28 June, 2006

I Call Bulls.....! The Kleinheider Death Penalty Special Edition

I realise that long responses to the Kleinheider are generally the province of Feline Little Britches, but I couldn't pass this one up. (My apologies, fair Auntie.)

Deep in the heart of his reflection on the execution of Sedley Alley (A man who beat, stabbed and repeatedly sexually assaulted a 19 year old servicewoman), Adam ribs us with this little nugget:
I am a bit ambivalent on the death penalty. While I have no problem morally wilth a man dying for spilling blood, I do have a problem with giving the State the power over the life and death of its citizens.

Back to the whole my-mom-was-a-teacher thing from earlier......Her pet peeve was when students would say "Mrs. B failed me in English." Unfailingly, for forty years her reply was always "you got the grade you earned."

American citizens have their own power of life and death. Don't commit a capital crime. If you do commit a capital crime, offer a defense when tried by the jury of your peers. And when going through the many-tiered mandatory appeals process.

The state of Tennessee has no power over the life and death of me or (hopefully) you, because we are not walking into a restaurant and shooting the kids who are there to earn money for their car insurance and college educations. You and I are not going to shove a stick so far up a woman's vagina that it pierces her liver. These actions represent a choices made by free citizens. The death penalty is merely the State's response to those wrong choices.


At 12:43 PM, June 28, 2006, Blogger dolphin said...

The death penalty is merely the State's response to those wrong choices.

Or to those falsely accused of those wrong choices, or to those who made choices that aren't inherently wrong but are percieved to be wrong by the state. For example, since the Patriot Act ensures that any crime can be determined to be a terrorist act and had the PATRIOT II passed, any terrorist act would automatically be eligible for the the death penalty, any political dissident who might decide to jay walk after carefully looking both ways and seeing no cars for miles could be put to death.

At 1:49 PM, June 28, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I think your argument only supports the point here. The Patriot II act did not pass, in part because sane people saw this potential and said "this is stupid". I don't think it's valid to use an example of something that didn't happen to support your view.

Besides, I'm not sure what your argument is here. Are you saying that Katherine's defense of the death penalty for those criminals who have "earned" it is invalid because some other law (that was never actually enacted) could potentially have been unfair in some situations? This seems pretty specious to me.


At 2:29 PM, June 28, 2006, Blogger Chance said...

I think dolphin brings up a valid point, in that some people are wrongfully convicted. Personally, I don't care if those who are actually guilty receive the death penalty, but those who are innocent is another matter.

Now, one could say that those who receive the death penalty must be those convicted with a high degree of indisputable evidence. Such an idea is troubling, however, because already, people are only convicted if they are determined to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. I don't like the idea of different levels of guilty.

At 3:35 PM, June 28, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "we're protected because we're not doing anything wrong" argument only offers protection insofar as the behaviors in which you wish to engage are not deemed illegal. When the laws only allow for the death penalty for behaviors like murder, treason, etc., most normal, law-abiding people have nothing to fear.

But what about when the government decides to criminalize something that we think is okay? It may seem like a stretch, but imagine a political-correctness-run-amok situation in which "hate speech" comes to be considered a capital offense. It's not entirely impossible (or even far-fetched) to imagine that a court might someday rule that certain types of religious expression, such as evangelism to people of differing faiths, qualify as hate speech. All of the sudden, walking into a Muslim community and saying "Jesus loves you" could get you the death penalty. Or what if the government someday decides that being Jewish should be punishable by death?

Personally, I'm very much in support of the death penalty. I'm just not sure that the argument you're making here is its strongest defense.

At 3:54 PM, June 28, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

What Jason said.

And, this is not my only argument in support of the Death Penalty. But it is my response to Kleinheider's assertion that the State has [extraordinary] power over the life and death of its citizens.

While slippery-slope style arguments can be made both pro-and anti, the fact remains that I am arguing for the right-now existence of a Death Penalty. Quite obviously I'd have altered opinions in any of the nightmare scenarios you mention.

Most clearly being the fact that I think "Hate Crime" legislation is extraordinary power the framers never intended.

At 5:40 PM, June 28, 2006, Anonymous Sarcastro said...

Dolphin, were Sedley or Reid falsely accused? Were their choices just "perceived wrong by the state"? Good job changing the topic to the Patriot Act and adding an reductio ad absurdum to the proceedings.

Second Anon, that ad absudum goes double for you.

At 9:01 PM, June 28, 2006, Blogger thehomelessguy said...

In stating "The death penalty is merely the State's response to those wrong choices." You echo business people's oft heard claim, "it's just business" when the actions of business does something harmful to some person or people. The language used to dehumanize institutions is misleading of the reality that "state" and "business" are just names that humans hide their actions behind. The "state" didn't decide to kill the criminal, there were actual people involved.

And I appreciate your "you got the grade you earned metaphor. I flunked English often, and when I did pass the class it was barely with a D minus. And my parents punished me severely, thinking it would motivate me to change my approach to the class. But it didn't, and so they wrote me of as rebelious, lazy and a "bad" child. Only much later in life was it discovered that I had a form of dyslexia, that made the written word a very difficult form of communication for me. I was so upset over it, feeling so worthless, that I tried killing myself over it. Thankfully, I didn't succeed, and I overcame this particular problem. Sure, I got what I earned in English, but was it what I deserved?

At 9:41 PM, June 28, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

Okay, Kevin. I'll state in in purely human terms.

A bunch of people hunt for food. They realise they will have better luck if they hunt in a larger group. So they agree to hunt together and share the food appropriately.

They also begin to realise that they will live more safely as a group and more easily repell offenders who try to take their land, their food or their women. So they agree to live together and defend the group in shifts.

That's the beginning and the essence of society. Huck and any other anthropologists out there can step in and correct me if my understanding of this is flawed.

The basic framework of society still exists, thousands of years later. You need to eat to stay alive. You participate in society to have access to the food, clothing and shelter you require. In return, society agrees to leave you alone to go about your business, as long as that business doesn't harm the other people who have trusted you. Society is about trust and cooperation.

Along the way we realised that there are animals who do not wish to participate in society under the same guidelines. They are jackals who prey on the society for their food, but prefer to roam free. They are self-centered, bloodthirsty and dangerous.

So, those of us who have decided to be a part of society realise that part of our promise to the others is to offer protection for the weak and punishment for those who run afoul of that group promise. We, as a society understand this to be the primary purpose of our organisation.

So, we, as a society have adopted certain laws. Don't take someone else's property. If you do, you'll go to jail.

Don't take someone else's life. If you do, you may be killed as a punishment.

Those are the rules, clearly stated. They aren't a secret to anyone. In fact, we've even made MORE rules. If a person doesn't understand the rules, we declare them unfit to stand trial and put them in a hospital. But if they do understand the rules, they have to sit in front of 12 members of society, have the facts reviewed. If those 12 people decide that the facts mean that the other person needs to die, then that decision is made.

And we have more people review the decision repeatedly, to make sure that it's the right decision. And still more people to review the review. On up the food chain. And then, ultimately, one person--a member of our society--performs an action that removes the offending party from the face of the earth.

Yes, it's all people.

At 10:16 PM, June 28, 2006, Blogger thehomelessguy said...

Wow, a diatribe, thanks. The part you left out is where the people assign a small group of people to make the laws for us. We decide on which people to represent us, based on their promises to represent our concerns, but once in positions of authority, those few chosen people decide to make laws that they want, instead of the the laws the people want, whom they represent. When's the last time "the people" had a chance to choose death as a penalty for any crime?

At 1:14 AM, June 29, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...


I had a response all typed up for you, but I'm in a slightly grumpy mood about something totally unrelated, and the post sounded more mean than joke-y, even though I was going for joke-y. So I deleted it.

Suffice to say I understand where you're coming from, but I don't know what I can tell you that doesn't just repeat what you and I both know to be true.

This is a representative democracy. Sometimes it sucks, but it's mostly good and it's better than any other form of government out there.

At 7:46 AM, June 29, 2006, Anonymous Lesley said...

The death penalty issue is where I depart from my liberal bretheren. I wrote a rather lengthy post about it on LiveJournal. I support the death penalty in cases where there is absolutely no doubt of the accused's guilt. I supported the stay for Alley because of DNA testing, but opposed a stay for Reid (he did it, plain and simple). Is Reid criminally insane? Yes. Is it wrong to punish the criminally insane? I don't think so. And given that he lives in my (and Sarcastro's) 'hood (and killed in yours, Kat), I'd really like to see him gone.

At 5:34 PM, June 29, 2006, Blogger thehomelessguy said...

As good as we have it here in the Good ol' USofA, there's always room for improvement.

Your other, clorine and hot concrete line really sent me back. Cool wet feet on the hot concrete around the swimming pool leaving water foot prints slowly evaporating, and the bath towel to dry off with, warmed from being out in the sun for so long, and the smell of cocoa tanning lotion, and brother's girl friend (the premadonna) laying out on the chaise of weaved plastic straps, trying to line up with the sun just right so to get a perfectly even tan, and her warning to stay away from her and not helping but walking past her, leaning over her, and shaking the cold water from your hair onto her sun heated skin. And wondering why, a couple hours later, brother punches you.

Sorry, I got carried away there.

At 2:27 PM, June 30, 2006, Blogger Exador said...

those few chosen people decide to make laws that they want, instead of the the laws the people want, whom they represent.

That's why they aren't elected for life. If they rule unfairly, it's the fault of the ignorant and apathetic voters, of which there are many.


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