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Capital punishment

Join us for two hours of "cafe-style" philosophizing over dinner of contemporary Persian cuisine.

Hosted by Bernard Roy, founder, 16th year of hosting "cafe-style" philosophy conversations.

Moderated by Jack Krupansky.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • A former member
    A former member

    Are the concerns about capital punishment more of a moral quality or more pragmatic in nature?

    Are we concerned more about its impact on the defendant or on society?

    July 10, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    If we are going to have capital punishment, should it be a calm, quiet, private, sanitary kind of thing, or... a garish, brutal, gory, and very public spectacle?

    Should executions be televised?

    Should executions be webcast on the Internet?

    July 9, 2014

    • A former member
      A former member

      I left out a key word, so let we revise that first question as: "If we are going to have capital punishment, should it be a calm, quiet, private, sanitary, and PAINLESS kind of thing, or... a garish, brutal, gory, PAINFUL, and very public spectacle?"

      July 10, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Do drone attacks and "targeted assassination" or "targeted killing" fall under "capital punishment"?

    Maybe that is more of a technicality. I mean, it may be capital punishment if it is done under the auspices of a court of law, the judicial system, but not if it is done by "extrajudicial means", like national self-defense.

    Either way, it is worth adding into the mix of discussion.

    A broader discussion might include warfare and law enforcement, and ask the question of whether or when social authorities have the right to take a human life. For that matter, we can also ask whether or when even an individual can legitimately take a human life.

    Even in countries or states which have "banned" capital punishment, there may indeed still be situations such as warfare, law enforcement, and self defense, where taking a human life is still permitted or accepted.

    June 30, 2014

    • Tim C.

      Very thought provoking questions Jack. I look forward to an interesting discussion

      July 10, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    There is the matter of whether the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution should prohibit capital punishment:

    "Article the tenth... Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."

    July 9, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Is capital punishment really a story about laws and enforcement or more about human nature and cultural conditioning?

    July 9, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Those of us in the older generation(s) need to be doing a better job of turning over the reins to the younger generations - I'm far less interested in seeing people over 60 or 50 or even 40 dictating to "the kids", in their 20's and 30's what their world should look like.

    So, the motivations for capital punishment is decades past is far less significant than what kind of world we are trying to create for the decades to come.

    July 8, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    The past and future of capital punishment in America:

    "Gruesome Spectacles - Botched executions and the future of America’s death penalty."

    "The question of the death penalty today is not just what the death penalty does for us but rather what the death penalty does to us, and the damage that the system is doing to American values...

    What do you see as the future of the death penalty in this country?

    I think the death penalty is in decline and that we are on the road to abolition. It’s not going to happen quickly and it’s not necessarily going to happen with a grand gesture. The death penalty is becoming the prerogative of a few states, and even within those states of a few places. In a process where we’ll go two steps forward, one step back, we’re going to see the abolition of the death penalty if not in my lifetime then in the lifetime of my children."

    See:
    http://failuremag.com/feature/article/gruesome-spectacles/

    July 7, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Questions of racial bias in capital punishment. The ACLU says "racial discrimination permeates the capital punishment system."

    See:
    https://www.aclu.org/capital-punishment/race-and-death-penalty-0

    July 7, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    July 7, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    "U.S. Edges Closer to Europe in Attitude Toward Capital Punishment, Experts Say"

    "On the eve of World War I, a laborer in Algiers robbed and killed a farm family, including young children, in a bloody frenzy. A farm worker in French Algeria, Lucien Camus, was outraged.

    “It was generally thought that decapitation was too mild a punishment for such a monster,” the writer Albert Camus, his son, observed much later.

    The elder Camus felt compelled to witness the public execution. Afterward, his wife recounted, he “came rushing home, his face distorted, refused to talk, lay down for a moment on the bed, and suddenly began to vomit.” Instead of thinking of the dead children, “he could think of nothing but that quivering body that had just been dropped onto a board to have its head cut off.”"

    See:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/17/world/europe/In-Europe-and-US-Divergent-Attitudes-Toward-Capital-Punishment.html?_r=0

    July 7, 2014

    • A former member
      A former member

      Continuing from the Times: "In an ABC-Washington Post poll released earlier this month, 60 percent of respondents said they backed the death penalty, down from a high of 80 percent in 1994. But for the first time in that poll, Americans given a choice between the death penalty and life in prison for convicted murderers preferred life, by 52 percent to 42 percent."

      July 7, 2014

    • A former member
      A former member

      Also from that Times piece: "A series of developments have now created new pressure to scale back or eliminate the death penalty in the United States, including problems carrying out executions through lethal injection, convictions that have proved improper, and court fights over whether inmates with limited intellectual capacity should be subject to capital punishment."

      July 7, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    "Capital punishment in Iran - A softer touch?"

    "IN APRIL a series of photographs capturing a pardon at the gallows of a noosed and blindfolded murderer by his victim’s family made front page news across the world when they were published in Iran’s state-controlled press. The mother and father of the teenage victim, Abdolah Hosseinzadeh, gave up their right to eye-for-an-eye retribution under Iran’s Islamic law, sparing Bilal Gheisarl’s life.

    ...

    In March and April five murderers were saved from an imminent hanging in the ancient eastern town of Neyshabur alone. In May, a young woman who had killed her mother-in-law was spared by the victim's family, as she had the noose around her neck. On June 9th another five were saved in Karaj prison, a notorious facility just north of Tehran.

    The Islamic Republic puts more people to death than anywhere in the world bar China..."

    See:
    http://www.economist.com/blogs/pomegranate/2014/06/capital-punishment-iran

    July 7, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    What criteria should be used to determine which crimes should be subject to capital punishment?

    Or maybe that should be reworded as "subject to life in prison?"

    Or maybe even reworded as "subject to a prison term of 20 years or longer?"

    For that matter, what degree of transgression should warrant a prison term greater than 10 years? or 10 years vs. 20 years vs. life vs. capital punishment?

    July 7, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    What reasonable role, if any, should "victims" or their families and friends have in any decisions about application of capital punishment?

    See:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victim_impact_statement

    In my view, none. The law should always be dispassionate - like the blindfold of "lady Justice", to represent objectivity.

    See:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lady_Justice

    To me, the current fashion for victim family members and friends to appeal to the court seriously undermines the whole "justice for society" approach to justice, law enforcement, and the courts.

    To me, it smacks of raw, naked, unadulterated vengeance and should have no role in "justice."

    July 6, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    With any non-capital punishment there is always opportunity for the government to later say "Oops, we made a mistake, so now we'll set you free", but with capital punishment the government and the defendant need to expend an extraordinary level of energy, time, and expense since there is no opportunity for a "do-over." Hence, we have people languishing on death row for years and even decades in order to "be sure", and even then there is frequently only a weak sense of certainty.

    To me, it's more of a practical matter, that capital punishment is impractical.

    July 5, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    What exactly is the specific benefit to society of:

    1. Having capital punishment on the books.
    2. Threatening to call for capital punishment in a specific case.
    3. A sentence of capital punishment in a specific case.
    4. The carrying out of an execution in a specific case.

    July 5, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    The most famous instance of capital punishment, at least for philosophers, was of course Socrates being sentenced to death for "impious acts."

    See:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trial_of_Socrates

    July 5, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    I'm wondering if capital punishment is simply a holdover from more primitive times. I mean, at least to me, life in prison seems rather effective and even satisfying.

    Back in the old days, like tribes in Africa and elsewhere, long-term incarceration was simply not an option to separate a dangerous person from society. Their choices were:

    1. Corporal punishment - like cutting off a hand or putting out an eye.
    2. Exile - throw the person out of the group, where they would be unlikely to survive on their own (except to the degree that they might hook up with other exiles.)
    3. Shunning - permitted to physically survive within the group, but socially be effectively "dead."

    In that kind of environment, the death penalty had very real practical advantages and benefits, especially for protecting the group from future aggression from a bad actor who could not be controlled.

    And one other choice: The aggressor becomes the group leader, to the extent that others can still survive and thrive.

    July 5, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    I don't have any precise recollection of when I first heard of capital punishment as a child. I know that it was not a topic that ever came up in my home or in school. Sure, movies and TV certainly depicted hangings and firing squads from the wild west and wars, but no references to modern executions that I recall.

    My first memory of modern capital punishment was seeing a picture of the New Jersey electric chair. I'm not sure, but it may have been in LIFE magazine. I may have been 10 or 12 years old or so at the time. That may have been just after the last electrocution in NJ, in 1963.

    My visceral feeling about capital punishment (especially electrocution) has always been that it is exceedingly barbaric. Life in prison seems enough to me.

    I was just graduating from high school in 1972 when the Supreme Court suspended capital punishment. I don't recall hearing a lot about capital punishment while I was in high school.

    June 30, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    What are the arguments in favor of the death penalty as opposed to life imprisonment with no chance for parole?

    I don't have any problem with Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, which killed six people, serving a 240 year life term in a "Supermax" prison in Florence, Colorado.

    Terry Nichols, co-conspirator of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing is also serving life at the Florence Supermax prison. The Unabomber is serving life there as well. But, Timothy McVeigh, the main culprit of the Oklahoma City bombing was executed. Personally, I wouldn't mind if he was serving for life at Florence as well.

    The open question right now is what we will ever do with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. I presume that he will be executed, but once again I have no problem with even his level of offense being imprisoned for life.

    I suspect that vengeance is the motivation when people are super-obsessed with keeping and using the death penalty.

    June 28, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Two separate questions:

    1. Is capital punishment acceptable in modern society?

    2. What level of offense - where is the dividing line - should deserve the death penalty?

    June 28, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    When the topic of "capital punishment" comes up, my first thoughts are:

    1. Punishment.
    2. Deterrence.
    3. Inhumane treatment.
    4. Vengeance.

    My second thought is that in order to make sense of capital punishment we need to delve deeper into "crime and punishment."

    Interesting that "deterrence" isn't included in that phrase. I mean, one of the primary arguments in favor of capital punishment is deterrence. OTOH, punishment in general seems to have a deterrence aspect, although technically it is restricted to making someone "suffer", which is an after the fact effect.

    June 28, 2014

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