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Death penalty saves lives?

by grimgraphix / June 11, 2007 3:38 AM PDT

Now keep in mind I am against the death penalty. Not because I shrink from an "eye for an eye" philosophy, but I find it horrific that even one innocent person should ever be executed... and there is proof that innocent people have been executed. I view this as murder by the state.

But on the other hand...


... a series of academic studies over the last half-dozen years that claim to settle a once hotly debated argument ? whether the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder. The analyses say yes. They count between three and 18 lives that would be saved by the execution of each convicted killer.

The reports have horrified death penalty opponents and several scientists, who vigorously question the data and its implications.

"Science does really draw a conclusion. It did. There is no question about it," said Naci Mocan, an economics professor at the University of Colorado at Denver. "The conclusion is there is a deterrent effect."

A 2003 study he co-authored, and a 2006 study that re-examined the data, found that each execution results in five fewer homicides, and commuting a death sentence means five more homicides. "The results are robust, they don't really go away," he said. "I oppose the death penalty. But my results show that the death penalty (deters) ? what am I going to do, hide them?"

Statistical studies like his are among a dozen papers since 2001 that capital punishment has deterrent effects. They all explore the same basic theory ? if the cost of something (be it the purchase of an apple or the act of killing someone) becomes too high, people will change their behavior (forego apples or shy from murder).

To explore the question, they look at executions and homicides, by year and by state or county, trying to tease out the impact of the death penalty on homicides by accounting for other factors, such as unemployment data and per capita income, the probabilities of arrest and conviction, and more.

Among the conclusions:

? Each execution deters an average of 18 murders, according to a 2003 nationwide study by professors at Emory University. (Other studies have estimated the deterred murders per execution at three, five and 14).

? The Illinois moratorium on executions in 2000 led to 150 additional homicides over four years following, according to a 2006 study by professors at the University of Houston.

? Speeding up executions would strengthen the deterrent effect. For every 2.75 years cut from time spent on death row, one murder would be prevented, according to a 2004 study by an Emory University professor.



Now, I have publicly proposed before that if the death penalty is to act as effectively as possible as a deterrent, that all executions should be held publicly. Not only that they should be public but that they should be televised across all TV channels (cable, network, local, et al) if the justification for use of the penalty is that it is a deterrent to others.

Then again, like I say, if one innocent person is killed by the state in the name of justice... it is as if we all have committed murder.

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if the justification for use of the penalty is
by EdH / June 11, 2007 4:26 AM PDT
that it is a deterrent to others.

It's not. If that is a side effect, so much the better but the purpose of the death penalty is to do just ice and in some cases that means the criminal does not deserve to live.

We just have to get better at making sure.

if one innocent person is killed by the state in the name of justice... it is as if we all have committed murder.

I don't think so. If Between 3 and 18 innocent people are murdered because there's no death penalty, isn't that worse? Who takes responsibility for that?
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Who takes resposibility?
by grimgraphix / June 11, 2007 5:15 AM PDT

Why the person who committed the murder of course. Guns don't kill people... people kill people.


Grim - "if one innocent person is killed by the state in the name of justice... it is as if we all have committed murder."...

Ed - I don't think so. If Between 3 and 18 innocent people are murdered because there's no death penalty, isn't that worse?

As an innocent man or woman is lead to the execution site... do they consider themselves as being murder victims or justifiable statistics? Is that not essentially what they are... murder victims? What legal classification would you place them in Ed? What is the true definition for someone wrongly executed? Would you be comfortable as one of those people being wrongly executed having said what you have said?


Ed - "We just have to get better at making sure."...

Umm, obviously!
I said I wasn't against an "eye for an eye" concept of justice. Only against innocent people being killed in the name of justice.


The debate over the death penalty often involves it's advocates using the argument that it acts as a deterrent against crime. The "state" itself does not have to justify anything when it comes to the death penalty... it simply states in the criminal penal code that death is an appropriate penalty for certain crimes and/or under certain circumstances. The state is not concerned, nor does it even mention "side effects" in the penal code.

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If between 3 and 18 innocent people are murdered...
by EdH / June 11, 2007 5:39 AM PDT
because there's no death penalty, isn't that worse?

Well? Isn't it?

Why am I responsible for the death of ONE innocent because of the law? It's a mistake. Regrettable, but a mistake.

As an innocent man or woman is lead to the execution site... do they consider themselves as being murder victims or justifiable statistics? Is that not essentially what they are... murder victims? No, they are not, regardless of what they may consider themselves.

Isn't it worse if many innocents die rather than one? I think opposing the death penalty is highly irresponsible.
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"It's a mistake. Regrettable, but a mistake"
by grimgraphix / June 11, 2007 5:49 AM PDT

What legal classification would you place them in Ed? What is the true definition for someone wrongly executed?

"It's a mistake. Regrettable, but a mistake"

Haw can that mistake be corrected?

Why am I responsible for the death of ONE innocent because of the law?"

The law is acting in your behalf is it not? Do we not vote for prosecutors and elected officials who appoint other legal participants such as judges? If you voted for G W Bush then are you not directly responsible for his appointed officials to the SCOTUS?


Would you be comfortable as one of those people being wrongly executed having said what you have said?

I think not asking such questions is highly irresponsible. What questions would you ask of yourself if you were on a jury?

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If between 3 and 18 innocent people are murdered ...
by EdH / June 11, 2007 6:05 AM PDT
because there's no death penalty, isn't that worse?

Well? Why don't you answer that question?

What legal classification would you place them in Ed? What is the true definition for someone wrongly executed? That person is a person who was wrongfully executed. The victim of a mistake.

How can that mistake be corrected? It can't. Not all mistakes are correctable.

If you voted for G W Bush then are you not directly responsible for his appointed officials to the SCOTUS? I'd be happy to take that credit, but I can't. I am not directly responsible for his appointed officials to the SCOTUS. That's just silly.

If between 3 and 18 innocent people are murdered because there's no death penalty, isn't that worse?

I think not answering that question is highly irresponsible.

What questions would you ask of yourself if you were on a jury? That would depend on the case. It's not really relevant to the subject.
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So an innocent death by the state's hand is...
by grimgraphix / June 11, 2007 7:16 AM PDT

... a mistake but no one is really responsible for it?

What you are saying is that the government institution that puts a person to death in effect gets a "Mulligan"? A quasi-legal "whoops" that leaves the person unjustly killed - the objective of the death was justice, remember - killed in societies' name... neither a victim nor a plaintiff. An unbaptized soul in legal limbo. It's a regrettable mistake but a mistake non the less. Nothing to be done.

So let me get this straight...

A "mistake" that is no one's fault - versus - 3 to 18 potential people murdered because there is no death penalty.

One innocent death versus 3 to 18 innocent possible deaths because there was no death penalty?

Which is worse? Which... is... worse?

Hmmm, if it's only a "MISTAKE" and your balancing it against a hypothetical 3 to 18...

Well from the article... In 2005, there were 16,692 cases of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter nationally. There were 60 executions.

Lets take that 60 executions and divide that into the population of the country... call it 300 million. That means a possible 3 to 18 lives were saved out of each group of 5 million.


Now, by your logic, if we are optimistic and say that every execution saves 18 lives... that is 16,692 murders in 2005 divided by 18 equals... that's 927.3... round upwards to 928 people.

You know, I think you're on to something here ED! If we were to randomly execute 928 people pulled off the street, we could have saved 16, 692 murders from happening!

We just call it a mistake... no one's fault really... and crime (at least murder) could disappear over night.

Brilliant!

Some one want to check my math please?

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Here's the flaw in your reasoning...
by EdH / June 11, 2007 7:24 AM PDT

If the study is correct those deaths are NOT hypothetical; they are real. They are not "possible" murders any more than you are talking about "possible" executions.

See?

Also, as far as I'm concerned the death penalty is needed whether it deters any murders or not. That's just the good unintended consequence.

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You know, I was posting about...
by grimgraphix / June 11, 2007 8:31 AM PDT

... the fact that if the studies mentioned were accurate, then making the death penalty out in the open and very public rather than the sterile, private little affair our government has turned execution into should increase the "deterrent" effect.

Which... if we are going to have the death penalty... I am all in favor of.

See?

However, your point about "if the study is correct those deaths are NOT hypothetical; they are real" and your willingness to sacrifice a few innocents for the many (am I in a Star Trek movie here?) should only cause you to agree with my suggestion that a thousand or so random executions (attributed to murder convictions of course) every year would wipe out murder as we know it. Why you then insist on characterizing my reasoning as "flawed" is beyond me since I am, in essence, agreeing with you.

I did try to get your personal take on the matter when I asked how you would feel as one of the convicted innocents. I'm disappointed you never answered. I guess in the big scheme of things you could never think it could happen to you. I wonder how many others thought that as well?

As I said... I have no problem punishing those who are guilty. Why you seem more focussed on the punishment part in lieu of the absolute certainty of guilt is dismaying, and a bit frightening.

But hey, this was the direction you wanted to take my post so I'm not judging you or anything.

Happy

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Does the study say making executions public
by EdH / June 11, 2007 9:05 AM PDT

would increase the deterrent effect? I don't see that. Personally I think public executions such as you describe would be repugnant and stupid, but if it would save lives I guess I could learn to live with it.

How would I feel as a convicted innocent? Bad probably. Probably wouldn't like it one bit. What do you think?

A thousand or so random executions? Nah, that's a bad idea. Was that a serious suggestion? Pretty sick. I would never go for something as twisted as that. I doubt it would work either.

Why you seem more focussed on the punishment part in lieu of the absolute certainty of guilt is dismaying, and a bit frightening. Wha??? That makes no sense at all. Oh well...

Bye bye.

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Wha?
by grimgraphix / June 11, 2007 9:17 AM PDT
"If the study is correct those deaths are NOT hypothetical; they are real. They are not "possible" murders any more than you are talking about "possible" executions."

In this scenario the question of who is executed should not matter. Are you suddenly saying now it does? After all, the original studies mentioned were about the deterrence value of execution.

You also said "mistakes" were acceptable. Just not a thousand mistakes, huh?

You took me down this road Ed, do you want to turn back around and go get a beer now? I'm up for a good pilsner or maybe a Guinness. I'll buy.

Wink
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In this scenario the question of who is executed
by EdH / June 11, 2007 9:28 AM PDT
In reply to: Wha?
should not matter.

Of course it should. You don't want to execute innocent people ON PURPOSE!!! A mistake is one thing, but, as I said in my very first post, the deterrent effect is a desirable unintended consequence, not the justification for the death penalty.

I didn't say mistakes were "acceptable"; I said they were inevitable. Regrettable. But you are NOT talking about a thousand mistakes, you are talking about wanton murder. I won't go for that.

I didn't take anybody down any roads. I gave my opinion and I stand by it. If you don't like it, too bad. Period. The end. Bye bye.
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" Regrettable" is what you said.
by grimgraphix / June 11, 2007 9:43 AM PDT

But only after you kept hammering the question about " If Between 3 and 18 innocent people are murdered because there's no death penalty, isn't that worse? Who takes responsibility for that?"

You never did answer me as to what legal status the regrettably executed innocent fell into. I suggested murder victim, victim, plaintiff, etc. You just chalked it up as a "regrettable mistake" but didn't go much farther.

No, your insistence on spinning 3 to 18 possible murders as being "real" and your lack of resolution on innocently executed as nothing more than regrettable mistakes made me assume you were more about the results then the repercussions of execution as covered in the article.

Guess you just talked circles around me and I got confused.

Wink

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Nope
by EdH / June 11, 2007 9:51 AM PDT

I didn't talk you in circles. Maybe you talked yourself in circles. No sense in continuing because soon I'll be as dizzy as you are.


BYE !

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What is the true definition for someone wrongly executed
by Edward ODaniel / June 12, 2007 10:43 AM PDT

How about ABORTED!

The justice system already leans in the direction of favorability for the defendant (although some recent "rules" erroneously allow for more powers for the prosecution).

If you are willing to do a little more "study" you will soon dicsover that virtually every one of the "innocents" executed had long prior histories of violent crime - one could say that their acts finally caught up with them.

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Such a mistake should be avoided at all costs.
by C1ay / June 11, 2007 6:27 AM PDT

IMO, it is NEVER OK for the system to kill an innocent individual. They should be guilty beyond any shadow of a doubt or sentenced to life. You can always release the innocent later but you can't unkill somebody...

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At all costs?
by EdH / June 11, 2007 6:34 AM PDT

Even if the cost is MORE innocents being murdered?

I can't agree.

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So, your position in short is, ....
by C1ay / June 11, 2007 6:49 AM PDT
In reply to: At all costs?

"It is OK to kill innocents to save innocents"

Sorry, we'll have to agree to disagree on that.

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That's not how I would put it...
by EdH / June 11, 2007 7:04 AM PDT

I would say the death of many innocents is worse than the death of one. And note, there are undoubtedly many more executions of the guilty than the innocent, but each one of those executions can prevent 3-18 innocents being murdered, if the study is correct.

Simple numbers. Seems like a no brainer.

BTW, I am also in favor of expanding the death penalty to cover other crimes, such as the violent rape of a child.

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I don't care if killing a killer saves 1000 lives....
by C1ay / June 11, 2007 7:10 AM PDT

It still doesn't justify the system killing ONE innocent person. Raising the bar seems like the real "no brainer". I'm not saying to abandon the death penalty, just make sure, absolutely sure, that the recipient deserves it.

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So, you would kill thousands to avoid an error.
by Kiddpeat / June 11, 2007 7:25 AM PDT

It's not as if you can avoid both. You would sacrifice justice rather than accept the fact that justice can err. Sorry, but you lack the moral authority to make that judgement for anyone except yourself. That's why justice is in the hands of the state rather than individuals.

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So who empowers the state then?
by grimgraphix / June 11, 2007 8:48 AM PDT

I ask this because Ed has told me, that despite the fact we live in a representational republic where we elect officials to stand as our proxy... he says he is not responsible for what our elected officials do. "Why am I responsible" he asked when I said that the state acts as a representative of societies' will.

Keep in mind KP, that I am not trying to draw you in to a side argument against Ed. I am asking you what you think. Does the state, empowered by your vote, represent your will, collectively and (if you are one with the majority viewpoint) individually as well? If this is true, then isn't each and every execution performed in the name of the citizen of the state where the execution took place?

Just like a conscientious objector not carrying a gun into combat, if one is really opposed to the death penalty, shouldn't they live in a state where the penalty is not practiced? Else take responsibility that their tax pennies went toward the killing of a man or woman? You understand where I'm coming from on this right? That the state is the embodiment of the electorate and thus they are responsible, ultimately, for everything the state does? Including, in this case, execution of guilty and innocent alike.

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There is no "absolutely sure"..
by EdH / June 11, 2007 7:33 AM PDT

not in this world. So, you are in effect calling for the abolition of the death penalty whether yo intend to or not.

I just don't think there can be perfection. That's my belief anyway.

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Yes there is....
by C1ay / June 11, 2007 10:45 AM PDT

Just last year Brian Nichols gunned down a judge, a clerk and a reporter in the courtroom in front of a courtroom full of witnesses. We can be absolutely sure that it was him. Plenty of murders are caught on cameras at banks and convenioence stores.

OTOH, there have been many convicted through the years under coerced confessions that were literally beat out of them. Some have given their lives for crimes they didn't commit. Others have spent 10, 15, 20 or more years only to be cleared when the truth came out later. At least this group could go free after the travesty they suffered.

Until we can do better we should err on the side of caution. If there is a doubt, any doubt, not just a reasonable doubt, we should not kill them.

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(NT) Okay, I agree with that..
by EdH / June 11, 2007 10:52 AM PDT
In reply to: Yes there is....
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The concept of innocent until proven guilty...
by grimgraphix / June 11, 2007 11:12 AM PDT
In reply to: Yes there is....

is an attempt to protect the innocent at almost any cost... That prejudice in favor of the prisoner should also fallow through to the sentencing process when it comes to the death penalty. It should only be applied when the greatest punishment possible is well deserved... including proving beyond a shadow of a doubt it is deserved.

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Actually, an 'eye for an eye' IS the definition of justice.
by Kiddpeat / June 11, 2007 11:55 PM PDT

An eye for an eye LIMITS consequences and keeps them at an appropriate level. It means you can't kill someone for insulting your wife or sister. The punishment must match the crime rather than descend into excesses of retribution and vengeance.

When you deliberately take someone else's life while robbing them, what is the appropriate consequence? What is severe enough to balance your callous act. It's pretty clear. It is the loss of your own life. That is what justice calls for.

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Well put.
by grimgraphix / June 12, 2007 12:00 AM PDT

Justice should be balanced and proportional... otherwise it risks becoming revenge.

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An action of the state which seeks to fulfill the demands of
by Kiddpeat / June 11, 2007 6:09 AM PDT

justice is a crime so long as the state is acting honestly, and in good conscience. This is essential for the establishment of law and justice within a society.

If the state is unknowingly wrong when it acts, it commits no crime including the crime of murder. No rational person expects perfection from ANY human institution. Requiring perfection leads to either paralysis or a total break down of the institution.

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(NT) Nothing can "justify" the death of the innocent.
by C1ay / June 11, 2007 6:29 AM PDT
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I don't think anyone is"justifying" the death of innocents..
by EdH / June 11, 2007 6:39 AM PDT

Mistakes are inevitable...unless you outlaw the death penalty, which IMHO would be a much bigger mistake and lead to the deaths of many more innocents.

How can you justify those deaths??

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