Monday, November 06, 2006

the death penalty

I have just read the news about Saddam finally receiving the death penalty (it did not seem likely that his case would have any other outcome) and have been thinking about the death penalty in general.

Firstly I think that in a jury based system every jury member should have a hand in the execution. If they vote for the death penalty (if you use a jury then it should decide whether the death penalty is acceptable) then they should all be involved in carrying out the sentence. It would be quite easy to fit a room with a dozen switches that control an electric chair. If the jury members are unable to pull the switch then that should result in the sentence being commuted. I am against people voting for actions which they lack the courage to perform themselves.

One problem I have with the death penalty is the poor quality of justice in most courts. The US is a good example of this where poor people are the ones who get the death sentence. A pre-requisite of having penalties such as the death penalty should be that there is a reasonable chance of convicting the person who committed the crime!

In the case of someone like Saddam Hussein there is an additional problem of creating a martyr. I think that a solution to this would be to give him a life sentence and put him on TV on shows based on the Jerry Springer Show. Show him for what he is and let the audience pass judgement on him, I'm sure that he would not do well on such a show.

Another possibility is to have a glass prison where the lights are always on and web-cams show everything he does (including the toilet and shower). That might fall into the category of cruel and unusual punishment, but really the cruel and unusual stuff is what happens in Abu Ghraib (under the command of Saddam Hussein and more recently under the command of George Bush).

8 comments:

Stephen Touset said...

One problem I have with the death penalty is the poor quality of justice in most courts. The US is a good example of this where poor people are the ones who get the death sentence. A pre-requisite of having penalties such as the death penalty should be that there is a reasonable chance of convicting the person who committed the crime!

Obviously, people from all walks of life commit crime. But is it that hard to believe that a large proportion of crimes "worthy" of the death penalty are committed by the poor? I can't remember the last time a gunfight broke out between brokers in a Charles Schwab, but gang and street violence happens daily. My point being: just because the majority of those sentenced to death are poor doesn't imply that they were judged unfairly.

I somewhat like the idea of forcing those meting out the death penalty responsible for carrying it out, though.

Petteri said...

It's barbaric to support death penalty. It's sad to see that some of us humans still live in the dark ages. All crimes should be punished so that criminals would eventually integrate back to society.

Stephen Touset said...

The death penalty may be barbaric, but believing that a humane method exists to reintegrate every criminal back into society is plain naive.

Life imprisonment is an (expensive) alternative, but some people are simply beyond rehabilitation.

What do you do when someone is tainted by religious extremism? Attempting to smooth over their beliefs would likely cross the line of preventing freedom of religion.

And some people simply culturally are probably unlikely to be brought back into society. For every heartwarming story you hear about a former gang member seeing the light of their ways and becoming a productive citizen, you have two dozen more who fall back into the life. The only *real* solution to this kind of problem is preventing it in the first place, which is an entirely different problem.

Drizzt said...

I think you all miss the major problem with the death penalty: you can't undo it. If you find out that you've punished the wrong one, you can't gibe him his (or her) life back.

So I hold it with a quote from the Lord of the Rings: "[...] Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. [...]"

And then there are several other reasons against a death penalty. But this one is (for me) the most important one.
Also people who call themselves christians would be wise not to impose such an jugement on others.

In the end I would like to have a society in which no country is allowed (or should wish) to have such a penalty.

Greetings,
Drizzt

P.S.: No I do not live or come from the USA.

Petteri said...

The death penalty may be barbaric, but believing that a humane method exists to reintegrate every criminal back into society is plain naive.

Life imprisonment is an (expensive) alternative, but some people are simply beyond rehabilitation.


People with fatalistic world view go in same cast as religious extremisms.

I happend to live in country (Finland) in which we believe in people. Maximum sentence for any crime is 12 years in prison. We don't live in fear of killers and rapers. Societys with death penalties or cruel hopeless punishments creates circle of fear and oppression which corrupts the society and makes people harsh.

etbe said...

http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=1058012003

The above URL has information about Robert Durst. He confessed to killing one person and mutilating their body (claiming self-defence), his ex-wife disappeared in suspicious circumstances, and he had been avoiding the police in regard to a murder investigation for one of his friends. A poor person in the US would expect to get the death penalty for that, but he walked free.

I agree that some people are beyond rehabilitation. Life imprisonment should do for them. Imprisoning entire cults should also be an option as some religions are incompatable with civilisation.

The Finnish solution apparently works well for Finland, but it is a civilised country. Trying to implement part of a civilisation onto a group of barbarians isn't going to work well. Until the Americans collectively deal with their foolish moral issues related to drugs etc there is little hope for civilisation there.

Drizzt said...

You can think of Michael Moore what you want, but I think the animated film in "Bowling for Columbine" describes it very well. Most Amercans seem to fear something but have guns and lots of weapons in their houses. (in fact it is more likely that someone hurts himself then beeing attacked by some crazy guy). I've never had any need for weapons.
Maybe this country should think about their view of the world.

On the other hand: politicians in Europe seem to freak out too recently. So maybe Europe's degenerating to the status we have in America. I hope not.

Sentence to prison is enough. And if you find out that you've imprisoned the wrong one you can release him. But if you killed someone, there is no return. How unsophisticated is this solution? A country is killing its citizens.

Greetings,
Drizzt

Anonymous said...

i agree with Drizzt, the best thing to do would be to put them in jail for life. That way if he(or she) turns out to be innocent they can be released.