Why I Am Against the Death Penalty

Governments can't be trusted to administer life and death.  Simple as that.  Check out these guys.  They had much of their life taken from them -- but not all.


  1. Gil G:

    And I suppose when you hear about someone wrongly convicted you'll want prisons closed too? And the courts? And the police force? And so on?

  2. ColoComment:

    I became a fan of the death penalty after this POS committed this heinous crime against the California teen in 1978. When he raped her, and cut off her arms and left her to die in the California desert, I figured that he had thereby forfeited his claim to humanity and humane treatment, and should be put down like a rabid dog. Perpetrators of other such heinous crimes deserve the same, to my mind.


    OTOH, my confidence in the PROCESS was undermined when I first read about Barry Scheck and the Innocence Project and the number of condemned men who were proven innocent by DNA testing, contrary to eyewitness testimony, even victim recollection.


    Until and unless the process is improved to 99.9% accuracy, I will be against the death penalty notwithstanding that I believe that some perps deserve death.

  3. Handle:

    I've written about the problems with innocence projects before, some of which I've participated in (to my regret), and that's ignoring the latest Alstory Simon scandal, which is, alas, merely the tip of the iceberg in these cases. Innocence project lawyers are often far from innocent. They've got bigger fish to fry, and they'll do almost anything to achieve their goal.

    There is a big split between DNA exoneration cases and the witness recantation cases. The DNA cases almost always only happen in old rape cases which were based solely on accuser testimony. If you investigate you'll see that the very eager attempts to find more of these instances has slowed to below a trickle out of hundreds of thousands of convictions over the past few decades. Today, 99.99% of all these convictions are based on solid forensic evidence. If there is doubt in a rape case these days, it is almost always as to consent, and not to whether there was sexual contact between the accused and accuser.

    The latest "innocence project advocate plus media enabler" tactic is to take any witness recantation at face value (with an untold backstory that these recantations are never spontaneous and are usually unethically solicited by advocacy groups with ulterior motives and larger agendas). A sympathetic judge asked to review such a case decades after the fact and with, usually, a few of the policemen accused of 'pressuring' the witnesses no longer around, has an easy time ordering the release of a convict.

    The press will harp on these cases as if they were definitive exonerations, but a tiny bit of critical thinking would cause one to be a little suspicious and skeptical. People could be lying now about lying in the past, especially if they're being paid and there is zero danger of facing perjury charges. I'm still waiting to see a single perjurer - or the government official who coerced false testimony - do a single week of jail time because their lies sent some innocent man to jail for a decade. These are egregious crimes on someone's part, and so you have to ask why no purportedly guilty party pays the price for such a violation of civil rights. The answer is because the evidence that there actually was such a violation is usually incredibly week. People really lower their intellectual guard and usual standards of evidence when their confirmation bias is active.

    The reality is that focusing coverage on arguable claims regarding a tiny minority of aberrant, ancient cases which relied almost exclusively on witness testimony (which doesn't happen these days and hasn't for a while) is used to falsely manipulate perceptions about the credibility and integrity of the current system, in pursuit of political and ideological goals very distinct from "justice for innocent people". That is just the cover story. The truth is that the vast majority of modern cases that are almost always backed up by a truckload of incontrovertible forensic evidence (DNA, video, telecommunications and social media, etc.), and concerns about a significant chance of error given the incredible rigor of modern death penalty are beyond overblown and in fact utterly unfounded.

    I'd share your beliefs if the claims underlying the argument were true, but they're not. Don't fall for the con.

  4. ColoComment:

    Yes to all in your comment. I'd like to think that I'm not a fool. Perhaps my statements re: IP belie that hope. My bad, if so. The easiest person to fool is oneself. :-)
    It is simply that, prior to reading about IP, I had never given any thought to the possibility that a criminal conviction could be wrong to such a degree as to place a completely innocent person on death row. Or that eyewitness/victim identification could be 100% wrong. It simply was not part of my sheltered and naive world. I believe that I have over time developed a somewhat more jaundiced eye re: same.
    Sure, with the commencement of DNA testing of physical evidence, videotaping of interrogations, internet-provided opportunity for public scrutiny, cell phone video, and the like, the criminal justice system has, I believe, vastly improved the odds of only the guilty being found guilty.
    However, no system is fail-safe when human moral frailty and perverse incentives are ever-present. Or when interpretation of physical evidence may be revised per newer intelligence & studies. For example, blood spatter expert testimony is now being regarded with a bit more skepticism. (See "Reliability" heading, here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloodstain_pattern_analysis)
    And there are no "do overs" when the consequence of a systemic failure, however insignificant the chance of error, is a person being deprived of his life by the state.

  5. Curtis:

    And yet we continue to have Selective Service so that the State can conscript young men against their will and send them off to die for us.

  6. bigmaq1980:

    Years ago watched a PBS report on Janet Reno (then State Attorney) who used "child experts" who effectively coaxed false witness out of supposedly abused kids. Even later State Attorneys, steadfastly refused to exonerate all the convicted individuals after this process was challenged and proven faulty. Watching this made your blood boil, as it became clear that anyone can get railroaded with little hope of recourse, and absolutely no consequences for those who abuse their legal authority for whatever personal ambitions. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/fuster/etc/miami.html

    On the other hand, even those who clearly do deserve the penalty have the opportunity to drag the process on for years at a cost that is several times what a simple life sentence would be. "(A 1992)...study shows that trials and appeals take 7.5 years and cost taxpayers an average $2.3 million per case in Texas. To imprison someone in a single cell at the highest security level for 40 years costs about $750,000" http://standdown.typepad.com/DallasMorningNews-%20ExecutionsCostTexasMillions-1992-0308-Hoppe.pdf

    For these two reasons, incompetence/abuse and the economic impracticality of the process, makes it a no-brainer to say forget the death penalty and make it life without parole.

  7. ColoComment:

    In the mid-to-late 1990s, Dorothy Rabinowitz wrote a series of stories for the WSJ about the Amiraults, a mother and son IIRC (edit: I now see from the story at the link below that there was also a daughter), who ran a day care in Massachusetts, and who had been accused and convicted of multiple occurrences of child abuse. Rabinowitz's investigation uncovered child abuse "experts" who had virtually coached the children's testimony and who had essentially implanted in them a belief that they had indeed, been molested. When it never happened. The Amiraults were prosecuted by Martha Coakley, who also vehemently resisted their release when this heinous miscarriage of justice came to light.
    I hope you can open this link. If not, Wikipedia probably also has the info.

  8. Larry Sheldon:

    I have often thought that the best (from an undesirable set) choice is this:

    For a capital crime, the guilty should be sentenced life in prison without hope for parole, is a prison equipped thusly:

    The cell in which the prisoner is to reside is equipped with all of the standard stuff, plus a pistol with a single round and a facility for surrendering the round for trips to the exercise yard and other excursions outside the cell, to be returned upon return to the cell.

    The idea is that if the prisoner knows his or her guilt and gets tired of imprisonment,, they can end it. If on they other-hand they know they are innocent, they can continue until friends on the outside can get the error corrected.

  9. judas:

    And, to add on: apparently it's tough to get-out-of-jail even if your trial was based on dubious testimony: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2014/11/17/how-the-courts-trap-people-who-were-convicted-by-bad-forensics/

    US justice is pretty broken these days - how to fix it, though?

  10. bigmaq1980:

    Yes, they were discussed on that same PBS show. Just awful, if we are to believe PBS presented the facts fairly (they are not the only source of info available).

    I was convinced there was great incentive for the DA to conveniently ignore the ethical problems with their approach, as, after all, how often does an ambitious prosecutor get the opportunity to make national headlines.

    Didn't realize Coakley was the DA in the case...this is the same person who ran for Senator (lost), for AG (won) and for Governor (lost). I hope this case was on folks' minds when they went to the polls this last election.

  11. Fred_Z:

    Don't be silly - a wrongful prison sentence, a wrongful arrest, are not quite so permanent as death, and can be compensated? Who gets the compensation money for a wrongful death sentence?

  12. DaveK:

    Well, while I do not oppose Capitol Punishment as a matter of simple justice, I oppose it because 1) it is too often employed unjustly, and 2) because it is simply far too expensive to use (mandatory appeals, expensive court-appointed counsel, etc). Yes, there are those very evil people who really do deserve to be removed from this existence, but it's far, far less expensive to stuff them into super-max for the rest of their miserable lives.

  13. Fred_Z:

    How about despair?

  14. Agnieszka Maryniaczyk:

    Death Penalty isn't in fact a penalty. It's liquidation. It is a matter of what do we want - justice or not having a problem anymore? twoja-lodowka.pl

  15. skhpcola:

    Why I Am Against the Death Penalty

    You could have just said that it's because you are a liberaltarian. That would explain your leftist ideology much more succinctly.

  16. May Xu:

    The principle of lex talionis—eye for an eye

    Who should receive restitution from the offender, the victim or the State?

    The criminal does not owe a "debt to society." He owes a debt to his victim.

    The Mosaic penalties were flogging, restitution, and execution.

    There was no prison system