August 1, 2011

"Right now, executions are generally open only to the press and a few select witnesses."

"For the rest of us, the vague contours are provided in the morning paper. Yet a functioning democracy demands maximum accountability and transparency. As long as executions remain behind closed doors, those are impossible. The people should have the right to see what is being done in their name and with their tax dollars."

Should American executions be televised?
Yes. They happen, so anyone who wants to watch should have a way.
No. It would be an offense to human dignity.
Yes. Because it might help turn people against the death penalty.
No. Because it might help turn people against the death penalty.
  
pollcode.com free polls

66 comments:

TWM said...

I've always thought that public hanging sent a strong message to people not to do things that would, you know, get you hanged. Town square, picnic baskets, and all that jazz.

Public shaming could use a comeback as well.

Curious George said...

Sure. Right after we show the reason they are being executed, in pictures of the crime scene, words of the police and victims family.

And fuck lethal injection. Strap 'em in. Light 'em up.

maninthemiddle said...

Perhaps an additional choice: "Yes, because it might convince some 14 year old thug in training that he is on the wrong path."

The Crack Emcee said...

I want another choice:

It depends on who it is.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

What, no option for Yes, because it would more uplifting then most of the dreck that is currently broadcast?

Sweetbriar said...

TV broadcasting cheapens just about everything. Rather than a broadcast, make a live feed available only locally to however many want to come to the location. If people have to stand outside the prison lawn, fine. Erect portable screens and have state troopers available to keep things quiet. If you want to watch, you should be able to watch, but that doesn't mean sitting on your couch with a bowl of popcorn.

Rube said...

Whats with the "Human Dignity" thing. If a person has done something bad enough to be executed why should we be concerned with there dignity. That's just PC crap. Same as the Sterilized needles thing.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I see a new reality TV show. Have a bunch of death row inmates living together in a beach house. ( Of course there is a hot tub. Duh! )

Each week we get to vote one of them off. All the way off.

madAsHell said...

"The preceding program was brought to you by...."

yeah....that ain't gonna happen.

Scott M said...

The dignity of the victims was casually tossed away by the condemned, so I don't see that they should be afforded any more. Besides, is it dignified to remain in our prison system for the rest of one's life? Hardly. Is it dignified for the rest of us to subsidize that existence? Hardly.

t-man said...

How about: "Yes, because it might turn more people in favor of the death penalty?" Throughout history, executions were very popular as entertainment.

If executions are public, would they be considered a "public forum" with full 1st Amendment protections? Would one side try to whip up the crowd recounting the crimes, with images (real or recreated) of the murdered victims? What would the other side do?

AllenS said...

Since a lot of abortions are paid for by the state, the people should have the right to see what is being done in their name and with their tax dollars.

ndspinelli said...

I oppose the death penalty but believe in open government. When the govt. executes people, it should be available for the public to see in some format.

Freddy Hill said...

I think that there should be 12 buttons Each one of these should be operated by a member of the jury. When the 12 buttons are pressed simultaneously, the accused dies.

It's well and good to condemn somebody to death knowing that it will be years before it happens and it will likely not happen. It's different to execute the sentence yourself.

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)



ALL humans have dignity…just because John Wayne Gacey or Saddam Hussein tossed their victim’s dignity away means we ought do the same.

I’d put them on C-SPAN (federal) or State Educational Television (state), live. I’m one of the one’s hoping it raises OPPOSITION to the Death Penalty. At least it shows folks what it looks like, and it MIGHT deter some idiot from acting foolishly.

I know all the ghouls would watch…and the groupies, but that’s not a reason to NOT publicize the State’s Murder/Punishment (depending on your stance).

MayBee said...

I'm still stuck arguing that an open government would show Osama Bin Laden's death photo.

Superdad said...

they should be open to the public but not put on TV. The race for ratings could quickly turn this into something approaching Arnold's 1987 hit the Running Man

TWM said...

"It's well and good to condemn somebody to death knowing that it will be years before it happens and it will likely not happen. It's different to execute the sentence yourself."

Since most death penalty cases are for particulary heinous crimes it might be easier than you think.

caplight said...

I'm with AllenS. If you showed one late term abortion the practice would be outlawed in weeks, SCOTUS or no.
Speaking for myself, I suspect that C-SPAN executions would lead to the abolition of the death penalty, even by lethal injection. As I think Will Muny (Clint Eastwood) said in "Forgiven", "It's a hell of a thing to kill a man."

Balfegor said...

Isn't that poll missing the most obvious option: "No, because it will increase support for the death penalty"? It's not for nothing that executions and bloodsport were the popular entertainment of so many ages.

Balfegor said...

Ah, I see I have the flip site of t-man's point there.

Michael E. Lopez said...

Yes... but because of human dignity. We owe it to the accused to give our attention, our acknowledgement. We shouldn't have the execution of a fellow human being be hidden, out of sight. It's bad enough we do that to spare our gentle sensibilities about the realities of our steak.

In a democratic republic, we are the ones doing the killing, after all.

Oxbay said...

Here's the central irony in the present day Death Penalty debate. People who want to outlaw the death penalty in all cases are the ones most eager to have someone executed who is found to be innoncent of the crime.

Irony #2: if they succeed in their quest to outlaw the death penalty soon after they will manufacture a hue and cry telling us that life without parole is just as evil as the death penalty.

Fred4Pres said...

Televised no. Public hangings, yes. First come first serve. No cameras.

Gabriel Hanna said...

How historically IGNORANT!

Executions used to BE public, and that's what people used to watch because there was no TV. There were food vendors and clowns and jugglers and probably bear-baiting and cockfighting too if you were lucky.

Samuel Pepys, 1660: To my Lord’s in the morning, where I met with Captain Cuttance, but my Lord not being up I went out to Charing Cross, to see Major- general Harrison hanged, drawn, and quartered; which was done there, he looking as cheerful as any man could do in that condition. He was presently cut down, and his head and heart shown to the people, at which there was great shouts of joy.

When my grandfather was a boy, people brought their kids to lynchings. And sent postcards of them to each other.

http://news.minnesota.publicradio.org/projects/2001/06/lynching/postcard.html

Roger J. said...

Gabriel Hanna beat me to it--Pepys morning jaunt took him to the place of execution where he commented upon it. (Major General Harrison was one of the regicides of Charles I)

MaggotAtBroad&Wall said...

The deterrent aspect of the pro public execution argument is so obvious that I have to wonder why it was omitted as a response. My first thought is that the lawprof is conducting an experiment to see how quickly or how often readers make the argument.

It's interesting that 2 of the first 3 responses in this thread make the deterrent argument. Then people quickly moved on to discussing other stuff, perhaps in part because the deterrent argument had already been made.

Or I could be full of shit.

James said...

I think T-Man has it right. The reason we do not make executions public is that if the public saw how mild lethal injection was, there would be even less opposition to the death penalty than there is today.

The worst thing for the anti-death penalty movement would be to make these public. The anti-death penalty crowd wants to create an image that these executions are horrible brutal and barbaric events. Watching a person drift off into sleep/coma/death would lay the lie to that narrative.

Heck, the public would probably demand a return to hanging and the electric chair.

bagoh20 said...

Yes, and ditto for abortions then. Of course the executions would be holiday specials and the abortions would need to be 24/7 of the programming

gerry said...

The hanging of Abraham Lincolns's assassination conspirators.

I understand that Mary Surratt had the quickest death. The other three twitched a bit.

Cedarford said...

"Freddy Hill said...
I think that there should be 12 buttons Each one of these should be operated by a member of the jury. When the 12 buttons are pressed simultaneously, the accused dies."
==================
I don't have any great faith in the "wisdom" of 12 jurors. Or unanimous requirements. Just because the jury system is enshrined in the old Constitution does not make it sacred and perfect...Anymore than liftime appointments of lawyers who are politically active money-raisers and academics to be Federal judges.

AllenS said...

For the record: I'm pro-death penalty and pro-abortion. What I will never understand is how people can be anti-death penalty and pro-abortion. It makes no sense to me.

G Joubert said...

Make it pay-for-view, with the proceeds going to the victim's family.

Chuck66 said...

Only if partial birth abortions area also televised.

Joe said...

Freddy Hill said:
"It's well and good to condemn somebody to death knowing that it will be years before it happens and it will likely not happen. It's different to execute the sentence yourself."

You're not worried about those who might hold out for the death penalty for the chance at the thrill of pushing the button? I don't oppose the death penalty, but I would not want to encourage that.

Chuck66 said...

AllenS, I agree. I can see being against both. Hard core right to lifers, especially religious ones, say killing is wrong, whether abortion or death penalty.

I can see supporting both.

I can see being pro-death penalty and pro-life, as the criminals get due-process while the babies don't.

But I don't understand how a dozen mass murderers a year being killed is viewed as wrong, but the same person supports allowing 1,400,000 abortions a year.

James said...

I'd favor public executions if ...

... we'd also televise abortions.

No need to video each and every abortion just broadcast one a day including, on occasion, a late-term.

Chuck66 said...

Or a compromise....how about showing the sonogram of the child right before the abortion. Mabye have a contest to name the child.

ic said...

"The public should have the right to see what is being done in their name and with their tax dollars." ... and to see what was being done to the victims by the condemned.

The public should have the right to see how much tax dollars are saved from jailing a monster for life.

edutcher said...

Not only were they public, but social events.

Look at "True Grit" or the pilot episode of "The Virginian". Everyone asks everyone else, "Enjoy the hangin'?".

You not only got to take some time off work, but you watched the bad guys get what was coming to them. It was part of one's duty as a citizen.

Scott M said...

The public should have the right to see how much tax dollars are saved from jailing a monster for life.

This. I don't see capital punishment as a deterrent to crime. I see it as society no longer having to deal with the convicted and condemned. Besides, life in prison personally freaks me out more than a death sentence would.

Kirk Parker said...

caplight,

UNforgiven.

george said...

Yep, pay per view is the best idea. That way we can recover some of the costs people always complain about with the death penalty.

I also think they should sell safari trips that people could take off the coast of Somalia. There is no reason to worry about pirates or pay for security when people would pay to get the chance to bag a pirate.

t-man said...

Simplistic comparisons between abortion and the death penalty are often not well thought out.

Here's how I see it. If you are in favor of the death penalty but opposed to abortion, the moral distinction you are drawing is between the guilty and the innocent.

If you are in favor of abortion but opposed to the death penalty, the moral distinction you are drawing is between killing a non-person and killing a person.

traditionalguy said...

Yes, provided that Nancy Grace can be the executioner snarling at the down and out loser as she executes him.

We need our money's worth out of TV time.

There is a guy in Norway that will be available for the job in 21 years or so.

purplepenquin said...

I voted for the executions to be broadcast, 'cause while we do have plenty of bread we still need some more circuses in this country.


PS - if open heart surgery was also broadcast, I wonder how long it would take before people demand that gets outlawed...

Scott M said...

Yes, provided that Nancy Grace can be the executioner snarling at the down and out loser as she executes him.

Can we just throw Grace and Chef Ramsay into a convenient volcano? Seriously...the guy has TWO REALITY shows now.

At some point, there will be another paradigm shift on the level of the reality tv explosion. What are the odds that it will result is less loathsome entertainment?

PETER V. BELLA said...

We should make executions public. Not to turn people against them but to show people what happens to you when you commit a heinous crime.

t-man said...

Penguin -

Surgeries are broadcast all of the time and have been for a while. I vividly recall the first heart surgery I came across on TV. I didn't watch after the put the rib spreaders in and started to crank them open.

Scott said...

If televising an execution is an offense to human dignity, then how can the act itself not be?

I voted for #3. Incidentally, Minnesota does not have the death penalty because of public revulsion at a botched hanging in Ramsey County. And that was in the 1800s, before television and the Internet. Perhaps society's appetite for death porn has increased a bit since then.

So absolutely yes, televise executions. Let's adopt the Iranian execution ethos. The America of the new millennium can stomach it.

MayBee said...

Seriously...the guy has TWO REALITY shows now.


Two running right now, but three overall.

Hell's Kitchen
Kitchen Nightmares
Master Chef

Scott M said...

Two running right now, but three overall.

All the more reason to give him the ol' "He's dead, Jim."

Cedarford said...

Scott M - " Besides, life in prison personally freaks me out more than a death sentence would."

It is an argument that anti-death penalty people make - that life imprisonment is far, far worse than an "easy death".

In reality, though, you see cons already familiar with the prison system who are facing death penalty charges take a plea to get life without parole to avoid the death penalty. And once in, on death row, the normal butcher and his ACLU lawyers fight like dogs to avoid the death sentence being carried out and shoot for life-no-parole in their court pleas.

Humans are funny that way. People not in the same spot pronounce how they "couldn't imagine living an unendurable life" as a con in jail for life, as a woman of virtue made a 8X a day whore by Mexican cartels, a person with half their limbs blown off - but people in such positions adjust.

Only those who know they will get worse each day, or think they know...are in the ranks of the "logical embrace of death". Several afflictions, led by metastatic cancer, fit that bill. That, and the general majority opinion it is better to die than last a decade as a vegetable like a Terri Schiavo or a person lost to Alzheimers.

Sometimes, life without parole has it's Richard Specks. Who long after the Supreme Court of lawyers reversed his death penalty...did a 1988 video 1st shown in 1996, 5 years after he died of a cocaine-contributed heart attack.
The video showed the explicit scenes of lifers engaging in sex, drug use, and money being passed around by prisoners, who seemingly had no fear of being caught. In the center of it all was Speck, performing oral sex on several inmates, sharing a huge pile of cocaine with an inmate, parading in silk panties, sporting female-like breasts (allegedly grown using smuggled hormone treatments). He claimed "If they only knew how much fun I was having, they'd turn me loose. This isn't a bad life at all - especially if you realize sex with men is really hot."

From behind the camera, a prisoner asked Speck why he killed the nurses. Speck shrugged and jokingly said "It just wasn't their night."

Crimso said...

I recall back in the early 90's reading a TV executive's comment to the effect that "If it were up to them, the networks would televise live executions. Except Fox [the network of The Simpsons, Married with Children, etc., not FNC]. They would televise live naked executions."

Revenant said...

The poll needs an "I don't care" option.

mariner said...

Yes, because it demonstrates a public commitment to the rule of law.

You do the crime, this is how you end.

caplight said...

"From behind the camera, a prisoner asked Speck why he killed the nurses. Speck shrugged and jokingly said "It just wasn't their night."

The banality of evil, as Hannah Arendt termed it

david7134 said...

I used to be strongly is favor of the death penalty. Then I got to know some of the prosecutors and have seen trials where the guilt was clearly manufactured. So now I am not so sure.

Besides, the process does not work if it takes about 10 years to execute someone.

What would be better would be a rapid, simple trial. No use of circumstantial evidence. Have the verdict immediately reviewed by a panel of 3 judges and then pull the switch. Turn over time less than 60 days. That is the only thing that would act as a lesson.

Kent said...

Only if it is on pay-per-view

Kent said...

Only if it is on pay-per-view

George said...

Not only should they be televised but for guys like McVeigh the execution should occur on a gallows on the West Mall.

George said...

"It's well and good to condemn somebody to death knowing that it will be years before it happens and it will likely not happen. It's different to execute the sentence yourself."

You know, I see the death penalty opponents make this talking point all the time, but it is pure projection.

George said...

"if open heart surgery was also broadcast, I wonder how long it would take before people demand that gets outlawed..."

PBS actually broadcast a bypass operation back int he 1980s.

AllenS said...

Every once in a while you could have Super Saturday Executions, where the criminals would be drawn and quartered.

clint said...

I don't get the idea that it's an "offense against human dignity."

Compared to what?

Compared to putting people in jail, with all that goes along with that?

Compared to executing someone?

Trying to pretend we're showing someone respect at the same time we're strapping them down and killing them is pathetic.

Re: Purplepenquin, "PS - if open heart surgery was also broadcast, I wonder how long it would take before people demand that gets outlawed..."

I take it you haven't got "Discovery Health" on your tv?

ALH said...

I am totally fine with televising executions. As long as it is pay for view, so as to enable raising the debt ceiling.

wv: ovenm