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Current Battle: Election 2004






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Saturday, June 19, 2004

Comment Guidelines

After much thinking and reflection, here are the guidelines to commenting:

Battle Announcement

Anyone, including the combatants may post. Good-natured ribbing and taunting, questions about the Topic if unclear and general cheerleading and smack talking goes here. The only exception is that the Judges for the battle at hand may not reveal that they have been activated to Judge. As always, what Judges are active is to remain secret until the battle is over and the Judges' Comments go up.

Openings, Rebuttals and Closings

Only the readers may post. If the combatants post, it is only to congratulate the other for a good battle, acknowledge a good shot and so forth. In other words, no addressing the readers, no debating each other in the comments - save it for the battle. Readers may post thoughts, critiques and comments so long as they are not rude, personal attacks or blatantly aiding one of the combatants over the other. What's rude? Telling everyone how disappointed you are in X's post, how X utterly failed, how X had great style, but unfortunately no substance/whatever. That's condescending and generally rude. Saying "I thought that X could have handled Y better," or "X left the door open for Z..." is fine. Be constructive and supportive in your criticism, not 'disappointed', 'dismayed', 'disgusted' or any other 'dissing'. And try to have something good to say while you're at it. Can't say something nice? Don't say anything at all. I reserve the right to edit posts if they cross the line from critique to snark and will not hesitate to do so. What's aiding the combatant? Blatantly or obviously telling them exactly how to destroy their opponent. Critique is fine. If you want to rebut someone, sign up and be a combatant, yourself.

Judges' Comments and Verdict

Here, anyone can post. Combatants can ask Judges questions, address commenters if they like, or even each other. KEEP IT CIVIL. Follow the previous section on etiquette and play nice. As Rufus said in "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure", be excellent to each other.

That's about it. Questions, comments, etc., put 'em below.

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Battle Death Penalty - Iron Blogger Republican - Closing Statement

I opened with answers to the Chairman's questions regarding the death penalty. After reading numerous sources and doing two rebuttals, I realized that my answers changed, slightly. I am more in favor of the death penalty than I was before.

My rebuttals showed that while there is a chance an innocent person might get a death sentence; the chance of an innocent person actually being executed is nil. Also, it is important to point out that having a death sentence overturned for a life sentence does not mean the convict was innocent. We are working all the time to improve our legal system to insure the safety of all our citizens.


The death penalty isn't the only institution that contains risks in exchange for social benefits. We, in fact, use far more dangerous institutions that take the lives of innocents by the hundreds every day, like the three or four tons of lethal metal we call automobiles for example. After all, how can we accept the average 44,000 people a year death toll in this nation due to car wrecks for our personal conveniences when the very tiny risk of wrongful executions is so unbearable?

To enjoy the privilege of using cars, airplanes, or any other device that improve the quality of our lives, we accept the risks and deaths that are caused by them in order to reap their full benefits. The same concept applies for the death penalty only on a far lesser scale. As long as we're entitled to endanger hundreds of innocent lives daily for our personal conveniences, then surely we should be allowed to take lesser risks for something far less selfish and self serving like public safety.

One of the most favored arguments against the death penalty is "Violence doesn't solve anything" or "Why do we kill people to show that killing people is wrong?"

If I didn't satisfy you yet, I will try once again using my husband's favorite author, Robert Heinlein:
"The idea that "violence doesn't solve anything" is a historically untrue and immoral doctrine. Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. People that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and freedoms."


As to the other, I mentioned earlier that murder is the unlawful killing of an innocent person and the death penalty is our legal and constitutional response to unlawful killing and other truly heinous crimes like terrorism.

Yesterday reminded me why the death penalty must always be available. Paul Johnson, Jr. was kidnapped by terrorists and brutally beheaded.

As if that wasn't good enough, they took pictures and posted them on their website. Do you think life without parole is sufficient for cutting off a man's head, sticking it on his back and plunging his face with the knife used to sever his head?

HELL NO!

Finally, I submit that the death penalty is not cruel, not unusual and fully constitutional. I've explained in earlier writings why I feel it isn’t cruel and unusual but C. Justice Earl Warren can explain it legally.

Chief Justice Earl Warren, in Trop v. Dulles:
"Whatever the arguments may be against capital punishment, both on moral grounds and on grounds and in terms of accomplishing the purposes of punishment.... the death penalty has been employed throughout our history, and in a day when it is still widely accepted, it cannot be said to violate the conceptional concept of cruelty".



On constitutionality, I present you with the Fifth Amendment and a couple more really smart judges. I highlighted the areas in the amendment that I feel support the death penalty.

The Fifth Amendment

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.


Former Justice Marshall McComb of the California Supreme Court wrote in 1972:
It is my opinion that the death penalty is constitutional, as determined...in innumerable cases. therefore, since it is the duty of the Legislature of the electorate, and not the judiciary, to decide whether it is sound public policy to empower the imposing of the death penalty, it is my opinion that if a change is to be made, it should be effected through the legislative process of by the people through the initiative process.


US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia confirmed this analysis in 1997 when he said:
"No fewer than three of the Justices with whom I have served (Justices Brennan, Marshall, and Blackmun) have maintained that the death penalty is unconstitutional, even though its use is explicitly contemplated in the Constitution. The Due Process Clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments says that no person shall be deprived of life without due process of law; and the Grand Jury Clause of the Fifth Amendment says that no person shall be held to answer for a capital crime without grand-jury indictment."


For people who truly value public safety, there is no substitute for capital punishment.

I'll leave you with the words of the SCOTUS when they reinstated the death penalty:
"the decision that capital punishment may be the appropriate sanction in extreme cases is an expression of the community's belief that certain crimes are themselves so grievous an affront to humanity that the only adequate response may be the penalty of death. "


Respectfully Submitted,

Rosemary Esmay, Iron Blogger Republican

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Battle Death Penalty - Challenger - Closing Arguments

After re-reading previous rebuttals and opening statements, I feel the need to ask a simple favor.

Imagine I’ve been hit by a car. I am facedown in the street and you can’t tell if I’m alive or dead. Please do me a favor and call an ambulance, not a mortician. Assume that I’m alive. That doesn’t seem like too much to ask, does it?

See, in this country, we give the benefit of the doubt to life over death.

For instance, when the mad cow disease scare hit, did the FDA decide to leave the meat out on the market shelves until we could be certain it was tainted? Heavens, no. They yanked that meat faster than (insert your own Pee Wee Herman reference here).

In short, they had a reasonable doubt that this pile of hamburger was safe, and some as-yet unproven claims that it could make you sick or kill you. They blessedly took action to shut down the system until it could be cleaned up. Rose wants a token effort at cleaning the system up (saying in her closing rebuttal we should “fix it up”), while STILL killing folks in the meantime.

My claim is that if we could stop killing long enough to get the taste of blood out of our mouths, we would objectively see that the system ITSELF is unfair.

See where I’m going with this?

Rose sides with death on this issue.

If you took all of my arguments and all of Rose’s arguments (these debates sometimes feel more like “Google vs. Google,” don’t they?) and lined them up, it is a tragic (and in this case, fatal) fallacy to think that my arguments HAVE to be more persuasive than hers, even though I think they clearly are.

My arguments, ultimately, don’t even need to be the equal of Rose’s, although, again, they are that and more.

At the end of the debate, all I really had to do was show a reasonable doubt about the fairness of the death penalty system for us to have a compulsion to shut it down until it can be cleaned up so nobody else dies unfairly. In this country, I say again, we give the benefit of the doubt to life.

So my task was to show a reasonable doubt that the death penalty system was fair. I thought it would be a piece of cake, since the death penalty is, after all, inherently unfair and vengeance-based at the heart of it. After all, the best appeals system means zilch to a man who’s dead. However, that task turned out to be even easier than I expected.

Rose did it for me.

In essence and in word, in the opening notes of the debate she gave me the only point I needed to win: she admitted the death penalty was unfair. To save you the anxiety of unnecessary scrolling, let me quote four excerpts from her otherwise credible statements.

“Is it [the death penalty] fair and just? Yes and no.”

“How about this answer? Not always.”

“Yes, it is true that the system sometimes fails and innocent people are convicted of crimes that they didn't commit.”

“I don't believe the death penalty is perfect, but, is any method of punishment perfect?”

I say a system that kills (killing being an irreversible act) HAS to be perfect.

Her words could have just as winningly been posted in my opening to great effect. See, in a country that reveres life, as I have mentioned before, a system that will take life must first deliver justice. Not partial justice, not occasional justice, not justice that feels good… justice. Occasional justice is fine for a system that hands out reversible punishments.

If you have a perfectly fine punishment that doesn’t kill, as well as a punishment that does, along with a system that is ADMITTEDLY imperfect and unfair, you MUST shut down the death-dealing system until it can be fixed. To call back into mind Barry Scheck’s point in his hospital example: You’d demand the system be shut down.

Again, when lives are on the line, being “a little unfair” is like being a tad pregnant. Rose admits the system is unfair right off the bat, when even reasonable doubt on that point would win the debate. Folks are dying. Shut it down.

It’ll save us money, anyway.

The good news for me is that even if you leave the benefit of the doubt argument aside, (which you really can’t do, but there it is) the arguments against the death penalty are simply more convincing than those for death.

Rose made an interesting analogy to Chewbacca in the OJ case, and made a particularly witty jibe at Clinton’s expense (by the way, he WAS unethical, so my definition – incompetent, unethical or criminal – applies), but never really addressed the issue at hand, which was that the poor simply can’t get the kind of legal representation it takes to get a fair shake in a capital crimes trial. Regardless of WHY lawyers got disbarred, many of the now-deceased “criminals” had lawyers who had been, or later were, disbarred for improper conduct.

My personal favorite lawyer on that site (and by favorite, I mean, “most repulsive”) was this one:
“Nigger” -the word used by Eddie Lee Ross’ court-appointed attorney during his capital murder trial in Georgia. Ross later learned that his white attorney had been the Imperial Wizard of the local Ku Klux Klan for 50 years. Ross was sentenced to the electric chair.
The system is unfair.

I mentioned the many families who had written extensively on the way that seeing their loved ones’ killers executed didn’t satisfy the need for revenge or make their sadness go away. These families decry the vengeance-based death penalty system. They, and I, claim that any system based on revenge is by definition unjust. Rosemary’s response to the list of books: silence. The system is unfair.

I argued that murder rates in states with the death penalty were higher than the rates in states without it. I also argued that murder rates dropped in Canada after the death penalty was repealed. Rosemary’s response: silence. The system is unfair.

I gave four responses, very neat and ordered, to Rosemary’s claims that her safeguards would make sure the death penalty system was fair. I did so because I thought the safeguards she mentioned were, yes, a joke. A very bad, very tragic joke. She responded to only one of those four claims against her safeguards directly. Part of that response was quoting folks who want us to think nobody can ever die wrongly again thanks to the miracle of DNA testing. Her response to my four dismissals of the current safeguards: silence, response, silence, silence. The system is unfair.

I claimed that the death penalty system is much more expensive than the equally-effective life imprisonment option. Her response to the compared expenses: silence. The system is unfair.

I claimed, and provided sources to prove, that killing and revenge escalate until society is out of control. Her response: silence. The system is unfair.

There is ONE claim Rose did respond to in a way I felt satisfactory. This response came in her final rebuttal. Remember her definition of murder from the first rebuttal? She said it was “To kill another human unlawfully. To kill brutally or inhumanly.”

On that point I agree, and I call the death penalty murder for its brutality and reducing death row prisoners to sub-human. So does Rosemary, I note. This is from her second rebuttal:

“Okay, Jesus didn't think adultery is a crime worthy of MURDER (emphasis mine). I'm pretty sure that in this country we agree.”

Since she was the one who insisted on the definitions, and since the woman in the act of adultery was tried by proper authorities, I have to assume she agrees that the death penalty is murder.

AND there’s a point I’m willing to give in on completely. That point is the Biblical defense of the death penalty in her second rebuttal.

There are of course the Old Testament rules she quoted, but nobody really follows those anymore. I mean, do any of you forbid your kids (on penalty of death) from wearing blended fabrics? Do any of you refuse to sleep in the same bed with your wife when she’s having that special time of the month? Do you avoid eating pork (Mmmmmm, pork!)? Did you stone your neighbor the last time he said “Oh, my God”? Of course not. The Old Testament laws are outdated, even for Christians, thanks to Jesus.

I give in completely on her quotes from Jesus himself, though.

Rose astutely quoted a parable of Jesus which uses a vineyard owner as an analogy for God’s return, and two quotes of Jesus pointing out that death is in God’s hands. I agree totally. In my book, God can go ahead and impose the death penalty whenever He chooses.

Um… just not fallible humans. That’s been my point all along: human failure. Human weakness. Human compulsion for revenge.

Ah, revenge. Despite her brilliance in so many other areas, Rose never really convincingly dismissed the claim that revenge is what drives the death penalty. Honestly, you can’t blame her for not doing so, since the claim is true. That’s why I made it the centerpiece of my argument all along.

As a retributory tool, death works wonderfully. The desire for revenge is the dark secret in all of us. It has, I suppose, been so since the beginning of time. It is human nature to resent a hurt, and each of us has a desire to hurt back. This is why Rose relied so heavily on two rare, extreme cases (Matthew Shepard and Lemuel Smith) – they more violently trigger our desire for revenge.

THIS is why I claim that the death penalty system has “an eye for an eye” at its heart, because the concept is “taking a life because one was taken”… exactly the equation I claimed was unfair and NOT a one-for-one affair, with Camus’ help. Remember this?

Capital punishment is the most premeditated of murders, to which no criminal's deed, however calculated, can be compared. For there to be an equivalency, the death penalty would have to punish a criminal who had warned his victim of the date at which he would inflict a horrible death on him and who, from that moment onward, had confined him at his mercy for months. Such a monster is not encountered in private life. -Albert Camus


Care to take a guess at Rose’s response to that point?

By exacting revenge on criminals as a society, that society drops to the social stratum of its dregs. We are then playing on the murderer’s terms; by their rules: and we cannot win. Official revenge is no better than Hatfield and McCoy revenge, and the results are no less odious. And so it escalates.

Vengeance requires a victim. The government gives us one. “Payback,” although destructive to culture and family alike, is undeniably politically popular. It gets ratings. It has commercial value. It feels good. Hence, it is the law.

This is why debating (and, I suspect, judging) the topic is so hard. It’s difficult to be fair, to step back and to look at rational arguments when killing bad guys feels so right.

I say vengeance is not a proper motivation for a rational “justice” system. And I’m not alone.

People are willing to concede that it (the death penalty) is just pure revenge and they’re willing to live with that.
-Hunter Labovitz, my new favorite backwoods Southern (Florida) attorney, quoted on Rose’s new favorite site, the Death Penalty Information Center

Well, I’m NOT willing to live with that. How many more won’t be ABLE to?



With thanks, and newfound respect for Rosemary’s spirit, talents and wit,

Here’s to a classic battle and a classy lady,

Humbly submitted by Big Dan

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Friday, June 18, 2004

An Important Note From The Chairman

Having received comments and concerns from more than one of my Iron Bloggers as well as several past Challengers and a few Challengers waiting in the wings to compete, I think it's time to change something.

Quite simply put, some of you are spending way too much time tearing the posts to shreds in the comments and not actually discussing the issues. This is both counter to the purpose of Iron Blog and is patently unfair to those who are brave enough to debate as they are unable to respond in the comments. Something needs to be done.

My choices as I see them are A. to allow them to respond to all of you, in which case we quickly devolve into bickering and flaming and lose sight of the real reason we're here, or B., restrict comments from discussing the battle itself and keep them solely for discussing the topic.

I choose B.

To put it bluntly, we're about to lose Iron Bloggers and Challengers because they're getting sick of posting here when the only thing they get to read in the comments is about the 'mack truck sized holes' in their arguments or how they 'utterly failed' to do X, Y and Z. If you see so many flaws in their arguments, why not put your money where your mouth is and be a Challenger? These people volunteer their time - and it IS time-consuming - to debate here as a public service and they get treated like dirt by arm-chair critics.

Enough.

I'd rather restrict the comments and try my best to keep the debates on topic and focus on the sharing of ideas rather than the nitpicking over them. From now on, comments addressing the combatants, their posts, the weaknesses thereof and such are not allowed and will be deleted. Discuss the death penalty for crying out loud, not why Rosemary or Big Dan's arguments about it suck. Is that so hard?

Irritatedly yours,

The Chairman
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Battle Death Penalty - Iron Blogger Republican - Second Rebuttal

I want to say that battling Big Dan has been a treat. I've never debated
anyone that was just so super nice, it really makes it hard to be snarky and
sarcastic. Hard but not impossible, now on with the show.

Big Dan starts off rebuttal #1 with this observance:
Saying that we’ve come a long way and no longer kill people quite so viciously is like me saying I no longer beat my wife with metal pipes anymore, preferring the less scarring wooden stick instead. Gruesome, isn’t it? It chills me just to make that reference, but the fact is that the death penalty is just that: gruesome.


Not really the same thing. I mean when you beat your wife are you doing in in a
manner of self-defense. Did she deserve to be beaten? Did she beat you first? Did she shove a red hot poker up your ass and in turn you punished her by beating her with a stick?

No, of course not. Your using the old "beat my wife" canard to make us feel silly. The electric chair is gruesome but it isn't more gruesome than tying a man to a truck with chains and dragging him for miles till his head pops off.

When a human being acts like an animal and brutally murders an innocent person his humanity is lost. When an animal attacks a person we put the animal down. When a human acts like an animal what should we do? Try to understand him better?

Big Dan seems to think that the safeguards I spoke of were a joke. That we are so bent on revenge that we are blind to the fact that the justice system isn't always just. I'm not blind, none of us are. Mistakes are made and if we execute an innocent person that would be the worse thing that we as a society could do. I asked this question in my rebuttal and I received an excuse not an answer:
Since we reinstated the death penalty has an executed person ever been exonerated post-mortem?

From TownHall.com:
Death-penalty opponents claim there is a 68 percent "error rate " in capital cases. They base this on a study by Columbia University Law School, whose lead author, Prof. James Liebman, opposes capital punishment. But as Paul G. Cassell, a University of Utah law professor, wrote in The Wall Street Journal on June 16, 2000: "The 68 percent factoid is quite deceptive. For starters, it has nothing to do with'wrong man' mistakes - that is, cases in which an innocent person is convicted for a murder he did not commit. " Cassell notes that the most critical statistic is ignored: "After reviewing 23 years of capital cases the study's authors (like other researchers) were unable to find a single case in which an innocent person was executed. Thus, the most important error rate - the rate of mistaken executions - is zero."


Then Big Dan gently mocks my defense of our legal safeguards:
The safeguards Rose speaks of are under attack and reduction even as we speak. On the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, Congress passed the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (as Rosemary herself helpfully noted), which had little to do with terrorism but much to do with speeding up state executions. The law is already restricting inmates with new evidence of innocence from obtaining review because of stringent time limits and barriers to conducting evidentiary hearings.


Yes, it had a lot to do with speeding up executions but it was in direct response to Oklahoma City and it had everything to do with terrorism. That bill which was pushed for and signed by President Bill Clinton was a fulfillment of Clinton's promise two days after Oklahoma City: “Justice for these killers will be certain, swift and severe. We will find them, we will convict them, and we will seek the death penalty against them.” Capital punishment should be reserved for the most heinous of crimes but it is important to our society that justice be just.

Big Dan then gives us this:
Simply put, a system that doesn’t work for everyone doesn’t work.


A lot of our systems don't work for everyone but scrapping them isn't the answer. Fixing them is. That is why Congress is working to mend not end the death penalty.


Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology Act of 2003:

Senators Hatch (R-UT), Biden (D-DE),
Specter (R-PA), Leahy (D-VT), DeWine (R-OH), Feinstein (D-CA), Gordon Smith (R-OR), and Susan Collins (R-ME) have introduced the bi-partisan "Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology Act of 2003," which provides over $1 billion over the next five years to the criminal justice system in order to realize the full potential of DNA technology to solve crimes and protect the innocent. A companion bill was introduced in the House by Representatives Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Delahunt (D-MA), LaHood (R-IL), Conyers (D-MI), Coble (R-NC), and Scott (D-VA).

These bills:

  • Enact President's Bush's DNA Initiative, which was announced on March 11,
    2003, and provides $755 million for the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program to eliminate the current backlog of over 300,000 rape kits (and other crime scene evidence) awaiting DNA analysis in the nation's crime labs.


  • Enact the DNA Sexual Assault Justice Act and the Rape Kits and DNA Evidence Backlog Elimination Act, and authorizes over $500 million for additional grant programs to: (1) improve the capacity of federal, state and local crime labs to conduct DNA analyses; (2) reduce other forensic science backlogs; (3) train criminal justice personnel in the use of DNA evidence; (4) support sexual
    assault forensic examiner programs; and (5) promote the use of DNA technology to identify missing persons.


  • Enact the Innocence Protection Act: (1) creates a federal post-conviction
    DNA testing process to protect the innocent from wrongful prosecutions; (2)helps States improve the quality of legal representation in capital cases; and(3 increases compensation in Federal cases of wrongful conviction. In addition, the bill creates the Kirk Bloodsworth Post-Conviction DNA Testing Program and authorizes $25 million over five years to help the States to defray the costs of post-conviction DNA testing.


Big Dan's response to my statement on the death penalty was:

“The death penalty has no place in our society, even if it had EVER been used justly.


When The Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty it said: "the decision that capital punishment may be the appropriate sanction in extreme cases is an expression of the community's belief that certain crimes are themselves so grievous an affront to humanity that the only adequate response may be the penalty of death. "

Big Dan ends rebuttal #1 with this final point:
Death penalty advocates are most often subscribers to the "an eye for an eye" principle and feel that execution is the only way to satisfy the public as well as themselves. Who doesn't enjoy it when, for example, someone steals a hundred dollars from you and then the person who stole your money has the same thing happen to them? Death penalty advocates feel much the same way about murderers who are sentenced to die.


That's a little offensive. I'm not a subscriber of an "eye for an eye," I am a subscriber to taking an offense seriously. How can murder be taken seriously if the punishment isn't equally serious?

Big Dan likes quotes so I found some for him to enjoy:

"It is by exacting the highest penalty for the taking of human life that we affirm the highest value of human life." Ed Koch

"When I think of the thousands of inhabitants of Death Rows in the hundreds of prisons in this country...My reaction is: What's taking us so long? Let's get that electrical current flowing. Drop those pellets [of poison gas] now! Whenever I argue this with friends who have opposite views, they say that I don't have enough regard for the most marvelous of miracles - human life. Just the opposite: It's because I have so much regard for human life that I favor capital punishment. Murder is the most terrible crime there is. Anything less than the death penalty is an insult to the victim and society. It says...that we don't value the victim's life enough to punish the killer fully." Award-winning Chicago journalist Mike Royko

"Punishment is the way in which society expresses its denunciation of wrongdoing; and, in order to maintain respect for the law, it is essential that the punishment inflicted for grave crimes should adequately reflect the revulsion felt by the great majority of citizens for them. It is a mistake to consider the objects of punishments as being a deterrent or reformative or preventive and nothing else... The truth is that some crimes are so outrageous that society insists on adequate punishment, because the wrong doer deserves it, irrespective of whether it is a deterrent or not." Lord Justice Denning, Master of the Rolls of the Court of Appeals in England said to the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment in 1950

Again, every rogue who criminously attacks social rights becomes, by his wrong, a rebel and a traitor to his fatherland. By contravening its laws, he ceases to be one of its citizens: he even wages war against it. In such circumstances, the State and he cannot both be saved: one or the other must perish. In killing the criminal, we destroy not so much a citizen as an enemy. The trial and judgements are proofs that he has broken the Social Contract, and so is no longer a member of the State. J.J. Rousseau's The Social Contract written in 1762

In rebuttal #2 Big Dan nailed me pretty good. I made a mistake; when researching a debate topic most of us read a lot of sources, right Big Dan? ;-)
Anyway I used the wrong link and since I was unable to correct my opening statement after sending it in I hoped it went unnoticed. I stand corrected that Nebraska does not offer a lethal injection.

In the spirit of friendship I offer this piece of advice: don't kill anyone in Nebraska or you'll fry. Got that everyone?

Then Big Dan got really upset about my pointing out that he should've used more than one source in his opening statement:

This just in: I didn’t seem to reference the DPIC at all in my rebuttal, did I? I suspect that Rose read Thief’s comments on my opening and threw it out there to see if it would stick.


No, you didn't. Of course, my rebuttal was about your 2000 word opening statement now wasn't it? Coming from someone that thinks I'm so witty and bright I was shocked to learn that Big Dan thought it took a commenter to point out his use of a single source.

Guess what Big Dan? I clicked the links just like everyone else and I read them too! I can also cut my own food and go on the big girl potty.

Big Dan said that our death penalty system is based on outdated books in the Bible and that the Bible doesn't support the death penalty. Okay? Let's see how that's even possible:

I revere the Bible. But the simple truth is that our concept of state-sanctioned killing as justice is not only a lie, but one based on outdated Bible texts that need to be thrown out of our legal system. Separate church and state once and for all. Only then can we get to the truth: killing a killer is not a just retribution.

I see now that it is past time to disabuse the Iron Blog readership of the widely-believed but completely untrue idea that the Bible somehow SUPPORTS the death penalty, since our death penalty system is founded on that Biblical claim.


Then Big Dan gives us more "eye for an eye" talk. I tell you what I'll concede right now that an "eye for an eye" is taken out of context. I mean they would never have done that 4000 years ago in the Middle East, would they? Let's see what I can dig up that is more specific to murder.

"He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death." -Exodus 21:12

"Moreover you shall take no ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death." -Numbers 35:31

"So you shall not pollute the land where you are; for blood defiles the land, and no atonement can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it." -Numbers 35:33

"He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints." -Revelation 13:9-10

More of Big Dan's Bible Stuff:

Since time is short, but the end point is critical, I will skip the many sidelong and indirect references condemning the death penalty in the Bible and focus on the two capital crimes cases presented therein, as well as Jesus’ direct comments about the issue.


Okay, Jesus didn't think adultery is a crime worthy of murder. I'm pretty sure that in this country we agree. The death penalty should only be used for the most heinous of offenses. Guess what? According to his own words and his apostles, Jesus agrees with me. There are a couple passages in Luke which speak directly on Jesus' position on the death penalty:


"A certain man planted a vineyard, leased it to vinedressers, and went into a far country for a long time. Now at vintage-time he sent a servant to the vinedressers, that they might gave him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the vinedressers beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent another servant; and they beat him also, treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. And again he sent a third; and they wounded him also and cast him out. then the owner of the vineyard said, 'What shall I do? I will send my beloved son. Probably they will respect him when they see him.' But when the vinedressers saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.' So they cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those vinedressers and give the vineyard to others." -Luke 20:9-16.

The proper punishment for murder is death. Hey, that Jesus was a smart man. He also agreed that treason or rebellion was a good reason too: "But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me." -Luke 19:27
Big Dan gives us an example from Jesus' crucifixion to show how bloodthirtsy we are and all that. He forgot a little part of the story. When Jesus faces Pontius Pilate, Pilate says to Jesus: "Do You not know that I have power to crucify You..?" Jesus replies: "You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above." (John 19:10-11)

What do you think Jesus means? I think he means that God gave man authority to put people to death. So the question for us in a democratic society is not whether we have such authority, but when such authority is really appropriate.

As to the rest, I want to touch on this ditty:
*“Or when they lie about sex during a civil trial.” Um, did this absurd Clinton reference somehow disprove the point that many killed folks were represented by disbarred lawyers?

No, it rebutted what you said about disbarred lawyers: "These are sanctions reserved for conduct so incompetent, unethical or criminal that their license is taken away!!" Clinton was neither incompetent nor a horrible criminal, and that was the implication you made about disbarrment.

One last thing:
*Self-defense (of your person in the street and your country on D-Day) is necessary. However, the definition of self-defense requires no more violence than necessary at the time. Hmm... He’s strapped down and wired in... I can’t call that self-defense, can I?


You can't if you were his victim because YOU'D BE DEAD. You don't like any of my words. Justice, retribution, punishment none of those are good enough for you? I have an idea!

Let's call it retroactive self-defense. You're dead so the State kills him or her since you were obviously not given a fair chance!

Respectfully submitted:

Rosemary Esmay, Iron Blogger Republican
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Thursday, June 17, 2004

Battle Death Penalty - Challenger - Second Rebuttal

Speaking of attacking sources, did I ever tell you how much I like Nebraska? No? Regardless, the people there deserve equal access to the protections Rosemary has been discussing when it comes to the death penalty. After all, 23 men have been executed in that state in the 20th Century.

What’s interesting is that Rose went out of her way in her opening statements to point out that (a) lethal injection is a really friendly way to kill prisoners, and (b) ALL states have lethal injection as an option. My own stated feelings about lethal injection aside, I really have to call Rosemary out on this issue. As a point of fact, the ONLY form of execution in Nebraska is electrocution (remember my first rebuttal and the 5 minutes of smoking and burning before death?), which another 7 folks are eagerly awaiting on death row right now in that state. How did I find out that Nebraska ONLY allows electrocution and doesn’t have lethal injection as an alternative choice? Why, I clicked on Rose’s initial post where it said “All states have lethal injection as an alternative choice” in blue letters. I suspect this was a rushed oversight, but the point was hers to win in an uncontested and unfounded manner until I clicked.

Maybe a small point to the average reader, but, then again, maybe not so small to those seven folks about to fry for five minutes before death, blessedly, releases them.

For her part, Rose aptly pointed out that I drew upon the Death Penalty Information Center in my opening statement. She also pointed out, equally aptly, that the Death Penalty Information Center is biased.

Then she made it sound like every link in my opening statement was to the DPIC or some equally biased organization, which is an overstatement meant to lead judges to think it’s true. I am comfortable with how often I drew on the admittedly-biased DPIC.

This just in: I didn’t seem to reference the DPIC at all in my rebuttal, did I? I suspect that Rose read Thief’s comments on my opening and threw it out there to see if it would stick.

Not to mention that, while the DPIC is biased in belief, the statistics they provide are accurate and dependable. A group can both believe something AND be right about it.

Rose also implied that the “eye for an eye” concept appeared first in my posts.

It may be true that I used the literal phrase “an eye for an eye” first, but our archaic death penalty system uses it as its source. The 1690 laws Rosemary cited originally come directly from that turn of phrase. Every debate on the topic at some point goes back to the concept of “an eye for an eye,” even if the term is not used.

Rosemary uses the word “justice” when referring to the death penalty, as if killing someone who kills is a one-for-one repayment. A rose by any other name, Rose, would smell as bad when being electrocuted.

I revere the Bible. But the simple truth is that our concept of state-sanctioned killing as justice is not only a lie, but one based on outdated Bible texts that need to be thrown out of our legal system. Separate church and state once and for all. Only then can we get to the truth: killing a killer is not a just retribution.

I see now that it is past time to disabuse the Iron Blog readership of the widely-believed but completely untrue idea that the Bible somehow SUPPORTS the death penalty, since our death penalty system is founded on that Biblical claim.

The problem is that we are basing a system of killing on a book most people don’t read, and didn’t read for non-political purposes when the death penalty was put in place.

For instance, the “eye for an eye” statement itself is most often taken out of context. This guideline was part of the Talion (legal retribution) Codes, which sought to limit vengeance, not legislate it.

Since time is short, but the end point is critical, I will skip the many sidelong and indirect references condemning the death penalty in the Bible and focus on the two capital crimes cases presented therein, as well as Jesus’ direct comments about the issue.

The first example comes from the Gospel of John, chapter 8, the “woman caught in the act of adultery” story, wherein Jesus stops authorities from stoning an admitted criminal to death. “Let him who is without sin throw the first switch… er, cast the first stone.”

The other example of a capital crimes case is the trial of Jesus himself before Roman Procurate Pontius Pilate in Matthew 27. Here is a perfect example of the pitfalls of the death penalty. First, we have a weak-kneed ruler who is swayed by popular opinion and so Jesus receives an unfair trial as a minority Jew. Second, we see the fickle crowd guided not by rational legal discourse but by animalistic need for revenge (“Let him be crucified! Yay!”) when a week earlier, in Matthew 21, the same crowds in Jerusalem had shouted “hosanna” in praise of Jesus – silly crowds. Third, we have an innocent man (perhaps the only one in history to REALLY be innocent, the Bible says) killed by the death penalty. All three points here go right back to my opening remarks.

Finally, to put the issue to bed so we can all get back to whatever it was we were doing, Jesus himself dismisses the old “eye for an eye” laws specifically. In Matthew 5, Jesus gives six updates on the Law of Moses. One of them, in verse 38, says “You have heard it said ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,’ but I say to you…” and goes on to introduce Jesus’ concept of turning the other cheek.

That was a lot of religious yapping, I admit, but it is important to attend to for this reason: the death penalty is based on a doubly wrong foundation. First of all, it is (and should not be) founded ultimately on archaic concepts from a religious book. Second of all, it is based on concepts appropriated WRONGLY from a religious book. Gads.

The death penalty is not a one-for-one affair. As I said before, killing a killer still leaves a killer behind, only we ironically call this killer “the justice system” and we let it go on killing. The more a person, or a system, kills, the easier it becomes to kill again. That’s the nature of revenge. That’s how killing works – it’s a false equivalency.

Now then, on to Rosemary’s defense of the death penalty, which even the Senate has recently attempted to review, only to be blocked by (this will shock you) the conservatives (didn’t see that one coming, did you?) who rule Congress.

Rose made several good hits, which I shall attempt to dance through briefly and directly:

*Killing, murdering, slaying, life-ending, consciousness-snuffing, halo-empowering, whacking out, ringing down the curtain and joining the Choir Invisible, checking into the wooden Waldorf, voting for Nader: any term for death is fine with me. The victim isn’t likely to walk after from whatever you choose to call it.

*Do I want to dump the appeals process to save money? Heavens, no. I want to dump the executable crime process altogether to save money. Then we would be able to afford bigger cells than the six foot by six foot rooms Rosemary seems to presume all solitary confinement cells need to be. Besides, solitary confinement is only for the extreme and rare cases, like Lemuel Smith. That guy’s a humdinger, no doubt about it, Rose. I doubt he’s typical, though. I expect we could keep those few who refuse to play nice away from the other kids on the cell block.

*Yes, I really am sorry I mentioned the Holocaust, not because I equated it to the death penalty or eating at McDonalds, because clearly I did not. Instead, I’m sorry because I under-estimated how our culture has become so sensitive to the word “Holocaust.” It was part of a list from small to large of ways we justify what our hearts want. To claim I was using it to equate the two is silly, and even if I did think somehow a Big Mac and the Holocaust were equal, it wouldn’t affect my argument about justification at all.

*Yes, I think it is possible for everyone to be rehabilitated, even if not to a degree where they can be let out of solitary.

*How did DNA testing become the magical solve-all in murder cases? It is simply another tool in a lawyers’ tool belt, one which has issues surrounding it like any other. To be frank, the way Rosemary has used it reminds me of the way folks said the invention of the A-bomb would end all wars. That worked out swell.

*O.J. and Chewbacca aside, my point that the poor don’t get the same representation as those with funds abides.

*How did Klingons become an issue? I agree they are naughty, and I disagree with their philosophy. My point in the original quote exactly.

*Do I have proof of someone executed unjustly since 1973? Nope, and here’s why:

“The United States has never admitted that it has wrongfully executed a prisoner. But that is a meaningless statement,” says Professor Lawrence Marshall of Northwestern University School of Law. “After an execution, the investigation ends and the key witness is dead.”

Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, states have executed 486 prisoners and have exonerated 75 others. “How can anyone say these are anything but horrible odds,” says famed defense lawyer Barry Scheck. “Divide 75 into 500, it means almost one in six times, we are dead wrong. If you got the wrong results at a hospital one in six times, you’d have no faith in the system,” he says. “You’d demand the hospital be shut down.”

Preach it, Barry.

And then there’s this little gem:

Evidence of innocence is irrelevant! -Mary Sue Terry, former Attorney General of Virginia (replying to an appeal to introduce new evidence from a prisoner sentenced to death).

* While Rosemary pointed to the Matthew Shepard case, it is, like Lemuel, a rare and extreme case of gross (and vengeful!) violence. In most cases, when a prisoner is sentenced to death, the punishment far outweighs the crime:

An execution is not simply death. It is just as different from the privation of life as a concentration camp is from prison. It adds to death a rule, a public premeditation known to the future victim, an organization which is itself a source of moral sufferings more terrible than death. Capital punishment is the most premeditated of murders, to which no criminal's deed, however calculated, can be compared. For there to be an equivalency, the death penalty would have to punish a criminal who had warned his victim of the date at which he would inflict a horrible death on him and who, from that moment onward, had confined him at his mercy for months. Such a monster is not encountered in private life. –Albert Camus
*“Or when they lie about sex during a civil trial.” Um, did this absurd Clinton reference somehow disprove the point that many killed folks were represented by disbarred lawyers?

*Self-defense (of your person in the street and your country on D-Day) is necessary. However, the definition of self-defense requires no more violence than necessary at the time. Hmm... He’s strapped down and wired in... I can’t call that self-defense, can I?

*There’s nothing wrong with desiring retribution, either, according to Rosemary’s definition. I draw the line at empowering any group of fallible humans to kill other humans, however. That’s NOT Rose’s definition of retribution, because it’s not a one-for-one tradeoff.


Love you, love your show,

Big Dan

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Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Battle Death Penalty - Iron Blogger Republican - First Rebuttal


Murder: To kill another human unlawfully. To kill brutally or inhumanly.

Kill: To put to death. To deprive of life.

Punishment: A penalty imposed for wrongdoing.


I put those definitions up for a reason. Perspective. The death penalty does kill, hence the word death.

The difference between murder and the death penalty: one is unlawful and the other is retribution.

The Challenger lists the four justifications for punishment: rehabilitation, containment, deterrence and retribution.

The Challenger states that rehabilitation is impossible with the death penalty because it simply takes away someones life.

Rehabilitation is not the aim of the death penalty, it is the aim of incarceration. Do you honestly believe that Ted Bundy, after brutally murdering at least 36 women, would have EVER been rehabilitated? Besides, we all know how successful rehabilitation is don't we?

Since rehabilitation isn't the aim of the death penalty - the score is tied at 0.

The Challenger then discusses deterrence.
The second purpose, deterrence, is trickier. Statistics uniformly show that the condemned on death row did not consider the possibility that they might die for their crimes.


I'm pretty sure that most criminals are arrogant enough to believe that they won't be caught. Prison itself isn't much of a deterrent, it is a place for punishment and hopefully rehabilitation. The argument that the death penalty is a deterrent isn't tricky at all. If a murderer is dead, he won't kill an innocent person ever again.

Besides, while statistically the death penalty has not been shown to significantly reduce the murder rate, this doesn't mean it never deterred anyone; just because statistics can't measure something doesn't mean no criminal in history was ever deterred by fear of execution. If the death penalty saves even one life, then it's saved a life.

The Challenger then argues in favor of science:
It is also worth noting that one thing we can’t do with those we’ve executed is STUDY them. A better form of deterrence would come in the form of studies done on those found guilty of capital offenses. We could research their motivations, their histories and their methodologies. You can’t do any of that with a corpse.


I want to make two points here.
1. Not everyone convicted of capital murder is sentenced to death.

2. Those that are given a life sentence, like Charles Manson, can and have been studied.


Now the Challenger remembers that he's a conservative and talks money:
All current statistics show that it is first of all more expensive to execute a person than imprison them for life, even requiring the added cost of creating federal cost-cutting procedures which certainly won’t help the accused get a fair shake. Secondly, as an individual deterrent, life imprisonment serves just as well as execution.


This one is easy for me. As a compassionate conservative, I would rather spend more money to make sure that justice is served than go the cheaper route and risk a murderer kill again or an innocent be executed, ever. One of the reasons it costs more is because of the appeals process.

You want to dump the appeals process to save money Big Dan?

We could eliminate the needs for a lengthy appeals process by making sure that anyone accused in a capital murder case be appointed a quality lawyer. If you can't afford Johnny Cochran, the state will appoint him for you. If you have a great lawyer then we won't see appeals because someone's lawyer was incompetent. It won't be cheaper initially but it would aid with the swiftness of justice.

Life imprisonment serves just as well as execution? Maybe for you Big Dan, but you aren't bunking next to Lemuel Smith. You remember him, right?
In prison for most of his adult life and convicted of two vicious murders in 1977, he had confessed to killing at least five people according to police investigators. There may have been even more. "All of a sudden, one night, after taking my girlfriend to the movies," Smith told a judge, "I killed my best friend's mother believe me, I'm not a nice guy."
He's also the guy that said: "I got so much time they can't do nothing to me," he said. "Think about it. If I wanted some sex, I could rape, I could sodomize. They can't do nothing to me!"

I'm pretty sure the guy with the sutures in his rectum might disagree with you too.

Using your scoring system Dan, I think that the death penalty is now:

1-0.

Now the Challenger talks about containment:
Let’s move on to the third purpose, containment. Killing for the purpose of containment is problematic because it punishes someone for a crime not yet committed. While killing for a future crime may make great theater, and Tom Cruise may be handsome, in real life, you can’t consider someone guilty because they “might” or “probably will” do something wrong in the future.


Here is the main problem with the containment argument. Containment basically means to hold or restrain. That's the purpose of prison not the death penalty. Can a prison stop a murderer bent on committing murder again? Not unless he's put in solitary confinement. Would placing a murderer in a 6 foot by 6 foot cell all alone, without any human contact for the rest of his life not be considered cruel and unusual punishment? Certainly, and it would be far more cruel than a lethal injection.

One more thing on this point, we don't put people to death for the purposes of preventing a possible future murder. We do it because they have already unlawfully and brutally murdered an innocent person. Preventing a future possible murder is just an added bonus.

Since we can keep someone safely behind bars without resorting to the final, irreversible act of killing them, why add the expense of capital crimes costs?


Since you haven't proven that statement true at all and I have in my opening proven it to be patently false; add to that your misplaced fiscal conservatism that is placing other lives in jeopardy - the death penalty just got another point.

2-0.

The Challenger's last point:
This leaves only retribution. Revenge. The ultimate payback...Given simple logic, refuting the death penalty is a no-brainer, since it is, at its heart, based on this logical fallacy: We will teach people that killing is wrong by killing them.


The dictionary defines retribution as: Something justly deserved; recompense. Something given or demanded in repayment, especially punishment.

Since those that commit capital murderer cannot return the lives taken, they must pay the price for their crime. Most people that commit murder, in a death penalty state, know the penalty for their brutality may very well be the surrender of their own life. It was a risk they felt like taking.

Besides, isn't this an odd bit of moral equivalence? How can we teach people that it's wrong to hold others against their will if we put them in prison ourselves? How can we teach terrorists not to kill us if we try to kill them? How can we teach children that it's not okay to stay up late at night if we as parents stay up late ourselves?

I'm sitting here wondering, did we make a mistake to invade France on D-Day? Wouldn't we have taught the Nazis a better lesson by NOT invading a country they invaded, so that they would see that it's bad to invade other countries? Really, weren't we just horrible hypocrites to invade Germany during World War II?

This is foolish. We empower the state to do things that we do not empower individuals to do. That's what government is for: to do those things that we don't trust individuals to do on their own.

The challenger wants those of us who support the death penalty to feel guilty about the killing of a brutal murderer. I feel no more guilt about a brutal vicious murderer getting a lethal injection than I feel guilt over an armed robber going to prison.

Then the Challenger goes over the deep end a bit:
However, the compulsion for revenge is at the heart of every execution, and humans find ways to justify what they want. Ever talked yourself into buying a certain car, or eating that fatty meal, or sleeping with a certain member of the opposite sex you knew was bad for you, or killing millions of Jews in the name of racial cleansing? We tend to view our own skewed logic as reasonable when it supports what we want, especially if that is at the core of our being in the way the impulse to exact revenge is.


Revenge = Indulgence = Gluttony = Promiscuity = Genocide

I am reminded of that old V-8 commercial, "Wow, I could've had a V8", with a slight twist, of course.

Picture Hitler slapping his head and saying, "Dammit, instead of murdering 6 million Jews, I could've had a Ferrari".

Or Wilt Chamberlin, "Instead of having sex with 10,000 women, I could've had a Big Mac and Supersize fries".


Nah, sorry Big Dan that just isn't working for me. I can't in my heart equate the justifiable execution of a brutal murderer to my desire for fries from Mickey D's. I'm pretty sure those of us that have had a loved one murdered might be offended at that comparison. I know I am.

My favorite part of Big Dan's opening was this:
The reason for this is simple: if revenge is a dish best served cold, as the Klingons say, then it is also a dish that never satisfies.


Reminds me of my favorite saying, "life's a bitch and then you marry one". I know that was off topic but I'm 36 my mind wanders a bit...

I'm pretty sure others said it before the Klingons but that is only a small quibble. The Klingons are barbarians and they kill each other for sport and honor. They also used barbaraic weapons like the mekleth. Two very famous Klingon proverbs will explain why our societal need for justice just doesn't compare to the bloodlust of the Klingons.
Act and you shall have dinner. Think and you shall be dinner.

A running man can slit a thousand throats in one night.


So, forgive me if I don't accept Klingon proverbs as a valuable lesson for our society.

If we were using the death penalty for "an eye for an eye" as Big Dan, not I, said then we wouldn't be looking for humane ways to do it. We'd just off with their heads, "draw and quarter" or perhaps use the same method of death that the killer bestowed on his victim. I can damn well guarantee you that the State's methods are a hell of a lot more humane than what your average brutal murderer thinks up. For example:
The murder of a college student named Matthew Shepherd would become one of the most famous examples of a hate crime in recent history. On October 6, 1998, Aaron McKinney and Russell A. Henderson entered a Laramie Wyoming bar which was known as a place where homosexuals often hung out. The two men left the bar with the company of Matthew Shepherd, who they drove to an open field. After being tied to a fence and beaten within an inch of his life, he was left for dead in the near freezing temperatures. The two men had also stolen his wallet and shoes. Eighteen hours later, he was found by two passing motorcyclists who thought at first that Shepherd was a scarecrow because of the way he was positioned on the fence. Shepherd was flown via helicopter to Poudre Valley Hospital (approximately a ninety mile drive in Fort Collins, Colorado) where he remained in critical condition for several days.


I contend that there is nothing wrong with wanting retribution for a wrong. If someone steals my car, not only do I want my car back but I want the thief to go to jail. If someone attempts to kill me, I will kill them first if I can and I will not be punished for it. Self-defense is a form of justifiable homicide and even those of you against the death penalty know - at the end of the day someone will be dead. Can you get behind me killing to save myself? If you answer yes then you are a hypocrite. If you answer no, here's a tip: don't try to kill me.

What's the score now Big Dan?

3-0 in favor of the death penalty.


Now to the tidbits at the end of the Challenger's opening:

The first and most obvious failure of the system is that, inevitably, innocents die. It is presumptuous and, well, silly to pretend it doesn’t ever happen. Since 1973, 114 people in 25 states have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence.


As I stated in my opening, the safeguards we have in place and DNA evidence being available is proof that the system is working. Do you have any proof since 1973 of anyone being exonerated after they were executed?

Challenger tidbit two:
Secondly, the death penalty is systemically unfair to certain members of society. For instance, the poor can’t afford to hire the legal team O.J. Simpson did.


Well, of course not. Most people would never be lucky enough to have a jury ignore DNA evidence and fall for the Chewbacca defense either.

Challenger tidbit three:
The ACLU reports that in Illinois alone, at least 33 times, a defendant sentenced to die was represented at trial by an attorney who has been disbarred or suspended. These are sanctions reserved for conduct so incompetent, unethical or criminal that their license is taken away!!


Or when they lie about sex during a civil trial.

Challenger tidbit four:
The Death Penalty Information Center reported as recently as May 19 of this year that over 80 percent of completed capital cases involve white victims, while national numbers also show that 50 percent or less of all murder victims are white. It’s not a long leap to realize that you’re more likely to fry if you kill a white person.


One reason is that serial killers are almost always white and tend to kill whites. As to the claim that less than 50% of all murder victims are white it would be nice if the Challenger could provide a link other than the very biased Death Penalty Info Center. Using only one source to back your position isn't exactly presenting a strong case.

Challenger tidbit five:
The same study, echoed in research by both Amnesty International and the ACLU, shows that a whopping 42 percent of death row inmates are black. Care to compare that to the percentage of the American population?


That may be true but only 25% of the executions in 2002 were black and 75% were white. Care to compare that to the population?

From the Bureau of Justice

Of persons executed in 2002:
-- 53 were white
-- 18 were black


Challenger tidbit six:
While you’re there, just so you don’t think I am personally playing the race card only, take a look at the rates of death as punishment among women, juveniles and those with mental health problems.


I will not be made to feel sorry for women that kill. If they do the crime then they are going to pay the same price as a man. It's called equality and women fought for it. Don't start treating us like little, helpless women because we have to take the bad with the good. Same with juveniles. Capital murder isn't accidental. It is brutal and premeditated and if a 14 year old has the intellect to plan it, then they are are mature enough to pay the price.

Challenger's conclusion:
What we have, at the heart of it, is an unjust system, administered unjustly.


No, Big Dan. What we have are a bunch of vicious brutal murderers that must pay the price for their crime. And they will, and it will be justice.

Respectfully submitted:

Rosemary Esmay, Iron Blogger Republican



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Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Battle Death Penalty - Challenger - First Rebuttal

I chose to challenge Rosemary intentionally. I have found her AND Dean to be witty and charming, with a delightfully sharp edge. I chose to challenge her because I knew she would give me just that: a challenge. I have not been disappointed.

At the same time, Rosemary and I share many of the same views on proper debate etiquette and I knew that any debate with the Iron Blogger Republican may include occasional witty jabs and underpants gnomes references, but nothing snarky or unkind.

Since Rose hasn’t had time to properly address my opening points yet, I will (mostly) let them stand on their own for now, restrict new sources and information, and turn instead to the Iron Blogger’s statements.

In a wide open topic like this, it’s interesting to see who puts emphasis where. For instance, Rosemary chooses to put much weight on the “it’s not cruel” argument, claiming that lethal injection is the most harmless way to kill someone guilty of a capital crime (does it strike anyone else as odd that we are talking about “harmless” ways to end human lives?)
I, on the other hand, care very little for arguments about which form of killing a person is most honorable and least painful. I am against the system as a whole. Even if they were killed by lethal doses of supermodel sex and chocolate, I would still stand against the death penalty.

Yes, there are cases where the death scene was torturous and the switch had to be pulled a few times, prompting fun descriptions like this one:

“The first jolt was followed by 240 volts for 60 seconds, and then the entire cycle was repeated. A small stream of smoke wafted up from his right leg during the second cycle. He was certified dead 5 minutes later.”
And yes, there have been questions even recently about the decency and swiftness of lethal injection, causing the Georgia Supreme Court to declare lethal injection unconstitutional.

But mostly I’ll let Rose have these points. It doesn’t matter to me that we tend to use the nicest methods of killing prisoners. It doesn’t even matter to me that we used to be a lot worse, as Rosemary quite correctly points out.

Saying that we’ve come a long way and no longer kill people quite so viciously is like me saying I no longer beat my wife with metal pipes anymore, preferring the less scarring wooden stick instead. Gruesome, isn’t it? It chills me just to make that reference, but the fact is that the death penalty is just that: gruesome.

I agree with much of what Rosemary says. She speaks eloquently and accurately about the safeguards in place to protect those tried for capital crimes. Of course, those are the same safeguards I spoke of when I pointed out:

(1) The safeguards (appeals, court costs, etc.) ultimately make the death penalty more expensive than the equally-effective option of locking people up forever. The belief that execution costs less than imprisonment is false. "The cost of the apparatus and maintenance of the procedures attending the death penalty, including death row and the endless appeals and legal machinery, far outweighs the expense of maintaining in prison the tiny fraction of criminals who would otherwise be slain" (Draper, Thomas. Capital Punishment. New York: H. W. Wilson, 1985)

Did a prisoner kill another one time? That is truly tragic, but the answer is not just to start killing prisoners. That’s like saying that since my heart was broken by a girlfriend, I should have given up women altogether. The answer is to provide better security for everyone. If sparing the criminal’s life doesn’t make him play nice with others in prison, solitary confinement will do the trick – no others to worry about. Maybe if we took the millions of dollars spent on death penalty cases and put them into security measures at prisons…

(2) The safeguards Rose speaks of are under attack and reduction even as we speak. On the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, Congress passed the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (as Rosemary herself helpfully noted), which had little to do with terrorism but much to do with speeding up state executions. The law is already restricting inmates with new evidence of innocence from obtaining review because of its stringent time limits and barriers to conducting evidentiary hearings.

(3) Not everyone has access to those safeguards. If you’re the wrong race or income level, you may not have a chance at all to gain the safeguards O.J. Simpson had. In fact, you probably won’t. Here I refer you to my opening statements.

Simply put, a system that doesn’t work for everyone doesn’t work. I find it puzzling that Rosemary pointed out how the safeguards had allowed some who were innocent to find justice and be freed. In essence, she makes my argument that innocents die for me. She accurately points out that there have been (are?) some wrongly accused folks on death row. Are we to believe that these amazing new safeguards not only saved the folks she mentioned, but somehow made sure that everyone claiming innocence today on Death Row is lying? All the safeguards did, in her argument, was point out that innocent folks had been dying all along and now, maybe, not as many of them will die.

And (4) since innocents slip through the system and into the electric chair, the only logical solution is to end death as a penalty until Rosemary’s safeguards can be perfected. When we’re all convinced that no innocents will die wrongly, maybe we can talk again. Could be I’m a romantic, or maybe it’s just that my job as a pastor asks me to leave the ninety-nine to go in search of the one, but any ONE who dies unjustly is enough for me to want the system shut down until we know it won’t happen again.

Life in prison punishes the criminal and protects society from them. It also allows for the possibility of reform and some quality of life for the falsely accused. After all, look at all the good that has been done from prison – the Apostle Paul wrote many of his letters to churches from prison, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote many of his famous discourses against Nazi Germany while in prison awaiting his execution at their hands (another innocent killed by a death penalty verdict), John Bunyon , the author of Pilgrim’s Progress, wrote extensively from prison (serving time on a preaching charge no less) and Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his timelessly classic “Letter from the Birmingham Prison” while, you guessed it, in prison.
Is the death penalty fair and just? Rosemary’s answer is “yes and no.” My answer is that being a little unfair is like being just a tad pregnant. It is or it isn’t. If any part of the system is unfair, you have to call the whole thing unfair. I call the whole thing unfair anyway.

Rosemary concludes with a striking claim: “Yes, the death penalty has a place in our society if used swiftly and justly.”

While our debate is in no small part about our difference of opinion on the first half of her statement, I find it tragic and unarguable that we will never be able to prove the last part. My statement would be “The death penalty has no place in our society, even if it had EVER been used justly.

Trial lawyers as a group recognize that the system is unfair and should be halted at least until we can get it right.

“In its February 1997 mid-year meeting, the American Bar Association House of Delegates passed a resolution calling for a halt on executions until courts across the country can ensure that such cases are ‘administered fairly and impartially, in accordance with due process,’ and with minimum risk of executing innocent people. The resolution was adopted by a margin of 280 to 119 votes.”
I should point out that if there is uncertainty about the fairness of the system (and why shouldn’t there be uncertainty about the fairness of an inherently unfair system?), NOW is the time to act. There are 81 juveniles on death row as we speak, as well as 9 women on death row in Texas alone and several prisoners with mental health issues.

I’ll spare you the boring re-iteration at this point. My first post listed the ways I feel the system is inherently animalistic and unfair, as well as the ways this unfair system has been used, well, unfairly. I remind you again that the death penalty system failed the four tests regarding the purposes/justifications for punishment, often losing out to the less expensive option of life imprisonment. Even if Rose is correct, there is still no viable PURPOSE for killing folks to teach them that killing is wrong.

One final point of interest relates to the reaction a friend of mine had to reading my opening statements. She pointed out that comparing the death penalty in the United States to the Holocaust was “over the top.” I’m with her. If I had done that, I would think it was over the top, too. It’s silly and stupid to equate the two.

I DID, however, point out that the Holocaust was an example, an extreme one compared to the others I also gave, of what can happen when we base national and personal policy on the urges of our hearts only. The Holocaust’s justifications, which we are all well-versed in, simply gave false support to the vengeful and violent urges inside the hearts of those with the bigger weapons.

The danger, again, in talking about the death penalty is that it speaks to our base urges. There is a lot of proof-texting going on in the pro-death penalty quarters. By “proof-texting,” I mean simply starting with a conclusion and then collecting and arranging statistics and opinions that point to that conclusion.

Hence, we read the Iron Blogger’s statements more sympathetically. She is, after all, speaking to our hearts, to the dark corners where we keep our urges for revenge. I really do suspect that if we could magically eliminate the animalistic desire for revenge, the death penalty would go away just as magically. If we could start from a desire to find truth, rather than to justify our own views on justice and revenge, things would be very different.

I find it noteworthy that Rose (and PBS) mentioned the 1690 capital offenses. They come directly from the Old Testament’s Levitical codes (specifically Exodus 21:15+24 and Leviticus 24:16). This is also where we find the old “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” chestnut that I expected Rosemary to dust off.

Death penalty advocates are most often subscribers to the "an eye for an eye" principle and feel that execution is the only way to satisfy the public as well as themselves. Who doesn't enjoy it when, for example, someone steals a hundred dollars from you and then the person who stole your money has the same thing happen to them? Death penalty advocates feel much the same way about murderers who are sentenced to die.

The problem is that if a criminal steals 100 bucks, and we make him pay 100 bucks back, we’re even. If a criminal kills, and we kill him in return, the scales aren’t even. A killer remains, and it is us.

Gandhi, later quoted by capital crime victim Martin Luther King, Jr., said it best: “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.”


With respect,
Big Dan

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A Note From The Chairman - Changes and Adjustments

We're doing a few things a bit differently here at Iron Blog, now that we've had 4 Battles to look at how things work.

First, on the cosmetic and UI side of things, the headline up top declaring what Battle is currently in progress is now a link to the Announcement post for that Battle, and beneath it are links to each of the posts that have been made to date in that Battle. As you can see, the Challenger's and Iron Blogger's Opening Arguments are listed and linked there, now. With each new post in the Battle, another link will be added. This is to make it easier to get right to where you want to go without having to skim a huge page looking for the relevant post. Also, our Fourth Battle is now listed in the Battle Archives.

Second, on the procedural side of things, we have a Third Edition Scoring Guide for Judges, Combatants and readers alike, which can also be found above by clicking the Judges' Guide link. There are a few reasons for this revision.

To explain, I need to begin by telling you that the first version never saw daylight - it was scrapped early in our initial setup. It allotted 5 points per post and was almost binary in nature. It allowed for little freedom of subjectiveness by our Judges and was quite restrictive. Needless to say, I dumped it.

The second version, which is what we've been using, uses a 25 point per post scoring system, which we're retaining, but was both too vague in definition and too one-size-fits-all. It didn't explain what the real difference between a 6 and a 9 was in Substance, for example, and is the reason we've been seeing such divergent scoring lately. It's not that our Judges are obscenely biased, it's that, in an attempt to move away from the first, draconian scoring system, I gave too much room for interpretation. Too much gray area.

This new version I think meshes the two, allowing for value judgments from the Judges but with clearly defined boundaries and borders. It also takes into account the fact that Opening Arguments are not much like Rebuttals, or Closing Arguments for that matter, and that links aren't required in Closing Arguments. In short, it smoothes things out and fits better.

Judges, Iron Bloggers and present as well as future Challengers take note - it does NOT change the way Battles work, it simply defines the scoring in better terms. For Judges, it's a must read as this is now the scoring law. For Combatants, it's highly encouraged to give you better insight into how scoring works and the things the Judges are looking for most.

As Dean Esmay said, this is a game and there are always flaws early in any game's development. We're doing something no one has tried before, and there are going to be bugs. I likely haven't caught them all, yet, but with your help and continued patience and understanding, we'll get there. Feedback is welcome in the Comments section below.

Thanks.

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Monday, June 14, 2004

Battle Death Penalty - Iron Blogger Republican - Opening Statement

The esteemed Chairman asked some pointed questions regarding the Death Penalty. Some of these questions can also be asked about our legal system in general. If you feel, as many do, that our legal system is biased against "the poor" and minorities, then you will naturally be against the death penalty. In that case, my job just got tougher. It is my job to convince you, despite your ill feelings for the legal system, that the death penalty is a fair and just punishment.

Question #1: Is the Death Penalty... Fair and just, or cruel and unusual?

Is it fair and just?



Yes and No

Yeah, I know that was cheating. How about this answer? Not always. Being pro-death penalty or pro-"anything" doesn't mean we are blind to the faults or problems with our position. It just means that we are able to reconcile the negative with the positive, and on balance stay with our position. I don't believe the death penalty is perfect, but, is any method of punishment perfect? No. My feelings about capital punishment are more along the lines of it being a necessary evil.

Let me further break down my "yes and no" argument:

YES
In this country, it has certainly gotten better over the years. Better? You bet it's gotten better. How has it gotten better? Read the link or allow me to summarize.

No more death penalty for stealing grapes, killing chickens, and trading with Indians.

In 1690, offenses such as striking one's mother or father, or denying the "true God," were punishable by death.


With the exception of three federal crimes, the States only issue the death penalty if a person has been convicted of capital murder:

"In 1994, President Clinton signed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act that expanded the federal death penalty to some 60 crimes, 3 of which do not involve murder. The exceptions are espionage, treason, and drug trafficking in large amounts.

Two years later, in response to the Oklahoma City Bombing, President Clinton signed the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. The Act, which affects both state and federal prisoners, restricts review in federal courts by establishing tighter filing deadlines, limiting the opportunity for evidentiary hearings, and ordinarily allowing only a single habeas corpus filing in federal court. Proponents of the death penalty argue that this streamlining will speed up the death penalty process and significantly reduce its cost, although others fear that quicker, more limited federal review may increase the risk of executing innocent defendants."



NO
The no portion of this question is going to be answered in Question #2. Heh. I'm trying to be titillating. Is it working?


Cruel and unusual?



NO

The current methods of execution are: lethal injection, gas chamber, electrocution, hanging and firing squad.

All states have lethal injection as an alternative choice.

Lethal injection is similar to what we do to our pets when they need to be put down humanely.
Lethal Injection:When this method is used, the condemned person is usually bound to a gurney and a member of the execution team positions several heart monitors on this skin. Two needles (one is a backup) are then inserted into usable veins, usually in the criminal's arms. Long tubes connect the needle through a hole in a cement block wall to several intravenous drips. The first is a harmless saline solution that is started immediately. Then, at the warden's signal, a curtain is raised exposing the inmate to the witnesses in an adjoining room. Then, the inmate is injected with sodium thiopental - an anesthetic, which puts the inmate to sleep. Next flows pavulon or pancuronium bromide, which paralyzes the entire muscle system and stops the inmate's breathing. Finally, the flow of potassium chloride stops the heart. Death results from anesthetic overdose and respiratory and cardiac arrest while the condemned person is unconscious.


Many believe that euthanasia of our loved ones should be legal to put them out of their misery when illness causes extreme suffering. If that is the case, I say then it must be true that at the very least lethal injection is neither cruel nor unusual. All death row inmates are allowed to choose the manner of their death and lethal injection is available to all.


Question #2: Can the inherent flaws of man and his court judiciously deliver this ultimate sentence?

Yes... even though it isn't always perfect.

I would be remiss not to mention the recent spate of death penalty moratoriums. Yes, it is true that the system sometimes fails and innocent people are convicted of crimes that they didn't commit. That happens at times, and capital murder is no exception.

It is for that reason that we have safeguards in place. Safeguards being the lengthy appeals process.

These safeguards have resulted in many death sentences being overturned.


Because these safeguards exist, it is my position that the overturning of many death sentences proves that the legal system does work. The safeguards we have are the main reason so many murderers spend many years on death row.

Now with the assistance of science we have DNA evidence that we didn't have before.
The beauty of DNA is that we can be certain that someone is guilty or innocent when DNA is available.

Question #3: With the coldest of killers, is there nothing more deserved?

No...there is nothing more deserved. In some cases, when anger gets the best of me, I would say they deserve a nasty, painful death.
James Byrd, Jr. was tied to a pickup truck, with a chain, and dragged about three miles. An autopsy indicated that Byrd was alive for much of the dragging; dying after his right arm and head were severed as his body impacted with a culvert.


This was done to him by Shawn Allen Berry, Lawrence Russel Brewer, and John William King. Brewer & Russell were convicted of capital murder and given the death penalty. Berry received a life sentence. I was so angry about this case that I wished the penalty could have been dying in the exact same manner as Mr. Byrd: by dragging those scumbags behind a pickup truck themselves.

That isn't who we are though, is it? No, we are better than that. The death penalty should be swift and just. It would not be "just" for us to act in the same cruel and evil manner as these killers.

Another reason that the death penalty is used is deterrence. Many will argue that the death penalty hasn't stopped murder from occurring. Of course, there are always going to be criminals. The death penalty certainly has stopped proven murderers from repeating their crimes. A life sentence even without parole cannot guarantee a murderer won't repeat his crime.

Just ask the family of Donna Payant:
Donna A. Payant, of Dannemora, was a Correction Officer at Green Haven Correctional Facility when she was murdered on May 15, 1981 by inmate Lemuel Smith. This was a notorious case in which the New York Court of Appeals struck down the death penalty statute then in effect. Already a convicted murderer, Lemuel Smith, upon learning that he could not be executed, felt free to murder this prison guard knowing full well he would get away with it.

By declaring the death penalty statute unconstitutional as it applies to lifers in prison, the court placed prison staff in a very uncomfortable position. Many correction officers were vociferous in their opposition to this controversial ruling. If a lifer inmate wanted to kill a guard, what penalty could he suffer? What would be the deterrent? He was already doing life and had nothing to lose.


How do you think Lemuel felt when he found out that they ruled the death penalty unconstitutional? At his sentencing hearing on June 10, 1983, Lemuel Smith put his feelings on record: "I got so much time they can't do nothing to me," he said. "Think about it. If I wanted some sex, I could rape, I could sodomize. They can't do nothing to me!"

Indeed.

Many people convicted of lesser crimes are murdered by "lifers" in prison. When a murderer has a life sentence what is another 20 years for committing murder in prison? Not much. Not much at all.

The inmates may not be innocent people like James Byrd, Donna Payant or the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing, but is a kid doing time for burglary or pot possession deserving of murder?

Yes, the death penalty has a place in our society if used swiftly and justly.


Respectfully submitted: Rosemary Esmay, Iron Blogger Republican
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Battle Death Penalty - Challenger - Opening Statement

Kelsey Patterson is dead. He died on May 18th of this year.

I doubt, however, that most will mourn him. Indeed, even among those of us who did not want him to die, most would readily admit that the world is a better place without him. He was a brutal killer and not one with whom anyone would easily sympathize.

But, you see, Kelsey Patterson did not just die – we killed him. More specifically, officers in a Texas prison injected him with lethal chemicals, and quietly he met eternity. There are many more who are in a like fashion scheduled to die. Moreover, the relatively new federal crime bill imposes death as a penalty for 50 more crimes, despite recent uncertainty about the cruelty of lethal injection itself.

“There is no doubt that Kelsey Patterson shot Louis Oates and Dorothy Harris, and there would appear to be little doubt that mental illness lay behind this tragic crime. He made no attempt to avoid arrest - after shooting the victims, he put down the gun, undressed and was pacing up and down the street in his socks, shouting incomprehensibly, when the police arrived.”

The answer to the question of appropriate punishment comes when we know why we punish and why we killed Kelsey Patterson, mental health issues aside. There are three means of criminal punishment available: probation, incarceration and death. And we rely on only four justifications for those punishments: rehabilitation, deterrence, containment and retribution. Let us look at how the death penalty compares to the four justifications.

First, one can easily reject rehabilitation as an aim. If there is one thing the death penalty surely does not do, it is rehabilitate the person on whom it is imposed. It simply takes that person’s life. The score is now 0 for 1.

The second purpose, deterrence, is trickier. Statistics uniformly show that the condemned on death row did not consider the possibility that they might die for their crimes. In fact, murder rates actually dropped in Canada after the death penalty was repealed and states with the death penalty have higher murder rates than those without (same source).

Interestingly, not even police chiefs themselves think the death penalty is an effective deterrent, in fact ranking it lowest among the tools at the government’s disposal: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/FactSheet.pdf, bottom of page four.

It is also worth noting that one thing we can’t do with those we’ve executed is STUDY them. A better form of deterrence would come in the form of studies done on those found guilty of capital offenses. We could research their motivations, their histories and their methodologies. You can’t do any of that with a corpse.

On an individual level only, I will admit that the death penalty is a wonderful deterrent. That is to say, 100 percent of those executed never committed murder again. The issue there becomes how necessary and worthwhile the death penalty is.

All current statistics show that it is first of all more expensive to execute a person than imprison them for life, even requiring the added cost of creating federal cost-cutting procedures which certainly won’t help the accused get a fair shake. Secondly, as an individual deterrent, life imprisonment serves just as well as execution.

In just 15 years, for instance, Florida spent an estimated $57 million on the death penalty to achieve 18 executions. (Miami Herald, July 10, 1988)

Need more cost-related stats, Rosemary? Let me know. I didn’t want to spam the screen with all the links I could provide. Suffice it to say that the death penalty now rates 0-2.

Let’s move on to the third purpose, containment. Killing for the purpose of containment (the idea that the death penalty will keep criminals from ever killing again) is problematic because it punishes someone for a crime not yet committed. While killing for a future crime may make great theater, and Tom Cruise may be handsome, in real life, you can’t consider someone guilty because they “might” or “probably will” do something wrong in the future.

Since we can keep someone safely behind bars without resorting to the final, irreversible act of killing them, why add the expense of capital crimes costs?

0-3.

This leaves only retribution. Revenge. The ultimate payback.

Revenge is the area that provides the most difficulty for a reasoned debater. Given simple logic, refuting the death penalty is a no-brainer, since it is, at its heart, based on this logical fallacy: We will teach people that killing is wrong by killing them.

However, the compulsion for revenge is at the heart of every execution, and humans find ways to justify what they want. Ever talked yourself into buying a certain car, or eating that fatty meal, or sleeping with a certain member of the opposite sex you knew was bad for you, or killing millions of Jews in the name of racial cleansing? We tend to view our own skewed logic as reasonable when it supports what we want, especially if that is at the core of our being in the way the impulse to exact revenge is.

We need to be sensitive to the feelings of the victims' families, to be sure. Family and friends of murdered loved ones invariably say that they want the murderer executed so that they can achieve a sense of closure and move on with their lives. But many people who've seen the murderers of their loved ones executed say that, after the execution, they are left with that same anger, that same emptiness, and that the void that they thought would be filled by the "justice" of the execution was still there. Not surprisingly, killing the murderer doesn’t make you miss your loved ones any less. Entire books and collections of essays have been written by the families of victims making this point.

The reason for this is simple: if revenge is a dish best served cold, as the Klingons say, then it is also a dish that never satisfies. In fact, it feeds on itself. Gaining revenge only creates the need for more revenge, more acts of seemingly righteous anger.

I remember seeing a mass of what can only be called party-goers at the Ted Bundy execution. A gathering of celebrants danced all night, cheered when the switch was thrown and held signs saying things like “Fry, Bundy, Fry.” These people were not there expressing reasoned opinions on the justice system, they were there celebrating revenge. They were partying. It was remarkably like the scene around the campfire near the end of The Lord of the Flies.

It is common animal nature to resent a hurt done to us, and to want to lash out in return. Just as the kids abandoned on the deserted island in William Golding’s novel reverted to their animal natures, so too did the party-goers celebrating Bundy’s death.

However, a reasoned justice system requires better logic for its executions than the Texan “he needed killin’” response. Official, state-sanctioned revenge is no less evil than me taking a club to a rival’s head in a fit of passion. Revenge is, simply put, antithetical to our ideas about civilized society.

The problem is that “pay back” is politically popular. It reaches to the animal inside us. It gets ratings. It is our country’s dirty little secret. Perhaps instead of banging the cages of the animals inside us, the government would do better to cater to justice for individuals, not the bloodlust of the masses. 0-4.

Having laid that groundwork, we can finally move on to what I see as the real issue surrounding the death penalty. The unfair system would be bad enough if it worked correctly.

It does not.

This product of the Justice System is patently unjust. We won’t ever know if the death penalty would have been a fair punishment, because it has never been utilized fairly.

With word count in mind, I’ll hit these next points speaking to the unfairness of the current system quickly. If my talented opponent wishes to go into more depth upon rebuttal, I will be happy to oblige.

The first and most obvious failure of the system is that, inevitably, innocents die. It is presumptuous and, well, silly to pretend it doesn’t ever happen. Since 1973, 114 people in 25 states have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence. (Latest release: Gordon Steidl, just a few weeks ago on March 28, 2004)

The question then becomes: Is it worth killing a few innocent folks to make sure we get the really bad ones? The answer? Ask the families of those executed. I’m fairly certain they would rather shut down the unfair system than kill their undeserving loved one.

Secondly, the death penalty is systemically unfair to certain members of society. For instance, the poor can’t afford to hire the legal team O.J. Simpson did. Listen to the words of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

“People who are well represented at trial do not get the death penalty. . . . I have yet to see a death case among the dozens coming to the Supreme Court on eve-of-execution stay applications in which the defendant was well represented at trial." (Associated Press, April 10, 2001)

The ACLU reports that in Illinois alone, at least 33 times, a defendant sentenced to die was represented at trial by an attorney who has been disbarred or suspended. These are sanctions reserved for conduct so incompetent, unethical or criminal that their license is taken away!!

It is also clear that not everyone can play the race card the way Johnny Cochran did. In fact, race is part of the problem making the system criminally, fatally and irreversibly unfair.

The Death Penalty Information Center reported as recently as May 19 of this year that over 80 percent of completed capital cases involve white victims, while national numbers also show that 50 percent or less of all murder victims are white. It’s not a long leap to realize that you’re more likely to fry if you kill a white person.

The same study, echoed in research by both Amnesty International and the ACLU, shows that a whopping 42 percent of death row inmates are black. Care to compare that to the percentage of the American population?

While you’re there, just so you don’t think I am personally playing the race card only, take a look at the rates of death as punishment among women, juveniles (yes, kids on death row) and those with mental health problems.

What we have, at the heart of it, is an unjust system, administered unjustly.

A system that will take life must first give justice.
--Former ABA President John J. Curtin, Jr., discussing the current movement to reduce the number of appeals, adding to the possibility of innocents executed.

I will believe in the death penalty when you will prove to me the infallibility of human beings. --Marquis de Lafayette

I think they're a bunch of ignorant, backwoods, redneck clowns bent on vengeance.
--Freddie Pitts, who spent nine and a half years on Florida's death row before someone else confessed to the murders he was convicted of committing. Pitts was asked his opinion of state legislators who want to speed up the pace of executions.

As one whose husband and mother-in-law have died the victims of murder assassination, I stand firmly and unequivocally opposed to the death penalty for those convicted of capital offenses. An evil deed is not redeemed by an evil deed of retaliation. Justice is never advanced in the taking of a human life. Morality is never upheld by a legalized murder.
--Corretta Scott King

I have observed that it never does a boy much good to shoot him.
--President Lincoln on Roswell McIntyre, sentenced to death for desertion

Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.
--John Donne

With Respect,
Big Dan
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