Saturday, June 02, 2007

End State-sanctioned Murder

There’s an interesting article in today’s Staunton News Leader by Terry Shulman about the history of the death penalty in Virginia. One tidbit, which Shulman learned from the Death Penalty Information Center, is that since Virginia’s first execution in 1608, 1,277 people have been put to death here, more than any other state. Quite an achievement. And here’s the conclusion he reaches:
There can be no doubt, thanks especially to the ever-increasing number of DNA exonerations nationwide, that not all those who have been put to death in Virginia were guilty of the offenses they were executed for.
Doesn't this mean that if the state hangs, electrocutes or lethally injects an innocent person, it is no less a murderer than the individual who takes innocent life? And if we the people are the state, doesn't that make us murderers as well?
This seems absolutely right to me. It’s only part of the case against the death penalty, but it’s powerful. If the citizens of Virginia respect life as much as we claim to, how can we continue this barbaric practice?

8 comments:

James Young said...

"There can be no doubt, thanks especially to the ever-increasing number of DNA exonerations nationwide, that not all those who have been put to death in Virginia were guilty of the offenses they were executed for."

Really? OK. Name one.

You can't? Therein lies the point.

Clifford Garstang said...

James,
As "points" go, that's not much of one. First, I was quoting from the article; it's not my comment. Second, the statement implies a high degree of probability given both the long history of executions in this state and the experience elsewhere. Since DNA-based exonerations are a recently available tool, the writer believes (and I agree) that it is extremely likely that over the last 400 years one or more of those 1,277 executed prisoners who could not call upon DNA evidence because no one had heard of it, was executed wrongly.
Have you been disbarred yet, James?

James Young said...

Oh, foresooth! Clifford, a logically-challenged writer, challenges my professional credential!

If you want to argue against the death penalty, make a principled argument. There are some good, respectable ones, though ones with which I disagree. Suggesting that the innocent have been executed is simply self-serving speculation. It is the intellectual equivalent of autoeroticism. Come up with evidence of an actually innocent person who has been executed, and you might have a point. Until you do, society should not bother to indulge your speculative fantasies.

Clifford Garstang said...

James,
Feel free to stay away if you aren't interested in what I have to say. I have made other arguments against the death penalty in other posts on this blog if you'd like to scroll through, including the fact that the death penalty serves no deterrent effect, and is therefore merely societal revenge. But on the argument at hand--again, James, made by the writer of the article I linked to because I thought it was worthwhile to note--the mere possibility of an innocent life being taken ought to give all but the bloodthirsty (you, apparently) pause. The more "principled" stand, though, is that taking a life is wrong, and taking a life in the name of revenge is barbaric.
As for logic, I'll stake mine against yours any day of the week, from what I've seen on your blog. But with any kind of luck, you won't return here since you find the atmosphere so speculative, and I won't have to prove it. Again.

Clifford Garstang said...

And furthermore . . .

I gave you the link to the DPIC, where you can examine the arguments at your leisure, but I'll do a little of the work for you:

"Joseph O'Dell Virginia Conviction: 1986, Executed: 1997
New DNA blood evidence has thrown considerable doubt on the murder and rape conviction of O'Dell. In reviewing his case in 1991, three Supreme Court Justices, said they had doubts about O'Dell's guilt and whether he should have been allowed to represent himself. Without the blood evidence, there is little linking O'Dell to the crime. In September, 1996, the 4th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals reinstated his death sentence and upheld his conviction. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review O'Dell's claims of innocence and held that its decision regarding juries being told about the alternative sentence of life-without-parole was not retroactive to his case. O'Dell asked the state to conduct DNA tests on other pieces of evidence to demonstrate his innocence but was refused. He was executed on July 23rd."

DPIC notes that it is nearly impossible to get courts to focus on such cases once the defendant is already dead. For more information about possible executions of the innocent, go here.

kestrel9000 said...

Who...who is this James Young person?
That having been asked, some very simple arguments against the death penalty:
1) Two wrongs don't make a right.
2) You cannot teach that killing is wrong by killing those who kill.
3)Anybody with money can buy their way out of the death penalty, if not the conviction itself. Did OJ ever find the real killers? And what was that millionaire's name who chopped up the bodyu of his victim yet was only convicted of mutilation of a corpse?
4)We are the only civilized Western nation that has not abandoned the death penalty, to the best of my knowledge.
5)The death penalty does not serve as a deterrent. Prove me wrong.
6)If the death penalty is morally correct, then why are executions carried out in the dead of night in most cases, out of the camera's eye, and the executioner's identities concealed?
I could go on.....

kestrel9000 said...

Never mind my question.
I looked at his blog.
"Jeezum Crow", as we say up in Vermont.
Mouth breathing knuckle dragger.
They're out there.....

Clifford Garstang said...

"James Young" claims to be a lawyer, but then "John Maxfield" claimed to be a lawyer, too, and we know how that fraud turned out. "James Young," whether or not he really is licensed to practice law, is a typical Reactionary--a venomous idealogue whose idea of a debate is calling someone "illogical" or "kooky" (a la Bill O'Reilly) without actually examining the issue, without offering any proof, and without offering any logical argument of his own. In other words, a standard issue ROR (a rodent of the right).