Death Penalty

If Bill Barr Brings Back Federal Executions, Innocent People Will Die

We need to leave ourselves room for making good when we inevitably convict the wrong people.

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Why should we be concerned about U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr's proposal last week to resume federal executions for some particularly horrendous crimes? Because there's no reason to believe that the flaws that originally cast doubt on capital punishment have become less of an issue.

In his announcement of resumed executions, Barr focuses on "bringing justice to victims of the most horrific crimes." He wants to begin with prisoners "convicted of murdering, and in some cases torturing and raping, the most vulnerable in our society—children and the elderly."

There's no doubt that we're discussing horrific acts. But can we be sure that we've arrested, tried, and convicted the actual perpetrators?

The proportion of death row inmates executed to those set free isn't exactly encouraging. Since 1972, 1,500 people have been executed in the United States. Over that same time, "166 former death-row prisoners have been exonerated of all charges and set free," according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Extrapolating from the cases in which death row inmates were proven to have not committed the crimes of which they were convicted, a 2014 study estimated that 4.1 percent of all death row inmates could be exonerated. "We conclude that this is a conservative estimate of the proportion of false conviction among death sentences in the United States," the authors added.

That's an awful lot of people cooling their heels behind bars for crimes they didn't commit.

When former Illinois Gov. George Ryan declared a moratorium on executions, in 2000, he decried his state's "shameful record of convicting innocent people and putting them on Death Row. He said he wouldn't allow executions "until I can be sure that everyone sentenced to death in Illinois is truly guilty."

Capital punishment was formally abolished in Illinois in 2011, inspired by a Chicago Tribune exposé of the human error and malice plaguing the criminal justice system. In the years leading to Ryan's moratorium, 13 state inmates condemned to die had been exonerated instead. Nobody knows how many prisoners who had been executed had not really committed the crimes for which they'd been convicted.

Nothing quite so earthshaking brought about the unofficial suspension of federal executions in 2003, but similar concerns have dogged the practice for every jurisdiction in the country.

Those concerns about getting it right—imprisoning and killing only criminals guilty of the crimes for which they were convicted—continue to cast a shadow over Barr's plan to resume capital punishment, starting with judicial killings of five inmates.

Nationally, the death penalty was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1972's Furman v. Georgia over concerns that it was applied in a capricious and discriminatory manner. Further limitations followed in later court cases. And jurisdictions that wished to retain execution as an option reworked their laws in the years that followed to bring their administration of capital punishment into line with the Supreme Court's standards.

The death penalty was restored at the federal level in 1988, and three executions followed: Timothy McVeigh, in 2001: Juan Raul Garza, in 2001; and Louis Jones, in 2003. Without fanfare, the Jones execution was the last such killing by the federal government until—it seems—whatever results from Barr's recent announcement.

The quiet federal moratorium occurred as the criminal justice system across the country came under renewed scrutiny. News reports and independent investigators revealed a litany of tales about incompetent legal representation, lying police, prosecutors suppressing evidence, mentally challenged defendants, dubious crime lab standards, and more. Using relatively new DNA evidence, the Innocence Project boasts of exonerating 365 convicts to-date.

Some of the flaws in the criminal justice system that lead to false convictions are probably inevitable in anything designed by and for imperfect human beings. Others seem fixable, but remain broken because of a lack of political will. In either case, that's plenty of reason to hesitate before imposing an irrevocable penalty on people who might well have been misidentified or even railroaded into convictions for crimes of which they are innocent.

At least something can be done to make things right for the wrongfully convicted and imprisoned. "The federal government, the District of Columbia, and 35 states have compensation statutes of some form," notes the Innocence Project. These jurisdictions offer (often inadequate) monetary compensation, public apologies, counseling, and assistance in reentering society.

In other cases freed inmates have to fight in court to win some redress for the years of their lives stolen from them by the state. But at least they're free and often gain public sympathy.

What do we have to offer innocent people killed by the state because of false convictions for crimes? A lovely bouquet won't do it.

While the evidence suggests that the system is pretty good about getting it right, we do get it wrong. We have lots of room for improvement in the system, including better standards for forensics labs, disincentives to cops to lie and to prosecutors to conceal exculpatory evidence, better legal representation for defendants, and so much more. All of that needs to be done to improve a system that has the inherent power to destroy lives as completely as the the worst criminals it confines do.

Even then, however, we'll never get it completely right. There's always going to be room for malice, incompetence, and corruption. That's why we should punish people for committing the sort of horrendous crimes that Barr highlights while leaving ourselves room to make good when we inevitably convict innocent people.

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  1. Yes, government and its functionaries are fallible. But when life and death are on the line, with the finality of execution, don’t you think our criminal justice system is putting extra effort in? Sure, there are malicious prosecutions, sloppy police work, biased judges and juries being lied to.

    Wait, what was my point?

    1. My individualism has always been driven by two prongs: the theoretical (self-ownership) and pragmatic (government is incompetent). One real eye-opener on the pragmatic front was when Illinois dropped the death penalty; memory says more people had left death row because they had been framed than had been executed. And that was just the ones found out! Even if every single guy who had been framed was a scumbag who was guilty of something equally bad, that still means the real criminals were getting off scot-free. I suppose they all could have been guilty of each others’ crimes, but the sheer incompetency and cover-up was a surprise to me. Police and prosecutors should not be able to hide their incompetence behind state murder.

    2. When someone is executed it is always because an INNOCENT PERSON ALREADY DIED.

      1. Absolutely correct!!! However, that does not make the death penalty a good thing…..We know they execute the wrong person on a somewhat regular basis!

      2. Ah, good point. For it is well known that when we appease the gods with human sacrifices of INNOCENT PEOPLE other than the murderer, the prior INNOCENT PEOPLE ALREADY DEAD are returned to us, alive and well.

        Why are we screaming this, btw?

    3. there’s no reason to believe that the flaws that originally cast doubt on capital punishment have become less of an issue.

      I don’t think that’s true.
      In fact, if it WERE true, the “Innocene Project” wouldn’t be getting anyone released because today’s forensics would be no better than 30 years ago.
      That’s not to say we shouldn’t add in extremely heavy penalties for abuse of the system. If a prosecutor doesn’t reveal exculpatory evidence, for example, they should go to prison. If a cop lies, same thing. If someone fabricates evidence, or intentionally falsifies a lab result or in any way acts to taint the facts, they should be severely punished.
      But the main problem with jury trials is that the people on the jury generally aren’t terribly bright. I think back to the Zimmerman trial – a clear case of self-defense. A case where a gangsta-wannabe thug attacked someone, told them they were “goint to die”, knocked them down and began pounding their head on concrete – and got shot for their trouble.
      Charges should never have been filed. And three of the women on that jury wanted to convict. That’s just stupid. Criminally stupid.

    1. are you saying JD is Remy?

    2. You can’t credibly claim that a reinstatement of the death penalty means people will die?

      1. You can’t credibly claim that innocent people will die as a result of 5 executions of indisputably guilty psychopaths who have had 2 decades of appeals.

        1. No matter how guilty these five examples are, you know and everyone knows that subsequent executions will include plenty of framed innocent people. Why bother with a solid investigation and fair prosecution when you can just pick some local scumbag who’s embarrassed you and cover it up with an execution?

              1. Unlikely going forward. Forensic technology is pretty advanced anymore. It’s a lot harder to railroad an innocent person on a capital offense these days.

                1. “Unlikely going forward. Forensic technology is pretty advanced anymore. It’s a lot harder to railroad an innocent person on a capital offense these days.”

                  Liars are just as good at lying about good data as they are about bad data.
                  One is enough; the state has too much power already.

                  1. And people can get convicted without much physical evidence. Coerced confessions are a thing too. And eye witnesses are wrong a lot.

              2. Since he said “plenty,” your response is irrelevant. It is also worthless, because there is no social policy (positive or negative) that will not result in at least one innocent death.

          1. Abolishing the death penalty means that scumbags that deserve to die will get out of prison and kill more innocent people, too.

            1. A real plus for progressives. They live for that shit for some reason.

            2. False dilemma. There’s a thing called “life imprisonment with no chance of parole”, dingus.

              Is it possible to be this stupid? Or are you being willfully mendacious?

            3. Totally agree, Finrod. Plus, why should taxpayers have to foot the 100’s of $K per year to keep these scumbags locked up. It is still a relatively rare event when someone is wrongly convicted of 1st degree murder, particularly a heinous crime where torture and/or the murder of a child is involved.

          2. “Plenty of framed innocent people?” Please cite just one case in which a prisoner was executed and later found to be indisputably innocent. Not a case which is still being disputed, nor a case where liberals are sill beating a dead and decaying horse, but one where there is general agreement that the person executed was innocent. If, indeed, “4.1% of death row inmates could be exonerated,” there ought to be cases all over the place, but I’ve heard of only one — and that was in England in the 1790s. One man disappeared and another, who was known to be on the outs with him, was convicted and executed for his murder. (If I remember correctly, after a totally unidentifiable body washed ashore and was assumed to be the victim.) The “victim” returned after a wholly spontaneous five-year hitch as a sailor and was horrified to learn that his enemy had been killed by the state. Don’t quote that one to me.

            1. It’s difficult to perform DNA exoneration on the already dead. But plenty of folks have been exonerated before they were killed. Do you really think you’ve made a compelling argument here? If so, you must be actually retarded.

          3. Rueben Cantu was executed in Texas while Bush was governor and Alberto Gonzales A.G. He was clearly framed. Neither gave a shit. I was very familiar with the case of James Joseph Richardson, who was convicted of killing his seven children in 1967, was on Death Row in Florida until the Furman decision reversed all such sentences in the U&.S. in 1972, yet he did 21 years before the obvious, the killer was the babysitter who killed two of her husbands, and the intervention of Janet Reno, set him free. I sat through six weeks of a murder trial in Albuquerque in 2014, where the federal government tried to get the death penalty on Charlie McCluskey, who was terminally ill, spending well over $12 million on the effort, for no possible reason save career advancement for the FBI agent in charge and the chief prosecutor. (McCluskey died 2 1/2 years later.) There are over 50 condemned federal prisoners awaiting execution in Terre Haute, and one woman in the Carswell Medical facility near Dallas, Texas, and all may die of disease and old age.

        2. “You can’t credibly claim that innocent people will die as a result of 5 executions of indisputably guilty psychopaths who have had 2 decades of appeals.”

          Everybody who was ever on death row was considered at the time to be an indisputably guilty psychopath who had had too many chances a appeal. Even those that were executed despite being innocent and those that were proven innocent. The system doesn’t have the perfect ability to discriminate. That’s the problem.

          1. Everybody who was ever on death row was considered at the time to be an indisputably guilty psychopath who had had too many chances a appeal.

            It’s ‘many’ chances at appeal–not ‘too many’

            Even those that were executed despite being innocent

            Does anyone have a cite for this?

            and those that were proven innocent.

            So, the process DOES actually catch wrongful convictions.

            The system doesn’t have the perfect ability to discriminate. That’s the problem.

            It seems to be working. AND there are extra-systemic organizations that fill in the gaps.

            1. Hey, thousands of convicted people have been exonerated and the number is climbing every year, but the system is perfect as long as it’s happening to other people and not you. Right?

              1. Do you not grasp that the exonerations mean that innocent people are being freed?

                That the process of appeals, combined with the actions of extra systemic groups ARE the fail safe?

                1. “That the process of appeals, combined with the actions of extra systemic groups ARE the fail safe?”

                  Except that it’s not a fail safe in cases that it fails to correct. Which is non-zero.

                  And you clearly don’t understand the process of appeals and what the focus of appeals actually is.

                  1. Yeah, I don’t know why this is tough for people.

                    The incidences where the Innocence Project is going to be able to win exoneration are exceedingly rare. Usually they rely on DNA testing – so you have to have a case that relies on DNA.
                    Most murders don’t have DNA evidence. Heck, even some rape cases don’t have DNA.

                    But of that subset, the number of exonerations is quite high. Which implies that other crimes and cases probably have a similar rate of error. And even then, that would only include people who could be proven innocent…. there are probably others that were factually innocent even though there was a solid case against them.

              2. Hi idiotic strawman.

              3. Exonerations for general convictions need to be separated from those for capital crimes. The appeals process for capital convictions is extensive. Most death row inmates take circa fifteen years to execute. So the error rate is very low.

            2. Does anyone have a cite for this?

              Well the state stops all legal adjudication of innocence once they kill someone. Likewise, journalists or other investigators lose the ability to gather exculpatory evidence so issues of an executed innocent often take decades to emerge.

              But here’s a list of 15 people already executed (9 TX, 3 GA, 1 each FL, MO, VA) where there is, at minimum, enough of a question about the way the trial was conducted to raise doubts as to whether they would have been convicted in the first place.

              Proving actual innocence is of course near impossible unless Perry Mason was your attorney and managed to get a confession from someone else on the witness stand.

    3. Except in this case it’s unambiguously true that people are going to die as a direct result of the policy.

      1. Which, of course, is not what the headline or article states, but great attempt at sophistry. It works even better if your IQ is above 75.

        1. It works even better if your IQ is above 75.

          How would you know?

          Innocent people dying is one of the major reasons people oppose capital punishment. The fact that saying that people will die because of a policy or lack thereof is often stupid and hyperbolic does not mean that it always is.

          1. Yes, to be sure, sometimes the slippery slope isn’t actually a fallacy because the slope actually is just ever so slippery.

          2. Innocent people being murdered is one of the major reasons people approve of capital punishment.

            1. How many death row inmates in federal prison (which is what we are talking about here). Have truly questionable convictions currently?

          3. The state kills innocent people every day. Heck, ACA kills innocent people. Prohibition of nuclear power plants kills innocent people. Why this sudden obsession with it in this case? Among the many ways in which the state kills innocent people, executions are probably one of the least significant ones.

            1. You don’t see a distinction between direct, deliberate killing and policies that change the statistical likelihood of deaths on the margins? Come on.

              1. How is the accidental killing of innocent people a “direct, deliberate killing”?

                1. This is the dumbest attempt at a word game I’ve ever seen. “Accidental” refers to their conviction (implicitly). The killing is self-evidently deliberate. The executioner doesn’t slip, “whoops, lethal injection!”.

                  You’re retarded.

                  1. No, what’s “retarded” is to portray an unintentional error on the part of the legal system as a “deliberate killing”. Human institutions kill people all the time as part of their normal operations.

                    There may be good arguments against the death penalty; the fact that it kills innocent people at a rate of maybe 1:100000000 per year is not a good argument against it.

  2. Someone once observed that we cede the power to execute he horribly guilty to the State to cut down on vengeance and blood feuds. That struck me as reasonable. Change the law so that police and prosecutors who break the rules to ‘get’ somebody are in turn prosecuted, up to ‘conspiracy to commit murder’ for capitol cases, and I would return to supporting the death penalty. Putting a Ted Bundy to death is mitigating a dangerous animal. And if the possibility of being prosecuted for attempted murder causes political lawyers to call for the death penalty only when they have solid proof, that’s all to the good.

    1. we cede the power to execute he horribly guilty to the State to cut down on vengeance and blood feuds

      I think that is a reason for the death penalty (and a formal justice system in general). But I’m not sure it’s relevant in modern society. You don’t exactly see a lot of blood feuds in states without it. Prison seems to do the job.

      I would perhaps support the death penalty more if it were very much narrower in scope with higher evidence standards and consequences for getting it wrong. But I will probably stick with opposing. Better a million murderers get life in prison than one innocent get executed if you ask me. There are viable alternatives, why risk it?

      1. Better a million murderers get life in prison than one innocent get executed if you ask me. There are viable alternatives, why risk it?

        *15 seconds later* The prison-industrial complex is out of control! We need criminal justice reform so these poor victims of our (IN)justice(!) system can return to their families!

        It must be terribly hard to have soooooo much concern.

        1. It must be terribly hard to have soooooo much concern.

          I wouldn’t know. You’d have to ask the person who actually said what you are attributing to me.

          1. Like the millions of progtards out there?

      2. You don’t exactly see a lot of blood feuds in states without it.

        Really?

        Are you sure about that?

        than one innocent get executed …by the state

        Is there a cite for this?

        1. OK, blood feuds among criminals happen, I guess. No idea if it’s less common in states with death penalty.

          Is there a cite for this?

          Since I was stating my opinion, the cite is the comment. Yes, that’s what I actually think.

          Are you denying that it’s possible for an innocent person to be executed? Do you really think it has never happened?

      3. I think we may be coming to the same end by different roads. Let police and lawyers know that if their evidence is flawed, and they should have known it (especially if they provably did know it), their tender bits are on the chopping block, and I think we’ll see a much higher standard of proof for capitol cases.

        As for vengeance being a thing of the past…I wouldn’t care to bet on it.

  3. Once you get into arguing that certain punishments should not be done because law enforcement and judicial institutions are fallible, it is hard to limit that to just the most harsh punishments. There are no real take backs for most punishments.

    1. Seeing as a great many people in this country, and around the world, manage that dichotomy just fine, I don’t think it’s as hard as you want it to be.

    2. re: “There are no real take backs for most punishments.”

      Sure there are. Or more precisely, we have a finely tuned tort system with a great deal of experience putting a dollar value on a wide variety of losses. Society can’t give the wrongly convicted their years back but they can throw enough money on the table to compensate for those years.

    3. No, you can’t give someone back time spent in prison, or undo the psychological impact of being wrongly convicted. But you can let them out and compensate them. Which is a lot better than being dead.

      1. Most of them are not compensated. That normally only happens when there has been some kind of prosecutorial misconduct proven. Which is typically not the case in most exonerations.

        1. Very true. But that’s a separate problem to solve. At least if they’re alive, we have the hope of solving the second problem.

        2. But it’s possible. Where there is hope there is generally a strong will to live. The argument that life in prison is just as bad or worse, so just kill them is bullshit. People want to live, even when life is utter shit.

  4. By having a justice system innocent people spend years and in some cases the rest of their lives in prison. That doesn’t prevent us from putting people in prison, nor should the small risk of getting this wrong prevent us from executing the deserving.

    Let’s talk about the five people they plan to execute. It is quite a list of innocents I tell you.

    Danny Lee, of Yukon, Oklahoma, was convicted in the 1996 deaths of an Arkansas family as part of a plot to set up a whites-only nation in the Pacific Northwest.

    Lee and an accomplice, Chevie Kehoe, were convicted of killing gun dealer William Mueller, his wife, Nancy Mueller, and her 8-year-old daughter, Sarah Powell, and stealing guns and cash.

    Lezmond Mitchell, a Navajo man, stabbed a 63-year-old woman to death in 2003 and then forced her 9-year-old granddaughter to sit beside her grandmother’s lifeless body as he drove about 40 miles, before he slit the young girl’s throat.

    Their beheaded, mutilated bodies were found in a shallow grave on the reservation. Mitchell stole the woman’s car and later robbed a trading post in Red Valley, Arizona.

    The Bureau of Prisons plans to execute Wesley Ira Purkey on Dec. 13. He was convicted of raping and killing a 16-year-old girl before dismembering, burning and then dumping the teen’s body in a septic pond.

    Prosecutors said he was also convicted in a state court in Kansas after using a claw hammer to kill an 80-year-old woman who suffered from polio.

    Prosecutors say Alfred Bourgeois tortured, sexually molested, and then beat his two-and-a-half-year-old daughter to death. Court records say Bourgeois repeatedly beat the young girl and punched her in the face, whipped her with an electrical cord and beat her with a belt so hard that it broke. He also allegedly burned her feet with a cigarette lighter and hit her in the head with a baseball bat until her head swelled.

    Dustin Lee Honken was convicted in 2004 in connection with the killings of five people as part of a plan to thwart a federal investigation into his drug operation.

    The victims included two men who became informants and were going to testify against him, the girlfriend of one of the informants and her two young daughters, ages six and 10.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/news/death-penalty-who-are-the-five-men-scheduled-to-be-executed-under-federal-law/

    Now in fairness, Danny Lee’s attorney says it is unfair that he be executed because he just murdered those people. It was his codefendent who was the leader of the plot and only got life, no doubt for ratting out Lee.

    Cry my a river over these assholes. All of them are getting exactly what they deserve and it would be an injustice to allow them to live fat dumb and happy in a prison for the rest of their lives to die peacefully at taxpayer’s expense.

    The other problem is that if you want to get rid of the death penalty, then you better be willing to live with Super Max because without the threat of the death penalty that is the only way to deter some people from harming guards and other inmates. And Super Max is much worse than the death penalty in my opinion.

    1. I don’t see anyone claiming that those people are innocent or don’t deserve to die. That’s completely beside the point.

      1. Maybe to you it isn’t.

        1. It’s irrelevant to the argument that the death penalty should be abolished because innocent people are likely to be executed.
          I’m sure most people who are executed in the US are guilty and deserve what they get. If that is assumed, John’s appeal to emotion is irrelevant.

    2. John…Thank you. It is about time someone actually posted something that was useful information. That was it. These men deserve to die. They were tried by a jury, convicted, and run their course of appeals.

      Time for these cretins to meet their Maker.

      For those of you who oppose the death penalty, or think we should just house them forever….why should I be compelled to support these cretins a single day longer? Their appeals are done. The death penalty is perfectly constitutional.

    3. Speaking as someone who knows Danny’s case inside and out, you are incorrect. His codefendant did not “rat him out.” All of the evidence points to his co-defendant. The only physical evidence against Dan was a thumbprint on a gun case (which can be easily explained as Dan used to work on the side for His co-defendant’s father at gun shows loading and unloading gun cases and weapons) and a piece of hair that was “microscopically similar” to Dan’s but was later DNA tested in 2002 and he was EXCLUDED. Danny was no choir boy, but he is not guilty of these murders. His co-defendant’s brother testified against him out of fear of his brother and to get a better deal on some weapons charges. His co-defendant’s mother testified against him because she was threatened with having her kids taken away from her due to her husband’s involvement in an unrelated legal issue.

      His legal team has been fighting for 20 years because they BELIEVE in him. As do many others. As recently as February 2019, a filing was denied but the judge stated in his decision that had this new evidence been presented at the original trial, it could very likely have led to a different outcome for him.

      Dan had a very rough childhood and early life and, like I said, he was no choir boy, but he owns the things he has done. But I can tell you that he would never, ever hurt a woman or a child. He has tremendous respect for women (he is the only man I know who will stand when a woman gets up or comes in the room and he will remain standing until she is seated).

      What you read on the internet is not always the truth. Danny Lee is not guilty. He does not deserve to die.

    4. Dustin Lee Honken was convicted in 2004 in connection with the killings of five people as part of a plan to thwart a federal investigation into his drug operation.

      This one’s death sentence should be commuted to something less. Enforcement of drug prohibition constitutes initiation of force to the possible lethal level. Enforcement of drug prohibiton constitutes a moral crime, possibly including murder. Morally speaking, the federal drug investigators, by trying to prosecute wrongful laws, and deaths occuring because of their morally wrongful investigations, makes morally guilty of felony murder, the same as if robber’s accomplice died in the course of a crime.

      In the absolute moral sense, the dude acted to an extent in self-defense against agents of the state who were acting to initiate the use of force against him. If this guy is executed, morally speaking, the feds involved should be executed right along with him or suffer some other adequate punishment. Since that’s not going to happen, commute and reduce the the sentence.

    5. Corrected version:

      Dustin Lee Honken was convicted in 2004 in connection with the killings of five people as part of a plan to thwart a federal investigation into his drug operation.

      This one’s death sentence should be commuted to something less. Enforcement of drug prohibition constitutes initiation of force to the possible lethal level. Enforcement of drug prohibiton constitutes a moral crime, possibly including murder. Morally speaking, the federal drug investigators, by trying to prosecute wrongful laws, and deaths occuring because of their morally wrongful investigations, are morally guilty of felony murder, the same as if an armed robber’s accomplice dies in the course of a crime, the robber is charged with felony murder despite not having directly killed anyone.

      In the absolute moral sense, the dude acted to an extent in self-defense against agents of the state who were acting to initiate the use of force against him. If this guy is executed, morally speaking, the feds involved should be executed right along with him or suffer some other adequate punishment. Since that’s not going to happen, commute and reduce the sentence.

  5. “Let’s talk about the five people they plan to execute. It is quite a list of innocents I tell you.”

    Go back and read up on what the media and the police/prosecutors had to say about the folks who were eventually exonerated prior to their exoneration. It’ll sound pretty much the same, they were a bunch of dangerous psychopaths. What they had been proven to have done conclusively demonstrated it.

    1. First, other than one guy in Houston who was convicted of arson based on horrible science, I have never been convinced that anyone executed was innocent and I have read all or pretty close to the cases that are claimed to be “innocents”.

      Beyond that, as shocking as it is to your Wokeltarian sensibilities, some people really are guilty. Prison is filled with really awful people who deserve to be there, not just innocents and drug offenders. If you have any reason to believe these people are anything but guilty, please give it. Sorry but your wishful thinking and naive belief in the innocence of anyone convicted of anything isn’t very convincing.

      1. “as shocking as it is to your Wokeltarian sensibilities”

        Oh fuck off. First of all it was Corsicana, which is nowhere near Houston, so yeah, you’re really a student of this stuff.

        Take a look at Rueben Cantu, Carlos de Luna, and David Spence. Hell, even the prosecutor that sent Cantu to death row is now saying, “yeah, we fucked up:”

        Or take a look at Anthony Graves. He was proven innocent, but the prosecutor who put him away still can’t admit the mistake. Nobody is saying that they’re all innocent. The problem is that the system can’t reliably distinguish between guilty and innocent to a degree that justifies the taking of human life.

        The fact that you could take what I said and twist it into me saying that they’re all innocent just shows that you’re not reading what others say, you’re just arguing your political persuasion.

        1. The problem is that the system can’t reliably distinguish between guilty and innocent to a degree that justifies the taking of human life.

          Yeah, it really can. 3 cases from backwater Texas 20+ years ago might provide some evidence that the state of Texas has problems within its criminal justice system and should be more judicious with capital punishment. It doesn’t mean that capital punishment in principle is wrong or that guilt and innocence cannot be ascertained with certainty.

          Funny how your precautionary principle absolutism goes out the window when a multinational corporation gives tens of thousands of its workers mesothelioma or decides it’s cheaper to settle a few thousand wrongful death lawsuits than recall an unsafe motor vehicle. IF IT SAVES JUST ONE HUMAN LIFE! amirite?

          1. “3 cases from backwater Texas 20+ years ago might provide some evidence that the state of Texas has problems within its criminal justice system and should be more judicious with capital punishment. It doesn’t mean that capital punishment in principle is wrong or that guilt and innocence cannot be ascertained with certainty. ”

            “Sure, if you ignore the clusterfuck that was Illinois. Or the forensic science scandal in Oklahoma (look up Joyce Gilchrist). Or all the exonerations in New York and California.
            Funny how your precautionary principle absolutism goes out the window when a multinational corporation gives tens of thousands of its workers mesothelioma or decides it’s cheaper to settle a few thousand wrongful death lawsuits than recall an unsafe motor vehicle. IF IT SAVES JUST ONE HUMAN LIFE! amirite?”

            What the fuck are you even talking about?

            1. That’s what passes for an argument among this group of retards. Reading the Reason comments is like watching a train wreck these days. I can’t help myself, but it’s the exact opposite of value-adding.

            2. “Or all the exonerations in New York and California.”
              What exonerations in New York.

      2. Dyanne Peterson said of the people she knew in prison that half didn’t deserve to be there, and the other half didn’t deserve that good!

      3. Prison is filled with really awful people who deserve to be there, not just innocents and drug offenders.

        Particularly since we’re talking about federal prison. You will notice that all of the exonerations from 20 years ago that prove how every death penalty case is going to result in an innocent man being killed were prosecuted at the state level. There are very few federal crimes, and fewer still that carry the death penalty. Might be why there’s only 5 people facing that fate in a country of 350 million.

        1. Yep. The federal government fucks up everything it touches except for the federal justice system. Those guys are perfect.

          1. Tim McVeigh was framed I tells ya!

            1. “The feds got one right so they’re infallible”.

              Just for one example take a look at hair matching, a “forensic science” that the FBI made up. For decades FBI agents testified in state trials and trained state “scientists” in that “science”. Until DNA came along and proved that it was random bullshit and a whole lot of innocent old med got released from prison – not the dead ones of course. And the FBI said “oopsie, we were just kidding.”

              Yeah those feds are perfect

      4. That “one guy in Houston who was convicted of arson based on horrible science” was in fact convicted of arson based on horrible science — but let’s not forget: he also did it.
        I don’t like people getting railroaded based on nonsense, but this particular person, as they like to say in Texas, “needed killin.'”

  6. I don’t trust any system of human judgement to determine whether someone should live or die. While I don’t care much what happens to these 5, the Boston Marathon Bomber, or others who have indeed committed similarly heinous crimes, the fact remains that eventually somebody who is innocent will be executed and I am sure already has been.

    1. Innocent people get killed by toddlers and lawnmowers too, and at a higher rate. Should we abolish toddlers and lawnmowers? Otherwise, why this obsession with executions over other causes of death?

      I mean if there was a rash of politically motivated executions, I could see why this would be a big libertarian issue; but the political abuse of the justice system limits itself to taking stuff and locking people up because that’s more effective.

      1. “Innocent people get killed by toddlers and lawnmowers too, and at a higher rate. Should we abolish toddlers and lawnmowers? Otherwise, why this obsession with executions over other causes of death?”

        Yep, no difference at all between accidents and intentional actions of the state.

        1. Executions of innocent people are not “intentional actions of the state”.

          1. So your position is that the execution was inadvertent? Or just the conviction? If you don’t see where I’m going with this…

            1. My position is that the execution of innocent people is accidental, not “intentional”. It’s no different from your doctor killing you accidentally or your car mechanic killing you accidentally in the normal performance of their duties.

              If you want doctors, cars, or a legal system, you have to accept that they make mistakes, even fatal mistakes.

      2. why this obsession with executions over other causes of death?

        You really don’t see a worthwhile distinction between accidents and deliberate, premeditated killing by the state?
        We can’t stop people dying from lawnmower accidents and toddlers doing whatever they do to cause deaths without interfering with the business and other liberties of people. We can eliminate the possibility of executing innocent people without trampling anyone’s rights.

        1. You really don’t see a worthwhile distinction between accidents and deliberate, premeditated killing by the state?

          That’s a worthwhile distinction. But that’s not the distinction we’re talking about here.

          We can’t stop people dying from lawnmower accidents and toddlers doing whatever they do to cause deaths without interfering with the business and other liberties of people. We can eliminate the possibility of executing innocent people without trampling anyone’s rights.

          Really? How? Any system of justice is going to make mistakes; it’s as inevitable as lawnmower deaths and toddler shootings. The only way to eliminate the possibility of destroying the lives of innocent people” is to stop prosecuting crime altogether. Is that what you want?

          1. “That’s a worthwhile distinction. But that’s not the distinction we’re talking about here.”
            Speak for yourself, it’s exactly what I’m posting about: The power of the state, not random occurrences.

            1. So you object to all executions, even of the guilty? Do you object to lifelong imprisonment as well?

              I’m sorry, I simply don’t understand your position.

          2. I said “executing” not “ruining the lives of”. At least try to respond to what I actually say.
            Yes, any criminal justice system will make mistakes. But we can try to eliminate the mistakes that are permanent and whose victims can never be compensated.

            1. I don’t understand the distinction you are trying to make. How is a wrongful execution fundamentally different from wrongful lifelong imprisonment? Both are permanent, both end in death, both deprive their victims of their entire life, and you can compensate people for neither one.

              1. It’s obvious that you’re being willfully mendacious, or you’re literally retarded. Either way, it discredits your position.

                The difference is that you can interrupt a life sentence should exonerating evidence come out while it’s being served. Once you execute a person, there’s no undoing it.

                1. Exonerating evidence doesn’t just “come out”, people need to look for it and make a case. That probably happens far less for life sentences than during the two decades of death penalty reviews. In any case, you have neither stated your objectives nor shown that a policy change would accomplish them.

                  Again, I don’t really care about the death penalty either way, but I observe that the arguments in this article, as well as your arguments are, to use your words, “literally retarded”.

                2. You can interrupt a life sentence, of course, until that person dies in prison. And for some people, ten years, or even one year, of prison time, can effectively be a life sentence.

  7. So the choice is between three decades of appeals followed by an execution or some indeterminate number of decades in maximum security followed by a natural or violent death?

    In any case, your chances of being innocently executed are somewhere around the chance of getting shot dead by a toddler. Your chances of being executed for cause are around the chance of dying from autoerotic asphyxiation or getting killed by a lawnmower. Perhaps it’s not worth spilling this much ink over it?

    1. Chances of death by execution may be slim in the US, but hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are spent on prosecuting and appealing these cases and there is still a risk of an innocent falling through the cracks. So I think it is a relevant topic for libertarians to be concerned about

      1. Well, do you have any sensible or rational to say about it? Because the article sure doesn’t.

      2. but hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are spent on prosecuting and appealing these cases

        That’s not really a good argument against the death penalty, since cases are still prosecuted and appealed without the death penalty

        1. Nah. Once we’ve convicted a person for a life sentence, why bother with appeals? After all, it’s not as if we’re going to kill them, right?

    2. Perhaps arguing against abolishing the death penalty isn’t worth spilling so much ink over either.

      1. I’m not arguing either for or against abolishing the death penalty.

        I’m asking what the principle is based on which you want to abolish it and what the implications are.

  8. I have few moral qualms with death penalty.

    But, man, I don’t trust the government to manage a bowel movement correctly, much less decide life or death.

  9. It’s not reason, it’s appeal to emotions.

    1. “It’s not reason, it’s appeal to emotions.”

      If you’re talking about advocacy in favor of executions, you’re right.

      The funny thing is that you incorrectly consider yourself a small government guy.

      1. In what way is government that doesn’t execute people smaller than government that does?

        Do you think fewer innocent people would be executed if we fully privatized police and the justice system? Why?

    2. No society can be truly civilized without a well thought out death penalty.

  10. I have always been conservative when it comes to capital punishment. I think there is a lot of fearmongering going on within this article claiming that innocent people will die if they continue federal executions… where is the data and evidence that supports this claim?

    Also, as a Libertarian, why should tax payers have to foot the bill to house inmates for life? Couldn’t an argument be made here that forcing tax payers to pay to house criminals is un-Libertarian?

  11. Nice apples to oranges there on the stats. I bet you hoped we wouldn’t notice you compared the number of executed people with the number of people exonerated who were on death row (ie still alive and a much larger number than the # executed).

    Of the 1500 executed, how many were exonerated? And lets say for the sake of argument it’s 15 (1%). Is the answer to stop executing the 99% we did our due diligence on? Or is the answer to identify how we messed up on the 1% and improve our process?

  12. I’m ambivalent to the death penalty leaning towards no, but the “innocent people will die” argument drives me nuts. It is a horrendous affront to due process when the wrongfully convicted suffer any punishment, regardless of whether its death or confinement. Innocent people will die even without the death penalty, many will die in prison. Many will have decades of their life stolen. Death is not different. The solution is to build a better criminal justice system. “At least we didn’t kill you” is utter nonsense.

    1. “Death is not different.”

      Bullshit.

      1. You’re entitled to your opinion. From my perspective, abolishing the death penalty because we might get the conviction wrong is an argument which applies with equal force to abolishing incarceration in its entirety. It’s a “solution” which in no way fixes the underlying problem.

    2. Death is relatively final. You can’t pay restitution to a corpse.

      1. You’re a socialist; why would “paying restitution” be of any consequence to socialists?

        When have socialists ever paid restitution for wrongful incarceration?

  13. “If Bill Barr Brings Back Federal Executions, Innocent People Will Die.”

    What innocent people are those?
    Please be specific, and why hasn’t Tuccille done anything to get these “innocent people” off death row?

    1. +1000

  14. The limited-government Republicans are right. This issue goes to the heart of the very principles America was founded on: it’s better to put 1000 innocent men to death, than to risk 1 guilty sumbitch eluding the state’s righteous punishment (which he so obviously and richly deserves!)

    1. Spare us the hyperbole and partisanship and try to answer this question.

      Let’s say 5% of people executed are actually fully innocent; that is, they had no involvement in the crime at all. That’s probably a high rate, but let’s use it for the sake of argument.

      Is that too high? And what do you propose to do about it?

  15. “The State is incompetent!”

    “The State is perfect!”

    (every argument in favor of capital punishment made by “freedom-loving, small-gubmint types)

    1. Neither the article, nor progressives, nor you have even stated a coherent position on the death penalty and the legal system that one could even begin to argue about. Try formulating one and then we’ll talk.

    2. If we’re going to have a justice system, I have no idea why we shouldn’t have the death penalty on the table for punishment.

      If, as would be my preference, we didn’t have a justice system — if we had a system where everything was handled by arbiters — it’s not at all hard to imagine such a system to include death, or at least the declaration of someone as an outlaw who can legally be killed — to be a part of that system. After all, Medieval Iceland and Israel under the Judges had something like that. In which case, it’s not hard to imagine innocent people still dying for things they didn’t do.

      So long as we are human, innocent people are going to die, regardless of whether it’s done by government or by individuals.

      (Incidentally, there’s no contradiction between believing that government should be small, and one of the *few* things a government should be able to do is to execute people who have proven they don’t respect the right of innocents to live. Indeed, it can even believed to be necessary to preserve the right to life!)

  16. How about we start hanging traitors first. I can think of one fat fucker who would qualify.

    1. We’re not talking about suicide here. We’re talking about executing people.

  17. If Bill Barr does NOT bring back federal executions, a lot of scoundrels (who do not deserve to live, by their deeds) would remain alive – which they should not.

  18. If Bill Barr brings back Federal executions, innocent people will die.
    If Bill Barr fails to bring back Federal executions, innocent people will die — and in far greater numbers.
    There are a few cases where maybe, maybe innocent men were put to death. Every year, hundreds of people — fellow prisoners and correctional employees mostly but not entirely — are murdered by killers who had already been convicted of murders and should have been executed.

    1. Indeed. There’s a cost to not having the death penalty that is often ignored.

      Furthermore, I strongly dislike the claim “but we can just hold them for life.” There was a Scottish terrorist who destroyed an airliner, but was kept from execution — we were assured he would *never* be free again. When he developed a “terminal” illness, he was let out, and he lived several years after that.

      Taking the death penalty off the table also means we risk releasing people who should never see the light of day.

  19. Besides other concerns about the death penalty, if one innocent life is taken, it is too many. We know there are even more innocents that have been put to death. The criminal justice system is biased, inequitable, and inhumane to a large, worrying, and in many instances, illegal extent. We know those incarcerated are likely to be poor people of color, and these circumstances often preclude a vicious cycle that includes crime, as a victim or perpetrator. We know others commit crimes but don’t get caught, or due to their circumstances, flee, pay their way out, or otherwise are treated less severely. We need to fix our communities and criminal justice system, and follow the lead of other countries towards more a humane, redemptive, and productive existence, including punishment. There will always be people who are uncontrollably violent, and they should be locked away from society. Otherwise, there are just too many societal links to criminal behavior, and for this reason and those mentioned above, the ultimate penalty should not be allowed. At my site Links page I have much more information under Criminal Justice.

  20. If the Innocence Project has exonerated many using DNA evidence, doesn’t it follow that DNA evidence can prove guilt? How about only executing those whose guilt is proven by DNA?

    1. “doesn’t it follow that DNA evidence can prove guilt?”

      The operative word here is can. DNA evidence can in certain circumstances prove guilt (e.g. semen in a rape victim).

      Similarly, DNA evidence can exonerate a person. For example, blood under a victim’s fingernails.

      But DNA evidence can also be inconclusive, which means it can also be manipulated or abused.

    2. You’re not guilty unless proven beyond a reasonable doubt. But we won’t execute you unless you’re guilty beyond a super-super reasonable doubt?

      That’s the problem here. Proving guilt is already supposed to be held to the highest possible standard. The whole “innocent people will die” thing is just acknowledging that our process and the culture of our juries is really shitty at properly applying the beyond a reasonable doubt standard. But abolishing the death penalty doesn’t fix that at all.

  21. Trump crime family Consigliari Barr knows that executing some negros is the best distraction for the public when you are breaking the law.

    1. Three white people, including a white supremacist, a Native American and an African American. You can certainly argue that the death penalty disproportionately impacts minorities and African Americans in particular, but it would seem strange to conclude that these executions are intended to appeal to racists.

  22. Employ the death penalty when there is video evidence of a murder.

    Then give everyone the right to record their observations wherever they go in public.

    That’ll make a dent.

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