Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Blankley: black robes and betrayal

The Supreme Court jabbed hard into one of my supreme sore spots when they ruled that juvenile executions were unconstitutional yesterday. I've made several attempts in the past to write on capital punishment, and to be honest, I'm disappointed that there are so many conservatives who are opposed to it.

This time, I'd like to call attention to Tony Blankley's piece in response to the decision.

The gist of the majority's analysis is that whether the crime is constitutionally "unusual" depends on whether "evolving standards of decency" have reached the point in our history when such punishment has been clearly rejected by society.

It happens that only 15 years ago, the Supreme Court found that the kind of statute in question was constitutional. But, rather than overturning that case, yesterday, the court found that in the last 15 years, a national consensus against such punishment had emerged.
Do read the details that Blankley provides. It's sure to leave many squirming in their seats.

I'm sure he and I are far from alone in our outrage that those who have willfully destroyed the very image of God should still be allowed to continue in the same image... It's bad enough that there are any murder convicts who are not swiftly and efficiently dispatched from this earth, but now we have created yet another rule with no basis--to allow one person undeserved life while executing others with no difference but age is completely irrational.

I think most will agree that in the minds of those who have made this irrational rule, there is only one remedy for this new contradiction--and that is to ban the death penalty altogether.

It's coming. Unless there are people willing to take a stand for the sanctity of life, we will soon see the value of our lives fall from priceless to a standard 20 years of enforced welfare behind bars.
<< Home 12 Comments:
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indeed, I could see capital punishment being banned - after all, "elightened" Canada has banned it for years already. Just think, in a few years you could see not only capital punishment being banned, but also someone who beat a man to death with a baseball bat getting only five (or was it three?) years in jail. Just think of how evolved American society could get! Seriously, though, although I somewhat agree with the idea that those under 18 might not fully understand their crimes, the basis for getting rid of laws should be the truth of arguments for or against, not the changing beliefs of society. Truth is not democratic - it's absolute.

5:14 PM, March 02, 2005  
Blogger Chris said...

This is political, Mark!!!! I thought we were on a roll! Oh,well.... It was interesting though....

7:54 PM, March 02, 2005  
Blogger Rebekah said...

Okay, I've got to say it. I work with babies 2-3 years old to earn my daily bread (I suppose you can call me a "baby-sitter" if you insist) and I make it a point to make and maintain friendships with many, yes, children. Some of them are 6, 7, maybe 8 years old. I have never met ONE of them that did not understand right and wrong. Even a little two-year-old baby knows that hitting is naughty and knows even better that he/she deserves to be punished for it. I am a seventeen-year-old conservative and I can tell you that if I went out tonight and hacked someone to pieces, I would understand completely the crime that I comitted--teenagers are not stupid. They are just as responsible for their actions as any twenty-year-old. So there! No Mark I'm not blowing at you--just expressing to the void my exasperation at the absurdity of it all!

9:00 PM, March 02, 2005  
Blogger Chris said...

Wow, that was big... I can't believe that you added me!!!! I feel so...related!!!! I laready was, of course, but I feel it now more than ever!!! Since I know what you will say when you read this, I will say it for you. What?!?!?!?!?

P.S. I'm as tall as you. Accept it.

3:13 PM, March 03, 2005  
Blogger Chris said...

I just read your "About You". Wow, someone else in the family likes paintball!!! This is exciting, although I don't know why. Oh, wait... I think Jesse has played it before... I can't remember... lol!

3:16 PM, March 03, 2005  
Blogger Chris said...

I wrote something serious on Monday. I know. I know. Yell at me all you want. But it was important.
Talk to ya later...

4:56 PM, March 03, 2005  
Blogger Wheelson said...

I'll assume when you talk about Murder you are using the legal definition of Murder.

So, are you saying that ALL murder convicts should be killed, regardless, for example, whether the murder was premeditated or not? A murder suspect should be killed regardless of other helpful testimony they might be able to offer?

However, I disagree that the court's argument is totally irrational. Yes, if you try to say 48% is a "consensus" that might be stretching things. However, taken in context, that 48% is among 38 states that allow capitol punishment. So, you could say 30 states have already banned executing children (those under 18) if you include the states that do not allow capitol punishment. So, that's 60% against.

Then among those that execute people under the age of 18, all remaining states still have age limits.

What is even more interesting is that Blankley is arguing about the irrationality of an age limit, yet his argument is based on the idea of an age limit. Namely he said nothing about abolishing the minimum legal age of 16. What if we were talking about that age?

In short Blankley is ignoring the fact that until this ruling, the United States was one of only eight countries in the world that sentenced juveniles to death. He never addressed that. The reason? Would you really want to side with Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Yemen when it comes to social justice issues?

5:16 PM, March 04, 2005  
Blogger Chris said...

I have to agree with Mark. Just because we are juveniles, it doesn't mean that we are stupid and incapable of controlling whatever might cause someone to "hack another person to pieces".
And, just because we are juveniles, it doesn't mean that we that we, having commited a crime, shouldn't be punished in the same way as an adult commiting the same crime. Sure some "underage" criminals may know important evidence concerning another crime, but that doesn't excuse what they did. And it shouldn't. Of course no one will probably read this, but I feel that I had to make a statement. Now that I have fulfilled that, I shall return to my blogger cave and continue to ponder the meaning of life.

8:44 PM, March 04, 2005  
Blogger Mark R said...


I see your distinction between premeditated murder and all other's as vague. If it is legally defined as "murder," that means they are guilty of a making a conscious decision to end human life--premeditated is a nice way of saying you thought about it longer.

If you are trying to confuse the issue with thoughts of "manslaughter," I'm sorry, because that has nothing to do with this discussion. Premeditation has nothing to do with this--murder is what it is, regardless of the circumstances.

No, I don't agree with age limits. Life is not that complicated and you can be sure equal capital punishment for all ages (for murder mind you) would be the forerunner to a much greater thoughtfulness on the part of young would-be murderers.

What? Am I supposed to care if Yemen administers capital punishment to all ages? I thought I was arguing that this was good? Whether they do or not is no issue. The only thing I would question is the reliability of their system of due process. Whether we impose similar punishments has nothing to do with whether they are deserved or just.

11:23 PM, March 04, 2005  
Blogger Wheelson said...

No, I wasn't trying to confuse the issue, I was simply making sure we were talking about the same thing...murder...and we are.

"Life is not that complicated..."
What do you mean? The life of the executed? How does this relate to the issue? I think a biologist would take issue with this statement, but it's not really important to the issue.

"and you can be sure equal capital punishment for all ages (for murder mind you) would be the forerunner to a much greater thoughtfulness on the part of young would-be murderers."

Um no I can't be sure. Do you have statistics to back up your claim?

Every year since 1997, the U.N. Human Rights Commission has passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on executions. "It is not prudent to accept the hypothesis," the commission states, "that capital punishment deters murder to a marginally greater extent than does the threat and application of the supposedly lesser punishment of life imprisonment."

"I have inquired for most of my adult life about studies that might show that the death penalty is a deterrent. And I have not seen any research that would substantiate that point."
- Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, January 2000

I would argue that that having the death penalty on the books would be even less effective at preventing a silly 16 year old from murdering someone. The fact that they're murdering someone shows that they aren't really capable of making well informed decisions about their actions. Do their ill informed decisions relieve them of responsibility? Certainly not. They do the crime, they must do the time.

But how old must someone be so that we expect them to be fully responsible for making well informed decisions? For, the logic goes if they are expected to make well informed decisions, yet they don't, and they are to be held fully accountable for their decisions they they can assume the full punishment. However it is not reasonable to expect them to be fully equipped to make good decisions, they they are still held responsible, just not as responsible as someone who is fully responsible.

What about a 13 year old, or a 5 year old? Should they be held accountable? Yes, but should we reasonably expect that they were fully equipped with the necessary life experience to make good decisions?

If a 5 year old murders someone, they may know that it is wrong, but how equipped were they to make a good decision about whether to commit murder in the first place? How equipped would they be to weigh the potential punishment or consequences against their actions?

The fact is, a majority of civilized, democratic societies have said it is a person 18 years of age and older who should be expected to be fully responsible for making well informed decisions about their actions. To expect people younger than that to be fully accountable (able to face the death penalty) is unreasonable and uncompassionate.

And should you care what Yemen does? I think you should. I think you should weigh how compassionate you are being compared with the government of China, for example. As I just asserted, expecting people younger than 18 to be fully accountable is uncompassionate. Is this a universal truth handed down from above? No, we discuss and debate about how old someone should be. In this day and age that line is drawn at 18. Why? Because that is where a majority of the people within civilized democratic societies say someone is fully equipped to be held fully responsible for their actions.

That is not irrational, it is simply a consensus which represents a time honored, rational and reasonable method of determining what is reasonable.

11:42 PM, March 07, 2005  
Blogger Mark R said...

My past research into death penalty statistics has been extensive. The result was a mixed bag which will take some time to review in-depth. The one thing I had a hard time finding is a study "proving" the ineffectiveness of capital punishment that was not backed by an organization already, committed to the abolition of CP (yes, Amnesty International too).

No, I don't respect Ms. Reno enough to take her word for it (two words: Davidians, Elian)

Also many deal with questionable figures. For example (just one): your link cites a study by "Keith Harries and Derral Cheatwood" who seem to think they should see a marked decrease in homicides for a full eight months after ONE execution if deterrence is to be proved. This alone shows a complete disconnect between what I mean by deterrence and what they are "studying." (not to mention a rediculous standard by itself--I understand they had other points but I don't have time to address them here)

When I say deterrence, I mean that any irreconcilable crime (like rape, murder, et al) following complete due process should merit swift and immediate execution. That would dramatically increase the number of initial executions--enough so that potential criminals would actually know for certain that the result of a murder is execution.

You can imagine why I would find it hard to find figures to prove deterrence can work: there aren't any places in the US where they practice CP on the scale that I endorse. I think it would be a profitable exercise to look at the crime stats in places where Islamic law requires swift execution of murderers. I have made a brief attempt at checking these figures but have come up short tonight. I'm willing to eat my words if I'm wrong but I'm pretty sure you will find a marginal murder rate in such places.

I hope I need not explain that I do not endorse the whole of what Islamic Law requires of its subjects.

Compassion? I think you know by now that I am guided by my understanding of biblical justice and the role a government can play in this regard. I hope I can honestly say that I feel compassion for everyone, even those who have signed away their right to life and, as John Locke put it, "declared war against all mankind."

Compassion is a pretty shaky standard if you ask me because, as you know, the public is always more willing to execute someone if they don't show remorse--a fact I find repulsive. The TV cameras focus intently during a murder trial on the face of the accused, hoping against hope that some kind of show to induce public sympathy will burst forth at some point.

I'm appalled when a man is convicted and sentenced to death and the judge mentions a lack of remorse as part of his reason for the sentence. Can you tell me how, with this kind of focus so rampant and influential on the fate of the accused, can effective deterrence take place?

Now about age limits... I'm going to withhold further comment because I don't think I'm ready to go into greater depth regarding your questions about 5-year-olds. It seems to me that you would be hard pressed to find an situation that could be defined as "murder" in a five-year-old. You mentioned 13, and I can assure you that I have no questions about that being an appropriate age for CP. Talk about incentive for parents to teach responsibility!

If I have a chance to clarify my thoughts on this, I will do so. Until then, thanks for taking me up on this. It's been good to revisit the issue and you (as usual) asked a host of thought provoking questions.

1:44 AM, March 08, 2005  
Blogger Wheelson said...

So you yourself say the results of investigation were a "mixed bag". That's all I was trying to say. You said I could "be sure" that CP would prevent murder and while it might be possible, I can not be sure so it's a tangential piece of the argument at best.

Compassion is a shaky standard. Which is why the court isn't using the standard of today. They're using the evolving standard of the past 15 years. They also aren't looking at the standard of one country. They are looking at the standard of lots of other countries that are like ours, democratic, industrialized countries.

Blankley's argument was about how none of that was relevant.

While I agree that once a crime is committed, whether the person is sorry afterward or not has nothing to do with anything other than them being sorry. If they did the crime and they are convicted, no matter how sorry they are or how converted they are, they get the death penalty. If death penalty proponents can't handle the idea of executing a converted individual then perhaps they should rethink using CP rather than making punishments fit a person's remorse level.

No, instead compassion is applied when we decide on the punishments BEFORE a crime is committed, not after. We don't set a punishment for one person and another punishment for another person (well, we do because of sentence negotiations, but that's unrelated to the argument). All things equal other than age, an 18 year old or a 45 year old will get the same sentence.

I'm glad you have no questions about executing a 13 year old. But I have questions for you that I have not heard you address and I look forward to you clarifying you thoughts at your leisure. My question for you is, is a 13 year old equally equipped with the proper life experience, education, maturity to be held fully accountable for their decisions? Notice I'm not advocating for them to be NOT held accountable, I'm just asking if they should be held FULLY accountable, as an 18 year old is. Again, all things equal other than age, is it reasonable to expect, in our day, age and society to hold a 13 year old equally accountable for their actions as a 45 year old (or the eyes of the law a 45 year old and 18 year old are equal, so using your logic you'd old a 13 year old just as accountable as the 45 year old).

And in return, hearing your thoughts on this issue has been thought provoking on my side as well. You made me think rather hard about my argument, and I must admit I had to leave many of my ideas on the cutting room floor because they didn't hold up. It's that process that makes these discussions worthwhile and I do thank you for taking the time to share your opinions.

10:08 AM, March 10, 2005  

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