, if you don't kill, you end up killing yourself.

Brad, I was going to point out that you're making two unsubstantiated assumptions, one, that the need for self-defense is inevitable and, two, that self-defense requires lethal force. I would have probably followed that with a disagreement on your "self-contradiction" proof, by suggesting that death resulting from moral certainty - whether that includes a refusal to take a human life or running into a burning building to save one - isn't quite the same thing as killing yourself. I might have even argued this was a Joint Effect fallacy, where your cause and effect are in fact both the effect of an underlying cause; i.e., people placing too low a value on human life.

However, by your logic, I can't really present any of those arguments. Since I haven't killed anyone lately, I must be dead.  

* Just out of curiosity, since I've carefully not stated my own "gut" feelings, has anyone guessed where I stand on the issue?
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37 posted 06-14-2001 09:18 PM       View Profile for Poet deVine   Email Poet deVine   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Poet deVine

I find the path this thread has traveled to be amazing. It's really such a simple question. Do you believe in capital punishment? I do not.

And I'll take a guess that Ron doesn't either. (my opinion since he asked)
Brad
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38 posted 06-14-2001 11:03 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Ron,
Of course you would be. The first assumption does not limit itself to human beings but to anything that can be considered alive. You can't eat rocks, can you?  

I think maybe you need to go review Star Trek TOS a bit more.  

I did say going to humans is a big jump, didn't I?

You didn't ask for a realistic argument, you asked for a logical one. Interestingly, if you start from the assumption, 'killing is right' you blow yourself and the argument up. There is no contradiction in terms of the agent dieing.

More later,
Brad

PS My first argument was cost/benefit, this one is moral logic (so far anyway). Oh, the lesser of two evils argument doesn't follow yet.  All life is equally valuable but because of the inherent contradiction, the agent's life will, at first glance, be seen as more valuable -- that is an illusion. It simply follows from the assumption.

PPS I don't have time to check through this yet. So if I've made a mistake please let me know.

jenni
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39 posted 06-15-2001 06:05 PM       View Profile for jenni   Email jenni   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jenni

ron--

i think you're misunderstanding me, which no doubt is my fault, lol.  i wasn't arguing on the basis of any cost/benefit analysis (although i did acknowledge that others approach the issue with this kind of analysis).  what i was attempting to do is look at the question of capital punishment in its context in the criminal justice system rather than on a purely theoretical or philosophical level.  if it is ever to be considered morally appropriate, i think it must first be an appropriate punishment, i.e., measured to the seriousness of the offense and serving at least some of the goals of criminal punishment generally -- which arguably it does.  BUT, given the unfairness and inequities that currently exist (and will likely continue) in the human institution we call the american legal system, where similar cases are given dissimilar treatment largely along racial and economic lines, i think it is wrong to sentence people to death.  "wrong" as in unfair, which, to me, anyway, is a moral issue.  costs or benefits really have little to do with the matter, as i see it.  i guess, in a way, i think you're looking at the issue from the top down, and me from the bottom up.  

i realize this is somewhat different than considering the issue purely on a theoretical or philosophical level.  what would i say about the morality of capital punishment if we DID have a perfectly fair criminal justice system?  lol, i'll get back to you when that day comes; i wouldn't recommend holding your breath, though.       

thanks for listening,

jenni

[This message has been edited by jenni (edited 06-15-2001).]

Alwye
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40 posted 06-15-2001 10:40 PM       View Profile for Alwye   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Alwye

I understand the moral conflicts with this issue.  It's hard to think of taking another human life.  I am still a firm supporter of the death penalty, however.   The greatest issue for me is not the cost comparsion between keeping a prisioner alive or dead or if one life should be taken in exchange for those lost, but rather one thing.  This man, Timothy McVeigh, killed 168 people.  Cold, calculated, murder.  As long as he lives, he poses the threat of escaping, of being let loose, something.  You can't deny that as long as he's alive there's a chance that some way he can kill again.  Would you want to feel like you could have done something to prevent the loss of more innocent lives?  People who do such violent acts deserve no pity, no chance to do it again.  He lost his rights in my eyes when he decided to take the rights and lives of those 168 people away.  That is my opinion.  

*Krista Knutson*

"Touched the mirror, broke the surface of the water,
Saw my true self, all illusions shattered..." ~Tracy Chapman

Brad
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since 08-20-99
Posts 5896
Jejudo, South Korea


41 posted 06-16-2001 08:06 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Back to the moral argument. Ron did point out an ambiguity with the word 'kill' -- is 'let die' equivalent in a moral sense? I think it's an interesting question and one I wouldn't mind pursuing but I don't think it applies here. Capital punishment is not the same as letting someone die. Given a strict sense of 'kill', by the way, offers up some very strange predicaments as 'moral'. If one follows this moral dictum and only this moral dictum, one can conceivably let one's daughter die of starvation (moral) but cannot drop her off a fifteen story building (immoral).

Anyway, I want to begin here with "Killing is wrong except in cases of capital punishment."

Or if you want, "Killing is wrong except in self-preservation and except in cases of capital punishment.

Capital punishment does not logically follow from the original assumption, therefore, in order for this statement to work we need another assumption.

What is it?

Capital punishment is right.

or Capital punishment is right when the prisoner is guilty.

or Capital punishment is right when the prisoner is guilty of a capital crime.

Of these three, the third is what I think people mean. The first means the government can kill at any time and will always be right, the second implies the government can kill when someone steals bubble gum from the corner store and be right. The third is the only proposition that limits the killing to what people are talking about (I think).  It also has the advantage of destroying my first argument. The morality of capital punishment is not based on uncertainty but on the already known guilt of the victim.  If someone is innocent, he or she will not be killed in a moral action.  

If we accept this assumption as a moral one, the argument is over.

But that's not what people are doing. From the fact that that is not what people are doing, I can then assume that people are following another moral assumption that either defends or conflicts with this statement.

From reading the posts, I think we can reduce them to four or five points:

1. an appeal to feeling.

2. an appeal to authority

3. an appeal to consistency

4. an appeal to consequences

5. an appeal to justice

There may be others but these are the ones I see being presented here:

1. Feeling = Killing is wrong except when I feel it is right. This doesn't work in the same way my whole argument falls apartment if someone disagrees with 'killing is wrong.' Someone can disagree with your feeling because they feel differently. Also, the 'because I feel it is wrong' argument is not a moral argument unless one believes in natural morality and, again, we end up back at the beginning.

That is, as appeal to feeling justifies all forms of killing.

2. Authority = Killing is wrong except when authority says so. This defers the question to daddy, to the law, to God but it doesn't address the morality of the statement (actually, it eliminates morality). Well, a deferment to God doesn't -- by definition, his authority is moral. The problem here is that without direct access to God, it still leaves the problem of interpretation. Does God mean that killing is wrong except in cases of capital punishment? Or does he mean capital punishment is wrong?

We effectively leave morality to the interpreters and power holders.

3. consistency = Killing is wrong except when we are being consistent. The problem here is that it avoids the moral question of killing completely or rather subverts the whole question to consistency. If we say that 'killing is wrong except in cases of consistency,' we effectively nullify 'killing is wrong'. If I tell you I'm going to kill you because you didn't like my poem, I am immoral if I don't follow through.

An interesting aside involves 'awareness'. If the guilty party is not aware of good and evil, if the party does not understand morality or did not understand the consequences of the action, then it is immoral to kill that person. However, if the morality of the originating statement is accepted this does not apply. The 'awareness' of the agent who will be killed is not the issue (you can kill a morally unaware agent if your own self-preservation is at stake).  The awareness of the individual has to be another assumption that we add on and only add to the capital punishment exception.  It does not question the morality of capital punishment as a whole.

4. consequences = Killing is wrong except when the consequences of not killing leads to other killing.

I like this one. In a general sense, it's my argument (we shouldn't kill because of the consequences) and many others here. Is it moral?  Well, it means 'the end justifies the means'; we can kill immorally if the killing will prevent immoral acts. No, I don't see how this can be considered moral (action based on a pre-determined code). It is pragmatic.

Which leaves us with one more argument: justice.

And that's a good one.

Brad
catalinamoon
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The Shores of Alone


42 posted 06-20-2001 07:47 AM       View Profile for catalinamoon   Email catalinamoon   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit catalinamoon's Home Page   View IP for catalinamoon

Me again-It seems they have executed another man, and this one even harder to understand, as he was not a mass killer. I accidentally saw a video his children had sent to someone higher up, begging for their father's life to be spared. Do you think the governmentt gave a damn? No. It makes me feel sick. And this one brought into call a lot of racial things that are happening, and discrimination in the amount of minorities on death row. It's all so horrible.
Sandra
Blaec
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since 04-23-2001
Posts 132
The Sunshine State


43 posted 06-26-2001 02:04 PM       View Profile for Blaec   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Blaec

I don't want to say a lot on this subject.  But I have to say something.  I'm sure a lot of you will think that I am a cruel person after this.  I don't care.  My opinions on this subject are strong.  I do believe in capital punishment.  I don't care if I have to pay more in taxes to execute someone.  I'll gladly pay the extra money.  
My cousin and bestfriend was murdered 4 years ago.  It was not a mass murder.  The man who killed him only took the life of one.  He shot my cousin in the back of the head in his own livingroom.  Then he covered him with a blanket and left him there for his mother to find a day and half later.  They were supposed to be friends.  He killed him for no reason.  He stole his truck and his credit cards and went to the mall shopping.  He was sentenced to 2 terms of life with no parole.  I wish that they had given him the death penalty but it wasn't an option.  
Anyway.  In my opinion i wish that they could have killed McVeigh once for every life that he took.  I wish that he would have had to look into the eyes of every child who's mommy or daddy's life he took.  I wish that he would have had to explain to everyone of those children why.
I'm not saying that they way that I feel is right.  I know that it isn't.  But it is the way that I feel.  I can't change that.  Until someone that you love has been murdered you have no idea what it feels like.  

[This message has been edited by Blaec (edited 06-26-2001).]

Brad
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since 08-20-99
Posts 5896
Jejudo, South Korea


44 posted 06-26-2001 05:35 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

And with Blaec's last comment I can explain the why justice is not an exception to the original assumption, 'killing is wrong except in cases of self defense.'

Justice is reciprocality.

Reciprocality is impossible.

Therefore, justice is impossible.

Therefore, justice is not an exception to the original moral assumption.

Capital punishment is morally wrong.

As long as the first assumption holds, what other possibility could there be?

Why isn't this going to persuade those for the death penalty and give little solace to those against it?

Because as Blaec so aptly pointed out, "He doesn't care."

Human beings are neither moral nor logical animals. We're neither immoral nor illogical animals.

We are amoral and alogical. We use logic and morality to pursue our goals, not to determine them.

And that's the way we should be.

Brad
RSWells
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since 06-17-2001
Posts 2607


45 posted 07-08-2001 03:36 PM       View Profile for RSWells   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for RSWells

"Thou shalt not kill" Thou is every damn one of us.

"Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to decieve"

Local Rebel
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since 12-21-1999
Posts 5742
Southern Abstentia


46 posted 07-09-2001 12:53 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

commendations all around but especially to Ron, Brad, and Jenni for presenting well thought out points for debate.

There is a lot I could say about how events in my life have molded my opinions on this subject but it would be better if I didn't.

I'm finding myself to be more in agreement with Ron than anyone though.  

What I will say is if a person has morals, and most people do, killing is never tasteful for any reason, no matter how justified or necessary it seems -- and it is the tacit admission that we haven't reached the intellect to find a better solution to our problems.

[This message has been edited by Local Rebel (edited 07-09-2001).]

 
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