Tuesday, January 05, 2010

"a moral and practical failure"

Creators of modern death penalty disavow it, stating that there are "current intractable institutional and structural obstacles to ensuring a minimally adequate system for administering capital punishment.”

Which is no surprise here. Any system which lets O.J. off for killing his ex-wife, while putting a kid to death for driving a car, cannot be said to be even minimally adequate at doing its supposed purpose. The failings of the death penalty could perhaps be excused if it served as a deterrent to crime, but it doesn't -- states with the death penalty actually have more murders per capita than states without the death penalty, even when the socio-economic status of the residents (the factor most tied to crime) is taken into account. So it's clearly failing as a deterrent. The failings of the death penalty could perhaps be excused if it was the only way to keep murderers off the streets. But it isn't, life imprisonment without opportunity for parole costs less than the death penalty (due to all the checks and balances that are put into place to supposedly keep innocent men from being executed), and serves the same purpose.

Given all of this, it is clear that the death penalty is a moral and practical failure. It executes people for being poor minorities while letting wealthy people off the hook, and it is applied in ways which are an abject insult to the fundamental principals of justice. The only reason to have the death penalty given the fact that it is an unnecessary practical failure is because of blood lust -- a desire for vengeance. But blood lust and vengeance is not an acceptable principal for organizing a society around -- that way leads us into the realm of the Islamic and Israeli jihadis who try to kill anybody who has ever done them wrong, and in case you haven't noticed, both the Islamic states and the State of Israel are abject failures propped up only by Western infusions of vast sums of money (direct aid in the case of Israel, oil money in the case of the Islamists). Blood lust and vengeance is not Christian either, see Romans 12:19, which reserves vengeance to the Supreme Being. There simply is no -- zero -- justification left for the death penalty here in the United States, other than a justification of blood lust and vengeance which is completely contradictory to all moral codes that underly modern civilization.

-- Badtux the Law Penguin

Update: What effect has death penalty or lack thereof had on the murder rate in major states? Let's look at New York State vs., say, Texas. NY re-enacted the death penalty in 1996, and overturned it in 2004. So let's look at 2003 Texas/New York murder rates per 100k population and compare them to 2008 Texas/New York to see what effect the overturn of the death penalty law had in New York State. Let's see, 2003: NY 4.9 TX 6.4 , 2008: NY 4.3 for 13% improvement, TX 5.6 for 12.5% improvement, uhm, yeah, repeal of the death penalty made no -- zero -- difference in NY, it had same decline in murder rate that TX did!

Illinois - moratorium in 2000. What is 1999 murder rate vs. 2008 murder rate? IL: 7.7,6.1 for 21% improvement. TX: 6.1,5.6 for 8% improvement uhm, yeah, doesn't seem like the moratorium on the death penalty caused any loss of deterrence effect in IL either. Gosh, numbers, what great things they are!


  1. Lush Rimbaud5/1/10 2:35 PM

    Agreed. Abolish it (again). Too many innocents have been killed already in our execution chambers.

  2. I'm all for the death penalty when it comes to committing treason against my country. A couple prime examples would be war for lies and outing CIA agents.

    If these bastards would have been held accountable early on we would not be quite as deep in the shit as we are now.

  3. From a theoretical point of view you might be right, One Fly. But: to repeat, there are "current intractable institutional and structural obstacles to ensuring a minimally adequate system for administering capital punishment.”

    Given that, I can't see any reason why we should have it as a nation. Life in prison is good enough for those assholes you're talking about. Turdblossom would make a *great* bottom for some big prison stud, doncha think?!

    - Badtux the "We got better ways" Penguin

  4. I do think so and also think that if everyone of these people who raped my country the last eight or nine years were judged and sentenced to appropriate prison prison terms you would never hear this guy bitch again.

    That's the problem by not holding people in the position of power accountable they continue the same over and over until they are stopped. There's no one that I am aware of who has anything of that nature in mind.

  5. This is an issue of enormous complexity. Points as they occur to me, no order.

    Texans loves them some death penalty. Honest to freakin' Christ. Fry that bastard! Yeeha!

    That kid wasn't just "driving a car" he was a willing accessory, before during, and after the fact, to a serious crime, with murder as a very possible outcome. This is a bad circumstance, but let's keep it real.

    Perry has commuted the sentence to life.

    Our criminal justice system is a fucking travesty. Murderers can turn State's evidence and/or plea bargain down to who the hell knows what, while an innocent person trapped in the gears of the system has absolutely no recourse.

    Yes, all aspects of the system are stacked against minorities. Or in favor of the rich. Take your pick.

    Prosecutors want to prosecute, and have no concern about guilt or innocence. They fight like hell against new, exculpatory evidence that could overturn erroneous convictions.

    Modern civilization is not underlain by any moral code. That is the kind of nationalistic fiction that underlies the failed fantasy of "American Exceptionalism."

    The OJ verdict was correct, irrespective of actual guilt or innocence. The prosecution has a job to do, and with the deck ridiculously stacked against a suspect, they failed to prove guilt. Sorry, that's they way it is. As Bill Maher put it, they cuoldn't frame a guilty man.

    You're right about the death penalty. It cannot be justified on any moral or practical basis.

    It's all bad

  6. The failings of the death penalty could perhaps be excused if it served as a deterrent to crime, but it doesn't

    Oh yes it does, it's how the wild west was tamed, well, somewhat anyway, it seems to be coming full circle again.

    His case seems to be unfair though.

  7. Life in prison is good enough for those assholes you're talking about.

    A 30-30 slug is cheaper, unless you are a bleeding heart and want to pay taxes to keep bad people alive that don't deserve to live.

    In that case, keep working to pay for it all.

  8. Uhm, we have, like, *RESEARCH*, BBC. I realize that facts don't matter to you because for you, only your own primitive prehistoric prejudices matter, but still, we have actual statistics. States with the death penalty have *MORE* murders than states without the death penalty. I realize that this fact contradicts your opinions but ignoring reality is simply stupidity.

    As for the notion that we should simply execute people without fair trials, are you agreeing to be first in line for that experiment?

    - Badtux the Justice Penguin

  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  10. Spam deleted. If you have an argument to make, make it. Spamming my blog with dozens of links to other blogs isn't making an argument, it's just spam and not welcome here.

  11. BadTux:

    Every issue you raised, in opposition to the death penalty, is easily contradicted by factually research.

    It is your blog and I post only because you provide a forum and are kind enough to allow it, just as you rightly delete any posts as you see fit.

    I understand why you deleted my links.

    The reason I posted the links is because I have thoroughly researched the topics you raised and have put that research into individual papers, only because I do not have time to re write every full response

    I kept to the specific topic raised.

    That said, it is your blog and I fully rspect your right to delete, as you sit fit.

    Thank you for the forum.

  12. For example,

    BadTux writes:

    "Uhm, we have, like, *RESEARCH* . . . actual statistics. States with the death penalty have *MORE* murders than states without the death penalty. I realize that this fact contradicts your opinions but ignoring reality is simply stupidity."

    I agree.

    "Death Penalty, Deterrence & Murder Rates: Let's be clear"

  13. The fact of the matter is that the death penalty was illegal in Texas between 1972 and 1976 -- and made no (zero) difference in the comparative murder rate against South Dakota in that time. And when the death penalty was re-instated in Texas in 1976, there was no sudden drop in murders compared to South Dakota -- instead, the murder rate decreased at exactly the same rate as in South Dakota. I used to have the exact numbers somewhere around here back when I actually cared, but you can go look them up yourself and tell me, since you're supposedly the expert. What was the murder rate in Texas and South Dakota in 1972? What was the murder rate in Texas and South Dakota in 1976? What was the murder rate in Texas and South Dakota in 1980?

    I just read your argument at your link. It basically consists of stomping your feet and whining, "it's not so!" In that, it is typical of most recent "research" claiming the death penalty has a deterrent effect, which utterly ignores the fact that we have numbers FROM TEXAS for that period from 1972 to 1976 when the death penalty was illegal in Texas, where lack of the death penalty made, uhm, no difference.

    The reasons for which, btw, are pretty obvious if you study criminology, where you discover that criminals have a mindset where cause and effect simply don't connect in their minds. They a) don't believe they're going to be caught, b) if they are caught, it's someone else's fault. In the case of murder, a) they didn't *want* to kill person X, but b) person X "made" them do it. And no, I'm not saying that I agree with the criminal, that's just how they think, according to the criminology textbooks. My own experience dealing with young criminals in the alternative school setting (the majority of my students there had probation officers -- seriously!) backs up the textbook, the young criminals that I dealt with there simply did not connect their behavior with the consequences they received. If you enforced the rules when they misbehaved, it was because you were "mean", not because their behavior violated the rules that had been explained to them multiple times. Everything was always somebody else's fault.

    Given that mentality, it's clear why there's no deterrent effect from the death penalty. The majority of the people who commit murders either a) do it in the heat of the moment, or b) don't connect cause and effect in the first place. The deterrence argument assumes criminals are rational. That, unfortunately, is not so.

    So anyhow: since you brought up Texas and South Dakota, please bring some numbers to the party, 'kay? The FBI Uniform Crime Reports murder numbers for 1972, 1976, and 1980 for those two states would be a start.

    - Badtux the Numbers Penguin

  14. BadTux:

    The modern Texas death penalty has been legal since 1973.

    Read my artcle again. You missed some important points. You wouldn't be asking for murder rates, because they don't tell the tale of deterrence, as specifically discussed within my link.

    All prospects of a negative outcome deter some. It is a truism.

    The most severe criminal justice sanction, the death penalty, is the least likley exception to that rule.

    This may reveal your error.

    All states have prisons. yet, crime rates vary greatly from state to state. Why? For a host of reasons, but not because the prospect of being caught or punished does not deter.

    Because of the fear of sanction, there will always be a deterrent effect, which will be reflected in a net reduciton in crime,


    Wether crime rates go up or down stay the same or whether crime rates are high or low, we all know that some criminals are deterred from commiting crimes, for reasons of sanction, not matter the gross crime rates are or what they are doing.

    That is presisely what the above link showed.

    Review this:

    "Deterrence and the Death Penalty: A Reply to Radelet and Lacock"

  15. "We all know" is not an argument, it's simply pulling bullshit out of your ass. I asked for numbers. Numbers are what we use to measure reality, as vs. bullshit, which is what you just spewed. What are the numbers?

    And no, the Texas death penalty law that was eventually ruled constitutional was passed in *1974* after the previous one had been ruled unconstitutional in 1972 and all Texas death penalties voided, and it took two years before the Supreme Court ruled the law was Constitutional in 1976 and death penalty convictions started again. If you can't even get these simple historical facts right, why should we believe anything else you say, other than the fact that you keep saying, "everybody knows"? There was a four year period there where Texas had no death penalty. How did it affect the murder rate compared to other states, not having a death penalty for those four years? I asked you that question, why can't you answer it? And why should I believe anything you say, if you can't even answer simple questions like that?

    - Badtux the Numbers Penguin

  16. Evidently, I can't make you read an undertand, as in both those links, that THE GROSS NUMBER CRIME OR MURDER RATES DON'T TELL THE TALE FOR DETERRENCE as both those links explain.

    It could not be more clear.

    My apologies, the new Texas death penalty statute was passed in the 1973 legislature and became law on 1/1/74.

    The death penalty has been legal in Texas since that date.

    What the US Supreme Court did in 1976 was to agree that the Texas law was valid since 1/1/74.

  17. I'm sorry, but "numbers don't count" is not an argument, it's stupidity. From the viewpoint of criminals, the death penalty was illegal in Texas between 1972 and 1976. How did that affect the murder rate in Texas during those four years? Did it increase slower or faster than the murder rate in, say, South Dakota?

    Stomping your feet and saying "it's a deterrent because I say it's a deterrent!" isn't an argument, it's just stupidity and bullshit. What do the numbers say?

    Once again: Show me the numbers. When Texas did NOT have the death penalty for those four years, did more murders occur than would have otherwise occurred i.e. did the murder rate rise faster than in states that had always been non-death-penalty? What about other death penalty states, like Florida? Show me! I'm a Missouri mule, stomping your feet and saying "it's true because I say it's true!" which is all you've done here just makes me think you're a liar and an asshole, gimme some numbers, dude!

    - Badtux the Scientific Penguin

  18. Since you refused to provide numbers to support your foot stomping "it's a deterrent because I say it's a deterrent!" argument, I went and found numbers for you, *recent* numbers, using the FBI's Uniform Crime Statistics report for 2008. I chose to compare Texas with two states that repealed or put a moratorium on the death penalty during that time -- New York State, and Illinoise. In both cases, the murder rate after the death penalty ceased in those states declined as fast as -- or faster than -- the murder rate in Texas. See my revision of the post for the actual numbers.

    In short, in both New York State and Illinois show that the death penalty has no (zero) additional deterrent value compared with life in prison (the alternative to the death penalty). There simply is no deterrence advantage to the death penalty. That's what the numbers show, and any foot stomping you say about "it's not so!" is just stupidity.

    - Badtux the Numbers Penguin

  19. Great Galloping Jeebus -

    I didn't know that somebody even had a pro-death penalty website. I am so freaquing naive.

    I guess you can say the death penalty deters the guy who gets dead. It's got that going for it.

    Unfortunately, he's not always the guy who actually committed the crime he's getting executed for.

    That bothers me -- a lot. Seems not to bother the dudster in the slightest.

    I'm going to stamp my feet and say, "No more death penalty."

    It's not justice. It's revenge.


  20. Badtux:

    The issue is not that I say it is deterrence, but that you seem to be trying your penguin best to MISUNDERSTAND how deterrence is measured. And you have, sadly, done it well.

    “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance—that principle is contempt prior to investigation.” – Herbert Spencer (1820-1903).

    23 recent deterrence studies finding for deterrence, Criminal Justice Legal Foundation,

  21. Lush:

    Can you name one innocent executed in the US, since 1973? Or even since 1900?

  22. Dudley, you *still* have not provided me with any numbers. Your entire argument appears to be stamping your feet and saying that "these other 23 people said the death penalty works, so there!"

    Frankly, I don't give a shit what some other person said. What I care about is whether the numbers support your conclusions. Since you refuse to give me any numbers, instead whining "But numbers don't matter!", I went and sampled a couple of those reports you mentioned. What I found were correlational studies with no (zero) experimental data. Correlation is *not* causation, and the correlations they created by fitting data points and applying statistical "fudge factors" were suggestive, but actually *proved* nothing.

    Look, this is Social Sciences Research 101, the first goddamned course I took in grad school. Correlation is *not* causation. To show causation, you need an experimental study -- you need to have the death penalty, then repeal it in one set of states. If murder rates rise faster after you repeal it as compared to the comparison group (a group which either never had the death penalty, or a group which did *not* repeal the death penalty), *then* you can state that the death penalty had a deterrent effect. But the fact of the matter is that we've done this experiment *TWICE* -- once in 1972-1976, and recently from 2000-2004 with Illinois and New York -- and found no (zero) statistical difference in what happened to the murder rate as compared to the control group.

    The fact of the matter is that you can find no (zero) experimental evidence that the repeal of the death penalty has any effect on murder rate. No evidence. None. Zero. The numbers when the experiment is actually performed simply do not support the conclusions of those correlational studies you cite. Those are the only experimental statistics we have. Everything else is bullshit. As for your notion that we've never executed an innocent man: That's irrelevant to the ethical argument, which is that unnecessary killing is murder, and thus the death penalty, given that we have now shown that it is unnecessary, is state-sanctioned murder. But still, since it seems to matter to you for some bizarre: Cameron Todd Willingham . 'Nuff said on that.

    - Badtux the Experimental Penguin

  23. This is an issue that I still have mixed feelings on. Of course you are right about the way the system works - It doesn't.

    So really the point of arguing for the death penalty for W, Addington, Yoo, Cheney and a few other nasty traitors or war profiteers is sort of moot.

    (your turdblossom comment cracked me up, by the way :)


Ground rules: Comments that consist solely of insults, fact-free talking points, are off-topic, or simply spam the same argument over and over will be deleted. The penguin is the only one allowed to be an ass here. All viewpoints, however, are welcomed, even if I disagree vehemently with you.

WARNING: You are entitled to create your own arguments, but you are NOT entitled to create your own facts. If you spew scientific denialism, or insist that the sky is purple, or otherwise insist that your made-up universe of pink unicorns and cotton candy trees is "real", well -- expect the banhammer.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.