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Do you believe the death penalty is unethical?


Lyudmilascience
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Personally I support surgical options, rather than anything traditional.

 

Think it is important to consider that "life in prison" may not literally mean that, in some cases less than a decade. Makes it less of a certainty that a life sentence will protect society and ensure no one innocent dies in the process.

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Personally I support surgical options, rather than anything traditional.

 

Think it is important to consider that "life in prison" may not literally mean that, in some cases less than a decade. Makes it less of a certainty that a life sentence will protect society and ensure no one innocent dies in the process.

 

 

This thread is about the death penalty, as apposed to a life sentence, whatever that may mean...

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I am on the fence about this, killing an innocent man by accident even if he was convicted is a nightmare, but life long imprisonment is cruel and unusual in my book. Being locked up with real criminals is high on my list of things not to do, I would fear that worse than simply being killed. The expense of simply keeping someone alive who can never be released into society is a bit of a problem as well.

 

As some think life imprisonment is typically more "cruel and unusual," than capital punishment, and some think the opposite, the logical thing would be to let the convicted person make that decision. (How often he/she might be given such a choice is a technicality). Whether some judge decides to commute a prisoners life sentence with the consequence that he/she commits another murder is also a technicality. Similarly, whether capital punishment or life imprisonment costs more is also a technicality. One can discuss such tenchicalities if you like, but I think doing so at the same time that one is discussing the ethics of the issue unnecessarily complicates and obfuscates the matter.

 

If one is constitutionally using the "cruel and unusual punishment criteria" for determining the ethics (or legality, or constitutionality, or group morality) of the issue, then one does indeed have some sort of quantitative reference that one can use to support ones arguments. As the statistics I have reviewed (some of which I posted) indicate that deterrence is not a huge factor in the 'debate', then, apart from vengeance, the remaining key issue is that of protecting society. In that respect, both the death penalty and life imprisonment serve that purpose. (The possibility that a person serving life might escape and thus kill again is another practical technicality. Similarly, whether a person is put to death and later evidence is found to absolve him/her is also, perhaps a technicality, as the best way to determine the ethics is to set aside these confounding factors, particularly when there may come a day when no one ever escapes).

 

Bottom line, then, is that life imprisonment is the least radical and most reversible sentence, and traditionally seen as least harsh. If the prisoner (not his/her family or girlfriend/boyfriend, or guardian or whatever) is allowed the freedom to choose his fate, then we arrive at the least cruel punishment. If the prisoner does not choose to exercise his/her freedom to make such a choice, then the government would choose what is generally considered to be the least cruel punishment, which would be life imprisonment.

 

I agree that one has to have some sort of yardstick when discussing ethics, be it scripture, a Constitution, or a principle such as Utilitarianism, though it is unreasonable to expect that measurements be as black and white as measuring the distance from King Henry I nose to the tip of his fingers when his arm is outstretched.

 

In any case, the standard of the least cruel and unusual punishment seems to be about as universal a principle as one will get in matters such as this, and is similar to the empathetic notion of doing no harm, or doing the least amount of harm when one has to do harm, and is therefore the antithesis of a vindictive approach. Saying that there just is no quantitative ethical reference point is just leaving the nature of punishment wide open, and we have no reason to not return to the good ole days where we, often in the frenzy of some warped group mentality, stone people to death for even minor transgressions (even if such gut-level vengeance translates into voting for the electric chair for certain crimes), and indeed there are countries that we consider barbaric, in that respect, that still literally do just that.

Edited by disarray
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This thread is about the death penalty, as apposed to a life sentence, whatever that may mean...

 

You asked for a personal opinion. Personally I would do neither. :shrug:

 

 

Economic costs for both executions and life imprisonment.

 

In real terms, people can die while waiting for execution and people sentenced to life can end up walking free. In some cases, comparing the US and UK, we have prisoners voluntarily waiving their appeals being executed(US) and people imprisoned for life(UK) being refused the chance to commit suicide. I don't feel either option is especially clear cut from an ethical standpoint.

 

Number-wise I think we(US) are moving away from executions again. We'll see what happens.

Edited by Endy0816
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Bottom line, then, is that life imprisonment is the least radical and most reversible sentence, and traditionally seen as least harsh. If the prisoner (not his/her family or girlfriend/boyfriend, or guardian or whatever) is allowed the freedom to choose his fate, then we arrive at the least cruel punishment. If the prisoner does not choose to exercise his/her freedom to make such a choice, then the government would choose what is generally considered to be the least cruel punishment, which would be life imprisonment.

 

The Innocence Project alone has help exonerate 342 people. So we know for a fact innocent people go to prison. A life sentence can be overturned. A innocent person serving life in prison can be released when exonerated. An executed person cannot be brought back to life when exonerated.

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The Innocence Project alone has help exonerate 342 people. So we know for a fact innocent people go to prison. A life sentence can be overturned. A innocent person serving life in prison can be released when exonerated. An executed person cannot be brought back to life when exonerated.

So, ironically, a society that has a number of false positives when it comes to capital punishment should be put on trial itself....for perhaps, manslaughter, if nothing else.

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http://www.scienceforums.net/topic/96679-isnt-the-melting-pot-a-good-thing/

 

Posted Today, 05:35 PM

When the rich fear the future, they take the antipodean path to the answer; the right path is to enrich the poor, so they don't envy the rich for being sheltered and fed.

 

Instead they protect and increase their wealth with ever more fervor; as if it were some sort of impermeable shield.


And by "rich" I mean those that actually have food and shelter.

 

 

 

This is also relevant in this thread.

 

 


Just replace the word rich with vengeful and the word poor with victim...


Forgot one, Replace enrich with forgive.

Edited by dimreepr
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http://www.scienceforums.net/topic/96679-isnt-the-melting-pot-a-good-thing/

 

This is also relevant in this thread.

Just replace the word rich with vengeful and the word poor with victim...

Forgot one, Replace enrich with forgive.

 

Public health studies show that a host of individual 'illnesses' and maladaptive behaviors (depression, aggression,schizophrenia, etc.) proportionately result from a discrepancy between high and low income inhabitants of any given area, not just having a low income per se. Even a small decrease in the gap and the poor helps greatly.

 

This seems to be particularly true of males, perhaps owing to socio-sexual expectations for them to bear the responsibility of being competitively productive. But the problem falls back on everyone: "the poor become socially marginalised and are therefore less likely to adhere to the norms of that society, resulting in greater levels of crime and personal violence.

http://www.healthknowledge.org.uk/public-health-textbook/medical-sociology-policy-economics/4a-concepts-health-illness/section7

 

Though there are some who exploit welfare, for example, and though there is merit in the phrase that one should give a 'man' a fishing rod rather than just fish, many people need a degree of 'seed money' to help them get out of the vicious circles of poverty, e.g.,, buy clothes that enable him/her to be presentable for a job interview.

 

I agree that "forgiveness" can be seen as the flip side of vengeance, though for many, the term vengeance can also have religious connotations, which is not entirely surprising. I prefer the notion that one should focus on the concept that no one can ultimately determine (again, unless one gets back to religious concepts of pearly gate distribution of justice) the extent to which people's criminal propensities largely developed from their exposure to an environment of poverty, prejudice, and powerlessness (not to mention genetic factors, group pressure, impulsive rage, gang ethics, etc., etc.). Thus, rather than some abstract notion of forgiveness, a society can focus on addressing the social problems that seem to foster criminal behavior, minimizing a 'blaming' approach for those who are unemployed or impoverished, encouraging public activities that increase communication and understanding, etc. etc.

 

So yes, I agree that rather than being too concerned with the question of how best to punish people, society could focus more on preparing the soil of social conditions that would best prevent weeds from festering in the first place.

Edited by disarray
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.... society could focus more on preparing the soil of social conditions that would best prevent weeds from festering in the first place.

'Weeds' are healthy plants not wanted. Read: native peoples and poor immigrants. The soil needs preparing for the weeds to thrive. It's the space-grabbing 'pretty' roses with their thorns that are taking up all the space and resources.

 

Coincidentally I put up a song in the Lounge recently about this by Rush.

 

"The Trees"
There is unrest in the forest
There is trouble with the trees
For the maples want more sunlight
And the oaks ignore their pleas
The trouble with the maples
(And they're quite convinced they're right)
They say the oaks are just too lofty
And they grab up all the light
But the oaks can't help their feelings
If they like the way they're made
And they wonder why the maples
Can't be happy in their shade
There is trouble in the forest
And the creatures all have fled
As the maples scream 'Oppression!'
And the oaks just shake their heads
So the maples formed a union
And demanded equal rights
'The oaks are just too greedy
We will make them give us light'
Now there's no more oak oppression
For they passed a noble law
And the trees are all kept equal
By hatchet, axe and saw
Edited by StringJunky
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'Weeds' are healthy plants not wanted. Read: native peoples and poor immigrants. The soil needs preparing for the weeds to thrive. It's the space-grabbing 'pretty' roses with their thorns that are taking up all the space and resources.

And the trees are all kept equal
By hatchet, axe and saw

 

Being a social weed suggests that one is not well or very productive; but I did not mean to imply (as one can tell from the context of my remarks), despite the garden metaphor, that one must also therefore be unusually evil, lazy, criminally inclined, selfish, self-entitled to, or dependent upon others wealth, or any other such negative label. Indeed, anyone can be or become a sickly and penniless "weed" given unfortunate circumstances. As for mal-developed weeds, many rich and "successful" people might deserve that title as much as anyone else, e.g., Hetty Green, probably the richest (and most miserly) woman in America during the latter part of the 19th c., who decided to give her son Carter’s Little Liver Pills and wait and see if his injured leg healed rather than paying for a single doctor's visit after she was recognized trying to sneak him into a free clinic for the poor, with the result that her son’s leg worsened and had to be amputated.

 

Though we are justifiably, I think, divagating a little off into politics here, I would stress the notion that part of the cohesive social contract binding our society together is the recognition that, just as a poor person can become rich overnight, so too can a rich person 'lose his shirt' (e.g., in the stock market), so that society provides various types of security nets to all equally (hence social security, welfare benefits, unemployment benefits, and, arguably, universal health insurance). Darwin himself, who appreciated the economic advantages of altruistic behavior and did not deprecate those who were unable to escape the cycles keeping them in poverty, noted that “If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.” Though Herbert Spencer (often called the father of social Darwinism) did seem to think we should just let the poor die rather than to perpetuate their weaknesses and misery (coining the term "survival of the fittest," aka, survival of the strongest), even Adam Smith (laissez-faire advocate) did not deny the need for some sort of welfare: "All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind."

 

Sure, the rich and successful may have to break stride at times to assist those hobbling along (but still making an effort), but I suspect that the most egregious attitudinal problem in America is a sort of pervasive economic anxiety that those at the top (e.g., corporations and their lobbies) have no mercy when it comes to exploiting those beneath them, so that one might as well follow suit, keep ones nose to the grindstone, and forget about the Joneses if they should falter, or else face failure, disgrace, and ruin.

 

I have never advocated for such a radical redistribution of wealth that everyone is equally well off, and all indications actually seem to be that the gap between the rich and poor has been been widening for some time now. We continue to see growing social unrest and dissatisfaction, rumblings from below foreboding continued unrest and upheaval, much like those below San Andreas, as many fear that they will be victims of a powerful elite, and either pushed or left to fall into permanent oblivion.

 

Also, I have already acknowledged that many poor people exploit the system and rip off others (though white collar crime is arguably the worse), but we can't paint everyone with the same brush, or make the generalization that they should all just be left to their own devices, or perhaps summarily eliminated from society altogether by sending them to death row, despite that, from a scientific standpoint, we can't even say that some criminals are irretrievably beyond reform and rehabilitation. So unless you are advocating unbridled, absolute laissez-faire capitalism or some sort of racial or lower class cleansing, I am not following your point.

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I would stress the notion that part of the cohesive social contract binding our society together is the recognition that, just as a poor person can become rich overnight, so too can a rich person 'lose his shirt' (e.g., in the stock market),

 

 

This conflates monitory wealth with spiritual wealth:

 

 

He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature.- Socrates

 

 

 

It's a common misconception with the poor (seemingly poor, who have both food and shelter + extra's (the fridge, wide screen TV(with sky subscription) etc...) that just having more money will bring a happy ever after or a worry free life.

 

Monies are just pieces of metal or paper that enable survival in our modern world; it's contentment + money that enables a valuable life, in this world of ours.

Edited by dimreepr
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'Weeds' are healthy plants not wanted. Read: native peoples and poor immigrants. The soil needs preparing for the weeds to thrive. It's the space-grabbing 'pretty' roses with their thorns that are taking up all the space and resources.

 

 

 

Perhaps I have slightly misread your post. The extent to which the govt. is obligated, by treaties or reparation for past wrongs done against natives is a matter of opinion. Some do make an effort to be independent, contributing members to society, and others don't. Though the issue of land complicates the issue of their treatment moreso than other minority groups such as African Americans, it is undeniable that non-minority groups (e.g., European Whites) are partly responsible for the inability of members of minority to groups to succeed because of their ongoing prejudice.

 

I am not sure what you mean by space-grabbing 'pretty roses', but if you mean those 'advantaged' groups and individuals who continue to take up prime real estate for their own purposes far beyond what is reasonable and necessary, I would agree with that as well.

 

As for immigrants, I would certainly agree that all immigrants should follow the due process of immigration, rather than being illegal and perhaps receiving benefits equal to, or in some cases, apparently greater than those afforded to citizens.

 

In any case, I maintain that there needs to be a continued shift away from guilt-vengeance based approaches (including the death penalty) of dealing with problematic individuals, and more emphasis on education, and engineering the sort of social conditions where the ability to pursue happiness without infringing on the efforts of others to do the same are optimized.

 

 

 

It's a common misconception with the poor (seemingly poor, who have both food and shelter + extra's (the fridge, wide screen TV(with sky subscription) etc...) that just having more money will bring a happy ever after or a worry free life. Monies are just pieces of metal or paper that enable survival in our modern world; it's contentment + money that enables a valuable life, in this world of ours.

 

Yes, the goal of American society should be to enable as many people as possible to not only survive, but to be contributing members of society. Where possible, welfare and unemployment benefits, etc., should be as temporary a fix as possible. (Even Herbert Spencer agreed that a 'poor' person's relatives and friends might help them, but was reluctant to agree that society should help them survive since they would merely continue to reproduce and become an even greater problem to themselves and to society as a whole. Margaret Sanger's efforts to encourage birth control seems to be in keeping with this sort of outlook. This is a problematic issue in that it has a tendency to seep into the issue of eugenics, depending upon ones political point of view.)

 

But more to the point is that being too dependent upon society for handouts of whatever sort can lead to cynicism, lethargy, and a diminishing sense of self-worth, which is one of the reasons the poverty is a vicious, downward spiraling cycle.

Edited by disarray
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Perhaps I have slightly misread your post. The extent to which the govt. is obligated, by treaties or reparation for past wrongs done against natives is a matter of opinion. Some do make an effort to be independent, contributing members to society, and others don't. Though the issue of land complicates the issue of their treatment moreso than other minority groups such as African Americans, it is undeniable that non-minority groups (e.g., European Whites) are partly responsible for the inability of members of minority to groups to succeed because of their ongoing prejudice.

 

I am not sure what you mean by space-grabbing 'pretty roses', but if you mean those 'advantaged' groups and individuals who continue to take up prime real estate for their own purposes far beyond what is reasonable and necessary, I would agree with that as well.

 

As for immigrants, I would certainly agree that all immigrants should follow the due process of immigration, rather than being illegal and perhaps receiving benefits equal to, or in some cases, apparently greater than those afforded to citizens.

 

In any case, I maintain that there needs to be a continued shift away from guilt-vengeance based approaches (including the death penalty) of dealing with problematic individuals, and more emphasis on education, and engineering the sort of social conditions where the ability to pursue happiness without infringing on the efforts of others to do the same are optimized.

Your understanding is closer to my intent in this post; the conditions need to be made more hospitable for the groups where the problems persist. A period of positive discrimination in favour of the discriminated for a decade or two would probably help. The UK did, in favour of minority groups back in the 70's and 80's IIRC. This policy is not something that should be permanent because it, understandably, causes resentment when the policy has achieved its goal.but it does set up positive role models for those coming after in the disadvantaged groups. If youngsters don't see role models from their own demographic in positions of skill, responsibility, power and influence etc, they may deem it an unrealistic goal and not worth aspiring to. This needs to be controlled at the federal level not just state to work; It's to be about AMERICA and not just individual states. Talking of which: the biggest impediment to progress in the US is the excessive autonomy of member states to make their own laws on matters that should be decided federally, like this one I mentioned..

Edited by StringJunky
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I appreciate your sentiments and goals, though I don't personally agree with affirmative action approaches for a number of reasons (e.g., reverse discrimination, overriding democratic choice, etc.). For example, H. Clinton's statement that she would use affirmative action to place women in cabinet positions seems as rational as voting in a President because they are African American or female or Mormon or poor or disabled or whatever. (One can see that part of the problem is that in order to implement affirmative action, one would have to give preference to all possible minority groups, an effort that soon becomes absurdly unwieldy.) Evidently, she does not feel, as apparently many if not most women do, judging from various studies, that women are less suited for positions of leadership than men.

 

There are those who would argue that the President is also the Commander in Chief and thus holds the fate of the world in his/her hands so that the use of affirmative action should be set aside in order to get the best person to fill that important role. But in my opinion, every job position is important and should, like the position of President, be filled by those best suited to fulfill the job requirements....Is it not the right of an employer or a voting populace to vote in whomever they think best fits the job description as long as irrational prejudice does not play a role in their selection?

 

There are a number of matters pertaining to human rights, (e.g., euthanasia, abortion, gay marriage, riding on any seat of a bus, gender and bathrooms, capital punishment, etc. relate to the sort of things protected by the Bill of Rights), and I do agree that these should be a matter of Federal concern, with States not being allowed to defy Federal regulations, anymore than Mississippi should or could stop James Meredith from going to college.

 

In general, there are many avenues in which one might investigate alternatives to just dismissing people as evil weeds that will never change and/or need to be punished for the evil things they do in as final and vengeful manner as possible.

 

There may be some cases where the death penalty may be the most utilitarian choice, e.g., in a society in which escape is always a possibility and the prisoner is a psychotic serial killer who has been deemed incurable. But far too often, the death penalty is often an expression of people's revulsion and revenge against a person whom they regard as evil. Without getting too political, I would note that U.S. Presidents as well as other world leaders have often not been above labeling and writing off certain countries, races, and/or religious groups as evil, thereby galvanizing a sort of national irrational hatred towards certain 'outsiders' (or insiders for that matter) that sometimes justifies, as history illustrates, torturing and killing them, either as individuals or en mass.

 

Perhaps such notions of evil emanate from religious doctrine, but my point is that such a label generally tends to put an end to further exploration of the causes of aggression and the various alternative methods of reducing it. Though science has often been accused of being amoral (or even immorally materialistic), I think that it has been largely successful in demonstrating that many scriptural beliefs about the physical world are in error (e.g., Creationist beliefs). But above and beyond that, I think that science can also demonstrate that many religious moral beliefs are likewise erroneous, antiquated, and/or counterproductive, e.g., the death penalty as an effective sanction, the etiology of homosexuality, the origins of racial categories, the assumption that all cases of thievery are just caused by greed, the assumption that murderers are just motivated by evil, etc.

 

In short, it is often not just a matter of, as you point out, deciding in a vacuum whether such a thing as the death penalty is right or wrong in some absolute (deontological) sense, but rather a matter of phenomenologically looking at the reasons that people think that it is right or wrong, and then testing the validity of their assumptions.

Edited by disarray
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There are those who would argue that the President is also the Commander in Chief and thus holds the fate of the world in his/her hands so that the use of affirmative action should be set aside in order to get the best person to fill that important role. But in my opinion, every job position is important and should, like the position of President, be filled by those best suited to fulfill the job requirements....Is it not the right of an employer or a voting populace to vote in whomever they think best fits the job description as long as irrational prejudice does not play a role in their selection?

Affirmative action, as I understand it, is choosing a minority candidate when everything else is equal between candidates capability and experience-wise e.g. on the final list of equally candidates, after whittling out the rest, a black, etc candidate is chosen. Positions like the POTUS would exception I would think. I was thinking more of the lower echelons of public life - town, city and corporate level

 

There are a number of matters pertaining to human rights, (e.g., euthanasia, abortion, gay marriage, riding on any seat of a bus, gender and bathrooms, capital punishment, etc. relate to the sort of things protected by the Bill of Rights), and I do agree that these should be a matter of Federal concern, with States not being allowed to defy Federal regulations, anymore than Mississippi should or could stop James Meredith from going to college.

Yes. These things are of national concern and too important for individual states to decide imo. These things define a country's character and doesn't seem right to have a hotch-potch of different attitudes expressed across the nation by different governing bodies. These things define what a country is as a collective identity.

 

 

Edited by StringJunky
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Affirmative action, as I understand it, is choosing a minority candidate when everything else is equal between candidates capability and experience-wise e.g. on the final list of equally candidates, after whittling out the rest, a black, etc candidate is chosen.

 

Not necessarily. Indeed, I suspect that the all-things-being-equal approach you describe is actually the exception rather than the rule. If it were simply a matter of choosing a black candidate, all other factors being equal, I might be a little more open to affirmative action. But even then I would suggest that it is not the business of some third party, be it university or some county administration board, to act as interlopers by manipulating the decision process. And again, there are so many minorities, that simply singling out one or two "races" as opposed to other minority races, religions, sexes, gender orientations, nationalities, ages, income groups, etc. is, in practice, not feasible. (So even in cases of the sort of tie you mention, I would opt for breaking it randomly.)

 

But lets look at the supreme court case of Gratz vs. Bollinger where it was found that the University of Michigan used a 150-point scale to rank applicants, with 100 points needed to guarantee admission. The University gave underrepresented ethnic groups, including African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans an automatic 20-point bonus towards their score, while a perfect SAT score was worth 12 points. (But no mention of Muslims, Buddhists, transsexuals, homosexuals, octogenarians, midgets, Wiccans,….well, you get my point.) The Court found that the University's policy, which automatically distributed one-fifth of the points needed to guarantee admission to every single underrepresented minority applicant solely because of race, was not narrowly tailored to achieve the interest in educational diversity that the university claimed justified its program. http://minorityrights.org/law-and-legal-cases/gratz-v-bollinger-2/

 

As for Hillary, according to the NY Times, she plans to ensure that half of the cabinet is women…There is no just choosing a woman when all factors are equal, and again, one could cite a hundred other minority groups that won’t get such preferential treatment if she is elected. Indeed, the 50/50 formula is fairly common. I don’t think enforcing equality in this way is ultimately a very fair or even very effective means of reducing discrimination and prejudice.

 

It is widely claimed that ‘blacks’ are unfairly singled out by the American judicial system, so that there is a disproportionate number of blacks in U.S. prisons and a disproportionate number of death row. Indeed, the statistics for legal executions in the U.S. since 1976 are as follows : Black 34.6%; Latino 8.3%, and White 55.5%. (http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/race-death-row-inmates-executed-1976)

Among those waiting on death row (2013), White 43.10% Black 41.71%!! Latino/Latina 12.63% https://death.rdsecure.org/article.php?id=86

 

We can put these figures into some sort of perspective by noting that, in terms of population, Non-Hispanic whites make up 63 percent of the U.S.; blacks, 12.3 percent (with Hispanics, 17 percent).

 

We find similar misrepresentation in the number who were found to have unfairly been put on death row in the first place: “Given the over-representation of black and Hispanic prisoners on death row, it is hardly surprising that of the 139 capital convicts found innocent since 1973, 61% have been of color.”

 

According to David A Love, writing for the Guardian, “Capital punishment has national and international implications... in the US – where a very small number of counties, largely in the South, accounts for a majority of the executions – local officials enjoy broad powers to prosecute and execute based on groundless assumptions and bias about race. Questions of guilt and innocence are subordinated to expediency and prejudice.” https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/jan/03/racial-bias-us-death-penalty

 

One might conclude that the best thing to do, in keeping with affirmative action, is to ensure that people are executed in accordance with the proportion that their “race” is found in the general population. However, one might find a few on death row who might oppose that formula.

Edited by disarray
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Among those waiting on death row (2013), White 43.10% Black 41.71%!! Latino/Latina 12.63% https://death.rdsecure.org/article.php?id=86

 

We can put these figures into some sort of perspective by noting that, in terms of population, Non-Hispanic whites make up 63 percent of the U.S.; blacks, 12.3 percent (with Hispanics, 17 percent).

 

We find similar misrepresentation in the number who were found to have unfairly been put on death row in the first place: “Given the over-representation of black and Hispanic prisoners on death row, it is hardly surprising that of the 139 capital convicts found innocent since 1973, 61% have been of color.”

 

Good point.

 

No one is arguing that the criminal justice system is perfect. Too many people have been exonerated over the years and the number you pointed out clearly reflect bias. Sadly knowing the the system is not fair doesn't seem to be an effective argument. The people who want the death penalty don't factor in how well the system works overall into their thinking. Rather they know that some of the people on death row are guilty of terrible crimes. So they focus on that. Focus on the ones that are guilty and ask themselves if that guilty person should die. Once they conclude yes they figure the gov't must have a means to kill and that the death penalty must exist. Proving that innocent people get sentenced to death doesn't change the blood lust many have for want to see guilt people put to death. It reflects a stubborness is their logic where the question of the death penalty existing is settled. Innocent people on death row is an obstacle to overcome and not evidence that the death penalty itself isn't useful.

 

Most people wouldn't buy a termite infested house but most people who had a termite infested house would endure to repair the house. Once a person owns/has something they endeavor to keep it; even an idea. What is obviously bad from a purely objective standpoint is viewed as merely a gltch to an otherwise important thing or process to those who already committed themselves.

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Good point.

 

No one is arguing that the criminal justice system is perfect. Too many people have been exonerated over the years and the number you pointed out clearly reflect bias. Sadly knowing the the system is not fair doesn't seem to be an effective argument. The people who want the death penalty don't factor in how well the system works overall into their thinking. Rather they know that some of the people on death row are guilty of terrible crimes. So they focus on that. Focus on the ones that are guilty and ask themselves if that guilty person should die. Once they conclude yes they figure the gov't must have a means to kill and that the death penalty must exist. Proving that innocent people get sentenced to death doesn't change the blood lust many have for want to see guilt people put to death. It reflects a stubborness is their logic where the question of the death penalty existing is settled. Innocent people on death row is an obstacle to overcome and not evidence that the death penalty itself isn't useful.

 

Most people wouldn't buy a termite infested house but most people who had a termite infested house would endure to repair the house. Once a person owns/has something they endeavor to keep it; even an idea. What is obviously bad from a purely objective standpoint is viewed as merely a gltch to an otherwise important thing or process to those who already committed themselves.

 

 

Much like the frog that's happy to sit while it boils to death because it doesn't recognise the incremental temperature difference.

 

But more to the point is that being too dependent upon society for handouts of whatever sort can lead to cynicism, lethargy, and a diminishing sense of self-worth, which is one of the reasons the poverty is a vicious, downward spiraling cycle.

 

 

 

I think the downward spiral is more to do with the judgement of those lucky enough to find themselves in work, along with the clarion call of the fortunate "why should I pay for these lazy good for nothings, all they do is take my money and spend it on drink and drugs."

 

Yet we never claim a lion is a lazy good for nothing because it finds itself in a zoo?

Edited by dimreepr
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No one is arguing that the criminal justice system is perfect. Too many people have been exonerated over the years and the number you pointed out clearly reflect bias. Innocent people on death row is an obstacle to overcome and not evidence that the death penalty itself isn't useful.

 

 

 

I take your point that noting that a system that uses capital punishment is not working smoothly owing to bias seems at first glance to be just a technical issue. But when weighing the scales between using the death penalty and a life imprisonment sentence from an ethical standpoint, I think that it is highly relevant that arguments given by a victim's family, some religious zealots, various legislators/judges/sheriffs, etc. in favor of the death penalty is evidently based to a large extent and/or in many cases on irrational emotions such as prejudice and bias, thereby putting their arguments into serious question. Again, as per my quote above, "in the US – where a very small number of counties, largely in the South, accounts for a majority of the executions – local officials enjoy broad powers to prosecute and execute based on groundless assumptions and bias about race. Questions of guilt and innocence are subordinated to expediency and prejudice."

 

As for the fact that there are innocent people on death row, as well as the related observation that there innocent people are executed, I suggest that this is no minor faux pas, and not some technical obstacle that can be overcome with a little adjustment to the system. Indeed, one of the reasons that murder trials are so drawn out, e.g., in a case where the defense pleaded insanity, or in numerous cases where we are going by questionable eye witness accounts, or in cases where we are going with the amount of evidence that the prosecution can put together that is or seems to be 'beyond a reasonable doubt', etc., there is always the possibility that the jury will make mistakes, or in the cases of, for example, temporary insanity, so that the possibility of reasonable rehabilitation and early release may be an option, one that will be weighed in terms of the probability of recidivism.

 

To remove the obstacle of executing innocent people, one would have to reduce the number of those who are executed to individuals who are found guilty not just beyond a reasonable doubt, but beyond any doubt whatsoever, e.g., murders completed in broad daylight in the presence of several nearby unbiased witnesses and that were undeniably not a result of self-defense. In reality, whether murders are completed by the police or civilians, I suggest that the vast majority of cases are not so clear cut.

 

So I agree that you have identified the technicality of ensuring that a defendant is undeniably guilty before executing him/her, but I think that it is an insurmountable bias as things stand now, and indeed, just executing those who are undeniably guilty would probably have the effect of letting quite a large percentage of actual murders go free, but also perhaps encourage people to think that they can get away with murder as long as they don't do it in full view of a large crowd in broad daylight.

 

Note: After rereading your last post, I gather that you agree with me anyway.

 

Dimreepr: You said, "Yet we never claim a lion is a lazy good for nothing because it finds itself in a zoo?"

 

I think that this is a great metaphor, but I think that it does not invalidate my point...how often do we hear (too proud) people say, "I don't need your handouts, I'm not a charity case" when they should really just accept a gift (e.g., when they cannot work for a while owing to a temporary illness) and just express a desire to return the favor should the occasion ever arise in the future?" On the other hand, I would suggest that again it is again the fault of those who have wealth that they so belittle those who receive welfare that they so reduce their self-esteem that they find it slightly more difficult to motivate themselves.

 

I once gave a presentation to a geography class at college level on the cycles of poverty, and I think that that those who are lounging on beaches drinking Margaritas this summer complaining about people who get welfare, as if they are all just leeches, don't have a clue.

Edited by disarray
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@ disarray, I agree. My post was aimed towards those who refuse to see the ethical perspective and demand that the entire debate is subjective. Obviously it is not. There is nothing frivolous about killing someone.

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@ disarray, I agree. My post was aimed towards those who refuse to see the ethical perspective and demand that the entire debate is subjective. Obviously it is not. There is nothing frivolous about killing someone.

Ethics is subjective: it's defined by the prevailing culture what is morally correct behaviour.

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Ethics is subjective: it's defined by the prevailing culture what is morally correct behaviour.

 

Yes, I agree, particularly from the standpoint of science.

 

But my own point, with which Ten Oz is agreeing, is that, when the death penalty is an option, there are those who will either make mistakes in judgment owing to such things as the paucity of information available at the time of sentencing (e.g., exoneration that occurs when DNA is found after someone has been sent to death row), and mistakes in judgment owing to prejudgment (aka, prejudice) and other irrational emotions (e.g., public outrage, the instinct for revenge, the outrage of victim's families, the desire for district attorneys to win the next election, etc.), as well as other mistakes that frequently occur in the course of the legal process.

 

A case that comes to mind is the guilty verdict given to Lindy Chamberlain (reversed after years of imprisonment) in which she was found guilty of murdering her baby while camping outside of Ayers Rock in Australia. The trial caused a huge media firestorm, with the public and media coming up with all sorts of bizarre forms of "evidence" such as her home Bible being found open to a page that refers to the death of an infant in the wilderness. The fact that she was a seventh day Adventist further aroused suspicion in this regard. The government, and arguably police, may have been biased in that they did not want a lucrative tourist area to be seen as having animals around that were dangerous to humans (It turned out that an aborigine tracker found part of the babies clothing a long distance from the camping site as confirmation that a dingo had stolen the baby so that the case was reopened). Wiki notes that "the media focus for the trial was unusually intense and aroused accusations of sensationalism, while the trial itself was criticized for being unprofessional and biased." Indeed, the main reason she was found guilty at the time was that a single local forensic gal had mistaken car rust for the baby's blood, as Lindy supposedly stashed the baby in the car for a period of time (I don't know what the odds of a professional forensic expert making such a mistake, but it seems like a pretty questionable finding to me). Eventually Lindy was awarded 1.7 million for false imprisonment, an amount that she couldn't have spent had she been given the death penalty.

 

Hence, while it is reasonable to claim that the matter of ethics is a subjective one, it is also logical to note that it is often essential that those determining the ethics of a situation (by arriving at a verdict) do so on an emotional level that is not at odds with the intellectual goal of achieving (the ethical value of) justice that is as impartial, effective, and fair as possible. Until the day when such things as irrational outrage, political bias, vengeance, projection of guilt, sensationalism, etc., no longer exist (i.e., never), I submit that such irrational mistakes in judgment provide an insurmountable difficulty.

 

Again, all things being equal, and given the irrational (subjective) emotions often at the heart of calls for the death penalty, once one discards technical issues (e.g., the relative cost of imprisonment vs. capital punishment), and considering the, arguably, insurmountable problem of mistakes in judgment, often the result of irrational (subjective) emotions, the most objective and logical conclusion is that one choose for the reversible or attenuating (where necessary) option of life imprisonment over the option of the death penalty.

Edited by disarray
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Ethics is subjective: it's defined by the prevailing culture what is morally correct behaviour.

Right, killing people for reasons other than self defense goes against our cultures prevailing morality. An odd ethical exception gets made for the death penalty and is supported by subjective arguments that ignore how morality in our culture views killing.

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Right, killing people for reasons other than self defense goes against our cultures prevailing morality. An odd ethical exception gets made for the death penalty and is supported by subjective arguments that ignore how SUBJECTIVE morality in our culture views killing.(underlined added)

It's fine that you believe what you believe but don't call it objective and don't throw the subjectivity card in a subjective subject.

Edited by StringJunky
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