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His final words were "Set me free."
June 13, 2013 3:28 PM   Subscribe

On Wednesday, William Van Poyck was executed by the state of Florida for murdering a prison guard during a botched 1987 attempt to free an imprisoned friend. Poyck spent 25 years in solitary confinement on death row, during which time he wrote to his sister about his life in prison. Since 2005 she has published those letters to a blog called Death Row Diary. 'Poyck used to write about everything from the novels and history books he was reading and shows he watched on PBS to the state of the world and his own philosophy of life – punctuated by news of the deaths of those around him, from illness, suicide, and execution.' Excerpts. His final letter.
posted by zarq (161 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
That final letter was very touching.

Thanks for posting, zarq.
posted by Aizkolari at 3:49 PM on June 13, 2013


Poyck spent 25 years in solitary confinement on death row

Yeah, regardless what his crime was or how you feel about capital punishment, if you don't see this as a case of cruel and unusual treatment then you very kindly can go kick rocks.
posted by item at 3:52 PM on June 13, 2013 [20 favorites]


Don't forget the victim, while we bemoan the enlightened offender's duration in solitary and execution.
posted by Mojojojo at 3:59 PM on June 13, 2013 [12 favorites]


Whether or not Poyck fired the shot that killed Officer Griffs, he went to the crime armed as well. And he outlived Officer Griffs by 18 years.
posted by bearwife at 4:03 PM on June 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


Don't forget the victim, while we bemoan the enlightened offender's duration in solitary and execution.

It's a good thing that killing Van Poyck will finally appease the vengeance fairy and it will bring back Griffis.
posted by Talez at 4:03 PM on June 13, 2013 [38 favorites]


It's funny and kind of sad how with a good chunk of people it has to be an either/or situation - either you side with the victim or you feel for the accused. With these people, there's not enough compassion to go around.

Then again, a good chunk of people like Two and a Half Men, so I suppose I don't know what the hell to think.
posted by item at 4:05 PM on June 13, 2013 [79 favorites]


It's a good thing that killing Van Poyck will finally appease the vengeance fairy and it will bring back Griffis.

Not my point: My point is don't just shed tears for Poyck, but remember that he was involved in the murder of another human being.
posted by Mojojojo at 4:06 PM on June 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


Anyone know whether he expresses remorse in any of the letters?
posted by Unified Theory at 4:11 PM on June 13, 2013


Anyone know whether he expresses remorse in any of the letters?

"I read in a recent newspaper article that the brother and sister of Fred Griffis, the victim in my case, are angry that I'm still alive and eager for my execution. These are understandable human feelings. I have a brother and sister myself and I cannot honestly say how I would deal with it if something happened to you or Jeff at the hands of another. I have thought of Fred many times over the years and grieved over his senseless death. I feel bad for Fred's siblings though if seeing another human being die will truly give them pleasure. I suspect when I'm gone, if they search their hearts, they will grasp the emptiness of the closure promised by the revenge of capital punishment. There's a lot of wisdom in the old saying "An eye for an eye soon makes the whole world blind.""
posted by eenagy at 4:14 PM on June 13, 2013 [17 favorites]


Related
posted by eenagy at 4:15 PM on June 13, 2013


I don't believe in a grand universal karmic triple-beam balance. Putting someone in solitary for 25 years is a form of torture, and whatever evil he's done, we don't get a pass to balance it out with our own evil. It's perfectly possible that both can be wrong, and it is perfectly possible to shed tears for both.
posted by 1adam12 at 4:16 PM on June 13, 2013 [30 favorites]


Not my point: My point is don't just shed tears for Poyck, but remember that he was involved in the murder of another human being.

Was anyone in danger of not doing that?
posted by hoyland at 4:17 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


That poor man!
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 4:18 PM on June 13, 2013


"I suspect when I'm gone, if they search their hearts, they will grasp the emptiness of the closure promised by the revenge of capital punishment. There's a lot of wisdom in the old saying "An eye for an eye soon makes the whole world blind.""

Having had a loved one viciously murdered by someone who was then put to death, I can say with certainty that I felt closure. A great deal of it. The only thing that I think might have made it better was if they had given me a gun and allowed me to shoot the bastard myself.
posted by bradth27 at 4:19 PM on June 13, 2013 [23 favorites]


From the excerpts:

Making a man spend his last six weeks ticking off every minute, hour and day of his life left on earth constitutes cruel and unusual punishment by any definition. And it certainly constitutes, as a matter of law, two of Florida’s statutory aggravating circumstances (used by the state to justify the imposition of death sentences), to wit: 1) the killing is cold, calculated and premeditated; and, 2) the killing is heinous, atrocious and cruel. Although I’ve fully accepted my circumstances, I know it’s going to happen and I’ve come to terms with it, that does not obviate the fact that it just isn’t right to do this to people, and for society to accept this as normal or natural, well, it speaks more about our society than it does about those being so efficiently dispatched down here in the bowels of this penitentiary…

I love it when murderers lecture us on morality.
posted by Unified Theory at 4:20 PM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


Oh, man, Florida hasn't grown up yet? Sheesh.
Man, in some ways, it's still just a podunk state.

Killin' don't make anything better but at least it's over soon.

Locking a man up in a tiny box for 25 years with the threat of a killin' hanging over his head for all that time, though.... that ain't right.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:22 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not my point: My point is don't just shed tears for Poyck, but remember that he was involved in the murder of another human being.

Was anyone in danger of not doing that?

Oh, come on. Look at the comments. No mention. I don't believe I'm in favor of capital punisiment, I go back and forth. And I don't believe in extended solitary, but I see the comments and they make the murderer out to be the victim in all this and ignore the human with potential that he murdered. I can believe people change, but that doesn't bring anyone back to life.
posted by Mojojojo at 4:24 PM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


I love it when murderers lecture us on morality.

Monasteries create monks.

I've done things I'm not proud of, and everyone I've ever met can say the same. Poor choices often define one's circumstances without also defining the person. I would hope I wouldn't be judged only on the mistakes I've made.

I hope everyone finds the release they're looking for.
posted by Mooski at 4:24 PM on June 13, 2013 [12 favorites]


Having had a loved one viciously murdered by someone who was then put to death, I can say with certainty that I felt closure. A great deal of it. The only thing that I think might have made it better was if they had given me a gun and allowed me to shoot the bastard myself.

Good thing that person who was locked up away from the rest of society without any realistic possibility of ever laying their hands on anyone else in the free world was put down and will never be able to kill again.
posted by item at 4:26 PM on June 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


item - yes. I agree. I don't even think they should have locked him up in the first place. They should have just said "guilty" and killed the worthless bastard on the spot.
posted by bradth27 at 4:30 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


There's a lot here that can be read as bigger and beyond this one inmate. When you read about the health conditions, healthcare available, and the provision of supplies (from the excepts link), it's probably safe to assume that this is happening across wide swaths of offenders. This includes people who won't be in prison until they die, who we will be living with in our future.
posted by bizzyb at 4:33 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


without any realistic possibility of ever laying their hands on anyone else in the free world

Except for correctional officers and medical personnel.
posted by playertobenamedlater at 4:34 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Anyone who's been tortured becomes a victim. Solitary confinement is torture. Yeah, it's terrible that our system creates victims out of perpetrators (and the innocent, too), but it's true. Blame the system, not those of us who see the forest for the trees.
posted by bleep at 4:34 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


They should have just said "guilty" and killed the worthless bastard on the spot.

Good thing we live in a society where things like that don't happen and people like you aren't in charge.
posted by item at 4:37 PM on June 13, 2013 [34 favorites]


In the article, one of the victim's family said the execution should have happened in 1987 since it was an "open and shut case". Why the delay - does it really take 25 years to exhaust all of the appeals? The wheels of justice may turn slowly, but it only takes 20 years to serve a life sentence in some countries.
posted by ceribus peribus at 4:39 PM on June 13, 2013


Anyone who's been tortured becomes a victim. Solitary confinement is torture. Yeah, it's terrible that our system creates victims out of perpetrators (and the innocent, too), but it's true. Blame the system, not those of us who see the forest for the trees.

This guy talks about many of the inmates being his friends and he knows a lot about them. He wasn't in solitary. (Maybe you weren't talking about him?)
posted by Unified Theory at 4:43 PM on June 13, 2013



Was anyone in danger of not doing that?

Oh, come on. Look at the comments. No mention.


I wouldn't take anyone's comments as the entirety of their thoughts and feelings on anything. But as long as we must mention victims, how about Van Poyck's accomplice, stomped to death in his cell by seven correctional officers, none of whom were convicted of any crime.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:45 PM on June 13, 2013 [12 favorites]


Good thing we live in a society where things like that don't happen and people like you aren't in charge.

Hey, I'm just giving my opinion on the statement made by the "poor guy" they put to death. I found closure. Lots of it. And no "OMG THE POOR GUY HE'S A HUMAN BEING" will convince me that the bastard that tortured, raped and murdered that sweet little girl should deserve anything but a bullet to the head.

Just my opinion. You are free to think otherwise.
posted by bradth27 at 4:45 PM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Can we grieve both of them? And can't more than one person in the world be a victim at the same time?
posted by 256 at 4:47 PM on June 13, 2013 [13 favorites]


I think it's worth noting that not all loved ones of victims approve of the death penalty, for a number of reasons. Thus, to share that view isn't against victims' feelings. People can legitimately differ on how they see this, even taking into account the victims.

Info on a couple of the leading groups here:
California Crime Victims for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation
posted by bizzyb at 4:48 PM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


[removed some personal attacks, please try to focus on the story here, not other members specifically, thanks]
posted by mathowie at 4:48 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thank you, mathowie.

Bradth, I'm very sorry for your loss. My condolences.
posted by zarq at 4:50 PM on June 13, 2013


The term "mixed feelings," is probably the ultimate cliche, but it describes what I'm having here. Like most people, I sympathize much more with Van Poyck's victim than I do with him, but I can't deny that 25 years in solitary sounds excessive.
posted by jonmc at 4:51 PM on June 13, 2013


I still support the Death Penalty for malpracticing doctors like the one responsible for my mother's death and reckless drivers like the one responsible for my father's death.

Families of murder victims can get the luxury of "closure" that nobody else does. Nothing personal.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:52 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have thought of Fred many times over the years and grieved over his senseless death. I feel bad for Fred's siblings though if seeing another human being die will truly give them pleasure.

That's not an expression of remorse. That's a look-any-where-but-at-me, oh-well-life-sucks non-apology, consistent with the immense narcissism that leaps off the page throughout the posts to that blog.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 4:52 PM on June 13, 2013 [15 favorites]


That said, I'm going to say something super controversial here. I think that I actually feel more sympathy for Van Poyck than for Griffis.

I say this as someone who has been in prison and who has beloved family members who work as correction officers. Humans are not meant to be caged. To a certain degree I view working as a correction officer as akin to working as a lion tamer. When the lion attacks, I have a very hard time blaming it.

Griffis was killed. Van Poyck was tortured and then killed.
posted by 256 at 4:58 PM on June 13, 2013 [14 favorites]


Van Poyck did not actually kill Griffis. I'm pasting a comment from the blog here that seems pertinent:
Here is some info I researched on the case. It follows a familiar story.

Possessed with an incorrigible, rebellious spirit, at age 11 William Van Poyck was locked up in Youth Hall. At 12 he was confined in Kendall Children’s Home and at age 14 he was shipped off to the notorious Okeechobee Boys’ School.

At the Florida School for Boys in Okeechobee he was beaten (30 ‘licks’) with straps and paddles – the punishment repeated if he cried out – and hog-tied, drenched with water and left overnight in what was called the ‘wet room.

In January 1972, at age 17, William was sentenced to life imprisonment for a Miami robbery, even though no one was hurt in the crime.

He had a breakdown two years after being sent to adult prison and was put on ‘industrial strength’ antipsychotic medication.

He spent the next 15 years touring and escaping from Florida’s ever-expanding prison system, becoming a certified legal aide and renowned jailhouse lawyer in the process.

Frank Valdes shot Griffis after he threw the van’s keys into nearby bushes to hinder the escape. Police arrested Van Poyck and Valdes after a high-speed car chase.

William’s accomplice, Frank Valdes died in 1999 after a raft of Florida State Prison guards murdered him in his cell. In the subsequent investigative furor, the governor ordered William transferred to Virginia’s death row. There, he penned and published several books. In 2008, William was transferred back to Florida State Prison.

Source
posted by sid at 5:00 PM on June 13, 2013 [18 favorites]


.
posted by likeatoaster at 5:02 PM on June 13, 2013


There's a lot of wisdom in the old saying "An eye for an eye soon makes the whole world blind."

These words would sound a lot less like self-serving pablum in somebody else's mouth. A pity he didn't acquire some of that folksy, homespun wisdom in time to prevent him from killing somebody.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 5:02 PM on June 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


Van Poyck did not actually kill Griffis.

The more I'm seeing, the more my heart sinks.
posted by item at 5:08 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


sid: "Van Poyck did not actually kill Griffis. I'm pasting a comment from the blog here that seems pertinent:
Here is some info I researched on the case. It follows a familiar story.

Possessed with an incorrigible, rebellious spirit, at age 11 William Van Poyck was locked up in Youth Hall. At 12 he was confined in Kendall Children’s Home and at age 14 he was shipped off to the notorious Okeechobee Boys’ School.

At the Florida School for Boys in Okeechobee he was beaten (30 ‘licks’) with straps and paddles – the punishment repeated if he cried out – and hog-tied, drenched with water and left overnight in what was called the ‘wet room.

In January 1972, at age 17, William was sentenced to life imprisonment for a Miami robbery, even though no one was hurt in the crime.

He had a breakdown two years after being sent to adult prison and was put on ‘industrial strength’ antipsychotic medication.

He spent the next 15 years touring and escaping from Florida’s ever-expanding prison system, becoming a certified legal aide and renowned jailhouse lawyer in the process.

Frank Valdes shot Griffis after he threw the van’s keys into nearby bushes to hinder the escape. Police arrested Van Poyck and Valdes after a high-speed car chase.

William’s accomplice, Frank Valdes died in 1999 after a raft of Florida State Prison guards murdered him in his cell. In the subsequent investigative furor, the governor ordered William transferred to Virginia’s death row. There, he penned and published several books. In 2008, William was transferred back to Florida State Prison.

Source
"

In corroboration,

"The man who shot Officer Griffis was apprehended and sentenced to death. He died in prison July 17, 1999, from injuries he suffered while fighting guards who were attempting to search his cell."

via here

And I have to admit, although he did not actually shoot the officer, and the fact I hate the idea of extended solitary (without an internet connection), he was involved in the death of an officer during commission of a crime.

If one of my friends came up to me and said "Hey, come help me bust Joe Blow out of the joint! I have a gun!" I would say, "Nope. Sorry. Not my thing. You go off and have fun."

Then I would prolly call law enforcement so it could be handled with minimum loss of life. Trust you me, I have had my rakehell days and am amazed I have avoided jail time, but that sort of activity was never anything I would have something to do with.
posted by Samizdata at 5:10 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Unless you're prepared to toss out felony murder as a legal concept, it's not problematic to see Van Poyck as a murderer. And if 25 years in solitary is torture, then it doesn't matter whether it was felony murder or first degree.
posted by fatbird at 5:13 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


without any realistic possibility of ever laying their hands on anyone else in the free world

Except for correctional officers and medical personnel.


And the other guys in prison with him, who do, in fact, constitute a society, if not the mainstream society.
posted by small_ruminant at 5:14 PM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


MetaFilter is a great experiment in viewing that fine line between judgementalism and compassion. We will never know what it's like to stand in another's shoes on either side of the line but it sure is interesting to watch the people who think they know.
posted by Xurando at 5:14 PM on June 13, 2013 [20 favorites]


Van Poyck did not actually kill Griffis.

Van Poyck's trial did not result in a finding of fact that either Van Poyck or his accomplice was the shooter. "Van Poyck did not actually kill Griffis" is not a statement of fact; it is conjecture delivered by a sympathetic commentator.

To wit,

“[T]his Court has never found that Van Poyck was not the triggerman; we
have only recognized that the evidence introduced at his trial was insufficient to
establish that he was.” Van Poyck VII, 91 So. 3d at 129; as cited in Van Poyck v. Florida, No. SC11-724 (February 16, 2012).
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 5:17 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not a legal expert. I do think that a sufficiently advanced society should focus more on rehabilitating rule breakers than locking them up. Van Poyck's fate would probably have been far different had he be born to a society that values rehabilitation as opposed to vengeance; it looks like he was put into corrosive social contexts from a very early age, and given little opportunity to redeem himself.
posted by sid at 5:19 PM on June 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


bradth27: "They should have just said "guilty" and killed the worthless bastard on the spot."

I could (maybe) accept the death penalty under the following single condition: any person actively involved in sentencing someone to death automatically forfeits their own life if the death penalty is carried out and it is later proven that the accused was in fact innocent. That is the degree of certainty I would require: if you want to have someone killed as punishment you must be so certain of their guilt that you would bet your own life on it without hesitation.

Of course the trick here is that I don't think there'd be a lot of sentencing people to death anymore.

People argue from extremes (is there a logical fallacy for this?). There is obvious cases that most people can agree on. The problem is with all the cases that fall between the extremes because nobody can agree where the line is to be drawn between doubt and certainty.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 5:21 PM on June 13, 2013 [22 favorites]


Hairy Lobster - I would have gladly taken that deal, trust me, If they would have let me pull the trigger. However, in the case I am referring to, there was no question. He was guilty.
posted by bradth27 at 5:38 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


The heartlessness in this thread is more depressing than the FPP.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 5:47 PM on June 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


The heartlessness in this thread is more depressing than the FPP.

I hear a lot of heart in this thread. Where are you?
posted by Mojojojo at 5:49 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


bradth27: "And no "OMG THE POOR GUY HE'S A HUMAN BEING" will convince me that the bastard that tortured, raped and murdered that sweet little girl should deserve anything but a bullet to the head. "

For me, the injustice of the death penalty is twofold. First, it's so unevenly applied, both on a race continuum (I don't have the exact statistics, but blacks account for something like 15% of murderers but represent 3/4 of death row inmates) and on the wealth continuum. So if it's not blind to circumstance, it's not really a matter of justice.

Secondly, the philosophical: the death penalty is far too cruel for the innocent, and far too merciful to the guilty.
posted by notsnot at 5:49 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Secondly, the philosophical: the death penalty is far too cruel for the innocent, and far too merciful to the guilty.

Are you advocating for solitary confinemnet for decades?
posted by Mojojojo at 5:51 PM on June 13, 2013


Hey look a guy got murdered by the state for supposedly committing a crime the state couldn't even pin on him.

The bloodthirst in this thread—for a prisoner with a life-sentence, for fucks sake—is really, really disheartening. I'm dissapointed.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 5:54 PM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Oh god no. Life, no parole is still a hell of a thing.
posted by notsnot at 5:54 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Justice and revenge are lines that never intersect.
posted by Pudhoho at 5:55 PM on June 13, 2013


The heartlessness in this thread is more depressing than the FPP.

Interesting. What I find depressing is the moral priggishness of those who use threads like this to look down their noses at others who aren't trying to look angelic.
posted by fatbird at 5:57 PM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


Not supporting state-sanctioned murder is "trying to look angelic"?

Huh. Fancy that. I just thought my opposition to the death penalty meant that I object to killing anyone. Didn't know I was trying to look any particular way at all. Thanks for clueing me in to my own motives!
posted by palomar at 5:59 PM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


The bloodthirst in this thread—for a prisoner with a life-sentence, for fucks sake—is really, really disheartening. I'm dissapointed.

Just to be clear: I'm not advocating the death penalty. It might be right or wrong. I'm advocating for the original victim: The guy doing his job that was murdered. i also don't believe that keeping someone in a cell solitary is what we should be doing. What is justice? What is vengeance? I won't ignore the original victim just because the blue thinks that the second victim is brutalized.
posted by Mojojojo at 6:01 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I just thought my opposition to the death penalty meant that I object to killing anyone.

But this is never an objection that makes sense. Why don't you oppose jail sentences, then? Presumably you object to kidnapping and imprisoning someone.

Whether violence is justified depends on how and for what purpose it is used.

It seems to me that a death penalty process might be justified if:
a) it saved more innocents through its deterrent effect than it would mistakenly kill
b) it could be streamlined to the point where it cost less than life in prison
c) it could be more racially just
posted by shivohum at 6:05 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


The guy doing his job that was murdered.

My reservoir of sympathy for prison guards is pretty small, to be fair.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 6:05 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


My reservoir of sympathy for prison guards is pretty small, to be fair.

Your compassion is noted.
posted by Mojojojo at 6:08 PM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


Mojojojo: I don't understand what you mean by 'ignoring' the original victim. He was wronged; I don't think there is anyone in this thread who would deny that. His killer(s?) should be brought to justice for their crimes. The question is, was the punishment meted out one that should be supported by a civilized and enlightened society? I say no.
posted by sid at 6:18 PM on June 13, 2013


I won't ignore the original victim just because the blue thinks that the second victim is brutalized.

Justice is never zero-sum. Revenge always. Select one. Do not pretend to the other.

My reservoir of sympathy for prison guards is pretty small, to be fair.

The owner of This Machine Kills Fascists desires a word with you.
posted by Pudhoho at 6:18 PM on June 13, 2013


Those of you opposed in principle to capital punishment: what would be an appropriate punishment for premeditated murder? Would it differ from felony murder? I'd be interested to know what you have in mind as an average, fair punishment for these crimes?
posted by Unified Theory at 6:20 PM on June 13, 2013


The owner of This Machine Kills Fascists desires a word with you.

Huh, that's a neat trick.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 6:22 PM on June 13, 2013


Just thankful we no longer have capital punishment. I don't envy anyone here.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 6:26 PM on June 13, 2013


So, is the super-shitty lack of empathy thing an artifact of our hyper-masculine society, or our puritanical society, or our religious society, or...? Way to go, all ye blood-thirsty ones.

I'd be interested to know what you have in mind as an average, fair punishment for these crimes?

Becoming a person who recognizes the severity of their crime through professional help while being kept apart from society, and then trying to repay their debt to that society by contributing in a meaningful manner to its betterment for the rest of their life?
posted by maxwelton at 6:26 PM on June 13, 2013 [11 favorites]


Mojojojo: I don't understand what you mean by 'ignoring' the original victim. He was wronged; I don't think there is anyone in this thread who would deny that. His killers should be brought to justice for their crimes. The question is, was the punishment meted out one that should be supported by a civilized and enlightened society? I say no.

Sid, when I first entered this thread the comments were only for the most recent victim, the murderer of a working man. I couldn't tolerate or even understand that point of view. I am not qualified to dictate what justice is in this case. I don't even. The old testament would say an "eye for eye", but the old testament had a vengeful god. My original concern was for "misremembering" that there was an original human that was murdered.
posted by Mojojojo at 6:27 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why is life imprisonment with no chance of parole an appropriate punishment?

But this is never an objection that makes sense.

How does objecting to the death penalty not make sense? It's unevenly applied and has an enormous racial/socioeconomic bias, it costs more to execute a prisoner than it does to house them for life, it's not a deterrent to crime. Innocent people have been convicted and executed. With the death penalty off the table, that risk is taken away.

In fact, it seems more like supporting the death penalty doesn't make a lot of sense.
posted by palomar at 6:30 PM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Those of you opposed in principle to capital punishment: what would be an appropriate punishment for premeditated murder? Would it differ from felony murder? I'd be interested to know what you have in mind as an average, fair punishment for these crimes?
Here in Canada, perpetrators of serious crimes are sentenced to life in prison with varying periods of parole eligibility. Someone who had committed first degree murder, for example, would not be eligible for parole for 25 years, with a criminal's level of rehabilitation being a prime input into their parole hearings. I understand that Norway follows a similar system.

Seems to be working fairly well for us.
posted by sid at 6:32 PM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


What I find incredibly interesting is the people who claim they've received closure through a loved one's murderer being put down then follow it up with statements such as "The only thing that I think might have made it better was if they had given me a gun and allowed me to shoot the bastard myself" and "They should have just said "guilty" and killed the worthless bastard on the spot".
posted by item at 6:36 PM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

I am sad for Griffis.

I am sad for Van Poyck.

I am sad for all of us.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 6:37 PM on June 13, 2013 [11 favorites]


What I find incredibly interesting is the people who claim they've received closure through a loved one's murderer being put down then follow it up with statements such as "The only thing that I think might have made it better was if they had given me a gun and allowed me to shoot the bastard myself" and "They should have just said "guilty" and killed the worthless bastard on the spot".

You should live through it.
posted by Mojojojo at 6:38 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Item, you present those two things like they're somehow contradictory. Howso?
posted by fatbird at 6:38 PM on June 13, 2013


You should live through it.

I have. Not all of us want vengeance.
posted by palomar at 6:41 PM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


palomar: "Why is life imprisonment with no chance of parole an appropriate punishment? "

Why is it *not*?
posted by notsnot at 6:48 PM on June 13, 2013


But this is never an objection that makes sense. Why don't you oppose jail sentences, then? Presumably you object to kidnapping and imprisoning someone.

I don't understand this line of reasoning. Why is it illogical to support some punishments and not others? Would you be okay with going back to hanging, drawing, and quartering people if:
a) it saved more innocents through its deterrent effect than it would mistakenly kill
b) it could be streamlined to the point where it cost less than life in prison
c) it could be more racially just
posted by sid at 6:49 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


You should live through it.

I did. Once I got over the self-indulgent horseshit society seems to encourage, I quenched my fury and ameliorated my grief.

Abate your torments or change your name to Havisham.
posted by Pudhoho at 6:49 PM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm sorry, palomar, I did not read the rest of your comment. Got a little hot.
posted by notsnot at 6:49 PM on June 13, 2013


Item, you present those two things like they're somehow contradictory. Howso?

Well, in my world having closure with something means making peace with something. The continued desire to extract violent revenge (such as wishing to have been the one who pulled the trigger to end a life) would generally mean that closure has not been met. If the execution of a loved one's murderer had actually brought closure, I would think that such violent fantasies would've ceased.
posted by item at 6:57 PM on June 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


I'm sorry, palomar, I did not read the rest of your comment. Got a little hot.

I meant to say "why is life without parole not an appropriate punishment", but I missed the edit window. Sorry.
posted by palomar at 6:57 PM on June 13, 2013


Van Poyck's accomplice Frank Valdes was murdered by prison guards. The five guards who murdered Valdes went free.
posted by miyabo at 6:59 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Becoming a person who recognizes the severity of their crime through professional help while being kept apart from society, and then trying to repay their debt to that society by contributing in a meaningful manner to its betterment for the rest of their life?

Australia doesn't impose capital punishment, and the number of those executed in America is extremely low...so, "the system", other than for a few exceptions, generally advocates rehabilitation. As such, there are numerous programs and opportunities available for prisoners in terms of education and counselling, yet (in Australia) the recidivism rate remains at sixty percent. I imagine it's similar in America. We (you) bemoan the loss of one life despite the fact the majority of those released will continue to commit crimes and create more victims. In Utopia, the beauty of the human spirit will eventually triumph with empathy, compassion, and understanding - in reality, some human beings are simply corrupt beyond redemption.
posted by Nibiru at 7:04 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Abate your torments or change your name to Havisham.

Obviously you are more literate than me, but what do you mean?
posted by Mojojojo at 7:05 PM on June 13, 2013


Why is it *not*?

Why should people who have committed heinous crimes be entitled to have millions of dollars spent to take care of them for the rest of their lives? Is that the best use of society's resources?

I don't understand this line of reasoning. Why is it illogical to support some punishments and not others?

That's not illogical. What I said was illogical was to be against the death penalty merely because it involves killing people, i.e. because "killing people is really bad," because by that logic kidnapping and imprisonment for a lifetime are also really bad. So the question is how to distinguish the two, if the two are to be distinguished. The answer is: cost and benefit.

Not to mention that anyone against "killing people" would also have to be against ANY act of war, however just, against ANY act of violent self-defense, however just: in other words, to be a complete pacifist. Which I'm willing to bet most anti-death-penalty advocates are not.

As far as drawing and quartering, I'm against it, not merely because it involves drawing and quartering people, a horribly violent act, but yes, because I think its benefits are far outweighed by its costs and risks. But if drawing and quartering a vicious murderer could prevent genocide, would it be justified? Likely.
posted by shivohum at 7:07 PM on June 13, 2013


Seriously my only reaction is "do you ignorant children think you can fix anything this way?"

Death is bigger than the state.

The state can never compensate for a death. It is beyond its power. It's beyond our power. If you're looking for compensation for an infinite loss, go find a religion or a sinister superscientist or something. Going to the state for it is... well, you're barking up the wrong tree altogether.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:07 PM on June 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


Van Poyck's accomplice Frank Valdes was murdered by prison guards. The five guards who murdered Valdes went free.
posted by miyabo 7 minutes ago [+]


Well since they were never tried and convicted, you can't know whether they "murdered" him. That's what a jury would decide. The District Attorney's office decided they couldn't meet the burden of proof, which weighs against your point there a bit.

Funny that someone clamoring about unjust punishment leaps to the conclusion that the guards "murdered" someone, when the charges were dropped and there was never a trial, thus no conviction.
posted by Unified Theory at 7:13 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Anyone know whether he expresses remorse in any of the letters?

"I read in a recent newspaper article that the brother and sister of Fred Griffis, the victim in my case, are angry that I'm still alive and eager for my execution. These are understandable human feelings. I have a brother and sister myself and I cannot honestly say how I would deal with it if something happened to you or Jeff at the hands of another. I have thought of Fred many times over the years and grieved over his senseless death. I feel bad for Fred's siblings though if seeing another human being die will truly give them pleasure. I suspect when I'm gone, if they search their hearts, they will grasp the emptiness of the closure promised by the revenge of capital punishment. There's a lot of wisdom in the old saying "An eye for an eye soon makes the whole world blind.""


Was that supposed to be an example of his remorse? The murderer gets off being a lecturing asshole?

I'm against the death penalty in all cases. That doesn't mean I feel one iota of pity for someone who kills someone and tries to waive it all way with the Hallmark Philosophy 101 Series.

Unified Theory: Those of you opposed in principle to capital punishment: what would be an appropriate punishment for premeditated murder?

Life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
posted by spaltavian at 7:16 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Obviously you are more literate than me, but what do you mean?

Well, this.

Or this too!

Revenge is a fruitless endeavor and capital punishment is exclusively revenge.
posted by Pudhoho at 7:16 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


This thread delights in putting words in the mouths of others.
posted by Existential Dread at 7:18 PM on June 13, 2013


*sigh*
posted by zarq at 7:22 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


shivohum - personally I'm against the death penalty because:
a) it's barbaric. As a society the US has decided that killing is wrong, yet they use the apparatus of the state to kill their own citizens.
b) it's irrevocable. If someone is found innocent after the fact, they cannot be set free and redressed for false imprisonment
c) it doesn't work as a deterrent. recividism in Canada is 25%, vs. 60% in the states
d) it's expensive
e) it does nothing to rehabilitate the offender

You could argue that d) could be mitigated, but I think it would be easier, cheaper, and better for the US as a society to simply remove the death penalty altogether.
posted by sid at 7:23 PM on June 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


Revenge is a fruitless endeavor and capital punishment is exclusively revenge.

If "revenge" satisfies families of crime victims and provides them with closure, then who are you to say it's fruitless?

I know someone whose loved one was murdered by a spree killer who was later executed. The family members are all satisfied with his execution, and I am offended by the suggestion that they are heartless or inhumane in thinking he deserved to die and justice was served.
posted by Unified Theory at 7:25 PM on June 13, 2013


Unified Theory - I just don't see why bringing satisfaction to victims is beneficial for society as a whole?

I've never had a family member killed, but I have had crimes committed against me, and in the aftermath I would have gladly done bad things to the perpetrator, and probably felt better for it. But why is ameliorating my pain the most important factor?
posted by sid at 7:29 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


What about the loved ones of murdered people who don't feel any better after the killer is executed? What about the loved ones of murdered people who actively fight against the execution of their loved one's killer?
posted by palomar at 7:31 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


How many other crimes carry a punishment that's designed to satisfy the victim? Do rape victims get to attack their attacker? Do robbery victims get to rob the person who stole from them? If not, why not? If we're going to apply that sort of logic to murder, why not apply it across the board, for all crimes?
posted by palomar at 7:33 PM on June 13, 2013 [12 favorites]


Unified Theory: "If "revenge" satisfies families of crime victims and provides them with closure"

You do realize it's "People v. ..." instead of "Family of So-and-So v. ..."?

What if killing a murderer actually made the family of the victim feel worse? Should the victim's loved ones be able to stay the execution? What if daughter doesn't want the murderer dead and son does? Who gets to pick?
posted by notsnot at 7:36 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Fruitless" is a strong word. By using it you're just injecting your convictions into this. If capital punishment is viewed as justice by at least some members of society, you cannot say it is fruitless. Some people might say a 20-year prison sentence is fruitless. By the reasoning on display here, ANY punishment can be argued to be fruitless.
posted by Unified Theory at 7:40 PM on June 13, 2013


Unified theory, you're trying to do the slippery slope here. Five years, ten years, twenty years, life, life without parole, death penalty. One of these things is not like the other. Can you pick it out?
posted by notsnot at 7:46 PM on June 13, 2013


You do realize it's "People v. ..." instead of "Family of So-and-So v. ..."?

The people seem all right with capital punishment, if that's the criterion we're using.
posted by Etrigan at 7:49 PM on June 13, 2013


Don't forget the victim, while we bemoan the enlightened offender's duration in solitary and execution.

Willfully killing anyone is a horrible crime.
posted by Mario Speedwagon at 7:52 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Etrigan - this is very interesting, thanks for the link. I did some googling and found this article showing similar support for the death penalty in Canada (the last execution in Canada was in 1962). We're a pretty bloodthirsty bunch!
posted by sid at 7:53 PM on June 13, 2013


You should live through it.
posted by Mojojojo at 6:38 PM on June 13 [+] [!]


"I wish the murder of someone close to you so you will agree with my point of view in this argument."

Wow.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:55 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorry folks, we don't live in biblical times and the death penalty is barbaric. I know I would want it used against my child's murderer, but that's not any justification any more than it was when I invoked the empathy for victims argument in a 6th grade debate. It is fruitless to give fake vengeance closure to people regardless of their grief. There is no real closure, sorry. You don't get to dismantle society (vengeance scales poorly) by perpetuating a racist system that is often completely wrong just because something bad happened. As with other things like Health care and gay rights, America lags behind and will hopefully find its way from sea to shining sea.
posted by lordaych at 8:00 PM on June 13, 2013 [14 favorites]


Well, capital punishment/the death penalty has little to do with guilt or justice.

It is merely a ritual. Primitive society demands a sacrifice on behalf of the collective during times of stress.
posted by ovvl at 8:09 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Mojojojo: "The bloodthirst in this thread—for a prisoner with a life-sentence, for fucks sake—is really, really disheartening. I'm dissapointed.

Just to be clear: I'm not advocating the death penalty. It might be right or wrong. I'm advocating for the original victim: The guy doing his job that was murdered. i also don't believe that keeping someone in a cell solitary is what we should be doing. What is justice? What is vengeance? I won't ignore the original victim just because the blue thinks that the second victim is brutalized.
"

Same here almost. My point was the "IMPRISONED...FOR A MURDER HE DID NOT COMMIT" pity-party the blog mentioned. He may not have pulled the trigger, but he was part of the action.

Maybe next time a friend is in jail, we get a lawyer instead of a gat?
posted by Samizdata at 8:20 PM on June 13, 2013


palomar: "It's unevenly applied and has an enormous racial/socioeconomic bias, it costs more to execute a prisoner than it does to house them for life, it's not a deterrent to crime."

Which at this point makes ZERO bloody sense to me.

We have the technology to make high powered, round, black sexy Mac Pros, but we can't come up with a reasonably priced solution to executions?
posted by Samizdata at 8:23 PM on June 13, 2013


It's not that chemicals or volts cost so much; it's the lawyers (and other staffers) in the multiple levels of appeal that the death penalty engenders.
posted by Etrigan at 8:28 PM on June 13, 2013


Well, huh. In the article about the five guards acquitted of the murder of the accomplice, I saw something that really made me look twice.

The trials of remaining guards had been in doubt since three were acquitted in February. Capt. Timothy Thornton, 36, and Sgts. Charles Brown, 28, and Jason Griffis, 29, were acquitted of second-degree murder, battery on an inmate, falsifying reports and conspiracy. Thornton faced an additional accessory charge. If convicted, they could have received life sentences. (emphasis mine)

And, yeah, not only to I RTFA, I RTOFAT.
posted by Samizdata at 8:31 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Welcome to the club.

Recorded executions in 2012: Afghanistan (14), Bangladesh (1), Belarus (3+), China (1000+), Gambia (9), India (1), Iran (314+), Iraq (129+), Japan (7), North Korea (6+), Pakistan (1), Palestine (6), Saudi Arabia (79+), Somalia (6+), South Sudan (5+), Sudan (19+), Taiwan (6), UAE (1), USA (43), Yemen (28+). Source: Amnesty International
posted by Mister Bijou at 8:34 PM on June 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


Etrigan: "It's not that chemicals or volts cost so much; it's the lawyers (and other staffers) in the multiple levels of appeal that the death penalty engenders."

On the count of public snarkage during a serious thread, I plead guilty but throw myself on the mercy of the court. I come from a long line of snarkers, and...
posted by Samizdata at 8:34 PM on June 13, 2013


. He may not have pulled the trigger, but he was part of the action.
'What?' snapped Moist. 'I do not! Who told you that?'

'I Worked It Out. You Have Killed Two Point Three Three Eight People,' said the golem calmly.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:49 PM on June 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


I've had some personal experience, including some with family members who have criminal histories, including incarceration, and I've come to believe that those with long criminal histories, such as Van Poyck exhibited, have brains that are atypical of most human brains in at least two ways. First, they lack the normal human mechanisms for impulse control and moderation; no amount of social training or "rehabilitation" will ever be truly effective in curbing this, as they simply lack entirely, or possess only ineffective versions of impulse inhibition mechanisms, although, occasionally, if they live long enough, the effects of age and infirmity may limit their ability to manifest this problem as clearly as they might have in youth. Secondly, while they can have and experience a wide range of emotions, they generally lack any real empathy. Many of the more intelligent criminals I've known do learn to be effective manipulators, in spite of (or perhaps because of) this lack of empathy. But in the majority of criminals I've seen, the lack of individual empathy is as notable as it is when confronted by an adversarial animal.

I recently watched the film Ape Genius on PBS, and with news of Van Poyck's execution in mind, was struck by how apt the film's explanation of why apes have never evolved culture was, in explaining Van Poyck's life, as well:
"... The film reveals that although apes will co-operate to obtain food they don't have a shared commitment, they don't have the passion to urge or cheer on a tribe member and they do not have control of their emotions. They are also violent, impulsive and display deadly rivalry.

Although they can be taught to recognise (sic) symbols and words they don't have the mental capacity to contribute to a 'conversation' - and they don't make small talk. And most important of all although they can imitate, they can't teach or build on the achievements others have made - unlike more successful humans.

Their mental rocket is on the launch pad but it hasn't taken off, the film concludes."
It's interesting to me to see the manifestation of empathy for Van Poyck by many commenting in this thread, that he himself so clearly lacked in any real measure. And even more interesting that a major point of contention is the length of time Van Poyck was held, as his various appeals worked their way through the courts, as if the measured actions of a complex justice system, the very opposite action of the impulsive acts that landed Van Poyck on Death Row, were somehow inferior to his brand of "street" action. He was incarcerated as long as he was mainly because of his own efforts and interests in pursuing appeals of his sentence; if he was really as "ready to go" as he seemed to be saying he was at the end with his "Last Letter" and "set me free" last line, he could have gone far earlier, by not pursuing appeal after appeal.

But I think he was, to his last breath, the manipulative, deficient criminal he apparently was since childhood.
posted by paulsc at 9:42 PM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


First, they lack the normal human mechanisms for impulse control and moderation...Secondly, while they can have and experience a wide range of emotions, they generally lack any real empathy.

I mean this seriously: this describes Fortune 500 CEOs equally as well.
posted by maxwelton at 10:00 PM on June 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


The argument isn't that lifelong criminals who commit murder aren't beyond rehabilitation, aren't likely to manipulate what they can, aren't, given the chance, likely to keep lying, manipulating, and killing. The society I live in is a better one than the kind that murders it's citizens for no good reason. it's fucking simple. There's a billion inexpensive ways to remove and neutralize these fuckers, allow for the release of innocents , rehabilitate the rehabilitatable that don't involve using my tax money to build murder rooms.

We don't support victims by handing them vengeance, we support victims by providing a compassionate society that cares for its citizens in need. Compassionate societies and institutionalized killing are mutually exclusive.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:22 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's interesting to me to see the manifestation of empathy for Van Poyck by many commenting in this thread, that he himself so clearly lacked in any real measure.

I think one of the benefits of having to deal with the cost of criminals is that it makes clear that allowing criminals to be made is unprofitable.

Empathy is a way of understanding why people do what they do. If you don't feel empathy for a murderer, you're lacking a key ingredient in understanding why people murder, and therefore how to prevent murders.
posted by tychotesla at 10:25 PM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


You don't get to dismantle society (vengeance scales poorly) by perpetuating a racist system that is often completely wrong just because something bad happened

This.

Either the judicial system is A) a therapeutic process to appease emotional responses, or B) it's a mechanism to create a better society.

In the case of the former, A), then you would want a proper degree of retribution, punishments that directly correllate to the severity of the crime, and extreme punishments for extreme situations, for example --- solitary confinement, or capital punishment. The more bad things a person does, the more bad things should happen to them.

In the case of the latter, B), then you would think about the judicial system as a healing mechanism. Like the way you pay more attention to the aching parts of your body, a proper society would focus on problematic aspects of society for preventative and rehabilitative care. The punishment would not necessarily be about the severity initial crime, but about statistical, strategic ways to rehabilitate the person who committed the crime.

--

I can't help but think of economic austerity measures, which also follow a similar emotional logic -- "you did bad, so you should pay the price." It's a moral argument that arises from the logic of transaction and exchange.

I mean, how absurd would it for you to say this to your own body: "Right knee, you're aching and swollen, and not working well -- you must pay the price. No more cold compresses, no more gentle movement. You're going to have to work extra hard right now." You'd be an idiot, and your friends would say -- "Hey, it's not going to get any better faster because you do that. In fact, it might make it worse, and it might make other things worse as well. Take it easy and give it attention until it heals, so that the rest of your body can get even better as well."
posted by suedehead at 10:56 PM on June 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


"... If you don't feel empathy for a murderer, you're lacking a key ingredient in understanding why people murder, and therefore how to prevent murders."
posted by tychotesla at 10:25 PM on June 13

Empathy isn't strictly necessary to understand murderers, if murder is mainly the result of atypical brain chemistry, anatomy, or neurology. Instead, we need science to uncover the "criminal mechanisms" that produce such behavior, and we need more science to provide diagnostic tools, and remedies which we might, perhaps in empathy, hope to correct this. But if it is as uncorrectable a condition as making a bonobo into a man appears to be, then at least we might at least reliably identify and segregate those who have atypical brains from those of us who might otherwise be victimized by such, as soon as their conditions become problematic, and with any luck, before they progress to serious, or at least repeated criminal acts. Which is, perhaps, good news for both those who otherwise would become murderers, and the larger society.

"... Compassionate societies and institutionalized killing are mutually exclusive."
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:22 AM on June 14

On the strength of comments by bradth27, and others in this thread, as well as personal experience, let me respectfully disagree with your conclusion.
posted by paulsc at 11:02 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think we're roughly on the same page paulsc. I would say though that the benefits of empathy aren't just that it's a heuristic that emulates scientific research, it's also a heuristic for understanding politics. As seen in the history of nationalism, racism, homophobia, sexism, etc.

All the science in the world could support legislation X, but most people still wouldn't vote for legislation X until they find a reason to believe in it.
posted by tychotesla at 11:48 PM on June 13, 2013


. .

Two victims.

Two lives.

Two lost futures.

Two tragedies.

Two sadnesses.
posted by Vibrissae at 12:05 AM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Empathy isn't strictly necessary to understand murderers, if murder is mainly the result of atypical brain chemistry, anatomy, or neurology. Instead, we need science to uncover the "criminal mechanisms" that produce such behavior, and we need more science to provide diagnostic tools, and remedies which we might, perhaps in empathy, hope to correct this. But if it is as uncorrectable a condition as making a bonobo into a man appears to be, then at least we might at least reliably identify and segregate those who have atypical brains from those of us who might otherwise be victimized by such, as soon as their conditions become problematic, and with any luck, before they progress to serious, or at least repeated criminal acts. Which is, perhaps, good news for both those who otherwise would become murderers, and the larger society.

Under the right conditions, the majority of humans are capable of outright murder - or worse - regardless of brain chemistry. That's been clearly shown by Zimbardo and many others.
posted by Vibrissae at 12:10 AM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


"... All the science in the world could support legislation X, but most people still wouldn't vote for legislation X until they find a reason to believe in it."
posted by tychotesla at 2:48 AM on June 14

The power of good science is that, sometimes, it makes a quick end run around law and public sentiment, providing benefits while the larger society catches up. We are beginning to have more and more examples such as the BRAC1/BRAC2/Angelina Jolie test/example involving self-selection under medical advice for radical mastectomy and even hysterectomy as prophylactic procedures, to prevent likely future breast and ovarian cancer. If combinations of poor impulse control and poor empathetic response can be found to have a testable genetic basis, then murder might become medically manageable, or if not, at least socially manageable with a high degree of success, based on scientifically supported testing.

Parents might not want to hear that their child has inherent, untreatable problems with impulse control that are highly correlated with subsequent criminal behaviors, any more than they ever want to hear of any other genetically based disease. But if they at least then had the information to share with teachers, law enforcement, and others, as the child grew, they could potentially divert those children that showed problem behaviors at the earliest possible moment. And even if such testing and diversion/management strategies, at costs reasonable enough to be broadly applied across the population (like the infant test for cystic fibrosis and antibiotic therapies have been in managing CF), were only partially successful in managing the problem, to the extent that the murder rate dropped by 20%, I suspect that would be seen by greater society as a huge win.
posted by paulsc at 12:17 AM on June 14, 2013


China, Yemen, Iran, USA, Cambodia, Belarus, North Korea. Which is the odd one out? * answer below
ceribus peribus: "it only takes 20 years to serve a life sentence in some countries."
A life sentence in Denmark carries possibility of parole after 12 years. Average time served is 17 years.
Unified Theory: "Those of you opposed in principle to capital punishment: what would be an appropriate punishment for premeditated murder? Would it differ from felony murder? I'd be interested to know what you have in mind as an average, fair punishment for these crimes?"
I think 8-15 years suffice in most cases of murder in the first degree. This of course presupposes that prison is a reforming and educational facility and not just a cage.

Where I'm from we don't have the concept of felony murder. It would just be manslaughter (voluntary or involuntary depending on circumstances) or possibly "battery leading to death". Involuntary manslaughter carries a minimum penalty of four months.

*) Cambodia is the odd one out. The other nations belong to that group of shining beacons that condone state-sponsored murder in peace-time.
posted by brokkr at 1:12 AM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


What I find incredibly interesting is the people who claim they've received closure through a loved one's murderer being put down then follow it up with statements such as "The only thing that I think might have made it better was if they had given me a gun and allowed me to shoot the bastard myself" and "They should have just said "guilty" and killed the worthless bastard on the spot".

Makes sense to me. I have closure - but closure doesn't mean that I suddenly loved the guy, and hope that we one day hold hands with Jesus in heaven, rainbows and unicorns, cotton candy happiness.

The guy was a worthless piece of shit, and deserved to die, in my opinion. No, killing him doesn't bring my loved one back - but that isn't any reason for me to believe that taking him out isn't the answer. He took a life in one of the most disgusting and horrific ways one can imagine, and then stated that the reason why was so that "he could see what it felt like."

Well, "enlightened society" and all that nonsense aside, the guy did not deserve to live any longer, in my opinion. There are some of us, believe it or not, who are comforted with the knowledge that murdering psychopaths don't have the privilege of being fed, clothed and taken care of for the rest of their lives.

Like it or not, there are some of us who feel that, since the victim didn't get that option, neither should the killer. Like it or not, there are some of us that feel justified and comforted by the fact that worthless animals should be put to death.

Does that make us not part of some "enlightened society" that exists today? Should people like feel shame for wanting to end the life of someone who has committed such a brutal act? Maybe. But the way that I see it, any society that would want compassion and understanding for such a disgusting example of a human being isn't "enlightened" at all. No, I would say it's a society that watched too many damn Hallmark movies and needs to grow some balls.

Yes, I received a certain sense of closure by that person being out to death. Yes, I believe that I would have also received a considerable amount of satisfaction from shooting the bastard myself. I don't see a problem with both of those statements being made by the same individual.
posted by bradth27 at 1:39 AM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


"... If you don't feel empathy for a murderer, you're lacking a key ingredient in understanding why people murder, and therefore how to prevent murders."
posted by tychotesla at 10:25 PM on June 13



... If you don't feel empathy for a murderer of a murderer, you're lacking a key ingredient in understanding why people murder murderers, and therefore how to prevent murderers from murdering again.
posted by bradth27 at 1:58 AM on June 14, 2013


Well, "enlightened society" and all that nonsense aside, the guy did not deserve to live any longer, in my opinion. There are some of us, believe it or not, who are comforted with the knowledge that murdering psychopaths don't have the privilege of being fed, clothed and taken care of for the rest of their lives.

First, I'm sorry for your loss.

Never having walked in your shoes, I can't judge you. That said, I have imagined that I could kill someone who committed an atrocity like the one you describe. One never knows what one is capable of until one is pushed to the extreme.

At other times, in imagined scenarios, I like to think I wouldn't shoot or beat a perpetrator to death, but there is always "that limit" beyond which any one of us is capable of complete revenge. There is no accurately measuring the impulse for revenge. One thing for sure, it's probably a very rare thing for survivors to not ever have the impulse to revenge a loss like the one you suffered. Some people are able to overcome feelings of revenge. I'm not saying that's good, or bad. It kind of feels good to think about, but that's in the abstract, far removed from being the survivor of a victim of violent crime.
- few of us (thank god) know what that feels like.

All that said, what bothers me about the death penalty is that "one size doesn't fit all", but that's in the abstract, too - because even when making that judgment most of us are not on the receiving end of the feelings that result from being the survivor of someone who had their life ended by a murderer.

Revenge really is "sweet" while its happening. Haven't we all revenged ourselves at one time or another? I have sometimes felt good, and sometimes felt bad after revenging what I thought was an injustice. There is something satisfying about "righteous anger", but what triggers that limit is different for everyone. It's complicated.
posted by Vibrissae at 2:07 AM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Like it or not, there are some of us that feel justified and comforted by the fact that worthless animals should be put to death.

American taliban.
posted by Mister Bijou at 2:08 AM on June 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


American taliban.

As I mentioned, there is a sixty percent recidivism rate despite numerous opportunities and programs for education and counselling within our prison systems, but you're entitled to take the moral high ground...even if its continually proven to be at the expense of all the genuinely innocent victims we create in this oh-so enlightened society.
posted by Nibiru at 2:59 AM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not everyone lives in the US of A. Most of the world live in countries that no longer entertain judicial murder as a solution.
posted by Mister Bijou at 3:16 AM on June 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's a good thing that killing Van Poyck will finally appease the vengeance fairy and it will bring back Griffis.
posted by Talez at 12:03 AM on June 14 [31 favorites +] [!]


I am an opponent of capital punishment, but this sort of sarcastic misrepresentation is unhelpful and wantonly inflammatory. No one suggested these things. What was suggested was that we also remember the victim of this murderer, which is a perfectly reasonable thing to suggest.
posted by Decani at 4:37 AM on June 14, 2013 [9 favorites]


[Comment deleted. Do not describe graphic acts of mutilation etc. here. This is a difficult conversation and feelings can run high, but everyone please try to be minimally decent to each other, and fight the urge to escalate the horror on both sides. Thanks.]
posted by taz at 5:48 AM on June 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Most of the world live in countries that no longer entertain judicial murder as a solution.

The eight most populous countries in the world have capital punishment, accounting for 3.8 billion people, or 54 percent of the world's population. Another four of the next seven most populous have it as well, pushing the total above 60 percent.
posted by Etrigan at 5:58 AM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd just like to point out that life in prison with no parole is much, much different from the "holding hands and having a sweet milkshake" nonsense.
posted by palomar at 6:00 AM on June 14, 2013


and I would like to point out that the "american Taliban" comment against my opinion is still there, while my defense was deleted because I actually described ( in two sentences) what this waste of human flesh did to a 4 year old girl in order to help people understand that - no, sometimes "what are you feeling? Why did you do what you did?" is not good enough. Sometimes you just need to get rid of these people and wipe them from the earth.

But anyway, you've all changed my mind. Palomar, you're right. He should have been allowed to live. But the little girl didn't get such a choice, so I don't see why he should get the option. However, all of these comments have made me realize that I should have loved him more. Just loved him more.
posted by bradth27 at 6:08 AM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


bradth27, I've mefi mailed you, but if you need to discuss this more, you can open a Metatalk thread, or contact us.
posted by taz at 6:09 AM on June 14, 2013


Loving him more has nothing to do with it, dude. Not killing someone doesn't equal love. I'm sorry you can't see that.
posted by palomar at 6:11 AM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


No, Palomar, I understand. Reading back through the threads, I have changed my mind. Seriously, and thanks. I feel awful for the way I have treated this man, and wish I could take it back. Alas, he is dead. This shall be my burden to carry. I should have tried to understand him. Had compassion for him. Tried to understand why he did what he did. I guess, all this time, I have been sidetracked by my own fear and hate. Blindsided by my prejudices.

Sigh. There are times when we have to step back and see the error of our ways. That poor, poor man.
posted by bradth27 at 6:19 AM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure why you're being so sarcastic to me, but I hope it makes you feel better. Have a good day.
posted by palomar at 6:25 AM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


[Comment deteleted. bradth27, I'm sincerely sorry that this is a painful conversation for you, but you now need to either step away for a bit, or dial back the hyperbolic sarcasm and personal attacks and discuss on a calmer footing.]
posted by taz at 6:36 AM on June 14, 2013


Palomar, my apologies - I'm not being sarcastic. I keep responding and attempting to explain that, indeed, I have changed my mind - but for some reason my comments keep getting deleted.

I have changed my mind. I think, after serious contemplation, what we need is a better prison system. stronger rehabilitation programs. We need to understand the "why" and not the "what." we need to help these people get back on their feet and perhaps become productive members of society once again.
posted by bradth27 at 6:48 AM on June 14, 2013


I would honestly have no problem with executing people if we could in every instance be certain (not just lawyer certain) that the person did in fact commit the crime.

BUT we don't live and will never live in a world where that certainty is possible, so I don't support the death penalty.

I'm truly sorry for your loss, bradth27. I can't say that in your place I wouldn't feel like you do.
posted by winna at 6:48 AM on June 14, 2013


I would honestly have no problem with executing people if we could in every instance be certain not just lawyer certain) that the person did in fact commit the crime.

I wouldn't.
This subject touches home for me as well.
I AM NOT comfortable with ANY State or Federal Government taking a life via Death Penalty for any reason.
If "Pete" kills "Bob", the state should have a trial and lock him up. If that means that "Pete" has to spend the rest of his days behind bars, that's what it entails. (I do not support solitary confinement. That is cruel and unusual punishment)

If "Bob's" family wants "Pete" dead, they should have to do it themselves. Literally.
They should have to go out and kill "Pete" themselves. I mean that. Just like it was for thousands of years. Then they too would be locked up.

For me it's about making damn sure that the Government has no ability or legal standing to EVER take a life for any reason. Ever. (that goes for wars too), protecting not just one life, but every life. If you too honestly believe that life is the most valuable thing in the world, than you should be against it as well.

The ACLU states: "Capital punishment is an intolerable denial of civil liberties and is inconsistent with the fundamental values of our democratic system. The death penalty is uncivilized in theory and unfair and inequitable in practice."

I don't trust the government to correctly fill pot-holes in the street, let alone something so massively important as this. This is one issue where I become a complete Libertarian. I wish I had stronger, better words to express myself, but mostly I wish I had the correct words to convince each and every one of you how right I am.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 7:18 AM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


If another data point helps, I am also someone who is in the larger pool of friends and family of someone brutally murdered, and, while I am not necessarily opposed to the death penalty, I certainly would not want to see it applied for the sake of "bringing closure" to myself.

I actually support a moratorium on capital punishment cases at the moment, because the system is so horrifically imperfect, as mentioned. At this moment, the death penalty is disproportionately applied to minorities and the mentally ill. The number of people on death row who have been wrongfully convicted is alarmingly high.

Justice is not about assuaging people's feelings, either their need for revenge or their desire for closure. It is an intersection of ethical deeds, rationality, equity, fairness, and compassion. And in the unjust system we currently have, the death penalty does not represent justice, not now.

There is a reason the state takes the role of prosecutor and a person is tried by a jury of their peers, and it is to make sure that law doesn't become an excuse for a series of revenge-based reprisals. And, personally, I want to be able to turn responsibility over to this system and feel sure it is rooted in justice, because my own urges, when somebody I love is hurt, are decidedly unjust, and I need something that can step in and provide justice, because I do not want my own humanity to be an additional victim of a crime.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:57 AM on June 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Etrigan: "The eight most populous countries in the world have capital punishment, accounting for 3.8 billion people, or 54 percent of the world's population. Another four of the next seven most populous have it as well, pushing the total above 60 percent."
Yes, and as pointed out above, you Americans sure are in good company there.

If you cross-check the latest HDI rankings with the use of capital punishment by country, then only 7 countries (US, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Israel, UAE and Qatar) out of 47 still practice capital punishment. It seems to most of us in the industrialized world that state-sanctioned murder shouldn't be a part of a modern democratic society.

If nothing else, the realization that having the death penalty inevitably means you will at some point kill an innocent person should temper any discussion on capital punishment.
posted by brokkr at 8:39 AM on June 14, 2013


Death is gross. Killing is terrible. Humans are puny. Our institutions are puny. The state shouldn't kill.

Shrug.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 8:52 AM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


You seem to have confused me with someone who vocally supports capital punishment. I'm only pointing out that "Most of the world live in countries that no longer entertain judicial murder as a solution" is factually incorrect.
posted by Etrigan at 8:52 AM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hong Kong practices capital punishment? I don't know where you got that from. Capital punishment in Hong Kong was suspended in 1966 to fall in line with the then recent abolition of capital punishment in the UK. In 1993, the death penalty was formally abolished in Hong Kong. Post-1997 and the creation of HK SAR, the death penalty is still off the books.
posted by Mister Bijou at 8:59 AM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


bradth27: "I would have gladly taken that deal, trust me"

I assumed as much but that wasn't my main point. My main point was that you can get almost everybody to agree on guilty/not guilty verdicts when it comes to the extremes of the spectrum of cases. The problem is nobody can agree on the boundaries of these ends of the spectrum. Everybody has a different threshold beyond which they would be comfortable with declaring guilty/not guilty with sufficient certainty to take the risk of inflicting an absolute and irreversible judgement.
But if nobody can truly agree on these boundaries then any codified definition of these boundaries is by default arbitrary and unjust. This is one of two reasons why I can never actually support the death penalty even if I find myself thinking that someone probably deserves to die for what they did.

The second reason is science. It is not possible to remove all uncertainty when it comes to analyzing evidence. The worst evidence for obvious reasons is human testimony. But even physical evidence that is generally considered watertight is not beyond all doubt. Remaining uncertainty may be minuscule but it is never zero.
Take DNA for example: did you know that the placenta does not form an absolute barrier? As a result people carry cells with their mother's DNA and their mother carries theirs. Since the exchange goes both ways and mothers were once fetuses themselves they also carry other relative's DNA which may also be transferred to their children. That means while DNA makes for very, very good evidence... it doesn't make for 100% certainty. Your own DNA could be carried and left behind by another person. If you have an older brother you could leave behind his DNA.
Again, it doesn't introduce more than a very small amount of uncertainty but the point is this: I believe the minimum standard of evidence for doling out absolute punishment must be absolute certainty. If you can never have absolute certainty then you cannot deal out absolute punishment.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 10:18 AM on June 14, 2013


As I mentioned, there is a sixty percent recidivism rate despite numerous opportunities and programs for education and counselling within our prison systems, but you're entitled to take the moral high ground...even if its continually proven to be at the expense of all the genuinely innocent victims we create in this oh-so enlightened society.

Nibiru, if Australia truly has a similar recidivism rate to the US with your more humane system, isn't this a good reason to switch to a more humane system? Why is it desirable for a society to treat its criminals more poorly than necessary?

As I mentioned, the stats I found for Canada pointed to an approximately 25% recidivism rate, which indicates that a more humane system can actually be more effective.
posted by sid at 10:53 AM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I suspect when I'm gone, if they search their hearts, they will grasp the emptiness of the closure promised by the revenge of capital punishment. There's a lot of wisdom in the old saying "An eye for an eye soon makes the whole world blind."...

Yeah, it's too bad he didn't have this epiphany a long time ago. However, the issues are inverted. It's not what you are willing to kill for that's important, it's what you are willing to die for (fwiw I didn't make that up). Any moron with a temper can take a life. Also, it's surprising, but folks do learn stuff from experience.

At any rate there's a lot of unwholesome nourishment being passed around by this craziness. Capital punishment is a perfect example of cognitive dissonance. The fiction of closure feeds the insane mindset that executing criminals serves any purpose except to feed vengeance. The (justice) system can't guarantee that the condemned criminal is guilty. Stats indicated that as many as 30 percent of people incarcerated are there via errors of one sort or another. This notion, if not the actual numbers, also applies to people on death row. This is not justice. It nearly amounts to random killings. When you kill an innocent person, the actual perpetrator goes free. This is irony feeding stupidity.

I like the idea of accountability. Executioners ought to be required to forfeit their own lives if they kill a person who turns out to be innocent of the crime he was executed for. Better yet, in the interest of parity, strangle one of the executioner's children in front of him--there, now it comes out even, right? Executions ought to be termed properly: gratuitous revenge. Revenge is a moral stance, and as such it's hard to defeat in an argument. But I only need not subscribe to it, rather than defeat it. The state's authority to impose capital punishment, to me, equates to having the authority to make me choose between becoming a criminal or converting to--let's say--Catholicism.

It is useful to focus on the topic, which is not killing, it's execution. A soldier may take the moral high ground if he kills enemy soldiers in a firefight, but he isn't allowed to execute prisoners. Pacifism is a whole other topic, as is the moral justification for any particular war a country might engage in. Self defense is similar. Some may wish to avoid killing to the extent that they wouldn't even kill a person who was attacking them, or even their children. The same person may choose to put his body between his loved ones and the attacker, an ultimate act of heroism. That wouldn't be my response, but I would respect that--actually, I would stand in awe of it. This is to say that I support killing in some instances, but not executions.

In my world, when you take a human life you will spend some time in the special Hell reserved for such persons. Any moral high ground you are able to salvage from the context perhaps offers a prospect of consolation down the road, but it won't clean up your dreams. I wouldn't want to carry the added burden of having killed someone out of anger or revenge. I know for certain that I don't want to be the guy who is crippled by his rationalizations so much that he deems it a glorious thing to have done. It's the pain of remembering that tells me I've advanced enough that I truthfully can say that I ain't like that anymore, and guides me away from ever being that way again.
posted by mule98J at 2:32 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nibiru, if Australia truly has a similar recidivism rate to the US with your more humane system, isn't this a good reason to switch to a more humane system? Why is it desirable for a society to treat its criminals more poorly than necessary?

As I mentioned, the stats I found for Canada pointed to an approximately 25% recidivism rate, which indicates that a more humane system can actually be more effective.


Humane? To whom? Our system is certainly not, "humane" to all those who will victimised by the vast majority of criminals who reoffend upon their release back into wider society.

I don't have any knowledge pertaining to Canada's justice system, however, as our recidivism rate is similar to your own despite our lack of capital punishment, assuming Canada's recidivism rate is lower than yours simply because they too lack capital punishment isn't logical - perhaps it's their rehabilitation programs which are more effective. Having said that, irrespective the reason, I feel even a one in four recidivism rate should be considered unacceptable. Quite frankly, it defies imagination - why on Earth, as a species, are we constantly ushering these wolves back into the henhouse in the name of compassion...in the name of, "humanity"?
posted by Nibiru at 4:59 PM on June 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have a hard time putting this thought into words, so bear with me.

The unconditional value of human life does not go without saying for me. For example, I have no moral qualms about abortion; even if the fetus is arguably a person I don't really consider it to have an unconditional value as a member of society; other interests (bodily autonomy) outweigh its value.

Perhaps in a similar vein, I don't consider the lives of vicious criminals to have unconditional worth.

If you think human life has unconditional worth, fine, but that position is not universal and it is not uncontroversial. Just like you cannot support that belief with anything more than your feeling that human life has this worth, I cannot support my belief that some criminals should be put to death with anything more than a feeling that it is right.

So it's your feelings against my feelings.
posted by Unified Theory at 7:10 PM on June 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


So it's your feelings against my feelings.

Personally, although I understand and appreciate your sentiments, I believe ascribing such high worth and value to our, "feelings" has created much of the mess we find ourselves in in terms of our failing, "justice" systems. It's simply a matter of logic in my opinion. If it costs society X amount to feed, clothe, secure, and attempt to educate our violent criminals and the majority reoffend upon release, then our investment essentially becomes just an expensive and extremely dangerous exercise in futility...one which only self-indulgently serves our, "feelings"...ironically, too serving these, "feelings" at the actual cost of innocent human life.
posted by Nibiru at 9:35 PM on June 14, 2013


Before his unjust death in a Nazi concentration camp just days before the end of WWII in 1945, in his book The Cost of Discipleship, German Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote on the subject of "cheap grace vs. costly grace," as follows (translated):
"cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ."

Or, even more clearly, it is to hear the gospel preached as follows: "Of course you have sinned, but now everything is forgiven, so you can stay as you are and enjoy the consolations of forgiveness." The main defect of such a proclamation is that it contains no demand for discipleship. In contrast to this is costly grace:

"costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. It is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: "My yoke is easy and my burden is light." "
Taken out of the strict Christian moral framework Bonhoeffer was thinking and writing within, I think his central idea of "cheap vs. costly grace" is still a measure of the moral strength of a man. In less secular terms, we might paraphrase this as "facile vs. sincere" moral examination and personal reform. In the case of many criminals, without a larger moral framework and vocabulary than themselves, as agnostics/atheists, we're often left, as they seem to be, with only some vapid and often self-serving statements which attempt to put the state's power of incarceration and greater punishment on some equivalent moral footing to personal actions they incorrectly equate with "like" results. But in any shared moral calculus larger than the individual, such as is needed to maintain society, prison confinement as a result of criminal conviction does not equal torture, confession alone does not guarantee forgiveness, and just sentence, even to execution, is not cruelty or murder.

Bonhoeffer's call to the individual prisoner, even from the depths of real institutionalized human injustice, is more or less that the example of Jesus, submitting Himself to the power of the Roman state, in acceptance of its power to choose even a lesser shared moral standard for that society, was ultimately the redemptive path for all mankind, and that by following in Christ's example, the Christian takes up the yoke of belief in the ultimate circumstance, and that is what gives both his life and his death, as it did Christ's, and as it did Bonhoeffer's, greater meaning.

Even in the most secular framework, we can see the difference Van Poyck offered. He "confessed" crimes that were well witnessed and matters of settled law, but appealed, for years and years their legal result. To the end, he was facile in trying to equate his self-serving personal moral framework, with larger motives and actions of the state and society, which he never understood or acknowledged even equally valid as his own, much less as perhaps of greater span. And at the end, other than the contents of what might remain unknown in the two letters still in the mail to his sister at this date, his final writings and words are not much more than thinly veiled rebukes to the rest of society for his imprisonment and execution. And thus, his death has the same emptiness and lack of meaning that his life had, beyond whatever narrow cautionary tale it might prove to any other person, considering the possible consequences of trying to bust some other inmate out of prison. A pitiful, puny life that enriched and instructs almost no one, and that pained many before it was rightly ended.
posted by paulsc at 7:03 AM on June 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Brilliant, paulsc. I agree completely.

I've often wondered why we don't more often see a kind of humility from convicted murderers, where they willingly accept, even welcome, their execution. I know it happens, but rather than excoriating society with weaselly, cowardly pseudo-apologies like Van Poyck, where is the deep, probing, cosmic remorse and submission to fate one would hope for from a person who has killed? It would be far more seemly, even a little heroic, than the unseemly belated moralizing-by-a-murderer that Van Poyck and so many others stoop to.

Many people face death calmly and heroically. It's unfortunate that so few who take a life have the capacity to do that.
posted by Unified Theory at 7:17 AM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Etrigan: "You seem to have confused me with someone who vocally supports capital punishment.
Not at all. Apologies if it seemed that way.
I'm only pointing out that "Most of the world live in countries that no longer entertain judicial murder as a solution" is factually incorrect."
Yes, that is factually incorrect. (I didn't say that either, that was Mister Bijou.) But although a majority of the world's population today live in states which practice capital punishment, it seems there is a quite strong correlation between living in a highly developed nation and living in a nation which doesn't kill its criminals.
Mister Bijou: "Hong Kong practices capital punishment? I don't know where you got that from."
You are correct, Hong Kong shouldn't be on the list. 6 out of 47 then.
posted by brokkr at 9:43 AM on June 15, 2013


paulsc: "First, they lack the normal human mechanisms for impulse control and moderation; no amount of social training or "rehabilitation" will ever be truly effective in curbing this, as they simply lack entirely, or possess only ineffective versions of impulse inhibition mechanisms, although, occasionally, if they live long enough, the effects of age and infirmity may limit their ability to manifest this problem as clearly as they might have in youth. Secondly, while they can have and experience a wide range of emotions, they generally lack any real empathy. Many of the more intelligent criminals I've known do learn to be effective manipulators, in spite of (or perhaps because of) this lack of empathy. But in the majority of criminals I've seen, the lack of individual empathy is as notable as it is when confronted by an adversarial animal."

Sounds a hell of a lot like my uncle on my dad's side, who not only is not in jail and never has been in any serious way, but is filthy rich. He is the product of a dysfunctional family headed by an abusive narcissist, who was also quite wealthy. If they were much lower on the economic ladder, I'm quite sure one or more of my family members would have ended up in prison, but instead they are involved in real estate.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:24 AM on June 17, 2013


If "revenge" satisfies families of crime victims and provides them with closure, then who are you to say it's fruitless?

Justice is not vengeance, is not about satisfying the victims or their families' emotional needs -- other avenues should be made available for that -- and ignoring this is removing one of the basic fundaments of any western justice system.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:41 AM on June 17, 2013


Justice is not vengeance, is not about satisfying the victims or their families' emotional needs...and ignoring this is removing one of the basic fundaments of any western justice system.

Fundamental to every western system of justice is absolutely the satisfaction of the demands of victims and victims' families for emotional satisfaction. The state formalizes this satisfaction and embeds it in a web of procedural protections so that you don't have vigilante justice, family feuds, honor killings, and the like.
posted by shivohum at 10:57 AM on June 17, 2013


shivohum: "Fundamental to every western system of justice is absolutely the satisfaction of the demands of victims and victims' families for emotional satisfaction."

But the US is far more brutal in its application of justice than any other economically advanced western democracy, and its violent crime rate far higher.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:30 PM on June 17, 2013


I was thinking about this post this morning, and realized a couple of things that had not jumped out at me on first reading, but wow are they significant, to me at least.

One -- Van Poyck and his buddy ambushed a van that was taking one of their fellow inmates to a doctor's visit at a medical clinic. So they took advantage of the humanity of the system. at least to the extent that it provides specialist medical care (or medical care beyond what is offereed by prison doctors). That's right, they took advantage of the fact that this inmate was being provided with medical care to try to break him out.

Two -- Van Poyck or his co-defendant shot the guard when the guard threw the keys from the van into the bushes to foil their escape. That's right, one of these class acts shot him because he foiled their attempt to escape in the van. In doing so, he saved who knows how many lives of people in the public who might have been preyed upon by these violent fugitives. There was ZERO reason to shoot the guard, it was done out of sheer meanness, moral depravity, cruelty, whatever you want to call it.

There is a REASON why felony murder laws exist. It's sort of like a joint and several liability law for murderers. If you are planning an inherently dangerous felony, the burden is on you to make sure your idiot codefendants act right, specifically, to make sure they don't kill, The law, in its wisdom, recognizes that when inherently dangerous felonies are committed, they tend to meet with some resistance from other people, perhaps realizing that such offenses are a threat to the social order. So if you commit one of these inherently dangerous felonies, you better be damned sure your coferendant does not kill anyone. If he does,, you are ALL paying the price.
posted by Unified Theory at 10:46 PM on June 18, 2013


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