Thursday, August 23, 2007

Justice, Texas Style

 
Reuters is reporting that the State of Texas has just executed it's 400th convicted criminal since 1982 [Texas executes 400th person since 1982].

The Governor's office issued a statement in response to criticism of the large number of executions in Texas.
Texans long ago decided that the death penalty is a just and appropriate punishment for the most horrible crimes committed against our citizens.
I suspect this is true. Texans probably do support the death penalty. That's not the point. The point is why are there are so many more executions in Texas compared to other states with the death penalty and why is the USA one of the few "civilized" nations to permit executions of their own citizens?

I don't know the answers to these questions. Does anyone else?

27 comments :

  1. why is the USA one of the few "civilized" nations to permit executions of their own citizens?

    Don't the quotation marks already answer the question?

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  2. Murder seems to be the culture of Texas. They have a high citizen on citizen murder rate and high state murder rate.

    What I find so hypocritical are those that consider using a few human cells for research wrong and immoral, yet sanction state murder (execution).

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  3. I went to my last two years of high school in Austin, Texas, and I got my Ph. D. there (mathematics).

    Austin is something of an oasis for the state; it went for Kerry in 2004 (though it went for Bush in 2000).

    Anyway, the social climate of the state as a whole has hurt the University of Texas. UT wants to attract top talent, but many of the elite scientists are put off by the draconian social atmosphere of the state as a whole.

    tidbit: as a graduate student, I used to ride the elevator up with Stephen Weinberg (I didn't know who he was at first...;-) )

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  4. Proportionate to the population, though? if we only mean the total number, that might not be remarkable.

    > What I find so hypocritical are those that consider using a few human cells for research wrong and immoral, yet sanction state murder (execution).

    Embryos are not convicted of rape and murder, and would you say soldiers always commit murder when they fire a gun, or that no one should use lethal force in self-defense? Policemen?

    I think in those instances you could say there was a penalty of death being applied.

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  5. The point is why are there are so many more executions in Texas compared to other states with the death penalty and why is the USA one of the few "civilized" nations to permit executions of their own citizens?

    I don't know the answers to these questions. Does anyone else?


    We could say that one mark of civilization is upholding principles of justice. One of those principles could require retribution that is proportionate to the severity of the crime. On that principle, if murder is the worst offence one person can commit against another, then it should incur the worst punishment, which would be execution. On that basis, the US and Texas are more civilized than those states who wimp out from fulfilling their duty of justice to the victims.

    Of course, this all depends on what you mean by justice. If it means some sort of Chamberlainite appeasement of evil then execution is probably wrong.

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  6. Ian H Spedding said,

    We could say that one mark of civilization is upholding principles of justice. One of those principles could require retribution that is proportionate to the severity of the crime.

    Hmmm ... I'm beginning to see the problem. Perhaps Texans don't know the difference between retribution and justice. That would explain a lot.

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  7. > Perhaps Texans don't know the difference between retribution and justice.

    Well, locking a person away until they die, how is this not retribution, and not more punishment than death by execution?

    I'm not sure how this option is distinguished as justice.

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  8. Ian

    On that basis, the US and Texas are more civilized than those states who wimp out from fulfilling their duty of justice to the victims.

    You could at least have made a token criticism of Texan practice; just for the sake of consistency. After all, in another place, you have argued that you only support the death penalty where guilt is proved to a far higher standard than for non-capital crime (essentially beyond any doubt, reasonable or otherwise), with guaranteed high-quality legal representation and a mandatory appeal process. None of that applies in Texas - particularly if you are black.

    You said:
    On that principle, if murder is the worst offence one person can commit against another, then it should incur the worst punishment, which would be execution.

    Whereas lee said:

    Well, locking a person away until they die, how is this not retribution, and not more punishment than death by execution?

    Could you supporters of judicial murder get your story straight?

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  9. > Could you supporters of judicial murder get your story straight?

    Yet my question was a question, and not a claim that one is more or less than the other.

    So would you like to address my question about soldiers and policemen? Are they judicial murderers when they fire a gun?

    Certainly there is injustice and often in America this has been in regard to race, however, an unjust administration of a penalty does not then mean there should be no such penalty.

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  10. Lee

    Yet my question was a question, and not a claim that one is more or less than the other.

    Yet the question was phrased as one expecting the answer yes - as a rhetorical question assuming that answer. If you believe that life imprisonment is in fact less punishment than capital punishment, then you no longer disagree with Ian on the point - but nevertheless the contrary view is often put by supporters of capital punishment - often at the same time as arguing that death is the supreme punishment. Self-contradictory, I know, but there you go.

    Reasonable use of lethal force in self-defence (either of your own or another's life, and by extension in defence of your country) is justifiable, but irrelevant to the issue.

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  11. > If you believe that life imprisonment is in fact less punishment than capital punishment...

    Well, it depends on the prison! and on the person, I heard one say "If someone had little ambition, you might well be happy to stay in jail the rest of your life", or words to that effect.

    But the claim is made one way by one side as a rule, and yes, those who make a claim should justify it, on both sides.

    On what basis is locking a person in a box until they die more just than execution?

    And lethal force under the law sounds to me like administrating a punishment, as is shooting rubber bullets, or forcible restraint. You do this, the law allows or may require you get this, reading a person their rights would be justice, handcuffs may be, too.

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  12. lee_merrill asks,

    Well, locking a person away until they die, how is this not retribution, and not more punishment than death by execution?

    It is retribution and I'm opposed to it.

    Furthermore, in a civilized society, life imprisonment should not be a fate worse than execution. The fact that you think it is speaks volumes about the quality of your prison system and the emphasis on retribution instead of justice.

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  13. Larry Moran said...

    Hmmm ... I'm beginning to see the problem. Perhaps Texans don't know the difference between retribution and justice. That would explain a lot.

    I'm intrigued. How would you define the difference between justice and retribution?

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  14. Robin Levett said...

    Ian

    You could at least have made a token criticism of Texan practice; just for the sake of consistency. After all, in another place, you have argued that you only support the death penalty where guilt is proved to a far higher standard than for non-capital crime (essentially beyond any doubt, reasonable or otherwise), with guaranteed high-quality legal representation and a mandatory appeal process. None of that applies in Texas - particularly if you are black.


    If Texan practices fall below the standards I sketched out then they should certainly be raised. Of course, that doesn't have any bearing on whether or not the death penalty is just.

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  15. Ian H Spedding FCD,

    I'm intrigued. How would you define the difference between justice and retribution?

    The fact that you have to ask confirms my worst fears. Those who support the death penalty don't know the difference.

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  16. Larry Moran said...

    Furthermore, in a civilized society, life imprisonment should not be a fate worse than execution. The fact that you think it is speaks volumes about the quality of your prison system and the emphasis on retribution instead of justice.

    If life imprisonment should not be worse than execution, how much better should it be? Should it be equivalent to staying at a good motel, for example? If you think it should be harsher, that would imply an element of that retribution of which you disapprove so strongly, would it not?

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  17. Ian H Spedding FCD asks,

    If life imprisonment should not be worse than execution, how much better should it be? Should it be equivalent to staying at a good motel, for example?

    I'm opposed to life imprisonment except in very unusual situations.

    All prisoners should be kept in conditions that are equivalent to staying in a good motel. The ultimate goal is to release them back into society where they can function as good citizens and it does not serve that goal to treat them badly while they are incarcerated.

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  18. Larry Moran said...

    I'm opposed to life imprisonment except in very unusual situations.

    All prisoners should be kept in conditions that are equivalent to staying in a good motel. The ultimate goal is to release them back into society where they can function as good citizens and it does not serve that goal to treat them badly while they are incarcerated.


    So you are saying that, for you, justice equals rehabilitation, nothing more?

    Crimes, however, are acts involving both offenders and victims. What does your concept of justice offer the latter?

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  19. Can you explain how maltreating an offender helps his victim? If you can't, then in what does the "justice" consist?

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  20. Larry Moran said...
    Ian H Spedding FCD,

    "I'm intrigued. How would you define the difference between justice and retribution?"

    The fact that you have to ask confirms my worst fears. Those who support the death penalty don't know the difference.


    You seem reluctant to explain your concept of justice. Perhaps you don't have one?

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  21. Steve LaBonne said...

    Can you explain how maltreating an offender helps his victim?

    That depends on what you mean by "help". A murder victim is plainly beyond our help but some of the victim's family and friends might be greatly comforted by the knowledge that the person who caused them so much loss and suffering would never be in a position to do the same to anyone else.

    But let's take your question at face value. No, maltreating a killer will not help his victim in any way, neither will executing him or doing anything else to him. So, presumably, we should just let him go? The fact that there is good reason to believe he might offend again is still not sufficient reason for detaining him, is it? You can't take action against someone for a crime that has not yet been committed.

    If you can't, then in what does the "justice" consist?

    Exactly what I'm asking you since your comments imply that we should do nothing. Capital punishment is out and any lesser sanction can easily be tagged as "maltreatment". What does that leave that could conceivably be called justice?

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  22. A murder victim is plainly beyond our help but some of the victim's family and friends might be greatly comforted by the knowledge that the person who caused them so much loss and suffering would never be in a position to do the same to anyone else.

    That's not even a good try. Larry's imprisonment conditions resembling a good motel accomplish that. What I was asking you is, what's the added value to the victims and their families from making prisons nasty places. Or are you tacitly declining to defend that practice? Good for you if so, but why not come out and say it openly?

    And to answer your question, the only sane meaning of "justice" that I could possibly see in this context is precisely and simply insuring that the offender would "never be in a position to do the same to anyone else", preferably by rehabilitating him where possible. (If you prepare them to contribute to society instead of abusing them, it even opens the possibility for them to provide some financial restitution.)

    Those who imagine it's somehow possible to re-balance the cosmic scales after a crime (a yearning that is clearly a byproduct of childhood religious brainwashing even in people who have ostensibly left religion behind) are pursuing a chimera, and this pursuit will ultimately drive them mad and lad them to commit crimes themselves- e.g. judicial murder.

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  23. Steve LaBonne said...

    That's not even a good try. Larry's imprisonment conditions resembling a good motel accomplish that. What I was asking you is, what's the added value to the victims and their families from making prisons nasty places. Or are you tacitly declining to defend that practice? Good for you if so, but why not come out and say it openly?

    Larry's prison motel does nothing of the sort. He has already stated his opposition to life imprisonment, so his 'guests' can expect to be released at some time in the future, regardless of their offences.

    As for rehabilitation, we have too many examples of innocent people who have payed with their lives for the inability of doctors to guarantee that an offender has been completely cured of their previous criminal tendencies to put much faith in it.

    And to answer your question, the only sane meaning of "justice" that I could possibly see in this context is precisely and simply insuring that the offender would "never be in a position to do the same to anyone else", preferably by rehabilitating him where possible. (If you prepare them to contribute to society instead of abusing them, it even opens the possibility for them to provide some financial restitution.)

    You talk about a concept of "justice" in which a murder is morally indistinguishable from a death caused by drunken driving and call it 'sane'?

    And how do you rehabilitate someone, particularly if they are unwilling to co-operate, without detaining and coercing them, both of which constitute 'maltreatment' under your scheme?

    Those who imagine it's somehow possible to re-balance the cosmic scales after a crime (a yearning that is clearly a byproduct of childhood religious brainwashing even in people who have ostensibly left religion behind) are pursuing a chimera, and this pursuit will ultimately drive them mad and lad them to commit crimes themselves- e.g. judicial murder.

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  24. Ooops! Hit the "Publish" button instead of the "Preview" button.

    Those who imagine it's somehow possible to re-balance the cosmic scales after a crime (a yearning that is clearly a byproduct of childhood religious brainwashing even in people who have ostensibly left religion behind) are pursuing a chimera, and this pursuit will ultimately drive them mad and lad them to commit crimes themselves- e.g. judicial murder.

    I assume you believe in human rights and the rule of law. What do they mean with no means of enforcing them, with no sanctions against those who break those laws or violate the rights of others?

    More specifically, suppose someone murders a person - or even animal - dear to me. I find the killer and kill him or her in what I believe to be an entirely justifiable response. Under your and Larry's scheme, all I face is a temporary stay in a comfortable prison motel, talking amiably with psychiatrists until I am released.

    Not a problem.

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  25. Larry's prison motel does nothing of the sort. It gets them off the street for exactly the same amount of time as the same sentence in an overcrowded, rape-ridden penitentialry. I'm beginning to suspect bad faith in your refusal to address this. Espeially since this is a plain lie: Exactly what I'm asking you since your comments imply that we should do nothing.

    Your thoughts on rehabilitation are worthless until it's actually tried. Today's US prisons are exactly the opposite, universities of crime.

    And your words make it quite clear that you are actually talking about retribution and not "justice", but you are clearly too much of a moral coward to say and defend this openly. Therefore, I will not waste any more time responding.

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  26. ...lethal force under the law sounds to me like administrating a punishment, as is shooting rubber bullets, or forcible restraint. You do this, the law allows or may require you get this, reading a person their rights would be justice, handcuffs may be, too.

    Then you have a tin ear. Lethal force is only legitimate when reasonably used in defence of the user or others - that simply isn't punishment. Your definition stretches the word punishment to include, for example, the award of a PhD.

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  27. Ian

    I said

    You could at least have made a token criticism of Texan practice; just for the sake of consistency.

    to which you responded:

    If Texan practices fall below the standards I sketched out then they should certainly be raised.

    "If"? Stop digging, Ian, you're getting deeper. Just admit that you equate justice with vengeance and get it over with.

    You also said to Larry:

    You seem reluctant to explain your concept of justice. Perhaps you don't have one?

    Justice is a proces, not an outcome.

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