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October 9, 2011

"Civilized society demands the death penalty"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable new commentary authored by a local pastor in Ohio providing a spirited and spiritual defense of the death penalty.   Here are excerpts:

There has been a lot of talk recently about Ohio's death penalty.  We have all heard the tired old arguments both for and against the death penalty.  In arguing the death penalty issue, people fight about whether it is a deterrent but that is not the issue.  Similarly, we argue about whether the death penalty is revenge or justice.  It usually is both, but again, we are missing the big issue.

The real issue about capital punishment is whether we value life or not.... I think we all could agree that you cannot put a dollar amount on one's life.  So what penalty for a person who intentionally takes an innocent life speaks to the value of the victim's life?... I find it chilling when one can intentionally take the life of another and the consequences are 10, 20, 30 years in prison.  I regularly preach in prisons here in Ohio, and I can tell you that one-third of the world's population would consider an American prison a step up from their current existence.

Now let's talk about why a civilized society demands the death penalty. The death penalty is not about vengeance.  If the law were about vengeance, then we would allow the victim's family to beat the inmate to death rather than give him a tranquilizer before we execute him.  The death penalty is not about deterring someone else from committing murder; otherwise we would hang the inmate in the town square and televise it for all to see.  

The death penalty is about putting the proper value on the life of the victim.  No, executing killers won't bring their victims back.  Yet, the death penalty says to our society that the only true price that can be asked for the life of the victim is the life of the perpetrator.  It says we value life so much that we can ask the ultimate price be paid for the ultimate crime committed.  To do less diminishes the value of the victim's life and thus diminishes all of our lives....

Perhaps if we were not so quick to look for excuses and more concerned about defending life, the death penalty could be applied more fairly and consistently.  Perhaps if we made the death penalty automatic for a murder conviction and allowed the jury (not a judge or prosecutor) to decide whether or not to commute the sentence to life without parole, we would not have to spend millions of dollars and decades of time to carry out this necessary, albeit, ugly form of punishment.

October 9, 2011 at 01:01 PM | Permalink


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Wouldn't the death penalty's biggest draw for prosecutors is that they can have greater leverage for plea bargains. For instance, they can accept a plea of LWOP to prevent the death penalty from being incurred upon conviction. Without the death penalty, LWOP cannot be used as leverage because it is the most stringent sentence available.

It would be interesting to compare plea bargains of states with vs. without the Death penalty.

Posted by: Eric Knight | Oct 9, 2011 1:58:26 PM

Communist China, Iran, Iraq, Syria, North Korea, Indonesia, Cuba, Belarus, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Burma, VietNam,
What a civilization!

Posted by: Dott. claudio giusti, italia | Oct 9, 2011 3:27:57 PM


Following is the type of item my freshman college students learn in my class:

"Guilt by association is a version of the ad hominem fallacy in which a person is said to be guilty of error because of the group he or she associates with. The fallacy occurs when we unfairly try to change the issue to be about the speaker’s circumstances rather than about the speaker’s actual argument. Also called “Ad Hominem, Circumstantial.”"


Can I sign you up?

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Oct 9, 2011 5:31:24 PM

T: Very good. A brother in critical thinking and formal logic is here. Interesting project for grad student. Go through the Rules of Evidence and of Criminal and Civil Procedure. See how many violations of basic logic and how many fallacies they allow.

This would not be theoretical work.

The allowance of a fallacy violates the procedural due process right to a fair hearing of both criminal and tort defendants. Such a right is from both the Fifth and the Fourteenth Amendments.

A fallacy would be equivalent to racial discrimination in a tribunal. Please, let me know of any interested person.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 9, 2011 6:11:54 PM

"spiritual defense of the death penalty" - not sure how you come to that conclusion. There is not one Christian or Godly word in the article. The view expressed however is what you might expect from a professed "independent fundamentalist" claiming the Baptist umbrella.

Posted by: peter | Oct 9, 2011 6:37:09 PM

I think the pastor must be considering a run for political office. How else to explain that despite his claim of fresh thinking, he has trotted out a tired old - and frankly solipsistic - argument for the death penalty.

Posted by: JAF | Oct 9, 2011 7:06:51 PM

JAF --

"How else to explain that despite his claim of fresh thinking, he has trotted out a tired old - and frankly solipsistic - argument for the death penalty."

It's true that the main arguments for the DP are old. That's because now, like 20 or 50 or 100 years ago, there are some crimes so grotesque that nothing else is justice.

And since the argument is winning, unlike yours, there's not a lot of reason to change it, now is there?

While we're at it, is there some new argument for abolition? I mean, I keep hearing the same stuff over and over again: It costs so much, Amerika is racist, it's really society's fault anyway, and they're all innocent, don'tcha know.

Got somethin' new?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 9, 2011 9:20:14 PM

T just finishes explaining how personal attacks have no validity, and all Peter and JAF come up with are personal attacks. That's not tired. That's intellectual exhaustion. Peter and JAF are likely government dependent people who want to keep extreme criminals alive to generate massive government costs and growth. The latter is a personal attack, but it addresses an economic conflict of interest that invalidates anything they might argue that promotes bigger government. All abolitionist must attach a disclosure or else they are arguing in bad faith. We know Dr. G is a coffee swilling, slow shuffling government factotum trying to destroy the Italian economy by his laziness, and Commie views, totally uncaring about the assassinations of brave judges and prosecutors daring to investigate the Mafia. He has been honest. The rest have not.

The Supremacy is also government dependent, but is arguing against economic self interest in favoring the death penalty, making his arguments golden and precious. The shenanigans of lawyers have enriched the Supremacy beyond its dreams. So all argument here is against economic interest. If its policies were to ever get adopted, and the lawyer profession were restrained, the Supremacy would have to scramble to replace half its income, in worthless, government mandated make work.

So why work so hard to correct the lawyer profession? Love. That is the sole motive and explanation.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 9, 2011 10:42:18 PM

Bill, greetings! Here's a second reason why the death penalty is not such a good idea: prosecutorial misconduct:

Sivak v. Hardison, 2011 WL 3907111 (9th Cir. 2011) (vacating death penalty because prosecutor did not correct informant’s perjury about absence of deals); Lambert v. Beard, 633 F.3d 126 (3rd Cir. 2011) (murder conviction vacated under Brady where prosecution failed to disclose inconsistent statement of its critical witness that named a person other than the defendant as the killer); U.S. v. Kohring 637 F.3d 895 (9th Cir. 2011) (Withheld evidence that key government witness had allegedly sexually exploited minors was material for purposes of defendant's Brady/Giglio claim warranting reversal of conviction); Johnson v. Florida, 44 So.3d 51 (2010) (“The reversal of the death sentences in this case is directly attributable to the misconduct of the original prosecutor. He knowingly presented false testimony and misleading argument to the court…”); William v. Ryan 623 F.3d 1258 (9th Cir. 2010) (case remanded for evidentiary hearing on whether defendant prejudiced where prosecutor suppressed evidence suggesting an alternate person was the perpetrator which is "classic Brady material."); Stanley v. Schriro, 598 F.3d 612 (9th Cir. 2010) (“Moreover, the increasing frequency with which innocent people have been vindicated after years of imprisonment counsels a different approach. See Samuel R. Gross et al., Exonerations in the United States 1989 through 2003, 95 J. CRIM. L. & CRIMINOLOGY 523, 523-24 (2004) (noting that from 1989 through 2003 exonerated individuals “spent more than 3,400 years in prison for crimes for which they should never have been convicted . . .”); State ex rel. Engel v. Dormire, 304 S.W. 3d 120 ( Mo. 2010) (kidnapping conviction reversed where state failed to disclose letter suggesting that a prosecution witness had been paid for his testimony); Valdovinos v. McGrath, 598 F.3d 568 (9th Cir. 2010) (murder conviction vacated because "a pattern of non-disclosure permeated the proceedings against [petitioner]" which deprived petitioner of due process.); Robinson v. Mills, 592 F.3d 730 (6th Cir. 2010) (murder conviction vacated where prosecution suppressed material impeachment information concerning its key witness, Sims; namely that that Sims had worked as a paid informant for at least three local and state law enforcement agencies in multiple cases); U.S. v. Johnson, 592 F.3d 164 (C.A.D.C.,2010) (conviction for possessing heroin with intent to distribute vacated because of government's failure to disclose evidence that heroin found in defendant's bedroom was actually owned by his cousin); Cone v. Bell, 129 S.Ct. 1769 (U.S.,2009) (Remand was required, on petition for habeas corpus from Tennessee murder conviction and death sentence for review of the effect of prosecution’s suppression o prosecution’s suppression of evidence regarding the seriousness of defendant's drug problem on his sentence); Gonnella v. State, 686 S.E.2d 644 (Ga.,2009) (murder conviction reversed where prosecutor failed to disclose deal with accomplice); Simmons v. Beard, 590 F.3d 223 (3d Cir. 2009) (murder conviction and death penalty vacated because of due process violation where prosecutor failed to disclose that witness was pressured to cooperate and that a second witness committed perjury); Wilson v. Beard, 589 F.3d 651 (3d Cir. 2009) (murder conviction and sentence of death vacated because of prosecutor’s suppression of favorable information regarding witnesses criminal convictions and providing money to witnesses); Montgomery v. Bagley, 581 F.3d 440 (6th Cir. 2009) (murder conviction and death penalty vacated because of prosecutor’s failure to disclose exculpatory report from ‘witnesses who would have cast serious doubt on the State’s case.” ); U.S. v. Price, 566 F.3d 900 (9th Cir. 2009) (conviction reversed where prosecutor violated his due process duty under Brady to learn the results of investigation into criminal past of government witness); U.S. v. Reyes, 577 F.3d 1069 (9th Cir. 2009) (government violated due process by not disclosing favorable evidence discovered in parallel SEC proceedings); Douglas v. Workman, 560 F.3d 1156 (10th Cir. 2009) (murder conviction and death penalty vacated because of due process violation where prosecutor failed to disclose promise to key witness); Drake v. Portuondo, 553 F.3d 230 (2d Cir. 2009) (murder conviction vacated because of due process violation where prosecutor knew witness was testifying falsely); Harris v. Lafler, 553 F.3d 1028 (6th Cir. 2009) (murder conviction vacated because of due process violation where prosecutor suppressed promise to key witness); U.S. v. Robinson, 538 F.3d 1265 (10th Cir. 2009)(conviction reversed because of district court’s refusal to disclose informant’s mental health records to defense which violated Due Process); Hayes v. Brown, 399 F.3d 972 (9th Cir. 2005) (prosecutor presented false evidence to jury and failed to later correct the record)

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | Oct 10, 2011 1:02:56 AM

Michael: Here is another reason all transportation should stop, driver misconduct, including walking. There are 40,000 deaths of innocents a year from transportation. That number includes 100's of pedestrians. Until driver misconduct is remedied, all transportation should be abolished. Same is true for plumbing, medicine, construction, ice cream making, waste water treatment, and all other human activities.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 10, 2011 7:29:11 AM

"Lambert v. Beard, 633 F.3d 126 (3rd Cir. 2011) (murder conviction vacated under Brady where prosecution failed to disclose inconsistent statement of its critical witness that named a person other than the defendant as the killer)"

Michael, in that case, the 3d Circuit really overstepped its bounds. It's a strong possibility that SCOTUS will overturn the decision.

Posted by: federalist | Oct 10, 2011 9:01:03 AM

Michael --

And greetings to you as well.

Where there is prosecutorial misconduct, or the suspicion thereof, the thing to do is not to eliminate the DP entirely (or eliminate prison entirely, which is brought about by prosecutorial misconduct vastly more frequently than the DP), but to make a motion in the particular case you're dealing with and make your case to the judge.

Prosecutorial misconduct is often alleged but seldom shown. As one defense lawyer told me in a candid moment, "I can't very well let the trial be about my client, so I have to do something to make it about the government."

There are of course some instances of prosecutorial misconduct (as there are instances of defense misconduct, e.g., witness manipulation or intimidation (or murder)). But it's far too broad brush an answer to eliminate a whole category of popularly approved and Constitutional punishment, like the DP, on account of such instances.

I never thought Defendant X was guilty simply because the last 50 were. Each case stands on its own merits, and categorical remedies for individual flaws are a bad idea.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 10, 2011 9:29:19 AM

dimmi con chi vai e ti dirò chi sei

proverbio popolare italiano

Posted by: Dott. claudio giusti, italia | Oct 10, 2011 12:00:53 PM


The following story [last month] surely give you pause, does it not?

Michael Morton walks out of the Williamson County courthouse a free man on Tuesday with lawyer John Raley. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals will decide whether his conviction will be thrown out.
While Michael Morton begins rebuilding a life after almost 25 years in prison, his lawyers are moving forward on phase two of their quest for justice: looking into the investigators and prosecutors whose efforts sent him to prison for a murder he did not commit.
Angered by revelations of hidden evidence and apparently ignored leads that could have saved Morton from a wrongful conviction, defense lawyers have promised to conduct a vigorous investigation in the coming weeks.
Details of how that investigation will proceed remain hidden behind sealed court records, but presumably Morton's lawyers will seek to force onetime District Attorney Ken Anderson, now a district judge, and other former Williamson County officials to testify under oath in depositions.
Any new information unearthed would be added to allegations of official misconduct that are pending at the state's highest criminal court.
"Mr. Morton is the victim of a crime; he lost his wife," defense lawyer Barry Scheck said, arguing that a rush to judgment by prosecutors and investigators victimized Morton yet again, depriving him of 25 years of freedom and the chance to raise his son.
Court documents prepared by Morton's legal team focused on four allegations of wrongdoing, including the withholding of a possible eyewitness account of Christine Morton's murder and the apparent failure to fully investigate the cashing of a $20 check, made out to Christine, nine days after her death.
Recent DNA tests identified another man as a suspect in the 1986 Morton murder and the similar bludgeoning death two years later of Debra Masters Baker in Austin. The suspect, unnamed in court records, was not in custody as of Friday, officials said.
The new DNA evidence prompted Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley to join Scheck in asking the courts to throw out Morton's conviction. That request is pending at the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which must approve all sentences that are vacated based on actual innocence.
But defense lawyers also informed the appeals court that in the unlikely event that Morton's request is denied, they will pursue allegations of official misconduct as a second path to attack his conviction.
To further develop those allegations, Morton's lawyers and Bradley agreed to allow "limited discovery," a legal process by which information is collected or exchanged. Details about the discovery plan are hidden in sealed files, except for one: If the appeals court agrees to throw out Morton's conviction, the time for discovery ends, and the allegations of misconduct "shall remain unresolved," court records show.
The appeals court has no deadline to issue its ruling but has acted on actual innocence requests as quickly as about one month, adding a sense of urgency to Morton's legal team.
"Those are serious matters," said Gerry Goldstein, one of the state's leading criminal defense lawyers whose San Antonio firm joined Morton's cause earlier this year. "We are pursuing those. I can't discuss exactly how, but you can trust us that these will be pursued vigorously."
Bradley, district attorney for the past 10 years, said he will have a role in the investigation, though he also declined to provide details, noting that the agreement is under seal.
Bradley said his association with Anderson — the two are friends who have co-written several legal books, including one still offered for sale — will not influence his actions.
"My role is to represent the state. I believe I can do so without bias," he said via email. "I will cooperate completely in providing, to the extent I have the authority to do so, the (Innocence Project) lawyers any relevant information. It matters not to me who was involved in that discovery."
Bradley also noted that the judiciary will decide if anything improper happened a quarter-century ago. "I don't decide" that, he said. "I provide the state's side of the story."
'Suppressed' evidence
Morton's allegations of wrongdoing focus on four pieces of information that were found recently in Williamson County files but were not provided to Morton's trial lawyers.
This is reporter Chuck Lindell's 10th story on the Michael Morton case since mid-August, when DNA evidence indicated that he did not kill his wife in 1986. This story draws deeply from briefs filed by Morton's lawyers, other court records, transcripts of Morton's trial and several interviews to work around the fact that key records remain under court seal.

Michael Levie

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | Oct 10, 2011 12:39:28 PM

Federalist, greetings! You could be right on Lambert v. Beard.

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | Oct 10, 2011 12:54:36 PM


You see, fallacies do not cease to be fallacies just because they are popular Italian proverbs.

And here is some of the "company you keep" of countries that are at least abolitionist in practice:

Myanmar(Burma), Eritrea, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Russian Federation, and Venezuela.

We also have a similar proverb here in America that says, "If you lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas." If you want to base your entire argument on such a fallacy, it appears that you will be itching at least as much as we will.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Oct 10, 2011 1:32:14 PM

Michael R. Levine --

There is no individual case, or collection of cases (why do I think you have a standing file?), that's going to make me think the Framers, the electorate, every President and the judiciary are ALL wrong in supporting the POSSIBILITY of imposing the death penalty in particularly gruesome cases.


Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 10, 2011 2:48:34 PM

American death penalty is not only arbitrary, capricious, expensive, racist, stupid, classist, inconsistent, unpredictable, brutalising, barbaric, casual and not-working; it is also coward.

Posted by: Dott. claudio giusti, italia | Oct 10, 2011 5:19:04 PM

Claudio, non sarebbe ora di imparare la lingua inglese? Fai una brutta figura in inglese--la solita figuraccia italiana tipo clown.

Posted by: alpino | Oct 11, 2011 3:36:36 AM

Alpino ... mo va ben ....

Posted by: Dott. claudio giusti, italia | Oct 11, 2011 4:05:19 AM

interesting information. there is something to think about

Posted by: Sasha | Oct 11, 2011 9:17:02 AM

With all due respect, those are opinions and not arguments.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Oct 11, 2011 10:24:34 AM

Abolition of the death penalty (as democratic elections) does not signify respect of human rights.

Posted by: Dott. claudio giusti, italia | Oct 11, 2011 12:44:30 PM

That Morton case just bums me out further with regard to the New Orleans case from last term, insulating prosecutors from liability for even the most underhanded, habitual, intentional misconduct. (I know Justice Thomas said there was no evidence of pattern of misconduct there, etc. That's poppycock, as anyone familiar with the record and with the general context of Orleans Parish criminal court through the 1980s would know.)

Posted by: Anon | Oct 11, 2011 12:48:45 PM

La madre degli idioti è sempre incinta.

proverbio popolare italiano

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 12, 2011 1:16:04 AM

There are ways to discourage prosecutors from severe misconduct.

Harsh, but they would work.

Posted by: JAG | Oct 12, 2011 2:27:14 AM

"... insulating prosecutors from liability for even the most underhanded, habitual, intentional misconduct."

Rogue prosecutors may, for the moment, be immune from civil liability.

They are not immune from severe sanctions, e.g. U.S. et al. v. Hans Frank, Esq.

Only four days to the sixty-fifth anniversary of his sanction.

Posted by: JAG | Oct 12, 2011 2:32:18 AM


Methinks that very few, if any, truly intelligent informed, rational and logical "thinkers" have not figured out that the Death Penalty is the most civilized way to remove the murderer's from our "trying to be" a "civilized" society.


There is a way of killing which is so "humane" most, if not all, of those being excueted would not even take a simple action to save their own lives!!!

Put those to be executed in the same type of air chamber used by the USAF to familiarize air crews what is like to get lower& lower oxygen until they nearly pass out and/"or do pass out.

Last, Anyone who even has a modicum of knowledge and s pinch of common sense knows that the death penalty DOES "DETER"!

Thanks for your time

Neil C. Reinhardt

A 79 year old Agnostic Atheist Activist, 101st Airborne Vet and a former Top 500 corp. member of mangment.

Due to living in more places, having had many more Professions and having done more different kinds of things than most even consider doing as well as having a high IQ, I am seldom proven to be either logically and/or factually wrong.

Posted by: Neil Reinhardt | Mar 6, 2014 11:59:53 PM

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