February 22, 2006

A powerful implicit argument against the death penalty.

A judge orders anesthesia for an execution by lethal injection, but anesthesiologists decline to participate.
[The judge] then said officials could go forward later in the day with a lethal dose of the sedative alone — administered by a licensed medical professional stationed within the execution chamber rather than by the usual "unseen hand" delivering the fatal drugs from another room.

But just two hours before the new, 7:30 p.m. time for the execution, a deputy attorney general told court officials that it had been called off.

San Quentin spokesman Crittendon said the state "was not able to find any medical professionals willing to inject medication intravenously, ending the life of a human being."
The doctors' behavior makes a powerful implicit argument against the death penalty.

95 comments:

Icepick said...

The doctors' behavior makes a powerful implicit argument against the death penalty.

I disagree. The doctors behavior makes a strong explicit argument that those committed to the preservation of life should not be asked to be executioners. Firing squads, gallows, electric chairs, etc. do not require medical personnel to operate.

The doctors behavior DOES make a strong implict argument against euthanasia and abortion, however.

Gaius Arbo said...

I see this as a judicial end-around on the will of the people. The judge knew full well that what he was demanding is against the ethics of the medical profession. This was a shameful display of judicial activism.

Verification: mylpj = BDUs for sleeping in.

ShadyCharacter said...

I'm confused, aren't there a whole bunch of abortionists in California who have no qualms about ending human life?

I know, I know, they normally work with tongs and a long needle, but don't forget about chemically induced abortions...

It's not like the hippocratic oath means anything these days to many doctors.

Balfegor said...

The doctors' behavior makes a powerful implicit argument against the death penalty.

In addition to the old prohibition on performing an abortion, the Hippocratic oath also prohibits intentional taking of human life generally, no?

Goesh said...

The hangman has always been underpaid, put it that way. Surely there are some starving undergrads or even the homeless who could step up to the plate here..we are talking civic duty with reimbursement, folks, the law is the law after all, ain't it? What is the hangsman's pay anyway? It sounds like it is about the same for jury duty, paltry.

Pete said...

Megadittoes to Icepick, gaius arbo, shadycharacter, and balfegor. (Sorry, goesh.)

I don't see the implicit argument in your quote, Ann. Have you time, and the inclination, to elaborate?

faster said...

Isn't lethal injection an invention of the medical profession? As far as I know it has always been physicians who have furthered the cause of lethal injection so this is confusing that they're now backing away from it. Maybe Ann is right that the tide is turning against the death penalty, at least among physicians.

PatCA said...

I agree with Icepick. I don't see where this makes an argument against the death penalty at all. Many doctors refuse to perform abortions because of their personal beliefs; no one ever argued that this amounts to an argument against abortion.

As if fears of being villified as the execution doctor were not enough, no reputable MD would do this at last minute notice, with no training and no protocol, for fear of messing it up. It would be nuts. There were prison officials who volunteered, but because of privacy concerns, they were denied.

I am no big death penalty supporter, but this judge is just the type of "activist" that the right is justifiably upset about. He's worried about the unproven pain that might occur just before a convicted murderer is killed?! Stunning.

Pat Patterson said...

In California there is now a movement to replace the word execution by calling the act state supported euthanasia. That should make the caring professionals happy.

Pastor_Jeff said...

Terri Winchell was unavailable for comment.

Sloanasaurus said...

If we are going to have the death penalty, the death should at least be as painful as the victims death.

Besides what difference does a little pain make. It is a dumb reason to get rid of the death penalty.

JimNtexas said...

This seems to confirm that it is not legal to require a pharmacy to dispense abortion inducing drugs.

ShadyCharacter said...

What in the world are you ranting about, Mary?

At least my rant up above was comprehensible. You just sound like a fruit-loop. If that wasn't your intention (and if you actually aren't a fruit-loop), could you be a little less cryptic next time?

Who knows, if you learned to communicate what you're feeling, you might just convince someone of something =)

Icepick said...

Mary, your point, such as it is, is assinine. There is little or no reason to show any sympathy for a rapist and killer. Or are the only people worthy of your scorn blog commenters?

Why don't you put a little love in your heart for the parents of the victim:

Crittendon also met with family members of 17-year-old Terri Winchell, whom Morales was convicted of murdering. "They took this very hard," Crittendon said.

Reached at her Lodi-area home, Terri Winchell's mother described herself as "knocked down" by the decision. It "was just like someone hit you in the stomach," Barbara Christian said. "You feel weak, and the pain hurts…. We have lived with a knife in our hearts for all these years, and this makes the knife even sharper."


Ah, screw the parents. They're just haters, too, right Mary?

MadisonMan said...

Besides what difference does a little pain make. It is a dumb reason to get rid of the death penalty.

Yeah, just ignore that 8th Amendment. Let's kneecap them too. After all, they're gonna die!

ShadyCharacter said...

On second thought, Mary might have a point worth considering. After all, if we could just embrace the following, "what a wonderful world this would be":

"I love you You love me
we're a happy family
with a great big hug and a kiss from me to you.
won't you say you love me too."

"all we need is love"

come on guys, join Mary in abandoning your critical faculties and embrace mindless sappy song lyrics as an organizing principal for society!

Icepick said...

Shady, I don't do sappy song lyrics. I do listen to Motorhead, though. Can we organize society around Motorhead lyrics?

Mary said...

See, your anger is so easy to manipulate and all. Like feeding candy to a baby.

Hint: It's not what I say; it's what you say that is so revealing. Hit me with your best shot, so to speak...

Icepick said...

Mary, you forgot to say "I'm rubber and you're glue...."

MadisonMan, the Founders, who wrote the VIII Amendment, didn't have a problem with the death penalty. (I believe the prefered method was hanging at that time.) So why do you think the VIII Amendment means that Morales can't be executed?

For reference:

Amendment VIII

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

PatCA said...

So does pain equate to "cruel and unusual" punishment?

BTW what do you think of hand chops and head chops as alternative modes of punishment, ala Saudi Arabia? I never hear a peep of criticism of those methods.

Shady,
All you have to do is "Imagine" and the world will be as one. Have a Coke! Mary, I don't mean to snub you by not answering you directly, but I just don't think you're for real. sorry.

dick said...

Mary,

And in the meantime you are quite willing to let this POS killer keep onbreathing while the victim of his horrendous crime cannot. Explain if you can why the murderer of an innocent victim deserves all this support while the victim he killed does not. You would stand out there for a Mumia or a Tookie but not for a Terri Winchell. Maybe you should look at your priorities???

Balfegor said...

Admit it: you people are focusing on your own hate and anger; you're just hiding behind the "it will help the surviving family" angle.

Uh, no one has said it will actually help the surviving family in this thread. If you read it closely, it's a chap quoting a news story in which the family themselves indicate that they are distressed. Now, you may think you know better than they do what's good for them (if we were to suppose the happiness of the victims' families relevant in the first place), but that seems awfully presumptuous.

Sadly, executing the killers does not bring back the ones killed,

Duh. Has someone claimed that when you kill the killer, then verily the dead shall rise?

and this peace that they have been promised and are holding out for, does not magically appear after execution.

I think it varies on a case by case basis. I suspect some people really do hate those who killed their loved ones, and exact great satisfaction from seeing their enemies laid low. But the law is not a vehicle for the exaction of private vengeance, so whether they do derive such a satisfaction or not is of small concern to us, I should think.

You would stand out there for a Mumia or a Tookie but not for a Terri Winchell. Maybe you should look at your priorities???

Well, be fair -- I rather doubt she's arguing that killers should be free to kill with impunity. There are quite a lot of punishments . . . well, no, actually. Now, there's really only one: imprisonment. But there's a range of punishments below execution, and she may consider those adequate, within the framework of the law. The particular victim, of course, is already dead, and no earthly punishment can revive him.

Elizabeth said...

BTW what do you think of hand chops and head chops as alternative modes of punishment, ala Saudi Arabia? I never hear a peep of criticism of those methods.

Pat, most Americans don't bother with criticising what is so obviously barbaric and medieval. That doesn't mean we approve. And I think you will indeed find criticism of removing hands and heads if you bother to look.

But what's wrong with your question is that seems to argue "just be glad you're not in Saudi Arabia!" in response to a discussion of a U.S. issue. I just don't see the relevance. There's no point in comparing our justice system, or any of our law and policy, against a fundamentalist fascist state with diametrically opposing values to our own. It's intended to close off debate, without addressing issues (not that I'm clear on Mary's argument, but that's another point.)

I'm not arguing against the death penalty here, just against this particular theme I've seen at least twice quite recently in comments on this blog.

Balfegor said...

So does pain equate to "cruel and unusual" punishment?

I've long been rather interested in this, actually. Not whether pain is, but the degree to which imprisonment is really rather cruel and unusual, and has, potentially, much more serious effects on third parties (dependents like children) than having someone flogged in the square might.

Also, shifting over to the question of torture and "rendition" of prisoners to other countries more willing to go the extra mile in interrogation, it occurs to me that because of public assumptions about the nature of prison-time, we are often complicit in a kind of common-or-garden rendition ourselves. The notion that homosexual rape is rampant in prison is the punch line to all kinds of widespread jokes. In California, even, around the time of Enron, public officials were making veiled references to putting white collar criminals in prison with hardened criminals who would then rape them. That's punitive torture right there -- not quite the rape rooms of Saddam Hussein's Iraq, but way up there. Nevertheless, I think we do not have quite the same revulsion against it (leastways, the fact that it's a comic punchline suggests as much) is interesting to me.

From the cruel and unusual punishment angle, then, it seems to me like we, as a public, implicitly sanction quite a lot of it when we crack those jokes, and proceed with this understanding that when you put a man in prison, he's got a good chance of being violated. And to the extent that impression is correct, that strikes me as wrong.

Which is why I think we ought to abolish jail terms for all but serious violent offenders (murders, rapes, attempts thereto, assault with deadly weapons, armed burglary, serious battery, etc.) and just flog the rest and send them home.

I know that sounds unspeakably barbaric to most Americans, but the American prison system, at least as I understand it from popular culture, seems pretty unspeakably barbaric already.

MadisonMan said...

So why do you think the VIII Amendment means that Morales can't be executed?

Didn't say that.

It was my understanding from this case that the overseeing judge was balking because of pain/suffering the condemned might feel before the injection. Yet there are some writers who think that's irrelevant because he's gonna die anyway. I just think that's a bad argument.

Is it cruel to inflict pain before killing someone? I think that's the question the judge is trying to address.

Gaius Arbo said...

Mary,

FOlks like you who don't agree with the death penalty have recourse to the ballot box. Use it.

Imposing judicial dictates to overturn a properly legal and constitutional state law is bogus, regardless of your position on the issue of the death penalty.

At the time the constitution was written, hanging was indeed the preferred method of execution and was not considered cruel of unusual. What the framers likely were referrering to was the quaint English custom of drawing and quartering.

Frankly, the "cruel and unusual" argument being used here completely neglects the hideous nature of this particular crime. This was a monsterous rape/murder.

Balfegor said...

Read up on the surviving families, balfegor. You'll find what I am saying is borne out by facts. It's sad to play a survivor like this; what happens to them the day after the execution? You still care about how they're doing?

Perhaps you missed my point. I don't care about the survivors at all. But they're not being "played," or anything. They just know what they want. Your argument is that they are wrong, and we should not give them what they want, because it will not make them happy. If you want to make such an argument with facts and statistics about other survivors' happiness, the argument should be made to these survivors. And if you persuade them that they're better off abandoning vengeance then bully for you. Giving it to us, though, you should forthrightly admit that you think you know what's good for these survivors better than they do, so they shouldn't be given what they want.

That's irrelevant to me though, because I don't think the law is there to make survivors happy -- killing a man just to make a bunch of other people strikes me as really not-quite-right. I think execution is there for deterrence and punishment, in which the future happiness of the survivors does not play any role.

tommy said...

Without getting into the merits of the death penalty, it seems like an attempt by a minority (medical professionals, perhaps judges as well) to thwart the intent of the majority that support the death penalty.

Balfegor said...

just to make a bunch of other people

I meant, just to make a bunch of other people happy. Sloppy sloppy of me.

RogerA said...

Mary--your points in opposition to the death penalty were quite well stated--I would take issue, however, with the last point about the "state's" role as executioner.

As Gaius noted, there is apparently a majority of people who feel that execution is appropriate--and if that is the case, it is far better that the state is the agent rather than any one else. Otherwise, we lapse in that Hobbesian state of nature.

Henry said...

I think there is an implicit argument against the death penality made by the doctors' behaviour. I don't think it has anything to do with the fact that they're doctors. Rather, it focuses attention on the fact that you can't have a death penalty without someone administering the death. Once we give the state the power to put people to death the state must assign that power to an individual (or individuals as in the case of the firing squad). Preferably, the individual with that power should be highly competent -- like a medical professional -- and not enjoy using it -- like Tom Hanks in the Green Mile. Quite simply, it is a profoundly awful thing to ask someone to be an executioner.

(As an aside, I suspect the anesthesiologists figure they have enough trouble already being the common target of medical malpractice suits.)

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
me said...

"Without getting into the merits of the death penalty, it seems like an attempt by a minority (medical professionals, perhaps judges as well) to thwart the intent of the majority that support the death penalty."

The concern in this case is that lethal injection as currently practiced in CA has three chemicals, and if used improperly, the person being executed is in agonizing extreme pain for as long as it takes them to die, I think around 20 minutes. The reason is that the procedure can be done wrong easily, as it involves mixing three different types of chemicals, and prison officials are bad at that kind of thing, not being trained medical professionals. Doctor's mostly refuse to do it as it is against AMA ethics guidelines. To get around this, prisons need to train their personnel (non-doctors or doctors who are willing to participate) in how to simply use an overdose of painkiller (one drug) to carry out the execution. I'm not sure whether lingering in agony is cruel and unusual, but to forestall these challenges states need to simply change their execution protocols. I hope you are not arguing we should force doctors to perform executions -- that is very wrong. Pretty much anyone can be trained to insert an IV and insert an overdose of medication -- let those who volunteer or agree to do it as part of their job description perform the executions.

Mark the Pundit said...

Well, we can do several things as a work-around:

1. Get Dr. Kevorkian. He apparently has no qualms about killing people, and he is a licensed doctor!

2. Do the execution another way - firing squad, for example - that does not require a doctor to do much except pronounce the inmate dead.

If firing squad causes too much pain - as does the electric chair in some instances I ahve read - then strap a series of bombs to the guys head that will blow the head off immediately after detonation. Simple, and pain-free.

AJ Lynch said...

I agree this is an end run around the voter's wishes. Surely it is a result of the study in the news a few weeks ago. It was done by an anesthioologist but several medical docs have questioned his study's methodology and validity.

Probably financed by Mike Farrell.

Roger Higgins said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
me said...

See Wiki for better info

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lethal_injection

scroll down to see why the medications can easily be administered improperly causing agonizing death -- pesonally I think would perfer hanging or firing squad to electic chair or lethal injection. If hanging is done right it instantanously breaks your neck and the firing squad would be quick. Being strapped down to a gurney or given IV's or strapped to an electic chair sounds just awful.

Roger Higgins said...

If the ending of a life without reference to the method is not itself ‘cruel and unusual’ then any method that is forthwith, i.e. firing squad, hanging, throat cutting, etc. shouldn’t be considered cruel and unusual either. Besides, if put to a vote, I believe the American people would ratify an amendment permitting condemned prisoners to be tortured to death – maybe bring back Roman crucifixion – put it on pay-per-view. Nobody cares about ‘cruel and unusual’ and we all want to watch.

me said...

I guess I'd rather die standing up.:)

Roger Higgins said...

Civil is a civil does. Would that you saved your finger-wagging for the rapists and murders.

vbspurs said...

The doctors behavior DOES make a strong implict argument against euthanasia and abortion, however.

Bingo, that's my name-o!

I am not exactly in favour of the death penalty, but I must say, that this comment is bang on with the hypocrisy shown by some medical practioners.

Abortion, assisted suicide are not okay, if your argument is about not doing anything which would be considered doing harm to the human body.

Cheers,
Victoria

Paul said...

I'll do it, a medical professional wasn't necessary to end any victim's life, was it? As a matter of fact many victim's died a horrendous death and there are unemployed Iraqis quite able to administer a similar death. Cheap too.
Don't express your disdain for perceived flippancy. It is not.

ShadyCharacter said...

Mary, I'm starting to detect a hint of hatred for the "haters" in your post. Don't get so fired up that people have different political opinions!

I think you'll find as you become more open to diversity of thought it won't frighten you so much and you won't need to recoil and project your anger onto those whose opinions don't jive exactly with your own. You can transform the anger and hatred you are projecting onto death penalty supporters into a positive force if only you try.

To paraphrase a sentiment I'm sure we can all gather behind, give LOVE a chance...

Paul said...

Abortion, assisted suicide are not okay, if your argument is about not doing anything which would be considered doing harm to the human body.

Perfectly put, Victoria.

Roger Higgins said...

I am not exactly in favour of the death penalty, but I must say, that this comment is bang on with the hypocrisy shown by some medical practioners.

I think the fallacy of logic that you’ve stolen from Rush Limbaugh is that ALL abortion practitioners and ALL advocates of assisted suicide are pro-choice...and further, that the three positions are morally mutually exclusive.

Gaius Arbo said...

Mary,

Sorry we're boring you.

You assume everyone who supports the death penalty is a hater. Nice! You just hold an opinion that we are all somehow inferior to your enlightened state.

I support the death penalty for the exact same reason I support putting down dangerous animals. Not because I hate them, but because society cannot ever take the chance that they will kill again.

I read an interesting column a while back (might have been in Time, not sure) by a woman who had been an adamant opponent to the death penalty all her life. Until one of her relatives was murdered in a particularly brutal fashion. That changed her mind.

Balfegor said...

It matters what is best for society. Not how brutal the crime was. Not what the immediate family thinks should be done. That's not good policy-making.

Er, yes, which is why this:

take a look at the mortality rates of the survivors -- those who were able find some peace and move on to the best of their abilities without their loved ones, vs. those who harbor hatred for years and years,

and this:

Read up on the surviving families, balfegor. You'll find what I am saying is borne out by facts. It's sad to play a survivor like this; what happens to them the day after the execution? You still care about how they're doing?

are quite irrelevant. The societal importance of punishment (of "justice done") and of deterring crimes of violence are significant well beyond the individual survivors' feelings one way or the other -- deciding to kill or not to kill on the basis of their individual well-being or happiness strikes me as absurd.

Incidentally, though, the brutality of the crime may be properly relevant in determining how heavily we wish to deter it. Crimes involving sexual violence, for example, are regarded as particularly horrible.

Regarding this:

Haters do die out; rational second looks change traditions.

I hardly think the rational second look leads one to believe that France, Britain, or Mexico show us the way to an enlightened criminal policy. Better, I think, to follow the lead of Japan or South Korea.

Johnny Nucleo said...

Mary: You may very well be right about the death penalty, but your sanctimony is repulsive. You're not quite as hate-free as you think.

In your opinion, what would be a just punishment for someone who murdered one-hundred million people?

Truly said...

Technical question: is anyone else having problems with disappearing/reappearing comments on this post?

Thanks! Please return to your discussion.

Balfegor said...

Technical question: is anyone else having problems with disappearing/reappearing comments on this post?

Yes, but I think it's just that the post database doesn't refresh immediately.

INMA30 said...

I don't really see how the behavior is an argument for or against per se. It is just an extension of a professional code of conduct.

That said, there doesn't seem to be much of a case for the death penatly except for vengence, which is fine. We are certainly in good company with other capital punishment states around the world.

Abraham said...

I agree with Balfegor above. The aspect of punishment or "just deserts" is at least as important as other aspects, like rehabilitation, incapacitation, and deterrance. However, while prison is effective at incapacitation, it is only a marginally effective deterrant and may have a negative effect on rehabilitation. I think that corporal punishment would be an effective deterrant, would allow people who made a poor decision a second chance to make things right, and would satisfy the public need for punishment. If the person reoffends, then obviously they must be incapacitated, but I think that a quick and painful punishment would have a far lower rate of recidivism than locking people up with other criminals all day for an extended period of time (causing them to lose their jobs, have no appreciable income, lose touch with friends and family, be unable to support dependants, and so on.)

It seems schizophrenic to me that we believe freedom is worth dying over, but that deprivation of freedom is a far less horrible punishment than an episode of corporal punishment. I'd rather take the lashes and get back to work making things right.

Abraham said...

To elaborate and reply to inma30, the justification is not so much deterrance (though it is a minor justification), it is punishment - the concept that any less of a penalty is simply unjust.

hoosthere said...

Leaving aside all of Mary's snide superiority, what of her contention that the state shouldn't be put in the position of executor?

I guess I have a difficult time with the death penalty. I'm usually pretty conservative, but I have a hard time with believing that people are not salvagable. After all, when God came to hang with us folks, it was with the scum of the earth, and perhaps the three people in the Bible whom were arguably most critical to Judaism/Christianity were murderers (Moses, David, Paul).

I do think that the judge and Mary would get along well though...both have chosen inappropriate ways to put forward their point of view. THAT'S what drives me NUTS about the left these days.

[verification: "uokiluo". Whoa. What is blogger trying to say?]

INMA30 said...

Abraham--

I completely understand the motivation. Clearly deterrence is mindless red herring. I appreciate that you are more forthcoming than most in owning up to it and saying yes it is about vengenance and being who I am/who we are I/we are incapable of satisfying our bloodlust without killing this person for his wrongs. I may not agree 100%, but I respect the honesty.

Wieland said...

What no one has considered is that there was a co-defendant who was sentenced to LWOP (life w/o parole). He's doing his time and is never getting out. Other than the initial appeal, no other time or expense was used up. Would the family of the victim be any worse off today had Morales also received LWOP been convicted in a non-DP state?

BTW, the trial judge is saying that Morales should get clemency since the testimony that led to the death verdict was fabricated by a snitch.

Abraham said...

what of her contention that the state shouldn't be put in the position of executor?
It's hard to argue against a moral conclusion when no reasoning is proffered. Otherwise, I might as well just say, "what of my claim that the state should be put in the position of executor?"

PatCA said...

"Pat, most Americans don't bother with criticising what is so obviously barbaric and medieval."

I'm not so sure about that, and that's why I made the comment. In fact, I think we don't talk about it because in academe or the media it is impossible to criticize any other culture without being branded a racist. Even as I say that, I feel a twinge, like I used to when I ate a burger on Friday. (Okay, I never did that but I thought about it.) I think we are simply afraid to--and the recent cartoon lunacy in our media speaks to that fear.

This essay spells out the damage done to a society by the philosophy of people like Mary--again, assuming you are for real, Mary. Even if you mean well, that's not enough. http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=260

hoosthere said...

I see your point, Abraham...mine was to more ask for a discussion, as I am unsure how I feel about it. It struck me as an interesting issue...that the state, whose primary function is (arguably) to keep us safe, puts itself in this position.

I understand that it "ensures that this crime will not happen again", but how does life imprisonment not do that? So therefore, isn't the state needlessly becoming a killer, when it should be extending safety...even to the worst of us? (which is where my comments about the Biblical men and redemption came in)

Robert said...

I understand that it "ensures that this crime will not happen again", but how does life imprisonment not do that?

1) People escape from prison.

2) It's possible to commit additional crimes while in prison.

The only way to ensure that something never happens again is to terminate the life of the person who could do it.

hoosthere said...

well, yes, robert but that doesn't seem like it addresses the point. I don't believe it's fair to point out practical imperfections when dealing with theory. In theory, life imprisonment is just that: life imprisonment. So leaving out that people could escape (and additional crimes could als happen on death row)...why should the state be doing this?

ShadyCharacter said...

"So leaving out that people could escape (and additional crimes could als happen on death row)...why should the state be doing this?"

LOL! But you would have to admit there would be very few "additional crimes" on death row post-execution, right?

Eli Blake said...

As I understand it, the judge in the Morales case and six jurors have petitioned to have the case reopened, with the jurors saying in writing that they voted to convict based on the testimony of a jailhouse 'snitch' who claimed that Morales confessed to him in Spanish, and it now turns out that despite being hispanic, Morales does not know Spanish. Under the circumstances, there is more than one ethical consideration here.

As for those questioning the ethics of the medical profession in terms of the Hypocratic oath and abortion, I would point out that abortion was practiced as a routine operation in the days of Hypocrates, and the notion that it is a 'bad' operation a more recent twist on dogma. It was also practiced when the Bible was written, but no one thought it was worth commenting on in the Bible.

True, execution was also practiced, but doctors were not called on to be the executioners (which in the Bible were mostly carried out by stoning).

This week in Arizona, Ray Krone, a man who was sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit, received a formal apology from the Arizona legislature. He is the first one from here, but there have been others who were on death row and have since been completely exhonerated in other states. That in itself is reason enough to not have the death penalty, IMO.

INMA30 said...

Well said Eli. You could also add that the abortion analogy is debatable given making that analogy requires a leap that a potential human life is the same as a realized human life, however despicable.

ShadyCharacter said...

Eli writes: "As for those questioning the ethics of the medical profession in terms of the Hypocratic [sic] oath and abortion, I would point out that abortion was practiced as a routine operation in the days of Hypocrates [sic], and the notion that it is a 'bad' operation a more recent twist on dogma."

Eli is, to put it bluntly, full of something that rhymes with "chit". A tip off about his knowledge of medical ethics in the days of yore comes with his misspelling of "Hipocrates". As to what the original Hippocratic oath actually holds on the topic of abortion, here is the oath in full:

The Oath of Hippocrates
I SWEAR by Apollo the physician and AEsculapius, and Hygiea, and Panacea, and all the gods and goddesses, that, according to my ability and judgment, I will keep this Oath and this stipulation-- to reckon him who taught me this Art equally dear to me as my parents, to share my substance with him, and relieve his necessities if required; to look upon his offspring in the same footing as my own brothers, and to teach them this art, if they shall wish to learn it, without fee or stipulation; and that by precept, lecture, and every other mode of instruction, I will impart a knowledge of the Art to my own sons, and those of my teachers, and to disciples bound by a stipulation and oath according to the law of medicine, but to none others. I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous.

********* [The part that gives modern liberals heartburn re euthanasia and abortion] I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and in like manner I will not give to a woman a pessary to produce abortion.***********

With purity and with holiness I will pass my life and practice my Art. I will not cut persons laboring under the stone, but will leave this to be done by men who are practitioners of this work. Into whatever houses I enter, I will go into them for the benefit of the sick, and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief and corruption; and, further, from the seduction of females or males, of freemen and slaves. Whatever, in connection with my professional service, or not in connection with it, I see or hear, in the life of men, which ought not to be spoken of abroad, I will not divulge, as reckoning that all such should be kept secret. While I continue to keep this Oath unviolated, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and the practice of the art, respected by all men, in all times. But should I trespass and violate this Oath, may the reverse be my lot.

ShadyCharacter said...

First, an admission, there are apparently alternative acceptable spellings of Hippocrates. I am apparently incapable of making a good point without ruining it with an extraneous stupid point…. sigh…

I guess Eli could make the sophisticated argument that Hippocrates would be fine with the old salad tongs and long needle approach to abortion...

It's clear that no medical doctor who upholds the oath (i.e. an all around pro-lifer) would administer the lethal dose. However, the whole point in bringing up abortion here is to point out that many (though not most) modern doctors do not actually have any qualms with regard to ending human life - see abortion and euthanasia. One could even say that rather than following Hippocrates they are simply hypocrites.

In fact, I believe it's in Holland that it recently came out that the standard (enlightened) practice in hospitals is that they will "euthanize" babies with birth defects without the baby’s consent or parental consent or even parental knowledge. However, I bet they'd be aghast if asked to "euthanize" a mass murderer. After all, they're not monsters! Only innocents should be killed for the convenience of society.

Sean E said...

"...they voted to convict based on the testimony of a jailhouse 'snitch' who claimed that Morales confessed to him in Spanish, and it now turns out that despite being hispanic, Morales does not know Spanish."

How on earth would something this blatant not be raised by the defence at trial? I'm not questioning its veracity - it just astounds me that such a thing would be possible.

ShadyCharacter said...

Not only that, I didn't even consistently spell his name correctly in a post snidely pointing out (incorrectly) that someone else made a mistake. The only thing worse than a smark alek is a smart-alek who gets it wrong.

That's it, I need to change my handle and withdraw ShadyCharacter from this board in disgrace =)

INMA30 said...

I like the "free med school" for the sons of my teacher part. Nobody ever told me about that loophole.

I share Shady's confusion on how the most adamant pro-lifers also often find themselves in the pro-death penalty camp. It has always made me scratch my head a bit.

Steven said...

Rehabilitation, as a principle of a criminal law system, is the use of coercion to change a person without regard for their wishes. It is inherently antithical to a free society.

Deterrence, as a principle of a criminal law system, is the use of terror to intimidate. It is similarly antithical to a free society.

Incapacitation is the worst of all, subjecting a person to punishment for no better reason than what you fear they might do in the future. If anything offends a free society, that must.

No, the only principle on which to base a criminal law system is justice, the reciprocal treatment of persons based on how they act.

It can be treated as a statement that "all men are created equal", and thus the violation of the rights of a victim is an implicit reciprocal surrender of that right by the criminal. It can be treated as an enforcement of the Golden Rule, where the criminal is done unto as he does unto others. It can be treated as an enforcement of "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth". Or it can be called vengance, depite its impersonal, proportionate, and deliberative nature.

It may be tempered with mercy, or merely the desire not to engage in barbarities to match those of the most heinous crimes. But whatever the statement of the principle or tthe details of implementation, reciprocal justice is the only bedrock on which criminal law can stand in a society that is free and wishes to remain so.

Balfegor said...

I guess Eli could make the sophisticated argument that Hippocrates would be fine with the old salad tongs and long needle approach to abortion...

I think his point is, in view of his comment about execution, that just as execution was not a fit procedure for doctors to handle, abortion was similarly unfit for real medical professionals. That doctors took an oath not to do something does not mean it is normatively wrong, just that doctors swear not to do it.

On the other hand it suggests, as Prof. Althouse suggests, that there is a normative judgment being made there, even if that is not necessarily the case. We might note, in this regard, that ancient Greece was by no means a uniform society. The opinions of one segment (or one man and his followers) don't necessarily translate into broader societal practice.

PatCA said...

The governor has already rejected many affidavits from the jurors as they were forged.

http://www.sacunion.com/pages/state_capitol/articles/7753/

Abraham said...

Very eloquent, Steve, and well addresses inma30's conflation of "just deserts" with "vengeance" and "bloodlust."

So therefore, isn't the state needlessly becoming a killer, when it should be extending safety...even to the worst of us?

I don't consider it needless, because it is in some cases necessary to produce a just outcome, and it is far better that the state do it than private individuals. What this ultimately boils down to is what amount of punishment is sufficient to produce a just outcome. Some, including myself, believe that sometimes death is required. Others believe that life in prison is sufficient. But maybe only if they are not allowed to profit off their crimes while in prison. Or as long as they don't have cable TV. Or as long as they are sure to be raped in prison. My point is that when you start getting into details, people have wildly varying opinions on what is or is not severe enough punishment, and it is ultimately a somewhat subjective decision, resolved by democratic concensus.

The only position I believe is a form of moral cowardice is that which is against the death penalty, but hopes that the prisoner is killed by other inmates.

Thorley Winston said...

Leaving aside all of Mary's snide superiority, what of her contention that the state shouldn't be put in the position of executor?

I’d say that contention represents a woeful ignorance of what government is and does. Governments make decisions all the time that directly lead to people dying. Federal CAFÉ standards for example result in an additional 2300-3200 Americans killed every year in traffic accidents because they’re required by law to drive less safe vehicles that get better gas mileage. Yet for some reason people are comfortable allowing government – rather than individual consumers – make the choice about what type of vehicle to drive and hence making a conscious decision that people will die as a result.

At least with executions, there is a method of due process for deciding whether the person being killed deserves it.

Balfegor said...

The only position I believe is a form of moral cowardice is that which is against the death penalty, but hopes that the prisoner is killed by other inmates.

I've always found the position that life in prison is a better punishment than death because life in prison is a fate worse than death to be rather monstrous, myself, as it seems, to me, to combine the crudest machismo with an abominable cruelty.

Thorley Winston said...

I've always found the position that life in prison is a better punishment than death because life in prison is a fate worse than death to be rather monstrous, myself, as it seems, to me, to combine the crudest machismo with an abominable cruelty.

I might as well if I actually believed that those who made such a claim actually believed it instead of trying to pretend that imprisoning someone for life is somehow more severe than depriving them of their life so as to avoid being tainted as “soft on crime.”

Besides which does anyone doubt that if the anti-capital punishment folks were to succeed that they would then proceed to go after life imprisonment without the possibility of parole as their next target?

Pete said...

inma30

Well, scratch your head no longer. Here’s how I reconcile my pro-life beliefs with my pro-death penalty beliefs:

Someone who is handed a death sentence has been afforded due process. The unborn are not permitted due process.

Now, how do those with pro-abortion beliefs reconcile themselves to being anti-death penalty?

Balfegor said...

Now, how do those with pro-abortion beliefs reconcile themselves to being anti-death penalty?

Uh, they think the fetus is not a person?

aidan maconachy said...

I am 100% for the death penalty.

I think it is important though to allow for mitigation in some circumstances. Not all murders are equally vile.

In the case of a "crime of passion", or other instances in which a law- abiding person goes off the deep-end and kills someone, the death penalty is inappropriate.

However in the case of people such as Tookie Willliams, who made a conscious decision to make murder, rape, drug dealing and urban terror part and parcel of their chosen lifestyle, I would have no hesitation.

When a man has consciously and deliberately chosen to destroy other people physically, psychologically, emotionally it is morally depraved to provide such a person with cable TV and other amenities (not to mention Nobel nominations), while the families of his victims continue to struggle with their damaged lives.

There are certain lines you don't cross. When they are crossed as a result of emotional distress or mental illness and a killing occurs, such a perpetrator is capable of being rehabilitated.

However when a man or a woman, destroys every vestige of conscience within themselves and sets about a deliberate course of murder and mayhem, then such a person forfeits their right to live.

Caging them in cells for decades on end, under threat of execution is revolting ... disgusting.

It is in fact more humane and ethical, to execute quickly those who are guilty of such heinous crimes.

Pete said...

balfegor,

I won’t hijack this thread to a discussion of abortion but suffice to say I’m aware that pro-abortioners don’t think fetuses are human. Thanks.

What I really wonder about, though, is how someone can wring their hands over the possibility that a death sentence for the conviction of a heinous crime might be cruel and unusual punishment inflicted by a duly elected government while the procedure described as partial-birth abortion performed on an otherwise viable fetus by a private individual bothers him not one whit.

Balfegor said...

I might as well if I actually believed that those who made such a claim actually believed it instead of trying to pretend that imprisoning someone for life is somehow more severe than depriving them of their life so as to avoid being tainted as “soft on crime.”

I hardly think that makes it less contemptible. Doesn't it make it more so? To adopt an abhorrent position out of craven cowardice?

What I really wonder about, though, is how someone can wring their hands over the possibility that a death sentence for the conviction of a heinous crime might be cruel and unusual punishment inflicted by a duly elected government while the procedure described as partial-birth abortion performed on an otherwise viable fetus by a private individual bothers him not one whit.

And I don't mean to get into a debate about the merits of the positions either, but really -- they don't think a fetus is human. They don't have to square the moral circle; for them, there is no circle to square. The implication of believing the fetus is like an appendix until the moment it born is that there is no human life being taken in abortion. We can wonder how they can believe that, I suppose, which would touch on the underlying merits of the positions in the abortion debate (and get us nowhere). But on the limited question of death-penalty vs. abortion, there is no conflict at all in pro-abortionists' beliefs, because in the one case, a human is being killed (death penalty) and in the other, a not-human bundle of flesh is being extracted (abortion).

me said...

"procedure described as partial-birth abortion performed on an otherwise viable fetus by a private individual bothers him not one whit."

Umm...so you think women are getting "partial birth" abortions past the point of fetal viability when the fetus is healthy? Women who get partial birth abortions do so because they are in danger of death (i.e., ecclampsia) or because the fetus is irreparably compromised (no brain, etc.). Got any examples of these depraved women having partial birth abortions just because they don't feel like having a baby?

ChrisO said...

I'm of mixed feeling on the death penalty, but I do find it annoying how many people take Mary to task for being sanctimonious, when so much of the rest of this thread is filled with such a tone of moral supriority that it's sickening. First of alll, can we knock off the all of the "let's hold hands and sing Kumbaya" posts? We get it, you think anyone opposed to the death penalty is a hippie, despite the fact that many nations, as well as a lot of very thoughtful people, are on record as being opposed to the death penalty. That whole snide approach adds nothing to the conversation, and isn't even particularly clever.

As for abortion, if most people who support abortion rights beleieve that a fetus is not a person right up until the moment it's born, then it might be a useful analogy. Do you honetly think that most pro-choice people would support the abortion of a healthy fetus at 8 1/2 months? Portraying the other side's arguments in such a feeble and ignorant way does nothing to add credibility to the rest of your arguments. Which is why it's silly to think that the answer to this question is to just say "What about abortion, huh?" as if that immediately trumps all other arguments.

As for the ballot box, there are reasons we have a representative government, and protecting us against emotional decisions by the general population is one of them. I think the death penalty is a perfect example of an issue that shouldn't be subject to popular vote.

Finally, can we also put to rest this simpleminded notion that opposition to the death penalty means you have no feelings for the victims of a crime, or the surviving family? Comments like "oh, yeah, what about Terri Winchell's feelings?" are facile and more than a little sanctimonious, and also add nothing to the debate.

As for the notion that no one says anything bad about beheadings because they don't want to appear racist, I'd like to see even one source to back that up. That has a little bit of a pulled out of your ass feeling to it.

hoosthere said...

Thanks for all the comments...I had not thought of the justice angle.

I confess to being still undecided about whether or not it is truly just to intentionally take another life(in the eyes of my Christian faith, given that Jesus can be seen to have overturned certain requirements of the "old" law). But I agree that good-hearted people can disagree on this issue (as with abortion) when they base their beliefs on larger, societal questions.

[verification: "ubidt" You Bit It. Sheesh, blogger, enough with the insensitivity. Blogger is such a hater!]

Pete said...

Me,

You wrote, “Got any examples of these depraved women having partial birth abortions just because they don't feel like having a baby?”

No, I don’t but then I didn’t exactly say that, did I? My comments were about people who are able to hold what appears to me to be two opposite moral views: concern for the living who have been deprived of their right to life through due process and unconcern for the unborn who have been denied due process. (Though an argument could be made that the unborn have enjoyed due process that has ruled, unfortunately, against them, the same as the convicted felon. However, there is still that same lack of concern for the unborn.)

But you seem absolutely sure that everyone obtaining the procedure are always doing so for only the very best reasons. That kind of certitude is admirable.

Balfegor said...

As for abortion, if most people who support abortion rights beleieve that a fetus is not a person right up until the moment it's born, then it might be a useful analogy.

Don't you have that backwards? If they think it's not a person up until the moment it's born, then any parallel between the death penalty and abortion falls apart completely. It's only if they think it is a person (by, say, the third trimester), but support any decision to abort anyway that there is a possible meaningful analogy, no?

ChrisO said...

balfegor

What I was specifically referring to was your statement "The implication of believing the fetus is like an appendix until the moment it born is that there is no human life being taken in abortion."

What you are saying, by using the phrase "up until the monment it is born" is that pro-choice advocates believe it's alright to abort a healthy baby even in the eighth month, since it's "like an appendix." This is exactly what I meant when I referred to "Portraying the other side's arguments in such a feeble and ignorant way." So are you saying that it's a basic pro-choice position that abortion at any time, up until the moment of birth, is perfecly acceptable? Because that is what you said, and my criticism stands. OfI referred to all anti-abortionists as crazed Bible-thumpers, I would be adding no more to the discourse than you are.

Abraham said...

I think the death penalty is a perfect example of an issue that shouldn't be subject to popular vote.

That is a straw man. Very few of our laws are subject to a popular vote. But the politicians who enact or repeal them are. Perhaps you are arguing that even that is too much, that this is an issue which must be left to philosopher kings. I could not disagree more. The framers were quite explicit that it is the role of the legislature to legislate, and the judiciary to adjudicate. Even the Consitution itself, which was intended to layout a framework, NOT state policy, is subject to a vote. The very legitimacy of our government is premise upon the consent of the governed.

Balfegor said...

So are you saying that it's a basic pro-choice position that abortion at any time, up until the moment of birth, is perfecly acceptable?

I have actually adressed this problem earlier on this board -- there is a meaningful distinction to be drawn between people who are "pro-choice," (your words) and "pro-abortion" (mine). Are there nontrivial numbers of people who do believe it's A-OK to abort right up to the moment of birth? Uh, actually, there are. Possibly, having spent my life mostly in California and then New York City, my perspective is a little, ah, skewed, but yes, there are nontrivial numbers of people who believe exactly this. Even spokespeople for groups like NOW and NARAL appear to be advancing this position at times, when discussing partial birth abortion (see, e.g. reaction against the attempted Partial Birth Abortion bans, both federal and state, of 1996 or so, almost all of which included a "life of the mother" exception) although they're not exactly going to come out and say they think a 26 wk fetus is not meaningfully human.

On the other hand, though, to the extent more moderate "pro-choice" people think it's an actual human there in the womb, there is a real possibility of a meaningful analogy showing the real hypocrisy of the pro-choice crowd. But even then, the putative analogy almost certainly still falls apart, because most people who think that's a human being in the womb don't support abortion, except to the extent they think there's a real tradeoff between the mother's life and the child's life.

I just don't think there's a meaningful analogy to be made between abortion and execution, at least such that one side or the other can be made out to be inconsistent or hypocritical. The entire attempt strikes me as unfruitful.

Balfegor said...

Also, re:

Umm...so you think women are getting "partial birth" abortions past the point of fetal viability when the fetus is healthy? Women who get partial birth abortions do so because they are in danger of death (i.e., ecclampsia) or because the fetus is irreparably compromised (no brain, etc.). Got any examples of these depraved women having partial birth abortions just because they don't feel like having a baby?

I have never read this particular article, but it is widely cited as containing an interview with one of two doctors specialising in partial birth abortion, in which he indicates that 80% of the late term procedures he performs are "elective."

Diane M. Gianelli, "Outlawing Abortion Method," American Medical News, AMA, Nov. 20, 1995, p. 70

No idea whether this characterisation is correct (congressional materials from the failed 1996 ban also indicate that use of the procedure for reasons unrelated to health is not uncommon), but the notion that women only engage in late term abortions because of health concerns seems absurd. People aren't all angels, and we've seen enough news reports of teenagers disposing of their newborns in wastebins and toilets to know that at least some of the very few women who choose late term abortions (less than 2% of all abortions, I think -- measured in the hundreds at most) are going to do it for reasons that have nothing to do with health, either theirs or the fetus's.

me said...

"When pro-choice feminists like Wolf, or liberal men, or a lot of women, even, say things like, "I'm pro-choice, but I am uncomfortable with third-trimester abortion" then what you are saying is that your discomfort matters more than an individual woman's ability to assess her own circumstances. That you don't think that women who have abortions think through the very questions that you, sitting there in your easy chair, can come up with. That a woman who is contemplating an invasive, expensive, and uncomfortable medical procedure doesn't think it through first. In short, that your judgment is better than hers.

Think about the hubris of that. Your judgment of some hypothetical scenario is more reliable than some woman's judgment about her own, very real, life situation?

And you think that's not sexist? That that doesn't demonstrate, at bottom, a distrust of women? A blindness to their equality? A reluctance to give up control over someone else's decision?"

From Bitch Ph.D.

Kind of sums up my view: let's say we make abortion after 20 weeks illegal, with a judicial bypass for women who can show danger to their health or that that fetus is unviable or has severe health defects. Then, we involve the judicial system and the government in a private, agonizing, decision I think the woman and her family should make, not the government. But, until we come up with an artificial womb, we'll keep going down the path of who's more important, the fetus or the woman. "Its my body, the government shouldn't control it" vs. "Its a human being, the state controls your choices when your body houses one."

Simon Kenton said...

"It's my body, the government shouldn't control it."

My son went to school with a boy whose mother felt so, and did drugs the whole pregnancy. When once the child was born, the grandparents got custody. But the defects endured - lack of attention, low intelligence, barely controllable temper. Crack babies? Fetal alcohol syndrome? How absolute do you want to get here? Should we offer a choice between mandatory prophylactic (protective custody)jail sentences and mandatory abortions for mothers who cannot control their own bodies? Or just accept, as a society, that these women's rights over their bodies extend to the right to produce ruined humans which the rest of us get to take care of?

me said...

"Crack babies? Fetal alcohol syndrome? How absolute do you want to get here? Should we offer a choice between mandatory prophylactic (protective custody)jail sentences and mandatory abortions for mothers who cannot control their own bodies? Or just accept, as a society, that these women's rights over their bodies extend to the right to produce ruined humans which the rest of us get to take care of?"

That's exactly my question -- how absolute should we get? If and when Roe gets overturned, what kind of laws should states pass? I don't see any solution to the problem of women who refuse to behave responsibly when pregnant and then give up the their kids to the state, grandparents, etc. -- you'd never find a majority in favor of mandatory abortions, and it is against every Western ideal of freedom to lock a woman up in protective custody why she's pregnant to make sure the baby turns out ok. If S.D. passes a law mandating protective custody, would that even be constitutional? Freedom of movement, liberty, etc. Or will it become a crime to drink alcohol while pregnant, punishable by confinement until the baby is born? And where will we put these prengnant ladies who are abusing themselves and their babies? The general jail population? That's a great place for an expectant mother. Or will we build pregnancy centers? Right now, the law makes pregnancy decisions and mistakes private matters. Many seem to want to make them public matters -- so what crime will abortion be? Manslaughter? For those who think the fertilized egg should have the same legal protection as you and me, it pretty much has to be first degree murder (definitely pre-meditated). Doctors who do illegal abortions (and there will be some) definitley would be serial killers, deserving of the death penalty. Again, until we get past the problem of one human being stuck inside another one for nine months, we'll always have this tension -- how involved do we want the state to be in it?

me said...

I wrote a response to Simon's comment and it disappeared. :( Anyway it basically said, drawing the line between protective custody for women who abuse substances during pregnancy and letting them have damaged babies which they foist on society is hard, but I come down on the side of freedom for women because the state getting involved in such decisions is quite scary, and the laws required to enforce whatever we decide is correct pregnancy behavior are also quite scary. Abortion = first degree premeditated murder. Doctors who do abortion = serial killers eligible for the death penalty. Women who do bad things to hurt themselves and their babies during pregnancy = child abuse - but we can't take hte kid away, so we have to lock her up. And where will we put these pregnant child abusers, in jail, in special pregnancy centers? Until we can get rid of the problem of one human being stuck inside another one for 40 weeks, we'll continue to have this debate.

me said...

oh maybe it came back. sorry. i obviously need to find something better to do than read althouse all day. :)