Death Penalty

The Death Penalty – apparently it’s bad.

Today, October 10, is the world day against the death penalty. New Zealand finally abolished the death penalty over 20 years ago, but 58 countries still retain it. Today is the day we work to change that.

Yes, you can no longer be executed if you commit a gross betrayal of the country of New Zealand (i.e. High Treason).

This year the focus is on the United States.

Oh, what a surprise.

Not only is the USA alone in the western world in practicing capital punishment – it also executes the mentally ill and mentally disabled in clear contravention of international law. Until recently, they also executed children.

Going through those three links we find:

  1. A man who tried to avoid execution by refusing to take his medication.
  2. A woman described as  a “good and decent person about to be executed”. The Wikipedia article however, indicates that she hired men to kill her husband for the insurance money, and her own lawyer admitted she wasn’t retarded (mentally disabled).
  3. A BBC article describing how a close supreme court decision decided that 16 and 17 year olds could not be executed. Those would be the same 16 and 17 year old that Idiot keeps telling us we should treat as adults and give the vote. And like with most recent cases, the 17 year old in the last link had committed a heinous crime (kidnap and murder) and would not be getting out of jail with or without the death penalty.

Oh, near the bottom of that last article, we find that the US does not execute those with mental disabilities since the supreme court declared it illegal in 2002. So using Idiot’s own sources, his claim is wrong – he’s trying to claim that being near the line pushes you over it.

Worse, they execute the innocent. In 2004, the state of Texas executed Cameron Willingham for setting a fire which killed his three children. The fire was later proven to be accidental.

Unfortunately, in the case of Willingham, at least part of the problem was science, not the courts.

Among them: “crazed glass,” the intricate, weblike cracks through glass. For years arson investigators believed it was a clear indication that an accelerant had been used to fuel a fire that became exceedingly hot. Now, analysts have established that it is created when hot glass is sprayed with water, as when the fire is put out. It was just such evidence that helped convict Willingham.

But there are certainly many cases in all courts where innocent people are convicted. It’s a tragedy that innocent people are executed, but it’s also a tragedy that some spend decades in jail and are robbed of the prime of their lives. But this is a reason to improve court procedure, not to do away with any given punishment.

There is certainly a case to not allow the death penalty from less than clear cut cases where evidence is circumstantial and witnesses are jailhouse snitches. But many cases pushed by the anti death penalty lobbyists are in fact quite straightforward and the doubt is only generated by PR – Roger Keith Coleman being a classic case. In spite of being a proven physopath, multiple physicial circumstancal and physical evidence, Time put him on the front page. You can read the ridiculous drivvel they wrote about the case here.

I also found this analysis.

But why was McCloskey so certain that Coleman was innocent? The ultimate source of McCloskey’s certainty is revealed by his statements after Coleman’s “Guilty” DNA results came back. McClosky “felt betrayed by the man whose last words included the statement ‘An innocent man is going to be murdered tonight.’ ‘How can somebody, with such equanimity, such dignity, such quiet confidence, make those his final words even though he is guilty?’ McCloskey said.” McCloskey had made an “emote control” decision that Coleman could not have been guilty–this decision had been deeply confirmed by Coleman’s body language. The intrusion of reality in the form of Coleman’s betrayal must have been devastating. Machiavellians such as Coleman often take advantage of an emotionally based–perhaps even genetically predisposed–desire on the part of some honest individuals to believe that others are also honest. This can occur despite sometimes overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Unfortunately there are some very bad people in the world. There are also some very good people. Funny thing is that the bad people usually try to look like good people. That’s what makes justice so hard.

And he’s not the only one.

Now, the link to the 10 executed includes some clear cut cases of incompetence and injustice, but also at least a couple that are beatups – I mean, if your friend shot a police officer and you stick the gun that shot him in your pocket do you really expect everything to end well?

In fact, googling the No.1 case on the list turned up this quote:

A comment from Supreme Court Justice O’Connor. “[T]he proper disposition of this case is neither difficult nor troubling . . . The record overwhelmingly demonstrates that petitioner [Herrera] deliberately shot and killed Officers Rucker and Carrisalez the night of September 29, 1981; petitioner’s new evidence is bereft of credibility. Indeed, despite its stinging criticism of the Court’s decision, not even the dissent expresses a belief that petitioner might possibly be actually innocent.” Herrera v. Collins, 506 US 390, 421(1993) (O’Connor, J., concurring)

In other words, they thought they could get him off on a technicality in spite of the fact he probably did do the deed.

A depressing number of US death penalty convictions turn out to be dubious. All up, over a hundred US death row inmates have been subsequently exonerated. And racism is a common factor in these wrongful convictions.

In fact over 100 exonerations prove just the opposite – that the rigorous appeal process attached to the death penalty is quite solid. Indeed, one might argue that in some cases without the death penalty those men would actually still be in jail. Potentially anyway.

(But did you notice that Idiot slipped from talking about innocent people being executed to innocent people being convicted without skipping a beat?)

Unfortunately, the US has has some serious problems with racism. But the fact that people were lynched in the 50’s doesn’t mean that psychopaths should not be dispatched for their crimes today.


  1. Much as I am strong believer in “law n order”, the one item I cannot back is the death penalty. Not for any squeamish reasons that Norighturn may have, but simply that I do not trust the State to have that much power over its citizens.

    If the State cannot run a post office, bank railways, health service or tax system efficiently and correctly, then why on earth would anyone trust the State to carry out a death sentence correctly.

    I notice though how again the concentration is on the US, why does he not concentrate on the country with the largest number of state executions, China. Even Amnesty International says in its report for 2009 “In 2009, as in previous years, the majority of the world’s executions occurred in two regions: Asia and the Middle East and North Africa.” (isn’t that 3 regions) and “Amnesty International has documented the executions of 714 people, but this total does not include figures from China, where the majority of the world’s executions take place, so the real global total is significantly higher. In 2009, China again refused to divulge exact figures on its use of the death penalty, although evidence from previous years and a number of current sources indicates that the figure remains in the thousands. ”

    So why doesn’t he start protesting outside the Chinese, Iranian, and Saudi Arabian embassy. The last 2 in particular “And executions of juvenile offenders – those under 18 years of age at the time of the crime – continued in two countries: Iran and Saudi Arabia.”

    I think it more that NRT is not so much against the death penalty, but is in reality just using it as another stick to beat the US with. No surprise there.

    1. Oh, and to be fair to I/S he is agreeing with a campaign started by others. He didn’t chose the country, though I do agree that he loves the beatup.

  2. If the State cannot run a post office, bank railways, health service or tax system efficiently and correctly, then why on earth would anyone trust the State to carry out a death sentence correctly.

    Because it’s the job of the state to do it. It’s not the job of the state to run post offices, banks etc.

  3. You have to decide: is it better that a few so-called “innocent” (which means most likely actually guilty but the cops or prosecutors didn’t cross every “t” & dot every “i”) or that a whole lot of robbing, killing, bludging, striking criminals – literally get away with murder

    Noone likes to admit that like any human institution the justice system is fallible. We only have to decide where to err. The West is fed up with the last 100 years of liberalism and leftism!

    It is no longer acceptable to let 10 murders or rapists or strikers go free so that one innocent life is “spared” (where spared means say 10 years in jail costing at least two million dollars)!

    If you want economic growth like China, poverty reduction like China, and a really efficient justice system like China, well better start executing people like China.

    And there is no reason why police & execution can’t be privatised. In fact, in NZ a lot of “police” work – and justice system – is privatised. There’s no particular reason why criminal investigations is the monopoly of the cops (in fact in NZ today, it isn’t!) and certainly no reason why executions couldn’t be privatised. Hell, people would pay for the franchise.

    The most important thing is that the criminals are found guilty and despatched with despatch.

    1. I don’t consider China to be a good example on either economic growth or justice.

      I’m not actually advocating that we reinstate the death penalty anyway – merely defending those who still have it.

      In fact, for most criminals what we need is better rehabilitation – or in may cases habilitation.

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