Criminal Justice

John Allen Muhammad And The Death Penalty Challenge

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The D.C. Sniper, John Allen Muhammad, who terrorized the Washington metropolitan area in 2002, has been executed in a Virginia prison.

The execution came more than seven years after the 48-year-old Gulf War veteran and his young accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, 24, killed 10 people and wounded six others. Malvo is serving a life prison sentence.

More here.

Depending on who you talk to (the prosecution or the defense), Muhammad either showed no remorse or unmistakable signs of severe mental illness. On a procedural level, there is no question of the legitimacy of his trial. But he is nonetheless the latest in an age-old question: Does the state ever have the right to kill a criminal?

I think Muhammad is as guilty as a man can be, but I don't think the state has that right. The state exists to protect citizens from violence while using as little force as possible (force, not costs). Contra various well-spoken Supreme Court justices, the cost of civilizations is not paying taxes, sterilizing apparent mental defectives, or executing cold-blooded killers, even apart from an infinite number of procedural questions. It is maintaining something less than chaos while perpetrating as little violence as possible. 

Muhammad should have rotted in prison rather than be killed via lethal injection.

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  1. States shouldn’t kill their own citizens.

    1. Based upon that logic, states shouldn’t engage in wars either, even defensive ones, because that would result in a state sending a citizen to certain death.

      1. Is the state killing them? Or are they dying of their own free will and desire to fight?

        State’s shouldn’t kill their citizens.

        1. So if the state did not kill Germans, Japanese, and Italians in the 1940’s, who did ?

          1. “…their citizens.”
            You can spend all day defining the semantics of states and resistance to administrations. It’s a moral call, something an entity like a state can not make.

            This isn’t rocket science. The state should not be in the business of killing its own citizens. It is in direct contradiction with one of the states purposes. It is not a deterrent, it is no more cost than society has proven it is willing to pay to incarcerate a vast portion of the populous for a fucking weed to hold someone for life, it is nothing more than petty revenge by the state on behalf of another.

            Institutionalized capital punishment has no purpose other than petty revenge on behalf on another by the state.

            The theory that one guilty man free over one innocent man imprisoned (or killed) is enough to justify not using capital punishment.

            1. I would have to agree with everything you said, apart from acts of treason, which the only fitting punishment would be death.

              1. Better not wish for that, as the definition of treason could wind up including anyone who speaks out against any politician or authority figure.

            2. The state should not be in the business of killing its own citizens. It is in direct contradiction with one of the states purposes.

              One of the state’s purposes is to protect its citizens. Here’s a guy who killed 10 of them. How many more will he kill now?

              1. One of the state’s purposes is to protect its citizens. Here’s a guy who killed 10 of them. How many more will he kill now?

                No more than if he had spent the rest of his life in prison

                1. No more than if he had spent the rest of his life in prison

                  You can’t kill anybody in prison?

                  1. So we should just kill everyone convicted of a crime rather than putting them in prison?

                    1. So we should just kill everyone convicted of a crime rather than putting them in prison?

                      Yes, we should make leaps of logic that do not follow from what is being discussed.

            3. Ask Aubrey Hawkins, who was killed by the Texas 7, who were in jail for life, until they weren’t.

              1. Amazing that no one has an answer for that.

          2. I shouted out “Who Killed the Kennedys?” when after all it was you and me.

            1. Hey, I was three months old when JFK got whacked. I have an alibi.

      2. Nobody should kill anybody unless they are responding to an immediate and pressing threat or danger. Many wars fit this description well. Almost no executions do.

        1. So your arguement is that unless you are able to reply instantly with your intent to kill a murderer they are free to start and stop THEIR killing of everyone else at their own leisure? Then when they stop because someone whips out a gun they are to be coddled and taken care of immediately following having just killed 10 people in cold blood, no question THEY DID IT? I am not for the death sentence in cases that contain any amount of questionable certainty that the person could be innocent. However when it comes to people that shoot up a business etc and have it on tape and 100 witnesses saying this guy shot us I have no problem with it.

          They should have tied him to a post and brought out the very rifle he used and shot him with it!

          1. Then when they stop because someone whips out a gun they are to be coddled and taken care of immediately following having just killed 10 people in cold blood, no question THEY DID IT? I am not for the death sentence in cases that contain any amount of questionable certainty that the person could be innocent. However when it comes to people that shoot up a business etc and have it on tape and 100 witnesses saying this guy shot us I have no problem with it.

            If they stop, that does not mean we have to accept their surrender.

          2. My argument is that killing is ok only to prevent harm to yourself or others. I don’t believe even that people should be killing other people to administer punishment, and I certainly don’t believe the state should be doing it. If somebody has been rendered harmless then executing them is not the right thing to do.

    2. States kill their own citizens all the time. With explicit authorization from its own citizens. The state produces agents known as law enforcement officers. Those agents, in the course of their duties kill people all the time.

      We can argue about which kills are legitimate, and which are not. But the notion that states have ‘no rights’ to take the lives of its own citizens is a non-starter.

      1. A valid point that is rarely raised in this debate.

        Nick, do you think police officers should have the right to use lethal force?

      2. There is a difference between a cop killing someone in the line of defense and the state practicing cold-blooded, pre-meditated murder, which the dealth penalty clearly is.

        Since government derives its rights from ouor rights, and since we CAN kill someone in self-defense, so can the state. Since we cannot practice premeditated murder, neither can the state.

        Easy. Next?

        1. Do I have the right to kidnap someone and lock them in a cell in defense of my rights?

            1. It doesn’t matter why you’d want to. Do you have the right to?

            2. Irrelevant. If you believe the justice system has the authority to grab someone off the street and lock them in a jail cell, AND that the state has only the powers that individuals have, then you must believe that I have the right to kidnap and jail people if I believe I’m acting in self-defense.

              1. True. Which helps show that the statment, “the state has only the powers that individuals have,” which is often an express or implicit premiss of arguments by death penalty opponents, is bullshit.

              2. You’re incorrect. The reason we have government is to create a system of objective laws, which are (supposedly) applied with equal and due diligence, protecting the rights of the accused until they are proven guilty. Any Joe Blow who thinks someone has crossed them (perhaps unobjectively) cannot have the right to simply kidnap and hold someone against their will without being able to objectively prove that person did, in fact, commit a crime (violating your rights).

                Anyone who thinks otherwise has a thought system infused with bullshit, to paraphrase Seamus.

        2. “Since government derives its rights from ouor rights, and since we CAN kill someone in self-defense, so can the state.”

          Precisely. Whether that can then be extended to argue that the death-penalty therefore legitimizes vigilante killing, that I’m not so sure about.

          I’m more than willing to concede it’s a very difficult issue to navigate. I just have my own set of beliefs as to where I stand on it.

        3. Since government derives its rights from ouor rights, and since we CAN kill someone in self-defense, so can the state. Since we cannot practice premeditated murder, neither can the state.

          Easy. Next?

          A fair argument as it categorizes when the state can kill, but that’s not what I was responding to. I was responding to the notion that the state had no right to kill its own citizens under any circumstances, period, the end, full stop.

          I’ve never liked that argument against the death penalty because it’s demonstrably false.

      3. Republicans who don’t vote for my health care scheme will be killing their fellow Americans, The Children?.

      4. States kill their own citizens all the time. With explicit authorization from its own citizens. The state produces agents known as law enforcement officers. Those agents, in the course of their duties kill people all the time.

        Are their circumstances in which a police officer has a right to kill which would be denied an individual who was not a law enforcement officer? It’s certainly the case that police don’t have the exclusive right to lethal force.

    3. So it would be OK if this guy were just a tourist from Luxembourg?

    4. I agree – let the victims family do it.

      1. Then you would have to let the murderer’s family get revenge on the family of the original victim. Killing for revenge is always bad.

        1. Before 9/11 I read a number of articles from Taliban controlled Afganistan where during the halftime of soccer games victims’ families would shot murderers with AK-47s.

  2. “Does the state ever have the right to kill a criminal?”

    Yes but not via the death penalty. Nidal Hasan for example would have been justly killed had that transpired in the course of the police defending themselves and others.

    I’m definitely not a fan of the death penalty, but I’m also not a fan of some of the arguments against it (e.g. “he could be innocent”).

  3. but I’m also not a fan of some of the arguments against it (e.g. “he could be innocent”)

    Have you read Radley’s numerous reports of exonerations of people on death row? Of crooked medical examiners? Of prosecutors willfully withholding exculpatory evidence?

    “Could be innocent” is a perfectly valid argument.

    1. I don’t think it is, because it’s a also an argument against prison terms. It’s an argument against shooting someone in self defense. Hell it’s an argument against taking someone off life support, really.

      My opposition to that argument isn’t that I don’t think it can be true, it’s that it’s possibly true in any circumstance where the state uses lethal force.

      The problem with the death penalty isn’t that the guy could be innocent, the problem is that it’s not necessary to achieve the desired end (neutralizing a life threatening criminal).

      1. Potential innocence is more important in death penalty cases than in prison cases for the obvious reason that once you’re dead the state cannot compensate you for your loss.

        1. I’d argue they’re incapable of doing that for prison terms as well. Is there any amount of money in the world you’d spend 10 years in prison for? Would you do it even if during the 10 years you’d think you were never getting out?

          I don’t buy the argument. If he’s potentially innocent he doesn’t belong in jail either, he belongs out on the street.

          1. “Potentially innocent” is what “beyond a reasonable doubt” is supposed to address, along with rules of evidence, etc. But prosecutors have shown themselves to be utterly unconcerned with these rules, which calls into question any verdict.

            Therefore, at the very least, do not kill people, because that can never be reversed.

          2. This reply is sophomoric. In the real world where choices often have to be made between the bad and the worse, people, more often than not, choose the bad. And, although Voros seems to claim that he would rather die than do time, I have no doubt that given the choice between death and incarceration with compensation he would choose the latter. Compensation is not restitution but it’s always better than nothing.

            1. “And, although Voros seems to claim that he would rather die than do time”

              And I said that where? I said (implied) there is no amount of money in the world for which I’d do 10 years. My point being that restitution to an innocent person serving such a sentence is impossible.

            2. You’re missing the point, which is that any absolutist argument that can be made against the death penalty can also be made against long-term imprisonment.

        2. Becuase, you know, murdering innocent people is no big deal.

        3. Voros nails it, but the fact is that ANY exercise of the state’s prosecutorial powers against someone causes irreversible damage to the target. A couple of posts below, the tragic story is detailed of a man whose life is ruined due to mere prosecution, not even official punishment.

          Yes, the death penalty has its own level of irreversibility, which is why we have the extravagant appeals system afforded to death row residents.

          1. And innocent people still are executed sometimes. Execution is not necessary by any stretch. Why do it?

        4. According to the latest government memo, the state isn’t going to compensate you for fabricated evidence and false imprisonment either.

      2. It might not be the only way to neutralize a life-threatening criminal, but it’s the only one guaranteed to work.

  4. As long as we keep dangerous criminals alive where there was overwhelming evidence of their guilt, like in the case of Muhammad, there exists a chance of their escape.

    As Libertarians, we recognize the fact that the state is a necessary evil and one of the only reasons that justify the state’s existence is to protect people’s lives from those who wish to take them. The state has a duty to protect other citizens from people like John Allen Muhammad and the death penalty is the only way to ensure people like him won’t ever kill again.

    1. Now I’m no big fan of the death penalty, but in cases like Muhammad’s where there is a pile of physical evidence and virtually no shred of doubt that the defendant didn’t commit the crime, the death penalty is entirely warranted.

    2. So you’d kill someone for a *potentiality*, eh? Great….

      Since we’re all potential criminals, let’s just off each other now and get it over with.

      1. If John Allen Muhammad didn’t fulfill his potentiality for criminal behavior, who has?

  5. I would prefer John Allen Muhammad was killed by another individual rather than the Commonwealth of Virginia but it is good that he is now dead.

  6. While I’m certainly not going to shed any tears for his death, I agree with Nick here. While “he could be innocent” is certainly a great argument for being against the death penalty, even in cases of overwhelming evidence (like here), I still can’t justify the necessity of the state killing one of its citizens like this. It’s not necessary.

    1. Is this “states shouldn’t kill their own citizens” a new Family Guy or South Park reference I’m unaware of? Because it’s full of holes as an actual argument against the death penalty.

      1. It implicitly justifies states killing non-citizens.

      2. The state stands idly by and allows its citizens to be killed all the time, when the killer is judged to have been acting in self-defense.

      “Oh no,” you say, “that’s different, that’s self-defense!” Well then attach a self-defense exception to your high-sounding absolute statement, and ask yourself if it still supports your position.

      1. 3. Life in prison is a really, really slow death penalty. Also just as irreversible (after he dies).

        Also, not a fan of the death penalty as currently handles, but I dont have a problem with the platonic concept at all.

        1. But like all platonic forms, it does not and cannot exist in the real world.

  7. When one’s appeals have run out, and there is indisputable evidence that the accused is indeed guilty, then what is the benefit to society in keeping a mass murderer alive for the rest of his life? In cases such as this, the likelyhood of his being innocent is not nearly so great as the possibility of his escaping and unleashing his madness on society once agaain.

    1. “In cases such as this, the likelyhood of his being innocent is not nearly so great as the possibility of his escaping and unleashing his madness on society once agaain.”

      The possibility of his escaping is pretty long odds too, particularly with a more rational incarceration policy than the one we currently have.

      I just feel like it’s a power the state shouldn’t have when alternatives exist. Ultimately it’s a limited government argument for me. That’s a limit I’d like placed on our government.

      1. The government does not sentence people to death, juries do. And please don’t tell me that juries are part of the government — that’s an insult to centuries of Anglo-American traditions of liberty.

      2. The odds of escape may be slim, but don’t forget that imprisoned killers may kill prison guards or other prisoners. Should not society be protecting their lives as well?

        I’m for limited government too, which is why I want only a limited number of crimes to be punishable by death, such as first degree murder, treason, and internet spamming.

        1. Et, tu? You’re for killing someone for a potentiality? Jeez, no wonder this country is so f’d up….

          1. In THIS case, “potentiality” doesn’t even factor into the equation.

        2. I want only a limited number of crimes to be punishable by death, such as first degree murder, treason, and internet spamming

          Or…being Michael Bay, the greatest crime there is.

          1. SPLOSIONS! MICHAEL BAY SPLOSIONS!

        3. I don’t think this alone justifies the death penalty, but it’s a good point. I would imagine life-without-parole inmates in states with no death penalty are difficult to incentivize for good behavior. Of course, if it became necessary, I’m sure the prison guards or others could arrange for an unfortunate accident or an apparent escape attempt.

          1. I don’t think this alone justifies the death penalty, but it’s a good point.

            You don’t think merely being Michael Bay deserves the death penalty? What, are you Roland Emmerich posting under a pseudonym or something?

            1. Michael Bay must not be allowed to die. If that happens, all hope for a Con Air sequel will be lost.

      3. Voros, being a libertarian myself (recently converted to the party this last year), I like the argument for limited government. However, aren’t the state judges elected by the people, except when its a replacement of someone who died or was impeached? These judges were elected to represent the voter’s views. If the judge makes his or her decision based on representing the people, then that decision is indirectly a decision of the people. Another thing, aren’t most cases voted by a jury. Isn’t the jury also a representation of the people? I’m not completely sure on how the system runs. I study medicine not law. I just like to discuss politics. Preferably, Libertarian politics. I absolutely can’t stand the right left crap that happens in Washington. We need to get the Libertarian party, or another equivalent third party majority status in Washington. However, that is another debate for another time.

    2. When one’s appeals have run out, and there is indisputable evidence that the accused is indeed guilty, then what is the benefit to society in keeping a mass murderer alive for the rest of his life?

      A smug sense of moral superiority, if some of the comments here are any indication.

      1. That’s not fair Jim. I haven’t been the least bit smug. The death penalty gives me a bad case of the heebie jeebies. I’d just rather they lock the guy up and throw away the key.

        I have no problem with people who feel otherwise, I just disagree and have my reasons.

        1. I’d just rather they lock the guy up and throw away the key.

          It’s that simple, then. Just lock him up. Because what could be worse than giving somebody the heebie-jeebies.

          1. All I’m saying is that I don’t want someone to be killed if imprisoning them neutralizes his threat to the public. The “heebies jeebies” comment was just shorthand for my own sense of morality. I don’t have a problem if others’ morality is a little different on that score.

  8. How would keeping John Allen Muhammad benefit the rest of society?

    1. You could say that for any number of people not guilty of murder. The issue is that granting the state the right to make that determination is a power I simply don’t want to give.

      1. The state didn’t make that decision, John did when he decided to kill ten people.

        1. Look the guy’s picture is next to the word “guilty” in the dictionary, and if killing him kept his victims alive somehow I’d pull the trigger myself (or at least I hope I would). But I don’t want the state killing people whose death I wouldn’t weep for any more than I want the state to shut up people who I wish would shut up. It’s a power to great for them to possess.

          1. I’m confused, Voros. You were just arguing above (correctly) that throwing people in prison for decades is just as tremendous and irreversible a punishment as putting them to death, but now you’re saying the latter power is too much to give the state. Do you think the state should also not have the power to put people in prison? If you think the state does have this power, how do you explain the contradiction evident in your comments?

            1. I said it was just as irreversible, but I did not argue it was just as “tremendous.”

              The main issue is one of self-defense and one of defense of the citizens of the state. The goal of protecting the citizens against a violent criminal is difficult to accomplish without at the very least incarceration. However incarceration should be sufficient regardless of whether the criminal is merely violent or truly heinous.

              Because permanent incarceration is sufficient to accomplish the goal and not as severe as the death penalty, it is the punishment I favor. Mistakes will happen regardless of what avenue we pursue, and innocent people will be harmed regardless. If we’re capable of putting some sort of restraint on the violence committed on behalf of the state while still protecting the rights and safeties of its lawful citizens, then I favor those restraints.

              1. Permanent incarceration == death penalty. In both cases, they are imprisoned until their death. One is just a much slower method than the other.

                1. That’s kind of silly. That’s like saying eating cheeseburgers is like eating cyanide. Differences in degree become differences in kind after a point.

              2. John Allen Muhammad was executed more than 7 years after he committed his last murder. That seems like a sufficient amount of restraint on the part of the state.

                1. Too much restraint. If the Death Penalty (whether one agrees to it or not) is to have ANY value as a deterrent, then it must be executed quickly, publicly, and if possible violently. The criminal should think “If I kill another human being, they will draw and quarter me in the town square next month.”

                  Economically speaking, delaying punishment lessens its value.

                  1. I’m a big fan of reforming the system, expanding it to 3 violent felonies, and having a set of robust appeals that end within a year.

  9. In cases where there IS doubt, fine… err on the side of caution.

    In THIS case… kill him dead.

  10. In general, I think the state is too incompetent to be trusted to kill them that need killin. In this case, I won’t worry my pretty little head about it too much.

    1. This is really the crux of the biscuit, I think. Whether or not the state should have this power morally, the incompetence and corruption in the legal system should be enough to make any decent person oppose the death penalty.

  11. I agree to an extant…

    However, I think it is wrong that a person can kill a bunch of people and get free room, board, health care, and reading materials for life.

    Why would anyone be homeless with a deal like that?

    1. However, I think it is wrong that a person can kill a bunch of people and get free room, board, health care, and reading materials for life.

      Why would anyone be homeless with a deal like that?

      Ask the guy who wouldn’t serve 10 years in prison for any amount of money.

      1. That’s him.

        I don’t think society should have mass-murder as a road to 3 squares. That scares me.

        1. That’s him.

          Isn’t he someone?

          1. One person isn’t everyone.

            Having that reward is disturbing.

            If I came over to your house, beat the fuck out of you, killed you slowly and did the same to your family, do you really think I should get free food and shelter paid for by the fruits of others’ labor?

    2. The fact that there are homeless people blows a bit of a hole in what you are suggesting.

      Is it not also wrong that someone who steals a car or breaks into a house should get free room, board and healthcare? Should we execute them as well?

      1. They don’t get it guaranteed for life.

        1. Sure they do, if they want it. Just keep re-offending so you’re certain to spend the winter months in the great indoors.

          Happens all the time.

  12. I don’t think the state (or an individual) has the right to kill in cold blood.

    To kill in self-defense or in the defense of others, yes. But not as punishment afterward.

    1. It’s not defending possible future victims?

    1. That is pretty awesome. I’m going to have to start telling people they are “low, consummate jackasses” more often.

  13. Yeah, let a serial killer rot in jail. I mean it’s the duty of the American people to give a man who doesn’t give a rat’s ass about life…well…a life.

  14. Keeping killers alive binds the loved ones of their victims to spend the rest of their lives monitoring them. There is no such thing a permanent imprisonment. Times and laws change. There is no guarantee that over the decades any killer won’t be released.

    Kenneth McDuff killed three teenagers in Texas and then had his death sentence commuted by the Supreme Court. Somehow his prison records were changed and he was released after the courts ordered releases owing to over crowding. He kidnapped, raped, tortured and murdered at least 4 other woman.

    More importantly,we need to always remember that the State kills. That is what it does. All its power for good or evil flows from its force monopoly and its ability to kill any individual within its domain. People who say the State shouldn’t kill are children who do not understand the chained beast that is the State. If the State cannot justly kill murderers then it has no right to enforce any law with the threat of lethal force and it enforces all laws with that threat.

    The death penalty is the State reduced to its essence. We’ve built a grand facade of rationalizations around the idea of the State. An execution strips that away. The white marble and corinthian columns fall away and we see the ancient axeman clothed in bloody furs standing over his victims. Before they draw the curtain once more, we see for those few moments the true heart of the State. For that reason alone, the death penalty should remain.

    Least we forget.

      1. Dude, that image would make an awesome album cover.

        1. A REALLY awesome one if the axeman were Eddie of Iron Maiden fame.

          “Hallowed Be Thy Name” indeed.

    1. +2

      The State IS force. The State is a gun against your head. A gun against your head is only scary if you know it is loaded and the trigger can be pulled.

      An execution is simple reminder of that fact.

      “We are the government. Do as we say or we will fuck you up.”

      You can’t get more fucked up than dead.

    2. You are absolutely correct. But that only makes me less comfortable with the death penalty. Even with the death penalty as an option, most people still don’t see the state that way.

  15. It’s in Gods hands now…..

  16. That asshole Charles Moose who was the Montgomery County Maryland police chief at the time should have been put in prison as well for knowingly and deliberately putting out a false description of the perp to the public as a “white man in a white van”.

  17. The state exists to protect citizens from violence while using as little force as possible (force, not costs).

    The devil’s in the details of how much force is necessary.

    The death penalty is not just about protecting society. It’s about satisfying the need of family and friends of the victim, and in the case of highly publicized cases like this, the need of the general society, for vengeance. Yes, you read that right.

    Revenge is a deep-seated human emotional need. You can try to deny it or wish it away, but it’s going to be around as long as humans walk the earth and have free minds. Getting rid of the death penalty is going to lead to a noticeable uptick in vigilante justice.

    1. I suppose Bernie Madoff shouldn’t be incarcerated either, since no one is ever going to trust him with their money ever again.

      Arguing that the only purpose of state punishment should be to prevent a particular individual from committing crimes for a certain length of time, is going to lead you to some seriously uncomfortable conclusions. One of the more obvious being that fraud and embezzlement shouldn’t be punished with jail time, since people convicted of these have already lost their reputation, which will prevent them from being in a position to commit those crimes again.

      1. “One of the more obvious being that fraud and embezzlement shouldn’t be punished with jail time, since people convicted of these have already lost their reputation, which will prevent them from being in a position to commit those crimes again.
        reply to this”

        I’m not sure anyone argued that deterrence wasn’t a legitimate function of criminal punishment. If someone could provide conclusive evidence that the death penalty had a substantial deterrent effect over and above life in prison, I would listen to that argument. But I have yet to see that evidence.

        But that argument again goes to the point of protection of lawful citizens. If it was about revenge we’d torture them first and then kill them as painfully as possible.

        1. If someone could provide conclusive evidence that the death penalty had a substantial deterrent effect over and above life in prison, I would listen to that argument.

          Nobody who’s been executed has ever committed another crime.

        2. I suppose you have evidence that Bernie Madoff’s imprisonment is deterring would-be pyramid schemers.

          A good rule of thumb is, any argument against the death penalty is probably a good argument against long-term imprisonment as well.

    2. Really? So all those countries, like all of Europe, that have gotten rid of the death penalty, are suffering from large amounts of vigilante justice? Really?

      1. Latvia, Belarus, and Russia still practice capital punishment.

        1. does latvia?
          It’s in the EU?

  18. Also, with regards to Madoff, Kevin Trudeau still shows up on infomercials even though you would think someone even remotely familiar with the word “Google” would keep their credit cards far away from him.

    Rip-off artists are a threat to rip people off, and if Bernie Madoff could find someone who’d never heard of him, he’d try and rip that person off too.

  19. If you want to keep him alive, you get to take care of him.

    1. “If you want to keep him alive, you get to take care of him.”

      I don’t want to keep him alive, I just don’t want to kill him. I’m all in favor of making prisoners pay for room and board in one way or another.

      If he starves because he won’t do a 40 hour week’s worth of labor that would be fine with me.

      1. I don’t want to keep him alive, I just don’t want to kill him.

        You do realize it’s a binary proposition, right?

        If he starves because he won’t do a 40 hour week’s worth of labor that would be fine with me.

        Lethal injection is inhumane, but a lingering death from starvation is awesome? You’re a strange person.

        1. I’d want him to earn his keep like anybody else. If he doesn’t, he can starve. If he does, he can use what he earns to buy food and shelter like anybody else. And sit there in prison for the rest of his life.

          1. You’re not treating him “like anybody else”. Anybody else would be allowed to go where they please to earn their keep.

            You’re locking someone in a room and refusing to feed them unless they submit to your demands. If they starve, that’s murder (in addition to kidnapping, which you’re apparently OK with the horrible, corrupt, incompetent state committing).

            1. Should welfare recipients be required to at least do SOMETHING to earn their freebies?

              1. No, and you’ll have to pry my foodstamps from my cold dead hands.

        2. This is the kind of perverse conclusion caused by the mental gymnastics necessary on the part of CP opponents.

          1. That’s the problem with thought experiments attempted by those without the necessary equipment.

      2. Ah, so killing 10 people isn’t enough to justify death at the hands of the state, but refusing to put in a full workweek is enough.

        1. No, if he manages to survive without pay then so be it. If he wants to whore himself out to other prisoners for food, that’s his prerogative.

          I just don’t think his room and board should be free. As others have mentioned, it costs money to house him. He should either attempt to cover those costs or the money should stop being spent on him.

          1. You’re a real fucking humanitarian. What was the fundamental principle you were trying to uphold by opposing the death penalty again? I’m fairly certain you’ve thrown it to the four winds with this latest line of “reasoning”.

            1. I don’t want to kill people. I don’t see what the problem is asking a guy in prison to have a job. Unlike in the real world, they’ll find one for him to do.

              My guess is that like most everyone outside of prison, he won’t starve. He’ll do something to be able to feed himself. I’m not saying “work or you don’t eat.” I’m saying “board costs X amount of dollars a month, how you would like to pay?”

              If he’s a high skilled laborer and can do that job from prison, I’d let him do that and pay him for it. Yes there are limits as to where he can work and what he can do, but that’s because his crimes have forced him to need to be separated from the public for their own safety.

          2. So: Death penalty bad, slavery good. And it’s a black guy we’re talking about. Good luck selling this one.

            1. “So: Death penalty bad, slavery good. And it’s a black guy we’re talking about. Good luck selling this one.
              reply to this”

              It’s not slavery. He gets paid for his work (and can spend it on what he likes within the safety precautions of prison). And if he doesn’t want to work he doesn’t have to.

              1. He just starves to death. Keep thinking; you can really use the practice.

              2. Also if someone on the outside paid for his room and board, that would be fine too.

                1. Someone on the outside like the Saudi government?

                  1. Sure. Better them than me or any other taxpayer.

                    The original objection was if I wanted to keep him alive, I had to pay for him. I have presented an alternate scenario: neither me nor any other taxpayer pay to keep him alive nor do we pay to kill him. We pay to keep him out of the public (walls, guards, guns and so forth), and after that he can fend for himself financially or get someone else to do it for him.

                    I prefer that a great deal to paying to kill him or paying to keep him alive. Obviously others disagree.

                    1. The original objection was if I wanted to keep him alive, I had to pay for him.

                      No: You get to take care of him.

            2. You may recall that the 13th amendment says: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

              Even the abolitionists seem to have thought that slavery as punishment for crime wa A-OK.

              1. Er, *was* A-OK.

              2. But we’re not talking about punishing crime here, only protecting society. Once you admit that society has an interest in punishing crime rather than just protecting itself from criminals, you open the door for us drooling barbarian execution lovers.

  20. However, I think it is wrong that a person can kill a bunch of people and get free room, board, health care, and reading materials for life.

    What? Are you trying to undermine VA hospitals?

    1. Happy Veteran’s Day to you, too.
      Schmuck.

  21. Maybe the state should not have the right to inflict lethal punishment, but surviving victims (if any) or the victims’ relatives, should, in my very humble opinion, be entitled to kill Muhammad themselves.

    Why should GOVERNMENT punish him? He didn’t murder the government.

    The fact that the victims should have to plead with a Judge to punish him severely rather than leniently is, in my humble opinion, an outrage.

    You wanna know something that reeeeeeeeally bugs me? The way people assume that revenge, and the desire for revenge, are inherently bad.

    1. The way people assume that revenge, and the desire for revenge, are inherently bad.

      Word.

      “That’s revenge! That’s not right”

      Sorry, not a Christian, so for me, vengeful does not automatically fall under the ‘bad’ column.

      1. A need to take revenge is a sign that you are as small as the person who attempted to harm you. It is a sign of weakness…a sign that you allow the lizard brain to rule your higher functions.

        Whether that is bad or not is a personal call, I guess.

        1. Wanting revenge is a sign that you’re human. Just like taking a dump or enjoying an orgasm are essentially lizard brain activities, that even the most refined and detached of us must endure.

        2. The desire for revenge is a desire for justice. There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to take the life of someone who has victimized innocent people.

          A man who kills, rapes, or tortures those who have done nothing wrong is a man who has forfeit his rights. While I hesitate to condone revenge as a Christian (and as someone who believes no human is qualified to offer the proper type of revenge, especially if God is willing to forgive), it is not inherently a bad desire–and it is certainly not “sinking to the level” of a rapist to seek justice.

          I am against the death penalty on the principle that I do not want the state exercising this sort of power, but I still believe the death penalty is just.

        3. A need to take revenge is a sign that you are as small as the person who attempted to harm you. It is a sign of weakness…a sign that you allow the lizard brain to rule your higher functions.

          I have been fortunate to not have myself or anyone I love dearly be a victim of a truly horrific crime, and I assume you probably haven’t either.

          Sure, it’s easy to say this for us, but I imagine it gets a lot more complicated when it’s someone you know and love who gets killed for no reason.

    2. The desire for revenge is something humans would be better off without, no question about it. Unfortunately, it’s pretty much hard-wired into our nature, so we have to deal with it.

      If families are allowed to avenge their loved ones willy-nilly, that’s a recipe for chaos. Having a death penalty regime fully under the control of the judicial system (and ultimately JURIES, as anti- people conveniently forget when decrying the state “deciding to kill someone”) allows that vengeance to be satisfied in a reasonable, deliberate fashion.

  22. I have little or no moral qualms with the state executing (the obviously guilty) murderers of this sort.

    But I have to side with those against the death penalty, because the state and the justice system is so inept/corrupt that we can’t trust them with having the power.

    1. But I have to side with those against the death penalty, because the state and the justice system is so inept/corrupt that we can’t trust them with having the power.

      Let’s just give ’em healthcare instead.

  23. I question whether the state can create a place where one who has plotted the death of many others can be confined so they could again never harm others, or that such confinement can be arranged without depriving others of food, water, shelter and comfort without coercion.

    Unless such can be created or at least partially enabled, individuals such as John Allen Muhammad cannot be provided with any of the essentials of life at the cost of providing the least-redeemable petty thief of anything essential to her redemption.

    1. Actually, putting someone to death via lethal injection costs roughly as much as locking them up for their natural life. At least it did a few years ago when I looked into this — don’t know if health care costs have increased enough to make this untrue now.

      Another reason to bring back the firing squad and/or the noose as an execution method. No sense wasting money so that a mass murderer can be put to sleep like a beloved pet.

      1. Could cut the cost by a few pennies by not wiping the condemned’s arm with alcohol prior to the injection…

  24. I question whether the state can create a place where one who has plotted the death of many others can be confined so they could again never harm another person, or that such confinement can be arranged without depriving the jailers of due food, water, shelter and comfort without coercion.

    Unless such can be created or at least partially enabled, individuals such as John Allen Muhammad shouldn’t be provided with any carbon-equivalent that risks the ability of even the least-redeemable petty thief to obtain anything even tangential to her redemption.

  25. I used to be in favor of the death penalty for the most heinous crimes, but as I’ve become more and more anti-state, I no longer trust giving the government that power.

    1. The government doesn’t have the power to sentence someone to death.

      A death sentence is handed down by a

      _ _ _ _ .

      (I’ve already posted this several times in the thread, and been ignored by the anti-CP forces, so I thought I’d make a fun puzzle out of it)

  26. Bullshit.

    This shameful loser deserved to die rather than waste taxpayer money by rotting in jail.

    Fine – say the state doesn’t have the right to kill him.

    But the families of the victims have the right, and they asked the state to kill him.

    I can’t favor any ideology that favors protecting cold-blooded killers from death, but doesn’t favor protecting innocent soon-to-be-babies from death.

    It’s disgusting, Nick. Very disgusting.

  27. I have no sympathy for cruel and evil anti-death-penalty absolutist bleeding hearts like Gillespie. The families of the victims do indeed have a right to revenge on a psychopathic mass murderer like Muhammad, and the government, which is (at least in theory) “We the people” has a duty to help them take that revenge. Killing is not merely a “right” of the state, but is actually a duty; one reason why government has been meddling in affairs that are none of its business is that well-intentioned fools have been distracting it from its real business, which is protecting the innocent and slaughtering the guilty.

    The chance that killers will escape from prison is increasingly remote; the real danger is that evil bleeding hearts like Gillespie will all too soon forget the heinousness of their crimes and then let them out to rape and torture and murder again. People against the death penalty are in fact guilty of murder themselves, since their willingness to take a chance on the murderer’s being let out of prison to murder again makes them guilty of any murders subsequently committed.

    Those who refer to Biblical arguments have no excuse for being bleeding hearts either; the “eye for an eye” principle of Leviticus and the other law books comes from an even older principle in the book of Genesis that has never been repealed or superseded in any way. In the book of Romans, the New Testament reaffirms the ruler’s rightful office as God’s sword arm of vengeance against evil-doers. Whoever signed the order to have Muhammad put to death has God’s approval for smiting a murderer on His behalf.

    None can logically assert that Muhammad had no time to repent of his evil ways, as seven years is surely more than enough time to ponder them. Neither can the state be in any way held responsible for his now being in Hell, as imminent death is wonderfully concentrating of the mind and if it cannot persuade the murderer to repent and believe, surely nothing can.

    1. As I said before, I’m against the death penalty, but I have respect for this view.

      However, since I believe perfect justice cannot reasonably be served against rapists, torturers, and murderers, I accept life in prison. Muhammad deserved worse than the death penalty.

      For what it’s worth, I still bristle every time the supreme court hands down a decision on the subject. Kennedy v. Louisiana was particularly heinous–the court seemed to rule that the rape of a child was not as damaging as murder. I think, in many ways, it is–as are all rapes–and states should decide these issues.

    2. Whoever signed the order to have Muhammad put to death has God’s approval for smiting a murderer on His behalf.

      Yo, watch it there.

      1. But if Muhammad had been in Saudi Arabia and killing other Muslims, that would be a whole different ballgame, right?

        Then, according to Sharia, “Whoever signed the order to have Muhammad put to death has God’s approval for smiting a murderer on His behalf.”

        If you want supporting quotes from the Qur’an and Ahadith and a supportive analysis from a competent Imam, I’ve got them…

        1. Not at all. About the only difference is that the Saudi Arabians would have killed him a lot sooner with a lot less complaint from bleeding hearts. Did you hear about the kiddy fiddler they beheaded and crucified recently for raping and murdering five little boys? If they would target deserving criminals like that for extermination more often, they’d have YHWH’s blessing on them more often than they do.

          Incidentally, that Bible passage in Romans applies to all governments, not just Christian ones. When any government executes a deserving criminal, they’re serving as God’s sword. The Old Testament has plenty of history of God arousing the armies of pagan nations to come purge Israel of its child-sacrificing idol-worshipers from time to time by this same principle. What the Koran or the pagan moon god Allah have to say on the subject is practically beside the point.

    3. “People against the death penalty are in fact guilty of murder themselves, since their willingness to take a chance on the murderer’s being let out of prison to murder again makes them guilty of any murders subsequently committed. ”
      you actually believe that?

      1. Yes. Same as my belief that pacifism bears the blame for many a bloody war. Bleeding hearts are evil’s enablers and must share the blame for every crime they’ve enabled.

        1. You have read a history book before and do know that there have hardly ever been any pacifists?

          Or are you just joking?

    4. Geez…where did the newspaper comment trolls come from?

  28. The only problem I have with states killing people is simply because the state is so good at being wrong.

    When it actually kills the right guy I can’t say i am all that upset….and is probably not the best time to argue against the death penalty for two reasons; people are less apt to agree with me and i am less apt at making a good argument about it.

  29. Execution is just delayed self defense. It balances the scales of justice.

    1. Oh yeah, because those guys on death row could kill at any moment!

      Give me a break. These guys pose no threat to anybody but each other and the state agents who choose to work with them.

      1. The delayed self defense refers to their victims dumb ass.

  30. Mr. Gillespie, I wish I had the oneness with the Earth to believe as you do about the death penalty.

    But I do not. In cases where the burden of proof is overwhelming, the sword of justice should be swift and sharp.

    Take the Ft. Hood murderer. Why do they say allegedly? Did the dozens of victims and witnesses hallucinate the whole damn thing? Fuck that dirt-bag. Give him due process and when he is found guilty by a jury of his peers give him transfusions of pigs blood until he dies.

  31. The mental illness issue is problematic.
    So many people fake it yet for some of those executed it seems pretty obvious they had severe mental illness.

    1. The mental illness issue is problematic.

      No it isn’t. You can be batshit crazy and still be responsible for your actions.

      1. yes it is.
        Unless you think that brain injury or mental illness should be disregarded.

        1. If their mental illness is so severe that it’s responsible for them killing people, you’re not depriving them of much by cutting their tormented life a bit short.

    1. Not Andrew S
      (see below)

  32. One more thing:

    If John Allen Muhammad was left to rot in prison, his conviction would have likely been the last time we heard of him. Years from now, when he died in prison, he would’ve been a footnote in the news, maybe an article buried deep in the paper or a 30-second mention on the nightly news (or the equivalent in whatever form the news takes then). Now he’s the top story, all over the news. Considering how many murders do it for the glory, to be “famous”, it’s amazing how people are so willing to do their bidding.

  33. Good points made by many on both sides here…I’m not sure myself on this issue, but it all has made me think. Thanks

  34. Life is unfair.

  35. One problem with terrorists is that they might have sympathizers on the outside who might take hostages and say, ‘release our imprisoned comrade X or I kill these infidel hostages!’

    I don’t know if Muhammad has that kind of support on the outside. Perhaps he was more of a free-range operator without any sympathizers (aside from his younger accomplice).

    But if he was some kind of Al Quaeda operative, then so long as he’s alive, his colleagues on the outside will be able to pressure for his release.

    In the general run of murders, I’m not a fan of the death penalty, but this is because there are ways of making a life sentence stick without letting more people die. If there’s some uncertainty about whether a life sentence will actually stick without causing other deaths, then maybe execution is the way to go.

  36. Other *innocent* deaths (eg, hostages)

  37. “But he is nonetheless the latest in an age-old question: Does the state ever have the right to kill a criminal?”

    That question has already been answered – the dealth penalty is Constitutional.

    So yes it does have the right to kill a criminal.

  38. I disapprove of anyone’s committing murder.

    Just my opinion.

  39. Ok,no death penalty, sure. But YOU pay the costs for keeping him in prison the rest of his life. As for me, I’ll contribute $2.87–the cost of a .30-06 round.

  40. I hereby add my voice to those opposed to the death penalty.

    1. Fuck you. Murderer.

  41. Against for several reasons, but someone who commits heinous crimes also has no business ever getting out of prison, either.

  42. You’re not the only one who’s not convinced the death penalty is the solution… http://www.newsy.com/videos/d_….._shootings

  43. I totally agree with you – the gov’t should not be in the killing business. Capital punishment is not error proof. There have been too many “mistakes”. My grandson, Kent Jermaine Jackson, was unjustly executed last year. The questions remain. Evidence was withheld. There was certainly reasonable doubt of his guilt and yet he was killed by the state of VA while the real murderer(s) are free and/or in prison but very much alive. Killing doesn’t bring the victims back, only adds to the death toll. All this killing makes me sick to my stomach.

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