Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Crime control v. Government control:

These two cases illustrate why I support the death penalty in principle (although I have some obvious problems with the way the system is structured). As a matter of moral desert, these perps deserve death and probably far worse than what the 8th Amendment protects them against.

I have no problem with government coming down hard with its iron fist against those who commit violent crimes against person or property. I don't pretend, however, that government all of a sudden becomes "competent" when it is dealing in legitimate matters, like punishing violent criminals, or otherwise protecting our liberty and property rights.

Sometimes I question the whole adversarial system altogether (not all nations have it; some have "inquisitorial" systems where the lawyers work together to search for the truth). By the time someone stands for trial, odds indicate that they are not just likely to be factually guilty, but almost certainly factually guilty of the crime in which they charged. But still, even if it's 2-3% who are innocent, those 2-3% matter. And when the death penalty is finally given, that's a mistake that cannot be undone. Currently government (I can say this almost as an absolute) never executes innocent people because the current system of seemingly infinite "i" doting and "t" crossing makes it impossible to do so. If, for instance, we were to ensure that those convicted of capital crimes are executed within say 2-years of conviction, then that would pretty much guarantee some wrongful executions, after say the first 1000 or so people were executed. I'm not sure if that would be worth it. And I'm not sure if it's worth it now to take 20-30 years, with endless appeals, to execute someone.

Also, even though, on average, innocent people rarely stand trial for crimes, there are plenty of pockets of deviations from the norm, where prosecutors are overzealous or government is just plain incompetent in getting the wrong person. That does temper my desire to come down as hard on violent criminals than what I think they deserve.


mungojelly said...

Note also that even though most of the people on death row in the U.S. are guilty of their crimes, that does not necessarily mean that committing their crime was sufficient to get them killed. Most of them have had the misfortune to commit their crimes while also being black. <3

Jonathan said...

What many people don't realize about race & the death penalty is that blacks commit over 50% of the capital crimes yet are somewhat less that 50% of the population on death row.

That means that a non-black person who commits a capital crime is more likely to be executed than a similarly situated black person.

Because of the high amount of intraracial homicide (whites are more likely to kill whites, blacks more likely to kill blacks), that led some to point out that a person is more likely to receive the death penalty if the victim is white, rather than if the victim is black.