It just ain’t right

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has ordered a review of the state’s lethal-injection procedures after a convicted murderer put to death Wednesday was seen gasping and snorting for more than 1½ hours before he died.

The apparently botched execution of 55-year-old Joseph R. Wood III is the latest lethal injection to go awry in the U.S., coming less than three months after an Oklahoma inmate died of a heart attack 40 minutes into a procedure that had to be halted.

The most recent incident is likely to raise more questions about states’ capacity to properly administer lethal injections as they struggle to obtain the drugs to carry them out.

“I am concerned by the length of time it took for the administered drug protocol to complete the lawful execution,” Ms. Brewer said in a statement Wednesday evening.

The execution began at 1:52 p.m., and the inmate was pronounced dead at 3:49 p.m., according to a statement from Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne. Typically, an execution would be completed in a fraction of that time.

Take less time to beat him to death with a hammer.

Of course, I’m hugely biased, being against capital punishment in the first place. But this just ain’t right.

163 comments on “It just ain’t right

  1. *shrugs*

    Blame the anti-DP campaigners who have made it difficult to get the proper drugs then.

    I shed no tears for a man who shot his girlfriend’s father in cold blood, then shot her too as she dialled ‘911’…

  2. Have to agree with Julia on this.
    You’re welcome to your views on capital punishment. But the democratic vote in certain US states is in favour of it.
    The Progressives, however, only accept democracy when it votes in their favour. When it doesn’t, they use any tactic available to undermine the democratic choice.
    All’s fair in love & war & all that but do we really want to extend that to every democratic choice? Make implementing redistributive taxation unworkable?
    If democratic government becomes a guerrilla war of opposing interests, what’s democracy worth?

  3. Well I’m with you on this Tim. I have no problem with putting someone in prison for the rest of their natural life if their crime deserves it but I just don’t think you can say “killing is wrong so as you’ve killed, we’ll kill you”.

    That’s the moral argument, the practical one requires those in favour of the death penalty being the ones who apologise to the family of the executed if it subsequently turns out they were innocent, cause I don’t think “oops, terribly sorry” would be quite enough.

  4. I’m with Tim all the way here. Democracy isn’t the only important principle; we all have inalienable human rights.

    FFS Richard Murphy calls himself a democrat, meaning as soon as he can get himself a big enough lynch mob he claims a democratic mandate. Well, those voters in those US states aren’t entitled to that vote as far as I’m concerned.

  5. I’m with Andrew and Tim on this.

    I am against the death penalty on pragmatic grounds (if you ‘ve made a mistake you can’t bring ’em back, plus the demonstrated iniquities of numbers killed between black white, poor rich etc which points to dubious equality before the law) and more recently, on grounds of principle – it cannot be right for the state to have the power of life and death.

    As for the lethal injection business – what a ridiculous fuck up – bring back hanging: properly administered it is quick and neat. the whole business of trying to disguise state administered death as some sort of sanitised medical procedure is squalid beyond belief.

  6. I’ve no view on CP either way but arguments like:

    “That’s the moral argument, the practical one requires those in favour of the death penalty being the ones who apologise to the family of the executed if it subsequently turns out they were innocent”
    are liable to complete reversal of sign.
    ie
    “That’s the moral argument. (In favour) the practical one requires those against to apologise to the families of murder victims where the deterrent aspect of CP is removed.”.

  7. I too am biased against capital punishment. However, if States insist on it they have a moral duty to carry out an execution in an efficient and humane manner. I fail to understand how, if a Vet can euthanise a dog or a horse quickly and painlessly, the same drugs cannot be used in executions.

  8. Guillotine, hanging, firing squad: all unequivocal death dealers. Lethal injection: the trappings of the medical profession should never be used to kill (and that includes euthanasia: if you want to find your own way to do it).

  9. I’m with Tim but b(n)is makes a good point and identifies a lot of the problems with politics in the USA, see Tim’s post on regulation of abortion clinics.

    Andrew sums up my position, and that position is more important when you consider that that prosecutors are known to call for the death penalty when they have a finger on their side of the scales, often for political reasons.

  10. @ Ironman
    This is starting to sound like the right to die debate.
    Where opponents of the topic use their moral preference to shift the argument outside the area of personal choice.

  11. “where the deterrent aspect of CP is removed.”

    The deterrent aspect being what? I’m not aware of any proof that it’s a deterrent, in particular, there is no proof that it’s made a difference in the murder rate between US states with the death penalty and those without nor in ‘before’ and ‘after’ murder rates in states which have abolished it (or re-introduced it).

    For the most part, people either aren’t thinking what they’re doing or are planning to get away with it.

    Would I be happy to explain to the family of a murder victim that the culprit was solely responsible for their actions and would have committed their crime whatever the punishment and was going to spend the rest of their life in prison? Yes.

    Would you be happy to explain to the family of a wrongly executed man that society demanded vengeance and made an unfortunate mistake but at least the executed got his/her good name back and a nice headstone?

  12. Ljh

    I’m fairly sure there have been cock-ups with hangings and firing squads but the Guillotine has been pretty fool-proof.

    I struggle with the logic anyway. “You’re an evil, nasty, vicious killer so we’re going to execute you…….but in a really nice way.” Surely if you’re after revenge, you’d execute in the most painful barbaric way you could think of? Have the condemned man ripped apart by a pack of hungry dogs or saw off his arms and legs one at a time.

  13. B (n) S

    Well morality, or rather agreed moral standards, does need to be the basis for fixing inalienable rights. I’m fine with that because personal morality, like personal freedom, ends at the point you are imposing it on somebody else.

    However, comparisons with Right to Die end there. Personal choice is no more a feature of judicial executions than it is of murder.

  14. “Would I be happy to explain to the family of a murder victim that the culprit was solely responsible for their actions and would have committed their crime whatever the punishment and was going to spend the rest of their life in prison? Yes.”

    But they don’t do they? ‘Life’ never ends up meaning life, by a long shot. Once you say ‘Ok, we’re not going to hang murderers, we going to put them in prison ’til they die’ you open the way for the usual suspects to argue ‘Its cruel to keep people locked up all their lives, if they offer no danger they should be released’ etc etc. Which is where we are now. I could murder you and be out before I collect my pension (I’m 43 now). Not really the same for your family is it – ‘Sorry for your loss, the perpetrator will be locked up for about 10-15 years, and then we’ll most likely let him out, and there’s nothing stopping him doing it all again’.

    How about you apologise to all the families of the people murdered by killers released from their ‘life’ sentences?

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2421724/Revealed-The-murderers-given-life-jail-freed-kill-again.html

  15. “How about you apologise to all the families of the people murdered by killers released from their ‘life’ sentences?”

    Why? I’m in favour of life meaning life.

  16. I love the reasoning behind life without parole sentences in place of death.

    “You have been found guilty of a crime for which you will never be permitted to enter society again, so we will now make your victims pay for your care through forced taxation for the next 50 years”

    That’s more just than execution is it?

  17. “You have been found guilty of a crime for which you will never be permitted to enter society again, so we will now make your victims pay for your care through forced taxation for the next 50 years”

    But if evidence of innocence comes to light in 49 years time at least they’ll get one year back. And before you ripost that some people admit guilt or there are cases beyond all doubt, some sick* people do admit to crimes they didn’t commit and even beyond doubt has been shown to be wrong.

    *I mean sick in the not very well sense

  18. The Laughing Cavalier said what I had been thinking; why can’t they get a competent vet to do it? If they can put a horse to sleep quickly and peacefully, they ought to be able to do a human.

    Either that or hanging. It might take a bit of practice to get it right, but probably no more botched jobs than the current system.

    Somewhere I have a copy of the Hangman’s Handbook, with a useful table of drop lengths in the back. Arizona is welcome to borrow it.

  19. Mr Black

    Yes, life imprisonment is more just than execution. If you think life imprisonment isn’t a punishment, why aren’t you volunteering for it? Being kept at the expense of the state for the rest of your life? Barrel of laughs I’m sure.

    And if the justice system is to be governed by cost criteria alone, you could argue against imprisonment for ANY crime. Chopping the hand of a thief off is far cheaper than putting him inside for a few years. You in favour of that too?

    And I’m sure someone in the US worked out that the legal costs of the appeals processes attached to capital punishment were invariably higher than the costs of life-long incarceration so unless you’re suggesting the judge open fire with a gun as soon as the guilty verdict is announced, you won’t be saving much money anyway.

  20. ” I’m not aware of any proof that it’s a deterrent, ”
    The deterrent rate on repeat offenders is pretty well 100%

    But, once you start questioning the deterrent aspect of CP you should question the deterrent aspect of lengthy incarceration. Doesn’t deter murderers, does it?

    So maybe we should just consider punishment?

  21. “The deterrent rate [of CP] on repeat offenders is pretty well 100%”

    What’s the % rate of successful rehabilitation of those subsequently found to be innocent?

  22. “… you should question the deterrent aspect of lengthy incarceration. Doesn’t deter murderers, does it?”

    I never claimed it did.

  23. Whilst being strongly in the anti-CP camp, only because of “possibility of error” rather than moral objections, I can see one major problem with “life really means life” imprisonment – namely that you create a prison inmate who has nothing left to lose… “I don’t like that prison officer, I’ll kill him if I can, I’m here for life anyway, what else can they do?”.

    The gut says “lock ’em up for life” but the head reckons that there needs to be some dangled element of hope in order to counter the “unguided missile” of a full-life inmate.

  24. I’ve always considered the death penalty debate as one of those defining issues that distinguishes the truly civilised from those who are either simply barbarous or who have a thin veneer of civilisation. I never argue from a pragmatic perspective because that implies that were the pragmatic objections all satisfactorily dealt with then the death penalty would be acceptable. For me it is quite clearly wrong for the state to kill someone in cold blood. I feel very differently wrt family members exacting revenge, e.g. a father on trial for the murder of his child’s killers would do well to have me on the jury.

  25. C800 murders in the UK pa, it’s a highly detected crime so let’s say 600 murderers convicted. Probably more (joint enterprise etc).

    Most of them probably under thirty, so say fifty years still to live.

    At current prices of say £25,000 pa to keep them, that is an extra £15 million pa added every year to the upkeep bill alone (not including capex on new prisons). Or £750 million over the fifty year life expectancy of prisoners.

    There isn’t enough money in the country to do it, Andrew.

    Given the US homicide rate, double ditto for them.

    I’m not a believer in the death penalty but we cannot lock that number of people up for whole life. At some point, I would tip into favouring death for purely economic reasons. Horrible, but true.

  26. Sometime Hollywood has the answer.

    For murderers ofo the likes of: repeat offenders, the killers of Lee Rigby, Raoul Mote etc

    Take them all alive to a faraway isolated island a bit bigger than Rockall, give them a weekly food drop and let them fend for themselves.

    I would not, however, propose to broadcast video of what happens there.

  27. Interested

    I doubt it costs much more to keep a mugger or a car thief in prison than a murderer so should we execute them on economic grounds as well? They spend less time in prison but there’s far more of them than there are murderers.

  28. “You have been found guilty of a crime for which you will never be permitted to enter society again, so we will now make your victims pay for your care through forced taxation for the next 50 years”

    That’s more just than execution is it?

    Actually, one of the reasons that some states are considering dropping the death penalty is the cost. The cost of the prosecuting someone where the prosecution seeks the death penalty is considerably higher because the level of certainty has to be so much higher.

    And in almost all cases, the death penalty is not carried out. 1% of all death row prisoners in Florida are executed. Most either get their sentence eventually reverted to life without parole, or they die in prison. But each of them had trials costing considerably more.

    It mostly exists so politicians can say they’re tough on crime.

  29. The “gasping and snorting” sounds like Cheyne Stokes breathing which is how most of us go when left to die in our beds. It’s distressing for the observers. Those who favour CP yet think this particular death was inhumane are too squeamish for the average deathbed. Very few people “cease upon the midnight hour and with no pain”.

  30. Julia,

    > I shed no tears for a man who shot his girlfriend’s father in cold blood, then shot her too as she dialled ’911′…

    Agreed. I think there’s a difference between deliberately torturing someone to death and fucking up. Fuck-ups happen, even when doing something this important. There are perfectly sound arguments against the death penalty — including the point that fuck-ups happen during the legislative process and so innocent people are occasionally executed — but I really don’t see how sympathy for the brief suffering of a cruel vindictive murderer is one of them. Fuck him.

    Andrew,

    > I just don’t think you can say “killing is wrong so as you’ve killed, we’ll kill you”.

    For the record, here’s the philosophical Christian argument regarding “Thou shalt not kill” and war and execution. (I am an atheist myself, but American ethics are mostly based on Christian morality, so it seems relevant, and I think it’s interesting.)

    Something we’ve lost in modern English is the distinction between plural and singular “you”. “Thou shalt not kill” is unequivocally singular. The argument goes that what the Commandment is saying is that no individual (thou) may kill on their own behalf but that it essentially says nothing about the quite different matter of the collective (ye) choosing to kill and nominating a killer (soldier or executioner) to do it for them. I think it’s a fair and real distinction — whatever some facile dipshits may claim, there is a world of difference between a man shooting a German soldier in Normandy and a man beating his wife to death. One may still, of course, oppose the death penalty while recognising the distinction between killing and killing, but I don’t think a blanket “Killing is wrong” manages it. It certainly hasn’t historically convinced many humans, including civilised ones.

    BII,

    > As for the lethal injection business – what a ridiculous fuck up – bring back hanging: properly administered it is quick and neat. the whole business of trying to disguise state administered death as some sort of sanitised medical procedure is squalid beyond belief.

    Couldn’t agree more. Remember when that murderer opted to be killed by firing squad a couple of years ago and everyone was up in arms about the barbarity? Seemed quite sensible to me. Also, if you do have the death penalty, surely letting someone choose (within reason) the manner of their execution is the least you should do to them. But no, a fast death from bullets is barbaric because blood comes out whilst a lethal injection is humane because it looks peaceful. Lethal injection is purely for the benefit of its spectators.

    TLC,

    > if States insist on it they have a moral duty to carry out an execution in an efficient and humane manner.

    Yes, but duty only really entails trying to do something. If there were any suggestion that they’d deliberately screwed up this guy’s injection to make him suffer, you’d have a good point. But no, they tried to do it right and failed, which is really not the same thing.

    Mr B,

    > “You have been found guilty of a crime for which you will never be permitted to enter society again, so we will now make your victims pay for your care through forced taxation for the next 50 years”

    We don’t pay for their care; we pay to keep them out of our society. The fact that care is required is incidental; it is not the benefit we receive in return for our payment.

    BWAB,

    > some sick* people do admit to crimes they didn’t commit

    I don’t oppose the right to die; I oppose the insane idea that doctors are the right people to commit executions and that hospitals are a good place for it to happen. Someone wants to commit suicide, they may do so. There are more considerate ways of doing it than by confessing to capital crimes in death-penalty states, but hey. The legal system is not to blame for such people’s deaths, any more than trains are to blame for the deaths of people who throw themselves in front of them.

    I wavered back and forth on this debate for years until I heard Christopher Hitchens’s argument: that the death penalty amounts to destruction of evidence. For me, that has proven to be a completely convincing and unassailable argument against it.

    That said, I am also a staunch democrat, and believe that the death penalty, when it exists in a democratic state, should be repealed democratically. The current arrangement in the UK is that the death penalty was repealed on the understanding that those who would have received it would instead by locked up for life. Every successive government has pissed all over that agreement, which is a serious democracy problem that needs to be addressed.

    I also believe that, if you do have the death penalty in a democratic state, every execution should be televised on the news. For something that important, people should know what they’re voting for. The implication of the Christian argument I presented above is that society are collectively implicit in executions — which I agree with. If you’re going to vote to kill, you should see the consequences of your actions.

  31. @Andrew

    Car thieves don’t go to prison very often. When they do, it’s not to Cat A prisons, which are the most expensive.

    The £25,000 pa estimate was probably (and deliberately) a low underestimate of the cost of keeping a murderer in prison for whole life, especially given that, as things stand, most murderers spend a lot of time in relatively cheap open prisons, preparing them for release – something which would no longer be necessary under your whole life term suggestion.

    Instead, given the desperation many might feel, they’d possibly need to be under more control, not less.

    Muggers do go to prison, sometimes, but not for very long. And they mostly grow out of it by the age of 25.

    But to answer your question, no, I don’t want to execute them – though I would happily make their punishments more unpleasant.

    In the same spirit, do you want to jail them for life?

    The whole point of the discussion – I think – is that murder is a special category of crime deserving special responses.

    And I invite you to respond to my main concern – that each year (on my rough analysis) you are adding in an extra lifetime bill of £750 million, plus the cost of building a new prison every year. Do you think that is in any way practical? If not, do you accept that it’s a bogus argument as against capital punishment?

  32. Like Tim and others, I’m fundamentally against the death penalty. But like The Laughing Cavalier and others, am baffled by how vets can routinely do this correctly to animals, but doctors can’t get it right for humans.

    I’m also baffled as to how it can be so difficult for American executioners, and yet there’s a clinic in Switzerland doing it on demand for the terminally ill, apparently successfully. Or how prior to the Proggies cocking things up, GPs used to quietly administer “extra pain killer doses” that put the terminally ill to sleep for a last time.

    Come on, it can’t be that hard.

  33. @Ljh
    What your describing sounds similar to when the last dog died in my arms at the vet. Within 5 seconds of the needle going in he was gone. Nothing there. But I’d been warned by the vet he might seem to choke & that’s what briefly happened.

  34. @Ian B (and others) – it’s not that hard, but, like anything the left involves itself in, consistency, truth and facts are quickly distorted in favour of the ‘narrative’.

    Thus Paul B (to name but one) is all against executing murderers, but all in favour of topping old ladies in NHS beds.

    You know this stuff.

  35. What about releasing murderers back into the community immediately on conviction, with nothing more than the designation of ‘outlaw’?

  36. Ed Lud-

    Because the whole point of a decent legal system is to take vengeance and punishment out of the realm of the individual. To ensure that they are evenly applied.

    Or, to put it another way, a gang member relased back into the community as an “outlaw” would be in no different position to the one he was in before conviction in terms of risk.

  37. Interested: how about you say what your stupid opinions are, and let me speak for myself.

    The pro-execution narrative is that executing murderers saves lives. The facts tend to suggest the opposite.

  38. Ian, i sort of agree with your statement of principle, but it’s not inconsistent with state-sanctioned execution. I don’t actually think the state should be in the business of vengeance. Retribution, possibly. I prefer formulating a criminal sentence as a remedy, no more or less.

    personally i think life sentences, even if they mean a mere ten or fifteen years, are often felt to be a fate worse than death. But for me, the clincher in favour of CP is what seems to me to the inevitable watering down of custodial sentences for very grave crimes short of murder, consequent on the ‘life’ sentence principle for murder. Whole life tarifs are very rarely handed down. So take a premeditated murder where the culprit is given a tarif of 23 years. What to do then about the man who paralyses another and leaves him blind? Indenture him to work for the victim?

  39. @Paul B

    ‘Interested: how about you say what your stupid opinions are, and let me speak for myself.’

    I’m glad you accept implicitly that your opinions are stupid.

    But mine was a simple statement of fact. You don’t agree with executing killers, but you are a fan of the Liverpool Pathway. (I hope you and yours get to experience it.)

  40. > The pro-execution narrative is that executing murderers saves lives.

    What utter pish. This can only be true (of the death penalty or any other issue) in a dictatorship. In a democratic state, the electorate is far too large to have a single opinion, and policies are enacted because large numbers of different people want them for different reasons. What you’re doing here is picking one of the many reasons, claiming it’s the only one, then claiming that therefore showing it to be wrong disproves the entire case. Bollocks, more like.

  41. Edward,

    > personally i think life sentences, even if they mean a mere ten or fifteen years, are often felt to be a fate worse than death.

    If this were true, prisoners on Death Row wouldn’t bother dragging out their appeals.

  42. @Ian B

    We all know the Stefan Kiszko case – and tragic it was, though it could have been worse as you imply – but it is not the ultimate argument clincher that you seem to think it is.

    Even on utilitarian grounds, I can show you many (more) cases of people killed by murderers who have been released.

    Here’s a newspaper report.

    Do we get to weigh those 20-30 dead people in the balance too?

    Kiszko is really an argument for better methods of detection, which we now have (as compared to then – that miscarriage would not now happen), and more rigorous scruitny of the police and the courts.

  43. @S2 ‘If this were true, prisoners on Death Row wouldn’t bother dragging out their appeals.’

    Boredom, plus faint hope, I suspect?

  44. Part of the reason that capital punishment was abolished was that juries were unwilling to convict if it meant killing the perpetrator.

    If you want a clincher, it’s the USA. The Americans put more people in prison, for longer, than any comparable developed nation, and execute many. This does not seem to reduce their murder or other crime rate (comparable to those other nations) nor have any positive effect whatsoever. Perpetrators do not expect, mostly, to get caught (the occasional nutter does, or wants to, but not most), so they don’t factor in deterrence from the severity of the punishment.

    Also bear in mind that for any crime, women will be punished much less than men, so you will be introducing a death penalty for men, while women will be excused on a variety of psychological and compassionate grounds. The USA has executed just 14 women since 1976, while pardoning many who were convicted on the grounds of domestic abuse, etc. Remember, if your wife murders you in an Anglosphere country, the presumption is that you deserved it.

    Which brings us back to the trigger for removal of the death penalty in Britain; sympathy for Ruth Ellis, a premeditated murderess against whom the evidence was absolutely conclusive. Compare that to the retards in the Daily Mail comment section saying that Rolf Harris should hang.

  45. My previous comment was in reply to Ed Lud, forgot to say so, on “watering down of sentences”.

  46. I repeat, I’m not a fan of the death penalty (though only on grounds of irreversible error).

    But I find it interesting that some of those who rail loudest against ‘moral judgments’ in other areas are themselves making a moral judgment here.

    I also find Paul B’s supposed ‘evidence’ amusing. There are plenty of studies which purport to show the reverse – there is not one ‘evidence’. Despite that, the idea that American academe is not in the grip of a huge liberal delusion is ridiculous. Of course they find evidence to support the liberal case.

    If the State has any duty, it is to protect the innocent.

    If the individual has any duty, it is to avoid killing his fellow man.

    There is a respectable argument that anyone who kills his fellow man puts himself beyond the pale and should be dealt with in a way which makes it impossible for him to do so again.

    As I say above, whole life terms are utterly impractical for financial reasons.

    There is actually only one way to ensure that a killer doesn’t kill again.

  47. Do we get to weigh those 20-30 dead people in the balance too?

    No. There is always some recidivism, but our legal system is based on a Christian principle that the individual is capable of repentance and reform. Those who are considered too broken to do so can be kept in jail indefinitely, as with the Yorkshire Ripper or Rose West.

  48. If the State has any duty, it is to protect the innocent.

    The State has no such duty and never has had, though Progressives keep trying to achieve it, which is why they want the State to prohibit everything that might be harmful. If you trade your safety to another power, it will take your liberty for your own good.

    The State has a duty to run a judicial system that punishes the guilty. That is not the same as a duty to protect the innocent.

  49. Well, as a dedicated hanger and flogger, I am in favour of CP as I firmly believe that there are some people who benefit the world only by leaving it.
    Myself, I would bring back the Roman Games, I predict that at a quid a ticket, we could pay off the national debt in a year!

  50. @Ian B

    ‘Part of the reason that capital punishment was abolished was that juries were unwilling to convict if it meant killing the perpetrator.’

    A strange argument. You want juries to convict people where they are unsure in order to allow judges to imprison them for 20 years?

    ‘If you want a clincher, it’s the USA. The Americans put more people in prison, for longer, than any comparable developed nation, and execute many. This does not seem to reduce their murder or other crime rate (comparable to those other nations) nor have any positive effect whatsoever.’

    Show your working. Prove the negative. And look at the culture. Am,erica is two countries. In south side Chicago, you walk the streets at night for a month, you – Ian B – will be killed, or at least hospitalised. You do the same in Cambridge, MA, you probably won’t.

    Strangely, the people shouting loudest to abolish the death penalty live in Cambridge, MA, not south side Chicago.

    Go figure!

  51. @Ian B

    ‘No. There is always some recidivism, but our legal system is based on a Christian principle that the individual is capable of repentance and reform.’

    The question is, should it be, and are they?

    ‘The State has no such duty and never has had’

    What? The State doesn’t employ police officers, whose job is partly to prevent and deter crime, and there is no deterrent effect intended in sentencing?

    You are in cloud cuckoo land with a purple sky now, old bean.

  52. @Ian B

    And further:

    ‘The State has a duty to run a judicial system that punishes the guilty.’

    Why does the State have that duty?

    Why should we ‘trade our right’ to punish transgressors to the State?

  53. Ian,

    > Perpetrators do not expect, mostly, to get caught (the occasional nutter does, or wants to, but not most), so they don’t factor in deterrence from the severity of the punishment.

    That is an argument against any punishment for any crime. Is that how you intended it?

  54. ‘No. There is always some recidivism, but our legal system is based on a Christian principle that the individual is capable of repentance and reform.’

    The question is, should it be, and are they?

    Given that recidivism is closer to 0% than 100%, clearly some are.

    “Perpetrators do not expect, mostly, to get caught (the occasional nutter does, or wants to, but not most), so they don’t factor in deterrence from the severity of the punishment.”

    That is an argument against any punishment for any crime.

    No it isn’t.

  55. “As I say above, whole life terms are utterly impractical for financial reasons.

    There is actually only one way to ensure that a killer doesn’t kill again.”

    The costs you calculated work out at less than £30 a year per taxpayer. Utterly impractical?

    Besides, why not two to a cell and double the prison capacity?

    Balanced against your claim that there’s only one way to ensure a killer doesn’t kill again, would you mind running through the ways we can make up for executing the wrong person?

  56. @Andrew

    ‘The costs you calculated work out at less than £30 a year per taxpayer. Utterly impractical?’

    Please show your workings, including cost of adding, say (I accept this is a bit fag packet, happy to have more accurate figures supplied), 600 new whole life prisoners every year forever more, and the capital cost of building the new jails to house them all.

    In many prisons, they are already two to a cell.

  57. @UK Liberty

    ‘Given that recidivism is closer to 0% than 100%, clearly some are.’

    I assume you’re talking about murder – if you’re talking general crime I would like to see your evidence.

    if it is just about murder, then as I say this whole discussion is about a specal class of crime.

    I would be irritated if my car stereo were pinched by a recidivist scrote, but ‘irritation’ would not quite cover the response to being stabbed to death by a man released from prison who has previously stabbed to death another person.

  58. interested,

    Why should we ‘trade our right’ to punish transgressors to the State?

    Because it’s the worst means except all the others that have been tried.

  59. @ Andrew
    The facts demonstrate beyond a 0.0001% possibility that it is due to random fluctuations in the data that capital punishment is an effective deterrent even if only a small minority of murderers are executed. James Callaghan admitted to the House of Commons that the data provided by his abolitionist predecessor as Home Secretary demonstrated it. The increase in the number of innocent people murdered in 4 years while capital punishment was “suspended” was a multiple of the number of those hanged in the preceding twenty years.
    It staggers me that *anyone* can argue against capital punishment by claiming that it is ineffective. There are other arguments against it, some of which have ethical or intellectual validity: but not that one. As for cruelty – locking someone up for the rest of their life seems crueller to me than hanging (you may disagree, but that is my personal opinion).

  60. interested,

    @UK Liberty

    ‘Given that recidivism is closer to 0% than 100%, clearly some are.’

    I assume you’re talking about murder – if you’re talking general crime I would like to see your evidence.

    Yes, I’m talking about murder – I assumed the discussion was about capital offences.

  61. @Andrew

    Actually, I’ve ripped up my fag packet and found some figures.

    MOJ figures show a conviction rate of 84% for homicide (incs manslaughter and infanticide) in 2012, with around 500 murders in England and Wales in that period.

    Even with Scotland and NI I doubt we’re talking 600 new convictions each year. Maybe more like 400. Still far from insignificant and again would require a lot of new prisons to be built.

    However, the homicide rate is now considerably higher than it was when the death penalty was abolished.

  62. @UKL

    ‘Because it’s the worst means except all the others that have been tried.’

    Yes, I agree with you. I was merely pointing out to Ian B the logical fallacy in his suggesting that (notwithstanding the existence of the cops) ‘the State has no such duty [to protect us] and never has had’, and that it is a Thoroughly Bad Thing to ‘trade your safety’ to the State, while at the same time it is a Thoroughly Good Thing that we ‘trade to the State’ the duty to ‘punish the guilty’.

  63. @UKL ‘Yes, I’m talking about murder – I assumed the discussion was about capital offences.’

    Then I refer you to my earlier remarks, that it will have been of little comfort to the 30-ish people killed by released murderers in the figures in that newspaper report that they were outliers on the 0%-100% scale of murderer rehabilitation/recidivism.

  64. However, the homicide rate is now considerably higher than it was when the death penalty was abolished.

    Correlation is not causation. The homicide rate was higher just before the death penalty was abolished than in the ten years prior. Indeed the homicide rate was higher in 1952 than in several years immediately following abolition. And homicide is not murder – homicide includes manslaughter and murder.

  65. Interested: I am strongly in favour of the best possible palliative care for the dying. How your confused mind could think that’s relevant to this discussion I cannot imagine.

    The study I linked to is useful because it explains why different studies can get opposite results.

    The questions to be addressed are:

    – does executing convicted murderers save (other) lives? There’s quite a lot of data on this, but it’s impossible to reach an unambiguous conclusion. You can find a study to support any view you want, but if you avoid cherry picking you’ll conclude that if there is an effect it’s a weak one, and more likely to be in the direction that executions increase the murder rate.

    – if executing murderers does reduce the murder rate, what’s the trade-off between innocent people executed in error and innocent people saved from murder? Is one-for-one sufficient?

    – are we willing to take any risk that convicted murderers will kill again after release? (The current rate is about one such homicide a year, out of a total of about 600.) If not, the cost of life means life would be about £23k a year each to keep them in prison, assuming that the prisoners currently being released would instead be detained at category C. There are currently about 8000 life prisoners (in England and Wales); there would be more if we never let any of them out.

    – Is it immoral for the state to kill people in cold blood? Alternatively, is it immoral for the state not to execute convicted murderers?

    Personally I dislike executions, but I’d support the death penalty for murder anyway if there were good evidence that it saves lives. I’ve even suggested an experiment

  66. Then I refer you to my earlier remarks, that it will have been of little comfort to the 30-ish people killed by released murderers in the figures in that newspaper report that they were outliers on the 0%-100% scale of murderer rehabilitation/recidivism.

    The flipside is the “comfort” of the families of the wrongfully convicted executed by the state.

  67. @Paul B

    ‘Interested: I am strongly in favour of the best possible palliative care for the dying.’

    The trouble with you and your ilk, Paul, is that you are incorrigible liars. Allowing elderly people to die of thirst is ‘the best possible palliative care’? Try it with a dog, you will be up before the beak in no time.

    ‘How your confused mind could think that’s relevant to this discussion I cannot imagine’

    People die at the hands of the State, either way.

  68. Even on utilitarian grounds, I can show you many (more) cases of people killed by murderers who have been released.

    Here’s a newspaper report.

    Do we get to weigh those 20-30 dead people in the balance too?

    According to that report, 17 of the 29 convicted killers released from jail who had gone on to kill again had been imprisoned for manslaughter. Are you advocating whole life terms for manslaughter also, or did you just not bother to read your source?

  69. “The facts demonstrate beyond a 0.0001% possibility that it is due to random fluctuations in the data that capital punishment is an effective deterrent even if only a small minority of murderers are executed….”

    It staggers me that *anyone* can argue against capital punishment by claiming that it is ineffective.”

    Funny old things, ‘facts’. Here you are saying that the ‘facts’ show the death penalty is a deterrence (although you don’t actually provide any ‘facts’) and here below are some ‘facts’ which I am providing which don’t suggest that at all.

    http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/deterrence-states-without-death-penalty-have-had-consistently-lower-murder-rates

  70. @UKL

    ‘The flipside is the “comfort” of the families of the wrongfully convicted executed by the state.’

    Absolutely – that is already acknowledged earlier in the thread, in reference to Stefan Kiszko (though your scare quotes interest me).

    All I am saying is that a significant number of people are now killed by released murderers.

    I suggest, though I cannot prove it and no-one can, that fewer innocent people would die under a capital punishment system.

    That is not an argument for capital punishment – it may be an argument against using one terrible case (Kiszko) as the be-all-and-end-all trump card argument winner that some people think it is.

    Unless you think – and you may, and it might be morally right, given the power of the State etc – that X released murderer deaths is worth Y miscarriage of justice executions.

    I just think it’s worth thinking about.

  71. @Paul B

    ‘According to that report, 17 of the 29 convicted killers released from jail who had gone on to kill again had been imprisoned for manslaughter. Are you advocating whole life terms for manslaughter also, or did you just not bother to read your source?’

    The sound of a dickhead dancing on a pinhead.

  72. @Andrew

    John77 was talking about England and Wales (or the UK) I think – your figures are the for USA, a different country with a different history.

  73. A strange argument. You want juries to convict people where they are unsure in order to allow judges to imprison them for 20 years?

    No, that’s not what I meant. It is that juries who are certain of guilt are reluctant to convict when the penalty is death. This is a general problem with excessive tarriffs. To use a crass example, if the penalty for petty theft (the usual example of a loaf of bread) were the death penalty, juries would not convict even if certain of guilt, because of the extreme punishment. Likewise, it was considered that juries were returning “not guilties” when they actually believed a guilty verdict, because of reluctance to sanction an execution.

    As I also pointed out, this is particularly true with a female defendant. Few people want to lie awake at night thinking of a woman hanging because of their decision, because we are innately squeamish of violence against women. And why Ruth Ellis was the trigger for repeal. Here, from Wiki-

    “The case caused widespread controversy at the time, evoking exceptionally intense press and public interest to the point that it was discussed by the Cabinet.[19]

    On the day of her execution the Daily Mirror columnist Cassandra wrote a column attacking the sentence, writing “The one thing that brings stature and dignity to mankind and raises us above the beasts will have been denied her – pity and the hope of ultimate redemption.” A petition to the Home Office asking for clemency was signed by 50,000 people, but the Conservative Home Secretary Major Gwilym Lloyd George rejected it. The British Pathe newsreel reporting Ellis’ execution openly questioned whether capital punishment – of a female or of anyone – had a place in the 20th century.”

    This wasn’t due to doubts about her guilt. She was certainly guilty. But many people did not want her to hang (though in this case, the jury did convict).

  74. PaulB,

    > are we willing to take any risk that convicted murderers will kill again after release? (The current rate is about one such homicide a year, out of a total of about 600.)

    Would a drug with that statistic be allowed to market?

  75. That is not an argument for capital punishment – it may be an argument against using one terrible case (Kiszko) as the be-all-and-end-all trump card argument winner that some people think it is.

    Kiszko and other miscarriages are not trump card arguments, but they are a litmus test of liberal versus authoritarian opinion. There is no conceivable legal epistemology that can ensure 100% accuracy in criminal prosecutions. Any legal system will imprison some innocent people. I think the general liberal view is that therefore, we should restrain ourselves from the ultimate sanction for that reason alone.

  76. @S2 ‘Would a drug with that statistic be allowed to market?’

    A very good question indeed.

  77. Andrew,

    In democracies, one would expect a state with a lower murder rate to be more likely to repeal the death penalty than one with a higher murder rate, because the higher number of murders in the news influences voting.

  78. You’re quoting the Daily Mail. You’ve basically lost the argument at that point. It’s like that Godwin thing.

  79. Kiszko and other miscarriages are not trump card arguments, but they are a litmus test of liberal versus authoritarian opinion. There is no conceivable legal epistemology that can ensure 100% accuracy in criminal prosecutions. Any legal system will imprison some innocent people. I think the general liberal view is that therefore, we should restrain ourselves from the ultimate sanction for that reason alone.

    This.

  80. Paul – how about this one: Only one in 600 aircraft will crash!

    Or only one in 600 car journey will be fatal?

    Only one in 600 people will not wake up from anaesthetic?

    What is so different about murder, Paul?

    Is it the glamour? You lefties do love the glamour of crime, after all. Is it the hard-done-by-ness of the killers?

  81. @Ian B

    ‘You’re quoting the Daily Mail. You’ve basically lost the argument at that point. It’s like that Godwin thing.’

    No, anyone who says that has lost the argument. Argue that the Mail‘s figures are incorrect, and we’ll talk.

  82. Just to add some more apples and oranges, motor car users kill more people than released murderers, therefore would a drug that kills as many people as motor cars be legal, I don’t know, something something, it’s like euthanasia, let’s hang drivers!

  83. @Ian B

    ‘Kiszko and other miscarriages are not trump card arguments, but they are a litmus test of liberal versus authoritarian opinion. There is no conceivable legal epistemology that can ensure 100% accuracy in criminal prosecutions. Any legal system will imprison some innocent people. I think the general liberal view is that therefore, we should restrain ourselves from the ultimate sanction for that reason alone.’

    I take it that it is the death of an innocent person that we are concerned about? vbecazuse if it’s anything else it would be a bit too esoteric for my taste.

    So I reply thus:

    ‘There is no conceivable method of rehabilitation that can ensure 100% rehabilitation of a person who has shown willingness to kill another. Any parole system will release some killers.’

    What is ‘liberal’ about allowing out of prison a man who stabbed to death another man, in order that he then has the opportunity to stab to death his defenceless wife?

  84. @Ian B

    ‘Just to add some more apples and oranges, motor car users kill more people than released murderers, therefore would a drug that kills as many people as motor cars be legal, I don’t know, something something, it’s like euthanasia, let’s hang drivers!’

    It’s quite a serious subject, there’s no need to resort to absurdity.

    Look up ‘mens rea’ and get back to us?

  85. Interested-

    Because if you abandon liberal principles and start punishing on hypotheticals (what somebody might do in the future) you end up arbitrarily punishing anyone and everyone. The preventative punishment argument is unbounded.

  86. @Ian B

    ‘Because if you abandon liberal principles and start punishing on hypotheticals (what somebody might do in the future) you end up arbitrarily punishing anyone and everyone. The preventative punishment argument is unbounded.’

    No it’s not. Bounds are bounds. And no-one is suggesting ‘arbitrarily punishing anyone and everyone’ – this is a specific discussion as to how to deal with convicted murderers, still thankfully a very limited class of people.

    I am not saying the fact that some people kill again is a clinching argument, merely that neither is Kiszko.

    I’m assuming you’re happy with the release of murderers after (say) fifteen years?

    At what point would you change your mind re that?

    If fifty per cent of murderers murdered again on release, would that change your mind?

    Ten per cent?

    One per cent? Which would be roughly forty ‘re-murders’ each year?

    Clearly, some people are prepared to accept one or two re-murders each year; that might be a reasonably respectable position to hold, in the round, but it shouldn’t lead to self congratulatory moral grandstanding, and pronouncements of one’s unimpeachable liberalism, because while the numbers are not certain, and it may not be easy to predict which parolees will go bad, it is a certain fact that some will.

  87. …it shouldn’t lead to self congratulatory moral grandstanding, and pronouncements of one’s unimpeachable liberalism…

    Which no-one is doing.

  88. @UKL

    ‘Indeed, I wonder how many hundreds of those 500+ homicides were deaths by dangerous driving.’

    None.

    DbyDD is counted as ‘violence with injury’ in the stats on violence against the person offences (along with attempt murder, actually).

  89. @UKL

    ‘Which no-one is doing.’

    Some people are quite loudly declaiming themselves to be on the right side of the ‘litmus test of liberal versus authoritarian opinion’. Perhaps you missed it.

  90. Some people are quite loudly declaiming themselves to be on the right side of the ‘litmus test of liberal versus authoritarian opinion’. Perhaps you missed it.

    I didn’t find myself in the authoritarian wing and therefore it was impossible for me to take offence that would colour my interpretation of what had been posted.

  91. @ Andrew
    I did not quote the actual facts – just someone trying to minimise MPs response to them. The Home Office report runs to 40-odd pages. Do you *really* expect me to typed 40 pages into a post?. Some of the data is quoted in Hansard. The whole data was published by the Home Office in 1969 – if you *really* care about facts you can ask them for a copy. One of the facts I can quote from memory is “murder of prison officers while it was “capital murder” – zero in 20 years, after capital punishment suspended – 2 in 4 years”. A lot of “progressives” dislike prison officers but that does not excuse murderers beating them to death. I cannot recall the exact number of murders of police officers or murders by shooting but I do recall that both shot up.
    I live in England so do not profess to be an expert on the USA, *but* the last N sets of data that i saw from the USA all showed that capital punishment was a deterrent (as anyone with a grain of sense without an axe to grind would expect). If you have 20,000 sets of data from 50 states over 40 years then it is possible that you can find *one* to fit your personal prejudices – I am using real facts admitted by opponents of the death penalty so *not* absolutely not cherry-picked in favour of hanging. In defiance of Godwin’s Law I shall mention that Winston Churchill was almost the only UK politician to have read “Mein Kampf”. Reading your opponents claims gives a far, far better baseline than quoting some unreliable American propagandist.

  92. @UKL

    ‘I didn’t find myself in the authoritarian wing and therefore it was impossible for me to take offence that would colour my interpretation of what had been posted.’

    Neither did I – but then, it’s not necessary for one personally to take offence before one recognises that another is perhaps puffing himself up ever so slightly.

    I was simply advising those who do view themselves as impeccable liberals following the one true position – perhaps including those who go so far as to advertise their correctness in their sigs? – that smugness can be illusory.

  93. Interested,

    > Only one in 600 aircraft will crash!
    > Or only one in 600 car journey will be fatal?
    > Only one in 600 people will not wake up from anaesthetic?

    Sorry, but those are the wrong analogies. The correct ones would be:

    Only 1 in 600 aircraft crashes was caused by policy decision A.
    Only 1 in 600 fatal car crashes was caused by policy decision B.
    Only 1 in 600 hospital deaths was caused by anaesthetic C.

    I don’t think the second or third cases would be allowed. The first might not be noticed.

  94. @ Andrew
    Your so-called facts are just about as impressive as a comparison of deaths from melanomas in Australia and Greenland

  95. I’m not sure if it gets one anywhere looking at either the deterrence numbers of CP or recidivism rates.

    Murder is a fairly rare crime. The reasons why people murder is, in a large number of cases, connected to that unique instance. So the deterrence aspect doesn’t work in the same way as, say, sentences for robbery where the perpetrator is more likely to commit multiple offences & stand multiple risks of punishment.. Likewise recidivism. Most murderers would have no reason to go on & commit a second offence so their likelihood of re-offending is.low.

    So I’m not sure how much looking at overall numbers sheds much light

  96. I’m baffled by the argument that it doesn’t deter. I mean, by definition it must deter those who have been executed.

    plus, there should be room for judicial discretion to avoid the DP in some cases. This was a power exercised previously, i think, by the Home Secretary. And it was exercised freely and frequently.

    and, yes, juries are sometimes reluctant to convict, but less so i should imagine where such judicial leeway existed. We are not talking, after all, about hanging a chap for impersonating a Chelsea pensioner.

  97. @UKL

    ‘sigh’

    That’s your modus operandi, isn’t it – to pick one phrase in a given comment and attack it and only it, as though it contained the whole substance of the argument. Very poor. I give you C-.

  98. @S2

    ‘Sorry, but those are the wrong analogies.’

    I think you’re being mildly pedantic. Of course the State as a matter of policy licenses (for instance) the aircraft, the pilot and the flight of a 747.

    That goes without saying (so I didn’t say it).

  99. @B(n)IS

    ‘I’m not sure if it gets one anywhere looking at either the deterrence numbers of CP or recidivism rates.’

    Come again? If the stats suggest that the murder rate is cut by X by capital punishment, we just move along? If they show that Y released murderers kill again, it should not inform our decision as to when and if to release?

  100. Interested-

    To accuse somebody claiming liberalism of “grandstanding” contains an implicit assumption that liberalism is superior to authoritarianism. Since liberalism is mostly despised (it gets one called all kinds of rude names) that’s a strange position to take. But if a person would prefer to be considered liberal, they should at least take a liberal position.

    No it’s not. Bounds are bounds. And no-one is suggesting ‘arbitrarily punishing anyone and everyone’ – this is a specific discussion as to how to deal with convicted murderers, still thankfully a very limited class of people.

    The point being that bounding it to murderers is arbitrary. THere are all sorts of characteristics- criminality among them, but also things like social class, race, and of course gender etc- which could be seen as indicators of higher risk of murdering in the future. Once you start predicating your policy on what somebody might do in the future, it’s a very slippery slope indeed.

    And you have indeed thrown away the liberal principles that have tended to make ours one of the more tolerable legal systems when it has applied them.

  101. I’m baffled by the argument that it doesn’t deter. I mean, by definition it must deter those who have been executed.

    The definition of deter is to discourage. How can CP deter the dead? They are prevented from more murdering, not deterred.

    And I don’t think the claim is that it doesn’t deter anyone, it’s an argument about the extent of deterrence (clearly it’s not 100% effective, whatever year or state we look at), and whether there are other factors and how relatively strong they are. E.g. there is an argument in the literature about the relative strengths of the certainty and severity of punishment, iow what is the greatest deterrent.

  102. @ Bnis
    You may not have noticed the debate about “Capital” and “Non-Capital” murder in the 1950s and 1960s: the analysis of the deterrence factor should only be applied to “Capital” murders as the death penalty was alleged to be an attraction to some men who killed their wives in the 19th Century.
    The whole point of deterrence is to prevent a repeat – apart from, arguably, Henry VIII and the fictional “Bluebeard” I cannot recall a husband murdering multiple wives – so while hanging men who killed their wives may have its attractions it is *not* part of a deterrence strategy.
    What *I* was looking at what the *sound* data, comparing murders that could be deterred by capital punishment during adjacent periods when capital punishment was in force and when it was not.
    The comparative data is slightly biased (against my argument) because it ignores any effect from an environment that saw a reduction in non-capital murders.

  103. “John77

    @ Andrew
    Your so-called facts are just about as impressive as a comparison of deaths from melanomas in Australia and Greenland”

    Just because you don’t like them, doesn’t mean they aren’t facts. If you’re trying to say that British people are somehow more easily deterred than Americans by the threat of punishment, that’s an odd thing to say, unless of course you have the facts to back it up.

    As it happens, someone has done some research on just such a point http://www.sole-jole.org/13382.pdf

  104. UKL, your wordplay fails to convince, especially when I bear in mind the old saw about ‘pour encourager les autres’.

    Question: can anyone on the anti- side think of a case where they would have been content to see a convicted murderer executed? And what if the victim had been a loved one?

    I’m pro-, but i can certainly think of occasions when i would have expected leniency.

  105. Interested,

    That’s your modus operandi, isn’t it – to pick one phrase in a given comment and attack it and only it, as though it contained the whole substance of the argument. Very poor. I give you C-.

    I merely expressed my boredom of your bad faith posts and snipes.

  106. He was sentenced to death for killing two people. Those murders took about two minutes. Because he used a gun. There’s a message there somewhere.

  107. M’Lud

    UKL, your wordplay fails to convince, especially when I bear in mind the old saw about ‘pour encourager les autres’.

    With respect, I don’t think it’s my wordplay; “deter” is synonymous with discourage, not incapacitate. Clearly the dead cannot be discouraged – however, I am sure CP discourages some of the living.

    Question: can anyone on the anti- side think of a case where they would have been content to see a convicted murderer executed? And what if the victim had been a loved one?

    I don’t know, perhaps in cases like the murder of Lee Rigby.

  108. Interested,

    > I think you’re being mildly pedantic. Of course the State as a matter of policy licenses (for instance) the aircraft, the pilot and the flight of a 747.
    > That goes without saying (so I didn’t say it).

    Sorry, no, you’re concentrating on the wrong bit. Nothing to do with the policy decision. The statistical bit is that it’s not “Only 1 in 600 aircraft crash”; it’s “Only 1 in 600 aircraft crashes was caused by…”. Similarly, it’s not “This drug only kills 1 in 600 people who take it”; it’s “This drug causes 1 in 600 of all hospital deaths.” PaulB’s original stat was:

    > The current rate is about one such homicide a year, out of a total of about 600.

    i.e., not “1 in 600 released murderers kills again” but “Of all the murders in the UK, about 1 in 600 is carried out by a released murderer.”

    The reason I mentioned it was… well, partly, I’m a statistical pedant, but also because I think the latter is a lot worse than the former. Which makes your case stronger. So stop arguing.

  109. UKL, so taking the Rigby example, what’s wrong with a presumption in favour execution, but which can be displaced at judicial discretion. Oe even at the jury’s discretion?

    problem is, i think, people mistake the absolutism of this debate: they think it revolves around the definitiveness of the DP, when it doesn’t; it revolves around whether execution must inevitably follow a conviction for murder.

  110. John77

    “If you have 20,000 sets of data from 50 states over 40 years then it is possible that you can find *one* to fit your personal prejudices”

    Wow! Is that the situation? 20,000 sets of data and only one that supports the idea that the death penalty is not a deterrence. You’ve obviously spent a lot of time researching this point and haven’t just made that up. Clearly, with your argument so thoroughly backed up by statistics it is hard to challenge your position.

  111. Andrew,

    > Wow! Is that the situation? 20,000 sets of data and only one that supports the idea that the death penalty is not a deterrence.

    Assuming 10 sets of data a year doesn’t seem particularly insane to me.

    And you are deliberately conflating “one” with “only one”.

  112. Interested’s mistake with his data throws up an interesting point: according to his source more people kill again after being released from a sentence for manslaughter than for murder. But more people are convicted of murder than manslaughter.

    If follows that if we want to stop killers from killing again, we need the death sentence (or life-means-life imprisonment) for manslaughter as well as murder.

  113. This thread reminds me of abortion debates, in that pro-abortionists, whenever they make their case, invariably turn me into a staunch pro-lifer.

  114. For a sentence to work as a deterrent you surely need a perpetrator to be thinking rationally. They need to weigh up the chances of getting caught, against the unattractiveness of the penalty.

    That’s why the death penalty for burglary would be a very successful way of dealing with professional burglars. They make conscious and informed decisions to offend, they expect that they will, at some point, be caught, and they (I expect) are strongly averse to being killed. If you shifted the penalty from whatever it is now (12 months probation and a certificate?) to death then you’d see a big change.

    Murderers? Maybe not so much. Even those who decide to murder having done all the rational thinking, we’re still only interested in those for whom the death penalty, as oppose to life (and the rational thinkers are the ‘in cold blood’ types, so they’ll know they’re getting the longer end of life) makes a difference.

    Does anybody really believe that the difference between life imprisonment and the death penalty is the clinching factor in getting people who would otherwise be entirely OK with pre-meditated murder to just stay in and watch telly instead?

    I ain’t buyin’ it. Justify it on grounds of revenge or natural justice if they float your boat. But not deterrence. And, further to the comment (somewhere) above, that does not nullify the deterrence argument for other sentences for other crimes.

  115. What are the reasons for a criminal sentence? I’m not sure they can all be disentangled from one another, but this seems like a fairly comprehensive list of properties a sentence is claimed to have:

    • Punitive
    • Retributive*
    • Incapacitative
    • Deterrent
    • Rehabilitative
    • Restitutive

    The death penalty would seem to fulfil elements 1–3 on that list and plausibly element 4. Element 5 is clearly inapplicable. Element 6 is often held to be a goal of sentencing in a libertarian justice system but no restitution can be made in the case of capital murder since the victim cannot be made whole and a dead murderer cannot provide restitution anyway. We know the deterrent effect of a sentence is more strongly based on the likelihood of its being applied than its severity. We also know that most murderers are convicted. So what is the differential deterrent effect of capital punishment rather than lengthy imprisonment? Is there a moral case to be made for elements 1 and 2? Do punishment and retribution have any ethical support in deciding sentencing? What is the purpose of punishing someone in the present and future for an action carried out in the past? Element 3 would seem to be unassailable – if you hang someone they will not kill in the future. These aren’t arguments for or against the death penalty, merely my attempt to frame the debate.

    * note I draw a distinction between punishment and retribution. I think there is a difference, although it’s hard to pinpoint where one ends and the other begins.

  116. PaulB,

    > more people kill again after being released from a sentence for manslaughter than for murder. But more people are convicted of murder than manslaughter.

    It is common practice to negotiate murder charges down to manslaughter, though. Murderers can, for instance, offer to plead guilty to manslaughter. Which must completely skew any such statistic. A large number of those convicted of manslaughter are murderers who have got off too lightly. So what the statistic may well show, then, is that murderers given longer sentences are less likely to reoffend than murderers given shorter sentences.

    > If follows that if we want to stop killers from killing again, we need the death sentence (or life-means-life imprisonment) for manslaughter as well as murder.

    Or we need to stop convicting murderers for manslaughter.

    Does anyone else find it faintly disturbing that “manslaughter” can be read as “man’s laughter”?

  117. BICR,

    You’ve missed one: that animals that live in groups tend to ensure the stability of the group by removing bad individuals (for various criteria of “stable” and “bad”). This may have an effect on the likelihood of that badness occurring within the group, but also (certainly with humans) has a psychological effect on the way the group perceives itself, which in turn has a knock-on effect on other behaviour. Difficult to study, probably impossible to quantify, and a right bugger to argue with, since it has very little to do with the efficacy of the death penalty against the crimes it’s used against and nothing whatsoever to do with any individual case.

    I think this is actually one of the most popular reasons for supporting the death penalty. People often talk about the kind of society they want to live in. It’s visceral, probably pre-human, and quite possibly instinctive. None of which is an argument either for or against it.

    It is also, of course, just as much an argument for life imprisonment as for capital punishment, but only if life does mean life.

    Historically, there were genuine worries that a murderer who appeared to have committed an insane crime could spread that insanity to others. Which, absent quite recent advances in the study of such things, was not irrational.

  118. @ Andrew
    If you have a rational argument (and I have not seen one so far), why do you not introduce me to it?
    Earlier this year “Significance”, a magazine jointly published by the RSS and the American equivalent had an Americas article saying “don’t look at the statistics” because all the data (or so much that it overwhelmed contradictory data) showed that in the USA lives were saved by capital punishment *and* (not and/or) allowing innocent men and women to carry concealed weapons. The data analysis compared death rates before and after changes in the law in individual states normalised for the changes in murder rates for the USA as a whole.
    The data was unacceptable to the propagandists because it gave the utterly predictable answer that deterrence reduced innocent (and even guilty) deaths.
    Anyone who thinks that deterrence has no effect is a moron because the word implies that it has an effect. This was clear throughout my childhood – it doesn’t even have to be a massive deterrent to work – about 60 years ago, when I was still the smallest member of my family,. the Head of Sunday School asked my parents if I could wait until the senior class finished so that I might escort my elder sister home: the little thugs who had been bullying her left us alone even though I was much smaller than her or them: they didn’t want to face a small boy who would fight back. For several years after that I was one of four guys called upon to defend (usually*) smaller boys at my school from local thugs – mostly we could avoid a fight just by being there to deter it.
    *when I grew up I was 5′ 8″ and 8st 5lb, so some of the “little kids” were bigger than I.

  119. John77: are you referring to Daniel Nagin’s article “Deterrence and the death penalty: Why the statistics should be ignored” published in Significance in April? Because if so you have completely misrepresented what it said. The article was based on a much longer report “Deterrence and the Death Penalty” by Nagin and others: I quote from the summary:

    The committee concludes that research to date on the effect of capital punishment on homicide is not informative about whether capital punishment decreases, increases, or has no effect on homicide rates. Therefore, the committee recommends that these studies not be used to inform deliberations requiring judgments about the effect of the death penalty on homicide. Consequently, claims that research demonstrates that capital punishment decreases or increases the homicide rate by a specified amount or has no effect on the homicide rate should not influence policy judgments about capital punishment.

    Will you now withdraw your claim that the data show that lives are saved by capital punishment?

  120. Question: can anyone on the anti- side think of a case where they would have been content to see a convicted murderer executed? And what if the victim had been a loved one?

    No. I think that’s the point really. People on the “pro” side are in a vague area of not knowing what would be the right degree of an act to induce capital punishment, whereas for an “anti”, it’s just “never”. Like, not Adolf Hitler. Nobody. Never. Don’t go there. End of the issue.

  121. Execution only radicalises behaviour.

    Not, which is part of this discussion, of them that what is executed.

    Anyway, I can cope better with non-murdering radicals than with murdering thugs. But you weren’t thinking when you quoted somebody else were you?

  122. My home state (and current residence).

    AZ is great on a lot of issues but, as pretty much all of the ‘freedom loving’ (relatively) states, the legislature is completely bug-shit insane on with regards to ‘being tough on crime’ and immigration

  123. Thank you Paul B

    Despite having consistently and persistently set out my argument that there is no evidence that the death penalty is a deterrent, complete with links to reports which at the very least show that the evidence is conflicting, John77 just keeps misquoting reports (as he clearly has done and you have shown) and then repeats that I haven’t offered any evidence.

    He’s clearly of the Richard Murphy school of debate. Ignore or twist evidence you don’t like then just try and shout down your opponent.

    Anyone who claims there are 20,000 reports showing a deterrent effect and only one showing there isn’t is clearly just making it up. And then to bring in as supporting ‘evidence’ some old man’s tale about what he used to do when he was a little kid 60 years ago and how he grew up to be short and skinny? I think he’s wandered off the debate a bit.

  124. Andrew,

    > Anyone who claims there are 20,000 reports showing a deterrent effect and only one showing there isn’t is clearly just making it up.

    They would be, yes, but that is not what he said. In fact, you’re inferring the polar opposite meaning of his implication. Are you doing it deliberately?

  125. SE

    I wasn’t aware I was quoting anyone. As has been mentioned, if you know you’re going to get executed then you may as well be as nasty as you possibly can. Killers kill regardless. There is no deterrent for psychopathic behaviour.

  126. S2,

    “Not Adolf Hitler? What about Adolf Hitler in 1935?”

    The exception is always saving other lives, self defence. Kill one person who is going to kill others and if execution is your only realistic option rather than arrest.

    That said, what was the likely result of killing Hitler? You’d replace Hitler with Goring. Goring would still have gone to war, although later and probably more successfully. That said, he probably wouldn’t have carried out the final solution.

  127. Just as a current example of how women murderers are more likely to be excused their crimes mentioned above, here’s today in the Tele-

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/10990681/Mikaeel-Kulars-mother-admits-killing-three-year-old-boy.html

    -a woman who undoubtedly murdered her son, who deliberately covered it up, who clearly did it from malice, is allowed a lesser plea of the strange passive voice “culpable homicide”.

    “When Mikaeel was sick for a third time, she dragged him to the shower by his arms and “beat him heavily” on his back as he lay over the bath. Mr Prentice said: “It’s likely that the internal damage was inflicted during this last beating.” and “Mikaeel had more than 40 separate injuries to his body, including bruises to his back, chin and cheek, trauma to the brain, haemorrhage in the spinal cord and injuries to his arms.”

    but-

    “the guilty plea was accepted by the Crown on the basis that she had “no intention to kill Mikaeel and that the assault perpetrated upon him, although severe, fell short of the wicked recklessness required for murder”.”

    Hey ho.

  128. @ PaulB
    No, I shall not withdraw that claim. I refer you to Hansard and the data (but not lying conclusion) in the Home Office report (Callaghan was honest enough to admit that capital murders had soared while Jenkins tried to pretend that they had not by quoting figures for capital and non-capital murders combined: so the decline in murders for which the death penalty had been abolished in the 50s were used to disguise the sharp rise in capital murders). I was unable to calculate exactly the likelihood that the rise in capital murders after the Labour government announced that it would suspend the death penalty was due to random chance because my book of tables did not run to enough decimal places so I can only state that it was less than 0.001%.
    I have not read the long article from which you quote but I got the impression from the one that I read that there were a number of studies, of which one was scientifically sounder (in coming as close as was feasible to a like-for-like comparison) than the others and that the author, who was anti-capital punishment, was honest enough to recognise that the better-quality data did not support his viewpoint and the studies that did were less sound as they ignored societal differences between Texas and New England.
    The next article in that issue I read showed that murder in robbery rates were lower in US States that permitted citizens to carry concealed weapons – again the data appears to support the intuitive assumption that deterrence has an effect.

  129. @ Andrew
    So you claim that statistics suggesting that the fear of execution for crimes *other than* desertion leads to9 a higher rate of desertion is a “fact” that fear of execution is not a deterrent?
    ER?
    I *could* claim that your reference supports my view but I am too honest to do so – it is merely irrelevant.
    A large number (perhaps a majority but we have no way nearly a hundred years later of finding out) of desertions in WWI were due to or associated with shell shock (feed in modern nomenclature like PSTD if you wish) which was definitely a psychiatric condition. So desertion rates do NOT relate to rational decision by sane criminals. Actions by WWI soldiers cannot be measured by modern rationality: my elder great-uncle told his mother when he came out of hospital and joined the RFC that it was safer.

  130. As for the lethal injection business – what a ridiculous fuck up – bring back hanging: properly administered it is quick and neat. the whole business of trying to disguise state administered death as some sort of sanitised medical procedure is squalid beyond belief.

    Some argue the debate over drugs misses the point. In a legal opinion that preceded the execution, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, dissenting from the court’s decision to deny a full hearing over a panel’s granting of a temporary stay of execution for Mr. Wood, said that death by lethal injection should be replaced by more “foolproof” methods, preferably firing squads. Judge Kozinski referred to drug-induced deaths as a “misguided effort to mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and peaceful.”
    – NYT

  131. @ ukliberty
    I have never denied that there are arguments against capital punishment, such as its brutality (and, as Tim points out, the greater suffering caused by attempts to reduce brutality). I just think that we should consider the innocent victims as well as the guilty culprits.

  132. john77,

    I just think that we should consider the innocent victims as well as the guilty culprits.

    Do you think we don’t consider the innocent victims?

  133. John77: if the expert of your choice thinks the data don’t say what you want them to say, wouldn’t it be better to accept that? The 1969 Hansard debate doesn’t say what you want either. For example, whereas after 1965 capital murder rates increased in England and Wales while non-capital murders did not, in Scotland it was non-capital murders which increased while capital murders fell (the Scots retentionist speaking in the debate said he did not think it proper to make the distinction, and Callaghan pointed out that the categorization was suspect since it was no longer being tested in court).

    Homicide rates change in different ways in different counties at different times. There are many reasons for it – trends are usually not random – but the toil of social scientists has failed to establish that changes in deterrence is one of them.

    I think there are a few killers who would be deterred by the threat of the death penalty. But, as TTG argues, only a few. On the other hand, I think there’s a brutalization effect from the state resorting to execution, and its celebration in the popular press, so there a few other killers encouraged by its existence (“I’m gonna execute him”). Logic can’t tell us which effect is more important, and nor, up to now, can statistics. So we might as well do what we think is moral.

  134. @ ukliberty
    Well, how about some? rather than none.
    Of course *I* would like more consideration for the innocent than the guilty, but the only arguments I have seen about the innocent concern a handful of wrongful convictions – I do not recall ANY arguments about the innocent victims of murderers.
    My childhood experience is only marginally relevant but, as it is the *only* fact – rather than umpteenth-hand hearsay – on this thread, it should carry more weight with any honest reader.

  135. The innocent victims of murderers are “considered” by the fact that the murderer is caught, tried and convicted, as with every crime. What other “consideration” do you think is due, John77?

  136. @ ukliberty
    In the absence of any evidence whatsoever, I have not formulated any sophisticated demands beyond those I proposed forty years ago (which no anti-hanging advocate has yet met) that the reduction in the number of murderers hanged should be greater than the increase in the number of innocent victims killed.
    My personal view is that the lives of innocent victims are generally more valuable than those of murderers but there is no universally-accepted objective valuation to support this so I just ask that we grant the innocent a value equal to the guilty!

  137. @PaulB
    So you admit that the data submitted by a cabal of pro-abolitiioinsts demonstrate that hanging was a deterrent?
    I have NEVER ignored the analysis by the expert of my choice – largely because I do not choose experts but rely on those who know about the subject than I – and have only rejected the analyses that were blatantly wrong. Woy Jenkins was so blatantly wrong that I can remember it 40 years later.
    You say “Logic can’t tell us which effect is more important, and nor, up to now, can statistics. So we might as well do what we think is moral.” – I think that statistics not only can but do. You believe that abolishing the death penalty is moral: I do not and also believe that the statistics show that the death penalty saves lives (most notably among black male teenagers).. My last encounter with a black male teenager was nearly 50 years ago when he gave me a boxing lesson: I don’t want his grandchildren to be murdered.

  138. @ ukliberty
    I do not want to waffle platitudes but how can I try to refute stuff that you and other pro-abolitionists fail to produce?
    For thousand of years governments have introduced laws to discourage behaviour that they disliked and successive governments have assumed that deterrence works.
    Since I grew up we have had a minority who opposed capital punishment taking control of Parliament and ignoring both commo0nsense and statistical data.
    I DO listen to people who disagree with me: even my children – no 1 son is almost the only person to find and report back to me an arithmetical error I had made since he was born – I corrected it.

  139. I do not want to waffle platitudes but how can I try to refute stuff that you and other pro-abolitionists fail to produce?

    The problem seems to be that you think opponents must necessarily lack consideration for innocent victims because they haven’t reached the same conclusion as you. But we just think about it in a different way to you – that’s all. It doesn’t mean we don’t give a shit.

    (and you’ve twice evaded the question about what kind of evidence would satisfy you that innocents have been considered.)

    For thousand of years governments have introduced laws to discourage behaviour that they disliked and successive governments have assumed that deterrence works.

    Again (and over and over again) no-one is claiming there is no effect at all that can be attributed to CP. The arguments are about (1) the magnitude of the effect and (2) what part if any at all it should play in the decision about whether to have CP. Some of us understand the literature to suggest that there is at best a tenuous and ambiguous link between capital punishment (or its abolition) and the murder rate.

  140. @ukliberty
    i respect the arguments, even when I disagree with those who discuss “(1) the magnitude of the effect and (2) what part if any at all it should play in the decision about whether to have CP.”
    What I reject is the claim that deterrence has no effect, and I have quoted evidence (produced by an abolitionist) to refute it.
    There are arguments against capital punishment and I do not pretend to be half as good at theology as I should need to be in order to debate them, but I was a student of statistics 40-odd years ago and the statistics are quite clear – deterrance does deter.
    PS to “Again (and over and over again) no-one is claiming there is no effect at all that can be attributed to CP.” the only response is ROFL That is the only point I have been discussing and I have been repeatedly contradicted and occasionally abused.

  141. @ukliberty
    I forgot to answer to:
    what kind of evidence would satisfy you that innocents have been considered?.
    Any evidence would be a start
    I have not yet seen any: can you show me some?

  142. John77: to remind you: you cited an article by Daniel Nagin, based on a book-length report he was the lead editor of. That report concludes that “research to date on the effect of capital punishment on homicide is not informative about whether capital punishment decreases, increases, or has no effect on homicide rates”.

    Yet rather than go with this carefully considered conclusion, you insist on your misrecollection of a summary of it, jumbled up with a different article about concealed carry laws. It’s as if you formed your view as a result of being irritated by Roy Jenkins 50 years ago (I can’t say when exactly, he didn’t speak in the debate you seemed to be referring to) and have refused to look properly at any evidence since.

    Homicide rates in wealthy countries are around one per hundred thousand population in Western Europe, in Australia and in New Zealand, and around five per hundred thousand in the USA. The only country in Europe to use the death penalty is Belarus, also with a rate of about five per hundred thousand. It would be wrong to conclude that using the death penalty increases the murder rate by a factor of five, but no more wrong than your guess that crime trends in England in the 60s prove something in the opposite direction.

  143. forgot to answer to:
    what kind of evidence would satisfy you that innocents have been considered?.
    Any evidence would be a start
    I have not yet seen any: can you show me some?

    OK – I have considered the innocents victims.

  144. He was sentenced to death for killing two people. Those murders took about two minutes. Because he used a gun. There’s a message there somewhere.

    If he needed two minutes to kill two people with a gun, the message is presumably that he’s a piss-poor shot. You could kill two people in less time with a pointy stick.

  145. ukliberty,

    > Again (and over and over again) no-one is claiming there is no effect at all that can be attributed to CP.

    Er, you may not be claiming that, but others in fact have, on this thread, repeatedly.

    Can we mention the phenomenon known in the US as “Three-strikes murders”? Since the introduction of the “three strikes and you’re out” law that your third conviction gets you life no matter what it’s for, criminals who’ve already been convicted twice and are committing, say, a robbery will sometimes simply kill every single witness, as it lowers their chance of getting caught and, if they do get caught and convicted, it has no effect on their sentence. That seems to me like pretty bloody strong evidence that incentives matter and that deterrance can work. Not all murders are committed by people getting angry in the heat of the moment.

  146. @ PaulB
    You claim – wrongly – that the Hansard debate, to which helpfully supply a link, does not support my argument.
    May I quote James Callaghan, proposing the motion?
    “A good deal has been made of the juxtaposition of the figure of 67 murders that were, or might have been, capital in 1961-64, and a wholly hypothetical figure of 154 that might have been capital in 1965–68”
    Compare that with the number of executions of the guilty.

  147. @ PaulB
    Having ploughed through the Nagin paper that you referenced I find no mention of the Colorado study, so I have to query whether it was the sole source of the article which I read.
    I did find “Commentary on research findings often pits studies claiming to find statistically significant deterrent effects against those finding no statistically significant effects, with the latter studies sometimes interpreted as implying that there is no deterrent effect”. If there really was no deterrent effect, or a very weak one, there would be some studies showing a negative effect. Nagin only mentions one claiming a negative effect, which he comprehensively discredits as scientifically unsound.
    Also “As an example of this result, consider the Cohen-Cole et al. (2009) analysis of the models in Dezhbakhsh, Rubin, and Shepherd (2003) and Donohue and Wolfers (2005). Dezhbakhsh, Rubin, and Shepherd (2003) report, under their preferred specification, a statistically significant point estimate of 18 lives saved for each execution. However, when all of the different specifications spanned in the two papers are given probability weights, Cohen-Cole et al. estimate an approximate 95 percent confidence interval on the number of lives saved per execution of [–24, 124]:” This latter implies a central estimate of lives saved per execution of 50,

Leave a Reply

Name and email are required. Your email address will not be published.