Thursday, June 14, 2007

Moral Philosophy and the Death Penalty

Philosophy is tough sledding, as I’m finding in the Moral Decisions class at St. John Fisher Church. The word philosophy is Greek and we immediately think of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle in the 4th century BC. Socrates asked questions like What is justice? What is poetry? He began the Socratic Method, a questioning dialog without answers. Plato is widely believed to have been a student of Socrates and to have been deeply influenced by his teacher's unjust death. Plato's brilliance can be witnessed by reading his Socratic dialogues.

Aristotle believed that humans know some things inherently (the basic truths about themselves and the world) and that philosophy builds on that knowledge.

In the twelfth century Aristotle’s writings were translated into Latin and St. Thomas Aquinas made a lifelong study of his works. G.K. Chesterton noted that the central theme of St. Thomas’s work was the compatibility and complementarities of faith and reason. When this does not occur, it is because reason has become scrambled.

Modern philosophy began in the sixteenth century with Rene’ Descartes who doubted everything. “I think; therefore I am” was the end result of his search for something that could not be doubted. In contrast to Aristotle, Aquinas and the Catholic Church, Descartes believed that unless some method is first learned, one cannot know anything. To Descartes, the study of philosophy confers on one his first certified grasp of truth. (It is interesting that Descartes has become the patron saint of many non-believers, but he was a zealous Catholic, believing that science is possible only because God exists and God cannot lie.)

Philosophy means the quest for wisdom, and involves the disciplines of logic, mathematics, natural science, ethics and theology. Ethics, or moral philosophy, seeks knowledge in order to help us become good. But what is good? Humans are not essentially individuals, at the most basic level. We are born into a family -- not by choice, but by nature. Thus, human good is communal, the common good.

Thus, it seems to me that when considering any complex moral issue (say immigration, abortion or the death penalty) we should carefully consider the common good.

The death penalty for capital murder has long been debated in the industrialized world. It is outlawed in Europe and is all but non-existent in America. In 2005, there were over 16,000 cases of murder and non-negligent manslaughter in the US. There were 60 executions.

The common good argument is that executing murderers would deter murder and save lives. But the death penalty opponents challenged the veracity of that assertion. Finally, the results of several recent university studies are available.

A series of academic studies over the last half-dozen years analyze the hotly debated argument — whether the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder. The analyses say yes, counting between 3 and 18 lives that would be saved by the execution of each convicted killer.

One of the studies by Naci Mocan, an economics professor at the University of Colorado, found that each execution results in five fewer homicides, and commuting a death sentence means five more homicides. “The results are robust, they don't really go away,” he said. “I oppose the death penalty. But my results show that the death penalty (deters) — what am I going to do, hide them? The conclusion is there is a deterrent effect.”

Statistical studies like his are among a dozen papers since 2001 showing that capital punishment has deterrent effects. To explore the question, they look at executions and homicides, by year and by state or county, looking at the impact of the death penalty on homicides while accounting for other factors such as unemployment data, per capita income, the probabilities of arrest and conviction, and more.

Among the conclusions:

1. Each execution deters an average of 18 murders, according to a 2003 nationwide study by professors at Emory University.

2. The Illinois moratorium on executions in 2000 led to 150 additional homicides over four years following, according to a 2006 study by professors at the University of Houston.

3. Speeding up executions would strengthen the deterrent effect. For every 2.75 years cut from time spent on death row, one murder would be prevented, according to a 2004 study by an Emory University professor.

The reports have horrified death penalty opponents.

Steven Shavell, a professor at Harvard Law School and editor of the American Law and Economics Review, said that his journal intends to publish several articles on the statistical studies on deterrence in an upcoming issue.

The University of Chicago's Cass Sunstein, a well-known liberal law professor and critic of the death penalty, has begun to question his own strongly held views. “If it's the case that executing murderers prevents the execution of innocents by murderers, then the moral evaluation is not simple,” he told The Associated Press. “Abolitionists or others, like me, who are skeptical about the death penalty haven't given adequate consideration to the possibility that innocent life is saved by the death penalty.”

Moral philosophy says to look to the common good, in this case saving the lives of innocents. To ignore this would be immoral, and the sign of a scrambled mind.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the presenting the information on the death penalty. I did hear Michael Medved discuss it the other day, but did not have the information that you presented. Of course we don't know but I wonder how this information would be received on the European continent and the current liberal attitude in our country.


2:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A thought - Murderers, by definition, have already taken a life (or lives). Do not the murdered people have a need for justice: a life for a life? Why should a murderer live to enjoy life, even if in prison he gets 3 squares and can watch TV,exercise, etc.? The loved ones of the murder victims are entitled to see vindication. Lives were taken, and surviors lives are forever affected, especially children and loving spouses.

The deterrent effect of executions also makes a strong case for not letting people "get away with murder".

I took Christian Ethics in college. We struggled with this issue, and many others. I loved the class, but the answers to these questions are still not easy,
and are worthy of due consideration.


2:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"G.K. Chesterton noted that the central theme of St. Thomas’s work was the compatibility and complementarities of faith and reason. When this does not occur, it is because reason has become scrambled."

Hmmm..... liberals must be unreasonable and faithless, eh?


2:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I remember seeing a documentary on the death penalty about 15 years ago. It was particularly interesting to me, because at the time I was trying felony cases, including capital offenses. A prisoner in another state was interviewed for the TV program. He told the interviewer that he was a "lifer" in a state that did not have the death penalty. He was pleased about that, because he said that "for a pack of cigarettes, I will kill another inmate. Ain't nothin' they can do about it 'cept go to the funeral."

In the two death cases I presided over, the juries voted for life without possibility of parole. Yet, I have thought about that guy in the documentary from time to time. I have seen several others just as callous, one of whom told the cops in a case where we saw a video tape of him shooting victim at point-blank range while the victim's girlfriend prayed to the Blessed Virgin to spare her lover. The defendant's gun jammed at first, and he cursed the victim, who was simply a guy from Orange County who got off the freeway in the wrong place in the wrong time. "Oh well," the defendant laughed when interviewed later by the police, "Killin' is just part of doin' business in the 'hood. He (the victim) made a mistake in getting off the freeway." What is the answer to sociopaths like that? Do we just "go to the funeral?"


2:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for some interesting data.
One weakness in the argument is the assumption that "innocent" people will be killed, when much killing is among gang members dealing drugs.

Also, how many lives would be saved by a life sentence and how many by the deterrence factor? It would be useful to have references on the studies.

And let's keep the tone on a civil level and avoid referring to such as "scrambled minds", although I am sure the argument will appeal to the Neanderthals among us.


2:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If one believes the death penalty may have a deterrant effect, why not enhance the deterrance by publicizing and broadcasting executions so people could see it happen, as was the case at one time, and still implemented in certain countries to this day? We could televise such events, and get close ups showing the condemned person's face. In this country it is done virtually in secret with anticeptic methods. Has anyone studied the deterrance value under benign (current US practice) versus the public method?


2:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Sam et al.;
I agree with Jim about Bill's reference to "scrambled mind," and I have the same opinion about Jim's reference to "Neanderthals." Let's keep our agreements & disagreements on the ideas. And this Thread is,in itself, very interesting & challenging.

I'm thinking that Sam might not be serious about public executions, but I am. I think that the practice was public for two reasons:
1) Deturrent 2) Entertainment. It gave the people a show.

We reach a lot more people with television and it's close-up techniques than we ever could before. Lets use it.

I would also greatly streamline the allowed appeals and also put a time limit on the entie process. I would also allow the goverments to tap the income of anyone who has sufficient means to pay for their own incarceration, no matter what the crime.


2:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will be gone for two weeks, so you won't hear from me. Before I go, though, I must respond to St. Thomas and G. K. Chesterson.

G.K. Chesterton noted that the central theme of St. Thomas’s work was the compatibility and complementarities of faith and reason. When this does not occur, it is because reason has become scrambled.

The only limit to faith is reason. Kant recognized this, so in his Critique of Pure Reason he argued that things that come through the senses and the conclusions we draw from them are unreliable and we can trust only the "truths" that come from God. As he described his work, I had to destroy reason to preserve faith.

St. Thomas did much the same thing. He informs us that when faith and reason give different answers, reason must be in error. That dictum immunizes faith from all criticism. It also seems to short circuit any open-minded search for truth.

Unfortunately, belief is not an indicator of truth. Just the opposite. Faith interferes with the search for truth, because it claims to know the answers in advance and rejects answers it is not comfortable with.

There seems to be no limit to what a person can believe fervently. One can believe that Jesus was human and that he was devine. Not part human and part devine, mind you, but completely human and completely devine, both at the same time.

The same Muslim can believe that committing suicide is a cardinal sin, that Islam is a religion of peace, and at the same time believe that he will be rewarded in heaven for blowing himself up in a crowd of infidels.

If it fits one's personal faith, one can believe that geological and fossil evidence are either fabrications or that they were put there by Satan to trick us, or that God put the evidence there to test our faith.

Descartes said that science exists because God cannot lie. There is a simpler alternative. Science is possible because reality can't lie. It is not that reality has decided not to lie, but that reality has no central nervous system and no volition. It can't lie. It wouldn't know how to lie. It doesn't know anything.

More in two weeks.


2:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your comments here are interesting. I don't recall reading anything in Kant similar to your reference to him.

But the principle reference is your expression concerning "reality." What is "reality." How can we determine what it is? If we can determine what it is,can we verify that it exists, as such? Is reality alive? You say it cannot lie. Can it tell the truth? Is it dead? Or, does it live? Has it ever existed, if so, in what form? These questions can go on.


2:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would be the ultimate reality show and would have some of TV's all time ratings. Just look at extreme fighting. If we are televising the executions up close, why not draw and quarter them. That attracted quite
an audience at one time. One thing I am sure of, is that executing a murderer prevents him from killing others. I am not sure that our present system which takes over
20 years from conviction to any execution deters anyone. In essence we hand out life sentences and occasionally hurry up the departure of some of the older ones after spending millions of dollars on trials and lawyers. Why this would deter someone twenty or thirty years younger is
beyond me.


2:44 PM  
Blogger Bill Lama said...

I hope you are not implying that it is OK to murder "gang members dealing drugs" because they are not innocent? It seems that like all valid social science studies these prove what is really quite obvious. Punishment is a deterent to crime and the ultimate punishment is a deterent to the ultimate crime. Denis Prager poses a thought experiment that makes it clear. If the death penalty applied only to Sunday murders, wouldn't it make sense that the Sunday murder rate would be low?

My "scrambled minds" note was in reference to G. K. Chesterton's statement about religion (faith) and reason. Sorry if you were offended. I don't know any Neanderthals... thought they were extinct.

I agree with Mike about the extra deterent of public executions and the potential use of television. If criminals had to spend their time in Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaia's jail (google him) they would think a third time about doing the crime. Now we're allowing conjugal visits for gay guys. The world is upside down!

6:46 PM  
Blogger Bill Lama said...

In your haste to "respond to St. Thomas and G. K. Chesterton" before leaving for vacation, I'm afraid that you painted an egregiously distorted picture of Roman Catholic philosophy in the domains of faith and reason.

First recall that the Catholic Church was the vehicle for the reconnection of Western scholarship to Greek philosophy starting in the 12th century. Thomas Aquinas was and remains the pre-eminent scholar of Aristotelian thought. Furthermore he was an empiricist who substantially influenced these two streams of Western thought. Aquinas believed that truth is known through reason (natural revelation) and through faith (supernatural revelation). He insisted that special revelation (faith) and natural revelation (reason) are complementary rather than contradictory in nature, for they pertain to the same unity: truth. Aquinas distinguished between God's eternal law that governs all creation and natural law that is the human participation in the eternal law and is discovered by reason.

Following Aquinas, the Catholic academics founded universities and led the way to modern science through the seminal work of Albert the Great, Jean Buridan, Robert Grossteste, Nicholas Steno, Roger Bacon, Nicholas Copernicus and many others. Since that time it has been Catholic teaching that when science disagrees with scripture then our understanding of scripture must be wrong. This dogma has been emphasized by Pope Leo XIII (On Christian Philosophy, 1879) and many other popes right up to John Paul III and Benedict XVI.

Your attribution to Aquinas of "when faith and reason give different answers, reason must be in error" is, I believe, a secular myth.

By the way, the atheist Ayn Rand always firmly insisted that "Aristotle was the greatest philosopher and that Thomas Aquinas was the second greatest."

You say nothing about Chesterton, one of the greatest intellectuals and Christian apologetics.

But you bring in Immanual Kant who you say "had to destroy reason to preserve faith." Kant, of course, was one of the most influential thinkers of modern Europe and the last major philosopher of the Enlightenment. He defined the Enlightenment in the essay "Answering the Question: What is Enlightenment?" as an age shaped by the motto, "Dare to know" free of the dictates of external authority. Kant asserted that, because of the limitations of reason, no one could really know if there is a God, but no one could really know that there was not a God. For the sake of society and morality, Kant asserted, people are reasonably justified in believing in God. Kant's 1781 work The Critique of Pure Reason has been cited as the most significant volume of metaphysics and epistemology in modern philosophy. He maintains that our understanding of the external world has its foundations not merely in experience, but in both experience and a priori concepts – thus offering a non-empiricist critique of rationalist philosophy. Sounds like a rasonable guy.

Finally, back to the death penalty. St. Thomas Aquinas was a vocal supporter of the death penalty. This was based on the theory (found in natural moral law), that the state has not only the right, but the duty to protect its citizens from enemies, both from without, and within. The common good is greater and better than the good of any particular person. "The life of certain pestiferous men is an impediment to the common good which is the concord of human society. Therefore, certain men must be removed by death from the society of men."

It's true that some religious beliefs are difficult. But it is insulting to compare Christian belief in Jesus, the Son of God, with Muslim religious belief in suicide bombing. Some religions are good, some are not. Moral relativism is a curse on modern society.

6:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To me, whether or not the death penalty is a deterent is not the point. There are certain homocidal acts that, if committed, the perpetrator forfeits his/her own right to live. That doesn't include all homocidal acts.

When Paul Tsongas was running for the Democrat nomination in 1992 he said that he would abolish the death penalty for homocides, but would apply the penalty to drug lords who have ruined so many lives.

I would extend the death penalty to certain "horrendous" (my word)crimes. e.g. The man who raped a 12 year old girl and then cut her hands (or arms) off. The man who poured kerosene throught the motel room where 7 year old son was sleeping, through a lit match
onto it and drove away. I saw the boy once on TV. The boy is so horribly disfigured that he has to wear full face mask in public for the rest of his life. His father has been on parole for the last 5-6 years. He served about 8-10 years in prison. I'm not certain of the length of years.

I see no reason why someone who commits such acts should have a right to live, and I don't see that society should have to support that person in prison for the rest of his life.


1:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought the major problem with the death penalty is that it has been conclusively demonstrated that there were (likely still are) a significant number of innocent death row inmates, almost always due to overzealous prosecution, or more precisely prosecutorial misconduct.

Also the maintenance of death rows and the appeals process is very expensive (another application of the /common good/ argument). The problem with the /common good /argument/ /is that it can be--and has been--used to justify mass murder. In Nazi Germany, common good was cited to justify the murder of of damaged, institutionalized individuals who were viewed as a drag on society. And this was not totally capricious because these individuals had been subjects of judicial process, like those sentenced to death.

I think the economic cost/benefit approach to the American judicial system (the Univ. of Chicago theorists) is useful but has its limitations because it's only part of the story, human beings are more than just products on the shelf.

I'm against the death penalty because it seems to bring out the worst in people. Executions in Calif. have been few and far between, but when they do happen, friends of mine, who are perfectly good guys, seem to suddenly exhibit a lot of blood-lust, basically urging /kill kill kill!/

I agree with Sam: if we have executions they should be public so the public has all the information.


1:38 PM  
Blogger Bill Lama said...

With DNA testing, mistaken identity is no longer a problem. As it is, the death penalty phase of legal proceedings practically eliminates all convicted murderers for whom the evidence is not overwhelming and the crime is not horrific.

That the Nazis (and the Communists) perverted the common good argument does not make it invalid. It is a fundamental part of Judeo-Christian moral philosophy and of Western common law. Moral relativism of this sort subverts logical argument.

As for your "friends... who are perfectly good guys, (yet) seem to suddenly exhibit a lot of blood-lust, basically urging /kill kill kill!/".... well, you need to find a better class of friends.

1:55 PM  
Anonymous Dudley Sharp said...

No one should be surprised by the recent conclusions in studies finding for a deterrent effect of the death penaly. In addition, the death penalty protects innocents in other ways, as well.

Ask yourself: "What prospect of a negative outcome doesn't deter some?" There isn't one, although committed anti death penalty folk may say the death penalty is the only one. However, the premier anti death penalty scholar accepts it as a given that the death penalty is a deterrent, but does not believe it to be a greater deterrent than a life sentence. I find the evidence compelling that death is feared more than life - even in prison.

In addition, we all know that living murderers, in prison, after escape or after our failures to incarcerate them, harm and murder, again. Executed murderers don't.

There is no proof of an innocent executed in the US, at least since 1900. The proof is overwhelming that living murderers harm and murder, again.
Furthermore, no knowledgeable party questions that the death penalty has the most extensive due process protections in US criminal law. Therefore, it is logically conclusive, that actual innocents are more likely to be sentenced to life imprisonment and more likely to die in prison serving under that sentence, that it is that an actual innocent will be executed.

In choosing to end the death penalty, or in choosing not implement it, some have chosen to put more innocents at risk.
Furthermore, possibly we have sentenced 20-25 actually innocent people to death since 1973, or 0.3% of those so sentenced. Those have been released upon post conviction review.

5:31 PM  
Anonymous Dudley Sharp said...

To clarify a few things:

The Death Penalty in the US: A Review
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
NOTE: Detailed review of any of the below topics, or others, is available upon request
In this brief format, the reality of the death penalty in the United States, is presented, with the hope that the media, public policy makers and others will make an effort to present a balanced view on this sanction.

Innocence Issues
Death Penalty opponents have proclaimed that 123 inmates have been "released from death row with evidence of their innocence", in the US, since the modern death penalty era began, post Furman v Georgia (1972).
That number is a fraud.
Those opponents have intentionally included both the factually innocent (the "I truly had nothing to do with the murder" cases) and the legally innocent (the "I got off because of legal errors" cases), thereby fraudulently raising the "innocent" numbers.
Death penalty opponents claim that 24 such innocence cases are in Florida. The Florida Commission on Capital Cases found that 4 of those 24 MIGHT be innocent -- an 83% error rate in death penalty opponents claims. If that error rate is consistent, nationally, that would indicate that 21 of the alleged 125 innocents MIGHT be actually innocent -- a 0.3% actual guilt error rate for the over 7500 sentenced to death since 1973. 
It is often claimed that 23 innocents have been executed in the US since 1900.  Nonsense.  Even the authors of that "23 innocents executed" study proclaimed "We agree with our critics, we never proved those (23) executed to be innocent; we never claimed that we had."  While no one would claim that an innocent has never been executed, there is no proof of an innocent executed in the US, at least since 1900.
No one disputes that innocents are found guilty, within all countries.  However, when scrutinizing death penalty opponents claims, we find that when reviewing the accuracy of verdicts and the post conviction thoroughness of discovering those actually innocent incarcerated, that the US death penalty process may be the most accurate criminal justice sanction in the world.  Under real world scenario, not executing murderers will always put many more innocents at risk, than will ever be put at risk of execution.

Deterrence Issues
Ten recent US studies find a deterrent effect of the death penalty.
All the studies which have not found a deterrent effect of the death penalty have refused to say that it does not deter some.  The studies finding for deterrence state such.  Confusion arises when people think that a simple comparison of murder rates and executions, or the lack thereof, can tell the tale of deterrence.  It cannot. 
Both high and low murder rates are found within death penalty and non death penalty jurisdictions, be it Singapore, South Africa, Sweden or Japan, or the US states of Michigan and Delaware.  Many factors are involved in such evaluations.  Reason and common sense tell us that it would be remarkable to find that the most severe criminal sanction -- execution -- deterred none.  No one is foolish enough to suggest that the potential for negative consequences does not deter the behavior of some.  Therefore, regardless of jurisdiction, having the death penalty will always be an added deterrent to murders, over and above any lesser punishments.
Racial issues
White murderers are twice as likely to be executed in the US as are black murderers and are executed, on average, 12 months more quickly than are black death row inmates.
It is often stated that it is the race of the victim which decides who is prosecuted in death penalty cases.  Although blacks and whites make up about an equal number of murder victims, capital cases are 6 times more likely to involve white victim murders than black victim murders.  This, so the logic goes, is proof that the US only cares about white victims.
Hardly.  Only capital murders, not all murders, are subject to a capital indictment.  Generally, a capital murder is limited to murders plus secondary aggravating factors, such as murders involving burglary, carjacking, rape, and additional murders, such as police murders, serial and multiple murders.  White victims are, overwhelmingly, the victims under those circumstances, in ratios nearly identical to the cases found on death row.
Any other racial combinations of defendants and/or their victims in death penalty cases, is a reflection of the crimes committed and not any racial bias within the system, as confirmed by studies from the Rand Corporation (1991), Smith College (1994), U of Maryland (2002), New Jersey Supreme Court (2003) and by a view of criminal justice statistics, within a framework of the secondary aggravating factors necessary for capital indictments.

Class issues
No one disputes that wealthier defendants can hire better lawyers and, therefore, should have a legal advantage over their poorer counterparts.  The US has executed about 0.15% of all murderers since new death penalty statutes were enacted in 1973.  Is there evidence that wealthier capital murderers are less likely to be executed than their poorer ilk, based upon the proportion of capital murders committed by different those different economic groups?

Arbitrary and capricious
About 10% of all murders within the US might qualify for a death penalty eligible trial.  That would be about 60,000 murders since 1973.  We have sentenced 7,600 murderers to death since then, or 13% of those eligible.  I doubt that there is any other crime which receives a higher percentage of maximum sentences, when mandatory sentences are not available.  Based upon that, as well as pre trial, trial, appellate and clemency/commutation realities, the US death penalty is likely the least arbitrary and capricious criminal sanctions in the world.  

Christianity and the death penalty
The two most authoritative New Testament scholars, Saints Augustine and Aquinas, provide substantial biblical and theological support for the death penalty. Even the most well known anti death penalty personality in the US, Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking, states that "It is abundantly clear that the Bible depicts murder as a capital crime for which death is considered the appropriate punishment, and one is hard pressed to find a biblical 'proof text' in either the Hebrew Testament or the New Testament which unequivocally refutes this.  Even Jesus' admonition 'Let him without sin cast the first stone,' when He was asked the appropriate punishment for an adulteress (John 8:7) -- the Mosaic Law prescribed death -- should be read in its proper context.  This passage is an 'entrapment' story, which sought to show Jesus' wisdom in besting His adversaries.  It is not an ethical pronouncement about capital punishment."  A thorough review of Pope John Paul II's current position, reflects a reasoning that should be recommending more executions.

Cost Issues
All studies finding the death penalty to be more expensive than life without parole exclude important factors, such as (1) geriatric care costs, recently found to be $69,0000/yr/inmate, (2) the death penalty cost benefit of providing for plea bargains to a maximum life sentence, a huge cost savings to the state, (3) the death penalty cost benefit of both enhanced deterrence and enhanced incapacitation, at $5 million per innocent life spared, and, furthermore, (4) many of the alleged cost comparison studies are highly deceptive.

Polling data
76% of Americans find that we should impose the death penalty more or that we impose it about right (Gallup, May 2006 - 51% that we should impose it more, 25% that we impose it about right)
71%  find capital punishment morally acceptable - that was the highest percentage answer for all questions (Gallup, April 2006, moral values poll).
81% of the American people supported the execution of Timothy McVeigh, with only 16% opposed. "(T)his view appears to be the consensus of all major groups in society, including men, women, whites, nonwhites, "liberals" and "conservatives."  (Gallup 5/2/01).
81% of Connecticut citizens supported the execution of serial rapist/murderer Michael Ross (Jan 2005).
While 81% gave specific case support for Timothy McVeigh's execution, Gallup also showed a 65% support AT THE SAME TIME when asked a general "do you support capital punishment for murderers?" question. (Gallup, 6/10/01).
22% of those supporting McVeigh's execution are, generally, against the death penalty (Gallup 5/02/01). That means that about half of those who say they oppose the death penalty, with the general question,  actually support the death penalty under specific circumstances, just as it is imposed, judicially.
Further supporting the higher rates for specific cases, is this, from the French daily Le Monde December 2006 (1): Percentage of respondents in favor of executing Saddam Hussein:USA: 82%; Great Britain: 69%; France: 58%; Germany: 53%; Spain: 51%; Italy: 46%
Death penalty support is much deeper and much wider than we are often led to believe, with 50% of those who say they, generally, oppose the death penalty actually supporting it under specific circumstances, resulting in 80% death penalty support in the US, as recently as December 2006.
Whatever your feelings are toward the death penalty, a fair accounting of how it is applied should be demanded.
copyright 1998-2007 Dudley Sharp
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail,  713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas
Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-Span, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.
Pro death penalty sites 


www(dot)  (Sweden)

Permission for distribution of this document is approved as long as it is distributed in its entirety, without changes, inclusive of this statement.

9:54 AM  
Anonymous Rick Horowitz said...

I wish you'd link the studies you mention. I know of no studies that demonstrate a deterrent effect. None.

On the other hand, incredibly large numbers of studies say otherwise, as you can see here:

Of particular interest is this one from a PROPONENT of probabilistic cost-benefit analyses:

But, you know, people who enjoy the thought of killing other people won't be deterred by logic now, will they?

6:18 PM  
Anonymous Aquino disciple said...

St. Thomas did much the same thing. He informs us that when faith and reason give different answers, reason must be in error. That dictum immunizes faith from all criticism. It also seems to short circuit any open-minded search for truth.

No, this is emphatically NOT the case. St. Thomas did not teach this at all. I studied Aquinas for years in college, and this representation of his thought totally misses his teaching. Rather, he taught that it is impossible that truths of the Faith, which come from God, and natural truths, which also come from God, cannot actually be opposed. Therefore, when Faith appears to say one thing and reason appears to say something contradictory, then you have not yet finished your investigation. You must continue on further until you have found the resolution that satisfies BOTH Faith and reason in harmony, without contradiction. Sometimes it is because we have imperfectly stated a conclusion from natural reason, other times it is because we have insufficiently explored what Faith leads us to.

6:55 AM  
Blogger dudleysharp said...

Rick: Better late than never.

23 recent deterrence studies finding for deterrence, Criminal Justice Legal Foundation,

"The Death Penalty: More Protection for Innocents"

The 130 (now 139) death row "innocents" scam

"Deterrence and the Death Penalty: A Reply to Radelet and Lacock"

"Death Penalty, Deterrence & Murder Rates: Let's be clear"

A Death Penalty Red Herring: The Inanity and Hypocrisy of Perfection, Lester Jackson Ph.D.,

"The Innocent Executed: Deception & Death Penalty Opponents"

"Cost Savings: The Death Penalty"

Duke (North Carolina) Death Penalty Cost Study: Let's be honest

3:21 PM  
Blogger dudleysharp said...


25 recent studies finding for deterrence, Criminal Justice Legal Foundation

5:18 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home