Death Penalty

A Single Police Officer's Killing Is a Terrible Reason to Bring Back the Death Penalty

The governor of New Mexico uses emotional response to call for new executions.

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Gov. Martinez
N.M. State Government

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez wants to get ahead of those using the recent killings of police officers to transform their occupation into an "identity" to be protected by hate crime laws.

Exactly one officer in New Mexico has died in the line of duty this year—Jose Chavez, shot to death during a traffic stop. A fugitive from Ohio has been charged with murder in Chavez's death.

Martinez wants to use this death and the recent killing of a child as an excuse to restore the death penalty in New Mexico. But she would only want to use the death penalty for those who kill cops or children. From a statement to the Albuquerque Journal this week:

In a statement Wednesday, the two-term Republican governor told the Journal, "A society that fails to adequately protect and defend those who protect all of us is a society that will be undone and unsafe.

"People need to ask themselves, if the man who ambushed and killed five police officers in Dallas had lived, would he deserve the ultimate penalty? How about the heartless violent criminals who killed Officer Jose Chavez in Hatch and left his children without their brave and selfless dad? Do they deserve the ultimate penalty? Absolutely."

Martinez, a former prosecutor, is preparing legislation to introduce next year. The Journal notes that she actually already tried to restore the death penalty in 2011 and failed, so this is obviously an existing position that's looking for a news hook to advance. The Journal also notes that the entire legislature is up for election this year, and so the timing of this announcement is clearly intended to make this a campaign issue.

So far, overall police deaths while on duty are down when compared to 2015, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, but yes, deaths from gunfire are up significantly when compared to last year. In 2015, 39 officers were killed by gunfire. We're already at 36 for 2016.

That is, nevertheless, a remarkably small number, and it's absurd to even consider the idea of reinstalling a punishment method that has undoubtedly led to the government-ordered deaths of innocent people as an emotional response to the deaths of a single police officer and an 11-year-old girl.

And even if New Mexico were to restore the death penalty only in the cases of the murders of police officers and children, the hate crimes example I mentioned up at the top is instructive. Once the state of New Mexico has the ability once again to execute people for crimes, there's absolutely no reason for anybody to believe that the penalty will stay limited to such a small group of offenders. It's unlikely that anybody who pushed forward the concept of hate crime laws would envision that they'd be applied based on somebody's occupation and more specifically to protect people who themselves have been granted great power by the state itself. And yet, here we are.

And libertarians were doing so well with Martinez, too. She, most notably, signed last year legislation that implemented the toughest reforms to police asset seizure and forfeiture programs in the country, requiring law enforcement agencies to actually get convictions for crimes before they could take and keep people's assets and property. Not that police are necessarily complying, but still.

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  1. “”People need to ask themselves, if the man who ambushed and killed five police officers in Dallas had lived, would he deserve the ultimate penalty? How about the heartless violent criminals who killed Officer Jose Chavez in Hatch and left his children without their brave and selfless dad?”

    How about the piece of shit that shot Ramarley Graham while he was flushing his weed down the toilet?

    Absolutely.

  2. A society that fails to adequately protect and defend those who protect all of us is a society that will be undone and unsafe.

    Umm….

    1. Yeah I had trouble with that one too. How does killing a murderer make anyone any safer than just locking him up?

      1. *places hand on sidearm*

        Pay me to keep him locked up and I’ll show you.

      2. Well for one, it’s final, while the other is an off chance possibility (NY escapees anyone?!)

        Two, fuck safety I demand righteous retribution be exacted against murderous villains… This is where everyone counters with a lifetime of prolonged torture keeps our hands clean. “We can’t descend to their level! All life is sacred.”

        And that is the crux for me; unless one effective argues from a religious angle than nobodies life is sacred and nobodies life matters in any meaningful way, fucking narcissists. Tens of thousands die every single day from presidents to paupers, from children to hot joggers to cops to blah blah blah, none of it matters, murders know that more than most.

        Hang’em high, burn the body, abolish the records of their existence and do not tell their stories.

        1. I thought Doctor Manhattan already dissembled you at the sub-atomic level back in 1985.

          1. My zeal is tempered to a point. I’m not the sort to, “Never compromise, even in the face of Armageddon.”

            But when a mass murderer can lay waste to dozens of children and the state tells me that justice is for this man to be sent to a psyche ward and doped up with the same drugs they’d send black men to prison for then I say: FUCK JUSTICE! IT DOES NOT EXIST.

            It is good that all men must die, else evil would live forever.

            1. Okay. Compromise. No death penalty but 20 minutes tied up with the victims’ families armed with baseball bats. Hey, if he was Steven Seagall he’d survive.

            2. Another option? Drop him into an ISIS camp with a picture depicting Mohammed at a gay bar.

      3. Because he’s still breathing there is the chance that he can kill again. He should not have any more chances to do anything than his victims have.

        1. Then cops who kill deserve the same punishment.

        2. So what? Are we going to allow the government to have the power to murder people who have already been captured based on extremely unlikely possibilities that could probably be solved in other ways? Then there’s the chance of murdering innocents. This isn’t libertarian at all.

  3. Make a noose and tie it tight;
    A feast for crow come tonight

    1. So you say, up until the point the noose is around your neck.

      1. So it is the worry of innocent men or yourself being unjustly hanged that would have you disallow the state this power? That’s understandable.

        The thought of innocent men being murdered by the state fills me with wrath and loathing. But! Do you not agree that sometimes insurmountable evidence exists of a murderer’s guilt? I’m not advocating the death of vicious men willie-nillie; but I do accept that sometimes there is no doubt in the matter and evil should hang, or be shot, or decapitated in a single stroke — not tortured, not face the fury of the mob, a life in solitary — just destroyed and forgotten, like the worthless pieces of shit they are.

        When the Arizona representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot I recall a police interview that said because the shooting happened during a live speech and so many cameras were rolling that the police were able to piece together footage of each victim getting lit up by the gunman. They said it was like watching an action movie when they had all the footage compiled. And yet this fucking dog, whose name is not worth remembering or acknowledging, still lives. He gets his infamy, he gets to peddle his manifesto, he gets three courses a day, to read books, TO JERK OFF IN HIS BUNK AT NIGHT, SEE MA AND PA WHEN THEY COME TO VISIT — and some would have me call that justice. *spits*

        Apologies to the commentariat — evil and what we do with it is the only issue I can think of that is actually triggering for me.

        1. No, I agree.

          I’ve said it before, some folks just need killin’.

          1. A lot of people believe that some folks need killin’. Folks like murderers, rapists, terrorists, rioters, Muslims, queers, Democrats, Republicans, foreigners, immigrants, Giants fans, atheists, heretics, anyone except Muslims, Jews, politicians, banksters, blacks making furtive movements, law-breaking blacks, black children with toy guns, and uppity blacks.

            Reasonable people agree that we’ll have nothing to worry about once we kill all of the threats to society.

            1. And Raider fans. Don’t forget Raider fans.

      2. I love these arguments that measure the validity of a law based on the proposition that it may occasionally end up being applied unjustly.

        Given that there’s no such thing as a law that has not had an unjust application, you have to wonder whether they support simply abolishing all laws.

        The measure of a law is not whether it will have an occasional bad outcome. All of them do. No one has ever met a legislative body that is sufficiently omniscient to account for every possible circumstance or outcome a given law might prouduce. The measure of a law is whether on balance the good outcomes outweigh the bad ones such that you’re better off having the law than not having it.

        I will not opine on whether the death penalty more often produces good results than bad ones, but the fact that a law may occasionally produce a bad outcome is not an argument for abolishing it.

        1. You can compensate people who have had their money taken or spent time i jail under an unjustly executed law. It’s more difficult to do that with innocent people who have been executed.

          1. But yet, no one seems to be able to produce a clear-cut case that that has actually occurred. No, don’t bother posting a link to the case of the guy in Texas. At best, that case is inconclusive.

            1. Your faith in the efficacy of government is showing.

              1. If you’re going to recommend something useful be abolished on the grounds that it might produce dire consequences, it might be helpful to calculate the chances of those consequences actually materializing. A helpful way to do that is to examine how many times those consequences have materialized in the past.

                When you can’t produce a single clear-cut case of those consequences actually materializing, I submit your argument is resting on pretty shaky ground.

                1. it might be helpful to calculate the chances of those consequences actually materializing.

                  While that may well be helpful in an anti-death penalty marketing sort of way, any such statistics built will be largely ignored by the vast majority of people due to the ease in which such a study could be forced to show any outcome the authors wished.

                  I think instead a compelling argument against capital punishment should only require enough evidence to deduce that while the number of times this may have happened is and will forever be unknown, one can say with strong confidence that it has happened and the potential to happen again is > 0.

                  As others have said, an execution is a tough to reverse. Given that and given I think we have the proof above, this should be enough to have most in support of reform.

                  1. Continued…

                    Instead of any reform though, we’ll just end capital punishment. Which assuming innocents have been and will be executed, is a moral good, but fails to address the real issues with bad convictions.

                    As if you were convicted of something you didn’t do, I’m not sure you’d be a ton angrier if you were sentenced to die in 10 years versus sentenced to die in prison many, many years later (assuming you weren’t exonerated).

                    Once we remove the death penalty, we’ll also remove automatic appeals and what not, making it less likely that wrongly convicted ever receive justice.

                    Not that this is you, but… the anti-death push is yet another good idea, being done mostly for the wrong reasons, ending in having only minor/incidental impact on the actual problem – making it just the kind of thing for today’s society.

                    It’s certainly an idea that can garner a lot of Facebook likes, therefore it must be valuable and an intrinsic good.

            2. Seems to be a shitload of them.

              1. I note that in every one of those cases since 1940, the defendant, was either a.) not legally exonerated or b.) not executed. Not sure that makes much of an argument for unjust application of the death penalty.

        2. Plus I disagree that the measure of a law is not whether it will have an occasional bad outcome. That’s exactly the “you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs.” argument.

          1. As I pointed out, all laws have occasional unjust outcomes. Are you proposing we get rid of them all?

            1. Nope. Just be very sparing of how we make new ones.

  4. “Martinez, a former prosecutor,…”

    Has anyone ever happened across a former prosecutor running for or in political office who wasn’t a complete turd? Everyone I’ve studied during an election year seems to care much more about resume padding by getting the most convictions possible, rather than dispensing equal and fair justice.

    1. See: Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire.

      When we libertarians are writing the Constitution for the Second American Republic, one article will state that anyone who serves in the courts cannot run for political office for 10 years after they leave that position. You can see that justice is done, or run for office. Not use one as a springboard to the other.

      1. I could get onboard with that.

  5. “So far, overall police deaths while on duty are down when compared to 2015, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, but yes, deaths from gunfire are up significantly when compared to last year. In 2015, 39 officers were killed by gunfire. We’re already at 36 for 2016.”

    Only 4 heart attacks this year (so far) vs 17 for last year. Are they laying off the donuts?

    1. Naw, clearly, donut intake is up — the sugar high explains a decrease in risk aversion, which explains an increase in deaths due to gunfire, which explains a lower number of heart attacks, since you can’t have a heart attack if you’ve already been shot dead.

  6. Equal protection under the law. RIP

  7. Maybe the shooting of the cop could have been a teachable moment.

    “[Walton] has an opportunity as a parent to use this as a learning experience. A teachable moment for his daughter ? a valuable lesson about the community and interactions with law enforcement,” Cecil said. “But instead he chose to make it a negative in a very irresponsible way.”

    Father and daughter learn something valuable about police/citizen interaction and get criticized for sharing what they learned on Facebook.

    Note the obligatory “look at things from the cop’s perspective” without the countervailing “look at things from the innocent man’s perspective”.

    Also note I’m sure this has been posted on HyR sometime in the last couple of days, but I didn’t see it so I’m posting it anyways.

    1. “It’s a scary situation. But in light of that, this is a positive story. ? This case is a prime example of how things should be done.”

      …What?

    2. Also, bringing this to national attention and reaffirming what a bunch of awful shits you are: good job, DPS.

    3. I love the asshole that tries to make this about gun control.

      Cause you know, cops have to fear for their lives from law abiding citizens.

    4. Let’s not go jumping to conclusions here. Remember we’re only hearing one side of the story. We don’t actually know what happened before the video. These good officers may very well have had reason to fear for their safety, and had to make a split-second decision in a life-or-death situation. If you’ve never worn the uniform, you have no idea what it’s like and really have no business spreading misinformation and your misguided opinions about matters you know nothing about. Let’s grow up and just wait for a full and fair investigation, which will conclude that the police were following standard procedure, even if unfortunate mistakes were made in this tragic situation. These brave heroes are, after all, under-staffed, under-paid, and under-appreciated and their training budget was severely slashed in the latest round of budget-cutting.

      1. Your channeling of Dunphy is truly disturbing.

        1. And yes, I realize your comment was made with tongue firmly in cheek.

          1. I call that paragraph “duct tape”. It’s good for any discussion of police brutality.

  8. Martinez, a former prosecutor
    and currently a soulless pandering cunt…

  9. Death penalty for you, and you, not you, you, you, you, not you.

    1. You get a death! And you get a death! Everybody gets a death!

    2. It’s really funny to read this in Madeline Kahn’s voice.

  10. So are Libertarians against the death penalty in general or just against the petty, arbitrary, and often unjust way the state doles out death?

    1. I’d guess most are against it because the govt can’t be trusted to keep it’s filthy, corrupt hands off capital punishment and turning it into a political weapon. At least that’s my opinion.

      1. In this I see no particular distinction between this and punishment in general, or for that matter any other of its functions that libertarians might want to consider legitimate. I think another argument needs to be made if capital punishment is to be opposed on principle.

        1. It’s the permanency of the death penalty that makes it unpalatable when it’s being carried out in the system we have. I personally wouldn’t oppose it on principle as a form of just punishment in a fair system. But as PM points out, there are a lot of diverse views out there.

          1. “I personally wouldn’t oppose it on principle as a form of just punishment in a fair system.”

            And therein lies the rub. I would have to do some digging later to find the recent studies on the issue but if I remember correctly they stated that over the last 25 years up to 4% of executions in this country where doled out to innocent men/women do to sloppy police work or outright prosecutorial corruption.

            Some may disagree but I personally find that number far too high for the state to be entrusted with the power of life and death over the citizenry.

    2. Runs the gamut. Usually both. In Libertopia, apparently if you’re a bad shot or the other guy’s got you outgunned, you would be arrested for a criminal offense such as murder by private police (at the victim’s expense, or the victim’s estate expense), tried in a private court (at the victim’s expense, or the victim’s estate’s expense), then ordered by the private court whose authority you are under absolutely no obligation to recognize to pay a nominal fee to the victim or the victim’s estate and released. Restitution-only.

      1. I do believe we have the most epic straw man in all of history.

        1. Except that a restitution-only justice system has been proposed by many anarchist and ancap thinkers, and is the only type of non-state resolution consistent with that philosophy. Of course, it’s easier to mindlessly recite buzzwords you don’t comprehend than to actually discuss the subject.

    3. I get the impression it’s divided, if leaning towards totally against. It’s probably another of the things where the slightly left-libertarian Reason staff probably diverge a touch from the slightly right-libertarian commenters.

    4. Many libertarians, here at least, are comfortable with killing a person who has broken into their home and stolen something. I don’t think they’re against the principle of the death penalty.

      1. There’s a big difference. The state’s obligation here is to protect the law-abiding while respecting the humanity of those who need to be deprived of their rights. The state should keep the rights deprivation to the minimum required.

      2. That’s not the death penalty, but defending yourself or your property against and imminent threat. Int he case of the death penalty, the person has already been captured and put in prison.

  11. Reserving a particular punishment on the basis of the identity group of the victim is stupid (and probably not legal). Which says absolutely nothing about the wisdom of the death penalty generally, only the particular pandering of this proposal.

  12. There’s already a death penalty for killing cops. They just don’t wait for you to see a judge before serving your sentence to you.

    1. Hell, there’s a death penalty for not OBEYING cops.

  13. So are Libertarians against the death penalty in general or just against the petty, arbitrary, and often unjust way the state doles out death?

    I oppose the death penalty in general except for corruption, malfeasance and/or abuse of authority by agents of the government (police in particular).

  14. I see no particular reason that a minarchist should not support the death penalty. But yes, this idea of only supporting it for cop killers–let alone in a general atmosphere of characterizing offenses against cops as “hate crimes,” predictable and even “sensible” as that is in the context of the perverse concept of hate crime in the first place–should give us all the creeps.

    Expand it to more crimes? If that meant restoring it to its former state, in which its appropriateness is governed only by severity, one could only hope. But yes, also possible is that it would be expanded the way so much law is–on an ad hoc basis according to whether this or that group finds favor. Especially if the left learns to love capital punishment again, unlikely as it seems from here.

    1. I see no particular reason that a minarchist should not support the death penalty.

      The State cannot be trusted with the power to kill people.

      1. What exactly about the power to punish in general, or the power to defend against foreign invaders, or the power to tax for necessary public goods, etc., has the state demonstrated it can be trusted with? This is an argument for anarchism, not an argument that the death penalty should be considered a particularly illegitimate form of state violence.

        1. Indeed, it is an argument for anarchism. (A fairly unimpeachable one, from where I sit.)

          In the meantime, let’s restrain the state where it can do the most harm.

  15. The average number of police officer deaths from police shootings between 2006 and 2016 is about 50/year. 2015 was the second lowest year. Yes, 2016 is trending to be more than 2015 but not trending to be too much above average (so far).

  16. Killing a police man is a crime against the state, and that is more heinous than killing one of we the people.

  17. A fugitive from Ohio has been charged with murder in Chavez’s death.

    We’re all fugitives from Ohio, really.

  18. The Journal notes that she actually already tried to restore the death penalty in 2011 and failed, so this is obviously an existing position that’s looking for a news hook to advance

    You know who else uses ‘news hooks’ to advance previously failed legislation?

  19. You know who else uses ‘news hooks’ to advance previously failed legislation?

    A majority of politicians and those they pander to?

    1. Way to screw up the joke by not replying correctly, P Brooks.

      1. Shall I report my comment as spam, spam, spam, and spam?

  20. It’s interesting that she uses both ends of a spectrum to implement the death penalty. The murder of a child (the most vulnerable and helpless) and a police officer (the least vulnerable and most well armed).

    1. Well, since invoking “the children” or “our heroes in blue” are the two quickest ways to convince freedom-loving Americans to sign over every right they have remaining, the interest lies less with Ms. Martinez than with the public she is appealing to.

  21. Justice is debt repayment, period. Steal $100, repay the victim $100 (perhaps plus expenses). An eye for an eye if the victim wants to collect it.

    A murderer takes a life and he owes the victim, the victim’s next of kin, that life. Give the murderer a fair jury trial and if convicted, let him beg the victim’s NOK for his life. If the victim’s NOK takes his life, justice is done. If the victim’s NOK takes something less than that, pure justice isn’t done but who am I (a third party) to argue with it? If the victim’s NOK completely forgives the debt, I don’t have any say in it.

    Should there be a death penalty? Yes, though the government should do nothing, but at most provide for the trial.

    1. What you’re talking about sounds an awful lot like Sharia Law. Just sayin’

      And what about cases where a husband shoots his wife and then kills himself? Does his estate get stuck with the “bill”?

      1. What you’re talking about sounds an awful lot like Sharia Law.

        There is much in Sharia law, you know, the parts we complain about, where someone is “punished” and there is no actual victim. There are other parts where the “punishment doesn’t fit the crime”, like cutting off a hand for stealing. If you steal an apple, you owe the victim an apple, not a hand.

        And what about cases where a husband shoots his wife and then kills himself? Does his estate get stuck with the “bill”?

        It’s a bit difficult to punish a dead person, so I’ll say the closest thing to “justice” is already done. The man already paid for his crime.

    2. Meanwhile, I remain unconvinced that government is morally and practically situated to dispense “justice” at all, however you define it.

      It might be that monetary restitution — i.e. wergeld — is the most civilized legal punishment yet devised.

      1. Consider: is a death penalty _really_ restitution for a murder? If not, can it be meaningfully called “justice”?

  22. It seems to me that the mentality behind allowing extraordinary punishment for those who hurt children would lead to harsher punishment for cops who abuse the people they’re sworn, trusted and paid to protect. Although if police insist on putting themselves in the same protected category as children, that’s as good a reason as any to disarm them. Responsible adults don’t allow children to wander about unsupervised with deadly weapons in their possession; adults who want to act like children shouldn’t be allowed to either.

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