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April 3, 2013

Some notable headlines in wake of state prosecutors' decision to seek death penalty for James Holmes

I was intrigued to see this set of notable anti-death penalty headlines and commentaries in a bunch of major news sources this afternoon as a follow-up to the recent decision by Colorado state prosecutors to seek a death sentence in the Aurora mass shooting case:

From The Atlantic here, "In Aurora Shooting Case, a Public Pushback Against the Death Penalty"

From The Guardian here, "Even Aurora shooter James Holmes shouldn't get the death penalty"

From CNN here, "Why death penalty for Holmes wouldn't bring justice"

From the Daily Beast here, "Why My Mother Would Save Aurora Shooter James Holmes"

Also from the Daily Beast here, "Death Penalty Is the Wrong Punishment for James Holmes"

I think most of the authors of these pieces are committed abolitionists, so their positions on this high-profile case is not all that surprising.  But I still think it is notable and significant that so many commentators are quick to take up the challenge of seeking to explain and justify their opposition to the death penalty even in a case in which the crime is so horrific.

Recent and older related posts (with lots of comments):

April 3, 2013 at 07:40 PM | Permalink


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Take some solace, professor...you're finding fewer and fewer "committed abolitionists" to be bothered by here on the Berman Boys' Blog.

Posted by: Bea Attitude | Apr 3, 2013 9:33:33 PM

This is what Andrew Cohen says about public opinion at the very beginning of his Atlantic article:

"To give you a sense of how far the public debate over capital punishment has moved toward rationality over the past few decades you need only read Tuesday's house editorial in The Denver Post about a Colorado prosecutor's decision to seek the death penalty in the Aurora theater shooting case."

Only Andrew Cohen is a liar.

This is what Gallup says about the "movement" in public opinion:

"U.S. Death Penalty Support Stable at 63%."

And this is what Gallup finds as public support for the death penalty a "few decades" ago: Five decades ago it was at 50%, lower than it is today. Four decades ago, it was at 52%, lower than it is today. Three decades ago, it was at 68%, a scant five points higher than it is today. Source: http://www.gallup.com/poll/159770/death-penalty-support-stable.aspx

As I say, Andrew Cohen is a liar.

P.S. It's true that support for the death penalty has fallen off from what it was two decades ago. On the other hand, the murder rate is half what it was two decades ago, so this is not exactly news, even if "two decades" could be read to mean Cohen's a "few decades," which it cannot.

P.P.S. Buried way, way down in the article is this lonely truth by Cohen: "The point here is not to debate whether the death penalty is appropriate in the case of James Holmes. Of course it is."

Oh, OK. Well if it's appropriate, it can't very well be immoral, now can it? Which is the main item in this debate.

It's just a classic abolitionist trick to lie like crazy about the supposed public tidal wave against capital punishment, before very quietly admitting that the killer du jour deserves it.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 3, 2013 9:52:02 PM

Abolitionists are pro-criminal, rent seeking disloyal Americans. They are fully responsible for all fourth crimes, all prison murders, and the high crime rate in this country. Their arguments are in bad faith, since the agenda is to generate make work government jobs babysitting vicious predators. Prosecutors will destroy any citizen who defends our nation from the criminal by shooting back. The entire lawyer hierarchy is partially abolitionist enough to maintain the $multi-billion death appellate business. There is no effective death penalty going on, thanks to these rent seeking elites.

The dose response curve is an alien concept to the lawyer hierarchy. Take a miracle cure like penicillin. Before penicillin, 90% of pneumonia patients died. After penicillin, 90% survived. Now give penicillin 7 years after the start of pneumonia. Give it to 1 in 100 pneumonia patients. Charge a million dollars a dose. Then in 20% of cases, give it to people who do not have pneumonia. Doesn't look so good, anymore. That is what the abolitionist lawyer hierarchy has done to the death penalty.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 4, 2013 1:09:51 AM

Bea: Had you heard of the dose response curve, an effect that likely applies to all remedies? One reason for abolitionists to run away is that their positions are too weak, too irresponsible to withstand scrutiny.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 4, 2013 5:20:09 AM

Guardian: "2. A 'life for a life' makes the state almost as bad as Holmes is"

OK. he killed. We kill, and we are just as bad.

Why are we better morally by capturing the person, and placing him in a cage for 50 years? Aren't kidnapping and imprisonment also criminal acts and wrongful? Why are those OK? Answer? They generate massive government make work jobs babysitting mass murderers. The deceased generate no government make work jobs.

How about giving him a hug and having him go on his way? Those are nice things and not criminal.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 4, 2013 5:32:13 AM

Bea Attitude, please know that I am not "bothered" by anyone who holds strong and forceful and absolutist deontological pro-life commitments, whether the issue is the death penalty or physician-assisted suicide or abortion. Indeed, I have extraordinary respect for those who have strong deontological views and are eager to voice and defend their beliefs and commitments.

As you likely realize, I do not personally embrace absolutist deontological pro-life commitments with respect to the death penalty or physician-assisted suicide or abortion (or any other issue). I tend to be drawn to consequentialist moral philosophies and Aristotelian visions of the good life, and these belief lead me to often consider LWOP a morally worse punishment than the death penalty. And so what bothers me is when, as seems to happen a lot in modern times, we reduce slightly the number of death sentence and/or executions by formally or functionally increasing dramatically the number of LWOP sentences.

Of course, I cannot speak for what moves the other "Boys'" you seem to think are part of this blog, but they are often quite willing and eager to speak for themselves.

Posted by: Doug B. | Apr 4, 2013 10:20:57 AM

There is nothing more 'deontological' (i.e., strongly rule-oriented, philosophically speaking - I majored in it, too.) about being a committed abolitionist (which I am) than in being a strangely determined, perpetual fence-sitter, professor.

Your ideas about the death penalty are just boring. A properly programmed computer could - and perhaps soon will - do everything you do better. Your inspired 'ends' appear to be nothing more than not really having to think very deeply about it.

And in that sense, yes, you are indeed like a BOY who has not developed beyond formative stages.

Posted by: Bea Attitude | Apr 4, 2013 10:38:52 AM

And I would add that the fact that your most regular followers/commentators demonstrate the same type of boyish, stuck in adolescence behavior here is further evidence of the point made above.

Posted by: Bea Attitude | Apr 4, 2013 11:43:51 AM

Bea Attitude takes ad hominem over inquiry to a new level, this time ridiculing the blog owner upon whose hospitality she depends even as she abuses it.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 4, 2013 12:11:19 PM

@Bill, for a one liner, you sure stated that pretty smooth.. Much better than I ever could....I am impressed, really I am....There is just something about spot on and abbreviated....Good Job..

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Apr 4, 2013 12:43:55 PM

MidWestGuy --

Thank you sir.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 4, 2013 1:04:32 PM

I concur with MidWestGuy. In fact, I can almost hear the words being uttered in the voice of Maggie Smith as Lady Violet. :-)

Posted by: TarlsQtr1 | Apr 4, 2013 2:36:17 PM

In the "be a prosecutor" entry on this case, repeatedly it was suggested that it was quite possible -- though worthwhile to risk it -- that he would be deemed not an appropriate party for the death penalty because of mental defect or some other reason. As I noted there, I can find harder calls (including one cited here), so even if I am one, I don't think only "committed abolitionists" would find this tricky.

Posted by: Joe | Apr 4, 2013 4:12:20 PM

TarlsQtr1 --

I'm really quite happy that Bea Attitude put up her comment. She's wonderfully representative of the largely unconscious and apparently limitless sense of superiority and entitlement one see's all the time in abolitionists.

Doug Berman, who almost always takes the defendant's side, and who is a self-described agnostic on the DP, gets hauled to the woodshed because, unlike Ms. Bea, he's not an impenetrable ideologue.

This is what abbies think marks them as better than the rest of us.

Go figure.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 4, 2013 7:51:03 PM

Bea, though I appreciate your continued engagement, I continue to be puzzled by your comments. For example, you assert that my "ideas about the death penalty are just boring." What does that mean? What do you find boring in this setting and why does it prompt your engagement in this thread? Perhaps you are ANNOYED by my so-called
"perpetual fence-sitter" approach to the DP, but are you really bored by it?

I hope you are right that a "properly programmed computer could - and perhaps soon will - do everything I do better." I tend to like, for both efficiency and accuracy purposes, when computers can replace humans in doing important tasks. You say this as if this is an insult, but I wonder if you regularly look to insult librarians and bank tellers by telling them that google and ATM now do most of what they used to do better.

Finally, you assert that I "appear to [like] not really having to think very deeply about [the death penalty]." Really? That is my chief concerns about committed abolitionists --- as I understand your position, for all reasons and in all settings, you oppose the death penalty for any and everyone from Troy Davis to Karla Fay Tucker to Tim McVeigh to James Holmes to Saddam Hussein to Obama Bin Laden to whomever is killing Texas prosecutors and their family members. How much deep thought does it take to figure this out? (I will note that a lab mouse could be trained to push a "NO DP" button every time; no computer program is needed.)

I think a lot --- but maybe not "very deeply" in your view --- about whether and why the DP might or might not be beneficial and just for some (but not all) of the murderers I listed above. If you think "very deeply" about these issues, I hope you will provide a explanation of where your deep thoughts take you. And I am sorry you apparently find "boring" my efforts to do this explanation of my thoughts via this forum.

Posted by: Doug B. | Apr 5, 2013 8:08:36 AM

Doug --

Bea's recipe is easy to decipher: One part arrogance, one part snark, one part impenetrable ideology (no DP no matter what the facts), and VOILA, there's the brew!

That the brew is indigestible seems not to be a problem. She KNOWS she's right, no debate required, and if you have the temerity to, like, ask for reasons and stuff, then you're just an adolescent boy.

And here I thought adolescent girl bra-burning disappeared 40 years ago. My goodness.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 5, 2013 9:59:36 AM

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