Saturday, September 16, 2006

Death As Penalty (Weekend Assgnmt #129)

An Assignment from blogger John Scalzi Weekend Assignment #129: It Just Doesn't Make Sense!by way of Paul Little's place Aurora Walking Vacation seems to be to write about that which GETS YOUR GOAT, which makes NO SENSE but exists anyway, which is covered in IRONY and you can't wrap your head around.  This one's too easy for me: 

                                  "CAPITAL PUNISHMENT"

                                   "THE DEATH PENALTY"

If I were being punished or penalized, it would mean I'd be taken to task in hopes my deed won't be re-committed by me.  If you kill me, you're assured I'll never do it again, but I'd be DEAD so that's no good.  If I killed your friend or relative or someone you don't know or ANYONE AT ALL, please explain the logic in killing me?  I can put it in scientific terms, even visceral ways, any old way but the simplest seems the best:  Why is killing the answer to stopping killers?  Some say, "Well at least HE won't kill again."  Right, and how many times have we said that, and how many MORE?  Every time someone is murdered by the State?  "At least those 50,000 won't kill again!"  He's DEAD and the reason he's dead is because he made someone ELSE dead and it CONFOUNDS me, am I simple?  Whatdid I miss??  Isn't killing wrong, morally, ethically, though some say it's instinctual well, yes perhaps in war that instinct is necessary to survive, but isn't the idea of plotting and stalking for the sake of eventually capturing and killing just wrong?  Other animals stalk, capture and kill so they can survive.  We don't need to, we have supermarkets to acquire our needs, we're evolved (ha).    

Our presently sitting Supreme Court says capital "punishment" is legal, but leaves it to each State's discretion whether or not to kill.  Texas, Florida and California lead the way in what I call State-sanctioned murder.  It's clean, but it's not quick.  It's orderly, but it's not painless.  I'll explain that further on.  I know the thinking is "Why shouldn't these vermin be tortured before dying anyway?"  I leave it to you to answer that.  As I say, this boggles my thinking.

In the forensic/legal world, we have a saying: "L-WOPPED" and if a Judge L-wopps you, kiss the world goodbye.  It means "Life without the possibility of parole" and is there any reason we can't keep our own laws and USE this sentence, making SURE these killers are never freed?  For true killers I say use it more often, stop this 25 to life nonsense - that amounts to approximately 8 years, less with good behavior.  If you take a life, you should forfeit your freedom.  But no one has a right to forfeit your life.  That's why you're in prison, that's what YOU did, you took life, which is wrong, and it's either wrong ALWAYS or it doesn't work.  Some things are just wrong and they'll ALWAYS be wrong and I believe taking another's life is one.  That includes the State.       

As for amenities, no amount of cable or basketball or air-conditioning can detract from the reality of losing your freedom for the rest of your life, and not always naturally.  (Besides, death row inmates don't get any of that).  You WILL die in prison either by violence or old age.  If you hurt a child, you're put into protective custody because every con wants a piece of you.  Every condemned prisoner spends 23 HOURS A DAY in a 6 by 8 foot cell, they're allowed exactly ONE HOUR a day for shower, and walking in a circle on the roof with several armed guards watching.  It's during those times someone can slit your throat, as the guards either watch or turn their backs.  Everyone hates a killer, especially when it involves children and mothers.  But if we decide to kill the killers, we are .... what?  Carrying out justice?  Or vengeance.  Why are WE not then killers?  Yes, the State is carrying out the Death Warrant signed by the Governor which is law, so you might decide "Well, we're obeying the law".  But these are man's laws, they change, morality shouldn't.  We have to PROgress not REgress in our evolution.  We need to better understand what we now can't control.  In the meantime, lock them down for good.  A LIFE SENTENCE SHOULD NOT BE GIVEN UNLESS YOU'RE PREPARED TO CARRY IT OUT AND KEEP THAT PERSON LOCKED AWAY FROM SOCIETY FOR THEIR NATURAL LIFE.  You don't have to do what they did:  kill.  Segregate and study them, for heavens sake.  As Freud said, "A man with no conscience is hardly human and may be a separate species altogether.  Our conscience is what makes us human." 

The same man who built Florida's present "Old Sparky" also concocted the so-called "painless" lethal injection.  There is no such thing, and forensic evidence bears this out.  As for electrocution: 

This is basically cooking someone from the inside out.  Like microwave.  The total amount of electricy used is 5,000 volts in 2 separate shocks.  The first shock of 2500 volts is meant to paralyze.  It does not.  Although semi-comatose, the condemned can feel.  How do we know this?  Read on.  The second 2500 volts is meant to stop the heart, which it usually does, otherwise a third shock is administered.  Smoke is seen from the cross copper plating surrounding the man's head and right leg (used for grounding, in order to complete the cycle of electric flow).  How many times this procedure has gone wrong is so numerous it would definitely startle.  The sponge used under the cap is meant to help the conduction of electricity but it must be natural sea-sponge.  A guard was sent to purchase another when they ran low, and unknowingly bought synthetic ones.  The first man to endure this was Jesse Cordero in Florida, and his head caught fire.  Flames emanated from his skull.  I know, you may be thinking, well so what he deserves it.  How do you justify torture?  If you plan to kill someone, just do it.  Here is some forensic evidence of how we've come to understand that one is still very much aware after the first shock:  EVERY person who is killed by this method has an autopsy done, and in many cases the Medical Examiner finds that the bladder still contains urine, which can only happen if the prisoner had use of his muscles and contracted them so as to prevent loss of control.  Eventually he does.  But the urine in his bladder shows he was conscious and aware enough to "hold back" these liters of urine.  So he felt it.  I know, you're thinking "So what, the bastard deserved it".  Again I leave you to ponder your reason for wanting torturour death over justice.   

Lethal injection, once again forensics bear out the serious pain endured.  Have you ever closely looked at the gurney?  Most times they're hidden in pictures, but each one has several heavy straps, meant for the sternum, chest, torso, pelvic area, arms, legs, feet and even neck area.  Why would they need straps like that, if he's being "peacefully put to sleep"?  Have you never considered this?  I have, I researched this in the 1990s, and courtesy of "The Execution Protocol" this is what happens:

Three drugs are used to kill the condemned.  After a line is opened with saline, the first drug is Sodium thiopental, which is meant to render the killer unconscious.  He can still, of course, experience feeling.

The second is the worst, most painful:  Pancuronium bromide. This will paralyze the muscular system, making speech and movement impossible.  The killer is now being suffocated, asphyxiated, and cannot utter a word nor move a muscle.  The normal reaction of any of us is to fight against being suffocated, that's where the heavy straps come into play.  Another reason is so the audience is lead to believe the condemned feels no pain since they don't see a fight for life, our instinctual reaction.  The truth is there is a very high level of pain, which of course makes many all the happier, and I understand that.  If some monster killed my little granddaughter, my grief would turn to anger and I'd want to make him eat his own intestines.  Since I can't, I'd surely want revenge, vengeancebut eventually I'd need justice.  This may not go over well, but as many families have done I'd plead against sentencing DEATH as punishment during my "VIS" (victim impact statement) because no matter how much I'd want to skin this creep alive, I know I'm the last person to assign what his punishment should be, since that was my grandchild.  Leave me alone with him for 2 minutes, I'd say, because my instinct would be to rip his throat out.  I'd feel better after, but only for an hour.  It doesn't last, there's no such thing as closure, there's NEVER closure when you lose a loved one to a predator.  The answer, I believe it to L-WOPP him and MEAN it, LIFE IN PRISON.  If it's law, enforce it please!  Besides now that we know sociopathy exists, why regress back to torture and death as "punishments".         

The third is Potassium chloride, which induces cardiac arrest and the man dies from the combination of suffocation and heart attack.  No one goes "to sleep".  That's what we save for our pets, when we euthanize them.  We use another drug, phenobarbitol, so they fall asleep without pain.  One injection, one easy death.  Why can't we use our vast collective minds in the forensic sciences and medicine to find a more humane way to kill the killers, if we must?  Again, I know, you may be thinking why bother.    

None of this is about the prisoners, not about what they did.  We all know what we find reprehensible and indefensible.  A defense attorney is NOT there to defend a killer but to FORCE the prosecution into doing its job.  They failed in the OJ Simpson case.  This is why people should understand defense attorneys better - if they don't bring up all the cracks and questions in a case before the Court, the prosecution doesn't have to either.  Case dismissed.

No, what this is about is public policy.  Someday we may evolve a tendency to include ethical values and morally intuitive issues, but until then our prisons are left overcrowded with simple pot growers, and our death rows are crammed with killers some States can't execute fast enough.  Oh I could list all the innocent men who died at the hands of the State, but we all know that happens.  We all know the innocent who were killed and those who came so close before DNA and genome sequencing became so specialized and individual.  But it will always confound me that - if I tell a child who's written a bad word on the blackboard, "Now go and write that word on every blackboard in the school" how would I explain this helps him learn anything?  I couldn't because it doesn't.

Someone might proffer: "Well Cathy, isn't shutting someone up for life immoral and unethical?"  I can only say it's preferable to a "nice clean murder".  It costs taxpayers a million dollars for every year they keep one man on death row.  The State of Florida had to cough up $8 million to execute Theodore Cowell (Bundy).  It costs under $30,000 to keep a man imprisoned for life.  Some would rather die than watch their lives drip away, little by little, see themselves age in the reflection of other prisoners, knowing they'll never leave that place, never walk down a street or into a diner.  And I picture an island I do, a place so far out in the mid-ocean that one gets there only by helicopter.  The waters are shark-infested, some Pacific area I think.  Walled in completely, a literal colony of the damned.  This was worked to success in history several times before, and many good decent Australians can trace their ancestry back to Botany Bay prisoners.  I mean an Island of Doom, that's it.  You kill someone, you forfeit your right to live amongst people who prefer to stay alive.  You're separated from any society and when you arrive, there are no amenities waitingIf you want to eat, you grow your food.  Want shelter, build it.  Who knows what could come of such an experiment now, but something has to be found to replace death for death, I believe.        

Note:  No extra credit for me I have absolutely no tunes floating around in my head, & I took this WAY too seriously.  Chill out, Cathy! 

   

 

 

 

17 comments:

jmorancoyle said...

    I agree with you on this subject. The thing that has always floated around in my head is the idea that innocent people have been convicted of crimes. Even after long appeals, innocents are still convicted. I've always felt that if I were to be on a death penalty jury, I'd have a hard time making that final choice.
    A few years back Governor George Ryan of IL, my great State, communted sentances of 160 death row inmates. There were so many questions about who was innocent and who wasn't. The saddest part of that though was that a large number who were released, later returned to jail on other charges.
    If there were a way to rehabilitate criminals, rather than make convicts worse. That's what we need to work for. Find a way to make common criminals into contributing members of society 100% of the time.
Jude
http://journals.aol.com/jmorancoyle/MyWay

princesssaurora said...

Wow... very seriously...but still good!  lol

be well,
Dawn

luddie343 said...

From Cathy 2 Jude:  True, but they have more incentive to stay criminals.

seraphoflove9001 said...

Wow...very good entry!
Lisa

plittle said...

  Here in Canada, we do not apply the death penalty, and I agree with that position. There are several problems with the death penalty. The biggest one is the one Jude mentioned: the fact that sometimes errors are made. I can think of several examples of people who were released after decades in prison because new evidence proved they were innocent. Better they weren't dead, cause then it would really suck to try and send them home.
  The other important point about the death penalty is that, as a deterrent to crime, it flat out DOES NOT WORK. States with the death penalty do not have lower per capita murder rates than states without the death penalty. In fact, no punishment will ever be an effective deterrent to crime for one simple reason. Criminals do not believe that they are going to get caught.
  So why do we punish criminals? Why do we kill them, or lock them away for years and years. Well, one explanation is to ensure that they do no re-offend, but that's not the main reason.
  The reason we prosecute, convict, and sentence criminals is so that the general public believes that some kind of justice is being done. Basically, it's all just a show for our benefit.
-Paul
http://journals.aol.ca/plittle/AuroraWalkingVacation/

rockoned7 said...

Part1
Cathy, you are a serious person but I do not think that you were too serious in this matter. We do not have Capital punishment in the UK any more. History showed us, it was not a deterrent to further acts, or an act of revenge or even justice. Our ancient laws prescribed that it was bible related, the punishment by death advised by the bible itself. We, as a society, had gone through the ritual of Public hangings where victims we hanged in view of the public. At first the crowds were supportive in this crazy besotted way lusting for blood of seeing people dangle at the end of a rope. The rich would get all the best views and the poor and lower classes had to jockey for any advantageous position. Latterly, it was only the lower classes attending such rituals, thus leaving it to a sentence carried out in camera. This led to a fundamental change in our moral stance after the carnage of the two World Wars and Nazi death camps. It was with clear deliberation we raised the following questions:
• Was capital punishment morally and ethically acceptable?
• Did society have a right to take life at all?
• Was it necessary with a relatively low crime rate to put people to death?
• Were innocent people being hanged?
• Was hanging really the deterrent it had always been made out to be?
• Was hanging, which by then carried out in complete secrecy, as humane as the Government would have us believe?
• Was the whole reprieve system just a lottery that was incapable of distinguishing between degrees of wickedness?
• Why were so few people hanged and so many reprieved? Were those people who were hanged guilty of much worse crimes than those who were reprieved?
• Was the Home Secretary (The UK’s master of the instance, who had the State’s power) the right person to hold the power of life or death over capital cases?

rockoned7 said...

Part 2
This threw up many more questions than answers. There was the augments for and against the death penalty. The for, in costs, retribution and deterrence. The against, the innocents in which no compensation could be given, trauma to the families and friends, and the length of time awaiting of the State exercising its rights. Will the UK ever reprieve capital punishment? It is hardly likely as we are a part of a larger body in Europe where the convention of human rights holds precedence over the national laws of each Member State. If it were to reintroduce this law will there be sufficient safeguards on human rights and will the judiciary be able to administer them properly? Can the police force our courts be able to get things 100% correct or will it go back to miscarriage of innocent people being put to death? Will juries be willing to convict knowing it is a capital offence? Would the supporters of CP really believe it would be the deterrence they expect it to be? This is a very important point as it is always put forward by the pro-capital punishment lobby as the principal benefit from reintroduction. It is unlikely the very worst murderers would be deterred because they are typically psychopaths or of such dubious sanity that they are incapable of rational behaviour (often taking their own lives immediately after the crime, as in the Hungerford and Dunblane shooting massacres) Certain criminals, e.g. drug traffickers, may be deterred because they have a clear option with defined risks but would the person who has a violent argument with their partner give a second thought to what will happen to them when in the heat of the moment they pick up the carving knife?
It is unlikely that a handful of executions a year will have any real deterrent effect particularly on the people whom society would most like to be deterred, e.g. serial killers, multiple rapists and drugs barons.

rockoned7 said...

Part 3 Yet these particular criminals are the least likely to be executed, the serial killers will be found insane and the drug barons will use any means to avoid conviction, e.g. intimidation of witnesses. So we go back to the situation where only "sane" murderers can be executed. Thus a modern day Ruth Ellis (last woman to be hung in the UK) might also hang because she was sane, whilst Beverley Allitt, who murdered 4 small children, would be reprieved because she has Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy or so she and certain psychiatrists claim.
Can these scenarios ever be seen as justice? Should we only execute people for the most awful multiple murders as a form of compulsory euthanasia rather than as a punishment or should we execute all murderers irrespective of the degree of guilt purely as a retributive punishment for taking another person's life and in the hope of deterring others?
What about crimes such as violent rape, terrorism and drug trafficking - are these as bad as murder? How should we punish such offences? Does it make any sense to imprison someone for the rest of their life or is it really crueller than executing them?
If we do not keep them in prison for life, will they come out only to commit other dreadful crimes? A small but significant number do. What is the cost to society of keeping people in prison? These questions need to be thought about carefully and a balanced opinion arrived at.

rockoned7 said...

Part 4

What are the realistic alternatives to the death penalty? Any punishment must be fair, just, adequate and most of all, enforceable. Society still views murder as a particularly heinous crime which should justify the most severe punishment. Whole life imprisonment could fit the bill for the worst murders with suitable gradations for less awful murders.
I am personally against the mandatory life sentence for murder as it fails, in my view, to distinguish between really dreadful crimes and those crimes which, whilst still homicide, are much more understandable to the rest of us. Therefore, it is clearly necessary to give juries the option of finding the prisoner guilty but in a lower degree of murder, such as Culpable Homicide, within the UK, and to give judges the ability to pass sensible, determinate sentences based upon the facts of the crime as presented to the court.
Imprisonment, whilst expensive and largely pointless, except as means of removing criminals from society for a given period, is at least enforceable upon anyone who commits murder (over the age of 10 years). However, it appears, to many people, to be a soft option and this perception needs to be corrected. In modern times, we repeatedly see murderers being able to "get off" on the grounds of diminished responsibility and their alleged psychiatric disorders or by using devices such as plea bargaining. This tends to remove peoples' faith in justice which is very dangerous.
"Life without parole" versus the death penalty. Many opponents of capital punishment put forward life in prison without parole as a viable alternative to execution for the worst offenders, and surveys in America have shown that life without parole (LWOP) enjoys considerable support amongst those who would otherwise favour the death penalty. However, there are drawbacks to this:
Death clearly permanently incapacitates the criminal and prevents them committing any other offence.  

rockoned7 said...

Part 5
LWOP cannot prevent or deter offenders from killing prison staff or other inmates or taking hostages to further an escape bid - they have nothing further to lose by doing so. However good the security of a prison, someone will always try to escape and occasionally will be successful. If you have endless time to plan an escape and everything to gain from doing so, it is a very strong incentive.
We have no guarantee that future governments will not release offenders, who were imprisoned years previously, on the recommendations of various professional "do-gooders" who are against any punishment in the first place. Twenty or 30 years on it is very difficult to remember the awfulness of an individual's crime and easy to claim that they have reformed.
Myra Hindley is a prime example of this phenomenon - whilst I am willing to believe that she changed as a person during her 37 years in prison and probably did not present any serious risk of re-offending, one has absolutely no guarantee of this and it does not obviate her responsibility for her crimes.  Fortunately, she died of natural causes before she could obtain the parole which I am sure she would have eventually been granted.
If we are, however, really serious in our desire to reduce crime through harsher punishments alone, we must be prepared to execute every criminal who commits a capital crime irrespective of their sex, age (above the legal minimum) alleged mental state or background. Defences to capital charges must be limited by statute to those which are reasonable. Appeals must be similarly limited and there can be no reprieves. We must carry out executions without delay and with sufficient publicity to get the message across to other similarly minded people. Are criminals (particularly murderers as we are discussing capital punishment) evil or sick?

rockoned7 said...

Part 6
This is another very important issue as it would seem hardly reasonable to punish people who are genuinely ill but more reasonable to use effective punishment against those who are intentionally evil. In America they seem, on the whole, less concerned about the mental state of condemned prisoners and are willing to execute them as the case of the child killer, Westly Alan Dodd, who was clearly very abnormal indeed. The media's attitude to executions varies widely depending on the age and sex of the criminal, the type of crime and method of execution.

Middle aged men being executed by lethal injection in Texas for "ordinary" murders hardly rate a paragraph in the U.S. press nowadays and do not get a mention in the U.K. media at all. However, a woman convicted of double murder and being injected on the same gurney gets tremendous worldwide media attention at all levels (Karla Faye Tucker).  Equally, a man being hanged in Washington or Delaware or shot by a Utah firing squad makes international news (Wesley Allan Dodd, Billy Bailey and John Taylor).  And yet (non white) women being hanged in Jordan and Singapore, the people publicly beheaded in Saudi Arabia and men and women executed by the hundred in China for a wide variety of offences, make very little news. Why is this? Is it a form of racism or do we not care if the execution takes place in a Middle Eastern or Far Eastern Country? I wonder if in another hundred years we will, as a world still have capital punishment at all or for that matter prisons, or whether we will have evolved technological means of detecting and correcting potential criminals before they can actually commit any crime.

rockoned7 said...

Part 7
Can capital punishment ever be "humane"? I have never personally believed that any form of death, let alone execution, is either instant or painless, so which method of capital punishment should a modern "civilised" society use? British style, Hanging is an extremely quick process that is designed to cause instant and deep unconsciousness and also benefits from requiring simple and thus quick preparation of the prisoner. It seems to have substantial deterrent value. Lethal Injection may appear to be more humane than other methods, to the witnesses, but is a very slow process. If the short acting barbiturate functions properly, it usually causes unconsciousness in under a minute but this does not always happen. There is considerable debate and litigation going on at present as to whether the first chemical causes full unconsciousness.  If it doesn’t, then the prisoner may suffer a great deal of pain but will be unable to communicate this due to the paralysing effects of the second drug. The biggest single objection to lethal injection is the length of time required to prepare the prisoner, which can take from 20 to 45 minutes depending on the ease of finding a vein to inject into, which is vital for a painless death. The Gas Chamber seems to possess no obvious advantage as the equipment is expensive to buy and maintain, the preparations are lengthy, adding to the prisoner's agonies, and it always causes a slow and cruel death. It is also dangerous to the staff involved.
Electrocution can cause a quick death when all goes well, but seems to have a greater number of technical problems than any other method, often with the most gruesome consequences. This may in part be due to the age of the equipment - in most case 70-90 years old.

rockoned7 said...

Part 8
Shooting  by a single bullet in the back of the head seems greatly preferable to shooting by a firing squad in that it is likely to cause instant unconsciousness followed quickly by death rather than causing the prisoner to bleed to death, often whilst still conscious. Garrotting, and beheading either manually or with guillotine have not only a deep effect on the condemned but the executioner themselves.
Therefore we have come full circle in all the arguments.
You are absolutely correct in the roles of defence as against prosecuting counsels. The defence is there to test and try the material held by the prosecution and it is the tenant of all the law that a man may have the right to counsel and that his case be heard in a court. Therefore if it is by public policy, which you have brought up, then who has the moral, legal and ethical authority of using the most heinous of crimes in murder, to execute a fellow human being in that States name? The old argument two wrongs never make a right takes on a more significant role if we wish to be the civilised citizens in a civilized world. To each their own, I say, but murdering the murderer is not the answer to all our human frailties. until man stops its attack on other in their species then this argument will rage on endlessly and at the end of time no nearer to the rights which at the moment each State has in the correction of crime  

monponsett said...

"Hanging one scoundrel, it appears, does not deter the next. Well, what of it? The first one is at least disposed of. "

luddie343 said...

Cathy to Mon:  Buddy did u even bother to read this?  I spoke to that issue pretty clearly I thought.  The guy's DEAD.  

luddie343 said...

Cathy 2 mon again:  And BTW, we ALWAYS say that everytime we kill:  "Well at least HE won't kill anyone again!!"  How many more times, eh?  Till everyone we think deserves it is dead?  Yea.  "Well at least THOSE 10 million won't kill again!"  

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