On Death And Execution

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Pursuer of happiness. Bon vivant. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. There's a Twitter account at @burtlikko, but not used for posting on the general feed anymore. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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85 Responses

  1. Michael Cain says:

    First, I’m opposed to the death penalty. Second, to your question on the front page, inert-gas asphyxiation. Leaking Halon® fire-suppression systems used to kill computer room techies because they didn’t notice that it was happening.Report

    • In addition to being quick, sure, and painless, inert-gas asphyxiation is dirt cheap. And has the — IMO — added advantage that no medical personnel need be involved beyond certifying that the prisoner is dead, so we can require that the prosecutor who asked for the death sentence push the button/turn the valve/whatever to carry out the execution.Report

      • Will H. in reply to Michael Cain says:

        The same with nitrogen.
        N-rich environments kill a lot of untrained people that think they’ll be ok if they just hold their breath.
        Doesn’t work.
        Nitrogen actively displaces oxygen, and the particle is small enough it enters the body through the eyes & ears.
        That’s what O2 detectors are for.Report

    • Road Scholar in reply to Michael Cain says:

      Michael Cain,

      Yeah, same deal with refrigerant. R-12 (and its successors) were/are non-toxic in the sense of not being poisonous at all. The main issue was they were heavier than air and could settle in your lungs, displacing the oxygen. First aid for someone overcome with Freon “poisoning” was to literally turn the victim upside down and beat on their chest so the Freon would “fall” out. The reefer deck had serious fresh air ventilation.Report

  2. Jaybird says:

    Also opposed to the Death Penalty (but supportive of the concept that in theory there are some people who need killin’, I just don’t trust the judgment of the government in general or law enforcement in specific).

    When it comes to the death penalty and how we want to use it, it seems that we’re more interested in making ourselves feel better about how we use it (sterile, quiet) than about anything else.

    Why not an overdose of opiates? Why do we insist on the guy being conscious for the start of the process (I mean, why not let him get stoned right and proper first? I mean marijuana, not rocks and stuff)?

    The firing squad, the noose, and the axe all come out and say “this is what we’re doing and there isn’t any way to pretty it up.”

    Wiping the arm of a guy with alcohol before inserting a needle? What lies are we telling ourselves?Report

    • Glyph in reply to Jaybird says:

      I’ve asked the “why not opiate overdose?” question here before (it seems like a no-brainer), and don’t recall what the consensus answer was; but I suspect that there is resistance to allowing someone who allegedly did something so awful as to warrant death, to slip into that death warmly and fuzzily with little fear or pain, when their victim might not’ve; nor, in all likelihood, will you or I.Report

      • Stephan Cooper in reply to Glyph says:

        Not everyone reacts to opiates the same way, particularly at high dosages and can lead to a fairly ugly death if things go wrong. Its not really a reliably humane option for executions.Report

  3. gingergene says:

    I see stories like this where establishing adequate defense counsel results in an 85% drop in death sentences. That doesn’t even factor in how many will later have their sentences reduced on appeal.

    We execute the poor more than the wealthy.
    We execute murderers of high-status victims more than low-status victims.
    We execute men more than women.
    We execute black murderers more than white murderers.

    One can not be describe this as Justice in any meaningful way.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to gingergene says:

      You linked back to the OP, @gingergene . What was the link you wanted to post?Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to gingergene says:

      We execute black murderers more than white murderers.

      This isn’t true. In the US, most executed prisoners have been white, whereas most homicides are committed by black offenders. Since most homicide is intraracial, the bias against executing the (almost exclusively black) murderers of black victims cancels out the bias in favor of executing black murderers.

      In general, though, the unequal application argument is a great argument to make when you’re preaching to the choir. If there were a way to determine the truth of a murder charge beyond any doubt, I’d be in favor of executing every murderer. And if you told me that we execute murderers of black victims less than murderers of white victims, my takeaway would be that we’re not executing enough murderers of black victims.

      If the state executes innocent people, that’s a legitimate argument against the death penalty. If the state executes more actual murderers of one demographic than another, that’s an argument for more consistent application, not abolition.Report

      • If there were a way to determine the truth of a murder charge beyond any doubt, I’d be in favor of eliminating the middleman and just letting the Koches rule by decree. Because a falsehood implies anything,Report

      • Here, @brandon-berg gets at Blackmun’s concern, which I’ve adopted.

        It’s a little bit confusing because there is both racial bias baked into the justice system, and an intolerably high risk that innocents are being executed seems apparent. Rhetorically, we can separate the arguments from one another and argue for or against different policy responses to them. Practically, we have to deal with all of it at once.

        As for the racial bias, I do not think it is at all clear that the demographics of the defendants are cancelled out by the demographics of the victims. Even if murder sometimes deserves death as a punishment, demographics ought not to play a factor at all in the process of separating out the “worst of the worst” from the “merely” awful.

        But we can’t drive out bias from a panel of jurors, or from a body of police in the field who make the arrest and gather evidence, or a panel of prosecutors who collectively decide what to do, or a judge who presides over hundreds of cases at any given time. Certainly we can’t do that without giving up other things in the system that we value highly, like an evaluation of the defendant’s person — his demeanor, his body language, his reaction to presentation of evidence, his statements on his own behalf. Or the need to afford him the opportunity to confront a witness, or the need to gauge a witness’s reaction to the defendant — does she recoil in fear, for instance. We certainly aren’t going to do without juries in this process and the other people involved in the process are inherently part of how justice is rendered. All of those things requires actually seeing actual people. And doing that means you’re necessarily going to notice, among other things, the person’s race.

        As we know from other sources, it’s exceedingly difficult to drive out unconscious biases from decision-making. To the extent it’s possible at all, it requires sustained, conscious, and overt training. When we put people, particularly jurors chosen roughly at random to represent a cross-section of the community as a whole, through a process in which skilled advocates are intentionally manipulating their emotions and applying rules of evidence to filter the factual information presented, there is so much opportunity for irrational, biased decision-making that the typical result cannot possibly be possessed of only such trivial deviations from fairness that, as a whole, decisions for or against death are just and unprejudiced.

        Maybe, back in the days before we’d done all the cognitive science and thought deeply and searchingly about our society’s race relations, people could feel confident that eyewitness testimony was the best kind of evidence available, and the system afforded everyone a fair and equal chance to present their case, and twelve people picked at random would somehow conjure up the goddess of Justice back there in the jury room and be guided by her. But in the modern era, we now know things about ourselves, about the way we think as individuals and as groups, that weren’t known a generation ago.

        And because death is an irreversible process, one not subject to remedy if a serious enough procedural or factual error is discovered later on appeal or with the advance of science to better analyze evidence, we cannot morally afford to permit ourselves to err with respect to the stakes of death.

        I don’t want to criticize the judges and jurors of ages past. Nor do I want to abandon the idea of punishing the guilty or the use of the judicial process as a means of sorting out those who are guilty from those who are not. I do want us to improve our system of implementing justice in the future. We’ll do better in that respect if we set aside the official pursuit of death.Report

  4. Mike Dwyer says:

    100% opposed to the death penalty but…

    Just as a point of order, I believe that in firing squad executions the rifles are aimed at the upper torso/heart, not at the head. Generally speaking, it’s a fast way to go. You can watch firing squad executions of Nazis on YouTube and it seems very fast 90% of the time.

    The guillotine seems to be the way to go for speed, but the gore would bother too many people.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      The opportunity for a Bon Jovi joke here is tremendous. Very surprised that no one’s got on that yet.Report

    • DavidTC in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      The guillotine seems to be the way to go for speed, but the gore would bother too many people.

      The guillotine probably is, legitimately, the least painful way to die. (Well, beside carbon dioxide asphyxiation, but that takes a really long time, and raises the specter of doing it ‘halfway’ and the horrible results.) Some people will tell you there’s evidence that people remain conscious for two or three seconds after decapitation, which makes me laugh…how long do they think people are conscious during the current batch of chemicals? Every single form of current death penalty works by stopping the heart, which means it *at least* takes as long for someone to lose consciousness as the head being instantly disconnected from their heart…probably a lot longer, because they’re awake the entire time their heart is being stopped.

      And ‘conscious’ and ‘in pain’ are not the same thing…we *know* that with a sharp enough blade, amputation does not hurt for ten or twenty seconds. People have lost limbs and not even *noticed* it. The experience of dying by guillotine would be roughly, ‘Wait, my head just moved, did they just-‘ and that’s it. (And if we were really worried, some sort of novacaine around their neck would make sure they didn’t feel anything, but, again, they shouldn’t.)

      We don’t use the guillotine pretty much solely because we want the death penalty to *look* peaceful.Report

      • zic in reply to DavidTC says:

        beheadings and hangings were public spectacles much loved.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to DavidTC says:

        Well, beside carbon dioxide asphyxiation…

        CO2 asphyxiation gives you 30 seconds or more of increasing panic before you pass out due to the body’s reaction to excess blood CO2 levels. Lots of readily available alternatives where you just pass out without the panic — nitrogen, argon, etc. For a while you could buy suicide kits online that included a small tank of helium. I worked in a rural field lab summers in college that had several big tanks of dry nitrogen. Rigorous protocol for handling them, regular tests for leakage in the pipe system that moved it around. 8-10 people per year die in the US due to industrial mishaps involving nitrogen displacement of oxygen; there’s no evidence that any of these people ever realize what’s happening before they pass out.Report

    • Will H. in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      Word is that Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico paid each of his executioners in gold so that they would not fire at his head, that his mother might be able to view him in state.Report

  5. Kolohe says:

    Ever since Brittany Maynard was in the news, this dilemma has baffled me, as there seems to be a trivially easy solution.Report

  6. Saul Degraw says:

    According to Utah, we bring back the firing squad.

    I am really amazed at how much the pro-Death Penalty crowd wants to hang unto the punishment and will do so by tooth and nail. Is there something deep in the American psyche that likes the death penalty? Have we not evolved past Hannurabi’s Code after thousands of years? LeeEsq mentions from time to time that the death penalty is still fairly popular in Europe but is only kept off the books because their criminal justice system is kept away from popular passions and the judicial elite have decided against the death penalty.

    I am not so sure though. Europe can produce prisons like this:


    Then again, I’ve read that France’s prisons are just as bad as the prisons in the United States. Central and South America has prisons that are more or less controlled by gangs. VICE did a special on a prison in Venzeuela and it was clearly controlled by the Cartels complete with women, kids running around, and what basically looked like a Pool Party BBQ.Report

    • Mr. Blue in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      LeeEsq mentions from time to time that the death penalty is still fairly popular in Europe but is only kept off the books because their criminal justice system is kept away from popular passions and the judicial elite have decided against the death penalty.

      That was true when the death penalty was abolished, but I don’t think it’s true now.

      It seems pretty foolish of death penalty opponents to think that they could actually abolish the death penalty through ankle-biting, though I guess they have here and there but mostly in states where support was already waning. Eventually they’re going to need to endure the indignity of actually getting people to try to agree with them.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Mr. Blue says:

        I fear that my argument won’t be popular for that goal.

        Unless the justice rendered is functionally perfect, the judicial process of the state cannot be morally justified in taking life. The state can (perhaps) render good justice, but not perfect justice and to proceed with such punishment we must willfully blind ourselves to significant injustices incurred along the way. Thus, the imperfection of our process bars us from the morally justified resort to capital punishment.

        Unless the means of execution is assuredly not cruel and unusual, the judicial process of the state cannot legally implement it. There is no form of execution that can be assuredly not cruel. So there is no physical means by which even a perfectly-rendered execution might be carried out.

        I don’t think that’ll be very popular, because it’s politically unpalatable. It requires that we admit that people in the justice system might make mistakes in ways we haven’t anticipated yet.Report

        • Will H. in reply to Burt Likko says:

          I completely agree with your 2nd & 4th paragraphs.

          Part of that is cultural. I grew up in a state where the idea that “No amount of property is worth a human life” was the accepted norm.
          I came to tentatively favor the death penalty in limited circumstances later on in life, though now I reject it.
          In addition, I reject the notion of life imprisonment. I know all too well that a single moment can change a person’s life. Taking away the opportunity for that change to occur robs us, as a people, of our own humanity, while refusal to acknowledge it is a damnation of ourselves; to which I say, “No, thank you.”Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      The situation in Central and South America prisons are a lot more complicated. Many of the countries do not have the financial resources to run proper prisons. They also have big gang problems. The solution was to guard the outside of the prisons and prevent escape but let the prisoners run the places on the inside. It seems to work relatively well in that the prisoners don’t escape. Rehabilitation doesn’t exist though.Report

  7. LeeEsq says:

    There is an inherent contradiction between the prohibitions of the 8th Amendment and the 5th amendments permission to inflict death as punishment. Death rather than the accompanying pain is supposed to be the result of capital punishment. The 8th amendment implicitly bans the infliction of physical pain as punishment. It’s just really difficult to intentionally kill humans painlessly. Death penalty advocates have been trying to for a long time with no success.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq says:

      It’s not *THAT* difficult to kill people painlessly.

      It’s just that the people who would be really, really good at that sort of thing tend to not be the type of people who end up in a position to do it.

      And the people who end up in a position to do it tend to not be the type of people who can learn to get really, really good at it.

      And, for some reason, we quail at the thought of using schedule one drugs in the process of killing people. Lest kids get the wrong idea, probably.Report

      • Alan Scott in reply to Jaybird says:

        I think it’s more accurate to say that it’s relatively easy to kill someone painlessly, but it’s incredibly difficult to not look like the badguy while doing so. Guillotines and gas chambers are where it’s at–but nobody who cheers for the death in our society wants to be compared to the Nazis or the Reign of Terror– so we have the convenient fiction of “we’re more humane than they were” established by a process that looks less like violence and more like medicine.Report

  8. Jaybird says:

    Because I’m opening the closet door to my Nrx sympathies, I’d like to share a wonderful Nrx quotation on the topic of the Death Penalty:

    Every city in the world has the death penalty for stepping in front of a bus. How do we live with this draconian rule? By not violating it.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird says:

      From various personal injury lawsuits, I can tell you it is possible to get hit by a bus and/or train and survive. Also it is not always the fault of the injured or dead that they were hit by a bus or train.Report

    • James K in reply to Jaybird says:


      In addition to Saul’s points, I’m not aware of anyone who thinks people who step in front of buses deserves to die. Just because a death happens doesn’t make it just.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to James K says:

        There are the folks who love to point to people who’ve been hurt or killed and say “evolution in action”.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to James K says:

        I’m not sure that hammering out a significant concept of justice will change anything about the various draconian rules that are out there that only allow you to escape punishment by not violating them.Report

        • Burt Likko in reply to Jaybird says:

          I don’t think anyone has suggested that people who violate the law should not be punished.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Burt Likko says:

            Oh, I must not have understood the emphasis on desert, then.Report

            • Burt Likko in reply to Jaybird says:

              Well, there are arguments here that criminals do not deserve to be punished for their crimes with death, notwithstanding that inflicting death may well have been the crime under contemplation.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Burt Likko says:

                While I agree with what you’re saying, I’d like to point out that my arguments in this particular subthread were being made with the assumption that we were specifically talking about the laws alluded to in the root quotation.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Burt Likko says:

                I don’t think that’s anything new.
                Bank robbers are punished by other than the amount of their theft.

                Really, the whole concept of Punishment drives at the heart of one of the biggest problems in criminal justice: That some people will sincerely regret a minor infraction and observe the law from then on without much or any in the way of Punishment, while with others all the punishment in the world isn’t going to make much difference.
                The problem comes in separating the two groups.
                There’s really just a cookie-cutter system with the dial crank all the way on hard-ass at all times.
                The default is: Everyone should suffer. Builds character, and all that.Report

              • greginak in reply to Will H. says:

                Plenty of people fear going back to jail after serving time. Fear of punishment is strong for some people even if they don’t much care about the law or regret their crimes (other than going to jail).

                It is really really hard to impossible to figure out who is sincere when they say they won’t commit another crime especially when they are on trial or facing a PO.Report

              • Will H. in reply to greginak says:

                That makes sense intuitively, but the evidence doesn’t support that conclusion.
                The single most accurate predictor of imprisonment is old; specifically, lack thereof.
                Our system is designed to lock people up until they’re too old to commit crimes.Report

              • Don Zeko in reply to Will H. says:

                Except for three strikes laws, which are designed to wait until somebody is almost too old to commit crimes, and then to lock them up and throw away the key.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Don Zeko says:

                lock them up and throw away the key.

                The overwhelming favorite for how to apply the death penalty seems to be “put them in a small windowless room with a sink and a toilet, feed them 3 times a day, and wait.”Report

              • Don Zeko in reply to Jaybird says:

                @jaybird If the slow march of time is the best technique we’ve come up with to kill Castro, why not use it on murderers, too?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Don Zeko says:

                Well, I don’t want to get into my “what in the hell do we think we’re doing with prison?” rant, but, seriously, I think we’d do a lot more good (or, at least, stop actively doing so much bad) by abolishing prisons than we would by abolishing the death penalty.Report

              • Murali in reply to Will H. says:

                The concept of punishment is fundamentally retributive. As a basic matter, to say that one punishes an innocent person is to abuse the term (and that person). The problem with dropping the retributive element of punishment is that once you do that you cease to be punishing. Deterrence can be achieved in at least some cases by inflicting “punishment” on an innocent person so long as most people believe that person to be guilty. Rehabilitation can be achieved in ways that do not even involve losses of welfare on the criminal’s part. After all, counselling and psychiatric therapy would probably be more effective in most cases than prison time, which, even for relatively short durations, hardens the criminals so interred, making them even less fit to re-enter society. If retributivism seems inadequate, then we should own up to our views and label them correctly. You have stopped believing in the concept of punishment. Or maybe you just believe that your state institutions are just not competent to punish. That is what consistency requires.Report

  9. DavidTC says:

    I’ve always thought of the death penalty like the idea of separate-but-equal:

    1) It is somewhat hypocritical and immoral for the state to try to do in the first place. The state should not be telling people that everyone has equal rights, and then refute that in its own behavior. The state should not be telling people not to kill other people, and then…kill people.

    So I’m somewhat dubious about the death penalty in an ideal world, where we are 99.99999% sure of all convictions and it was all completely fair across the board. Just like I would be rather dubious of two entirely different but *completely equal* educational systems.

    2) But even disregarding that, the only way to justify it is if you could do it *correctly*: If separate schools actually *were* equal, if the death penalty was applied fairly.

    This, however, is pretty much exactly the opposite of what happens.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to DavidTC says:

      I’m pretty sure the state also frowns on freelance imprisonment. Is imprisoning criminals also hypocritical? What do you think about the claim that taxation is theft? Putting aside the competence issue, which is a legitimate concern, claiming that there’s no meaningful distinction between murder and lawful execution in response to murder and that the latter is therefore hypocritical strikes me as a very poorly thought-out argument.Report

      • DavidTC in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        I’m pretty sure the state also frowns on freelance imprisonment. Is imprisoning criminals also hypocritical?

        The state actually is okay with freelance imprisonment, if it is required to stop a crime.

        You’ll also notice the same argument applies to killing someone, aka, self defense.

        Those are the origins of both the death penalty and imprisoning someone: We could do it to stop criminals from committing more crime.

        You will *also* notice that, as imprisonment exists and is pretty fool-proof, there’s not really much need for the death penalty, and it’s something we keep doing because, as prisons did not work well once upon a time, it was the most reliable means of keeping criminals from committing more crime.

        And if you really squint, you’ll perhaps notices in these days of electronic monitoring, there’s not *actually* much of a need for imprisonment of most criminals, either, and it’s something we sorta keep doing because it, too, used to be the most reliable means of keeping criminals from committing more crime.

        So, *yes*, continuing to imprison most criminals is, indeed, somewhat hypocritical. At least, imprisoning them in prison is somewhat hypocritical.

        What do you think about the claim that taxation is theft?

        That the claim is stupid?

        But I’ll pretend instead you asked: Is it hypocritical for the government to demand money with the threat of violence, when it forbids other people from doing that?

        No, because the government is, in fact, perfectly fine with people demanding other people them money or leave their property. It is, admittedly, an analogy, as ‘legal ownership’ and ‘jurisdiction over’ are not *identical* things, but, then again, taxes and theft aren’t the same thing either. (Now, admittedly, there are some interesting fringe cases of the US attempting to tax people *outside* their jurisdiction, but that’s something else.)

        Putting aside the competence issue, which is a legitimate concern, claiming that there’s no meaningful distinction between murder and lawful execution in response to murder and that the latter is therefore hypocritical strikes me as a very poorly thought-out argument.

        The idea that that state generally should not do something it is not generally willing to let people do is seems like a reasonable moral position…bearing in mind the word ‘generally’. Or, really: Categorical imperative…where we be if such a thing was done by everyone/the government.

        And, like the Categorical imperative, it has exceptions in the real world, and gets messy. (We don’t want *everyone* defining which side of the road they drive on, but we do want the government doing that.)

        But I don’t see why we would want an exception for *the death penalty*, which is something is, quite literally, completely useless and accomplishes nothing at all.Report

  10. Damon says:

    I’m not opposed to the death penalty. I just don’t believe our current system can prosecute, convict, and implement a death penalty case with any sense of justice.

    Too many DAs looking to make a name
    Too many cops lying
    Too many DAs withholding evidence.

    As to the method. I like the firing squad.Report

    • Mike Dwyer in reply to Damon says:

      I’m pretty much in the same place. I’m not opposed to the principal of killing someone who commits heinous crimes, but the number of people being freed due to new scientific breakthroughs make me far too uncomfortable that innocents would be killed. Plus, isn’t it a lot cheaper just to give someone life in prison?Report

      • Don Zeko in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        @mike-dwyer Re: Cost: it certainly is, but there’s a bit of a paradox here. Housing somebody on death row isn’t necessarily more expensive than housing them in regular prison, and in theory if you execute you don’t have to pay that for as long a period of time. It’s only more expensive because of the cost of appeals and litigation, so in theory one could make execution far cheaper by removing various due process requirements and procedural safeguards. But of course then the number of wrongful executions would increase dramatically.

        As to the broader point, I’ve always been anti-death penalty for philosophical reasons. But having learned a great deal more about the machinery of death in this country over the past few years, I find the practical case that we cannot execute people with adequate fairness, swiftness, and accuracy far more visceral and compelling. I’d almost say that the best reason to abolish the death penalty is simply to have done with the grotesque debates about how it is administered and who is executed.Report

  11. Road Scholar says:

    Apart from all the excellent reasons you put forward NOT to inflict the death penalty, I can’t think of a single, legitimate reason TO inflict it that isn’t served just as well by life imprisonment. Either way, the convicted person spends the rest of their days behind bars and ends up dying there anyway.Report

    • gingergene in reply to Road Scholar says:

      The main reason I hear from supporters is Justice and Vengeance.

      True Justice is impossible- a person can only die once (as Timothy McVeigh callously observed,”…it’s 168-1“) , and we do so as humanely as possible, so they are spared the fate their victims suffered.

      As for Vengeance, that’s a hollow victory. It would be better to acknowledge that the communities of the victims can never be made whole, that the scales can never be balanced, than to try and fail, only adding more loss.Report

  12. Jaybird says:

    This post makes me remember this classic comment rescue (starring our very own Chris).Report

    • Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

      I had forgotten about that. Damn that case makes me angry. The death penalty is an issue on which I simply cannot understand people who disagree — our conceptual and ethical understandings of the issue are too far removed from each other — so I am surprised I even made that comment in the first place, as I usually try to avoid the anger I feel at pro-death penalty sentiments.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Chris says:

        What I do not and can’t imagine I ever will understand is failing to make a reasonable effort to prove that someone is guilty before executing them. (And yes, Texas, I’m looking at you.) How can taking a life be treated that lightly?Report

  13. Jaybird says:

    According to this, there were 35 executions in the United States in 2014.

    According to this, there were more than 1000 people killed by the police in 2014.

    There were more than 35 police killings in 2015 before the end of the day of January 14th.

    The Death Penalty is a red herring.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Jaybird says:

      Given the disparity in resources expended between a police shooting and a traditionally authorized execution, I don’t think that it is a red herring.

      The level of official endorsement that is attached to one is much greater than the level of blessing attached to the other, as well.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Depends on whether you see a person as a resource that is expended.

        And assuming that the death penalty is justified (just for the sake of argument), I’d also be interested in comparing numbers for the people killed who probably ought not have been.Report

      • Will H. in reply to Burt Likko says:

        The level of official endorsement that is attached to one is much greater than the level of blessing attached to the other, as well.

        True, that.

        A lot of people have misgivings about the death penalty.

        People stabbing each other in prison, however, comes with the territory.Report

  14. Mike Dwyer says:

    I’ve been re-watching GoT Season 1 this week and a quote keeps making me thinking of this conversation. “He who passes judgement should swing the sword.” Maybe we insist that the jury also serve on a firing squad?Report

  15. Kim says:

    The death penalty is one of the cheapest ones we can assess, in terms of loss of quality of life.
    I think that giving someone life in prison is a far worse punishment than simply killing them.Report

  16. Notme says:

    Here is an appropriate case for the death penalty. I hope they get it.