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Why capital punishment is immoral.

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Kate87
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If someone is a convicted rapist, does that give the state the right to rape him as punishment? If not why not, and how do you square this with the state being given the right to kill a convicted killer?

For the same reason you don’t arson someone’s home if they burn down a building or break into their house and steal their favorite collection if they commit theft. The argument is not an eye for an eye, but what is the objective response to someone who initiates force. The purpose of objective Law is to define punishment, or retaliatory force, based on objective criteria. Raping a rapist, while probably karmic, would hardly be objective and certainly no one who is healthy would want to administer something like that. Murder is a different beast.

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As for this kind of retribution in a proper free society, I’m going to give a very generic answer since now it leaves basic philosophy/ethic arguments into the field of Law. If I’m not mistaken, I do believe the Law provides for cases of retribution by criminally charging people for degrees of murder. For example, if someone raped my wife and I lost it and killed the man, I’d get a lesser charge than first degree murder. I’d be punished but not by the same standard as someone who committed premeditated murder in the first degree. That is where you need specialists to handle the line between justice and vigilantes.

As for the movie, it would really be up to the justice system to prove that the father pre-meditated the murder in the first degree. I haven't seen the film so I don't know if there is any special information that matters, but at first blush I'd be inclined to believe that he would not get Capital Punishment.

Unfortunately, it was premeditated. He knew exactly what he was doing: he knew when the man would be getting off work and met him there at gunpoint, took him home to pack some clothes, drove him to a remote location, shot him 3 or 4 times, and buried him in the woods. But you know, while I was watching it, that seemed like the right thing for him to do. This man murdered his only son, and would have only gotten a sentence of ~10 years.

I guess my point is that justice doesn't seem so cut and dry. A max sentence of 15 years might be considered 'just' by a jury, because no one actually witnessed the murder happening (they just heard some shouting and the gunshot), but that's not 'just' to the father, mother, and girlfriend of the boy who died.Of course law needs to be objective... and because no one actually saw the murderer pull the trigger, he'll get a lesser charge. But why do I (and other viewers) feel that's unfair?

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Unfortunately, it was premeditated. He knew exactly what he was doing: he knew when the man would be getting off work and met him there at gunpoint, took him home to pack some clothes, drove him to a remote location, shot him 3 or 4 times, and buried him in the woods. But you know, while I was watching it, that seemed like the right thing for him to do. This man murdered his only son, and would have only gotten a sentence of ~10 years.

I guess my point is that justice doesn't seem so cut and dry. A max sentence of 15 years might be considered 'just' by a jury, because no one actually witnessed the murder happening (they just heard some shouting and the gunshot), but that's not 'just' to the father, mother, and girlfriend of the boy who died.Of course law needs to be objective... and because no one actually saw the murderer pull the trigger, he'll get a lesser charge. But why do I (and other viewers) feel that's unfair?

Does the movie make it clear that the alleged murderer was guilty? Then that's the reason for the discrepancy: the invisible cameraman. Convicting someone only of crimes one KNOWS he committed feels right, because it is right. The invisible cameraman (or the invisible narrator - those are pretty much the two techniques movies use to give people information through "super-natural" means) made it so that you KNOW he was guilty.

You KNOW something you couldn't possibly know in real life, so your sense of what is right is different than it would be in real life.

There are no invisible cameras/narrators in real life, so that discrepancy wouldn't be there. In real life, your knowledge would at best be the same as the jury's, so it would no longer feel wrong to give him only 15 years.

P.S. If someone wants to center fiction around a moral conundrum, they should always make sure to give the audience the same information the characters would have. Otherwise it's pointless, since the moral quality of choices is always context-of-knowledge dependent.

Edited by Nicky
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You KNOW something you couldn't possibly know in real life, so your sense of what is right is different than it would be in real life.

That doesn't prevent the girlfriend and her kids (who heard the fight and the gunshot while they were upstairs) from knowing what happened. They didn't see X actually pull the trigger and kill Y, but they heard the fighting, the shot, came downstairs, and saw X standing over Y's dead body with a gun. Even if they weren't direct witnesses, they knew what happened.

P.S. If someone wants to center fiction around a moral conundrum, they should always make sure to give the audience the same information the characters would have. Otherwise it's pointless, since the moral quality of choices is always context-of-knowledge dependent.

Right. Here's the plot, copied from wiki:

"Dr. Matt Fowler (Tom Wilkinson) and Ruth Fowler (Sissy Spacek) enjoy a happy marriage and a good relationship with their son Frank (Nick Stahl), a recent college graduate who has come home for the summer. Frank has fallen in love with an older woman with children, Natalie Strout (Marisa Tomei). Frank is also applying to graduate school for architecture, but is considering staying in town to work in the fishing industry and be near to Natalie. Natalie's ex-husband, Richard Strout (William Mapother), whose family owns a local fish-processing and delivery business, is violent and abusive. Richard actively tries to find a way into his ex-wife and son's lives, going to increasingly violent lengths to get his intentions across to Natalie. Ruth is openly concerned about Frank's relationship with Natalie, while Matt sees past his wife's worries.

"Midway through the film, Richard kills Frank during a confrontation at Natalie's house, following a domestic dispute. Though equally devastated, Matt and Ruth grieve in different ways with Matt putting on a brave face while Ruth becomes reclusive and quiet. Richard is set free on bail, paid by his well-to-do family, and both Matt and Ruth are forced to see Richard around town. The tension between the pair increases when they learn that the lack of a direct witness to their son's shooting allows the killer to avoid murder charges, since the district attorney may have difficulty proving that Richard killed Frank intentionally, as opposed to accidental manslaughter in a struggle which defense attorney Marla Keyes (Karen Allen) argues. The silence between the couple erupts in an argument where each is confronted with the truth about each parent's relationship with their son: Ruth was overbearing and Matt let him get away with everything. With the strain between them broken, the couple is finally able to find a common ground in their grief. However, both realize that the court will not bring the justice to Richard that he deserves.

"Unable to live with Richard walking free and determined to heal himself and his wife, Matt abducts and kills Richard. He and a friend dispose of the body in the woods. Matt returns home to Ruth, who waits for him patiently. Ruth goes to make coffee and Matt pulls a band-aid from his finger, showing that he is finally ready to heal from the tragedy of his son's death on his own."

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Unfortunately, it was premeditated. He knew exactly what he was doing: he knew when the man would be getting off work and met him there at gunpoint, took him home to pack some clothes, drove him to a remote location, shot him 3 or 4 times, and buried him in the woods. But you know, while I was watching it, that seemed like the right thing for him to do. This man murdered his only son, and would have only gotten a sentence of ~10 years.

I guess my point is that justice doesn't seem so cut and dry. A max sentence of 15 years might be considered 'just' by a jury, because no one actually witnessed the murder happening (they just heard some shouting and the gunshot), but that's not 'just' to the father, mother, and girlfriend of the boy who died.Of course law needs to be objective... and because no one actually saw the murderer pull the trigger, he'll get a lesser charge. But why do I (and other viewers) feel that's unfair?

I'll phrase the answer this way - My life LOVES to tease me and say "Life is grey" since she knows I despise the moral sloppiness of the "grey argument" to ethics. She doesn't believe that, however, she says that because people accept mixed ideas or get caught up in events where the lines run up against each other so she uses the issue to tweak me. Most cases are clear but the drama is in the times where you have to sort out the ideas that entangle people or the specific events they allow themselves to get mixed up in.

The point here is that why we have investigative detectives (and reporters) as well as trial by jury so people can bring cases before their peers and sort these odd cases out. Morality without the context of real life is dogma and useless. Context is king and the purpose of a trial is to allow for context to have its say.

As for the movie, it was designed to make you see the murder and put the dilemma for a loophole in the system to be exploited. You were supposed to feel the injustice as it set up the rest of the story. Movies are not documentaries and are designed to invoke ideas and emotions to move you through the conflict. In this case the idea was justice and it sounds like it hit it’s mark.

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  • 5 months later...

If there is no capital punishment, and the highest punishment is life imprisonment, then one very important thing can happen.

 

Let's say that there is an aggressor with a knife and his victim. Until victim is alive, he/she can use force against aggressor and (becouse his/her life is in danger) kill him. It's justificated. So, at the time of aggressor's attempting to kill victim, he's own life isn't protected by law system, but if he will succed, he gets a "reward", he's life is no longer at stake! It is against one of the most important principles of roman law, nemo ex suo delicto meliorem suam condicionem facere potest.

 

Sorry for my english.

Edited by ArekS
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If there is no capital punishment, and the highest punishment is life imprisonment, then one very important thing can happen.

 

Let's say that there is an aggressor with a knife and his victim. Until victim is alive, he/she can use force against aggressor and (becouse his/her life is in danger) kill him. It's justificated. So, at the time of aggressor's attempting to kill victim, he's own life isn't protected by law system, but if he will succed, he gets a "reward", he's life is no longer at stake! It is against one of the most important principles of roman law, nemo ex suo delicto meliorem suam condicionem facere potest.

 

Sorry for my english.

That is a solid principle, in a legal context (the "condition" here refers to one's legal condition: the legally prescribed punishment for a crime). The principle states that one cannot, by committing extra crimes, earn a more lenient sentence.

But you've taken it out of its proper context. Killed by a victim defending themselves has nothing to do with one's legally prescribed punishment.

Yes, of course a criminal can commit crimes that improve his condition. Most criminals who get away with a crime in fact do exactly that: improve their condition (by getting extra money, by getting rid of an enemy, by killing a witness to a previous crime, etc.). The death penalty wouldn't prevent this either.

"the law must prevent all crime from paying off" is not a reasonable expectation.

Edited by Nicky
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"Yes, of course a criminal can commit crimes that improve his condition."

 

Yes, but only de facto, not de iure. According to the this legal principle nobody can improve his/her legal condition by wrongdoing. You've just shown your misunderstanding.

 

"But you've taken it out of its proper context. Killed by a victim defending themselves has nothing to do with one's legally prescribed punishment."

 

It doesn't need to be a punishment, legal condition of criminal who's trying to kill someone is worse than the same criminal, who will succeed and kill. Dead victim lose it's ability to defend, isn't it clear enough?

Edited by ArekS
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"Yes, of course a criminal can commit crimes that improve his condition."

 

Yes, but only de facto, not de iure. According to the this legal principle nobody can improve his/her legal condition by wrongdoing. You've just shown your misunderstanding.

 

"But you've taken it out of its proper context. Killed by a victim defending themselves has nothing to do with one's legally prescribed punishment."

 

It doesn't need to be a punishment, legal condition of criminal who's trying to kill someone is worse than the same criminal, who will succeed and kill. Dead victim lose it's ability to defend, isn't it clear enough?

Yep. This miscommunication sure is my fault.
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 For example, if someone raped my wife and I lost it and killed the man, I’d get a lesser charge than first degree murder. I’d be punished but not by the same standard as someone who committed premeditated murder in the first degree. That is where you need specialists to handle the line between justice and vigilantes.

 

Exactly. if A kills B , because B provoked A suddenly and gravely, then the offence committed by A will NOT be 'murder', rather it would be 'culpable homicide not amounting to murder'. (atleast according to the Indian Penal Code). And punishment for an offence like culpable homicide is obviously less as compared to the punishment meted out for first degree murder.

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Because killing him achieves nothing for the victims. The best the victims can do is to get over their losses and to ignore Hitler. Isn't locking Hitler up, throwing away the key, and then ignoring him also the best form of punishment?

Why let the rat die?

 

The worst punishment is not death because after death, as such, the person is gone.  The worst punishment is also not imprisonment for life.  The worst is condemnation to death in which the person must live for a time, possibly years, counting down when they are scheduled to die.  In the 1800's it was discovered that there is no worse punishment than this, not even torture or confinement.

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It shouldn't. Not on principle, not when reality doesn't demand it. Reality demands that murderers be killed. Reality doesn't demand that rapists be raped. Reality demands that rapists be incarcerated.

 

What do you mean here when you say "reality demands (that murderers be killed)" - and how did you get to that conclusion?

 

Edit: This phrase sounded familiar, so I googled it and found some quotes by Peikoff and Rand that are similar:

 

LP: "Reality, we hold—along with the decision to remain in it, i.e., to stay alive—dictates and demands an entire code of values"

AR: "Does an arbitrary human convention, a mere custom, decree that man must guide his actions by a set of principles—or is there a fact of reality that demands it? "

AR: "It demands total independence in function and in motive."

 

I don't see how this connects to "reality demands (that murderers be killed) and that (rapists be incarcerated)."

Edited by mdegges
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What do you mean here when you say "reality demands (that murderers be killed)" - and how did you get to that conclusion?

 

Edit: This phrase sounded familiar, so I googled it and found some quotes by Peikoff and Rand that are similar:

 

 

I don't see how this connects to "reality demands (that murderers be killed) and that (rapists be incarcerated)."

I am not claiming "reality demands that murderers be killed" as an absolute. Reality demands that murderers be killed in certain contexts. 

 

It's been a while, but I remember explaining which contexts, and why, in my posts in this thread. The phrase isn't based on anything Rand said, it's based entirely on my reasoning in this thread.

 

And I'm not trying to reify reality, I just mean that in many contexts (including today's western societies), and in the case of certain kinds of vicious murderers, the consequences of not killing murderers are such that it is better to kill them.

Edited by Nicky
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...Killing people who deliberately murder other people is simply the acknowledgement of that fact of reality. What you are doing, by insisting that it's just as good to simply incarcerate these deliberate, evil murderers, is trying to will that fact of reality to change: you're adding just enough evasion of facts (like the fact that convicted murderers DO often kill people in prison, and sometimes even escape; not to mention the other, more serious possibility, of the state apparatus as a whole, including the prison system, disintegrating - as it has happened to many governments, all throughout history) to help you pretend that life is perfectly safe with monsters in our midst, as long as we're all really careful.

 

You listed three reasons why murderers should be killed (instead of incarcerated?): 1) murderers often kill people in prison, 2) murderers sometimes even escape, 3) "the state apparatus as a whole, including the prison system" could disintegrate "as it has happened to many governments, all throughout history."

 

I took these points as a given before, but I'm wondering if there's much merit to them:

 

1) According to the Bureau of Justice 2005 report, the highest homicide rate out of all state prisons/local jails was only 2.1%.

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2) Can't find an exact number, but a quick google search says that approx. 1% of prisoners escape.

 

3) Is that really realistic.... in the US?

 

...the consequences of not killing murderers are such that it is better to kill them.

 

Any other reasons besides the 3 listed above? I can think of just one: it's cheaper to kill a man than to sustain him in prison for an extended period of time.. but I don't think that reason alone is a good justification for choosing lethal injection over incarceration.

Edited by mdegges
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Any other reasons besides the 3 listed above? I can think of just one: it's cheaper to kill a man than to sustain him in prison for an extended period of time.. but I don't think that reason alone is a good justification for choosing lethal injection over incarceration.

Well, that depends on whether you can afford the extra expense or not. If you can, then you're right, it's not. Back in the Wild West, it most definitely was.

1) According to the Bureau of Justice 2005 report, the highest homicide rate out of all state prisons/local jails was only 2.1%.

That's in part because:

a. many states are putting the most dangerous killers to death;

b. most people in American prisons and jails are drug offenders who don't get off on murder; what's the homicide rate when you only look at inmates who have committed vicious murders before?

b.

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I just read an article that said the death penalty is much more expensive than life imprisonment (in California). Seems my previous statement was wrong.

 

@Nicky: a. In 2010, the US rate of incarceration was 500 prisoners per 100,000 residents, or 1.6 million total prisoners. In the same year, 46 executions took place and 3,261 people remained on death row. Cumulatively from 1976-2010, there were a total of 1,234 executions. (So is your point that the number of dangerous killers is extremely low, but that they are too dangerous to be kept alive in prison?)

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  • 4 months later...

Jails are funded by taxpayers, including future murder victims.

If John pays taxes on Monday, is killed on Tuesday and his money spent to feed his own destroyer by Friday, his delegated rights have been twice betrayed.

Kate: the death penalty is proper if and when the alternative is grave robbery.

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