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Those without the capital get the punishment
January 15, 2012 6:32 PM   Subscribe

All this brings me to an Indian I want you to know better than his jury did—Douglas Ray Stankewitz, the longest tenured inmate on California’s death row. Like most Indians who find themselves in a group of non-Indians, he is currently known as Chief, but unlike many Indians, he is proud of the nickname. The government wants to kill Chief because Theresa Greybeal was shot dead in the course of a robbery by a group of people high on heroin, and there is no question that Chief was one of them. There is a serious question about who pulled the trigger, and juries are reluctant to kill individuals who did not pull the trigger. But as far as his jury knew, Douglas Stankewitz pulled the trigger. And he might have, but we will never know, based on his trial.
posted by latkes (31 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Douglas Roy Stankewitz's site.
posted by latkes at 6:32 PM on January 15, 2012


Seems like there are all kinds of basis for appeal to get this man off death row, based on the article linked here. And after the embarrassment of the Cameron Todd Willingham case, it seems like states should be even more reluctant to execute because of possibility of not deserving it than before.

But then, I've always underestimated the bloodthirst of the citizenry at large, and stand in horror in the face of revenge killings disguised as justice. So I may not be the best person to assess this situation.
posted by hippybear at 6:39 PM on January 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Seems like there are all kinds of basis for appeal to get this man off death row, based on the article linked here.

Indeed there are, if we take his page as accurate, but "He wasn't the actual triggerman, just the guy next to the triggerman" doesn't strike me as one of them. I kinda give no shit about whether he was the one holding the gun or simply an active accomplice.
posted by kafziel at 6:50 PM on January 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I kinda give no shit about whether he was the one holding the gun or simply an active accomplice.
The rule of law is actually important to a healthy society.
posted by kavasa at 6:53 PM on January 15, 2012 [10 favorites]


I have to agree with kafziel. While opposed to the death penalty on general principles, the concept of felony murder is well established.
posted by dhartung at 6:54 PM on January 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Indeed there are, if we take his page as accurate, but "He wasn't the actual triggerman, just the guy next to the triggerman" doesn't strike me as one of them. I kinda give no shit about whether he was the one holding the gun or simply an active accomplice.

Well then what about the whole "state sanctioned murder that satisfies society's lust for vengeance" thing?
posted by Talez at 6:54 PM on January 15, 2012


Felony murder means someone killing someone during a felony. If Chief did not pull the trigger, then he is guilty of a felony and not a murder.
posted by Postroad at 6:58 PM on January 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I kinda give no shit about whether he was the one holding the gun or simply an active accomplice.

That's a gigantic difference, there. As Postroad points out.
posted by hippybear at 7:01 PM on January 15, 2012


Felony murder means someone killing someone during a felony. If Chief did not pull the trigger, then he is guilty of a felony and not a murder.

See, no. Felony murder actually means criminal liability for any deaths that occur in furtherance of a felony, and in a group situation doesn't care whether you're the one to personally kill them.
posted by kafziel at 7:03 PM on January 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


That's not how felony murder works. (And murder is a felony.) Felony murder means one of two things:

1- that if you are committing a felony and accidentally kill someone, what would have been manslaughter becomes murder.

2- and if someone purposefully kills someone during the commission of a felony, his accomplices are just as guilty as the trigger-puller.
posted by gjc at 7:03 PM on January 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


from gjc's wikipedia link:
When the government seeks to impose the death penalty on someone convicted of felony murder, the Eighth Amendment has been interpreted so as to impose additional limitations on the state power. The death penalty may not be imposed if the defendant is merely a minor participant and did not actually kill or intend to kill. However, the death penalty may be imposed if the defendant is a major participant in the underlying felony and "exhibits extreme indifference to human life".
So the question of capital punishment rests on a few factors which seem to be matters of intuition on behalf of the legal system and not established facts.
posted by hippybear at 7:08 PM on January 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


kafziel is correct. even if that woman had died accidentally during the commission of a (dangerous) felony, everybody who was in on it goes down for felony murder.
posted by facetious at 7:09 PM on January 15, 2012


But then, I've always underestimated the bloodthirst of the citizenry at large, and stand in horror in the face of revenge killings disguised as justice.

Why is revenge bad for society? Sincere question. I'm a death penalty opponent. At the same time, I am not at all convinced that vengeance is incompatible with justice (though not extending to the death penalty, i.e. I don't believe in a straightforward "an eye for an eye"). Rehabilitation should - very obviously - be the primary goal of any penal system. Protection of society from dangerous individuals, is another goal that is obvious. But I have not made up my mind on the justice system meting out punishment as well. I don't see that vengeance as a component of the penal system (again, within limits) is in and of itself obviously not beneficial to society. I'm open to an argument either way. And by vengeance, I mean quite apart from any deterrence effect. Vengeance as pure satisfaction that punishment has been meted out - I can see an argument why this might be healthy for society and the general sense of justice served, even if it didn't result in any deterrence whatsoever. Take Wall Street crimes as an example. Even if punishing prominent bankers who were responsible for these depredations did nothing for future deterrence, it may still have value for the society at large, because it prevents the feeling of utter demoralization of the citizenry when they see crime go unpunished - with emphasis on punishment. It is entirely possible, that for the rest of the society to function optimally, and have some kind of cohesion, it is necessary to have vengeance, even if it has zero effect on the perpetrators behavior current or future, i.e. the question of crime and punishment extends further than the effects on the criminals.
posted by VikingSword at 7:13 PM on January 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


Why is revenge bad for society?

Isn't there a very real difference between revenge and punative punishment though? Or is all punishment inherently revenge? Why does punishment have to entail state-sanctioned murder?

I think the idea is that as a society progresses and matures that the desire to rip each other limb from limb lessens. I'm not sure that says a whole lot of good about the current state of affairs.
posted by IvoShandor at 7:19 PM on January 15, 2012


In that sense, even rehabilitative punishment could be construed as revenge.
posted by IvoShandor at 7:21 PM on January 15, 2012


In that sense, even rehabilitative punishment could be construed as revenge.

Well, no. I mean, I can imagine how one could subject the individual to pain, but it would be an unavoidable byproduct of attempting to rehabilitate him. Equivalent example: we don't have painkillers, but have to perform surgery to cure the patient - pain is sadly necessary. Another case, we do have painkillers, but choose not to use them during surgery - yes, we cure, but we also take no measures to avoid pain (and perhaps even add pain). Obviously just examples (I don't advocate torture!), where prison time equals pain, then you add prison conditions and rehabilitation as variables. Vengeance would still not be a free for all. Humane values would still be present - same justification we have for rules of war and prisoner. So things like torture, "cruel and unusual" etc., would be excluded and so forth. I'd like to understand the issues a little better.
posted by VikingSword at 7:30 PM on January 15, 2012


Why is revenge bad for society?

Well, I probably lack the philosophical chops to really discuss this with any coherency. But...

I think there's a difference (as IvoShandor has already stated) between paying a price for a crime and vengeance. It's the difference between incarceration for stealing and having one's hand cut off if found guilty. One is a debt to society one must pay but which comes to an end once the terms of the debt are fulfilled, the other has lifetime consequences which can never be undone.

If the question is truly rehabilitation vs. punishment, then we live in obviously live in a society which places no value on the first and everything on the second. Simply looking at the state of prisons these days and what takes place in them, and also looking at the disestablishment of citizenship which takes place after release (lack of employment opportunities, lack of voting rights, etc), we don't care about rehabilitation, and simply want to Make Bad People Suffer for their wrongs.

Anyway, when it comes to capital punishment, which is the cutting-off-of-hands carried to an extreme, it seems to me we should have a much higher standard of guilt than for any other form of punitive punishment OR revenge. Our system is based on the idea of innocence until proven otherwise, and the standard has long been "let someone guilty go free before punishing any innocent person". If we're really going to put people to death based on the outcome of trials, that outcome had better be airtight above and beyond other trial outcomes, and the system of appeals and such needs to be used to its fullest extent before we put the needle in the vein of anyone so sentenced.

Just my opinion, mind you. But until we truly have a incarceration system based on reformation of offenders rather than making their lives hell because they were bad, I'll continue to stand on the side of "let's not kill people", because the obvious structure of our current system is based much more on revenge than reform, and IMO that's not a healthy approach toward justice.
posted by hippybear at 7:31 PM on January 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


VikingSword: "Why is revenge bad for society?

Nobody said that revenge is and for society; and I'll say that of course you can come up with examples where it seems to us that revenge is the best thing that can happen. The point is that we're not fit to judge in those cases. "Revenge" is when someone takes it into their hands to deliver justice based on their personal feelings about the case. And it is not possible to view justice clearly unless we separate our personal interest completely from the case we're considering. That's why judges have to recuse themselves or be recused when they have an interest in the outcome of a trial.

In short, this is a pretty good rule to follow: whenever we think revenge is the best solution to a problem, we should step back, think a little about why we're taking it so personally, and try to rise above that personal involvement
posted by koeselitz at 7:52 PM on January 15, 2012


(I guess it should be apparent from that comment that I believe that "punishment" and "revenge" are very, very different things, and that there is a bright line between the two.)
posted by koeselitz at 7:57 PM on January 15, 2012


hippybear: “Seems like there are all kinds of basis for appeal to get this man off death row, based on the article linked here.”

kafziel: “Indeed there are, if we take his page as accurate, but ‘He wasn't the actual triggerman, just the guy next to the triggerman’ doesn't strike me as one of them. I kinda give no shit about whether he was the one holding the gun or simply an active accomplice.”

I take it, then, that you actually believe that, when a defense lawyer who calls a prison chaplain to the stand in a murder trial in order to demonstrate that Jesus will forgive the defendant if he only asks Him into his sinner's heart, that defense lawyer is doing his job adequately.

I'm a bit confused about what you mean by "his page," however. If I didn't know any better, I'd have the distinct feeling that you didn't actually read the main link, but I'm sure that isn't the case.
posted by koeselitz at 8:02 PM on January 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I take it, then, that you actually believe that, when a defense lawyer who calls a prison chaplain to the stand in a murder trial in order to demonstrate that Jesus will forgive the defendant if he only asks Him into his sinner's heart, that defense lawyer is doing his job adequately.

No, that's actually one of the factors I would say would work to provide basis for an appeal. That's a basis for inadequate or incompetent defense if ever I saw one. Having a legal representative which swears that they don't believe in the separation of church and state, one of the bedrocks of US law, is a pretty strong case that the defense wasn't performing under the best aegis of the system.
posted by hippybear at 8:08 PM on January 15, 2012


I'm a bit confused about what you mean by "his page," however.

The first comment in this thread is a link to "his page".
posted by hippybear at 8:22 PM on January 15, 2012


The rule of law is actually important to a healthy society.

And that's why we execute people who involve themselves in violent felonies.
posted by codswallop at 10:48 PM on January 15, 2012


Christ.
Douglas was beaten regularly by both of his parents and was taken to the emergency room three times before his first birthday. [...]
Reading his biography, I'd have a hard time sending this guy to prison without putting his parents, if they're still alive, in the next two cells.
posted by pracowity at 11:49 PM on January 15, 2012


And that's why we execute people who involve themselves in violent felonies.

That's awfully glib.

Tell us, why do we execute people who don't involve themselves in violent felonies?
posted by IvoShandor at 11:55 PM on January 15, 2012


(hippybear - sorry if this was unclear, but I was responding to kafziel, not you.)
posted by koeselitz at 6:50 AM on January 16, 2012


I'm Indian and I'm not called 'Chief' when-

Oh, I see.
posted by Senza Volto at 10:27 AM on January 16, 2012


Tell us, why do we execute people who don't involve themselves in violent felonies?

Example? I'm familiar with Texas and NY law, and under Texas law the death penalty is only available for violent crimes.

Note that I'm on your side here against the death penalty, I'm just wondering what you're driving at.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:19 AM on January 16, 2012


Tell us, why do we execute people who don't involve themselves in violent felonies?

Example? I'm familiar with Texas and NY law, and under Texas law the death penalty is only available for violent crimes.


The example is people who are wrongfully convicted, but Stankewitz isn't one of those.
posted by kafziel at 11:36 AM on January 16, 2012


Tell us, why do we execute people who don't involve themselves in violent felonies?

I don't think Bradley Manning did anything violent, yet he might be executed.
posted by hippybear at 3:40 PM on January 16, 2012


kafziel: “The example is people who are wrongfully convicted, but Stankewitz isn't one of those.”

Nobody here or in any of the links has claimed that Stankewitz was wrongfully convicted. We have claimed that he was wrongfully sentenced. And given the shenanigans at his trial, it's hard to avoid that conclusion.
posted by koeselitz at 3:43 PM on January 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


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