Zeppflyer on February 23, 2010, 10:01:19 pm
So,  this doesn't apply so much in EfT, but in the world as we find it....

There is a very strong leaning amongst limited government types of many different stripes in support of the death penalty for various crimes.  Personally, I disagree.  So long as we have a government in charge, which appears to be the case for the foreseeable future, should we support the death penalty for crimes such as rape and murder.  I would argue on moral grounds that we should not trust the government with the final power of life and death in this manner and on practical grounds that the expense and inefficiency of US law enforcement makes it cheaper to simply lock someone up for life. 

Please critique.

dough560 on February 24, 2010, 04:17:09 am
You need to get out more.  You definitely need exposure to different ways of thinking.  Different Cultures.  Different World Views.

I would love to know who fed you the line:  There is a very strong leaning among limited government types....   I hope you are just young and ignorant.  Ignorance can be cured.  If you are willing to learn.  Especially when you may not care for the answer or how it's presented. 

In the service we learned:  1.  "Stupidity is a capital offense.  With any luck, the only person you'll kill is yourself."  2.  "The only stupid question is the one you don't ask".  3.  "Arrogance and Ignorance are a deadly combination".

For different Cultures and World Views.  I suggest the military.  Several years living and working with people not like you......

As for how you reason or think.  Literature.  I suggest Robert A. Heinlein's, "Starship Troopers", "Revolt in 2100", "Farnhams's Freehold". and "Farmer in the Sky" for a start.  Or start with L. Niel Smith's books; "Proubility Broach", "American Zone", "Pallas" and "Ceres".  It would also be worth your time to read John Ross's "Unintended Consequences".  The important thing will be to think about what you've read.

As for the death penalty.  Libertarians generally believe the death penalty should result from a failure of the victim selection process, administered by the intended victim.

In a previous career, I investigated a wide variety of people for very serious crimes.  Many of them resulted in jail sentences which will consume most of their lives.  Ten years ago, it cost over $25,000.00 a year to incarcerate a prisoner.  With inflation, that cost has gone up by almost fourty percent.

While Murder and Rape are serious natural crimes, the state will not kill someone after the fact, for rape.  However women and some men, have killed those who attempted or completed the act.  While homosexual rape is not recognized in many jurisdictions, self-defense laws still apply.

Murder is another subject....  Someone willing to murder another has proven they are a threat to individual and societal safety and well being.  That threat does not go away with incarceration.  The only sure way to end the threat, is execution.  The chances of an innocent person needlessly dieing for an uncommitted crime are getting less each year as the evidence technologies continue to develop.  Is law enforcement, perfect?  No.  Do the people on the street, do the best they can?  Yes.  Their best can be pretty good.

Azure Priest on February 24, 2010, 07:34:49 am
Unless you believe in ghosts, and that those ghosts can come and wreck vengeance upon the living, those who are executed for murder or especially heinous crimes cease to be a threat. PERIOD.

Those who are incarcerated (locked up) have and continue to escape their confines and very shortly return to their familiar habits. Whether it's walking off a work-release program, the stereotypical digging a tunnel with a spoon, or a slick no-morals lawyer sets them loose on a technicality, ignoring the safety and well being of the population at large, the threat that the individual or individuals responsible for these atrocities will start again will always exist. They even get to recruit "fresh blood" into their way of thinking while in prison.

As far as I'm concerned, if you are convicted of a capital offense, your execution should be delivered as quickly and efficiently as possible. If it is later proven that the prosecutor knowingly used tainted evidence, perjured witnesses, etc. simply for a conviction, he should face death for murder too. Not only for executing an innocent man, but for being an accomplice to the guilty after the fact. This last piece applies to anyone who KNOWINGLY accuses falsely.

I'm sure someone is going to bring up the second commandment "thou shall not kill" here. Whoever does should read the WHOLE commandment. The commandment IN ITS ENTIRETY is, "thou shall not kill/ murder, for the life of man is sacred unto me, your lord. Whosoever wantonly sheds human blood SHALL BE PUT TO DEATH BY HUMAN HANDS."

The God of the Old Testament certainly spells out, in great detail, when and where the death penalty is appropriate. Y'V'w'h also is very much pro- self defense. 

SirNuke on February 24, 2010, 08:19:37 am
I was pro death penalty until recently when I had to do a research paper on the topic.  I simply can't support it any more.  There is no apparent support for the idea that capital punishment has a general deterrent effect on criminals (it doesn't make them change their mind before commiting a capital crime) and, it turns out, most murder is a crime of passion.  Most people in law enforcement have told me directly (that is, to my face in IRL conversation) that the murderers in prison are the nicest and least violent criminals you will ever meet (as compared to gang members who 'have something to prove').  Does capital punishment keep a murderer off the street?  Absolutely.  But, statistically, murder is a one time deal.  Serial murderers are rare.

Oh, and those advances in forensic science?  Most of it revolves around DNA:
http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=lab-creates-fake-dna-evidence-2009-08-18

Actually, there is more hard science behind DNA analysis than fingerprint analysis - or any other form of forensic evidence.  Unfortunately, as a society, we seem to think that DNA is the end-all be-all to evidence.  This over reliance puts our criminal justice system at extreme risk once any one can manufacture false DNA and just plaster it all over the place - lawyers will be able to have a field day suggesting that teens pranked their defendants. 

Furthermore, I hate to play the race card, but the balance of criminals put to death is a little uneven.  White crimnals put to death account for about 55% of capital punishments while black crimanals acount for about 42% (as of 2006).  Before the voluntary moratorium on capital punishments of the 80's that number was reversed (black ~ 55% white ~ 40%).  But, judging by population distribution, its still out of whack.  Caucasians account for 75% of total US population while African Americans only account for about 12%.

Sources:
http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/html/cp/2006/tables/cp06st04.cfm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_the_United_States

(ok - wikipedia on the population distribution because its a well known enough figure.  The capital punishment statistics come straight from the justice department.)

I didn't include references here, but these numbers hold for every year data is available.  I don't believe that there is anything about African Americans that makes them more prone to commit capital crimes, so, I have to wonder if there is a problem with the system which unevenly administers the punishment.  I can't say that we have struck a good balance based on these numbers (which are only this good in the past 20 years!).

SGTRider on February 24, 2010, 09:24:23 am
Hi gents (and ladies, if any).  I have been away for a while, used to post under a different name, but have changed jobs and am back.

If you go back approximately one complete storyline, you will find a complete coverage of libertarian society and the death penalty.  This was the tale of when Earth forces killed a family in their home on the surface of an asteroid, and the surviving family member "carried out sentence" on the officer who gave the command to fire and the subordinate who pulled the trigger.  I put that in quotes because there was no court and no sentence, as such. 

There was a long and complete discussion of the topic on the boards too, and the author got very involved and did a great job of sharing (and defending) his conception of the libertarian view of this topic.  Do a little clicking legwork and you will not be disappointed.  It was an exhausting exercise, and I am pretty sure those involved probably don't want to go back through it all, especially since the first time was so good and so complete. 

I don't mean to quell conversation, I just encourage you to take advantage of reading what has gone before, and then come back and talk after that.  I wish you peace through preparedness.

SirNuke on February 24, 2010, 12:16:17 pm
Actually, wasn't that whole thread about command responsibility?  That pertains specifically to the case of capital punishment with a military background - it's a similar topic and I must confess to not reading all the way through it, but I believe that this topic is about purely civilian matters.  I think that some Libertarians would probably argue that there is no distinction between military and civilian criminals but I think that would be a naive assertion - there's a reason modern society has come up with the idea of degree (i.e. murder 1/2, man 1/2) - it really matters in terms of fairness in sentencing (and don't try to say there are no mitigating circumstances in a murder case, or you would have to admit that self defence isn't a mitigating circumstance either!).

Ike on February 24, 2010, 12:58:11 pm
The reasons I am against capital punishment are not related to evidentiary issues such as how reliable are fingerprints, eyewitness testimony, DNA etc.  While I do not disagree with those who are in favor of would-be victims of crimes defending themselves with deadly force, that is not the primary reason for my position.  To those who quote incarceration and death penalty stats by race, and assert that capital punishment is racist because more blacks are executed than whites, compare the racial breakdowns of criminals with racial breakdown of executed criminals and you'll see the racist effect go away.  It wasn't for public relations reasons that Rev. Jesse Jackson said that he hated to admit it, but when he was walking at night and heard footsteps behind him, he was relieved to turn around and see a white face.  And, by-the-by, DNA evidence is not the end-all or be-all of identification.  If 99% of the population is excluded by the DNA sample, that's conclusive if the population is only 100 folks; 1% of 100 = 1, the defendant.  If the population is 1 million, that means that there are 10,000 potential perpetrators not excluded by the DNA results.  Re-read the science please.  Oh, yes:  self-defense is not a matter in mitigation.  It is a complete legal defense to any charge of murder in any degree; killing with a depraved or reckless heart, if you will of any sort.

My opposition to it is based upon my experience as a court reporter in military courts for 9 years, a Texas district court for 9 years and 10 years of criminal law practice in Texas and Federal courts.  Whenever there is a capital crime, the publicity is high, the pressure for a conviction of a plausible defendant is enormous.  Texas district attorneys are elected, which makes their performance in high-visibility cases critical to remaining in office.  Collateral to that is the pressure on the police, both field officers and lab technicians, to prove up a case against somebody, anybody who can be made to seem guilty in the  press. Let me say right here that there is no evil intention, most of the time, in these pressures on law enforcement and prosecutors.  This is human nature and this is pandering to the human impulse to insist upon being made to feel safe after the commission of some murder or other "horrendous" crime.  Yes, sometimes folks will seize an opportunity to accuse someone who is in fact innocent and whom they know to be innocent, for ignoble reasons.  Most of the time, however, it is simply that the public has been panicked and is ready to stampede by the publicity surrounding these crimes.  That we are encouraged to be good little sheeple and not carry weapons or to defend ourselves from any attack adds to the intensity of those public feelings and demands for "safety".  However, to make it short and bitter, this confluence of political pressure and public outcry with the humanity and therefore failibility of the law enforcment folks including DAs often produces a wrongful conviction.  And, unfortunately, often a wrongful execution follows.  Identity and proof thereof is the weakest link in the chain.

Self-defense has no such issues of ID'ing the right person.  "How can you identify the Defendant as the person who raped you?"  "Because when he ripped off my bra and panties, I shot him n the forehead with my .45."  A little ballistics work and the ID is complete.  Also cheaper, quicker and therefore more effective as a deterrent.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2010, 01:00:08 pm by Ike »

Zeppflyer on February 24, 2010, 08:14:05 pm
First, my apologies for the sloppy nature of the original post.  I can only claim tiredness at the end of a long and thoughtful walk and a desire to get it set down before passing out. 

Doughy, I am not certain why you are claiming that my initial statement was a product of ignorance.  Having been in several Libertarian organizations, followed several free market blogs and publications for a number of years, studying a good bit of different theologies alone and in groups, and having worked quite a bit in main stream politics, I can assure you I have seen many different points of view and can certainly say that there is (at least in the United States) a very strong correlation between those that support a more limited government and those who support the death penalty in capital crimes. 
Is this what you mean to contradict?

I have, by the way read all of the Heinleins that you mention as well as (Who could not have read it hanging around this site?) the Probability Broach.  If I may offer a couple more by RAH in a similar vein; Beyond This Horizon and Job: A Comedy of Justice.  The first is one of his better early works, far surpassing clunkers such as For Us the Living while the latter is, I'd say, the best example of his late period (Only tops Friday by a bit, but I'll admit that I'm a sucker for Biblical fanfic and airships :)).  It remains a tight, well constructed novel and does not wander off into indignant and pointless defenses of nudism, free love, and self-congratulation in the same way as The Cat Who Walked Through Walls or The Number of The Beast.  It does, though, suffer from a bit of the same logical hole as The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.  That is; the libertarian society can only flourish because there is a mostly benign dictatorship set over it without which it could not have organized or continued.

You may appreciate that I gave a friend a copy of Starship Troopers before he was deployed to Iraq.

For me, it comes down to the issues that Ike brings up; the flaws in the system that would allow an innocent man to be killed for a crime that he did not commit.  It is all well and good to speak of equal punishment for malicious prosecutors, but that doesn't do much for the guy who is already dead, and what of honest mistakes?  Should we give our government the power to take such an irrevocable action when there is any doubt at all?  I would argue that the complexity and simple uncertainty of the system gives sufficient reason to doubt.

When, such as in graphic novels, there is no question of guilt, this argument is no longer valid, but in real world situations it is rarely, if ever, so clear-cut.

As to the cost; the average prison stay for someone who is ultimately executed is already over 14 years with more court time and expense than someone merely jailed for life.

As I see it, many, if not most cases of this nature cannot be judged with 100% certitude.  (Obvious and immediate self defense is, of course, an entirely different story.  Thus it is certainly not reasonable for the geriatric, sensationalist, and obfuscatory American justice system to put a man to death.  In Gult's Gulch or on Ceres, greater transparency makes this a more viable option, but still problematic.   

dough560 on February 25, 2010, 05:38:08 am
Zeppflyer.  My original remarks were predicated upon my impression your original entry was written by a younger person.  The life experience you've out lined definably resulted in exposure to other cultures.  The effect however, is greater when you actually live and work within another culture.  I'm sure your friend appreciated Starship Troopers.  I think it should be required reading for any soldier.  :)

RAH discussed Crime and Punishment in many of his books.  More so in Starship Troopers, than I recall in his other books.  The substance of his reasoning regarding the criminal activities of the, I want to say deserter.  Has stuck with me since I was a kid.  RAH and two of my uncles who were in military and later civilian law enforcement shaped my attitudes on this subject.

Ike, I'll bet we've both seen convictions in the military court system, not for violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but for reasons of discipline or for the good of the service. That said, Honest ethical judges, lawyers and prosecutors are our last defense against a wrongful prosecution. Unfortunately like many other things in government, they seem to be in short supply.  Your point about politics influencing a prosecution has been true for as long as there have been courts. 

This was brought home a couple of years ago.  My brother was the maintenance supervisor at a local school.  He  worked his way up from a casual to full time position within the system and eventually was promoted to supervisor of a school.  A position he held for several years.  He had good job reviews and had just received a raise.  Someone called in a bomb threat to another school in the system.  The school's caller ID gave my brother's home number as the originating number.  The voice recording of the call was not his voice and at the time of the call, he was home, asleep in bed, with his wife beside him, watching TV.  My brother refused to let me get involved in preparing his defense and he did not have the money to hire another investigator.  During the trial, I observed several problems with the police investigation and evidence collection.  My brother's defense lawyer did present evidence of call spoofing which continues to be a problem in this area.  (Spoofing:  A commercial system allowing a call to be placed from one number but appear as another number with caller identification systems.)  Without a proper counter-investigation and an aggressive instead of a passive defense, my brother was convicted of making a bomb threat.  He served jail time and is nearly done with his probation.  A few days after his conviction, police assaulted my brother's neighbor's house (the location identified by caller ID) due to a bomb threat just phoned in to the same school as the first.  Fortunately for the neighbor, he is an over the road truck driver and was several states away at the time of the call.  The result, my brother lost twenty years of his life, savings and retirement.  Being a convicted criminal, the only job he could get is working in a local plant, at not much more than minimum wage.

SirNuke,  I'd have to dig into my stash to find the article, but there are several studies out regarding the death penalty.  One study, which passed peer review, claimed murder and other violent crime rates went down, following an execution.  I just remember reading the article, but not who the study's author was.

Do I like the death penalty, No.  Do I think it is possible for an innocent person to be put to death?  Yes.  Do I see an alternative?  Not until a larger percentage of the population understands and accepts their responsibility for personal security.   The death penalty works best at the hands of the intended victim, when the criminal fails the victim selection process.

justinrp on February 25, 2010, 01:47:06 pm
  I have another take on the death penalty (and imprisonment) entirely: I don't believe Group A can imbue Group B with rights or privileges (or anything) that they don't have themselves.
  If my neighbors and I don't have a million dollars between us, we can't give that million dollars to the state.
  If I am not allowed to demand money from my neighbors at gunpoint for a charity, neither should the state.
  If my neighbors and I are not allowed to hunt down and kill a person in retribution for a murder, then neither should the state.
  If my neighbors and I are not allowed to lock someone in a box for burglarizing our houses, neither should the state.

...

  On the other hand, I believe I have every right to demand restitution for a crime committed against me, as a person committing a crime against life, liberty or property is forfeiting their own claim to that right.
  If someone burglarizes my home, I should be able to sue for the value I lost.
  If someone assaults me, I should be able to either tie them down and beat them with equal severity, or sue for the cost of my medical bills and any lost wages.
  If someone murders my wife, I should have the option to take their life in return, whether that be through killing or indenture.
  In all of these cases, I should also have the option of forgiveness and leniency, but that option should be mine alone.

As mentioned before, if I take such recompense from an innocent person, I would myself be liable for their loss, so I would need to be damn sure that I have the right person. Meanwhile, if the state executes an innocent man, they have no liability in the matter.

So, I suppose my main thrust is this: either introduce state liability and the concept of restitution into the mix, or eliminate the death penalty entirely. It's just not logical to run things the way they are now.

Rocketman on February 25, 2010, 09:57:53 pm
Let me say that I used to believe strongly in the Death Penalty.  It seemed at the time the only reasonable response to heinous criminal acts like violent rape or murder.  However, since I've gotten a little order and wiser, I'm now against it.  To me the maximum punishment should be life without the possiblity of parole.  Why?  I has to do with the justice system itself.  Dough has made a very logical argument that even when it appears that someone has committed a crime that it's not always the case.  If the case goes to a detective that's a little slow on the uptake, overworked and not really paying attention or maybe has it in for the person that he or she is investigating then it's all too easy for an innocent person to go to jail.  We always assume that the justice system in this country is going to get the bad guys but the justice system doesn't want you to know about it's failures.  I have read several times about a man charged and convicted of rape who spends years in prison only to have the DNA evidence tested and overturn the conviction.  The best response as was stated is just to shoot the bastard while he's in the act and that way there's no doubt that you have the right man.

dough560 on February 26, 2010, 01:35:23 am
Justinrp,  I agree restitution must be part of the legal process.  I'd rather see restitution, instead of incarceration.  Too many times incarceration takes a person who committed a crime and sends them to a finishing school for our professional criminal class.  Prisoners seldom becomes a productive individuals.  In the old days, they had a pretty good chance of being regular customers.  The prisoners have not learned responsibility for their actions.  Yes, revolving door justice even exists in  the military.

Another treatment of the subject is John Dumas's "The Generals President".  A fun read I used  as a basis for a collage term paper on modifications of the judicial system.  Got an A on that one.

quadibloc on February 28, 2010, 01:53:52 pm
This was brought home a couple of years ago.  My brother was the maintenance supervisor at a local school.  He  worked his way up from a casual to full time position within the system and eventually was promoted to supervisor of a school.  A position he held for several years.  He had good job reviews and had just received a raise.  Someone called in a bomb threat to another school in the system.  The school's caller ID gave my brother's home number as the originating number.  The voice recording of the call was not his voice and at the time of the call, he was home, asleep in bed, with his wife beside him, watching TV.  My brother refused to let me get involved in preparing his defense and he did not have the money to hire another investigator.  During the trial, I observed several problems with the police investigation and evidence collection.  My brother's defense lawyer did present evidence of call spoofing which continues to be a problem in this area.  (Spoofing:  A commercial system allowing a call to be placed from one number but appear as another number with caller identification systems.)  Without a proper counter-investigation and an aggressive instead of a passive defense, my brother was convicted of making a bomb threat.  He served jail time and is nearly done with his probation.  A few days after his conviction, police assaulted my brother's neighbor's house (the location identified by caller ID) due to a bomb threat just phoned in to the same school as the first.  Fortunately for the neighbor, he is an over the road truck driver and was several states away at the time of the call.  The result, my brother lost twenty years of his life, savings and retirement.  Being a convicted criminal, the only job he could get is working in a local plant, at not much more than minimum wage.

Given what happened a few days after his conviction, since that would have proved to a reasonable person that someone else was behind both calls, the fact that this did not result in an immediate review of your brother's case is culpable.

It should be possible, even now, to take legal action which would result in the following consequences:

a reversal of your brother's conviction,

the institution of new procedures in the local police department, so that when they correlate cases together, not only will they take account of facts implying a link between cases to help finding suspects, but also facts which imply a link between cases pointing to a previous wrongful conviction,

and full compensation to your brother for all harm suffered by him due to the failure of the system to function in the correct manner, and convict only the actual perpetrator.

If existing law, in some way, fails to provide for this, it should be possible to explain these circumstances to the people, and create a groundswell of demand for the appropriate corrective measures.

Rocketman on February 28, 2010, 07:43:27 pm
Quad, everything that you just said makes total sense.  But it won't be done.  As I said in my previous post the government doesn't want you to know that a relatively high percentage of the people convicted shouldn't be in jail in the first place and that would be a glaring example of their failures.  It's no skin off some cops or DA's nose if someone who they don't know and don't care about spends time in jail because they got lazy or careless because the system doesn't have any provision to punish them for the screw-ups they make.  Remember the DA down in I think North Carolina that went after the college lacross team because they allegedly raped that black stripper?  He put that team through hell and was only prosecuted for it because it was such a notable case that it was being followed all over the country.  Imagine if for every case a law was passed that if someone who didn't do the crime in the first place that automatically a grand jury trial would be held against the police and District Attorney to see if they needed to go to jail for their actions.  That would shake up a few people.

dough560 on February 28, 2010, 11:48:51 pm
Agreed Gentlemen.  I believe my brother is waiting  to finish his probation before kicking over the ant hill.  The last thing he wants is to come close and have the government act to protect their interests and discredit him.  You know the scenario,  probationer violates probation and ends up in jail facing additional charges.

I've contacted a few people I used to work with.  They are willing and if my brother is willing the local government and school board will find out what a real investigation is about.  Done properly, scorched earth should result.

Several people remarked over the years, I was one of the nicest people they ever met, but.....  I think you can imagine the rest.  This qualifies.