States assert right to death sentence!

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John F
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Re: States assert right to death sentence!

Post by John F » Wed Apr 01, 2015 8:32 am

From Justice Stevens's opinion in Baze & Bowling v. Rees, 2008

The thoughtful opinions written by THE CHIEF JUSTICE and by JUSTICE GINSBURG have persuaded me that current decisions by state legislatures, by the Congress of the United States, and by this Court to retain the death penalty as a part of our law are the product of habit and inattention rather than an acceptable deliberative process that weighs the costs and risks of administering that penalty against its identifiable benefits, and rest in part on a faulty assumption about the retributive force of the death penalty.

In Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U. S. 153 (1976), we explained that unless a criminal sanction serves a legitimate penological function, it constitutes "gratuitous infliction of suffering" in violation of the Eighth Amendment. We then identified three societal purposes for death as a sanction: incapacitation, deterrence, and retribution. See id., at 183, and n. 28 (joint opinion of Stewart, Powell, and STEVENS, JJ.). In the past three decades, however, each of these rationales has been called into question.

While incapacitation may have been a legitimate rationale in 1976, the recent rise in statutes providing for life imprisonment without the possibility of parole demonstrates that incapacitation is neither a necessary nor a sufficient justification for the death penalty.10 Moreover, a recent poll indicates that support for the death penalty drops significantly when life without the possibility of parole is presented as an alternative option.11 And the available sociological evidence suggests that juries are less likely to impose the death penalty when life without parole is available as a sentence.

The legitimacy of deterrence as an acceptablejustification for the death penalty is also questionable, at best. Despite 30 years of empirical research in the area, there remains no reliable statistical evidence that capital punishment in fact deters potential offenders. In the absence of such evidence, deterrence cannot serve as a sufficient penological justification for this uniquely severe and irrevocable punishment.

We are left, then, with retribution as the primary rationale for imposing the death penalty. And indeed, it is the retribution rationale that animates much of the remaining enthusiasm for the death penalty. As Lord Justice Denning argued in 1950, "‘some crimes are so outrageous that society insists on adequate punishment, because the wrong-doer deserves it, irrespective of whether it is a deterrent or not.’" See Gregg, 428 U. S., at 184, n. 30. Our Eighth Amendment jurisprudence has narrowed the class of offenders eligible for the death penalty to include only those who have committed outrageous crimes defined by specific aggravating factors. It is the cruel treatment of victims that provides the most persuasive arguments for prosecutors seeking the death penalty. A natural response to such heinous crimes is a thirst for vengeance.

At the same time, however, as the thoughtful opinions by THE CHIEF JUSTICE and JUSTICE GINSBURG make pellucidly clear, our society has moved away from public and painful retribution towards ever more humane forms of punishment. State-sanctioned killing is therefore becoming more and more anachronistic. In an attempt to bring executions in line with our evolving standards of decency, we have adopted increasingly less painful methods of execution, and then declared previous methods barbaric and archaic. But by requiring that an execution be relatively painless, we necessarily protect the inmate from enduring any punishment that is comparable to the suffering inflicted on his victim. This trend, while appropriate and required by the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, actually undermines the very premise on which public approval of the retribution rationale is based. See, e.g., Kaufman-Osborn, Regulating Death: Capital Punishment and the Late Liberal State, 111 Yale L. J. 681, 704 (2001) (explaining that there is "a tension between our desire to realize the claims of retribution by killing those who kill, and . . . a method [of execution] that, because it seems to do no harm other than killing, cannot satisfy the intuitive sense of equivalence that informs this conception of justice"); A. Sarat, When the State Kills: Capital Punishment and the American Condition 60-84 (2001).

Full recognition of the diminishing force of the principal rationales for retaining the death penalty should lead this Court and legislatures to reexamine the question recently posed by Professor Salinas, a former Texas prosecutor and judge: "Is it time to Kill the Death Penalty?" See Salinas, 34 Am. J. Crim. L. 39 (2006). The time for a dispassionate, impartial comparison of the enormous costs that death penalty litigation imposes on society with the benefits that it produces has surely arrived.

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/p ... enalty.pdf
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Re: States assert right to death sentence!

Post by John F » Sat Apr 04, 2015 11:53 pm

If not for the appeals process, the state of Alabama would have killed him 30 years ago.

Alabama Man Freed After Decades on Death Row
By ALAN BLINDER
APRIL 3, 2015

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Nearly 30 years after the Alabama authorities relied on analyses of a handgun and bullets to send him to death row, Anthony Ray Hinton was freed on Friday after experts undermined the state’s case.

Mr. Hinton’s release from the Jefferson County jail, where he was being held awaiting a new trial that was ordered last year, came close to three decades after a court-appointed lawyer mounted such a feeble defense that the United States Supreme Court ruled it was “constitutionally deficient.”

At the time of Mr. Hinton’s initial trial, his lawyer used a visually impaired civil engineer with little expertise in firearms to rebut prosecutors whose case hinged on linking the handgun found in Mr. Hinton’s home to a string of shootings in and around Birmingham.

Despite pleas by Mr. Hinton’s lawyers, who cited conclusions by newly enlisted specialists, the state refused for years to reconsider the evidence. And so it was not until Friday at 9:30 a.m., one day after a Circuit Court judge ordered his release, that Mr. Hinton exited the jail to hugs, tears and wails of “Thank you, Lord!”

“The State of Alabama let me down tremendously,” Mr. Hinton said in his first interview after his release. “I have no respect for the prosecutors, the judges. And I say that not with malice in my heart. I say it because they took 30 years from me.”

Mr. Hinton’s words were among the starkest reminders that, despite the joyous atmosphere surrounding his release, the case against him had spurred another reckoning for Alabama and a legal system that critics said appeared troubled by obstinacy and arrogance.

Bryan Stevenson, one of Mr. Hinton’s lawyers and the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, said Mr. Hinton’s right to justice had been limited as an impoverished black man. “He was convicted because he’s poor,” Mr. Stevenson said. “We have a system that treats you better if you’re rich and guilty than if you’re poor and innocent, and his case proves it. We have a system that is compromised by racial bias, and his case proves it.”

“We’ve gotten into a culture,” he said in a separate interview, “where the pressure to convict and to achieve these outcomes is so great that owning up to mistakes is less frequent than you’d like to imagine.”

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Mr. Hinton is the 152nd person exonerated from an American death row since 1973.

“Cases like Anthony Ray Hinton’s give the public pause about the death penalty,” said Robert Dunham, the center’s executive director. He added that “from the outset, this case exhibited many of the classic signs of innocence.”..

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/04/us/an ... urder.html
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Re: States assert right to death sentence!

Post by piston » Thu Jun 25, 2015 8:33 pm

So, now that the Boston marathon terrorist case has reached its judicial outcome, in Massachusetts, mind you, what do you think about the death penalty in cases such as this young man and his inability to feel anything about his victims?:
Image
Death penalty cases are automatically appealed and lawyers will make money dragging this one on and on, for the next ten years?, but is the problem here the flaws of DNA testing or an intrinsic problem with a judicial system that sets no limit, whatsoever, on clear-cut cases of terrorist acts with the intent of killing as many Americans as possible?
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Re: States assert right to death sentence!

Post by lennygoran » Fri Jun 26, 2015 5:53 am

piston wrote:what do you think about the death penalty in cases such as this young man and his inability to feel anything about his victims?
My position remains the same-he should be executed as quickly as possible under the terribly long process now in place which should be changed but probably never will be. :( Too bad the 2 NY escapees weren't executed. Roof from Charleston also should be executed. Imagine letting the escapees be in the "honor block" section of the jail after what they did-how unjust! Regards, Len :(

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Re: States assert right to death sentence!

Post by karlhenning » Fri Jun 26, 2015 12:53 pm

piston wrote:So, now that the Boston marathon terrorist case has reached its judicial outcome, in Massachusetts, mind you, what do you think about the death penalty in cases such as this young man and his inability to feel anything about his victims?:

Image
I disagree with the death penalty, even in this case. And the report is that he has at last apologized; I do not make a ruling on its sincerity (although there is a report by someone, a nun?, that he feels remorse). But it is something new; and people do change.

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Re: States assert right to death sentence!

Post by John F » Fri Jun 26, 2015 3:03 pm

Lenny is really bloodthirsty, isn't he? The death penalty is no better than legally sanctioned vengeance. It serve no positive social purpose, it just makes some people feel good. I guess Lenny is one of those people; I'm one of the people it makes feel bad.
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Re: States assert right to death sentence!

Post by lennygoran » Fri Jun 26, 2015 3:48 pm

John F wrote:Lenny is really bloodthirsty, isn't he?
Nope what makes Lenny sad though is when evil people get to go on enjoying parts of life they don't deserve to enjoy--Matt and Sweat were enjoying much more then they even deserved and even that wasn't enough for them--now I see Matt's been shot-hope he's dead. Regards, Len [yeah]

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Re: States assert right to death sentence!

Post by lennygoran » Fri Jun 26, 2015 4:18 pm

What a news day-Matt dead, a great eulogy from Obama and another great Supreme Court decision-finally after so many terrible news days some things to cheer about! Regards, Len

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Re: States assert right to death sentence!

Post by jbuck919 » Sun Jun 28, 2015 10:21 pm

lennygoran wrote:What a news day-Matt dead, a great eulogy from Obama and another great Supreme Court decision-finally after so many terrible news days some things to cheer about! Regards, Len
I question your priorities in lining up "good news." Both escapees have now been shot, apparently at sight for want of more details. (As of this writing it's not clear if the second one will survive.) Matt was shot multiple times in the head with an assault weapon. This should be investigated. No matter how we feel about the criminals, a police execution (and one hears about likely cases of this with some frequency) is back-door capital punishment, an abuse of police power and an end run around due process that does us more harm than good.

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Re: States assert right to death sentence!

Post by lennygoran » Mon Jun 29, 2015 5:58 am

Don`t consider what the policemen did an execution-I`m sure not going to be SWEATing over it. Len

PS-now I can feel safer about our plans to be upstate this summer.

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Re: States assert right to death sentence!

Post by John F » Mon Jun 29, 2015 7:02 am

lennygoran wrote:Don`t consider what the policemen did an execution
Matt was a killer, armed with a shotgun, and when told to put up his hands, he didn't. If this is true, the federal agent was justified in shooting him before he could shoot any of them, and if it happened that the shot was fatal, it was not an "execution."
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Re: States assert right to death sentence!

Post by lennygoran » Mon Jun 29, 2015 7:29 am

Completely agree! Len

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Re: States assert right to death sentence!

Post by karlhenning » Mon Jun 29, 2015 8:19 am

lennygoran wrote:Nope what makes Lenny sad though is when evil people get to go on enjoying parts of life they don't deserve to enjoy--Matt and Sweat were enjoying much more then they even deserved and even that wasn't enough for them--now I see Matt's been shot-hope he's dead. Regards, Len [yeah]
I'll agree that it is not quite "justice" when murder convicts enjoy a plusher life than can many a perfectly innocent soul abroad in US society. I see that as cause to re-evaluate prisons and what they are for, rather than to resort to the death penalty.

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Re: States assert right to death sentence!

Post by John F » Tue Jun 30, 2015 5:49 pm

Yesterday's Supreme Court ruling on lethal injections brought forth opinions by Justices Breyer and Ginsberg arguing that, as Breyere says, "the death penalty, in and of itself, now likely constitutes a legally prohibited 'cruel and unusual pun­ishmen[t]'" and is therefore unconstitutional. They were opposed by typically vituperative opinions by Justices Scalia and Thomas that it is not. So Lenny now finds himself on the side of Scalia and Thomas, and against Breyer and Ginsberg. If I were in that position, it would make me very uncomfortable and I would have to think again.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/30/us/su ... -drug.html

The Constitution forbids the imposition of "cruel and unusual punishment." That execution is a cruel punishment is surely beyond question. And though it was not unusual when the Constitution was ratified more than two centuries ago, it certanly is today: in 2014, only seven states carried out an execution, of a total of 35 prisoners. Justice Breyer again: "if we look to States, in more than 60% there is effectively no death penalty, in an additional 18% an execution is rare and unusual, and 6%, i.e., three States, account for 80% of all executions." If that isn't unusual, the word has no meaning.

If anybody wants to refute the Breyer dissent, or quote from the Scalia opinion's opposition to it, here's where these can be found:

http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14 ... 5_aplc.pdf
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Re: States assert right to death sentence!

Post by piston » Tue Jun 30, 2015 5:56 pm

In defense of Lenny, I revisited this thread because of the judicial outcome in Boston which, to me, seems consistent with what has been Lenny's position all along: in the case of devastating terrorist acts, such as in Oklahoma City, where the goal was to kill as many people as possible, the death penalty is warranted.

So what is the limit of your tolerance for mass murderers, John F? It's not that difficult to imagine an Islam extremist getting his/her hands on a dirty bomb and killing thousands of American city dwellers. Would you still be opposed to the death penalty in such a case? War criminals against humanity seeking to exterminate a whole ethnic group: no death penalty there?

What do you hope to achieve by keeping such mass murderers alive? To reform them and allow for the possibility of personal redemption?
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Re: States assert right to death sentence!

Post by karlhenning » Wed Jul 01, 2015 8:45 am

I speak only for myself. I oppose the death penalty because it is hypocritical; if murder is illegal, there is (in my view) something profoundly distasteful in a society deciding that, if as an institution we are arranging the murder, it's all right.

Lower than that (and understanding that there are arguments in both directions), I entertain the following considerations:

Specifically in the case of jihadist extremists, what message does a US execution send?

That we are just the same as they are, only we have opposing goals; this both plays right into the propaganda of the jihadists, and fails to supply a humane counterargument for the moderate Muslims who must try to wrest popular opinion from the hotheads.

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Re: States assert right to death sentence!

Post by John F » Wed Jul 01, 2015 9:09 am

piston wrote:So what is the limit of your tolerance for mass murderers, John F?
I'm against capital punishment on moral grounds, period. I've given my reasons here time and again, and they do not depend on the particulars of the crime for which the death sentence is imposed.

This has nothing to do with "tolerance for mass murderers," and you insult me by suggesting that it does. I do not excuse or ignore or tolerate criminal acts of whatever kind. There are other sentences which I do not object to on principle, such as life imprisonment, which serve the same purported purposes as the death penalty without implicating me, as a citizen, in barbarous acts of vengeance perpetrated by my country.

You asked me a question, now it's my turn. What is your conscientious rationale for saying the death penalty is "warranted," whether for mass murder or any of the other crimes you name? Those who support capital punishment don't make much of a case for it. Justice Breyer's opinion, concurred in by Justice Ginsberg, presents the evidence on the subject at length, showing that capital punishment can't be shown to deter crime, and that on the other hand it is demonstrably both cruel and unusual, and therefore illegal under the Constitution. How would you refute his argument? Hint: calling it "gobbledygook" is no argument, just hot air.
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Re: States assert right to death sentence!

Post by lennygoran » Wed Jul 01, 2015 10:09 am

John F wrote: So Lenny now finds himself on the side of Scalia and Thomas, and against Breyer and Ginsberg. If I were in that position, it would make me very uncomfortable and I would have to think again.
No I'm comfortable and happy with the decision-definitely for capital punishment when horrendous crimes are committed and we know for sure who the criminals are. Regards, Len

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Re: States assert right to death sentence!

Post by lennygoran » Wed Jul 01, 2015 10:11 am

piston wrote:In defense of Lenny, I revisited this thread because of the judicial outcome in Boston which, to me, seems consistent with what has been Lenny's position all along: in the case of devastating terrorist acts, such as in Oklahoma City, where the goal was to kill as many people as possible, the death penalty is warranted.
Piston, thanks, you and I agree-to have kept a McVeigh alive and allow him to enjoy living-that's not justice-it's an outrage! Regards, Len

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Re: States assert right to death sentence!

Post by karlhenning » Wed Jul 01, 2015 1:14 pm

The individual being comfortable with an idea (itself, probably a moving a target in the course of the individual's life) is no index of its rightness.

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Re: States assert right to death sentence!

Post by piston » Wed Jul 01, 2015 2:29 pm

My "moral" position on this question is not to deny a majority of Americans with the option of capital punishment when that majority still believes that it is warranted in some cases. Support for the death penalty in Tsarnaev's case was polled at sixty percent of the population, including 78 percent for Republicans and 52 percent for Democrats. While it is 8 percent lower than an equivalent poll for McVeigh, in 1997, only 30 percent of the people polled in Tsarnaev's case were "unconditionally" opposed to his execution. Lenny's position thus remains more representative of the American majority than John F.'s and karlhenning's. We live in a democracy and any decree prohibiting the death penalty in all cases, against the wish of that majority, would be undemocratic in my view. But, if it's any consolation, the same poll revealed a generational difference. Yet, even Americans under 30 slightly favored the death penalty in Tsarnaev's case (53 percent):
Two years after the Boston Marathon bombings and days before the sentencing phase of his trial begins, 60 percent of Americans favor the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, while 30 percent do not.

Support for the death penalty for Tsarnaev is lower than it was for Timothy McVeigh after his conviction in 1997 (68 percent), when overall support for the death penalty in general was higher.

Most Americans support the death penalty for persons convicted of murder, but support has declined steadily since an all-time high of 78 percent was recorded by CBS News in 1988. At 56 percent, support is currently at the lowest level recorded in the CBS News Poll.
More Republicans (76 percent) favor the death penalty for Tsarnaev than Democrats (52 percent). Americans under age 30 (53 percent) are less likely than older Americans (62 percent) to think he should be sentenced to death.
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/cbs-news-po ... terrorism/

It appears that most Americans do not express an opinion on capital punishment solely on moral ground. They still want the option of terminating a life, once and for all, when such a punishment is warranted by the indiscriminate, war-like, killing of numerous innocent civilians.
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Re: States assert right to death sentence!

Post by Chalkperson » Wed Jul 01, 2015 2:48 pm

Whilst I object to the Death Penalty on moral grounds, I can be persuaded to consider it being done at the Federal Level.

Terrorism is not actually a crime, but using a weapon of mass destruction is, and it carries the death penalty.

If we want to show Terrorists that we execute our own citizens who commit this kind of crime then I'm almost OK with it.

However, I'd require absolute proof, and point out that the Government is not like Oklahoma. It has a large supply of chemicals, and it carries out the sentence properly.

Domestic terrorists are unlikely to be habitual criminals and drug addicts, those who have hardened veins etc. Death would be as painless as possible.

The Chinese have mobile Death Chambers, busses that travel the country, also acting swiftly, unlike the legal process that drag it out in the U.S.

But, I'd want the penalty only to be done by the Government, I'd want the penalty removed from the State books, if that rules out some spree killings then so be it.

This is a response for Lenny to consider too, you can't pick and choose who dies, you have to have strict rules. Applying the Death Penalty at the Federal level is the only compromise I can see where it's both legal, and done legally.
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Re: States assert right to death sentence!

Post by lennygoran » Wed Jul 01, 2015 2:51 pm

The President has sided with me too-not just a guy like Thomas-I hope he doesn't change his mind but he might-so far he hasn't though! I regard Obama as a wonderful President even though there have been some slip-ups. Too bad the death penalty wasn't used on the Clinton prison escapees-thank goodness no one was hurt after they escaped! Regards, Len

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Re: States assert right to death sentence!

Post by lennygoran » Wed Jul 01, 2015 2:57 pm

Chalkperson wrote:
This is a response for Lenny to consider too, you can't pick and choose who dies, you have to have strict rules. Applying the Death Penalty at the Federal level is the only compromise I can see where it's both legal, and done legally.
I could see a need for some strict rules but I don't think we're going to reach a point where only the Federal Gov't will be doing our executions--in the mean time there are people out there who should be executed-too bad it takes so long even in cases where it's definite that they committed the horrendous crime. Regards, Len

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Re: States assert right to death sentence!

Post by Chalkperson » Wed Jul 01, 2015 4:46 pm

lennygoran wrote:
Chalkperson wrote:
This is a response for Lenny to consider too, you can't pick and choose who dies, you have to have strict rules. Applying the Death Penalty at the Federal level is the only compromise I can see where it's both legal, and done legally.
I could see a need for some strict rules but I don't think we're going to reach a point where only the Federal Gov't will be doing our executions--in the mean time there are people out there who should be executed-too bad it takes so long even in cases where it's definite that they committed the horrendous crime. Regards, Len
I meant that it's left on the books for Federal Crimes, like Terrorism.
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Re: States assert right to death sentence!

Post by lennygoran » Thu Jul 02, 2015 6:30 am

Chalkperson wrote: I meant that it's left on the books for Federal Crimes, like Terrorism.
I took a look at the federal law-didn't realize how much was covered:

http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/federal ... th-penalty

Regards, Len

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