The Right Side of Death

Why some conservatives are changing their minds on capital punishment


The march away from support for capital punishment was a long time coming for Ron Paul. Years ago, the Libertarian-turned-Republican then-member of Congress claimed to favor the death penalty. In 1980, he moderated his position, saying his feelings were "not so clearly defined" as they once had been. Then, in 2007, he announced that he'd had a change of heart and could no longer sanction executions "for federal purposes." But he took care to reiterate that it was merely the federal death penalty he opposed.

That was then. Now, his home state of Texas is preparing to put to death convicted murderer Scott Panetti. In recent weeks, Paul has helped to lead the charge against Panetti's execution, which was scheduled for mere hours from now until the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals stayed it minutes ago to give the court time "to fully consider the late arriving and complex legal questions at issue in this matter."

Paul's evolution on the issue is not necessarily surprising. He has long been something of a libertarian conscience for the Republican Party, urging fiscal discipline and military nonintervention. Libertarians tend to be against capital punishment.

What is surprising is the list of conservative leaders who have joined Paul in asking Texas Gov. Rick Perry to reduce Panetti's sentence to life in prison. Individuals like tough-on-crime former Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli, and Gary Bauer, president of the faith-and-families group American Values, recently signed a letter to that end. They note that "we must be on guard that such an extraordinary government sanction not be used against a person who is mentally incapable of rational thought."

There's some evidence the larger conservative movement is also rethinking its knee-jerk support for the death penalty. In 1994, Republicans favored the practice by an enormous 73-point margin. Twenty years later, that gap has narrowed by 19 points; a fifth of Republicans now say they're "not in favor" of the death penalty for convicted murderers.

But there are idiosyncrasies about the Panetti situation that could make it a poor bellwether. One reason so many people are objecting to this particular execution is that the inmate is believed to suffer from severe mental illness. Per the letter asking for a commutation:

Mr. Panetti [is] one of the most seriously mentally ill prisoners on death row in the United States. Rather than serving as a measured response to murder, the execution of Mr. Panetti would only serve to undermine the public's faith in a fair and moral justice system.

There's a laundry list of reasons to believe Panetti is mentally impaired, including a history of hallucinatory episodes, some leading to forced hospitalizations, that predated his crime by more than a decade. He chose to represent himself at trial and then proceeded to babble incoherently, sleep through important testimony, and attempt to call Jesus Christ to the stand. "This was no act cooked up to get him off of murder charges," wrote several signatories of the letter in a subsequent op-ed for The Washington Times.

The thought of executing a man under these circumstances is clearly disquieting to many people. But some of the conservative leaders voicing concern in this instance nonetheless say they support capital punishment as a general rule. They see the Panetti case as an exception because they believe it would be a "miscarriage of justice" to put to death someone so clearly mentally unsound—not because they believe the death penalty is inherently unjust.

There's a problem with that type of hairsplitting, however: It trusts government with the awful power to separate the truly insane from the fraudsters. The same government that conservatives routinely blast as incompetent, that brought us Internal Revenue Service targeting of Tea Party groups, and that has repeatedly deemed the schizophrenic Panetti fit for both trial and execution.

A resounding lack of faith in government to get things right on matters of life and death is a common theme among conservative anti-death penalty activists. "The greatest authority you can give government is the power to take someone's life. I think conservatives are more and more leery of the government exercising that," says Pat Nolan, who works on criminal justice issues for the American Conservative Union (ACU). "As one of my friends says, 'Do we really expect the people who run the post office to be able to determine guilt or innocence very well, and to have somebody's life depend on it?' And I guess nowadays it would be the people who designed Obamacare—would we trust them with a person's life?"

An organization called Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty (CCADP) has been making the rounds at right-of-center conferences, working to attract more GOPers using just such an argument. "If you think about the death penalty, it's everything that's not conservative," Marc Hyden, one of the group's national advocacy coordinators, tells me. "I can't think of a bigger government program than one that can kill you. So once we're able to educate conservatives about the death penalty, we're starting to see they're more open to opposing it."

It's not at all clear that conservatives' attitudes are headed for a tipping point. In the poll linked earlier, three out of four Republicans still say they're in favor of the death penalty. Will a majority ever switch sides to oppose it? "Frankly, we're a long way from there," says the ACU's Nolan. "But among conservative leaders there's more and more concern, and I think they will help prompt discussion among conservatives so that it won't just be a lockstep support of this awesome power being ceded to government."

CCADP's Hyden seems even more optimistic. "Conservatives, many of us used to support the death penalty," he says. "We thought the one thing that government could do properly was kill people. We've found out they can't even do that correctly."

NEXT: Will Grand Jury Investigating Eric Garner's Choking Death Lead to New Outrage?

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  1. I think it's reasonable that someone who's generally pro-death penalty can find individual cases are unjust, just as one can find a 15 year prison sentence unjust. I don't see any major tides turning in the GOP on this subject.

    1. I don't see any major tides turning in the GOP on this subject.

      you would think they could at least be for more efficient methods of execution.

        1. Transfats and large sodas.

          1. But then the murderer would die happy. We can't have that.

        2. I was thinking the sarlacc pit. that way they could both sentence someone to life in prison and execute them, no more moral dilemma. It's like the perfect compromise.

          1. I would like to fully endorse this idea. Where do I send my monetary contribution to this cause?

            1. I'm considering a kick-starter.

              1. Go for it! I'll donate time and money!

      1. you would think they could at least be for more efficient methods of execution.

        I don't think the GOP has an efficiency of execution problem as much as a willingness to compromise and/or respect for the law problem.

        At least, I have both liberal and GOP friends who will earnestly call for forms execution that they wouldn't really want to see carried out on anything that can emote.

      2. we do - firing squad, hanging, carbon monoxide gas chamber are all highly effective, pain free and very inexpensive and relatively fool proof.

        Note to liberals - the high cost of "execution" is not the execution itself - it is the seemingly endless appeals process AFTER the guilt has been established.

  2. Considering how willfully dishonest cops and prosecutors are, I can't support the death penalty.

    1. I fully support the death penalty, as long as it's not cops and prosecutors responsible for its implementation.

      1. I am with you.

        "?the same government the GOP routinely blasts as incompetent?to decide who's truly insane and who's just faking it, "

        It is not just sanity, but guilt, that they are not competent to decide. If it is the best we have then it is not good enough to apply the ultimate and irreversible penalty.

        I will wholeheartedly support the death penalty, for there are surely some who deserve it, as soon as you show me that we have the means to determine sanity and guilt with 100% accuracy.

        1. That raises a question I hadn't considered before, actually.

          The only people that commit truly heinous crimes suffer from some mental defect; if I'm willing to accept that as a fact, then why should "insanity" be a defense upon which the accused cannot stand trial? Doesn't that just let the judge/jury discriminate based upon feelings rather than laws?

          It doesn't matter if the person that rapes & murders your daughter is insane or not. What matters is that he raped & murdered your daughter, right?

          Or is this not how people think anymore?

          1. If the issue is removing that person from society so that they are no longer a threat, then I agree with you. I think almost everyone would. It's when you start to get into questions of punishment, deterrence, and reform that things like competence and intent matter.

          2. I'm with you all the way on this.

          3. You're confusing adjudicative competence with insanity.

            1. Not necessarily. See my comment below.

          4. This is a major problem I have as a mother. Do you realize how many mothers who kill their children get off because of insanity or temporary insanity? I have a mental disorder (PTSD) and would never dream of harming my children, yet these women get off because of Post Partum Depression all the time. It's beyond ridiculous and it pisses me off. Yet someone can call the cops on me for having an anxiety attack in public. *sigh*

          5. I'm not a lawyer, but the level of insanity required isn't just being insane, it is being insane and not being capable of knowing what you are doing is right or wrong.

            Ted Bundy was arguably insane. But, he hid his actions and formulated plans for doing things to people in ways he could not be caught. He was therefore not insane from a legal framework point of view as he was cognizant his actions were wrong.

            1. There are two types of criminal insanity.

              The first is at the time of the crime. The Model Penal Code says that you are not responsible if you do not have the capacity to appreciate the criminality of your conduct or conform your conduct to the requirements of the law.

              The second is at the time of trial. You can't proceed with trial if the defendant lacks the capacity to understand the proceedings against him or assist in his own defense. If it's a temporary thing, you can proceed with the trial after it passes, but the defendant may be unconvictable if it is permanent.

          1. How do you get blood stains out of a clown costume?

            1. A hydrogen peroxide paste and a toothbr... Wait a minute!

        2. Yep. There's a difference between death penalty in theory and death penalty in practice.

  3. This could be like dope, IMHO, where many key conservative leaders (like William Buckley) were for legalization but the rank-and-file simply refused to consider it. Some time and public enlightenment needs to develop before you average conservative turns against the death penalty. For a couple reasons:

    1) The people on Death Row tend to be convicted of really nasty murders

    2) Anti-DP activism is associated with liberal hippie SWPL activists and lawyers.

    1. Oh, and reason #3:

      They think the alternative to the DP is getting sent to a prison where you lift weights in the rec room, take correspondence college courses, socialize with fellow offenders, etc.

      1. And maybe even get paroled at some point (though this is less of a risk).

        1. Cesare Beccaria, the Enlightenment-era reformer, wanted to replace the death penalty with compulsory hard labor for life.

          1. The convicted murderers would be working by the side of the road busting rocks, etc., where the public could see them and be deterred from crime.

            1. So, basically, a chain gang?

              1. Guess which song I'm linking to:


            2. The convicted murderers would be working by the side of the road busting rocks, etc., where the public could see them and be deterred from crime.

              So, a lifetime of capital punishment as a deterrent is the most libertarian solution?

              That notion seems like it's still a little doughy in the middle.

              1. Hey, I didn't say I *agreed* with Lil' Cesare.

      2. Plus they don't want their tax dollars spent on keeping these people alive. Even though I'm pretty sure they covered that on the Penn & Teller Bullshit episode about the Death Penalty, and life without parole actually ends up cheaper than the Death Penalty (because of all the appeals and time spent in prison anyway, not to mention putting someone to death is not cheap).

  4. "to fully consider the late arriving and complex legal questions at issue in this matter."


    1. They mean a real lawyer finally took interest in the case.

      1. They mean "we'll file theses last minute procedural for the indisputably guilty guy to delay the execution as long as possible so we can point out how cruel and unusual (and expensive!) it is to make the condemned wait soooo long.

    2. The anti-DP activists have adopted the strategy that "An execution deferred is an execution denied".

      So if they have half a dozen grounds for appeal, they bring them one at a time.

  5. 2) Anti-DP activism is associated with liberal hippie SWPL activists and lawyers getting a murderer sprung from prison and framing an innocent guy for the crime

    1. Woops, I thought DP meant double penetration.

      1. What is a donkey punch, Alex.

    2. Don't forget blanket paroles of convicted felons by (now) convicted felons.

      He granted clemency to people whom it would insult sub-humans to describe them as such, because he didn't have the time or stomach to pour through the cases.

      Names like Jacqueline Annette Williams and Fedell Caffey spring to mind.

    3. A chapter of the innocence project is featured in the podcast Serial. The head woman basically says that the best way to get someone exonerated is to find someone else to convict.

  6. Oddly, this case doesn't bother me so much. I oppose the death penalty, but this seems more like euthanasia. I'm not sure putting him in a supermax facility for the rest of his life is much of a mercy.

    I suppose there is also the argument that anyone who commits a heinous crime is by some definition psychotic. So, I don't see that as much of an argument against execution.

    To me, the primary argument against the death penalty is the fallibility of the government. This doesn't seem the best example of that.

  7. While I do see a slight shift in conservative attitudes about the death penalty, the largest shift has been in emphasis. In the 80s and 90s, there was not much give on the death penalty -- outside the conservative intelligentsia, you either supported it or your were a hippie reject. Now it is much more open, and someone who is anti-death penalty would not stir up much resentment amongst the base (especially if they linked it to a strong pro-life stance).

    1. "especially if they linked it to a strong pro-life stance"

      OK, but while I'm skeptical of the death penalty, I'm not going to throw other prolifers under the bus simply because they support that penalty. Their view is consistent in that they wish to defend *innocent* human lives, not the lives of convicted murderers. Maybe they're right to make that distinction, maybe they're wrong, but their position is consistent and reasonable.

      Concern-trolls like to attack these pro-death-penalty abortion opponents with "OMG hypocrite!" These sorts of tactics bore me, and they're actually meant to drive large numbers of prolifers out of the public square without confronting the troubling issues they raise about the protection of *innocent* human life.

      1. I find it somewhat ironic that the supporters of the death penalty who oppose abortion do so because the aborted lives are innocent, while the supporters of abortion who oppose the death penalty do so because an innocent person might be executed.

        1. supporters of abortion who oppose the death penalty do so because an innocent person might be executed.

          The definition of "person," in such a case, is usually the nub of the issue -- which actually entails no irony at all.

        2. And, of course, there is no possibility that a fetus/preborn person could be deserving of death under any moral or legal system.

          The same can't be said of capital criminals.

          1. Dishonest cops and prosecutors (redundant, I know) can get an innocent person convicted of a capital crime.

      2. I think someone can have a rational philosophy that would hold abortion is wrong but the death penalty can be OK, but I do think some of the anti-abortionists rhetoric and slogans invites a 'wait, what' moment. When one goes on and on about the 'sanctity of human life' and 'the culture of life' and then calls for someone to be put to death people naturally want to see that explained.

        1. I think someone can have a rational philosophy that would hold the death penalty is wrong but abortion can be OK, but I do think some of the anti-death penalty rhetoric and slogans invites a 'wait, what' moment. When one goes on and on about the 'sanctity of human life' and 'the culture of life' and then calls for aborting innocent life naturally want to see that explained.

          1. Interestingly enough, the 'anti-death penalty' groups don't seem to label themselves as 'pro-life.'

          2. Here ya go, sarc:
            A 35-year-old mass murderer possesses more rights than a 20-week-old protohuman with, as yet, no working software. You may disagree. But it's not difficult to understand.

            1. I understand the argument CN, but after seeing the ultrasound of my child, I simply cannot condone the practice of abortion. Though I would never support prohibiting it. I know, that's weird: Opposing something and not wanting to stamp it out with government violence. But that's just me.

              1. Not weird at all, but rather libertarian.

            2. CitNot....a 20 week old 'protohuman'? Not that. With no working software? Not that, either.

              The position is easy enough to understand. The mental contortions one must go through to come to that position is less easy to understand.

          3. We need to have the cops give out press releases that say "the young man/woman made a furtive movement while inside the womb" and about half of the pro-lifers will shrug and go home.

            Problem solved.

  8. While I appreciate the need of reason to run the full gamut of coverage during fundraising week, can we get some more boobies and pop culture to go with our nut punches? Call me a pervert, but I like a little titillation with my abuse.

    1. Boobie threads seem to come later in the afternoon.

      /fingers crossed

        1. I liked that linky.

        2. I wonder if any of them are libertarian?

          Oh, who am I kidding, that link proves WHY there are none.

  9. What does the fallibility of government have to do with 12 adult citizens deciding that evil be met with the ultimate penalty. Because the only time fallibility of the government might come into this issue is when the execution doesn't go as planned. That's a simple fix bring back the guillotine, or firing squad. Otherwise the government fallibility argument is just one more example of libertarian concern trolling and pretending to not understand conservative arguments. Conservatism is about a proper scope for the government in which those areas under the purview of the government are roundly endorsed by conservatives.

    There is a continuum of no state, weak state, strong state, weak total state, and strong total state. Conservatives have always endorsed option 3 or 5. The real problem is that libertarians like Sunderman and Gillespie seem to be just fine with option four as long as gays can get married and the cops rough up evangelicals. Obamacare is a small price to pay for cultural score settling and avoiding a government "shutdown."

      1. I think they call that tacit agreement because it sure doesn't look like an argument.

        1. + 1 false dichotomy

        2. Most of your substantive sentences were false. So I think in this case sarcasmic's response is more or less on target.

        3. it sure doesn't look like an argument.

          The point, of course, is that neither does what you wrote.

    1. I think Sam's second paragraph above is painfully insightful, and the source of a lot of the angst around cosmotarians.

      Libertarianism can only work if there are large chunks of society that are just plain off-limits to government. The alternative is a government that is allowed to go anywhere and do just about anything, and we are only arguing, at that point, about whether the government is doing what we would do if we were god-emperor.

      Unfortunately, you can be sure that a government for which nothing is off-limits will stick its nose into everything.

      1. "nd the source of a lot of the angst around cosmotarians."

        Good grief.

        1. Good grief.

          It's the Great Paleo, Charlie Brown!

          1. I missed Trick or Treating for this?

    2. Because the only time fallibility of the government might come into this issue is when the execution doesn't go as planned.


      I support the death penalty, but agree that the application of it by government actors needs to be fixed.

      Prosecutors and judges game the system for their own aggrandizement and political gain. Maybe that doesn't fit your definition of 'fallibility', but it allows for improper application of the ultimate punishment. Juries are fallible because the prosecution system can be corrupt.

      1.Completely separate processes to determine if the death penalty should stand after a jury has made it's determination. The standard needs to be higher than 'beyond a reasonable doubt', maybe 'absolute certainty'.

      2. Hold prosecutors and police personally liable for false inprisonments and convictions.

      3. Speed up the process of execution, once the higher standard is met.

      1. Left out a sentence at end of my 2nd paragraph

        "Here are some steps I'd institute to make the DP rarer, fairer, and more effective:"

    3. If 12 adult citizens decide your property needs to be redistributed in the name of fairness, does that suddenly become okay because 12 adult citizens agreed on it?

    4. That is pretty silly considering all the corruption and outright lying (you know, fallibility) that cops and prosecutors have engaged in over the years.

  10. The thing is, there are people who society needs dead. The notion that John Wayne Gacy needs to be kept alive and caged for some "society shouldn't kill" principal is barbaric. He needs to be dead. It's kinder to everyone involved. Or, if it isn't kinder to him, that's another argument in its favor.

    That said, no I do not trust the government, at most levels to wield this power fairly. Not while prosecutors get to pull the kind of crap the good folks at reason write about so often.

    So, I'm in favor of ending prosecutorial immunity (save, possible, along very narrowly defined lines), and doing the same for police, and breaking the power of police unions to protect thing and psychos. And in the meanwhile, I'm in favor of an armed and truculent citizenry.

    1. To that end I say we bring in even more Somalis and let them keep their guns. Even better lets bring over the Somalis that operate the weapons bazaars. That way we get the entrepreneurial and truculent Somalis. To paraphrase Dodgeball: If you can run a gun bazaar you can operate a food truck.

      1. Are there demons hiding in your furniture too?

        1. I am not sure why I laughed so hard at this...but I did.

        2. I ownder if Sam knows Agile Cyborg's ...er, supplier?

      2. You are, I take it, a lifetime member of the American Non Sequitur Society (Motto; we don't make sense, but we do like pizza).

    2. There's two objections to the DP:

      (1) The justice system should never kill anyone, ever. I tend to think that this world has people (and not just a few), who need killing.

      (2) Even if there are people who need killing, we can't trust the judicial system to get it perfectly right every single time. I struggle, myself, with the idea that the death penalty is so unique that it should only be allowed in a perfect world. If we don't trust the courts to execute someone, why would we trust them to imprison someone?

      1. If we don't trust the courts to execute someone, why would we trust them to imprison someone?

        There is a chance that a person wrongly imprisoned can be set free. Can't say that about someone who has been wrongly executed.

        1. But there's also a better chance that the murderer could be freed. You have to make a trade-off either way.

          1. Which is worse? A murderer being set free or an innocent person being executed?

            1. They're equally bad, in my mind. An innocent person being executed is murder. A murderer being set free is allowed to murder again, possibly more than once. The question is which will result in more unnecessary deaths with a given policy. I don't know that offhand.

              1. I think I've read or heard somewhere that most murderers are relatively low risk recidivists (because they're often 'heat of the moment' killings they regret).

                1. (because they're often 'heat of the moment' killings they regret)

                  That's not that reassuring. I've never murdered anyone, but I've done lots of things I regretted more than once. It's part of being human. Also, the recidivism rate only has to be higher than the rate of innocent people dying from the death penalty for the death penalty to be objectively worth it.

              2. A murderer being set free is allowed to murder again, possibly more than once.

                Depends. I used to work with a convicted murderer. Some gangbanger killed his brother, so he shot the guy right there on the street with witnesses. I doubt he'll commit murder again. Well, unless he's got another brother and a gangbanger kills him.

              3. Equally bad?
                So, it's better that one innocent man be executed than that two would-be murders go free? And to follow the logic, better that 1,000 innocent men be executed than 1,001 would be murderers go free?
                I guess I know where you stand on the "trolley problem."

            2. An innocent person being executed is way worse, but I still support some incidence of DP.

              Some people are irredeemable.

        2. There is no chance that someone who is wrongly imprisoned can get that time back.

          Both punishments are irretrievable, unlike, say, a fine.

      2. Well, for #2, the one thing is that the not guilty can be freed if imprisoned. And, as a practical matter, the money spent on interminable appeals is far greater, I bet, that imprisoning a guy for life.

        I'm opposed to the death penalty mostly because the process is so screwed up that we're definitely executing innocent people, possibly in fairly high numbers. Though I do think most charged and convicted of capital crimes are guilty of the offense charged.

      3. The finality of the death penalty makes it qualitatively different.

        1. You're able to give a man, wrongly sentenced to life his years, not to mention other personal violations, back?

          1. No, but you can do something to address the wrongs done to him. Dead people are less easy to please.

            1. Dead people are less easy to please.

              I never hear them complain.

              1. Verdi and Wagner delighted the crowds
                With their highly original sound.
                The pianos they played are still working,
                But they're both six feet underground.

                They're decomposing composers.
                There's less of them every year.
                You can say what you like to Debussy,
                But there's not much of him left to hear.

          2. No, but you can at least give him back his freedom, and possibly compensate him in some way if justified.

            1. And even in prison, it is possible to find something meaningful and fulfilling to do with your life. You may lose some of your freedoms, but you don't lose everything.

            2. So, if I say, "What'll it take to get you to spend a year in prison (with whatever acoutrements may come with that)?" There is a some sort of dollar amount or quality of life goal that would compel you to say, "Hell, yeah!" More importantly, do you think the majority of falsely imprisoned people get anything close to such due compensation?

              Nothing says freedom like falsely imprisoning a man, setting him free, and then charging the taxpayers so you can tell him he's been justifiably compensated whether he likes it or not.

              1. I don't see how that argues for killing him.

                1. I don't see how pointing out the worst possible outcome and considering it as the singular metric of success/failure in isolation from all the other metrics for success/failure is anything other than an emotional appeal.

                  Imprison everyone for life, for the children, right?

                  1. The system is chock-full of fallibility. While we can never really compensate a victim of a wrongful imprisonment, at least we can release them and give them some compensation. Releasing dead people is less effective, and they don't really need much money.

              2. It depends on the circumstances, but yeah, there probably is *some* dollar amount that I'd accept.

                But I don't see what that has to do with anything. I'm (obviously) not arguing that imprisoning innocent people is OK if you hand them a wad a cash at some point. I'm just saying that killing innocent people is worse.

              3. Well maybe those taxpayers should hold the cops and prosecution liable for their railroading of an innocent man.

                Oh, wait, we're not allowed to do that.

      4. If we libertarians can't trust the government to fix potholes, how can we trust it to execute people?

        1. +++
          I object to the phrase "we libertarians" though.

      5. IMO, there's a third and more fundamentally libertarian question;

        Is a death sentence a greater or lesser punishment (or more/less free, w/e), regardless of who carries it out, than life enprisonment?

        Prisons aren't free and de facto require management. Essentially infringing on those not imprisoned as well as those who are. Obv. there are people who should die and die quickly, that, IMO, isn't the debate.

        It's how hard do we tax free women and men to keep all manner of sociopaths in prison for life? How cruelly do we keep the sociopath imprisoned at the expense of the taxpayer?

  11. OT:
    Commentators at Kinja are surprised that the website "Racists getting Fired" could be weaponized by people with scores to settle. I ask who could have seen this coming? Also in addition I find this whole article incredibly rich coming from gawker media, as if they would ever stoop to such a low without fact checking first.

  12. Oh, and "Always look on the right side of the death."

  13. Again OT Via Judicial Watch:

    Judicial Watch announced today that on September 9, 2014, it received documents from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) revealing that the Obama administration paid Baptist Children and Family Services (BCFS) $182,129,786 to provide "basic shelter care" to 2,400 "unaccompanied alien children" (UAC) for four months in 2014. The BCFS budget included charges for $104,215,608 for UACs at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and an additional $77,914,178 for UACs at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.
    The start date of BCFS's contract was October 1, 2013, but it was signed on June 27, 2014. The project's end date of September 30, 2016, suggests that the Obama administration anticipates that the "surge" will continue until near the end of his presidency.
    According to the documents obtained by Judicial Watch, the cost to the American taxpayer was $86,846.34 per illegal alien child at Ft. Sill, for a total to $104,215,608 for 1,200 UACs from June 12 to October 18. The bill also included $2,648,800 in compensation for 30 members of the BCFS "Incident Management Team" (IMT), for a total to $88,293 per IMT member for the four-month period.

  14. "I will support the death penalty when the infallibility of human judgement has been demonstrated to me."

    -Marquis de Lafayette

    In other news, I hate the phrase "it's more art than science". There's a reason it's called "rocket science" and not "rocket art".

    1. I dunno, I saw some Afghans that had kind of a Picasso touch with setting up 107mm rockets...

    2. Could you not expand that to any punishment for any crime?

      Infallibility is the standard of proof or just the standard in sentencing?

      1. You can free an innocent person. You can't bring back the dead.

        This what makes the death penalty different from other punishments.

        1. I wouldn't discount the degree to which a person can never, ever, be made whole for imprisonment.

          Even if there is a qualitative difference, is it enough of a qualitative difference to matter?

          The question I think is still a valid one:

          How do you trust a government to imprison someone if you don't trust them to execute someone?

          This is all very subjective/values/philosophy driven, so I don't think there's a right answer. But there's some value in testing the principles you apply to the death penalty and seeing if they really are universal, and if not, whether that's OK.

          1. How do you trust a government to imprison someone if you don't trust them to execute someone?

            But, as I said above, this, in the predictably unpredictable way government works isn't necessarily the libertarian option.

            You need more prisons to hold more people longer. You leave police a greater leeway to enforce laws and imprison people whom they aren't committing to death sentences. You leave corrections officers and police unions free to influence politics in large swaths of New England to keep people (some of them innocent) behind bars at the cost of the innocent (behind bars or not).

            You end up with teenagers carrying 75 year sentences for stealing two bike and a car. IDK, that *knowingly* *sentencing* someone like that is more morally reprehensible than *accidentally* *executing* someone. Especially when you start considering *accidentally* *sentencing* and multiple someone's along all the permutations.

            1. Sry, I must be a little punch drunk, I read that quote three times before I realized I had it backwards.

    3. In other news, I hate the phrase "it's more art than science". There's a reason it's called "rocket science" and not "rocket art".

      Tell that to the guys who bought the refurbished Russian rocket.

      1. One of the leftover Soviet moon rockets was turned into playground equipment:


        1. One of the Saturn Vs is up on blocks down in Alabama and has raccoons living in it.

          Update: I believe they chased the raccoons out, bondoed up the dents and sprayed it with a coat of gray primer.
          There's some talk of eventually swapping in a crate motor and going bracket racing on Friday nights

          1. That story is from 2003 and is way out of date. Since then they built a building to put it in and restored it:


          2. Huntsville isn't like the rest of the state, for the record.

  15. Once again, I ask is it right to have that convicted killer's food, shelter, medical care, and recreation paid for by the victim's family? If the basis of libertarianism is NAP, then how is life imprisonment in any way defensible?

    The sad thing is that many libertarians are so obsessed with the evil of the state (and they probably still understate them), that they forget that there were evil men before there were governments. Without evil men, governments wouldn't be evil (because they wouldn't exist). An evil act can be done outside the government.

    The only true justice can come from "do unto others"* and "eye for an eye". If you assault, you should be beaten. If you murder, you should be killed. If you steal, you should repay (plus interest).

    Once again, I go to where most libertarians would ignore for the best example of this, the Old Testament. God specifically set up a system of law that showed you what to do in most circumstances and yet only actually punished you when you harmed another, hence the reason the rulers were Judges and not Kings. The Judges (as far as I can tell) would only decide between parties, so there had to have been a victim in order for there to be a crime. Yes, there were punishments for other crimes "against God" but still "every man did as he thought right".

    Even with this imperfect system (due to imperfect humans), God still told the people it was the best system there was and big government (Kings) were evil.

    1. Ask Todd Willinghgam about about your argument. Oh you cant because Texas killed him..

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  17. "In 1980, he moderated his position" - Sounds like any other politician I've ever known.

  18. This is to bad since so many people really need to be removed permanently from society.

  19. The comments about pro-death penalty folks finding individual cases to spare someone are spot on. The fact is that the vast majority of Americans believe that people that commit viscious (special circumstance) murders should be killed.

    The real reason that many Americans (not just conservatives) are bending on the issue is the extremem cost of the death penalty. The left has driven up the cost of executing someone to the point of ridiculousness, so it seems reasonable to be against the death penalty for fiscal reasons. That should not be the case. Instead folks should insist that appeals proceed quickly, and that when guilt is clear (DNA and other physical evidence) murderers are put to death as soon as possible.

    The only way I will ever give in on the death penalty is when it's substitute is solitary confinement, 24/7/365 until natural death. Since we know that will never happen...since liberals consider that to be cruel and unusual

  20. I was Pro Death penalty but I always said that if they ever execute an innocent man then I'd change my mind. In 2004 Texas killed Cameron Todd Willingham, a factually innocent man. The proof of innocence sat on Rick Perrys desk as Texas put this man to death.

    Every single person that worked for the Texas Govt should have been immediately fired and replaced. Instead Ricky Perry runs for POTUS...

    Im a Conservative but I dam sure dont trust these incompetent unionized low level public sector morons with my life or my families life after this episode.

    In the mean time Charlie Manson is getting married in California and charles Ing gets fatter everyday.

    The death penalty is a broken system.

    1. I too am against the death penalty, and have been for most of my adult life. But you lie when you say Willingham is "factually innocent", and I suspect you know that. There are some who doubt his guilt to be sure, and they may even be correct, but there is nothing that categorically proves they were wrong when they convicted, what you say is a lie. The anti-death penalty cause, of which I am a part, does not need to lie to make it's case. That is the tactic of the left, leave it to them.

  21. I've evolved from "pro" to mostly "anti". Some murders that are so evil and heinous that I'd hate to completely ban the practice. But generally, a long, long time in a prison cell suits me fine.

  22. This is a fascinating piece. As a conservative, I always found it a bit perplexing and indeed hypocritical in some respects that most conservatives favored capital punishment. It's a debate I've had with everyone in my family (large and all conservative) for many years, with the sole exception of my mother, who like me also opposed capital punishment. Setting aside the moral question of whether we truly have the right to put to death a person completely unable to harm others (or at least we have the capability to put them in such a situation), I never understood how conservatives could be OK with allowing the state, with whom Conservatism has always held a healthy, wise, and warranted distrust for, to put anyone to death. In fact, I thought the actions of North Carolina DA Mike Nifong in the Duke rape case a few years proved quite well that it is a grave mistake to give such an awesome, and misplaced, power to the state when it came to capital punishment.

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