Monday, June 23, 2008

“The Death Penalty is a Deterrent to Crime.”

Really?…Here’s a scenario…I’m in a drug and alcohol-fueled murderous rage...I’m about to pull the trigger, but suddenly I remember that I live in a state that might put me to death instead of a state where I’ll be locked up for the rest of my I put the gun down and walk away? I don’t think so. Not only is deterrence total psychological hogwash, but states with the death penalty have higher homicide rates than states without it—according to The New York Times, 101% higher! Around the world, 131 countries have abolished the death penalty. And the company we keep? In 2006, 91% of all executions took place in just six countries: China! Iran! Iraq! Pakistan! Sudan! and...drum roll...the U.S. of A! I say, let's kill the death penalty!


Becky said...

Yeah, if you're crazy enough to kill someone, you're not thinking about the consequences. Plus, it's hypocritical and costs more, but I won't continue preaching to the choir.

dudleysharp said...

No one is suggesting that the death penalty will deter all. In fact, I know of no one that believs anything deters 100%.

A deterrent only needs to deter some, particularly with potential murderers, to be very important.

Many have discounted a deterrent effect because of the irrationality of potential and active criminals.  However, both reason and the evidence support that the potential for negative consequences does affect criminal behavior.

Criminals who try to conceal their crime do so for only one reason -- fear of punishment.  Likely, more than 99% of all criminals, including capital murderers, act in such a fashion.  Fear of capture does not exist without an expectation of punishment.

This doesn't mean that they sit down before every crime, most crimes or even their first crime, and contemplate a cost to benefit analysis of a criminal action.  Weighing negative consequences may be conscious or subconscious, thoughtful or instinctive.  And we instinctively know the potential negative consequences of some actions.  Even pathetically stupid or irrational criminals will demonstrate such obvious efforts to avoid detection.  And there is only one reason for that -- fear of punishment.

When dealing with less marginalized personalities, those who choose not to murder, such is a more reasoned group.  It would be illogical to assume that a more reasoned group would be less responsive to the potential for negative consequences.  Therefore, it would be illogical to assume that some potential murderers were not additionally deterred by the more severe punishment of execution.

As legal writer and death penalty critic Stuart Taylor observes: "All criminal penalties are based on the incontestable theory that most (or at least many) criminals are somewhat rational actors who try so hard not to get caught because they would prefer not to be imprisoned. And most are even keener about staying alive than about avoiding incarceration."  (10)

Based upon the overwhelming evidence that criminals do respond to the potential of negative consequences, reason supports that executions deter and that they are an enhanced deterrent over lesser punishments.

Lianda Ludwig, M.S. said...

The fact is, that the vast majority of people who are murdered by the state (death penalty) are people of color, who were not able to afford decent lawyers.

Furthermore, it has been shown over and over again, that with new DNA evidence, that the so-called judicial system has put innocent people to death because of flawed testimony, overzealous prosecution and the inept defense. Furthermore, in this country we even put mentally ill and mentally retarded people to death!

Some country - And so many people in this country criticize China for THEIR political policies. They should consider the US as one of the most backward countries on the planet. Plenty of money to kill less fortunate, but no money for universal health coverage (like EVERY OTHER NON THIRD WORLD COUNTRY ON THE PLANET). Something is very wrong here.

Oh yes, these same people who believe in the death penalty are also against abortion. My question to them: Who would Jesus give the death penalty to? (Let's see if they really understand who Jesus was!)

dudleysharp said...

57% of those executed in the US are white.

There is no proof of an innocent executed in the US since 1900.

It is unconstitutional to put the mentally reatrded to death.

Those executed with mental illness have all been legally culpable for the murder(s). Most mental illness is not severe enough to present legal mitigation against execution.

dudleysharp said...

From Roman Catholic Cardinal Avery Dulles, SJ, 10/7/2000 (1)

"At no point, however, does Jesus deny that the State has authority to exact capital punishment."

"In his debates with the Pharisees, Jesus cites with approval the apparently harsh commandment, He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die (Mt 15:4; Mk 7:10, referring to Ex 21:17; cf. Lev 20:9). "

"When Pilate calls attention to his authority to crucify him, Jesus points out that Pilate's power comes to him from above-that is to say, from God (Jn 19:1 l).Jesus commends the good thief on the cross next to him, who has admitted that he and his fellow thief are receiving the due reward of their deeds (Lk 23:41). "

"Paul repeatedly refers to the connection between sin and death. He writes to the Romans with an apparent reference to the death penalty, that the magistrate who holds authority does not bear the sword in vain; for he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer (Rom 13:4). No passage in the New Testament disapproves of the death penalty."

"Turning to Christian tradition, we may note that the Fathers and Doctors of the Church are virtually unanimous in their support for capital punishment, even though some of them such as St. Ambrose exhort members of the clergy not to pronounce capital sentences or serve as executioners."

"The Roman Catechism, issued in 1566, three years after the end of the Council of Trent, taught that the power of life and death had been entrusted by God to civil authorities and that the use of this power, far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to the fifth commandment. "

"Summarizing the verdict of Scripture and tradition, we can glean some settled points of doctrine. It is agreed that crime deserves punishment in this life and not only in the next. In addition, it is agreed that the State has authority to administer appropriate punishment to those judged guilty of crimes and that this punishment may, in serious cases, include the sentence of death."

"The Catholic magisterium does not, and never has, advocated unqualified abolition of the death penalty. I know of no official statement from popes or bishops, whether in the past or in the present, that denies the right of the State to execute offenders at least in certain extreme cases. The United States bishops, in their majority statement on capital punishment, conceded that Catholic teaching has accepted the principle that the state has the right to take the life of a person guilty of an extremely serious crime. Cardinal Bernardin, in his famous speech on the Consistent Ethic of Life here at Fordham in 1983, stated his concurrence with the classical position that the State has the right to inflict capital punishment."

"Pope John Paul II spoke for the whole Catholic tradition when he proclaimed, in Evangelium Vitae, that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral (EV 57). But he wisely included in that statement the word innocent. He has never said that every criminal has a right to live nor has he denied that the State has the right in some cases to execute the guilty. "

This recent, clear review by
Andrew Tallman

"If Jesus elsewhere opposes capital punishment, then He is not only contradicting the Father but even His own words. "

"Typically, (the anti death penalty) view is that the harsh and mean God the Father of the Old Testament established execution, but the loving and kind God the Son of the New Testament abolished it."

"I’m pretty sure such people don’t realize they’re denying the Trinity when they say this."

"The doctrine of the Trinity affirms the eternal unity of all three persons of the Godhead, but such a fundamental disagreement between the Son and the Father would rupture this unity. In fact, if Jesus had contradicted any of the Father’s principles, let alone such a well-established one, that very disagreement would have immediately disproved His claims to be the divine Son."

"This was exactly the heresy the Pharisees were hoping to trap Him into when they brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus. Even His enemies knew that He absolutely had to affirm capital punishment in order to prove Himself not a false prophet. "

"How truly strange, then, that those who claim to love Him assert that He did exactly what His enemies failed to trick Him into doing! Far from opposing capital punishment, Jesus actually advocated it, as His unity with the Father required."

"Matthew 5:17-18“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished.”

"Just a few verses later, He extends the prohibition against murder to hatred and condemns haters to “the hell of fire” in verse 22, which is very strange talk for someone who opposes capital punishment. It’s very hard to dismiss these verses because they occur smack in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, which is so often mistakenly offered as the repudiation of Old Testament justice."

"Later, Jesus scolds the Pharisees and scribes for teaching leniency toward rebellious children by quoting the Old Testament, “For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him be put to death.’” (Matthew 15:4)"

"Subsequently, when the Romans come to arrest Jesus, Peter rather ineptly tries to defend Him by killing Malchus, but only succeeds in slicing off his ear. Jesus rebukes him with the warning, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.” Far from advocating pacifism, as this passage is often misused to do, Jesus here teaches Peter that using the sword (for murder) will only get the sword used against him (for execution)."

"Shortly thereafter, Jesus tells Pilate in John 19:11, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above…” This authority to put Jesus to death would be odd if it didn’t entail the general power to execute criminals."

"Finally, when He is dying of crucifixion, Jesus accepts the repentance of the thief on the cross, who says to his reviling companion, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds….” (Luke 23:40-41)"

"Had Jesus disagreed with this statement, responding to it with the promise of eternal salvation was a rather obtuse way to express the correction."

"Beyond all this evidence that Jesus affirms the consistent Biblical principle of capital punishment, there is yet one more vital concept to grasp. Christians believe that Christ died on the cross to pay for the sins of us all."

"Although His sinlessness merited eternal life, He endured the death we deserved to extend that gift to us. As Prof. Michael Pakaluk so perfectly expressed the point, “If no crime deserves the death penalty, then it is hard to see why it was fitting that Christ be put to death for our sins….” If we didn’t deserve the death penalty ourselves, then why would Christ need to suffer it on our behalf in order to satisfy the justice of God? Denying the death penalty directly assaults the justice of the Father, Who required His own Son to pay precisely that price in our stead."

"What about the rest of the New Testament?"

"Since both Jesus’s teaching and His death affirm the capital punishment, it should come as no surprise that the rest of the New Testament reinforces this view."

"When confronting Governor Festus, Paul says in Acts 25:11, “If I am a wrongdoer, and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die; but if none of these things is true of which these men accuse me, no one can hand me over to them. He both affirms capital statutes and accepts them as binding on him if he has broken one."

"Later, in the New Testament’s most famous passage on the nature of government, Paul explains, “But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for [the government] does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil.” (Romans 13:4)"

"Finally, the same Bible which begins in Genesis 9:6 with the establishment of capital punishment, then carries the theme consistently throughout the text, and ends by reiterating it in Revelation 13:10, “If any one is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if any one kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.”

"Literally from beginning to end, the Bible teaches that capital punishment is authorized and required by God."
(1) from no. 2 at

Berta said...

@ dudleysharp:

you said that 57% of all executed persons are white.
but did you ever think of the fact that only 12% of the American population is actually NON-WHITE?
if jurisdiction was not as arbitrary as it is, there would have to be a execution-rate of whites of 88% or not?

a fact that astonishes me very much is, that almost all the people always talking about the death penalty being authorized and required by God are on the other side strictly against abortion.
this amazes me somehow.
it is terribly sinful to put a person to death if he/she is not older than a few weeks, but 18 year later you can, yeah right, God even requires it, kill that person, if she/he fucked up badly...

dudleysharp said...


From the 2000 Census
whites 75%
non Hisanic whites 89%

Sp the non white population is 25-31%.

What matters is not population counts by race, but those who commit capital murder.

You seem to miss the obvious.

Those opposed to abortion see it as the killing of an innocent.

Those supporting the death penalty see it as the execution of a guilty murderer.

That is very well known.

dudleysharp said...

I miss typed

It is

non Hispanic whites 69%

Anthony Tanas said...

When everything is sterile I think the death penalty is a bad idea, but then I hear of a heinous case...unspeakable torture before a murder...and I'm left with nothing but this guy needs to die.

All that said, I would support abolishing the death penalty if the alternative were to SuperMax them for life.

On the point of the deterrent effect...your point is valid for people in a murderous rage, but what about pre-mediated murder (which is required, I think, to be a capital offense).

But the answer to the deterrent effect can only be scientific and I think it would be a murky analysis at best. You cited the statistic that murder rates are higher in death penalty states.

I'm happy to assume the statistic is true so then what does that statistic mean? It's obviously not a causal relationship. The death penalty is not CAUSING people to want to murder. Maybe people are more pro-death penalty in those states with more murder. So on that point I'll invoke "lies, damn lies and statistics".

The strongest argument against the death penalty, IMO, is the all too frequent incompetence of the government. The idea of innocent people being executed, which has surely happened, is horrific.

I'm mixed again my solution is SuperMax. It seems a fate worse than death with the possibility to remedy a mistake (though it's probably psychologically damaging).

dudleysharp said...

"The Death Penalty: More Protection for Innocents"


All prospects of a negative outcome deter some. It is a truism. The death penalty, the most severe of criminal sanctions, is the least likely of all criminal sanctions to violate that truism.

25 recent studies finding for deterrence, Criminal Justice Legal Foundation,

"Deterrence and the Death Penalty: A Reply to Radelet and Lacock"

"Death Penalty, Deterrence & Murder Rates: Let's be clear"


"The Innocent Executed: Deception & Death Penalty Opponents"

The 130 (now 139) death row "innocents" scam

Mary Beaudin said...

Killing someone because killing is wrong...It doesn't make much sense to me. The statistic of more murders in places like Florida, Texas and California show that violence begets violence.

Dudleysharp your arguments are just wrong. Life in jail. There is your deterrent. Let God be the judge.

dudleysharp said...

Mrs. Beaudin writes:

"Killing someone because killing is wrong..."

Only if you can't discrn between murder and execution.

"Killing equals Killing: The Amoral Confusion of Death Penalty Opponents"


"The statistic of more murders in places like Florida, Texas and California show that violence begets violence."

"Death Penalty, Deterrence & Murder Rates: Let's be clear"

Murderers much prefer life over execution. Of curse the death penalty deters.