Filed Under: I've Never Thought About This From That Perspective

by M. David Peterson

last-ditch emotional plea � GNUosphere

No matter how the death penalty is debated, the dialog I often end up in boils down to something like this…

OK Peter, I understand what you’re saying but what if it was your kid that was raped and murdered? How would you feel? What would you want to do?

My response:

I might go insane with anger. Though I feel uncomfortable saying this, I have to admit I may feel like killing the perpetrator while inflicting a painful revenge.

Their response:


My response:

We should adopt laws expressing insanity and rage with the intention of vengeance?


2008-04-20 10:53:25
At last, a title from D.P. ... almost readable ;)
(no braket or Hungary syntaxe, some verbs...)
M. David Peterson
2008-04-20 12:16:38

:D What can I say... I try, ;-)

Rick Jelliffe
2008-04-21 00:07:34

My country, Australia was built on poor criminal blood (and, more disturbingly, on warder blood) and we now have a really low crime rate and poverty. So criminality and poverty is not infallibly genetic. I bring this up because the death penalty in the US seems to be really a kind of eugenics policy.
Alexander Pope
2008-04-21 02:03:34
To err is human to forgive is divine.
2008-04-21 02:10:52
The perp should hope that the cops get him before you do, eh? That's a fair answer that accepts the reality of thirst for revenge but does not turn the state and all taxpayers into murderers.
2008-04-21 03:49:36
Nicely put. I usually just go for "killing's bad, m'ok?".
M. David Peterson
2008-04-21 05:10:20
@Rick, Alexander, F.Baube, Danny: What is absolutely astonishing to me is how such a simple statement,

"We should adopt laws expressing insanity and rage with the intention of vengeance?"

... can have such a drastic impact on ones perspective and opinion. Before reading the above from Peter Rock I was absolutely Pro-Death Penalty. Not because I believe that murder is o.k., but because in some situations it felt like the only "reasonable" way to bring about "justice".

After reading Peter's plea, I'm finding my *long standing* opinion taking an about face.

Thanks to each of you for your follow-up! (and to Peter for putting things into proper perspective.)

2008-04-21 06:24:19
I have never supported the death penalty , but sometimes I'm unable to decide the alternative.
e.g. in my native country there was a case where some mad man abused and murdered > 20 children. Im unable to convince myself that he has a right to live , nor can I convince myself that the state should kill him. What would you suggest as the punishment?
M. David Peterson
2008-04-21 07:45:17

>> What would you suggest as the punishment?

I don't know. I'm still coming to grips with the sudden shift in thinking that Peter's comments have invoked. Maybe somebody else has some thoughts on the matter they'd like to share?

2008-04-22 06:49:22
For most (well ok, half) of the crimes that the death penalty is drawn (e.g. mass murder, child sexual abuse) there really *is* no human justice.

Killing them isn't justice - You can't kill them painfully enough or often enough to satisfy the the rage and hatred that having your loved ones taken from you senslessly brings on. And the killing is wrong part, too.

Jailing them isn't justice - Now all of society has to pay for their three square meal a day, cable watching asses. First they take away your loved ones, and now they cost everyone a lot of money.

Whoever thinks the death penalty is about justice is rationalizing the ugly truth. It's about removing the most rabid amongst us from the population.

I'm still for it, but don't confuse it with justice.

Peter Rock
2008-04-22 16:57:48
GreatWhiteDork says:

"I'm still for [the death penalty], [...]"

Why are you for it?

M. David Peterson
2008-04-22 19:49:09

>> Why are you for it?

Excellent question!


Please understand that I am coming at this from what was once a similar, if not the same standpoint as your own. And it wasn't until I read Peter's final response from the above post that I was forced to completely reevaluate why it was I felt this way. Thus far I've come up with nothing that I can point at and say "this is a legitimate reason."

I don't know what the answer is as it relates to what should we do instead. I do believe, however, that using the "it costs us money so that they can sit in jail, eat three square meals, and watch cable TV." argument is complete non-sense. Yes, it costs money for us to function as a society. That's understood. But if faced with having to choose between freedom or being locked away in a cold dark cell where I eat what I am given when I am given it, turn out the lights and go to bed when I am told, and for a few hours a day watch re-runs of Mash, Oprah, and other ongoing reminders of what it is I will never again be a part of, I think it's safe to assume what my choice would be.

We now live in a world where we are able to guarantee that those in whom should never be allowed to live within our free society will never be given that opportunity. And it is my understanding that the combination of both legal and jailing costs incurred when someone is sent to death row far surpasses what it would cost to simply house these same people in maximum security prisons for the rest of their lives. Maybe my data is wrong, but if it isn't, then this is no longer a question of financial burden on the tax payers and instead the same general question originally posed by Peter,

> Why should we adopt laws expressing insanity and rage with the intention of vengeance?

2008-04-23 10:43:24
I did sound a bit trollish, so let me clarify with some caveats:

- I am a rabid libritarian, so I only grudgingly give government at any level any power, much less the power to end someone's life.

- I think we use the death penalty too often and entirely too ineptly.

- It's not justice (See previous post), so we need to stop caliling it that.

So I suppose the death penalty as it sits today as some sort of Justice meted out by the State? No. I am against that.

Here's my big but:
BUT, We have a lot of prisoners in a lot of jails eating up a lot of tax money. I can accept (grudgingly) a financial, social reponsibility via the necessary evil of taxes to house and feed someone who snaps and kills someone in a rage or someone who runs afoul of drugs or gang life and knocks over a store.

I can not stomach the idea of paying taxes to house someone who repeatedly rapes and kills children. Or someone like Bundy or Manson who says they will continue to kill large numbers of people if you ever let them out.

Call it brutal if you will, but consider your body's response to a virus in it's midst: Does the white blood cell encasulate it and keep it locked it up so it can't hurt anything? No. It destroys it for the greater good of the whole body. I'd like to see that as a final (and *uncommonly* used) last resort for the worst sort of criminals.

Not a popular stance, probably, but I had to clarify so I didn't sound *too* bloodthirsty.

2008-04-28 05:49:54
Someone who murders 20 kids -- it's very tempting to say that they have resigned their commission in the human race, and should be exterminated.

But then -- where do you draw the line ?

A lifetime in jail is no picnic, and why not let'em eat mac & cheese every day.

(I am not persuaded by the "why should I pay to house them in jail?" arguments. You're confusing money and life. They are different things.)

Besides, who knows, maybe in 10 or 15 years we stumble upon some cure that returns to them their inner humanity. That would be interesting.

2008-04-28 07:22:48
Great question: "Where to draw the line"
That question is at the heart of many of the ills with America Today.

- Government Care vs. Individual Responsibilty
- Security (Safety) vs. Freedom
- Free Speech vs. Hate Speech

It's a vital question and it needs to be answered.

But in asking where to draw the line on capitol punishment, you have admitted the line's existance. And if you admit to the existance of the line, then there exists something on the other side. Let's agree to hope that the other side of that line is as small as possible, ideally zero. But in the cases of people like of the Manson, Gacy, or Bundy ... perhaps slightly more than zero.

last post on this...seriously
with respect,