Death Penalty

Hanging Delayed is Hanging Denied: Abolish the Dysfunctional Death Penalty

Long delays and legal maladministration are further reason to dump capital punishment.

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Gallows
mlhradio / Foter

The July 16 decision by U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney declaring California's death penalty unconstitutional offered a stark assessment of the Golden State's dysfunctional capital punishment system. Judge Carney noted only 13 of the more than 900 people sentenced to death since 1978 have actually been executed—primarily because the average appeals process in a capital case takes "25 years or more" to complete. For example, Ernest Jones, the death row inmate whose lawsuit prompted Judge Carney's decision, waited nearly eight years for the California Supreme Court to hear his initial appeal. It took four years just for the state to provide him with an attorney to handle the appeal.

Judge Carney acknowledged "courts had thus far generally not accepted the theory that extraordinary delay between sentencing and execution violates the Eighth Amendment," which prohibits "cruel and unusual" punishment. But in accepting that theory now, Judge Carney joined a substantial body of death penalty jurisprudence from the British Commonwealth. While the United Kingdom, like all European Union members, forbids the death penalty within its borders, a group of British judges continue to oversee death penalty cases from the English-speaking Caribbean, where execution by hanging remains the statutory penalty for murder.

The Five-Year Rule

In 2008, a jury in the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago convicted Julia Ramdeen of the 2003 murder of Carlos Phillip. Phillip hired Ramdeen, a call girl, to organize a threesome with another woman. According to Ramdeen, Phillip arrived at her apartment for their rendezvous in a drunken and aggressive state. He grabbed her by the throat. She responded by hitting him in the head with a brick. A fight ensued. Ramdeen admitted to police she then repeatedly stabbed Phillip until he was dead.

Prosecutors presented an alternate theory, relying on a witness testifying under immunity. This witness claimed he, Ramdeen and another man lured Phillip to the apartment in order to rob him. The three ended up killing Phillip together and disposing of his body. The jury believed the witness, and Ramdeen and the other alleged conspirator received death sentences.

Ramdeen's appeal focused on whether the trial judge properly instructed the jury as to the law. In 2010, the Court of Appeal of Trinidad and Tobago dismissed the appeal and said Ramdeen's execution could proceed. Ramdeen made her final appeal in 2012 to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC), the London-based court which retains jurisdiction over criminal appeals from Trinidad and Tobago and eight other former British colonies in the Caribbean.

On March 27 of this year, a five-judge Board of the JCPC unanimously rejected Ramdeen's appeal of her conviction. Like the Court of Appeal, the Board found no legal error in the trial judge's jury instructions, concluding they "were clear, fair and appropriate." Nevertheless, the Board, by a vote of 3-2, commuted Ramdeen's death sentence to life imprisonment. Why? Because in the course of litigating the JCPC appeal, more than five years elapsed since the trial court imposed its death sentence. And under a 1993 JCPC decision, executing a person after that long a delay amounts to "inhuman" punishment, which is barred under Eighth Amendment-like provisions of the constitutions of Trinidad and Tobago and the other Caribbean nations where the Privy Council retains jurisdiction.

This five-year rule comes from a Jamaican case. Earl Pratt and Ivan Morgan were sentenced to death in 1979 for a murder committed two years earlier. After a number of delays—and three stays of execution—the JCPC heard Pratt and Morgan's appeal in 1993. By that point, the men had been in prison for 16 years.

A seven-judge Board of the JCPC commuted the death sentences. Lord Hugh Griffiths, writing for the Board, said any execution carried out more than five years after sentence was presumably "inhuman or degrading," and therefore unconstitutional:

There is an instinctive revulsion against the prospect of hanging a man after he has been held under sentence of death for many years. What gives rise to this instinctive revulsion? The answer can only be our humanity; we regard it as an inhuman act to keep a man facing the agony of execution over a long extended period of time.

The Pratt and Morgan decision immediately commuted more than 200 death sentences imposed by courts in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados. (Pratt was actually released from prison in 2007, after serving more than 30 years.) In the two decades since then, the Privy Council's five-year rule has effectively ground the death penalty to a halt in the English-speaking Caribbean. For instance, Trinidad and Tobago held its last execution in 1999, despite currently having approximately three dozen death row inmates. According to a 2012 Amnesty International report, only the Bahamas and St. Kitts and Nevis have managed to carry out any death sentences since 2000.

Is Abolition Preferable?

Ultimately, the death penalty has no place in a modern judicial system. Executions were meant to exact swift, brutal punishment against heinous criminals. But while hanging may continue to enjoy support among Caribbean governments, the American public has clearly lost its appetite for such brutality. Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski recently observed California's use of lethal injection "is a misguided effort to mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and peaceful." He said if states insisted on continuing capital punishment, they should stop sugarcoating it and employ "more primitive—and foolproof—methods of execution." He suggested, one hopes facetiously, a return to the firing squad.

As for swiftness, there was a time when a delay of a year or two would have been considered egregious in a death penalty case. Lord Griffiths noted in the Pratt and Morgan decision English law once required execution the day after conviction. Even as late as 1950, British executions took place within three to six weeks of sentence. That is no longer practical for any court system, much less one as backlogged as California's. While some reactionaries may continue to argue this is the fault of defendants and their lawyers seeking to delay justice, the truth, as both Judge Carney and the Privy Council know, is the courts are too overwhelmed to deal with death penalty appeals in an expeditious manner.

The Privy Council, in what might charitably be deemed an act of judicial desperation, simply made up the five-year rule out of thin air. The Pratt and Morgan decision offered no explanation for stopping the clock at five years rather than four, six, ten or any other number. Furthermore, the Pratt and Morgan Board severely criticized Jamaica's court system for exhibiting a level of dysfunction that mirrors California's today.

By contrast, the Ramdeen case involved no unusual delay or judicial maladministration. The five-year deadline only expired because the Privy Council chose to grant a discretionary appeal, which it then turned around and dismissed as baseless. The fact two judges dissented from the commutation of Ramdeen's death sentence—and dissents of any sort are unusual in Privy Council cases—suggests the majority may have engaged in anti-death penalty activism for its own sake.

Judge Carney's approach is much cleaner. He simply declared the death penalty unconstitutional without attempting to fashion an arbitrary time frame for completing the appeals process. His arguments may not survive appeal to the Ninth Circuit or the Supreme Court, but his detailed condemnation of California's death row dysfunction should not be ignored. Judicial abolition is the only practical solution to the interminable death row appeals process. Merely putting a clock on the death penalty, as the Privy Council has done, is not a satisfactory alternative. Adopting such an approach in the U.S. would only encourage prosecutors (and pro-death penalty judges) to take shortcuts with a defendant's constitutional rights to ensure any deadline is met.

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  1. I don’t favor abolishing the death penalty, provided they change the standard from beyond a reasonable doubt, to no doubt.

    Video, many corroborating eyewitnesses, caught in the act…

    Fry em. Anything less than that, I don’t trust government to get the right guy and it should be off the table.

    1. I used to support the death penalty. But then Reason happened and I lost faith in the ability of the government to investigate/prosecute/adjudicate criminal cases.

      I’m not sure changing the standard is enough. I doubt most juries actually understand reasonable doubt by itself. I don’t see them behaving differently just because you changed the words.

      At the very least, the jury that passes the sentence should swing the sword.

      1. Yeah, reading Reason has swayed me, too. I was pro-death penalty, then moved to FdA’s position; but that still leaves it to the opinions of 12 people. The only standard I’d accept now is a non-coerced guilty plea.

      2. Giving the jury even the option to be driven by their emotions to kill makes the death penalty worthless.

        1. The only real issue I have with the death penalty is that it costs more to kill someone than to give them life in prison.

          I also think it should apply to child molesters and serial rapists.

  2. Ah, a death penalty thread.

    Cue anecdotes about horrible crimes: GO!

    1. Every libertarian knows that we’re not allowed to make value judgments, man.

      And pronouncing someone guilty of murder–that’s a value judgment, man! Who is anyone to say whether murder is right or wrong–it’s all subjective anyway, man.

      /the necessary precept that these people do not have the balls to state openly. Even the “NAP” entails a value judgment, man.

    2. Not too sure what you mean here, but presumably you are against the death penalty, as am I. As a Christian, I want even horrible people (in our earthly estimation) to have the chance to repent and escape Hell. The DP makes this impossible. Also, when you see the number of people who are exonerated by exculpatory evidence that the govt. atty., through the judge, REFUSED to be allowed into evidence, which ultimately (though not soon enough for the accused) proved the accused innocent, not that the accused should have to prove his innocence! Also, if you truly want to punish a person, and you have rightly convicted him, what better punishment that lifelong solitary confinement? Also, I wonder, totally off the subject, why feminists never complain about the use of the male gender when talking about criminals, though there are a ton of female crooks!

  3. There is an instinctive revulsion against the prospect of hanging a man after he has been held under sentence of death for many years. What gives rise to this instinctive revulsion? The answer can only be our humanity; we regard it as an inhuman act to keep a man facing the agony of execution over a long extended period of time.

    How does that make any sense? If a sentence is true today, it is true five years from now. Is the murderer who is caught and then swiftly sentenced to death 20 years after the deed in any different a position? After all, he has had to live with the prospect of being caught and made to answer for his crimes through execution for 20 years. While I agree that it would be cruel to do so arbitrarily, this wait is not arbitrary: it is the time that it takes for the appeals process to make its way through the court system, as you yourself acknowledge. Governments used to expedite this process, as you yourself acknowledge, and could easily go back to having the same appeals process for capital crime as for life imprisonment (thus avoiding all of that nasty ‘wait time’ you seem to think is such a burden for the convicted).

    If you don’t like the death penalty, you should make that argument. I don’t like it either. This kind of special pleading, OTOH, is ridiculous: there is nothing cruel about having a person convicted of a capital crime sit tight until justice (including the appeals process) has fully served its course.

    1. Yes, but until the appeal is heard and decided on, the man should be assumed innocent, otherwise, what need is there for the appeal? The records are awash in folks wrongly convicted, all of whom were released, some dead, some not. We don’t treat the convicted in a humane matter because he deserves it, but to show ourselves humane and not thirsting for blood. I say this as someone who lost two siblings to drunk drivers (which obviously isn’t a DP case, but still has the element of a need for a certain humanity, even to the condemned.)

    2. Cool screen name, BTW.

  4. Let me plead the 5th on my tax return and maybe I’ll think you’re honest enough to kill another human. Otherwise, vigilantes go nuts.

  5. Not in favor of giving the government the power to kill people, but also not buying that the government NOT killing someone year after year is somehow crueler than quickly killing them.

    If the person convicted preferred quick execution, it wouldn’t take all that long to * not * appeal the conviction and sentence.

    1. Very good points, esp. the latter of the two. And really, do we trust the govt. that can’t set up a health ins. web site, or keep the public’s S.S. numbers secret really be given the ability to kill people? The feds esp. do almost nothing well (except taxation, at least from their side) and I wouldn’t trust them for a second to get a literal life and death situation right.

  6. This argument is moronic. The death penalty is bad because of the possibility the state will murder an innocent person. If anything, long wait times are good because they offer the opportunity for exoneration before the sentence is carried out.

    Judge Carney noted only 13 of the more than 900 people sentenced to death since 1978 have actually been executed?primarily because the average appeals process in a capital case takes “25 years or more” to complete.

    Hell, if you’re against the death penalty, shouldn’t you be rejoicing that only 13 of 900 people sentenced to die in California have been killed? Why is that used as if it’s a negative by people who oppose the death penalty anyway? Would it somehow be better if all 900 people had been executed?

    The long wait times are explicitly because we don’t want to execute innocent people and take precautions.

    I’m against the death penalty, but this reasoning escapes me.

    There is an instinctive revulsion against the prospect of hanging a man after he has been held under sentence of death for many years. What gives rise to this instinctive revulsion? The answer can only be our humanity; we regard it as an inhuman act to keep a man facing the agony of execution over a long extended period of time.

    Yay! Mindless emotion! For a magazine called reason…

    1. Bonus points for the use of “reactionary”.

      While some reactionaries may continue to argue this is the fault of defendants and their lawyers

    2. It’s the chutzpah argument.

      Opponents of the death penalty support all sorts of special standards and procedures and grounds for appeals and whatnot in death penalty cases that don’t exist in life imprisonment cases . . . and then use the monetary costs and time delays that they support as arguments against the death penalty.

      It’s the “chutzpah argument” because chutzpah is “that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan.”

      1. No, most death penalty opponents oppose the death penalty for the moral wrong that it is, and therefore support any special standards, procedures, and appeals that they might drum up because it prevents the government from killing a person.

        That they point out to death penalty advocates that they are not going to stop doing this, and it is inevitably very expensive, is only an attempt to appeal to the pragmatic side of people who may waver, or who vaguely support the death penalty but would rather spare the expense.

        1. You’re not allowed to say that the death penalty is wrong, because all value judgment–and thus morality–is supposed to be subjective, remember?

        2. It is not a moral wrong because God authorized Israel to carry it out as punishment for various offenses.

          1. Michael Ejercito|7.26.14 @ 2:39PM|#
            “It is not a moral wrong because God authorized Israel to carry it out as punishment for various offenses.”

            So you’re not only an ignoramus, but a Pal apologist?

          2. Surely you don’t think our courts and govt. are God, though, right? God also killed Uzzah for touching the Ark to keep it from falling on the ground, but hopefully you don’t support arrogating that kind of power to our govt. / courts, do you? God is sui generis, and any comparison to human justice does not follow.

            1. Our that them thar VALUES of society outta come from that them thar HOLY BIBLE, and if ya read it right, it actually says that God wants us to KILL EVERYBODY!!! Follow me through now: No one is righteous, NONE (Romans 3:10). Therefore, ALL must have done at least one thing bad, since they’d be righteous, had they never done anything bad. Well, maybe they haven’t actually DONE evil, maybe they THOUGHT something bad (Matt. 5:28, thoughts can be sins). In any case, they must’ve broken SOME commandment, in thinking or acting, or else they’d be righteous. James 2:10 tells us that if we’ve broken ANY commandment, we broke them ALL. Now we can’t weasel out of this by saying that the New Testament has replaced the Old Testament, because Christ said that he’s come to fulfill the old law, not to destroy it (Matt. 5:17). So we MUST conclude that all are guilty of everything. And the Old Testament lists many capital offenses! There’s working on Sunday. There’s also making sacrifices to, or worshipping, the wrong God (Exodus 22:20, Deut. 17:2-5), or even showing contempt for the Lord’s priests or judges (Deut. 17:12). All are guilty of everything, including the capital offenses. OK, so now we’re finally there… God’s Word COMMANDS us such that we’ve got to kill EVERYBODY!!!

              1. Oh, yeah… Ah fergot a SPECIAL exception… ME!!! Ah is HOLY, so don’t y’all go a-killin’ ME!!! It’s somewhere in that them thar Holy Bible, Ah jus’ haven’t found the right verses yet… A-Workin’ on it, Ah ams…

        3. Yes, exactly. Nobody opposes the death penalty because it takes too long or is too expensive, they oppose it because of what they view as a moral wrong. The other arguments are bullshit put forward by people who know they can’t win the moral argument on the merits.

          1. Arguments from moral assertion are weak, so I actually prefer practical ones. It’s not like it’s hard to make one. When both sides must explain the practical social value of their position, the death penalty advocates come up quite short.

            1. Tony|7.26.14 @ 3:53PM|#
              “Arguments from moral assertion are weak”

              Those without principles and moral cripples tend to bleeve this.

            2. only if you look at the death penalty as currently implemented, which is a false dichotomy. Many reason posters have favored raising the bar for the death penalty to crimes with overwhelming evidence.

              And then even then, you’re using solely the provable-deterrence standard. I’m not sure I care. If we did raise the bar of evidence, so that there were few or no appeals for the people we would execute, and we’re talking about people who have commited heinous crimes, I’d still say let’s execute them even if there were no proven deterrent effect. You gotta punish wrong-doers, period. At the very least, it sends a moral message to the general populace, a somewhat weak and vague one, but a populist, your-ass-belongs- to- society one that I’d figure YOU’D appreciate, Tony.
              Well maybe not so much as your ass belongs to society, but more like your humanity doesn’t trump anyone else, so if you kill someone, we absolutely have the right to kill you back

              1. You gotta punish wrong-doers, period.

                I actually disagree with this. You have to remove dangerous people from society, period. Anything beyond that is unnecessary.

                1. thom|7.26.14 @ 9:06PM|#
                  ‘You gotta punish wrong-doers, period.’
                  “I actually disagree with this. You have to remove dangerous people from society, period. Anything beyond that is unnecessary.”

                  Interesting point, but a question:
                  Does the punishment serve as deterrent? I don’t particularly care about punishing some low-life, but I do care about convincing another low-life to avoid a certain action.

                  1. Capital punishment is a deterrent even to lifers in prison. After all, why not kill a guard or a fellow inmate, if you’re already there for life?

                    1. Amen, bro or bro-ess! Never, in ALL of recorded history, has there EVER been a single documented case of a capitally-punished, DEAD person, committing yet another murder! Kill the killer? He or she will NEVER kill again!!! You CAN fight fire with fire!!! Case closed!

                  2. Interesting point, but a question:
                    Does the punishment serve as deterrent? I don’t particularly care about punishing some low-life, but I do care about convincing another low-life to avoid a certain action.

                    I really don’t believe that punishment serves as much of a deterrent. My guess is that if you legalized murder tomorrow but kept all of the other institutions of daily life in place the number of murders would rise only a small amount. People don’t not murder/rape/burglarize other people because of the law, they do it because they are dangerous people. The purpose of making murder illegal is to (a) investigate murders to discover who committed them so that those people can be identified as dangerous and (b) providing a mechanism for removing them from society.

                2. //Anything beyond that is unnecessary.

                  yeah, but incarcerated people can escape. It happens more often than you’d realize since it’s not reported as a big story.

                  And if, presumably, we have the high-evidence-bar limitation set on executing people, then executing those people would be cheaper than lifetime incarceration, and would permanently remove them.

                  You have to understand, though, we’d have far fewer executions. Again, high evidence bar

                  Then that very low rate might rise a bit as the world gets more camera’d and more actual proof gets recorded

                  1. Edwin|7.26.14 @ 9:34PM|#
                    “yeah, but incarcerated people can escape. It happens more often than you’d realize since it’s not reported as a big story.”

                    Cite? Especially among those accused of capital offenses.
                    I’ll bet that claim is a pile of BS.

              2. I’m not talking about ‘raising the bar’, since it is impossible to raise it high enough to avoid false positives.
                That alone is enough to void the death penalty.

                1. Oops. My 9:24 is in reply to Edwin. (f’ing th’ding)

                  1. //since it is impossible to raise it high enough to avoid false positives.

                    I would disagree with this. Sometimes you have situations with overwhelming evidence. Whether its video or retardedly obvious physical evidence.

                    For example, are you going to tell me OJ didn’t do it?

                    If you’re saying that even with a really high bar, every once in a while, like once every 20 years, you’ll manage to execute someone whom it turns out is actually innocent.
                    Then honestly I don’t care about that low a rate of accidental innocents-executed

                    1. Edwin|7.26.14 @ 9:31PM|#
                      ‘since it is impossible to raise it high enough to avoid false positives.’
                      “I would disagree with this. Sometimes you have situations with overwhelming evidence. Whether its video or retardedly obvious physical evidence.”

                      Maybe, but that evidence is ‘interpreted’ by a jury of your peers, so we immediately have a problem.
                      And then we have the issue with ‘mission creep’, a common process in government: ‘Hey, that one was a LOCK! This one is REAL close!’
                      Nope, I’ll pass on offing the one ‘really, no foolin’, we got the guy’ to avoid offing the ‘well, we’re real sure!’

            3. I disagree with the former, and agree with the latter. There are moral arguments to be made that are strong (some are made on this page) but you are correct in saying that, in the end, there is no reasonable case for the DP. I can tell you as someone who knows, that there is little to no comfort in the convicted person being brought to justice for the loved ones of the victim. Yes, it is better than nothing, but your loved one is gone, never to return to you, and nothing really cures that wound, which I know from personal experience. In fact, were the be saved (by God) and go on to witness to other death row / solitary confinement criminals, that would be more of a “payback” than the criminal being hanged, shot, gassed, etc.

          2. Where is the moral argument for forcing people to pay for the housing and health care of convicted criminals for the rest of their lives?

            Sounds very unlibertarian to me.

            This and abortion, something that other libertarians never cease to piss me off about. There is always a group of people who think religiously on these topics and tend to sound exactly like progressives. They throw around talking points and act like they have moral superiority when they so obviously haven’t thought through the ideas to the core principles they supposedly hold.

            1. There is always a group of people who think religiously on these topics and tend to sound exactly like progressives.

              As a completely nonreligious person, probably my most deeply held moral belief is that it is wrong to kill another person.

              The moral argument for forcing people to pay for the housing and health care of a convicted criminal instead of killing them is that they are not a participant in killing that person.

      2. I agree with the chutzpah aspect of your argument, but there are many others that reasonably wish to end the DP. I understand you were reply to the post above, but do you really believe that there are no cogent arguments against the DP?

    3. I agree with the fundament of your criticism of the article, but disagree with your assertion that emotion is mindless, or devoid of reason. I am not revolted when an aggressive, biting dog is put to death, but I am when a human is, and what is the difference if not emotion? Reason, of they type you appear to be putting forth, would say they are both bad, kill them both, and don’t feel a bit of difference between the two. I don’t think you’d believe this, even if you say it above.

  7. That picture is all kinds of racist.

  8. My goodness, it looks like we have agreement!
    The government cannot guarantee no false positive convictions, therefore the government should not be granted the power to take a life.
    The ‘delay’ argument is a red herring.

    1. The govt was never granted the power to take life, it just took it.

    2. We can not guarantee no innocent lives taken in the operation of motor vehicles by the government, therefore the government should not be granted the power to operate motor vehicles.

      1. DRM you are a genius! Those are TOTALLY the same thing! Brilliant!

        1. Indeed it is. Death is death.

          1. Michael Ejercito|7.26.14 @ 2:40PM|#
            “Indeed it is. Death is death.”

            I hope you’re not serious.
            No it’s not. One is by design, one is accidental.

      2. DRM|7.26.14 @ 12:57PM|#
        “We can not guarantee no innocent lives taken in the operation of motor vehicles by the government, therefore the government should not be granted the power to operate motor vehicles.”

        Why, yes. Auto accidents are EXACTLY like executions!
        Uh, no.

        1. Are people killed in auto accidents somehow less dead?

          Can they be brought back to life with a Raise Dead Fully?

          1. Michael Ejercito|7.26.14 @ 2:41PM|#
            “Are people killed in auto accidents somehow less dead?”

            Does the government impanel a jury to decide who dies in an auto accident?
            Do you have a clue?

        2. Hi! You noticed my point! Now think it through to the logical conclusion!

          Okay, here, I’ll help. Nobody opposes execution as a punishment because there’s an innocent death error rate in its practice; they oppose execution because they believe execution of the guilty is illegitimate. This is easily highlighted by pointing out a legitimate activity that also has an innocent death error rate in its practice. The “error rate” argument is entirely disingenuous. The only argument is whether or not execution of the guilty is legitimate; everything else is bullshit.

          1. “The “error rate” argument is entirely disingenuous. The only argument is whether or not execution of the guilty is legitimate; everything else is bullshit.”

            Your supposed equivalency is bullshit as is the rest of your argument.
            An execution is purposely done by a government agency claiming this person did X.
            And auto accident is, well, an accident.

            1. If someone is convicted falsely, that could be construed as the equivalent of an accident.

              I get his point, you’re just being obstinate.

              1. PaulW|7.27.14 @ 8:16PM|#
                “If someone is convicted falsely, that could be construed as the equivalent of an accident.
                I get his point, you’re just being obstinate.”

                Wrong.
                If someone is falsely convicted and MURDERED, there is no way to reverse that.
                Yes, I’m obstinate; you’re not real bright.

          2. Nobody opposes execution as a punishment because there’s an innocent death error rate in its practice; they oppose execution because they believe execution of the guilty is illegitimate.

            Well, nobody except the majority of posters in this comments section, and nobody except the majority of people I know who oppose the death penalty…but other than that, NOBODY!

      3. Your argument is silly beyond belief, and hopefully will be deleted the web master. Surely you see the difference between a death by car accident and a little girl having her throat slit in her own bedroom (a real case.) It doesn’t matter whether you support the DP or don’t, your reasoning is lacking the same.

    3. Your comment makes some sense, but since nothing short of a video of the event makes the process perfect (and perhaps not even then) what do you propose? I am against the DP on religious grounds, but had I not had this objection, I imagine I would find the DP needful, if sorrowful. Every one of us starts life as a baby just wanting food, love, etc., and how some of us turn out horrible is anyone’s guess. But I don’t think this is a dispositive argument against the DP. The religious one is, but I am sure it would be rejected by most libertarians as church/state mixing (not dispositive either, but…) I believe solitary confinement to be a more “punishing” punishment, and I, as a relative of the convicted’s victims, be more satisfied with the convicted’s suffering SC, than the DP.

  9. There are a couple of good reasons to abolish the death penalty – its immoral (don’t support), can’t trust the government to get the right guy (can support) but that it *takes too long* to go through the process is not one of those good reasons – its grasping at straws, looking for *anything* to support a thesis.

    1. I’d say that if there’s anything *cruel* about the process, its the ‘yeah we’re going to kill you today, get on the table – oops, gotta take a raincheck, kill you tomorrow’ process.
      But that’s still *better* than the alternative – which is ‘sorry, computer says no’ bureaucratic policy implementation.

  10. Oh fuck this, shoot them immediately upon sentencing.

  11. [Long delays and legal maladministration are further reason to dump capital punishment]

    Long delays and legal maladministration are further reason to dump long delays and legal maladministration, perhaps.

    1. I agree.

      And I don’t quite buy the argument that death is irreversible and thus the state cannot impose the death penalty because of the risk of false positives. If the state imprisons someone for five years, those years are also irreversibly gone. Monetary compensation as restitution is thin gruel.

      1. “If the state imprisons someone for five years, those years are also irreversibly gone. Monetary compensation as restitution is thin gruel.”

        Uh, yes, 5 years is gone. Compared to to, oh, the entire rest of your life.

        1. I grant that, and don’t think the death penalty should apply if there is any doubt. It’s just the substance of the argument that I don’t quite buy. Look at it this way: is life in prison something the state should never impose? It’s “the rest of your life” as much as the death penalty. I think that particular argument against the death penalty is weak.

  12. I, like Justice Roberts, see the death penalty as a tax. So it should remain. Waiting more than five years is just delaying the tax. It still has to be paid.

  13. The death penalty must be abolished because police and prosecutors can’t be trusted. Often they “lock on” to one suspect and ignore any evidence that doesn’t support their case. Look at the number of death row excoriations due to DNA evidence. The state can’t be trusted with simple task much less getting this right. The Privy Council’s five year statue of limitation is just a stupid.

  14. First, I really couldn’t care less about what they do in other countries. Second, in California’s dysfunctional death penalty process is in large part due to the fact that convicted murderers are given a never ending series of appeals that results in decades long residencies on death row. Third, we keep talking about capital punishment using such lofty terms as justice, deterrence and retribution. Society needs to suck it up and realize that capital punishment is nothing more than cleaning house. We’re taking out the trash.

  15. ap318|7.26.14 @ 10:48PM|#
    …”We’re taking out the trash.”

    Would that be you?

  16. The idea that caging a person for their entire life is okay but killing them is immoral does not make much sense to me at all. This seems to be my only difference in view to the typical Libertarian view. The nature of morality seems to call for a balance. A reckoning. You take an innocent life then yours is due in payment.

    1. Actually, libertarians have lots of different views on, and approaches to, justice. What libertarians generally agree on is that the death penalty is just another form of state violence, not essentially different from other forms of state violence.

      Other than that, you’ll find a fairly wide range of opinions on how to administer justice among libertarians, from fairly traditional justice systems to anarcho-capitalist systems that leave even justice to the market.

      Personally, I think that the kind of tit-for-tat justice you advocate isn’t very effective or moral. There are many reasons people kill, and many different consequences; a justice system needs to take those into account somehow.

  17. The article makes the usual progressive assumptions about the death penalty, that it’s somehow “unfair”, or “uncivilized”, or “brutal”. None of that holds water. If someone goes out and brutally murders a fellow human being, the death penalty is entirely appropriate, morally and otherwise.

    The article also falls into the trap of believing that the death penalty is qualitatively different from other forms of government coercion. That’s an argument made by people who want to divide government coercion into “legitimate” and “illegitimate” kinds. In fact, the death penalty is only different in degree from other forms of government coercion and violence.

    The libertarian argument against the death penalty is simply that it has a huge potential for governmental abuse and that it isn’t particularly effective. For those reasons, I would like to see the death penalty abolished. On the other hand, I would like to see a lot more crimes to be dealt with by civil lawsuits and bonding.

    1. [Hanging Delayed is Hanging Denied: Abolish the Dysfunctional Death Penalty]

      Perhaps abolish the delay of the hanging.

    2. Yeah, I can understand the libertarian point of view that execution is a form of state violence.

      I however, do not understand why they find it so distinguishable from say, life in prison. They could both be called forms of aggression on an innocent person, and they are both forms of justice on a guilty one.

      Most libertarian beliefs come from natural laws, ideas and beliefs that are self evident because we are human beings. Most of these things have been proven by history and tradition, the natural states of man. I cannot reconcile how so many libertarians are against DP, while acknowledging the fact that the DP is as old as civilization itself. If you can claim exception for DP, can you not claim exception for any other natural law?

      1. “I however, do not understand why they find it so distinguishable from say, life in prison.”

        Kidding, I hope.
        Hint: One is FINAL.

        1. Just my opinion but death is preferable to spending my life in a tiny cage.

      2. “I however, do not understand why they find it so distinguishable from say, life in prison.”

        They don’t: DP and life imprisonment are both forms of state violence, and fairly extreme ones at that. The differences are practical, nor moral.

        “Most libertarian beliefs come from natural laws”

        No, not at all. Most libertarian beliefs come from a practical desire to live free and peaceful lives.

        Many libertarians actually believe that there should be few laws and that the criminal justice system should be largely replaced by a combination of private choices and market mechanisms.

        “Natural law” is some perverse idea that Catholics and social conservatives use to justify any of the crappy laws they want to impose.

  18. He suggested, one hopes facetiously, a return to the firing squad.

    No, one does not hope the judge was facetious. If you’re going to have a death penalty, firing squad is about as sure and humane as you can manage. It’s certainly better than the unspeakable tortures of chair or chamber. And recent experience show it to be preferable to injection as well.

  19. ” they should stop sugarcoating it and employ “more primitive?and foolproof?methods of execution.” He suggested, one hopes facetiously, a return to the firing squad.”

    There is nothing wrong with a firing squad. It’s simple and effective.

  20. Doesn’t the argument hinge on whether the number of wrongfully convicted persons put to death exceeds the number of persons who’s lives might be spared because the death penalty is in fact a deterrent. In other words, if it could be shown that for every hundred persons executed, three were wrongfully convicted but ten persons lives were spared because it is in fact a deterrent, would the death penalty not then be justified? I am not saying I can prove that, but I have to wonder how many husbands might not kill their wives if we had an expeditious death penalty as opposed to only a reduction in living accommodations!

  21. So, lawyers sabatoge the implementation of the death penalty, then claim their program of delays justifies the abolishing of the death penalty. No dice loser. Libertarianism means you have a right to kill other people and not pay the price.

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