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O.G.
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Yes, the Death Penalty Deters

By WILLIAM TUCKER - Wall Street Journal

The Supreme Court struck the latest blow against the death penalty yesterday, holding that the mentally retarded cannot be executed. This follows in the wake of Illinois' moratorium on the death penalty. The sense is that, for the first time in years, supporters of the death penalty are on the defensive. So this is a good time to review the rationale for capital punishment, which is as compelling today as ever.

Many question whether capital punishment is really a deterrent. How can it not be? Almost no one wants to die. Guilty criminals do everything to avoid being executed. They appeal their cases endlessly, accept plea bargains for life in prison -- even, if they are smart enough, avoid committing the crime in the first place.

Ah, but there's the rub. According to death penalty abolitionists, criminals aren't smart enough to think of consequences, they act on impulse -- and anyway the whole system is arbitrary, capricious, dysfunctional and racist.



Is there any reason for thinking the death penalty deters murder? Compare the number of executions performed with fluctuations in the murder rate of the past 70 years. As the chart shows, from 1930 to 1963 murder rates and executions track very closely, both falling. After 1963, they separate, with murders rising rapidly while executions fall to zero. Around 1990, the lines reverse again, only recently returning to early '60s levels. The original break occurs at the exact moment the Supreme Court began its wholesale intervention into state criminal cases.

Before 1963, most states had capital punishment and used it. Executions tracked murders fairly consistently. Killings peaked in the '30s during Prohibition, then declined as the gangland era waned. By the late '50s executions were rare but focused public attention on particularly heinous crimes. When Charley Starkweather killed 10 people in Nebraska in 1958, he was sent to the electric chair without regret.

By the early '60s, however, liberals began arguing that because murder rates were so low the death penalty was no longer needed. Simultaneously, the Supreme Court began imposing its "exclusionary rules" on confessions and searches, bringing countless capital convictions under review. Executions ground to a halt until the court abolished them altogether in 1972.

Simultaneously, murders skyrocketed. In 1973, they reached their 1933 peak. The murder rate hit an all-time high in 1980 and nearly reached it again in 1991. Not until executions resumed in earnest after 1991 did rates fall rapidly again to their 1960s levels. Had murder rates remained constant from 1963 until 1997, 100,000 Americans would have escaped homicide.


Is this proof that murder rates and executions are related? Not to determined death penalty opponents. They argue you can't prove cause-and-effect, or, better yet, they argue the converse -- executions encourage murder by "brutalizing" society. This campaign reached its high-water mark in September 2000, when the New York Times published an in-house study claiming, "Homicide Rates Unaffected by Death Penalty." Murder rates, noted the Times, are actually higher in states with capital punishment. While murders fell from 1990 to 1997, there was no distinction between states with and without the death penalty. Ergo, no connection.

The study did exclude New York and Kansas, ostensibly because those states "adopted the death penalty in the 1990s" but also because including New York would have shown murder rates falling faster in death-penalty states. But a bigger shortcoming was the failure to distinguish between states that have a death penalty only on paper and those that are actually executing. When we break the states into three categories -- states with no capital punishment, states with a death penalty that have not yet executed anyone, and states that are actually executing people -- we get the following results.

States that have performed executions do have historically higher murder rates. That's probably why they adopted capital punishment in the first place. States with no capital punishment have the lowest rates, while those with a death penalty but no executions fall in the middle. But the gap is narrowing. Since executions began in earnest after 1990, the most marked drop in murders has been in states that have the death penalty. Texas, which leads the nation in executions, had the second highest murder rate in the U.S. in 1991. Today it ranks 15th.

Why would the death penalty deter murder? It's simple. Under most circumstances, when you are already committing a felony such as robbery or rape, it pays to kill your victim, the principle witness to the crime. Killing your victim improves your chances of escape. Some criminals are ruthless, talking of "eliminating the witnesses." But a much greater majority are amateurs who realize only after they have initiated the crime that the victim will be able to identify them to the police, and that there is "no choice" but to murder the victim.

And murder they do. In 1963, when the Supreme Court began setting up roadblocks to capital punishment, 90% of murders were "crimes of passion" -- disputes among friends or relatives. Abolitionists argued these crimes could never be deterred and therefore capital punishment was a "barbaric relic." What they missed was the murders that were being deterred. Today almost half of all homicides are "stranger murders," most of which are committed during another crime.

The purpose of the death penalty, then, is to draw a bright line between a felony and felony murder. If the penalty for robbery or rape is jail time and the penalty for murder a little more time, there is very little deterrent. Only if the penalty is qualitatively different will a criminal think twice about eliminating his victim.

Knowing this distinction, it is blood-chilling to read that Illinois Gov. George Ryan's blue-ribbon commission has recommended eliminating the death penalty for felony murder. New York's Court of Appeals is also reviewing the state's first scheduled execution in 39 years and will almost certainly overrule it. The case involves an armed robber who systematically murdered three victims during a $200 hold-up.

What drives such thinking? These naïve Platonic guardians are always ready to take the criminal at his word. If killing the victim was "just an accident" -- if "we didn't really mean to shoot the guy, we was just trying to rob him" -- then it seems unfair that to execute someone for such a "tragic mistake." People with bodyguards and limousines are very good at this type of thinking.
 

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Brilliant!
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Ripsnort said:
No arguement here!
I don't even need that much proof. As far as I'm concerned, the fact that the person that you execute will never murder again is enough for me.
 

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A sudden sense of liberty
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I will support the death penalty when you can assure me that the state will never execute an innocent person.

Let me know when that happens.
 

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JST said:
I will support the death penalty when you can assure me that the state will never execute an innocent person.

Let me know when that happens.
Just as soon as you provide society an honest defense lawyer. :D
 

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no arguement here either, i am one of the few who beliebe honestly that more people should die...

rape or molest ANY male or female young or old you deserve to die

3 strikes no matter how minor your a life criminal life in prison

and any malicious murder or any premeditated murder like killing elderly, or letting your dogs kill a small woman etc.. you deserve to die...

id rather pay the electric bill than feed a worthless dredge for 80+ years since the idiot went to prison when he was 17 or 18



And on prager JUST NOW : he asks How can you say a child rapist/murderer or mass murderers life is moraly equivalent to a law abiding person with good values.
 

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O.G.
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Discussion Starter #8
JST said:
I will support the death penalty when you can assure me that the state will never execute an innocent person.

Let me know when that happens.

Do you have any proof (or even a compelling story) that the US has ever executed (in the last 80 years - who knows what happened before that) an innocent person?
 

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A sudden sense of liberty
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dredmo said:
no arguement here either, i am one of the few who beliebe honestly that more people should die...

rape or molest ANY male or female young or old you deserve to die

3 strikes no matter how minor your a life criminal life in prison

and any malicious murder or any premeditated murder like killing elderly, or letting your dogs kill a small woman etc.. you deserve to die...

id rather pay the electric bill than feed a worthless dredge for 80+ years since the idiot went to prison when he was 17 or 18



And on prager JUST NOW : he asks How can you say a child rapist/murderer or mass murderers life is moraly equivalent to a law abiding person with good values.
How can you be certain the person you just killed is a child rapist/mass murderer?

What if he was someone who through either overzealous prosecution or ineffective counsel was falsely convicted of a crime? How many innocent men have to die (or be put in jeopardy of dying) before capital punishment can no longer be justified? What if 50 percent of those killed were innocent? 20 percent? 10? 5? 1? Where's the dividing line?

To pick one of the most famous cases of recent vintage, had Rubin Carter's crime been subject to the death penalty, it's nearly certain that after almost 20 years in prison it would have been carried out. And yet, Carter turned out to be an innocent man, exonerated of all crimes. Of course, had Carter been killed, his innocence never would have been proven. How many people has Texas (for example) put in the ground that shouldn't be there? We can never know; this shouldn't just trouble you, it should make you wake up screaming.
 

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O.G.
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JST said:

How many people has Texas (for example) put in the ground that shouldn't be there? We can never know; this shouldn't just trouble you, it should make you wake up screaming.
You know what? I am not bothered. Because until anyone shows me otherwise, I have never seen ONE case where we executed an innocent person. On the other hand, we have seen (above) compelling evidence that each execution saves MANY lives. If one innocent person slips through and is accidently executed that is terrible, but is is worth hundreds of more people dying by the hands of murderers to prevent that (possible) one slipup? NO.
 

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JST said:


How can you be certain the person you just killed is a child rapist/mass murderer?

What if he was someone who through either overzealous prosecution or ineffective counsel was falsely convicted of a crime? How many innocent men have to die (or be put in jeopardy of dying) before capital punishment can no longer be justified? What if 50 percent of those killed were innocent? 20 percent? 10? 5? 1? Where's the dividing line?

To pick one of the most famous cases of recent vintage, had Rubin Carter's crime been subject to the death penalty, it's nearly certain that after almost 20 years in prison it would have been carried out. And yet, Carter turned out to be an innocent man, exonerated of all crimes. Of course, had Carter been killed, his innocence never would have been proven. How many people has Texas (for example) put in the ground that shouldn't be there? We can never know; this shouldn't just trouble you, it should make you wake up screaming.
I am not attacking you personally, but here are my thoughts

I would kill 100 innocent people in a heart beat if it would save 1000. Just as the heros on flight 93 did. Anyone who murders a child or any person maliciously, retarded or not, is evil. It does not take a mothers or the bibles teachings to make someone good or evil. Respect for human life is a instinct we were given upon birth from god. ALL EVIL DESERVES TO DIE. period. I do make one exceptions, pacifists, to me are the worst kind of evil, not only to they aid the evil, they hinder the good, and will gladly peacefully stand by and watch as evil kills hundreds, or millions (Nazi for one example) many pacifists even felt that war was a bad idea then and even some do now. I would not murder pacifists, i would gladly support deporting them, but i believe in freedom of speech so they are protected, and rightfully so, but they are the worst form of evil. But with them as the exception ALL evil should die. And what do i think of our court systems, and the fact you feel up to 50% of executed prisoners are innocent, i think your full of complete ^%$#.. heres why. The scum of the earth defense lawyers in this country will defend a Child Rapist tooth and nail, and let someone they KNOW is guilty go hurt more people, even with daughters of thier own at home. IF ANYTHING it is not more people are sentenced as guilty when thier innocent, the obvious oppisite is true, more GUILTY people are being let free. and anything i can do to stand in front of evil i will do, and the death penalty is one of those things i can do.
 

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A sudden sense of liberty
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Spiderm0n said:


You know what? I am not bothered. Because until anyone shows me otherwise, I have never seen ONE case where we executed an innocent person. On the other hand, we have seen (above) compelling evidence that each execution saves MANY lives. If one innocent person slips through and is accidently executed that is terrible, but is is worth hundreds of more people dying by the hands of murderers to prevent that (possible) one slipup? NO.
Generally, the impetus to prove someone's innocence sort of tails off after they're executed, to say nothing of the actual ability to do so. It's not likely you'll ever get what you seek.

But given that there are large numbers of living prisoners who turn out to be innocent of their crimes, why is there any reason to believe that the ranks of the dead are any different? The trial process that leads to prison or the gas chamber is essentially the same, and while there are some additional safeguards for prisoners on death row, it strains credulity to believe that these are so effective that they completely eliminate the chance that an innocent person will slip through the cracks.

You can, of course, make different value judgments about the lives of the innocent convicts versus the lives of the potential victims of guilty convicts, but if your goal is to eliminate the possibility that Person X will kill again, you don't have to have the state execute that person. You can just lock Person X up for the rest of his life. Problem solved, and you don't have to put the state in the position of possibly wrongly executing someone to do it.
 

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JST said:
You can, of course, make different value judgments about the lives of the innocent convicts versus the lives of the potential victims of guilty convicts, but if your goal is to eliminate the possibility that Person X will kill again, you don't have to have the state execute that person. You can just lock Person X up for the rest of his life. Problem solved, and you don't have to put the state in the position of possibly wrongly executing someone to do it.
I would rather kill them the day after thier 1 appeal, and save the money, and give it to the military. Id rather save the life of an innocent person than save the life of a murderer
 

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Instead of the death penalty, how about the O'Reilly penalty. A lifetime of hard, hard labor in Northern Alaska digging rocks, or other such labor. Which would T. McVeigh have preferred, what he got or the labor option.
 

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dredmo said:


I would rather kill them the day after thier 1 appeal, and save the money, and give it to the military. Id rather save the life of an innocent person than save the life of a murderer
Your opinion almost certainly would change if you were accused of a murder you did not commit and were allowed to only use publicly provided defense to confront the charges.
 

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its so easy to say that crap as a defense once you know you have no valid points, but the truth is, people who are innocent can prove it these days using a brain wave lie detector and everything else. and if for some reason i had to die by electric chair for something i didnt do ( i doubt that would ever happen) it would certainly be gods will that would get me there, it would be my time
 

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A sudden sense of liberty
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dredmo said:
its so easy to say that crap as a defense once you know you have no valid points, but the truth is, people who are innocent can prove it these days using a brain wave lie detector and everything else. and if for some reason i had to die by electric chair for something i didnt do ( i doubt that would ever happen) it would certainly be gods will that would get me there, it would be my time
On the contrary; I know I have many valid points. The soundness of my underlying argument is not at all impacted by the (I believe irrefutable) fact that it is much easier to talk about these issues in the abstract than it is in a personal context. Sure, we can say that it's an acceptable tradeoff to kill dozens or hundreds of innocents in order to deter crime, but it's much harder to blithely make such a judgment if you are one of the innocents who is in jeopardy of dying.

Of course, the idea that anyone should be obligated to "prove their innocence" is as incorrect as it is repugnant. The burden is on the state to prove that it has the right person in its hands, not vice versa.

And to the extent that you have adopted a Calvinist fatalism about your ultimate end, no further argument is possible or useful.
 

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So far, I think JST and Dred have done an excellent job of keeping a civil discussion/debate going..interesting to read the thoughts of both sides of this issue. To call anyone "ugly" because you simply don't agree with them is the same as losing any debate before you even begin. ;)

WTG guys, nice civil debate..good points made on both sides.
 

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Sorry to say, but when you interject with a statement that attacks someone (even as minor as it is) you are indeed entering the debate. Thought I'd be clear on that ;)
 
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