Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Mercy for Killers

Another regional newspaper reports that lawmakers in N.J. are set ban the death penalty.

Here in Pennsylvania there is no such movement afoot. Perhaps because of stories like this one.

Deserving the death penalty and actually being executed, however, are two very different things. Just ask Maureen Faulkner.


Blogger David Diano said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

December 11, 2007 at 10:45 AM 
Blogger Spencerblog said...

Diano -

Thanks for the (long) but informational post. And the link.

Often, when politicians want to get politically unpopular things done they hand them over to a commission. And then they point to the commission's findings as the reason to pass legislation that isn't particularly popular but pleases a certain constituency.

Fair enough.

I think there are legitimate arguments against the death penalty. Some are incorporated in this commission's findings. I think there are others that are even more compelling.

However, saving money is the lousiest one. And the nakedness of the political concerns of the commission is obvious when it suggests the money saved should be forked over to aid the families of murder victims.

That's just a crude sop.

As in, "Listen, you blood-thirsty jerks, if you quit demanding the blood of the guy who raped and killed your daughter we'll give you a few bucks."

In any case, as long as death-penalty advocates have creeps like the one mentioned in the story I linked to above, most people will remain in favor of it especially in heinous cases like that one.

December 11, 2007 at 2:17 PM 
Anonymous e said...

The death penalty, as it is administered right now, is not a deterrent.

I don't see how a death sentence could cost more than a life without the possibility of parole sentence, since currently a death sentence is basically a life without parole sentence.

It is time to reconsider our standards of decency when it is indecent to punish the most heinous criminals.

The problems with the system should be fixed. The appeals process should be reassessed. Maybe the standard of proof for death penalty cases should be raised from "beyond a reasonable doubt" to "there is no doubt".

Either way, the death penalty should not be abolished.

December 12, 2007 at 7:13 PM 
Anonymous law prof said...


Changing the burden of proof (not the "standard" of proof) as you suggest will not, in my view, change anything.

Study after study show that most jurors who vote for the death penalty decide that way only if they are "certain" that the accused is guilty of the capital offense charged.

Based upon the relatively high number of reversals due to newly-discovered DNA evidence, for example, that "certainty" is sometimes sadly misplaced.

December 12, 2007 at 9:55 PM 
Anonymous r said...

Abolish the Death Penalty?? Nooo… We need to expand the Death Penalty!

How’s about we put it to The People? –You know, the way a democracy might do it. Particularly when 80% of Us want the Death Penalty. But then, as with most things, LibDems don’t hold much respect for democracy and what The People think when it threatens to run counter to what they want to inflict upon Us against Our will.
Kinda like how they have done all they can to prevent Us from deciding the Gay Marriage issue once and for all. The last thing they want is to let The People decide that.

December 13, 2007 at 11:43 AM 
Anonymous e said...

law prof,

Normally would not debate this matter with a "law prof" but, I always understood that the "burden of proof" is is an obligation of the prosecution or the plaintiff to prove the particular point in question, such as guilt.

The "standard of proof" is the level of proof which must be conveyed to the judge, jury or arbitrator that their position is correct such as "a preponderance of the evidence" or "beyond a reasonable doubt" so that the "burden of proof" can be met.

I'm sure you will let me know if I'm wrong.

Either way, what I was getting at was "beyond a reasonable doubt" still allows some doubt to exist. Raising the "standard of proof" beyond that to "there is no doubt" could make DNA evidence, video surveillance of the crime in progress, an audio or video taped confession, eye witness testimony from people who know the defendant personally or some combination of these, could all be made mandatory in death penalty cases to raise the standard of proof. If you don't have one of these examples, then it can't be a death penalty case.

December 14, 2007 at 11:50 PM 

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