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Father kills daughters while mother listens on the phone.
May 4, 2001 10:38 AM   Subscribe

Father kills daughters while mother listens on the phone. Even if you are against the death penalty, is a case like this an exception to the rule?
posted by thinkdink (147 comments total)

 
For everybody I've know who is against the death penalty, there are no exceptions. I, on the other hand, think the bastard should be shot just like he shot his two little daughters. What a sick fucker.
posted by starvingartist at 10:42 AM on May 4, 2001


This is a mother's worst nightmare. Your ex-husband takes your children for a visitation dinner. You get into an argument on the phone and he kills your children while you are listening, helpless to do anything. Innocent children.

I am not for the death penalty, I don't think I have the right to play God. But I can honestly say, without pause, if it were my children - I'd kill him myself. I find myself feeling this way about this man. Does he deserve to live after committing a crime like that? But is there a punishment that would fit that crime without cruel and unusual punishment?
posted by thinkdink at 10:43 AM on May 4, 2001


Well, this did happen in Texas, so no matter how this debate might go in this forum, I think you can count on this guy going to the chair.
posted by briank at 10:46 AM on May 4, 2001


One man's insanity should not become the excuse for society to repeat the insanity.
posted by alsaiz at 10:47 AM on May 4, 2001


to add insult to injury (actually insult to murder) this guy goes to the bar for a couple drinks, and gets a tatoo after he kills his daughters.
posted by designflea at 10:48 AM on May 4, 2001


And I wouldn't blame you for feeling that way at all, thinkdink. That's why the justice system doesn't allow punishment to be meted out by the victims.

Is there a punishment that would fit the crime? Well, there's the rub; that question is just another way of asking, "Is there a morally correct punishment for this man that would inflict exactly as much pain upon him as he wrought on his victims and myself?" Visit a number of other MeFi threads for the wide variance on answers to that question.
posted by Skot at 10:49 AM on May 4, 2001


Why do people assume that if the crime is heinous enough, people against the death penalty will abandon their principles?
Is it because the assumption is that if you're against the death penalty, you don't think ordinary murder is a bad thing?
posted by Doug at 10:51 AM on May 4, 2001


Doug, I think you've hit a big nail on the head.
posted by alsaiz at 10:54 AM on May 4, 2001


If he was sentenced (probation) on assault charges, why did he still have access to firearms? Why don't convicted criminals lose their rights to have guns?
posted by mathowie at 10:54 AM on May 4, 2001


There is nothing irrational or cruel about one person forfeiting his life for ending another's; it can even be argued that it is the u>only just and humane way to react. Now, you may disagree with capital punishment, but couching it in terms of it being, in priniciple, patently immoral just doesn't fly. Personally, I'm against capital punishment in most cases because I don't have faith in the justice system as being flawless. But where someone admits to murder, or there is overwelming evidence, capital punishment is fine.
posted by ParisParamus at 10:54 AM on May 4, 2001


Faith and Liberty are the seventh and eighth children this year to become homicide victims in Dallas County.

The man was on probation for domestic abuse? He should never have been in a position to even lay a finger on his children, or keep a small arms dump in his apartment. And whether he goes to the chair or not, it'll take something other than the death penalty to ensure that convicted abusers don't have the chance to emulate him.

And no, for me there are no exceptions: it's not a qualitative decision.
posted by holgate at 10:56 AM on May 4, 2001


The death penalty debate has been waged often here at MeFi, but here we go again...

My opposition to the death penalty is not because I haven't heard of a case that warrants it. This guy probably "deserves" a lot worse than a quiet, painless death by lethal injection. I am opposed to the government killing its citizens--period. It's not a really a matter of having sympathy for murderers. It's about giving our society's leaders permission to kill. This guy is the lowest of the low. He is worm shit. But that doesn't mean we should legalize state-sanctioned homicide.
posted by jpoulos at 10:56 AM on May 4, 2001


I think one big part of my personal point, is that your view changes dramatically when you have children. I could always say I did not believe in capital punishment until I had a son of my own. Now, I'm not so firm in my belief. The maternal instinct is extremely stong.
posted by thinkdink at 11:00 AM on May 4, 2001


We could and have argued over this one for days. Let's agree to disagree for now and also accept that everyone that doesn't agree with my position is going to hell.
posted by alsaiz at 11:03 AM on May 4, 2001


> I am not for the death penalty, I don't think I have the
> right to play God. But I can honestly say, without pause,
> if it were my children - I'd kill him myself.

I would do the same. Society might preëmpt this, taking the duty of eliminating this sort of monster on the community rather than letting an individual do it. But if the community will not act, if it opens its hand and lets fairness fall to the ground, then it would be my right to pick it up again as an individual.


> He declined interview requests Thursday.

Jesus H! If he had made a video of the murder, would it turn up on reality TV? (Never mind, I know what the answer is.)
posted by jfuller at 11:05 AM on May 4, 2001


Hey, that's some lurid shit.
posted by dfowler at 11:11 AM on May 4, 2001


mathowie: I believe that even in Texas, convicted criminals do lose the right to posses firearms. But then again, they are criminals. Whats a illegal posession of a firearm charge going to matter alongside a murder charge?
posted by jbelshaw at 11:18 AM on May 4, 2001


This guy probably deserves to be crushed under a stone, to be skinned alive, to have his skull drilled open, to be dangled over a fire, or to be bled to death with 10,000 tiny razor cuts. Anyone disagree that he deserves those punishments? But does anyone want them as part of our legal system?
posted by argybarg at 11:21 AM on May 4, 2001


>>This guy probably "deserves" a lot worse than a quiet, painless death by lethal injection.

Presumably, the daughters "deserved" the punishment they got.
posted by johnb at 11:27 AM on May 4, 2001


I think one big part of my personal point, is that your view changes dramatically when you have children.

I have a child, and I'm still opposed to the death penalty. If some scumbag were to kill my son, I would probably try to kill the bastard. And, right or wrong, I would expect to go to jail if I succeeded. But that isn't capital punishment. Again, it's not a question of what the guy deserves, it's what power do you want to give to the government. The world is not a fair place, and people don't always get what they deserve. That is the price we pay to live in a democracy.
posted by jpoulos at 11:30 AM on May 4, 2001


i'm not for the death penalty as a form of 'an eye for an eye' as i *am* for the death penalty as 'why should i pay taxes for an animal such as this to get free food and housing while good people have to pay for it themselves?'

maybe the best thing to do in this case is give the mother a gun and let her decide if she should kill him or not.
posted by jcterminal at 11:30 AM on May 4, 2001


i am ordinarily against the death penalty, but i do feel that there are some circumstances where people commit blatantly heinous crimes and the treatment they deserve should be nothing less than how they treated others. occasionally there's a bad berry in the basket, and that berry needs to die.
posted by gnutron at 11:31 AM on May 4, 2001


No one is arguing that the daughters deserved to be murder. That retort can add nothing to the debate.
posted by alsaiz at 11:33 AM on May 4, 2001


You know what I don't understand? Texas is possibly the most messed up state in the union. Yet, we elect a President from that state.... hmm... just think about it.
posted by aj100 at 11:34 AM on May 4, 2001


Texas is a state with the death penalty.
And thanks to gw's run for the white house, everybody knows it.
It was NO deterent at all for Mr. Battaglia.
posted by brucec at 11:34 AM on May 4, 2001


When the state kills its citizens, it kills hope. Death penalty can never be justified.
posted by Hjorth at 11:34 AM on May 4, 2001


no death penalty for any reason. i want to fit in. i cannot think for myself. i will base my desicions on the reactions to my opinions. people like it when you agree with their beliefs. if my children were shot i would cry in front of others because people like to see that, it makes them feel better they're not embarrasing themselves like i am.
posted by frenp at 11:35 AM on May 4, 2001


To paraphrase a Dennis Miller rant from two years ago, "sometimes we as a society have to admit that we fucked up, that we let a bad mistake slip by the goalie, and for the good of the heard we need to weed out the chaff."

I'd have no problem pulling the switch. And I have no problem allocating a small portion of my tax bill to pay someone to do it. Heck, I'll chip in the killowatt hours.
posted by darren at 11:36 AM on May 4, 2001


Ok now we are on a new planet.. bye bye.
posted by alsaiz at 11:37 AM on May 4, 2001


My emotional response is that he should be tied up and put in a room with the mother, who should be given a nice array of knives and blunt objects and whatever else she wants to use on the bastard.

My other response is that while I do think that the death penalty is warranted in this case and while I do not have a problem with it as a method of punishment, I do not feel it can be applied fairly. The system is flawed. There is no guarantee that someone who is innocent will not be put to death.

If it were possible to be one hundred percent certain that only the guilty would be put to death, I would be all for it. Well, that and if it were not seen as a green light for other countries to torture and kill their citizens because the big bad USA is doing it.
posted by bargle at 11:41 AM on May 4, 2001


Presumably, the daughters "deserved" the punishment they got.

What the hell does that mean? I resent the implication that because I don't want to see this guy executed I don't care what happened to the girls. I try to think past the knee-jerk "him bad, him must die" impulse, but that doesn't mean I don't feel it. What's it like to live in a world where you don't have to think, but just react?
posted by jpoulos at 11:42 AM on May 4, 2001


So your argument, jcterminal, is that we should put people to death rather than pay for their jail time? That's it? So if I pay, out of pocket, for this man's jail term, you wouldn't want him killed?
That's not a very solid argument at all, especially when it's a human life we're dealing with.
posted by Doug at 11:46 AM on May 4, 2001


I doesn't seem insignificant to me that this incident took place in Texas. The state has the highest rate of capital punishment, and still more violent crime than any other. It's just absolutely ridiculous. *Of course* the death penalty is solving nothing there. It's a whole culture of violent death that needs to be stamped out somehow. Texas has plenty of redeeming qualities, many wonderful people, has such a rich cultural heritage, etc., but it's pathetically, excessively punitive criminal justice system and violent culture (which it shares, to a lesser degree, with other southern states and southwestern areas) is shameful in the extreme.
posted by raysmj at 11:48 AM on May 4, 2001


>>What the hell does that mean? I resent the implication that because I don't want to see this guy executed I don't care what happened to the girls.

My comment had no such implication. My point was simply:

Presumably, the daughters "deserved" the punishment they got.

Why isn't that a true statement? And if it is false, how do you know it is false?
posted by johnb at 11:48 AM on May 4, 2001


Of course we're all angry. Of course we hate this guy and want to kill him. We feel sympathy for his victims, and rage against anyone who could do something so awful. It's human nature.

This does not change the fact that it is a bad idea to empower a government to injure or kill its citizens.

The part of human nature that leads to lynchings and violent revenge is not the part of human nature I want running the government.

This man has done something that is awful in a very personal way - it's far less a crime than many, but it's an atrocity we can relate to. But he is still a human being. The U.S. Constitution reads "all men are created equal"... a good principle. He still deserves the respect and protection due to every human being, simply because he's a human being. If you can take away someone's right to live for one reason, what's to stop you from denying it to someone else for another reason? Where do you stop?

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:51 AM on May 4, 2001


plus, if you want to get into advocating the death penalty for logistics' sake...I think it actually costs more when you include the appeals process, etc. to put someone to death than to keep them alive in jail for life
posted by eileen at 11:55 AM on May 4, 2001


aj100

Texas certainly isn't the most messed up state in the country. Take Arkansas, for example.

brucec

Perhaps the death penalty was a deterrent to Mr. Battaglia. Perhaps he would have killed them much earlier if there was no death penalty in Texas.

--
Until a year or so ago, I would have called myself a supporter of the death penalty. Guess I am mellowing with age. jpoulos, I like your take. Hadn't thought of it that way before. I have been mostly opposed because mistakes have been and will be made and innocent people have been and will be executed for crimes that they did not commit.
posted by syzygy at 11:56 AM on May 4, 2001


A question for all the anti-death sentencers on this thread: What is the proper way of dealing with this guy?

A. I think we can be 100% sure that he is guilty. He was on the phone with his wife moments before he put his daughters on, and the wife heard one daughter yelling "No, Daddy!" right before the gunshots. We're dealing with some serious circumstantial evidence if he's not guilty.

B. What does purpose does "rehabilitation" serve for this man? He was already on parole for domestic abuse and the courts were in the process of revoking that parole. He got a hold of a gun (or already had one). He shot his daughters in cold blood. He doesn't seem to keen on mending his ways. And anyway, what sort of rehabilitation could he get? "Don't kill your daughters anymore, ok?"

They're dead. Nothing will bring them back. 3 lives are destroyed because of this monster - the two little girls and their mother. And as callous as the taxpayer's money argument sounds, I think it's just as valid as any other argument presented here. If I lived in Texas, I certainly wouldn't want any of my taxes to go towards supporting this man's life, no matter how terrible conditions are in prison. He doesn't deserve to live. If we didn't have a criminal system at all, he would be dead by now. Why shouldn't he be executed? And what can we do as an alternative?
posted by starvingartist at 11:57 AM on May 4, 2001


jcterminal

It may be that it actually costs more of your tax money to put someone to death than it does to keep them imprisoned for life:
http://www.aclu.org/library/case_against_death.html
http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/costs2.html

raymsj

Would you care to support your claim?
posted by syzygy at 12:05 PM on May 4, 2001


I, for one, am against the death penalty. However, this is quite possibly the most horrible story I have ever heard. I agree with darren... I would pull the switch on this guy. Better yet, I think he should be locked into a room with 6 guys with aluminum bats, beat to near death, nursed back to health, and have the process repeated every six months so he has something to look forward to.

Call me sick, but if I ever saw this guy on the street, I'd push him into oncoming traffic.
posted by fusinski at 12:06 PM on May 4, 2001


Raysmj, try to do some research before making statements as fact.
posted by jbelshaw at 12:06 PM on May 4, 2001


jbelshaw - thanks. I went looking for those stats immediately, but came up empty-handed.
posted by syzygy at 12:08 PM on May 4, 2001


johnb: There's nothing in the article to suggest that the girls took any action that would make them "deserving" of any punishment. Further, I'm not sure what action the girls could've taken that would be deserving of that.
posted by claxton6 at 12:10 PM on May 4, 2001


Why shouldn't he be executed?

How does one come up with a legal definition of "100% sure that he is guilty"?
posted by snarkout at 12:12 PM on May 4, 2001


johnb, you are verging on troll status. Open up a little -- don't be shy -- and please explain what in the world you mean when you say "the daughters 'deserved' the punishment they got."

I assume it's sarcasm but I can't, for the life of me, dig it out.
posted by argybarg at 12:12 PM on May 4, 2001


>>A question for all the anti-death sentencers on this thread: What is the proper way of dealing with this guy?

How about doing nothing? Seriously, isn't that the most cost-effective strategy?

Hundreds of thousands of premature deaths happen every day that are easily preventable. We could easily wipe out malnutrition, for example. But no matter how hard we try we'll never deter the occasional psychopath from going on a killing spree. Sad but true.
posted by johnb at 12:16 PM on May 4, 2001


no one here disputes the fact that this is a horrible crime.

however, because this is a democracy, when this man is killed (probably 10 years from now after tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees and housing costs) i am partly responsible. my government, the folks in charge who represent me and act in my behalf, will kill this man.

i do not condone the actions of a murderer, but i want no part in killing him. no matter what a person may have done. i believe it is fundamentally wrong for a government to act for its citizens in taking another life.
posted by kzam at 12:18 PM on May 4, 2001


Better yet, I think he should be locked into a room with 6 guys with aluminum bats, beat to near death, nursed back to health, and have the process repeated every six months so he has something to look forward to.

That's fine, fusinski, and I don't call it being sick, I call it being human. But we are trying to maintain a decent society here--one where mob rules don't apply and where everyone is protected from torture by the government. How long would it take for this civilization to crumble if that's how we treated criminals?
posted by jpoulos at 12:18 PM on May 4, 2001


(sorry for the long post. this will be my final one in this thread, i promise.)

doug: " So your argument, jcterminal, is that we should put people to death rather than pay for their jail time? That's it? So if I pay, out of pocket, for this man's jail term, you wouldn't want him killed?
That's not a very solid argument at all, especially when it's a human life we're dealing with."

i didn't say PEOPLE, i said violent criminals. and as for human life... killing his own 2 children in cold blood, while the mother is on the phone, makes him NOT human anymore. therefore, he should be considered a threatening sack of meat, and muct be treated as such.

***

eileen: " plus, if you want to get into advocating the death penalty for logistics' sake...I think it actually costs more when you include the appeals process, etc. to put someone to death than to keep them alive in jail for life"

right! hence, NO MORE APPEALS for convicted violent criminals on death row.

***
hjorth: " When the state kills its citizens, it kills hope."

when the state kills a baby-killer, it give me hope that monster won't commit the same crime again.

***
maybe we should think about alternatives to capital-punishment. maybe murderers should be forced to eat their victims? all of them. in one sitting.

the horror of having to eat another human might convince that person not to kill someone.

and if they end up liking it, well after a having to eat quite a few people, they'll be SO grotesquely obese that the next time they try to murder someone... well... the intended victim SHOULD be able to outrun them pretty easily right?

...

what? did i just say something weird?
posted by jcterminal at 12:19 PM on May 4, 2001


I don't know, jpoulos? Let's find out! :)
posted by fusinski at 12:20 PM on May 4, 2001


How about doing nothing? Seriously, isn't that the most cost-effective strategy?

*sniff sniff*...hmm...I think I smell a troll....
posted by jpoulos at 12:21 PM on May 4, 2001


It sickened me to read the article. Yes, I suppose I should have just not followed the link, but I didn't know how bad it would be. I can only try to imagine the sort of hell that the mother must be going through.

Capital punishment has been discussed ad nauseam (literally) here. If people didn't agree with it before, they're not likely to now. No one's mind is changing. There's something sickening about using these girls' deaths to try to promote a political agenda. Give it a rest.
posted by anapestic at 12:21 PM on May 4, 2001


claxton, you're so close, man...keep goin.
Starving, why not execute thieves? I think anyone that steals things deserves to die. Do you agree?
And to answer your question, I think they should be kept in jail, and be forced to labour for the good of society.
jcterminal, your post started out insane (i'd like to see the law that says people comminting murder are no longer human) and delves into the increadibly unfunny.
posted by Doug at 12:22 PM on May 4, 2001


Is it really not a deterrent? Can't we just say that if it keeps just one person from killing another, the it has all been worth it? We say that about so many other things.

It is funny how things break down. When we like stuff we talk about the community, when we don't we say the state. The same thing codified. We can't give the state the right to kill vs. give in to the community for the greater good. Presumably we who make up the community also make up the state. The same citizen who can decide to limit a corporations power, can also decide a crime is worthy of death. It is a lack of consistency about what we should be allowed to decide that makes me nuts.

I notice that many people against the death penalty favor greater responsibility on the governments part to listen to the people's wishes in other areas. Maybe it is the broad statements that topics like this generate, but I get the feeling nobody really wants to debate the issue, as much as they want to have their way.

The majority desire the death penalty. If you don't respect that as the proper authority, what can replace it. A benevolent tyranny? I prefer a stupid democracy, people making mistakes and learning from them, rather than being forced to live pleasant but uneducated lives.
posted by thirteen at 12:22 PM on May 4, 2001


Do nothing? In other words, don't punish him at all. Let him go free. Invite plenty of other people bordering on pyschosis to wantonly kill people. Laissez-faire criminal procedures. Brilliant.
posted by starvingartist at 12:22 PM on May 4, 2001


Johnb isn't trolling. He just disagrees with you.
posted by Doug at 12:24 PM on May 4, 2001


Damn, you guys slipped in a billion posts, and now mine does not flow so good anymore.
posted by thirteen at 12:25 PM on May 4, 2001


Doug, do you really, truly believe that thieves should be executed? Or are you just saying that for sake of argument? Because I think execution for murder fits the crime. I think jail time for stealing fits the crime. I'm not talking about "cruel and unusual punishment", because I don't believe that the death penalty is cruel and unusual for murderers. Almost everyone here has said they would kill this man if the saw him on the street (or at least, that he deserves to lose his life in some manner). But we are not allowed to do that as individual citizens. Why can't we let the government do it for us?
posted by starvingartist at 12:26 PM on May 4, 2001


I'm sure that we could hold a competition with a nice blue ribbon for the winner who devises the most painful and gruesome manner of killing the swine. I'm equally sure that the comment stating that the victims deserved being murdered was either sarcasm or an extremely dull troll. Or at least I hope that I am sure.

Personally, I used to be pro death penalty before my eyes were opened by studying US law, especially regarding legally "competent" representation, criminal procedure, and substantive due process. After this I found myself unable to support the death penalty because, in my opinion, the criminal justice system is fundamentally unable to process these cases with a degree of certainty that I can live with.

I mean, the stories are legion: lying prosecutors more concerned with reelection and being "tough on crime" than any notion of fairness or justice, cops who "testalie" as a matter of routine, death row inmates exonerated by DNA evidence, defense lawyers on capital cases high on cocaine and alcohol (when they were awake), chronic underfunding of public defenders offices (where they exist at all), etc etc.

If we didn't have a criminal system at all, he would be dead by now.

If we had no criminal system it would be easier to kill other people, yes. Whether they were ultimately guilty or not. Whether they were old or young, smart or stupid. Whether they were lynched because they looked at the wrong person the wrong way, shot in the head because they were causing agitation among the peons with talk of social equality, or burned because they practiced some "weird" religion.

If I'm being a sarcastic ass, I apologize, but I don't think that the "social contract" that I apparently agreed to by being born in the US should include giving the State the right to execute its citizens. If it does, I think that it's time to renegotiate that particular provision.
posted by estopped at 12:30 PM on May 4, 2001


Starving, I'd also like to make him squat over a big bowl of baracuda. Should the government do that?
If a guy steals my car radio, and I see him, I'm going to beat him up. Should the police beat up thieves?
I swear I'm not trying to be a prick, but just make you see my belief that the government (community, for 13) should not be allowed to kill prisoners.
No punishment can fit murder. The universe isn't fair. Two wrongs don't make a right.
posted by Doug at 12:32 PM on May 4, 2001


Starvingartist,
What makes you think the purpose of incarceration is to rehabilitate? It's not, it never was, and it never will be. The purpose is simply, punishment (and revenge, to some degree). I'm not against the death penalty (even though I have a problem with innocent people on death row), I strongly believe that life in prison with no parole is probably worse than death.

He should be made to write a letter to his ex-wife, explaining (and apologizing) for his act once every week, for the rest of his life. I'm not sure if that would be considered cruel and unusual punishment (which is unconstitutional), but it would sure fit the crime. How to enforce this: perhaps the threat of placing him in a cell with bigger prisoners who haven't had sex in a long time!
posted by Rastafari at 12:33 PM on May 4, 2001


But Doug, that doesn't solve the problem. Standing there on your self-righteous soap box saying "Two wrongs don't make a right" and patting yourself on the back for being such a humanist does not change the fact that there is no effective alternative for this man's punishment. If you don't like my solution, offer a better one. But don't tell me I'm wrong and my idea is inhumane and call it even.
posted by starvingartist at 12:36 PM on May 4, 2001


If such a vicious killer is not executed by the state, then it seems that the only fitting punishment is a permanent removal from society. NOT prison, mind you, but removal. If the space program is looking for a new reason to exist, this may be it!
posted by tenbroeck at 12:38 PM on May 4, 2001


i am ordinarily against the death penalty, but i do feel that there are some circumstances where people commit blatantly heinous crimes and the treatment they deserve should be nothing less than how they treated others. occasionally there's a bad berry in the basket, and that berry needs to die.


that's like saying "i'm a vegetarian, but i eat fish (or chicken)." either you're for or against. if you're for even a little bit, then you're for. end of story.
posted by smich at 12:38 PM on May 4, 2001


Whether you agree or not can be agured ad naseum, yes. It's interesting what can CHANGE your view.

I find it to be an ironic moral dilemma - the moment I brought a life into this world, my view changed on taking a life.
posted by thinkdink at 12:40 PM on May 4, 2001


Rastafari-
It seems to me that rehabilitation is one purpose of incarceration. Otherwise, why would we let someone out of jail? You (as a criminal) commit a crime. I (as society) send you to jail - for an amount of time appropriate to the crime. At the end of that time, you get out. Now, if I didn't expect you to be rehabilitated, why the hell would I let you out in the first place? Otherwise, I could reasonably expect you to commit the same crime again. Now, I know that rehabilitation in prison hardly ever works like it's supposed to. But don't tell me it was never meant to be there in the first place.
posted by starvingartist at 12:40 PM on May 4, 2001


I don't think johnb's trolling I think he's showing the reductio ad absurdum. If cost-effectiveness is what drives these decisions, then he's right, doing nothing is the most cost-effective. the fact that everybody flinches at that shows that the cost-effectiveness criterion really isn't that important to people--it's a red herring. Same thing with Doug's idea. A lot of the "reasons" articulated in this thread aren't reasons at all, they're attempts to rationalize a gut reaction.

The less said about jcterminal's "not human" anymore thing, the better. Unless someone can find a way of defining "not human" that doesn't simply restate their rage, it's a non-starter.

Mars, jpoulos and others have already said much of what I would have, but for the record, I'm categorically against the death penalty and I have kids that I love and fear for. One of my fears is that they'll grow up in a society that embraces barbarism as a matter of policy.
posted by rodii at 12:42 PM on May 4, 2001


thirteen - I agree with you completely vis-a-vis democratic determination. A community should ultimately decide for itself whether or not capital punishment is allowable (same goes for child porn, meat-eating, car driving, etc). By saying "I oppose the death penalty", I'm not saying my views should be adopted against the will of the majority. I'm merely adding my 2 cents into the democratic mix.

I.e., "Cultural change is a prerequisite to legislative change" etc
posted by johnb at 12:42 PM on May 4, 2001


If you can take away someone's right to live for one reason, what's to stop you from denying it to someone else for another reason? Where do you stop?

This type of argument bothers me. It keeps us from having middle-ground, reasonable solutions. We can't execute anyone, because who knows what they will execute you for next. The can't pass sensible gun laws because next they will be taking everyone's guns away. They can't put any regulations on abortion, because soon they will be illegal. They can't put limitations on hate speech because soon free-speech will be dead. Are there no gray areas?
posted by quirked at 12:44 PM on May 4, 2001


jbelshaw -

Great stats, I didn't realize that North Dakota was such a violent place to live?

I don't know how I feel about the death penalty. In general, I'm a "black and white" type personality. With enough thought and research on a subject, most problems can be answered with a Yes or No. I think we are rather leniant on crime punishment vs. crime comitted in the US.

This guy deserves everything he gets.
posted by 120degrees at 12:49 PM on May 4, 2001


jpoulos, Starvingartist: If cost-effectiveness, that is ultilitarianism in economics and morality, is important to an operating government then it would be better, given all the variables, to let criminals go free.

It seems to me that rehabilitation is one purpose of incarceration.

In an ostensibly free society, the loss of freedom — freedom to movement, freedom to make one's own choices, the things that make up life — is punishment. Rehabilitation would be a nice bonus, but if that was the goal of criminal justice, then we’d build job centers and universities instead of prisons.

(See Democracy in America, Tocqueville)

There's something sickening about using these girls' deaths to try to promote a political agenda.

Such as the promulgation of state-sanctioned murder?

I've had my political beliefs effected by a discussion on this website. Not having any discussion guarentees no one will consider these matters.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 1:00 PM on May 4, 2001


either you're for or against. if you're for even a little bit, then you're for. end of story
I disagree. Even though I agree with the sentiment that some people just need killing, I'd vote against the death penalty on a referendum because I don't trust the government / community with that much power.
posted by whuppy at 1:03 PM on May 4, 2001


Starvingartist:Now, if I didn't expect you to be rehabilitated, why the hell would I let you out in the first place?

Because, starving, the same society that put you in prison, also sets limit on how long you stay there, depending on what crime(s) you committed. As a general rule, when it comes to prison, prison as rehabilitation is theory,
while prison as punishment/revenge until you do your time is reality.
posted by Rastafari at 1:04 PM on May 4, 2001


Starving, I resent the fact that you feel I'm patting myself on the back. I think killing people is wrong, and don't think we should kill people. It's not a self congratulatory stance. It's what I believe, and it doesn't make me happy that I feel this way, it makes me sad that others don't.
I do think your alternative is inhumane, although I've never said as much. I do think its wrong. I also think you're a smart guy, and have the best possible intentions. You seem to want to know an alternative to death for this man...as if death is actually an effective solution to the problem. Well, I think he should be imprisoned, and forced in some way to work for the good of society. That might not seem like enough to you, but I think that's the best we can do. I don't think our government should have the right to kill its citizens, just as I believe it shouldn't have the right to torture its citizens.
posted by Doug at 1:10 PM on May 4, 2001


'nuff said, Doug. I apologize if I hurt you with the back-patting statement. And thank you for thinking that I'm a smart guy looking for an alternative. As for the rest, it looks like we'll have to always disagree.
posted by starvingartist at 1:18 PM on May 4, 2001


I think the original point of johnb's statement was that in this twisted fuck's mind, the girls deserved to die. Of course they did not deserve to die - but his total lack of sanity and reason caused him to think otherwise. Simply put - he wasn't thinking too clearly and let his anger get the better of him.

Most of the calls for this guy's execution are coming from people who are letting their emotions take over. I'm against the death penalty as a form of governmental punishment, but I'd love to take a crack at this guy myself. Not simply because I think he deserves it (and he does), but because I'm pissed off and it would make me feel so fucking good to squeeze the life out of this bag of shit myself.

But that doesn't make it right. And it doesn't make it right just because a society decides to end his life either.
posted by briandame at 1:20 PM on May 4, 2001


Capt.crackpipe: i'm not sure why your post was directed at me, but for the record, I haven't addressed the issue of cost-effectiveness at all. I don't care what any of this costs.
posted by jpoulos at 1:21 PM on May 4, 2001


*sniff sniff*...hmm...I think I smell a troll....

You called an honest argument trolling, I was trying to clear up your misconception.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 1:30 PM on May 4, 2001


Skot:

>> If it were my children - I'd kill him myself.
>
> I wouldn't blame you for feeling that way at all,
> thinkdink. That's why the justice system doesn't allow
> punishment to be meted out by the victims.


Mars Saxman:

> The part of human nature that leads to lynchings and
> violent revenge is not the part of human nature I want
> running the government.

OK, you anti folks have made a convert. Between these two attitudes ("the victims mustn't do it" and "the public mustn't do it") I'm coming over to the belief that letting the government execute murderers is worse than letting private individuals take care of them.

The right ones to deal with the man this thread is about are 1) the mother, and 2) any other individual or mob that feels sufficiently violated.

Anyone whose sensibilities rebel at being party to a community-sponsored execution is now absolved and guilt-free.
posted by jfuller at 1:33 PM on May 4, 2001


Some crimes are so heinous and so absolutely violate the most fundamental principles that we hold true (namely, that life is good & precious, and that parents should protect their children), that often there is simply no punishment or retribution that can adequately address the horror and revulsion. McVeigh is a perfect example. This bastard sicko is another. In rare cases like these, I have no qualms about government-sponsored execution to put these twisted souls out of their & our misery.
posted by davidmsc at 1:38 PM on May 4, 2001


I can't believe there are so many allegedly intelligent people who don't balk at the idea of giving their government the power to exterminate human lives. Have you not read enough dystopic sci-fi or something?

quirked: I can understand the need for gray areas in things, but we don't need to execute this guy. We want to, but we don't need to. Lock him up, away from society, and he will kill no more children. And that's what's important.

I also don't really understand why people consider a quick, painless death more of a punishment than rotting in a jail cell for the rest of his life. You guys seem to view it as the ultimate kick in the nuts, but I see it as euthanasia. An existential "get out of jail free" card.

And for the record, even if I was for knee-jerk, brutal punishment, I still wouldn't want him killed. I'd want him kept alive so that he could be tortured horribly for the rest of his life. But I wouldn't want a government with carte blanche to do that either.
posted by frenetic at 1:38 PM on May 4, 2001


'Scuse me, Fren...

But the only thing we'd actually NEED to kill is Godzilla. Lets look at it this way:

Why do we NEED to house him, NEED to feed him, NEED to pay for the precautions that keep him separated from our society?

Frankly, you don't have to kill 'em - dump 'em off on some south sea archepeligo and let 'em make do. But don't expect me to spring for food, clothing, housing and satellite TV.
posted by Perigee at 1:47 PM on May 4, 2001


A community should ultimately decide for itself whether or not capital punishment is allowable (same goes for child porn, meat-eating, car driving, etc).

You just can't let a thread go by without tying your vegan moral superiority into it somehow, can you, johnb? But, when you're pretentious, comparing apples and oranges is not a sin.
posted by darukaru at 1:50 PM on May 4, 2001


if i was that bastards cellmate and i had daughters on the outside you wouldn't have to worry about him anymore.

i have to agree with Mars and the others...governments with the power to kill who they want are Bad. There is no way around that. Strange to feel so opposed to capital punishment yet so inclined towards personal vengence.

where does that strange contradiction come from? is it a contradiction?
posted by th3ph17 at 1:56 PM on May 4, 2001


Just to clarify an earlier comment: I don't believe there is some cosmic, "objective" sense in which people deserve to suffer or die. The idea just seems ridiculous to me.

Now, death penalty advocates, as well as the father in the article, disagree with me here. They appear to believe we ought to kill or maim people if they do something we disapprove of. To me, that smacks of a kind of mysticism: the idea that, if something "bad" happens over here, you've got to make something "bad" happen over there, just to sort of "balance things out".

What I don't understand is how you can make things better by increasing the total amount of bad stuff (suffering and death). Sounds like fuzzy math to me.
posted by johnb at 2:01 PM on May 4, 2001


jbelshaw: So you got some stats from an insurance company I've never heard of to say Texas isn't all that violent? It is well known that Texas has had a very high murder rate and crime rate over time. One year? And they have a much higher murder rate than plenty of states that *do not have the death penalty*. Actually, I can find you stats for 1997 which had Texas as having the third highest violent crime rate, and second in murders. The point is, it has the most executions of any state per year. What good has it done Texas? Zero. I was exaggerating a tad because I was pretty hacked to read this story.
posted by raysmj at 2:06 PM on May 4, 2001


my heart grieves for the mother.

i wonder whatever happened to hard time? i say make the evil bastard work his ass off for the rest of his life.

as for the great raging debate, it reminds me of a quote from the movie the fourth protocol.
"... some of our more muscular colleagues favour taking you to a cell and going to work on you with a carving knife and a pair of pliers.

the rest would like to feed you to the newspapers, and throw what's left into prison for 20 years.

it's a tricky choice, isn't it?"
posted by bwg at 2:18 PM on May 4, 2001


darukaru: >>You just can't let a thread go by without tying your vegan moral superiority into it somehow, can you, johnb?

Actually, looking over my past contributions, my two big obsessions seem to be "Nader" and "Globalization". I'm sure I've gone overboard in my zeal with respect to these two topics. I must say, though, that I don't remember mentioning veganism very often beyond the threads that dealt with the subject.

As for "moral superiority," I claim nothing of the sort. In fact I would include in my definition of "moral superiority" the view that certain classes of sentient beings are unworthy of moral consideration, simply in virtue of "species"-membership (an Aristotelian concept, obsolete since Darwin). So the comparison, in all honesty and without pretension, is between apples and apples.

But I promise not to stray further off-topic (well executed troll, btw - you caught me hook line and sinker).
posted by johnb at 2:19 PM on May 4, 2001


Enough has been said about the whole death penalty thing, so I won't bring that up..

But why are Americans so dependent upon counsellors all the time? I quote from the story.. 'About a dozen counselors and psychologists were available for students, parents and school staff'. Why? Seems like a terrific waste of money to me.

And, why the school? Why not the workplace of the father or mother.. why not at the daughters' tennis club? Parading out a group of counsellors whenever something happens just demonstrates to kids that they obviously aren't expected to solve their own problems and that they should cry on someone else's shoulder all the time.

That said, it seems therapists are an extremely common part of American life, and to these European eyes, it seems extremely weird.
posted by wackybrit at 2:31 PM on May 4, 2001


> To me, that smacks of a kind of mysticism: the idea that,
> if something "bad" happens over here, you've got to
> make something "bad" happen over there, just to sort of
> "balance things out".

The feeling is fully accounted for by several million years of natural selection. The anthropoids who felt like running out and biting things that pose a mortal threat to themselves or their children or their tribe had a better chance of leaving progeny in the gene pool who had the same aggressive feelings. The anthropoids that didn't have the same throw-rocks-at-the-leopard impulse tended to see their progeny carried off and eaten. Differential selection against the peace-loving.

I get a frequent chuckle from seeing that 99% of the people who claim to believe in evolution actually disbelieve it as strongly as any Bible-pounding creationist as soon as they have to consider some of the things evolution actually entails. ("Odds bodkins, biological determinism! How illiberal. That can't be true...")
posted by jfuller at 2:34 PM on May 4, 2001


Davidmsc:
that often there is simply no punishment or retribution that can adequately address the horror and revulsion

I just thought that was worth pointing out again. It’s a very truthful statement.

Phil
where does that strange contradiction come from? is it a contradiction?

Feeling revulsion about revolting acts — murder, in all it’s forms, for instance — is very human. This is not something anyone should take lightly, and that you have strong feelings about it shows your empathy and understanding for all the victims.

Perigree:
I’d say every member of our society deserves at least basic human rights — food, health care, housing — regardless of their position or mental stablility.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 2:35 PM on May 4, 2001


Why do we NEED to house him, NEED to feed him, NEED to pay for the precautions that keep him separated from our society?

Because otherwise we give an already flawed government and prison system the ability to snuff out human life when they see fit. Seems like a safe bet to me.

And this whole cost-effectiveness argument is just silly -- not to mention wrong according to all of the stuff I read that syzygy linked to up above.

Americans pay billions and billions of dollars a year to incarcerate people who will probably not be the least bit rehabilitated when they get released (pot possession anyone?), but suddenly when you find a criminal that's actually really worth incarcerating, it's not worth it? That makes no sense.
posted by frenetic at 2:45 PM on May 4, 2001


Anytime someone references The Caveman as an example of why humans behave as they do, I hold my BS guard in front of my face, 'cause it's really about to fly.

It's probable that prehistoric humans attacked animals because they wanted to eat them. That they attacked animals in self-defense. Maybe that they hunted packs of predatorial animals to keep their numbers down.

But how, exactly, we could know that prehistoric humans attacked animals out of retribution -- some sort of psychic recompense for a wrong done to them -- well, you tell me. Sounds like the usual talk about Cavemen; i.e., a projection onto them of whatever we want to believe.
posted by argybarg at 2:47 PM on May 4, 2001


You called an honest argument trolling, I was trying to clear up your misconception.

Point taken, capt. My bad.
posted by jpoulos at 2:56 PM on May 4, 2001


Argy, are you suggesting that retribution is a new thing? I don't follow....
posted by jpoulos at 2:57 PM on May 4, 2001


i believe this man is entitled to face up to a jury of his peers. i believe a jury of this man's peers would inclide criminals and wife beaters. now i've never been in prison, but i hear that even cons don't take to well to child molestors or child murderers. give him thirty days in maximum security and let his peers take care of him. if he's not dead by then, there's a lot of roadside cleanup that needs to be done.
posted by whoshotwho at 3:01 PM on May 4, 2001


>>The feeling is fully accounted for by several million years of natural selection. The anthropoids who felt like running out and biting things that pose a mortal threat to themselves or their children or their tribe had a better chance of leaving progeny in the gene pool who had the same aggressive feelings. The anthropoids that didn't have the same throw-rocks-at-the-leopard impulse tended to see their progeny carried off and eaten. Differential selection against the peace-loving.

I agree (although there's cultural variation in the degree of agressiveness, etc).

>>I get a frequent chuckle from seeing that 99% of the people who claim to believe in evolution actually disbelieve it as strongly as any Bible-pounding creationist as soon as they have to consider some of the things evolution actually entails. ("Odds bodkins, biological determinism! How illiberal. That can't be true...")

Could you clarify this? Obviously our genotypes are determined by natural selection, and our phenotypes (hence our behaviors) are determined by the interaction between the genotypes and the physical environment. This is pretty much a platitude. So how can you draw moral implications from it?

I mean, at the end of the day, we are physical objects, composed of particles (etc) governed by the laws of physics. But that doesn't change the fact that pain is...painful. Or that getting killed is a bummer. Even if the father in the article were "genetically programmed" to murder his kids, that wouldn't make the situation any less bad, would it?

I guess I don't see how the "liberal outlook" comes into play here, given that it's logically impossible to derive an "ought" from an "is".
posted by johnb at 3:03 PM on May 4, 2001


jpoulos, I wouldn't argue that retribution is new. But you argue that it was selected in us by conditions of prehistoric society. Since we can now only make up stories about prehistoric society, that's an argument without a basis.

You might argue that, since humans sometimes exhibit an impulse towards retribution, it must have been selected by some kind of evolutionary mechanism. But that, of course, is circular reasoning to those of us who don't believe in biological determinism.

But even assuming something like evolutionary mechanisms bred us to seek retribution, we have no idea how those mechanisms would have worked, or how strongly they bound us to behavior.
posted by argybarg at 3:15 PM on May 4, 2001


And I'm not uncomfortable with the idea that evolution "entails" something -- it's just amusing that anyone thinks they know what evolution "entails." It would take a hell of a lot more than generic stories about fictional cavemen to establish anything.
posted by argybarg at 3:27 PM on May 4, 2001


Actually, argy, I haven't argued any of that. Jfuller introduced the evolution argument. I just didn't follow your argument. :-)
posted by jpoulos at 3:32 PM on May 4, 2001


i wonder whatever happened to hard time?

deemed "cruel and unusual."

and i'm only being slightly facetious.
posted by fuzzygeek at 3:32 PM on May 4, 2001


Oh piss.

I've been yelling at the wrong guy.

You haven't seen jfuller around, have you?
posted by argybarg at 3:35 PM on May 4, 2001


Frankly, you don't have to kill 'em - dump 'em off on some south sea archepeligo and let 'em make do.

Sure, I'm for that. Or better yet, we can dump 'em off in some other country that's convinced of their moral superiority because they don't have the death penalty. "Here ya go -- I understand you know how to deal with these people. Enjoy."
posted by webmutant at 3:54 PM on May 4, 2001


argy: He's using jbelshaw, jpoulos, jcterminal and johnb for cover. Pretty clever tactic, I must say. I'm going to change my name to jfrenetic soon.
posted by frenetic at 3:55 PM on May 4, 2001


Thirteen: why isn't it terribly inconsistent to be a pro-death penalty libertarian? I identify myself as a soft libertarian myself, and consider the power to kill the single most dangerous power the government has. It seems the most obvious slippery slope to assume that a government that has the power to kill can do so arbitrarily -- and the number of innocents killed by the government certainly bear this out.

Johnb: this debate shows the flaw in democracy. Even John Stuart Mill realized the concept of tyranny of the majority. Protect our rights first, and democracy second.
posted by norm at 3:59 PM on May 4, 2001


Here's what I want to happen to this man:

I want him to live.

I want him to live long enough so that he comes to feel his complete and total responsibility for the death of his daughters. So long that he no longer blames his wife, or the courts or whomever or whatever he currently blames for "making him do it." I want his nights to be racked with dreams of his daughters and his days tortured with a complete and overwhelming sense of guilt. I want the very act of breathing to be unbearable to him. I want a suicide watch set over him so that he can never escape the hell of his own thoughts.

What I don't want is for him to be killed by inmates or killed by the state while he still thinks it wasn't really his fault, that it was the ill-treatment he was receiving from others that drove him to it. Whether it's next week or 10 years from now, that would be far too quick and easy a death for him.

That this human being could shoot his children and not immediately shoot himself may mean that he is incapable of ever feeling remorse. He might live to be a 100 in prison and never have a moment of remorse.

But I want to live in a society that is willing to risk that because my children will have spent those hundred years living in a better society than the one they live in now.
posted by jeannepickering at 4:06 PM on May 4, 2001


...and, if the death penalty were ever to be barred, I honestly believe that an "Escape From New York" solution might be tenable. Similar to the reference earlier in this chain, find a suitably horrid island far from civilization, replete with venomous snakes, monitor lizards, funnel-web spiders, etc, and then drop the true baddies off, and air-drop bread, water, and beans periodically. Let the savages live in the kind of society that they have earned and seem to desire. Is that humane enough for the anti-death penalty-ers?
posted by davidmsc at 4:08 PM on May 4, 2001


jeannepickering: i like that. but, unfortunately he will most likely go to prison, watch some TV, read some books, do some drugs, get in a few fights, maybe study a college course or two ( hell why not a degree on the taxpayers)... etc...

then probably get paroled for good behavior & overcrowding.
posted by jbelshaw at 4:38 PM on May 4, 2001


raysmj:
I was exaggerating a tad because I was pretty hacked to read this story.

You would have done better to leave it at that.
posted by syzygy at 4:38 PM on May 4, 2001


jeannepickering~
well said...i suppose for punishment, keeping someone alive and imprisoned is the way to go...I am all for Life Imprisonment instead of capital punishment.

i've been thinking about this all day long...and the most horrifying thing to me is that he used his daughters as Props. Objects to hurt his ex-wife with. Things. Maybe that would be an appropriate punishment...

imprison him for life, stipped of identity and humanity, treated like an object. Wow. That is my new alternative to capital punishment. Strap him down for the rest of his life and feed him intravenously...i guess i don't have a lot of faith in the concept of redemption.
posted by th3ph17 at 4:41 PM on May 4, 2001


I don't think that a guy who goes out for a drink and then to a tatoo parlor after killing his own children is going to repent or feel bad about it, no matter what punishment is given.

if i was that bastards cellmate and i had daughters on the outside you wouldn't have to worry about him anymore.

If I know Texas jailhouse justice like I think I do, unless this guy is in a cell by himself, he is suffering.
posted by bjgeiger at 4:51 PM on May 4, 2001


Such a fucked up day for news about things like this. I guess i'm a hypocrite...keep this shooter asshole in prison for life to suffer. SHOOT this bastard. I'm not reading the news this weekend.
posted by th3ph17 at 4:53 PM on May 4, 2001


I've always been *for* the death penalty...
However, a more fitting punishment for this scumbag would be life in prison.

They looooove making child killers their bitches in there. That would be *true justice* for this loser.
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 5:02 PM on May 4, 2001


syzygy: What exactly do you mean? That one isn't supposed to be upset by the story? A bit angry at Texas too, and a general culture in this part of the world (I'm from the South, and have had family living in Texas at various points in my lifetime) that seems to encourage this sort of behavior? Being hacked, miffed, irked, enraged or what have you is a normal human feeling, and not necessarily negative. It's acting in out in a physical way that's wrong.
posted by raysmj at 5:09 PM on May 4, 2001


That guy was EVIL. Pure and simple.....what torques my gourd is that this lady did everything she was supposed to do as a battered wife-and he STILL got unsupervised access to his kids. That murder was nothing but a big"*#@* you" to the mom......


So all of the self righteous types who judge a woman because she stays in an abusive relationship.....apparently it is safer to stay and get the hell beat out of you then try to leave and make the perp accountable.......

as for the death penalty......I honestly do not know how I feel about that but I do know there is one Judge this guy will have to face.......and at that time there will be no appeal.
posted by bunnyfire at 5:13 PM on May 4, 2001


I'm against the death penalty. First I don't don't believe the justice system is even approximately just. Justice is supposed to be blind but it seems to be pretty sensitive to race, gender, and ESPECIALLY class (as in the amount of money a defendant has). Even given a fair system I don't want the state killing people. There are people I wouldn't mind ending up dead. Tim McVeigh comes to mind. However, I don't think the state should do it.

Now for the cheap political shot... This guy killed his children while on the phone to his wife in the state of Texas. He must have known that he would be executed. So much for the deterrent effect of the death penalty. You could make an analogous argument about McVeigh. You'd have to be an idiot to think that you can blow up a federal building with children in it and not get caught, tried, and killed. So at least in these cases the existence of the death penalty had zero deterrent effect.
posted by rdr at 5:44 PM on May 4, 2001


You know when you think about the past, and you chuckle at how barbaric and cruel people were? Maybe the thought even crosses your mind that we've come so far, and are so civilized and just. We aint. This thread proves it. Intelligent, well meaning people are suggesting, among other things, torture, mob justice, and rape as solutions to our crime problem.
If there were ever a "Meta-Meet" in NY, I don't think I could go. I'm scared of you people. Well, not really.

Ok, a little.
posted by Doug at 5:59 PM on May 4, 2001


raysmj: go ahead. show me some stats. i just pulled that one because it compared them pretty nicely. i found one that broke it down per capita, for the past 10 years (i think, i'll have to pull it back up). I'm not a Texan. I moved to Austin a couple years ago. I'm not sure how long you have to live here before you become one. :)
posted by jbelshaw at 6:06 PM on May 4, 2001


rdr gets at the heart of the death penalty issue here. What is government here for? Is it not, in James Madison's words, to work toward a means to one end, namely justice. If you take that to mean merely retribution . . . um, haven't all the world's major religions and ethicists come to agree that this is wrong in the end? And for plenty of sound reasons that are much too numerous to go into here? (The whole quoting of the "eye for an eye" thing in re to the death penalty is bad theology.)

Government, it would seem to me, is here to allow us to be free to find happiness as long as we are not violating anyone else's rights, to allow us all to self-actualize, to allow us to live. You can disagree over how to get there, but that's the basics. The death penalty does not appear to be helping us reach even the basics.

The death penalty seems to me to create a society more tolerant of violence as a solution to one's problems, or rather to reinforce bad influences and cultural traits that were already there. May be true, may not. Meantime, two children here didn't even make it past age 10. Why's the death penalty the issue here, and not something larger?
posted by raysmj at 6:23 PM on May 4, 2001


jbelshaw:

Unless you were born in Texas, you can never really be a Texan.

raysmj:

Your 'still more violent crime than any other' comment was just plain wrong. Where are those 1997 stats to which you allude?

Not to troll- I really dislike such unfounded and obviously bogus statements trotted out as facts.
posted by syzygy at 6:26 PM on May 4, 2001


syzygy: eheh thats what i figured.
posted by jbelshaw at 6:30 PM on May 4, 2001


jbushnel: here are some long-term stats. It might also help to know that Texas has more people in prison than any other state, meaning it has all this violent crime anyway. It's long been tops in the South for that (see the widely available Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, published by UNC Press, for that one. You may also find info about this fact here.) It should be noted here, however, that crime stats are rather notoriously unreliable. I have read that it is believed that the southern states experience more underreporting of crime.

Austin is of course very different than the rest of Texas, more what the entire state should be, rather.
posted by raysmj at 6:54 PM on May 4, 2001


syzygy: So you have the '97 stats, and more. I said I was exaggerating in anger -- actually, make that I *think I may have been*. It's more a whole violent ethos, violent culture. So what's your deal, exactly?
posted by raysmj at 6:58 PM on May 4, 2001


Death penalty thread, and I'm not involved!!? :)

"Him Bad. Him Die."
posted by owillis at 7:13 PM on May 4, 2001


What if death is just another part of life? What if no one dies before they are 'ready', even the ones that seem like innocent victims? What if we actually choose a lot more than we seem to be able to on the surface of things? Certainly would throw a monkey wrench into the whole idea of crime and punishment and moralistic (un)certainties and the mysticism of fear we've built up around death and dying.... Just wanted to toss something confusing and philosphical into the mix here. Something that may be a core belief underneath the whole "death penalty - right or wrong" thoughts. Or not. You choose.
posted by thunder at 7:24 PM on May 4, 2001


raysmj: weren't we discussing VIOLENT crime?

"In 1998, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice reported that of its then 130,000 prisoners, 54.8% were being held for a non-violent crime. If these offense proportions held true for the 1999 BJS prison counts, there would be 89,428 inmates held for non-violent crimes in Texas. Just by itself, Texas' non-violent prison population represents the second largest state prison population in the country (next to California). Texas' non-violent prisoner population is larger than the entire incarcerated population of the United Kingdom (73,545)--a country of 60 million people-- and bigger than New York's prison system, our 3rd largest state."

from the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture.
posted by jbelshaw at 7:26 PM on May 4, 2001


Geesh what a sicko the guy is....if the death penalty were less expensive to carryout, I'd vote for it for this guy. But, better still...a little cell with no human contact and no walks in the prison yard...until death...would be better.
posted by Jr2001 at 7:38 PM on May 4, 2001


raysmj:

This will be my last message to you in this thread.

The statistics you provided don't even back up your claim that, 'actually, I can find you stats for 1997 which had Texas as having the third highest violent crime rate, and second in murders.'

My deal, exactly? Allow me to quote an earlier post of mine in this thread: 'I really dislike such unfounded and obviously bogus statements trotted out as facts.' Nothing personal, it's just one of my pet peeves...
posted by syzygy at 7:38 PM on May 4, 2001


My problem with the death penalty is that I wouldn't know where to stop. In extreme cases, I think I agree probably yes, but then you or us or someone has to decide where that yes/no boundary lies.

I am often opinionated about whether any given person deserves to get the death penalty, but frankly I don't *know* if someone's crime is 'bad enough' for that person to get chopped. It is my belief that nobody knows that, it is all opinion, and so I don't support the death penalty even in this case, because I don't believe it should be a policy.
posted by mackieb at 7:39 PM on May 4, 2001


thunder, I think it was said best in the Discworld books:

"That statement is either so deep it would take a lifetime to fully comprehend every particle of its meaning, or it is a load of absolute tosh. Which is it, I wonder?"
posted by darukaru at 8:25 PM on May 4, 2001


sysygy: Um, yes, they do back up my claim, because they came from the same source used in countless other reoprts. You'd just have to go through them for a while, which is what I was expecting you'd do, given your obsession with this topic. They're useless anyway, given the difference between reporting rates for states.

In any case, I wrote that I was exaggerating while in anger in re to violent crime. Do I have to say this three times? Can you not read? Actually, I wrote that I was was *until* you two gave me a chance to state otherwise, then changed my mind to, oh, maybe I wasn't for such-and-such reasons. You'd won whatever bizarre battle you thought you were in, then you had to come back to the same topic.

Meantime, jbelshaw, if there are 40 percent in for violent crime when there are that many people for non-violent . . . do I need to state the obvious? There's nothing to brag about here either way, is there? Are you two the governor and lieutenant governor? Is the issue here your pride in the crime stats of a governmental/social construct known as Texas? Gracious. I want to see them go down everywhere, including Texas, which obviously has more than enough problems, OK?
posted by raysmj at 10:14 PM on May 4, 2001


The amount of ignorance displayed by so many people in this thread about Texas (particularly the gem about Texas being the most screwed-up state in the country) is just staggering.

I was born in Texas. I have lived here all my life. Of all the travels I have been on in my life, I still have not found a place I would rather live in more than here. Don't pity us; we're more than likely a hell of a lot better off than a lot of people in the "good" states. There's no way you'll be able to convince me that New York or L.A. or a dozen other cities are better places to live than Fort Worth. It sounds corny, but you *really* do not know what you're talking about.

As for this criminal, maybe the best way to settle this is to have him die of a massive gang bang in prison - everybody's happy!
posted by Spirit_VW at 10:18 PM on May 4, 2001


Norm: I have had people tell me my stand is inconsistent before, but I do not see the disconnect. I obviously fear government gone wild, and am not advocating wasting people without thought, but if we are going to do this it seems like it needs to be a job of the government. People are always going on about what they think my motivations are for wanting this punishment in place. I don't want to torture criminals, I don't care to teach them lessons by letting them come to realize what they have done. I don't think this will bring the victims back, and while I believe it can be a comfort to the victim's families, that is not even all that important. I think murder and rape are crimes without equal, and there should be a horrible price attached to those offenses. Humanity has no mathematical component that is lessened by removing an individual that has no respect for the lives of others. To satisfy me, they do not have to be killed, just removed. Imprisoning them is not enough to satisfy me, I feel the burden. I would be happy to opt out of the cost of caring for these people, and let the cost ride solely on the backs of those who who are sympathetic towards murderers and rapists. If I could be promised that these men would be alive but totally removed from my universe, I would not fight against it.

The innocent possibility is troubling, the only thing that troubles me. Everyone has reason to back their position with cooked numbers, but I think the majority of people slated to die have to be guilty. If this is not the case, we should tear down the entire government and start fresh, as this problem can not be solved merely by abolishing this punishment.

To those who claim it is a harsher punishment to imprison people for life, I have to say I think that argument is mighty weak. I find it hard to believe you can really think that, but I take you at your word. It looks like posing to turn pale at the thought of eliminating someone, only to turn around and claim that you are the one interested in REAL punishment. Regardless, it has no chance of convincing me that I am wrong.

Like I said to before, I think it is awfully democratic to listen to what the people want, and the people want this. I though JohnB's response to me was honest and American, and I am pleased to know we respect the same ideas about how to exist fairly.

I would like to read more about the tyranny of the majority? I understand it a bit, but I can't see how it can be fairly applied. What kind of a system thrives when it insists that most of the people feel their interests are not served. How small a minority should rule? I often find myself as a lone dissenting voice, should I rule the world?

I wandered quite a bit, and by the end I was not really talking to Norm anymore, whom I love like a brother. Please do not feel attacked.

I am tired, I am going to bed.
posted by thirteen at 10:28 PM on May 4, 2001


OK, now that I've had a smidgen more time, here are the reports. Have fun, sgsygy. They're from DOJ. You can take federal stats by state, state stats by state, then you can get with a statistician who can tell you about under-reporting and you can weigh the data for that, maybe do some regression analysis involving the 40 percent in prison for non-violent offenses, linear and/or nonlinear. My point was, all the same, that I said I was exaggerating in anger. It wasn't unjustified anger either. Bye.
posted by raysmj at 10:37 PM on May 4, 2001


darakaru, quite right - well quoted. ;-)
posted by thunder at 10:43 PM on May 4, 2001


Late to the party here, but I have to add that as sick as this story is, the scariest part of this thread for me is all the anti-death-penalty sentiment from contributors to this thread. Well, actually it's the thought that you (you know who you are) might be sitting on the parole board that hears his appeal some day. I don't care if he lives to be 120 years old, the thought of a sentimental bunch of fools buying the story of his rehabilitation (yes, sir, I am sorry.... I think about it every night and it just about tears my heart out... sniff, snifff...) and turning this monster loose on society again turns my stomach. It is that attitude of protecting the rights of assholes like this that got those girls killed, despite the mother's many complaints. If he gets life in prison, he has a chance to be paroled. You want that?
posted by JParker at 11:30 PM on May 4, 2001


Ever heard of life without parole, JParker? Plenty of states have it. Texas, last I read, was pondering whether to pass a law regarding this. Lotsa reports and commentary about this in 1999-2000, then I stopped hearing about it. There is a story here saying that a majority of Texans polled favor sentences of life without parole. But that was in 1998 and you never can be too sure about polling.

By the way, it was in 1991, pretty much the peak of the murder blowout in the U.S. that was the mid 1980s to the early '90s, that Texas had the second-highest murder rate. Still don't think that warranted a second or third or fourth message, and of course that tells you nothing about age, race, where the perp is from, etc., but in any case I made a typo.
posted by raysmj at 11:55 PM on May 4, 2001


Sure. And ever hear of laws being changed, raysmj? One nice thing about the death penalty is that you don't have to worry about things somebody ameliorating the punishment. It's DONE (sorry ACLU!). The one sure thing we know is that executed offenders will never commit another capital offense.

Imagine for a second that you are the mother in this story. You want the never-ending terror and pain from writing objection letters and attending parole hearings for this asshole for the rest of your life? I wouldn't. Check this news article for some perspective about Texas on these matters.

I understand the arguments, but there's a certain percentage of these cases where the evidence is unambiguous and the crime is heinous, and we as a society ought to collectively say "enough!". And IMHO the argument against "giving government the power to take a human life" is unconvincing. All the checks and balances are there, the due process is spelled out. When all is said and done, we are the government. If you don't like the way it's being handled, change it. But for cryin'-out-loud, quit whining about it!

'course if I had to go, I'd want to be extradited to Utah, where you can still opt for the firing squad.
posted by JParker at 12:37 AM on May 5, 2001


jbelshaw: just one more, from the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, that might show why crime stats are so weird, and a piece that relates directly to Texas. It's under "Crimes, Attitudes Toward," and notes that in Texas, there is criminal homicide and noncriminal homicide, the latter including self-defense, killing to protect one's property or the property of a third party, or a killing in the performance of public duty. Then there are five types of criminal homicide in Texas, all of which may not be considered murder by local officials whose stats are used in FBI uniform crime reports. I know from living in the South that a crime of passion, so to speak, that would be classified as a murder elsewhere can easily become a manslaughter case at home.
posted by raysmj at 12:42 AM on May 5, 2001


Has anyone's opinion been changed by anything said in this thread? Changed at all?

I can see that it's made some people more defensive. It's made a lot of people angry. Has it made anyone think more clearly? Has it made anyone see a side of things that they had never seen before?

As far as I can tell, it hasn't. And if that's true, then what good is it?

What really disturbs me is that well over a hundred messages into the argument, nearly twelve hours after I found anapestic's remark humbling enough to make me refrain from entering the fray, it's still all I can do to restrain myself from trotting out all my favorite arguments on the topic (FWIW, I'm anti-death-penalty, and that alone tells you everything I might ever have said).

Nothing will change as a result of anything anyone says here. Certainly the death penalty won't stay or go because of anything we say. Nobody shows any sign of being willing to budge from their position. So at best, this whole discussion can only really be a sort of entertainment. A 'rousing political discussion'. We are amusing ourselves (yes, I'm doing it too--I may be quite the righteously indignant bastard right now, but I've been reading this thread since it started, and will probably continue to do so).

Two girls are dead, killed in an insane, absurd, horrible incident by someone who they should have been able to trust above all others, killed while their mother had to listen to them die, unable to do anything to help them.

For us, this provides an opportunity for: entertainment.

Try to be quiet for a few minutes and think about how that could have happened.
posted by moss at 12:49 AM on May 5, 2001


well, moss, I think there's more here than that. While I agree no one's opinions are likely to have changed as a result of the thread, there's value in catharsis. If you read the comments, you can feel people's hearts pouring out for the poor girls and their mother, regardless of political opinions and positions. There's a shared sense of frustration at our inability to understand how something like this could happen - I hope to God it is outside the realm of any of our experiences - much less to do anything about it. And there's always value in open community discussion with intelligent contributors; I learned a few things about crime statistics along the way. The bottom line is that we gain some equilibrium from sharing our mutual lack of understanding (it's not just me, everybody else thinks this is horrible and unexplainable too), and I don't see the writers above treating it as "entertainment". If it makes you read things you've never read before, if it gets you to listen and consider other views about root causes, preventions and remedies that you might not have encountered before, if it makes you think, it's worthwhile.
posted by JParker at 1:18 AM on May 5, 2001


davidmsc: if the death penalty were ever to be barred, I honestly believe that an "Escape From New York" solution might be tenable. Similar to the reference earlier in this chain, find a suitably horrid island far from civilization, replete with venomous snakes, monitor lizards, funnel-web spiders, etc, and then drop the true baddies off

Australia II? ;-)
posted by frednorman at 4:06 AM on May 5, 2001


Damn criminals is what those blokes are.

Subject them to the ludavico treatment, the most un-humane thing for them really.
posted by tiaka at 6:16 AM on May 5, 2001


I could always say I did not believe in capital punishment until I had a son of my own. Now, I'm not so firm in my belief. The maternal instinct is extremely stong.

I'm in the same position, Thinkdink. It was a lot easier for me to be unequivocal in my opposition to the death penalty before I had all these protective parental instincts bouncing around my head. Now that I do, the idea that someone could kill children and live in prison with the potential to be released someday (as Kenneth McDuff was) is hard to stomach. I won't be shedding a tear for Timothy McVeigh on May 16.

This makes me a death penalty supporter, a position I become increasingly uncomfortable with as I read about the legal history of the people slated to die in upcoming months.

I encourage other supporters to learn about upcoming executions by visiting these sites: As you read about how death penalty cases are pursued in this country, it becomes evident that we are killing people largely because their lawyers were incompetent, biased or non-existent.

Walter Mickens, who is on Virginia's Death Row, was represented in court by an attorney who had recently represented his alleged victim. The judge knew about this conflict of interest but appointed the attorney to represent Mickens anyway.

Thomas D. Arthur, on Alabama's Death Row, was scheduled to die April 26 despite the fact that he was never assigned an attorney for federal review of his 1991 conviction. Alabama does not guarantee death row inmates representation throughout the appellate process.

George McFarland, on Texas Death Row, was sentenced to death despite the fact that his attorney slept through almost his entire trial. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in 1996 that this did not violate McFarland's Sixth Amendment right to effective, competent counsel.

As you read about the people scheduled to die, you get a much clearer perspective on the slipshod manner in which this country carries out capital punishment and the extremely limited manner in which courts assure the rights of the condemned to a fair trial.
posted by rcade at 7:58 AM on May 5, 2001


Actually, I think I have the perfect solution to this. A two-prong plan.

1) A new check box on the yearly tax return: "Check here if you want to donate $5.00 to the care and upkeep of convicted life optional offenders. Your money will go towards the feeding, housing and quality of life of those who have been convicted of crimes that forces their permanent removal from society."

2) Sally Struthers. "Death Row: here in these grey walls are men and women who have been fated to depend on your contributions to their survival. For $15 dollars a month, you can provide food, lodging and adequate medical care...."

Those who believe that it is the duty of mankind to preserve life regardless of crime can pay for their values. Those that don't won't be burdened.
posted by resigned at 8:19 PM on May 5, 2001


Very good, resigned, and those of us who didn't vote for Bush can begin forming our splinter republic right now, eh?
posted by EngineBeak at 8:35 PM on May 5, 2001


I'm in both groups. Where the hell do I go?
posted by owillis at 10:49 PM on May 5, 2001


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