November 28, 2010

Justice John Paul Stevens writes about the death penalty in the New York Review of Books.

The book under review is David Garland's "Peculiar Institution: America’s Death Penalty in an Age of Abolition." The review itself is much more of a straightforward summary of the book than the usual NYRB essay. Toward the end:
To be reasonable, legislative imposition of death eligibility must be rooted in benefits for at least one of the five classes of persons affected by capital offenses.

First, of course, are victims. By definition murder victims are no longer alive and so have no continuing interest.
That's all he says about the victims! They're already dead. As if making murder a heavily punished crime doesn't prevent some people from becoming victims. Recent research undermines the convenient old assumption that the death penalty has no deterrent effect.  Stevens says nothing about that because, I suspect, Garland doesn't.

111 comments:

mesquito said...

When stevens realized he didn't have the moral cojones to enforce the law he should have resigned.

JAY said...

"Peculiar Institution: America’s Death Penalty in an Age of Abolition,"

When I first read that, I read it as in an Age of Abortion

Which I thought may be thought provoking.

HDHouse said...

interesting that conclusions can be formed by trying to read a referenced article with a broken link.

I wonder why there are any murders whatsoever in states with death penalties. I have no evidence but I'm pretty sure that when acting in a state of mind that would allow a soul to kill another soul there is a "time out" or sorts and the potential murderer takes stock of the looming death penalty and calls the enterprise off or asks the potential victim to meet him in a state that doesn't have the penalty.

Now that seems reasonable.

tim maguire said...

It seems to me that if the fact of the victim's death means they have no interest in capital punishment then it necessarily follows that they have no interest in any punishment whatsoever.

Ann Althouse said...

@HD The links work for me. What are you talking about?

Ann Althouse said...

HD, you are engaging in the comfortable practice of making stuff up. How about taking the new research seriously. I'm against the death penalty myself, and have been for decades....

But the studies have started to reshape the debate over capital punishment and to influence prominent legal scholars.

“The evidence on whether it has a significant deterrent effect seems sufficiently plausible that the moral issue becomes a difficult one,” said Cass R. Sunstein, a law professor at the University of Chicago who has frequently taken liberal positions. “I did shift from being against the death penalty to thinking that if it has a significant deterrent effect it’s probably justified.”

Professor Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule, a law professor at Harvard, wrote in their own Stanford Law Review article that “the recent evidence of a deterrent effect from capital punishment seems impressive, especially in light of its ‘apparent power and unanimity,’ ” quoting a conclusion of a separate overview of the evidence in 2005 by Robert Weisberg, a law professor at Stanford, in the Annual Review of Law and Social Science.

“Capital punishment may well save lives,” the two professors continued. “Those who object to capital punishment, and who do so in the name of protecting life, must come to terms with the possibility that the failure to inflict capital punishment will fail to protect life.”

rhhardin said...

The reason for the death penalty is neither deterrence nor retribution, but honoring the voice of the victim, a voice that is missing.

Ann Althouse said...

Don't make it easy on yourself. What if for each imposition of the death penalty, there are 18 fewer murders? Deal with that and get back to me.

Ann Althouse said...

"... honoring the voice of the victim, a voice that is missing."

Why is killing someone an honor to someone else and how can you purport to represent what would be said by a person who can no longer speak?

Jesus said "Forgive them... they know not what they do." Some victims would forgive their murderers. Who knows which ones?

mesquito said...

How about this: the Consitution explicitly allows for the death penalty, if so desired by the people's representatives in legislatures. For a judge to impose a blanket ban on them is arrogant, undemocratic, and antiConstitional.

Irene said...

Garland's argument that victims have no "continuing interest" in the outcome echoes a comment one of my students made with respect to the death penalty.

The view overlooks Payne v. Tennessee, which allowed victim impact statements during the sentencing phase of death penalty cases. Payne spurred on the victims' rights movement.

Payne broadens the meaning of "victim" to include "the emotional impact of the crime on others" and the harms caused by the death.

Sixty Grit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rhhardin said...

Why is killing someone an honor to someone else and how can you purport to represent what would be said by a person who can no longer speak?

It doesn't matter what the victim would have thought - it's an expression of society's honoring his place in society, which he no longer holds.

The criminal is a chess piece in this ritual.

I'm saying why the death penalty seems right to what appears to be a majority still; as well as to myself.

The anti death penalty crowd is taken as dishonoring the place one holds in civil society, which is why they make no progress against the majority.

The perp could be innocent and the ritual would work as well; I imagine some innocent perps understand that too.

So long as his trial was a serious one.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"Then I saw a DA railroad 4 young men on the basis of their race and class."

Which 4 men?

Who was the DA?

The presence of laws assumes that there will be injustices but that the vast majority of justice delivered overcomes this unfortunate truth.

No system of justice set up by men can ever be perfect.

That does not mean we should abandon justice.

rcocean said...

I suppose *some* victim's families would approve if a Criminal killed and raped their daughter. And then only served 20-30 years in prison.

I wouldn't. And guess what, if someone killed me, I'd want them dead. But that's me.

And I've always thought this tear-shedding over the death penalty bizarre. We send thousand of our finest young men to die in wars. We kill innocent civilians because we think its necessary (collateral damage). We accept 40,000 deaths every year because we wish to speed around in cars. But kill that guy who murdered & raped a 10 year old girl. Oh No! That would be inhuman.

Big Mike said...

I just finished reading the Justice Stevens' review. I started my reading having a negative opinion of Justice Stevens and a sense that the death penalty should be retained, but is overused.

Nothing that Stevens wrote causes me to change either opinion.

It's not only the direct victims of the crimes that Stevens dismisses. My personal reading of his discussion if the second class of persons affected -- the friends and family of the victims -- is along the lines of "their loss is immeasurable, but they'll just have to deal with it."

If he wishes to persuade me (and I write this ironically, since I don't for a moment imagine that he much cares for or about my opinion) he'll have to do better than that.

Chef Mojo said...

Screw Jesus. Screw whatever. If someone commits premeditated murder, then they must be put to death, regardless of class or race.

Let the sentence fit the crime. This is why we have the State; to fairly and judiciously carry out justice.

Trooper York said...

Judges should not right in the popular press. Or where normal people can read what they think instead of just filthy lawyers in their law journals. Because if regular everyday normal Americans knew what any of these judges thought, they would want them to be impeached. Each and everyone. Liberal and conservative.

They need to keep a lot of mystery.

Law is too important to be left to the lawyers.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"If he wishes to persuade me ... he'll have to do better than that."

That's just it. He doesn't wish to persuade you.

Democrats want a society where they get to impose their view on you by judicial fiat.

Seven Machos said...

The looniest Supreme Court justice ever. Without question.

Sixty Grit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Job said...

@Sixty Grit,

Your argument boils down to the fact that people -- even DAs -- are sometimes corrupt or imperfect. Agreed. I accept that.

Do you have a problem with continuing to use prison sentences even though DAs/courts might falsely send men and women to prison for 60 years?

Why is the death penalty more subject to abuse than prison sentences?

If anything, death penalty cases are subject to much more stringent review and reconsideration.

hombre said...

Are we pretending that the only victim of murder is the deceased?

Are we pretending that the absence of certainty and celerity in the imposition of the death penalty brought about by delaying tactics from abolitionists doesn't reduce the deterrent effect?

The discussion doesn't work if we pretend. It appears that Profs. Sunstein and Vermeule have stopped pretending.

I have supported the death penalty all of my life. Then I saw a DA railroad 4 young men on the basis of their race and class. Now I have my doubts.

Oh, bullshit!

Seven Machos said...

Death penalty cases should have two trial phases with two juries: an actual trial and a special jury for the death penalty if the first one recommends it.

Also, death penalty trials should automatically subject the defendant to free and total legal assistance from the best criminal defense lawyers in the country at the trial and appeals levels.

Change the law in these two simple ways, and you pretty much eliminate all the problems with the death penalty.

Chase said...

I appreciate you quoting Christ, Professor. Since you did, it is also important to note that the Death Penalty was actually the first law given to man by God, even prior to the Mosaic law. It is often described as the foundation of Judeo Christian law. And yes, it is a deterrent to murder. Not a perfect deterrent, but that does not qualify as an argument to abolish it just because it does not deter EVERY murder. No law deters every lawless or illicit action.

As much as I believe in it - the guilty executed for taking the life of the innocent - I would actually be willing to make a trade:

I would agree to ending Capital Punishment - the taking of life of the guilty - in exchange for ending the taking of life of the innocent: Legalized Abortion.

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)
No system of justice set up by men can ever be perfect.

That does not mean we should abandon justice.


False dichotomy. Death Penalty or Nothing. Because, as you say, “No system of justice set up by mean can ever be perfect” then it follows a punishment that allows for the Correction of those inevitable mistakes is preferable to one that does not.

Seven Machos said...

Chase -- I don't think that's true at all about the first law. The first law was don't eat from the trees of knowledge and life. If the penalty was death, then God chose not to prosecute.

traditionalguy said...

The mythology that the death penalty is not a deterrent has been around so long that many believe it is like the Global Warmists myths and beyond dispute. No body around the criminal justice system has any such doubts. Without a death penalty every two bit robbery of a young innocent clerk is more than likely an execution. As long John Silver said, "Dead men tell no tales". The jails are educational institutions in which the professors react to a death penalty exclusion in a matter of weeks.

Cardiac Jack said...

Sixty, you wouldn't happen to be referring to the Duke lacrosse case, would you?

Hagar said...

I am against the death penalty in this country for one reason only: The pervasive incidence of prosecution misconduct.

Seven Machos said...

One more thing -- The death penalty should be reserved for crimes that are so heinous that they shock the conscience. So, in my view, the killing of a cop under ordinary circumstances or the killing of a store clerk in a robbery don't qualify. But grisly torture and then murder or the rape of little children do.

Joe said...

Sorry Seven, rape is OUT…generally, IIRC, the Death Penalty is for a death, in connection with another felony or special circumstances, such as Murder for Hire or torture.

Seven Machos said...

IIRC the Death Penalty is for a death

What are you recalling exactly? Some state or federal law? Is it one of the immutable ones? I am not aware of such legislation.

traditionalguy said...

Store clerks are hard working young men and women that love their families and usually are diligent and trustworthy workers. If their deliberate and useless murders is only a ticket to a free room and board for 7 or so years, than we have become an immoral people. When murders can be restrained so easily, but the pretend nobility in our government says to hell with victims, than they are the most evil of all men. That is not a hard decision for sane people to make.

Seven Machos said...

I don't think someone who murders a store clerk should be or is eligible for parole in seven years anywhere in this country.

hombre said...

I would agree to ending Capital Punishment - the taking of life of the guilty - in exchange for ending the taking of life of the innocent: Legalized Abortion.

Hear, hear.

But it is, by and large, the supporters of killing the innocent who oppose the killing of the guilty.

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)


Seven, via Wiki (for what it’s worth) The 1977 Coker v. Georgia decision barred the death penalty for rape, and, by implication, for any offense other than murder.

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)
I don't think someone who murders a store clerk should be or is eligible for parole in seven years anywhere in this country.


Circumstances, count…in my state the usual term served, for murder, IS 7 years. It depends on the “murder.” Your “average” murder is a crime of passion between folks who know one another, often drugs or alcohol are involved. And it used to be that this murder was the ONLY murder that person would ever commit…so murder is a fairly non-recidivist crime and they make good Parole Prospects. So depending on the circumstances of the murder of the store clerk, 7 years is not unreasonable.

hombre said...

Seven wrote: The first law was don't eat from the trees of knowledge and life. If the penalty was death, then God chose not to prosecute.

You are mistaken about that.

traditionalguy said...

Seven...Parole eligibility for Life in Prison starts at 7 years, although most are not released until 10 years. But how are we going to catch them or convict them with all of the witnesses dead? The young criminal bad ass is willing to take that gamble...unless his own existence is at stake too.

David S. Lott said...

No doubt the death penalty has a deterrent effect.

There has never been a recipient of the death penalty who killed again.

Nor will there be in the future.

Martha said...

Dr.William Petit, husband of one victim raped and strangled and father of two young daughters who were tortured and murdered by being set on fire (the 11 year old was allegedly raped as well) by two Connecticut men out on parole in July 2007---Dr. Petit has spoken eloquently about why the death penalty for these two men who destroyed his family is important to him.

His wife and daughters cannot be there to seek justice. He attended every painful day of the trial of the first perp and plans to do the same during the trial of the second perp. The defendants tried to plea bargain -- they would plead guilty in exchange for life in prison. That was not justice enough for Dr. Petit.

I can understand why some are against the death penalty but I agree with Dr. Petit. The men who destroyed his family deserve the death penalty.

hombre said...

So depending on the circumstances of the murder of the store clerk, 7 years is not unreasonable.

I think you meant it is not improbable. It is certainly unreasonable.

Seven Machos said...

Joe -- So you are saying that Supreme Court decisions are immutable? That is not so.

Concerning the Bible, it says: And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.


This isn't a law. It's a warning.

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)
I think you meant it is not improbable. It is certainly unreasonable.

Arguable…To me it is reasonable, but I’m kind of a comparativist in this…is an argument leading to a death worse than, equal to, or worse than something else AND how big a recidivist risk is the released criminal…for murder, most time fairly low-FOR MURDER- for Child Molestation, pretty high, hence the time served for a murder needs to be less than the time served for Child Molestation…then factor in costs and space limitations, so no, TO ME, 7 seven years is NOT unreasonable.

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)
Joe -- So you are saying that Supreme Court decisions are immutable? That is not so.

I’m just saying that 1977 (33 years) MURDER has been a requirement for the Death Penalty. It might change, but it HASN’T changed for 33 years, and we make decision on what the SCOTUS HAS said, not what it MIGHT say in the future.

Seven Machos said...

we make decision on what the SCOTUS HAS said, not what it MIGHT say in the future

It is not exceedingly difficult to change the Constitution or to overturn what the Supreme Court said 33 years ago.

hombre said...

Joe wrote: AND how big a recidivist risk is the released criminal…for murder, most time fairly low-FOR MURDER.

Nonsense! Your just making that up. The guy who murders a store clerk is an armed robber, not an emotional impulse killer.

Moreover, your fantasy argument favors the convicted killer over the potential future victim(s) if he goes back to armed robbery.

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)
It is not exceedingly difficult to change the Constitution or to overturn what the Supreme Court said 33 years ago.

Yeah ask Dred Scott or Homer Adolph Plessy about that…or the folks who fought Heller over the Second Amendment. Usually it requires a new POTUS a new Senate AND a change of public mood and intellectual climate. That combination of circumstances don’t just “happen.”

Seven Machos said...

Yeah ask Dred Scott or Homer Adolph Plessy about that…or the folks who fought Heller over the Second Amendment.

Joe -- There are three ways to change the Constitution. None of them involve the cases you mention. The fact that the Constitution is not changed very often is not because it's hard to do.

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)
Nonsense! Your just making that up. The guy who murders a store clerk is an armed robber, not an emotional impulse killer.

Moreover, your fantasy argument favors the convicted killer over the potential future victim(s) if he goes back to armed robbery.


Hombre, I said CIRCUMSTANCES MATTER, ..IF the clerk and murderer are in an argument, and they have both been drinking, yeah it’s a murder not armed robbery AND murder….READ dood/doodette…and the recidivism is for MURDER, as it should be in Parole Hearings. “How likely are you to repeat ‘X’ ?” Not, “How likely are you to return to a Life of Crime?” For murder, the answer is, typically low-for your average murder, for Child Molestation, pretty high…

Ann Althouse said...

"Since you did, it is also important to note that the Death Penalty was actually the first law given to man by God, even prior to the Mosaic law."

It seems to me the first murder in the Bible is Cain killing Able and God says that no one should exact the death penalty on Cain.

Seven Machos said...

Althouse -- That's only because Cain didn't deserve it because he wasn't chosen, and then you get into a whole Biblical theme.

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)

1) Amending
a. Two-thirds of both houses of Congress vote to propose an amendment, then
b. Three-fourths of the state legislatures approve it
c.
d.
e.
2) ConventionTwo-thirds of the state legislatures ask Congress to call a national convention to propose amendments. (This method has never been used.)
Oh yeah, real easy.

Seven Machos said...

Joe -- It's very easy. But I'm glad you learned something today.

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)

Oh yeah, Machos, so easy it’s been nearly a decade since the last one, and nearly 30 years since the LAST IMPORTANT ONE, and NEVER for a Convention….

Seven Machos said...

Joe -- You are confusing the fact that something is rare with the allegation that the thing is difficult.

I have never been to Culver's. Is it, therefore, hard to go to Culver's?

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)

No I’m noting that almost every year SEVERAL Constitutional Amendments are proposed, and NONE are ever actually proposed to the states. That almost every other year my state hears arguments for a Resolution calling for a New (Limited) Constittuional Convention, and that since the first one, NONE has ever been called. It is rare, BECAUSE IT IS HARD, not because it’s rare. It was designed to BE HARD, by the Founders. It requires d@mn near unanimity of the public and the political elites, and that doesn’t happen often.

Seven Machos said...

Joe -- Are you now on the subject of state constitutional conventions for state constitutions? My state had it on the ballot in 2008. It was voted down. This is because people didn't want it.

Come to think of it, the reason I don't go to Culver's and have never been to Culver's is because I don't really want to go to Culver's. But if I did want to go, it would be pretty easy for me to do.

hombre said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Seven Machos said...

Hombre -- That's not a death penalty. That's a finite life with a death at the end penalty. Big, biig difference.

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)

No I’m talking about the US Constitution. I’ve never been talking about state constitutions.

Seven Machos said...

Joe -- Well, the point stands. The document is easy to change. There are three ways to do it.

As for the murder issue, I suspect that a federal law enacted by Congress might very well do the trick under some theory (popular among elitists) that Congress can do whatever it wants.

hombre said...

@Professor Althouse: Genesis Chapter 2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.

... Chapter 3: ... 17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

ken in sc said...

Some murders are crimes of passion, the death penalty would not deter those but might prevent more of them if the killer is routinely unable to control his or her passions. Some murders are coldly calculated to benefit the murderer in some way. These crimes might be deterred by the death penalty, or at least give some murderers pause to reconsider and allow their victims to get away.

Seven Machos said...

Hombre -- Why are you posting that again? That's not a death penalty law. That's a warning that humans will become mortal because God won't allow them to become as gods (which they would if they successfully ate from the tree of knowledge and the tree of life). We got the tree of knowledge, so that's something.

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)


No the point OBVIOUSLY doesn’t stand; it’s NOT easy to change the document. Please note, how difficult the process is….

OBVIOUSLY a Federal Law WOULD NOT suffice, under the theory (popular with Constitutional Lawyers) of Judicial Review. The SCOTUS has spoken on the nature of acceptable Death Penalty Law…and currently MURDER or death need to be involved, not rape or torture, or children, or a host of other factors you might consider “relevant.” What you and I consider “relevant” isn’t relevant, what 5-9 Justices think, IS…

Seven Machos said...

Joe -- The case you cite strikes down a state law, not a federal one.

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)


Yeah and Judicial Review works just as well on FEDERAL LAW, ask Marbury….

Seven Machos said...

Joe -- Chew on this one for awhile: Arizona makes a law that the federal government challenges on constitutional grounds precisely because it could but has not made a law that is exactly the same. How does judicial review fit in?

hombre said...

Joe wrote: Hombre, I said CIRCUMSTANCES MATTER, ..IF the clerk and murderer are in an argument, and they have both been drinking, yeah it’s a murder not armed robbery AND murder ....

Oh please. That hardly equates with the context in which the store clerk has been discussed on this thread. Nor does your contention that murderers have low recidivism rates, even if true, argue for parole in a mere seven years for killing another human being.

roesch-voltaire said...

I am against the death penalty except in the most extreme cases with solid proof-- Steven Hayes is a good example, because as quoted later in the article, “It seems unlikely,” Professor Donohue and Professor Wolfers concluded in their Stanford article, “that any study based only on recent U.S. data can find a reliable link between homicide and execution rates.”

hombre said...

Seven wrote: Hombre -- Why are you posting that again? That's not a death penalty law....

I took the first one off because I wanted to address it to the Professor.

A widely accepted theological interpretation of Genesis 2:17 is that it prescribes death as the penalty for eating the forbidden fruit.

I suggest that it is difficult to read the language otherwise. Loss of immortality does look a lot like death, doesn't it?

Seven Machos said...

Loss of immortality does look a lot like death, doesn't it?

There is a huge, huge difference between a judge saying the apparatus of the state is going to kill you soon and saying that one day you will die.

Big Gov't Trickling Down on You said...

The best deterrent effect the death "penalty" has is on all those people who were wrongly convicted and, we can presume in at least some instances, wrongly put to death. I'm sure they feel incredibly deterred.

Of course, none of this should be seen as a way of allowing the government to become too powerful or anything. Killing people is just an ordinary response to disruptions in the natural order of things, and the government should have the power to do that to its own citizens just as surely as anyone else should.

William said...

My intuition tells me that the victims' bereaved relatives would reach closure sooner if the convicted murderer were executed rather than, say, bragging on TV about the great drugs you can get in prison. That really happened in the case of Richard Speck. And don't fotget John Wayne Gacy and his drawings of sad clowns.......Some of the objections to capital punishment have merit. It has been unfairly applied with race and ethnicity used, perhaps subconsciously, as an aggravating factor. But as the liberals said of welfare, mend it, don't end it. Some criminals deserve to die, and their continued existence is a mockery of justice.

Seven Machos said...

That really happened in the case of Richard Speck.

I saw that Richard Speck thing. It was revolting. The boobs he grew for himself so he could be a better bitch -- that was a nice touch.

Any decent society would have and should have executed Richard Speck. That was a heinous crime.

hombre said...

There is a huge, huge difference between a judge saying the apparatus of the state is going to kill you soon and saying that one day you will die.

When God said, "for dust you are and to dust you will return.” was that not a death sentence?

Surely, Seven, you are not suggesting that the Biblical reference must be identical in order to be analogous.

Is a pronouncement by a judge that "one day you will die" of the same force and effect as a pronouncement by God to that effect to a previously immortal being?

Chase said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Seven Machos said...

Surely, Seven, you are not suggesting that the Biblical reference must be identical in order to be analogous.

If we must open that can of worms, then let's be honest here: the Adam and Eve story has absolutely nothing to do with the death penalty. There is no analogy whatsoever.

hombre said...

Big Trickle wrote: Killing people is just an ordinary response to disruptions in the natural order of things ....

I must have missed the part where somebody argued that the gov't should kill people for disrupting the natural order of things.

Thanks for pointing that out. LOL

hombre said...

... the Adam and Eve story has absolutely nothing to do with the death penalty. There is no analogy whatsoever.

Whatever you say. I bow to your expertise in the matter.

Seven Machos said...

Chase -- I started two posts in reply to yours. I had to erase them because I just don't know where to start in explaining to you how wrong you are about so much and in so many ways.

I will point out, however, that Cain was upset precisely because God had chosen Abel over him (based on the things each was sacrificing), and that God did not kill Abel, and that the story of Cain and Abel was in no way concomitant with the story of Noah.

Tim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chase said...

Professor,

Cain was dealt with directly by the Lord. Man pretty much couldn't govern himself at that time, becoming so evil that God destroyed all mankind but the righteous Noah and his family with the worldwide cataclysmic flood. After the flood, God established human government, and the first law God laid down that man was to carry out with consequences was, well read on . . .


From one of Christianity's most famous apologists:

God's will on the subject is clearly set forth in Genesis 9:5-6 where He states to Noah: "And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed."

The early chapters of Genesis reveal that God instituted human government for our protection. As part of that protection, human government has been given the authority to extract "a life for a life." You might be asking:" Why should the murderer receive such severe punishment?" Because to murder people who are made in God's image is to show contempt for God, not to mention mankind.

It's interesting to note that while capital punishment was set forth by Moses (Ex. 21; Deut. 19), the command given to Noah actually precedes the Mosaic law and therefore appears to be a universal principle. However the allowance of capital punishment is not just found in the Old Testament. The principle is reaffirmed in the New Testament as well. For example, Romans 13:1-5; here we have the statement that the governing authorities can and should use force to maintain peace and order. The Apostle Paul even states that the authorities "do not bear the sword in vain." By the way, the sword was the Roman symbol for the death penalty. As well, Jesus acknowledged the legitimacy of capital punishment before Pilate (John 19:11), as did Paul before the Roman Governor Festus (Acts 25:11).

Capital punishment was instituted by God when human civilization began, and it was never repealed by Jesus nor by His apostles. There is one thing to remember: the death of the body does not necessarily mean the death of the soul. In fact, those who are facing the electric chair may very well be receptive to the free gift of eternal life through faith in Christ.

Tim said...

liked this tidbit in the older NYT article Althouse cited, on the new evidence offered by economists that suggested the death penalty may have a higher than previously thought deterrent effect on future crime.

"The economics studies are, moreover, typically published in peer-reviewed journals, while critiques tend to appear in law reviews edited by students."

Aside from current lawyers, judges, and professors looking back with fondness at this curious tradition (and the additional sorting mechanism law review credentials provide for those chasing law's ever-more scare prizes) I do wonder why such a pedigree obsessed field likr law would allow their prime academic journals to be edited by students.

Now a days I'm even told that editing a law review is a relevant credential when running for president.

Chase said...

Seven - you are not arguing with me - you're arguing with 2000 years of orthodox Christianity.

It seems you are off to a confused start so I'm not certain you are very clear here.

Have it at.Somehow Christianity always comes out on top.

See ya.

Chase said...

Oh and Seven before I leave, why don't you take a point by point reference to the quote I gave from Hank Hanegraff. I think his credentials may far outweigh yours in this matter.

I could be wrong of course.

georgethomas said...

Even without deliberate errors, I think the "Innocence Project" through its use of DNA has shown that some convicted murderers were not guilty of the crime for which they were executed. Therefore life without parole (which is probably more mentally painful than death) is a substitute sentence that can be reversed if an error is found. Once you are dead, of course, there is no appeal.

Seven Machos said...

Chase -- I was merely talking about the paragraph where you tried to spout.

hombre said...

... the story of Cain and Abel was in no way concomitant with the story of Noah.

So what, Seven? Chase's point is that God said, "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed."

This is the principle of talion, a life for a life, with the perpetrator being held accountable by God working through human representatives.

What's your point other than a bald contradiction without biblical authority?

Seven Machos said...

Hombre -- My point is that Chase has his Biblical history woefully fucked up if he believes that Cain and Abel and the Flood scene are supposed to have taken place around the same time.

Moreover, the Cain and Abel story has nothing to do with the death penalty. It has to do with the kind of life God chooses to reward, and the sad fate for the people who do not choose or cannot choose that life.

There is nothing whatsoever to be gleaned from Genesis up to the Flood concerning the value of the death penalty.

hombre said...

@Seven: I don't think Chase is necessarily saying that Cain and Abel have to do with the death penalty or were near the time of Noah.

I don't think either he or I are arguing about the "value" of the death penalty. His Noah point is evident. My point was merely that God prescribed death as a consequence for a forbidden act as early as Eden.

Seven Machos said...

My point was merely that God prescribed death as a consequence for a forbidden act as early as Eden.

He also prescribed pain in child birth and second-class citizenship for women and general misery for everybody. So what?

Chase said...

Hombre -- My point is that Chase has his Biblical history woefully fucked up if he believes that Cain and Abel and the Flood scene are supposed to have taken place around the same time.

Seven - sorry for the misunderstanding. I did not mean in any way to say that Cain and Abel happened around the same time.

Moreover, the Cain and Abel story has nothing to do with the death penalty. It has to do with the kind of life God chooses to reward, and the sad fate for the people who do not choose or cannot choose that life.

There is nothing whatsoever to be gleaned from Genesis up to the Flood concerning the value of the death penalty.


I completely agree.

My statement was made because Ann seemed - if I understood her correctly - to imply that since God did not put Cain to death for the first murder, then God did not necessarily condone capital punishment. My point was that God was dealing himself directly with Cain and, as you point out, that has nothing at all to do with God instituting laws for man to govern himself by.

Seven Machos said...

Chase -- Nothing but a tremendous misunderstanding then. I, too, am very sorry to you.

Robert Cook said...

"Why is the death penalty more subject to abuse than prison sentences?"

It may not be, but once carried out, it cannot be rectified if the person executed is found after the fact to have been innocent. So, there is all the more concern in death penalty cases as to whether we can, with exceptions, ever really be certain of a verdict of guilty.

You can be sure innocent men have been executed in this country.

Leland said...

I have a bit of a problem with Justice Stevens views of on beneficiaries. Let's consider the first and last classes that Justice Stevens describes. Instead of putting 3 filler paragraphs between them, just what is he suggesting?

The dead are dead, therefore the death of another matters not to them. But the murderer's can be repetent, and therefore they should be given penance and absolution.

Well with that argument, I say put the murderer to death so he/she may no longer have an interest in society. Ask me in a few years if I regret that opinion.

MikeR said...

Lot of Biblical discussion. Perhaps a simpler way of putting the issue was given by Dennis Prager: The death penalty for murder is the only law mentioned in all five books of Moses.

MikeR said...

I enjoyed, by the way, the comment by Wolfers in the article about deterrence:
"To say anything else is to brand yourself an imbecile."
One can argue about the size of the effect. To say that there is no effect is to say that you don't understand basic economics.

hombre said...

Seven wrote: He also prescribed pain in child birth and second-class citizenship for women and general misery for everybody. So what?

Arguably, the prescription of death as a consequence for a forbidden act provides some insight into God's stand on death as a penalty, the subject of our discussion. I do not argue that it is the best example, only the earliest.

I doubt that you can make a case that the other prescriptions you mention, even if you are accurate, do that.

Triangle Man said...

it is also important to note that the Death Penalty was actually the first law given to man by God, even prior to the Mosaic law.

@Chase

Yours are among many of the misunderstandings about God that Christ aimed to correct.

Chase said...

triangleman,

I don't think you're correct.

I supported my point. Did you even read my comments at 11:08 and 11:12 above?

Let's see what you got.

former law student said...

As if making murder a heavily punished crime doesn't prevent some people from becoming victims.

Stevens is talking about actual victims here, not prospective victims, which fall into his fourth class, the general public. Per Garland's analysis, the lives of the public are no safer for the existence of the death penalty.

Recent research undermines the convenient old assumption that the death penalty has no deterrent effect.

Does it? Apparently Stevens was persuaded by Garland's argument that the death penalty has no deterrent effect, but only satisfied political and cultural needs.

Notably, Garland all but denies that the death penalty serves significant deterrent purposes. Death penalty states, after all, have generally higher crime rates than “abolitionist” ones. For Garland, this differential helps—by eliminating one possibility—to explain the people’s decisions; it tells us nothing about the wisdom of those decisions.

Job said...

Robert Cook said: "...once carried out, it cannot be rectified if the person executed is found after the fact to have been innocent. So, there is all the more concern in death penalty cases as to whether we can, with exceptions, ever really be certain of a verdict of guilty.

You can be sure innocent men have been executed in this country."

So it is OK if we put someone in prison for 60 years because that is somehow revocable?

Suppose that we find that out that a convicted murderer is innnocent 10 years after he dies in prison during his life sentence. How does that help?

Most of the people who have been exonerated while on death row would simply have rotted in prison forever without the death sentence. A death sentence guarantees 1000 times more scrutiny and a far, far, far greater chance of exoneration for the innocent.

We take so long to execute someone -- 10 to 12 years -- that any hope of exoneration is functionally nil by the time of execution.

Failing to carry out a death sentence is also irrevocable. If we fail to execute murderers, we fail to carry out justice, we fail to deter other murders and we fail to render the criminal harmless.

I don't know of any evidence that we have executed an innocent person -- though it will likely happen if it has not -- but I am certain that we have taken lives by failing to execute dangerous people. This can be absolutely be documented.

http://www.wesleylowe.com/repoff.html

If you think that we are executing innocent people then we must be imprisoning lots more innocent people for life. But I guess this is OK?

Belkys said...

Then I saw a DA railroad 4 young men on the basis of their race and class.
Niphog
Duke
a drunk liar( non punished because of her gender, class and race

Belkys said...

he ordered not to touch Cain but killed 2300000 people

Seven Machos said...

I don't know of any evidence that we have executed an innocent person

There's an article in The Atlantic (perhaps the New Yorker) from fairly recently that fairly well documents that an innocent man was convicted of arson and killed by the apparatus of the state.

Triangle Man said...

@Chase

Your misunderstanding is that the death penalty is somehow "God's law". It is a policy of government, a law of man. It's existence must be evaluated in terms of the relative benefits and harms that it provides society.

Chase said...

Triangle Man,

You are completely misunderstanding the point.

After the flood, God set up human government - and gave as the very first point of that government the death penalty. It wasn't an either or, or even a "Hey, make it up everyone as you go along, I'm cool with whatever". The Bible is partly the story of mankind constantly screwing up by not obeying the very laws and principles that God himself established. The other part is God's longsuffering and mercy to all even though none deserve it. Man can add his own laws in human government - but is wise only when he does not negate the laws God established for human government.

You don't have to like that it's that way. You certainly don't have to live by it yourself and can rail against it all you like - but you're on dangerous ground when you misrepresent what the Bible clearly says.

Don't mistake God's grace in not pronouncing immediate judgment as a sign that he will ultimately not judge at all.

God doesn't pay at the end of every day. But in the end, God pays.

Triangle Man said...

@Chase

Is your point that the death penalty was given to man by God, and therefore must be a permanent feature of law? Because that's what I thought you meant.