Does the risk of executing an innocent person outweigh the benefits of permanently removing violent murderers from society?
I don't mean to be rude, so please don't take this the wrong way, but this is a stupid question followed by a lot of stupid answers. It is
a morally relevant question, but since neither the question, nor any of the answers deem to actually quantify the risks and benefits in any meaningful way, the question is remarkably flawed. Of course, I've undoubtedly foisted more than a few "less than optimal" question on AD over the years as well, so please bear with me.
The top spot for "less than optimal" answer goes to this gem:
By executing countless upon thousands of people, we ourselves as a nation are not serving justice anymore, but a cruel obsession with blood and violence.
I'll simply note that the opening post in the topic gave us a count, less than a thousand, over the last 40 years. As obsessions go, that's remarkably weak.
This answer, however, illustrates the weakness of virtually all the answers, the numerous anti-death penalty and the few pro-death penalty. Long on emotion, short on facts.
What are the facts? Lets stick with just murderers and rapists. How many are there each year? How many potential
recipients of the death penalty who get out of prison rape or murder subsequent to their release? How many PRDPs escape from prison and go on to rape or murder? (We know that it HAS happened before.) How many innocent folks wrongfully convicted of petty crimes have been murdered or raped in prison? How many guards in prison face death at the hands of the lifers?
Granting that innocents have
been executed in the past, how many have been, and how likely (something that can be measured statistically by assigning probabilities to each step in the process) is it to happen today? Is it more or less likely to happen? What accounts for any changes in the probabilities?
As an individual, are you more likely to be murdered, or more likely to be sent to the chair as an innocent? Even assuming that ALL of the executions over the last forty years have been innocents (an extremely unlikely occurence we can agree), you're statistically far more likely to have been murdered rather than a victim of the state. And that's just considering murder, not taking rape into account.
Where do we draw the line? How is it any less egregious to imprison an innocent for 10, 20, maybe even as long as 80 years (or more depending on future medical advances) than it is to execute them? They cannot get those years back, and the imprisonment does nothing to bring back the dead victim. An innocent
has been wrongfully punished by the state, and y'all seem willing to accept that. Where do you draw the line, and on what basis?
Can you quantify your line?
Now, having railed against "stupid answers" short on facts, I'm going to finally offer an answer of my own rather than more questions, and yup, it will also be "stupid", because I'm lazy this morning.
Our system was structured from the gitgo to minimize the risk of punishing an innocent. Trial by jury, presumption of innocence, no self incrimination, etc. I believe that our system has only improved over time, further decreasing the risk. I also know
that the system can never be perfect. I consider the risk of executing an innocent to be less than the benefits of permanently removing the far greater numbers of guilty perps from society. I know that our system can be improved, with more decrease in the risk to the innocents. Automatic review of DNA evidence (where available) in "pre DNA testing" cases, regardless of procedural bullhockey, is one improvement that should be implemented immediately.
Every day, most of us take the risk of killing another person, or perhaps even an entire family, when we step into our cars. Rarely are we in pursuit of socially noble goals such as justice and civil tranquility, but rather with base motives of entertainment or greed or lust.
And yet, some here claim the moral high ground by opposing the death penalty? How many hundreds, thousands even, have died so far this year in your state in traffic accidents? On roads built with your tax dollars? Are we culpable in those deaths, because we paid for the roads?
In the real world, rather than utopia, the perfect is the enemy of the good...