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Capital Punishment

Introduction

One of the fundamental beliefs of this website is that you have a right to:
  • Life
  • Liberty and 
  • Property
So you would think that this page would speak out against Capital punishment. You have a right to life, so therefore the state may not take it away from you.

Its not that simple, you have a right to liberty, but if you commit a crime, you can lose your liberty and property, so then why not life?

No position is taken on whether the death penalty should be allowed. Only arguments put forth on the subject for review.

Capital punishment in relation to weaknesses in the justice system

Two mingled arguments

It has been said that "it is better to let 1000 murderers go free than to give 1 innocent person the death penalty".

This statement alludes to the accuracy of conviction and the punishment. These two things are completely separate.

Would the person making this claim also say that if you could know 100% if someone was guilty of murder that they should be executed? 
  • If not then their real argument is against capital punishment, not wrongful conviction.
  • If so then their real argument is against wrongful conviction.

Wrongful conviction is the more serious issue, as it leads to:
  • A murderer or criminal being on the loose
  • An innocent person being punished
It is in the interests of everyone except the actual perpetrator to make sure the judgement is not wrongful. Even then a perpetrator may wish for an effective justice system in general.

Is it any better to send someone wrongfully convicted to the rest of their life in jail, rather than execute them in a painless manor?

Imperfect world

There are far more deaths on the road due to car accidents that any death penalty. Yet it can all be stopped tomorrow, just abolish cars. This will never happen, we don't like it, but accept that with current technologies one of the prices of cars is that people will die in car accidents. Cars are an essential of modern life.
In court we know that wrongful convictions take place, yet courts are essential in modern life, although we do everything we can to stop them, we accept wrongful convictions as a part of the cost of legal system. 

Perverse effects of Capital punishment

No blood on my hands thanks

One of the dangers of capital punishment, is that when a jury has to release a verdict, they may prefer to call a guilt person innocent, rather than have to support capital punishment.

Changes in Eligibly 

Over time, what crimes has deserved the death penalty have changed depending on the rulers preferences.
Once it is established that the death penalty is acceptable, it is just a question of what crimes shall we make punishable by death.
Many countries have treason as punishable by death, but also dissent. Other countries create trumped up charges to shut up certain citizens once and for all.
Eventually the death penalty can be a form of intimation stopping freedom of speech.

Transference of the death penalty

If the Government finances both the justice system and the healthcare of its citizens, then it is conceivable that the cost of imprisoning a murderer for the rest of their life reduces the health service budget. It is then conceivable that mitigating the death penalty for a criminal, may be a death sentence for one or more people in receipt of public health.

The ultimate deterrent

 
Someone who receives the death penalty is guaranteed not to re-offend. A criminal who has committed a murder and released, may do so again. In this way not having the death penalty opens the society to having more crime.

Of course the death penalty works, the question is, is it the right thing to do. In theory it is suspected on average an offender will see the death penalty as worse than say 20yrs in prison. The same offender probably sees the punishment of 20 yrs greater than $50 fine.
However in practice
  • Offenders don't think they will be caught, and hence ignore any punishment offered
  • The death penalty is not a common enough for offenders to think it will happen to them if they commit the crime.

In terms of deterring potential crime, we don't know the net effect. If a criminal does not pre meditate the crime, or if the criminal gives no thought or believes they will not be caught, punishment will be no deterrent.
If a murderer knows the police are already looking for them, they will have complete disregard for the law, as they have nothing to lose, and may have no moral qualms about taking more lives to avoid detection.

Policing

The real issue is policing, if there was a policeman on every corner small punishments would deter the "sound minded" criminal.
That is an extreme example but we could train properly and hire enough law enforcement to bring down the unsolved crime rate to say below 10% you would see a lot less crimes happen.
 
Using the death penalty in conjunction with a well enforced and judged legal system would definitely deter all sound minds.

References

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