If it is wrong to execute the innocent, isn’t it also wrong to kill the transparently guilty

I must admit, I have no view on whether Troy Anthony Davis was actually guilty or innocent of the crimes for which he was convicted, because I’ve not taken the time to read deeply enough into the case to come to a settled view. He certainly was of one mind and one voice from the moment he was sentenced to the moment the State of Georgia took his life late last night, Irish time, that he was innocent.

I was still at school in 1977 when the Gregg v Georgia judgement made the death penalty constitutionally compliant, and Gary Gilmore was executed in the Utah State prison in Draper. Since then a long line of men, and handful of women (all them in the southern states) have been killed by the states.

I was struck by Alex Massie’s purely moral view of the question:

Troy Davis’s execution does not actually really rest on whether he is innocent or not. Nor is it actually the point that there are grounds for wondering if his conviction is entirely safe. We should not execute wrongly-convicted people is a necessary but not sufficient case against the death penalty. Guilt need not matter to the anti-execution party; it must or should matter to the pro-execution party.

In other words, to mount an effective case against the death penality, you must also insist that the lives of those who seem more transparently guilty to the public eye be spared must also be spared.

  • Henry94

    If you have the death penalty innocent people will die. I can never get beyond that point in the argument to even consider the right to execute the guilty.

    No justice system is perfect and many of them are far from it. Police are under pressure to clear cases and once they form the view that they have the right guy they will try to make the evidence fit their theory.

    Juries are imperfect so are judges. Imperfect human systems are not suitable for irreversible decisions.

  • The Raven

    Mick, I have many thoughts on this, but it all boils down to this.

    Another man was executed last night. Lawrence Russell Brewer was executed Wednesday evening for the infamous dragging death slaying of James Byrd Jr., a black man from East Texas.

    Does that make it ok to state-sanction the death of a person, regardless of crime, via the safe and sanitised means of a court and penal system? It does not.

    From my own point of view, every person – from the jury who brought the verdict, the judge who endorses it and sentences, to the two men who push the buttons on the IV’s is equally guilty of taking a life, in a pre-meditated fashion.

    If my brother was killed in the same fashion as James Byrd Jr above, would I want to know that the perpetrator had suffered a fate of death? I would not.

    And yet here we have Troy Davis, the verdict of whom is patently questionable, even with the most cursory glance at the details of the matter. The manner in which Troy Davis was left in a state of “suspended execution” last night while aged judges considered their position was nothing short of barbaric.

    In 1997, I had the opportunity to sit with some one who was witness to an execution in the 1980s. His story, and subsequent conversion to ardent opponent, was worth hearing. I won’t go into detail, but I felt physically sick as he told me about the process of bringing the prisoner in. Not all of them go quietly. Those of you who think it’s worth supporting should avail of the chance to talk to someone like this.

    Yet these are our ‘allies’ with whom we have ‘a special relationship’, as someone said on Twitter last night. If anything, last night’s bureaucratic debacle should be the final word on the re-introduction of the death penalty in this, or any other country.

  • keano10

    Seven of the nine original ‘witnesses’ have since either changed or recanted their original testimony. Some claimed to have been coerced by police officers investigating the crime.

    Regardless of the overall arguments in relation to the death penalty, it does seem odd to carry out the ultimate sentence with such a levy of doubt against the guilt of Davis.

  • Turgon

    I was about to blog exactly this pair of cases.

    I agree with Henry 94 above but also disagree. Even if the case is absolutely beyond doubt: it is a moral argument. Personally I just cannot support the whole concept of executing someone. If the police officer had killed Troy Davis as he had been trying to kill him (if he did / was) I would have regarded that as entirely legitimate and even brave and laudable of teh police officer. However, to catch, try, convict and then in an organised fashion at a later date deliberately to end someone’s life is something I personally do not support, could not do and could not support anyone else doing.

    The contrast between the police officer’s family in the Davis case who wanted the death penalty and the murdered black man’s family in the Brewer case who opposed it is interesting.

  • keano10

    Sorry I should have said against Davis convition.

  • Dec

    ‘Regardless of the overall arguments in relation to the death penalty, it does seem odd to carry out the ultimate sentence with such a levy of doubt against the guilt of Davis.’

    Astonishingly the Federal Judge required Davis to prove he was innocent (as opposed to demonstrate doubt as to his guilt).

  • In addition to the (in my view incontestable) arguments above, we should also consider the effect that the death penalty has on wider society. When deadly force, albeit sanitised, is seen by both the state and its citizens as morally justifiable, how does that affect other aspects of our morality?

    For example, I know of no film industry other than Hollywood that produces so many movies where criminals (as opposed to aliens, demons or enemy soldiers) are killed at the end as entertainment, often on the flimsiest of plot devices. This trend seemed to start in the ’70s, around the time the death penalty was reintroduced. It may be coincidence, but it’s worth considering.

  • Turgon

    I noticed that. I think it is something sort of like innocent until proven guilty but after proven guilty then guilty until proven innocent.

    On Raven’s point above: not that I support any form of death penalty but apparently Albert Pierrepoint Britian’s most famous hangman witnessed a lethal injection execution and regarded it as gruesome and barbaric. I think his view (and he had a great deal of experience) was that the faster the whole thing was done the better rather than the American approach with statements etc.

  • Mick Fealty

    I understand people not wishing to go the end of the proposition, but as Alex says that ‘the potential for the state murder of innocents’ is merely a flaw in the argument for execution, it is not a substantial moral argument against it.

  • john waterford

    I cannot say whether Troy Davis was innocent or not.
    However hundreds of thousands of people have signed petitions on Davis’ behalf.
    Davis’ supporters include former President Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI, a former FBI director, the NAACP, several conservative figures and many celebrities, including hip-hop star Sean “P. Diddy” Combs. Davis’ support bridged the political divide. This is not easily achieved in the US at any time
    Capital punishment is legalised barbarism. The Fifth Commandment states that “thou shall not kill”. It is not for the state to play God. Innocent people mainly from the black community have been executed in the US. Once an innocent person is executed, the wrong cannot be undone.
    It is much better to err on the safe side and abolish the death penalty.

  • JR

    What I think is the most barbaric thing about exectuion is the whole idea of telling someone on this date we are going to kill you. That concept does not exist anywhere that I am aware outside jusdice systems. I don’t think anyone has the right to take anyones life for any reason.

  • Alias

    The execution process has become too drawn out to be an effective deterrent (if it ever was). All of the guaranteed attention is more likely to appeal to the pathological than deter them.

  • Drumlins Rock

    There is a Catch 22 situation here for the opponents of the death penalty, if they argue too strongly that an innocent person may have been killed the focus is removed from the wider death penalty debate, and vice versa, I am glad most people on here are opposed to it, dare I say espically Turgon, who is more to the right of the political spectrum where most supporters of execution seem to come from (but not always) and I’m sure he shares my disgust when wee Jeffrey was all on for reintorducing it recently.

  • Eglise en bois

    Boradly like many middle class white males I have in the past been broadly supportive of the death penalty. I have heard the arguements of the “innocents” being killed in the wrong and like many before me and probably many in the future, i took the view well they can hardly be totally innocent!

    Not an overly rational view I accept. But what actually stopped me in my detached tracks was the question – am i prepared to be the one kille din the wrong? not my son or daughter, father, mother, brother, sister the usual suspects when we discuss the death penalty. Am I prepared to be killed inthe wrong to support the death penalty?

    Answer – simply NO.

    So if I am not prepared to die for my “principle” then I can’t and don’t fully support it.

    So on that basis I can’t support the death penalty for the patently obviously guilty either.

  • Harry Flashman

    Everyone here who is so concerned about the right to life of convicted adult murderers presumably feels equally strongly about the right to life of coma-patients and unborn children.

    Don’t they?

    Or do we only get teary eyed when it’s the big bad Americans executing convicted murderers?

  • DC

    This sort of blog post gives me another chance to repost my Nietzsche comment – about how could things originate out of its opposite. Which is what Mick is highlighting I think re: If it is wrong to execute the innocent, isn’t it also wrong to kill the transparently guilty. From life to death.

    The philosopher Nietzsche said in ‘Beyond Good and Evil’:

    It could even be possible that whatever gives value to those good and honourable things has an incriminating link, bond or tie to the very things that look like their evil opposites; perhaps they are even essentially the same.

    Basically – Nietzsche criticised Chritistian morality as being driven on and motivated by man’s instinctive cruelty.

    So for instance the same people that cherish life and are anti-abortion can at the same time champion the death penalty, a bit like George Bush – who admittedly is a Christian like Tony Blair – being very concerned about innocent Amercians killed in 9/11 while not caring much for those innocent Iraqis who were killed totally unrelated to those perpetrators of the actual 9/11 terror event itself.

  • Mick Fealty

    Harry, Behave!

  • Turgon

    Whataboutery but I suggest also fair comment. If one is morally opposed to the death penalty (which I am) then I think there is an enormous moral problem with supporting abortion.

    There is a consistency in opposing both and a consistency in supporting both. There is also a makeable case for supporting the death penalty but opposing abortion. However, the case for opposing the death penalty but supporting abortion is very difficult relying as it does on saying that the foetus is not yet human.

  • Mike the First

    I believe the state shouldn’t put its captives to death: I think this is barbaric.

    Mick’s argument, and question”If it is wrong to execute the innocent, isn’t it also wrong to kill the transparently guilty” are thought-provoking. However I’m not fully convinced that there’s isn’t a case someone could make to say “Guilty people dying would be fine if you could be 100% sure they were guilty 100% of the time, but you can’t” If that makes sense.

  • DC

    Turgon, re moral dilemma, not really – it depends on your outlook, from a Christian standpoint there might be a dilemma – but from an atheist’s point of view each case could be judged on its merits than particular religious morals.

    Also re abortion, the people that request such termination of life usually are fairly powerless and are no threat to the wider populace, therefore to have the majority combine together to thwart relatively powerless individuals seems a bit overbearing and unfair in my eyes.

    Also if such individuals don’t subscribe to religous values and conceived the child out of lust and nights of long sex out of marriage why should Christian morality be appeneded onto the end of this by forcing a woman to keep a child out of the christian value of absolute ‘right to life’, is it not the case that numerous other moral codes have been broken in the process – all that lustful careless sex that led to the conception of the child. Is not lustful behaviour ultimately immoral in the eyes of Christians?

  • DC,

    You’re dangerously close to trolling there. You can’t weigh the rights of the child against the sins (perceived or real) of the parents.

  • DC

    The rights of the child – but what about the rights of the parent / parents, the creators? Who might actually think that they ‘miscreated’ out of procreation or more likely lust.

    Just tough luck then for the woman – no application of modern medicine need apply to her in order to be in control or regain control over their her own life?

    Are you a christian Andrew?

  • DC

    typo – should just read ‘over her own life’.

  • DC,

    I’m not, I’m pro-choice and you’re not helping. The rights and wrongs of abortion are independent of the perceived moral failings of the parents.

  • And, despite attempts to link them, abortion and the death penalty are separate issues.

  • Turgon

    This thread is in danger of being totally derailed (Mick feel free to delete my comments if you wish).

    However, to continue the logic of your argument. Any parents are by your logic the “creators” of their children. At which point then should they be deprived of the “right” to regain control over their own lives? Should infanticide be illegal? Maybe up to the age of eighteen people could be allowed to “regarin control” over their own lives by disposing of their children?

  • DC

    I’m not, I’m pro-choice and you’re not helping. The rights and wrongs of abortion are independent of the perceived moral failings of the parents.

    And so am I pro-choice – I am arguing for each to their own and restrictions on abortion and choice is totally unfair!

    You say the moral failings of the parents is independent, how about the parents just wanted to have sex and no children but end up with the possibility of a child, this I’m afraid to say creates such a link between the two. Sex for sex sake backfires and creates a child, albeit unintentionally. Therefore this is the reason that abortion is considered and is not independent of it.

    Your argument is flawed.

  • Rory Carr

    A most thought-provoking thread and some excellent contributions not least, in my view, those from Turgon and Andrew Gallagher.

    I must go out now but hope to join in the discussion later this evening when the words and thoughts of that most noble of all American opponents (imo) of the death penalty, Clarence Darrow , whose latest biography by John A. Farrell, graces my bedside table may well be brought into play.

  • uth

    Execution of Davis is after two unsuccessful appearances before the US supreme court. He ran out of objections and “evidence” to submit in his defense, he exhausted his appeals. This is due process. To see armchair lawyers attempting to second guess due process is laughable.

  • I have no problem at all in answering Mick’s question. The death penalty is the wrong judicial response, whether it’s with respect to a possibly innocent person or a patently guilty one. I choose not to want the State, on my behalf and in the name of justice, to stoop to the same moral level as that of a murderer.

    My colleague, Wende at Amnesty International USA, met with Troy Davis yesterday on death row in Georgia. He asked us to deliver this message back to people who had taken action on his case:

    “The struggle for justice doesn’t end with me. This struggle is for all the Troy Davises who came before me and all the ones who will come after me. I’m in good spirits and I’m prayerful and at peace.”

    The battle against the death penalty worldwide goes on today, with a mix of sorrow and hardened determination after last night’s events.

    It is a battle which is being won and it leaves a core of die-hard countries like China, Saudi Arabia, Iran and the United States who continue with the practice. In the US, at least, the campaign will also be successful, maybe not this year or next, but public opinion will eventually ensure its abolition, just as surely as, for now, it ensures it stays in place in some States.

  • Kevsterino

    To me, it doesn’t matter how many have signed petitions, made speeches or said prayers on behalf of the defendant in a capital trial. What matters is the jury and subsequent appeals judges. American jurisprudence provides a wide scope of appeals in capital cases, which is why it took 20 years to carry out the sentence in this case. If we don’t want people to be executed, we need to change the law by vote of the people. The last time we banned executions was at the order of the Supreme Court. People hated that. If we are going to stop capital punishment, an alternative will have to be voted up by the people.

  • Local hack

    John Grisham wrote an interesting fictional book on the death penalty that gets you thinking – The Confession.

    In most southern American states that advocate and practice the death penalty the majority of people are vehement that the sentence must be carried out and irrespective of the subsequent evidence after conviction they are convinced the sentence must be fully realised – even if the potential is a innocent man is killed.

    In those southern American states with the death penalty almost all of those on Death Row are black men from the poorest backgrounds.

    Is this because they commit the most violent crimes or because they can not afford a decent defense ?
    Or could it be that in southern American states in particular there is still an intrinsic and institutional racism deep in society?

    For my two cents if killing is so wrong and punishable by death, why is it right to kill the killer?

    There are various shades of innocence and guilt and to adopt an eye-for-an-eye mentality is as out-dated as the Old Testament it self.

  • Jimmy Sands

    If one considers the high profile miscarriage of justice cases of the 70s it is clear that the lives of innocent defendants, whilst not ended, were destroyed beyond repair. The horror of a wrongful verdict is not limited to death penalty cases and is a poor arguent against it. The argument is simple. It is a barbaric practice which brutalises society without in any way serving to protect it. The guilt or innocence of the defendant is neither here nor there.

    In the Davis case my impression is that this angle was heavily overstated. The evidence of innocence was less compelling than advertised and I can think of few things less likely to alter hearts and minds then Europeans sneering at “rednecks” and “lynching”. It was often callously forgetful of the brave man who gave his life defending a homeless man from attack. Let us also not forget that the death penalty on this side of the water is scarcely less popular than it is there, we simply have a rather more paternalistic political class.

  • DC


    I believe in mind over matter and personal choice, it isn’t up to me to stop anyone from doing something that they want to do and that the something has been agreed as acceptable within certain restricted and well-regulated medical parameters. This something on this occasion being abortion.

    Re infanticide – at the point of birth the baby leaves the womb and that becomes another matter entirely because when still developing in the mother the mother’s mind will rule over matter, she should be ‘sovereign’ i.e. have the power of her own mind to choose – I do admit that the abortion time limit is contentious and complex.

    Re democracy and the majority – the trouble with the majority – a majority not of the people but of those that vote in elections and vote in the politicians here in NI – is this: in the old days democracy was used to curtail the monarchs and the powerful, the uber wealthy, to me it is an abuse of democracy for the majority to turn on a small number of individuals who are themselves disempowered and are shut out of the NHS because of the dominant religious philosophy here in NI which prohibits abortions in NI. This impacts on a small minority and the non-religious who want the right to choose.

    To me that’s not what democracy should be about.

    What does empowerment mean?

    Jon Stokes writes:

    The profession of politics, and its close relative the law, are the last remaining unreconstructed professions. Medicine, teaching, the helping professions generally, have all had to go through a paradigm shift in which the professional can no longer sit above, in judgment and distant from its client.

    We now know that the central common essential
    ingredient in any effective helping relationship is an experience in which the client feels properly listened to and understood.

    There is no compelling evidence that any one method or technique of parenting, teaching or therapy, or school of helping, is superior to any other. Indeed, the scientific evidence is the reverse, that they are more or less all equally effective, providing that one simple but essential developmental ingredient is present – a helper who is experienced by the client as paying close attention to, and empathising with, their own experience, and is hopeful about the client’s capacity to solve their problem.

    So on abortion – all sides of the argument should be put – but ultimately it is up the couple or – depending on circumstances – the woman to decide in the end.

  • Zig70

    History will probably look on the US death penalty as state Genocide on african americans.

  • Alias

    I think it is a mistake for the State to allow those convicted of murder a platform where they can present themselves as victims, as martyrs, and where a plethora of organisations and individuals from the Pope to Jimmy Carter can be wheeled out to give an opinion. This individual was sentenced to death over 20 years ago, and has since become an international cause célèbre. What occurs is that the State is put on trial, and moral equivalence is then proffered between it and the vitimizer, with the victimizer ending his life in what most of these psychopaths would see as its glamorized high point. The State should either impose a time limit to executions or abandon the practice.

    This is not a debate that is relevant within the EU since all of the member state nations have forfeited their former democratic right to impose the death penalty, with ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon treaty (including Article 2.2 of The Charter) making that decision post-democratic and post-sovereign. That isn’t a moral argument or victory since members states reserve the right to impose the death penalty in a time of war or imminent threat of it.

    At least the Americans are still a sovereign nation and can therefore decide such policy in their common interest. If it can work then it should be supported.

  • AGlassOfHine

    Local,read the book.

    I’m not sure we in Eurpe should be making moral judgements about laws in the USA ?

  • stravaig

    This is my first blog – here goes. After twenty years, killling someone – innocent or guilty – like this, is revenge, not justice. It has to do with satisfying a deep-seated desire and need to tidy the world, morally.
    What has been put right by this execution? What has been made better? And, why not make moral judgements about laws in the US? That’s a puzzling one.

  • babyface finlayson

    It’s hard not to sound pious saying this but I think executing even the clearly guilty is wrong, not so much for the wrong we do them but for the wrong we do to ourselves.
    It’s wrong because we as a society should be better than we are as individuals.
    That is why the anti capital punishment lobby, in my opinion, should be setting up camp on the most difficult cases not merely those which have an element of doubt in them.

  • Rory Carr

    In 1924 in Chicago, two young men from wealthy families, young men of advanced educational attainment, picked up a much younger boy of their acquaintance, named Bobby Franks, outside his school and bludgeoned him to death in their rented car. They then drove out of the city to a culvert or storm drain where they hid the boy’s body but not before, according to forensic evidence collected from the remains, some sexual act was perpetrated upon the child’s corpse. They then attempted to obtain a ransom from the boy’s family as though he were kidnapped and yet living. A truly terrible act influenced by a distorted understanding of the works of Fredrich Neitzsche and in particular the concept of Superman – the man of supreme intellect who stands above morality, above all concepts of right and wrong. They killed the child and abused his corpse all the while preening with the notion that their superior intellect gave them permission and would just as surely protect them from detection. Theirs would be the perfect crime.

    However Loeb had dropped a pair of easily distinguishable, expensive,custom-made spectacles beside the body and both were quickly apprehended and confessed separately though without any hint of remorse.

    The outcry for their execution was powerful in the extreme. There was no question as to their guilt and the barbarity of the act, their total lack of contrition and, not least their priveleged background all contributed to the clamour that they be hanged. Their families made an astute move in hiring the Attorney for the Damned (as Clarence Darrow came to be known) and Darrow wisely chose to forgo a jury trial and instead had the defendants plead guilty to the charges and argued aginst a death sentence before the judge. His summing up was masterly and stretched over 3 days. It is reported that even the judge was moved to tears.

    Here is the conclusion of that summation. I would not have it that you would read it and weep but rather that you would read it and quietly rejoice at the nobility that lies dormant within mankind and the certainty that it is finally more powerful than all the mistaken thought processes that motivate our most horrendous acts – not least including our misguided attempts and judgement and punishment.

    ” Now, I must say a word more and then I will leave this with you where I should have left it long ago. None of us are unmindful of the public; courts are not, and juries are not. We placed our fate in the hands of a trained court, thinking that he would be more mindful and considerate than a jury. I cannot say how people feel. I have stood here for three months as one might stand at the ocean trying to sweep back the tide. I hope the seas are subsiding and the wind is falling and I believe they are, but I wish to make no false pretense to this court. The easy thing and the popular thing to do is to hang my clients. I know it. Men and women who do not think will applaud. The cruel and the thoughtless will approve. It will be easy today; but in Chicago, and reaching out over the length and breadth of the land, more and more fathers and mothers, the humane, the kind and the hopeful, who are gaining an understanding and asking questions not only about these poor boys, but about their own,–these will join in no acclaim at the death of my clients. These would ask that the shedding of blood be stopped, and that the normal feelings of man resume their sway. And as the days and the months and the years go on, they will ask it more and more. But, your Honor, what they shall ask may not count. I know the easy way.

    ” I know your Honor stands between he future and the past. I know the future is with me, and what I stand for here; not merely for the lives of these two unfortunate lads, but for all boys and all girls; for all of the young, and as far as possible, for all of the old. I am pleading for life, understanding, charity, kindness, and the infinite mercy that considers all. I am pleading that we overcome cruelty with kindness and hatred with love. I know the future is on my side. Your Honor stands between the past and the future. You may hang these boys; you may hang them by the neck until they are dead. But in doing it you will turn your face toward the past. In doing it you are making it harder for every other boy who in ignorance and darkness must grope his way through the mazes which only childhood knows. In doing it you will make it harder for unborn children. You may save them and make it easier for every child that some time may stand where these boys stand. You will make it easier for every human being with an aspiration and a vision and a hope and a fate. I am pleading for the future; I am pleading for a time when hatred and cruelty will not control the hearts of men. When we can learn by reason and judgement and understanding and faith that all life is worth saving, and that mercy is the highest attribute of man.

    ” I feel that I should apologize for the length of time I have taken. This case may not be as important as I think it is, and I am sure I do not need to tell this court, or to tell my friends that I would fight just as hard for the poor as for the rich. If I should succeed in saving these boys’ lives and do nothing for the progress of the law, I should feel sad, indeed. If I can succeed, my greatest reward and my greatest hope will be that I have done something for the tens of thousands of other boys, for the countless unfortunates who must tread the same road in blind childhood that these poor boys have trod,–that I have done something to help human understanding, to temper justice with mercy, to overcome hate with love. I was reading last night of the aspiration of the old Persian poet, Omar Khayyam. It appealed to me as the highest that I can vision. I wish it was in my heart, and I wish it was in the hearts of all:

    ‘So I be written in the Book of Love
    I do not care about that Book above.
    Erase my name or write it as you will,
    So I be written in the book of Love’ “

  • Rory Carr

    Correction: The glasses found beside Bobby Frank’s corpse belong to Nathan Leopold not Richard Loeb as I mistakenly typed above.

    Footnote: The pair were spared the death penalty and each was sentenced to “Life plus 99 years”. Loeb, who had been the prime instigator of the crime (and the one most likely to have bludgeoned the victim while Leopold drove the car) was himslf killed by another prison inmate, but Leopold, who was besotted by Loeb and sexually fixated upon him, was later released from prison in 1958. He had eventually come to know remorse, though not he says until after ten years of imprisonment. He went to live in Puerto Rico where he studied birds, taught mathematics at the University of Puerto Rico, and worked as an x-ray technician in a hospital operated by The Church of the Brethren. He married, in 1961, a widow . He came to a deep understanding of himself and spent his last years as a fully rounded human being and an asset to the society wherein he lived and worked and loved. He died in 1971.

    In his biography, Life plus 99 Years he gave this verdict on Darrow:

    “Clarence Darrow was far from being sure that life, under the happiest circumstances, is worth living; he knew sorrow and trouble intimately; his instantaneous reaction toward people–especially people in trouble–was the welling forth of that tremendous, instinctive kindliness and sympathy. It was so genuine, so immediate, so unforced. And it embraced the whole world. Or, at least, nearly the whole world. The only things Mr. Darrow hated were what he considered cruelty, narrow-mindedness, or obstinate stupidity. Against these he fought with every weapon he could lay a hand to.”

    Amen to that, say I.

  • Limerick


    So did the hang the bastards or not?

  • Limerick

    Cancel my last. Posted before your post above.

  • Limerick

    “From my own point of view, every person – from the jury who brought the verdict, the judge who endorses it and sentences, to the two men who push the buttons on the IV’s is equally guilty of taking a life, in a pre-meditated fashion.”

    The raven,

    If we accept the above then must we also accept that the people involved in releasing a guilty person are responsible for the deaths of people who he then goes on to murder?

    For instance in 1942 Joe Cahill was involved in the murder of a police officer and convicted thereof. His co murderer Tom Williams was executed despite the efforts of nationalists and the Vatican.

    Cahill however was not executed and lived to oversee mass murder thirty years later. Is that the fault of the judge etc?

  • Rory Carr

    Go to sleep, Hine. Put your mind to rest.

  • Rory Carr


    The answer to your question is, “No !”.

  • Limerick


    And why not?

  • Limerick,

    How is the action of the executioner in any way comparable to that of a juror who votes in good conscience not to convict?

  • Limerick


    How is the action of the executioner in any way comparable to that of a juror who votes in good conscience not to convict?”


    Is not the executioner merely doing his lawful job at the will of the juror? Therefore is not the juror more liable for what happens than the executioner?

  • Rory Carr

    Work it out for yourself, Limerick, that is the responsibility of a mature mind.

  • Kevsterino

    Limerick, if the Leopold and Loeb case intrigues you, you might want to see an old Hitchcock flick call “Rope”. Decadent pseudo-supermen kill their classmate and serve dinner to the kids parents.

    I know it sounds terribly calloused on my part, but I believe that society has the right to defend itself by whatever means we can agree upon, provided the means are not cruel or unusual. And the rate of repeat offenses for those executed is hard to duplicate otherwise.

  • Harry Flashman

    @Mick Fealty

    “Harry, Behave!”

    Good heavens Mick, I think you’re being very unfair, my comment is far from whataboutery but is in fact extremely pertinent to the issue in question.

    People object to the death penalty (almost always US death penalties, they never seem to get so hot and bothered about death penalties elsewhere) on the grounds of the sanctity of human life.

    However these self-same objectors, or at least a very large proportion of them as is evidenced here, have absolutely no moral qualms about ripping an unborn child from its mother’s womb and eviscerating it, killing a human being in a way many times more horrific than the humane methods usually used in executions.

    Now as Turgon rightly points out you can be pro-abortion and pro-death penalty, you can oppose both and you can realistically put forward a case for the death penalty whilst opposing abortion, but surely the most rank hypocrisy of all, the most morally absurd position is to weep for the loss of life of one convicted murderer while happily accepting the industrial slaughter of hundreds of thousands of unborn children.

    Some facetious poster mentioned the death penalty as a genocide against black people in the US, one of the most ludicrously fatuous statements ever posted on this blog. A couple of dozen murderers killed every year does not amount to genocide. The millions of black babies (statistically the largest demographic of abortions in the US) killed over the past forty years could reasonably be described as such.

    One famous statistician has made the point that aborting unwanted (mostly black) low-income children has been the major cause of the decline of criminality in the US. It appears some people are happier if the potential killer is killed in the womb than if he survives and goes on to kill someone else in which case the unaborted criminal somehow becomes a protected species worthy of candlelight vigils and worldwide campaigns.

    For the record I am not a christian, I merely think logically.

    By all means red card me Mick if you feel I’m wrong making what I believe to be extremely relevant points.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Had this discussion with my children very recently in relation to “The West Memphis Three” whom Rory has referred to

    Regardless of guilt, seeking the death penalty is about hurt, loss and pain. That’s revenge, not justice, and no state should legislate for that.

    In the above case it’s interesting to note that many of the victim’s families are now in support of the three men convicted of the crime.

  • Mark

    How is my comment awaiting moderation ?

    Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is the name of a film which I saw last night . I then read that Rory Carr was palnning to see the film aswell . I pointed out I’d seen the film and made a comparison with another ” Cold war drama ” called ” The Good Shepherd ”

    Check it out !!

  • Mick Fealty

    How many urls in it? There’s a spam filter which holds multiple posts as a default. Why are we going off topic?

  • Harry Flashman

    “That’s revenge, not justice, and no state should legislate for that.”

    On the contrary revenge, or more correctly retribution, is a key factor in the administration of justice along with rehabilitation and deterrence. Some criminals are beyond rehabilitation, some need little retribution, deterrence is always very important.

    We weigh all factors in the balance, here in Europe we believe rehabilitation to be more important than retribution, we believe ourselves to be morally superior to Americans, fair enough.

    However would it be too much to leave Americans to order their own justice systems as they see fit and stop these absurd almost annual US-death row vigils that seem to occur these days?

    It’s frankly none of our concern.

  • Mark

    Point taken Mick ….. the comment was made late last night when the site was very quiet .

  • Rory Carr

    “However would it be too much to leave Americans to order their own justice systems as they see fit…?” – Harry Flashman

    “Too much,” is indeed the operative phrase here, we might think, given the U.S. penchant for citing its own higher morality in defence of agressive global military interference..

    Nevertheless, the U.S. is indeed entitled to order its own system(s) of justice just as we, as citizens if the world, have a right (some would say, a duty) to appeal for clemency for those U.S.citzens, our fellow human beings, condemned .to death under its laws.

    Kevestrino – I watched Rope (Alfred Hitchcock, 1948) just two days ago. It is loosely based upon a script by English writer, Patrick Hamilton (who also wrote Gaslight, if memory serves) who liked to dwell upon extremes of moral ambiguity. It attempts to dramatise the perceived motivation of characters similar to Leopold and Loeb and the dangers of flirting with Neitzsce, but although quite frank for its day on the homosexual element, yet shies away from the real victim’s true age. Interesting but clunky to a modern eyes and ears.

    A movie which better illustrates the actual case is Richard Fleischer’s, Compulsion (1959), from the novel by Meyer Levin, which has Orson Welles in magnificent sombre form as Darrow, making his powerful appeal for clemency.

  • AGlassOfHine

    Harry,how do you intrend to force a woman to have an unwanted child ?
    It’s her body.
    Her choice.
    Quite frankly,middle aged men discusiing the rights and wrongs of Pro Choice for a woman,is,in my honest opinion,laughable.

  • DC

    Interesting piece here from Stephanie Kercher sister of Meredith Kercher, remember her? She was apparently murdered by Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito after a bungled sex game.

    Stephanie Kercher says that:

    “But we need to find justice for her, we need to find the truth for her.

    “There’s not much of Meredith in the media. There aren’t photos of her in the media. The focus has completely moved away from Meredith to Amanda and Raffaele.

    “And Meredith was so lovely – an intelligent, kind, caring person.”

    “I’m scared of forgetting what she looked like.

    So in relation to Rory’s thoughtful piece about the lads that were allowed to live and not executed – life plus 99 years, I myself now remember them more so than the person – the boy – that was sexually assaulted and then killed by them, maybe – ultimately – the victim’s family should have the choice of life plus 99 years or to have these murderers forgotten also?

  • Rory Carr

    While Melanie Kercher’s continuing grief at the loss of her sister is entirely understandable, it is also absolutely essential that precisely in order “to find justice for her, … to find the truth for her”, that the circumstances of the convictions in this case be pursued to a rightful conclusion.

    Many, including myself, are convinced that the convictions of Amanda Knox and that of Raffaele Sollecito are likely to have been grave miscarriages of justice and that the actual killer, Rudy Guede, who has already been convicted, acted alone.

    It serves the memory of Meredith Kercher poorly if, even to spare her family’s discomfort, we allow the innocent to remain imprisoned and tarnished with the guilt of her murder.

  • DT123

    A genuine “life” imprisonment,would in my opinion be worse than the death penalty.I saw a programme on National Geographic,about Russian prisons and how they dealt with “lifers”,all had killed more than one person.These guys were in solitary confinement ,and never allowed out of the cell.From 6 am untill 10pm ,they were allowed a bed and the lights were switched out.From 6am their beds were removed and they had to stand for the remainder of the day.

    To look at a regime like that ,the death penalty would be a pleasant release.

  • RepublicanStones

    People object to the death penalty (almost always US death penalties, they never seem to get so hot and bothered about death penalties elsewhere) on the grounds of the sanctity of human life.

    Catch a grip Harry. You hear people objecting to the US death penalty more often, because its the most zealous proponent of it in the western world. The only state to still practice it in Europe is Belarus. And im pretty sure if you ask opponents of the US death penalty, they would oppose that one too, as well as the other human rights abuses. But there’s no debate, everyone agrees on the barbarity of other regimes that use. So theres no need to have a chinwag about Iran’s use of it, or China’s. Have a look here at who the USA is in company with and maybe you can see how idiotic your line of reasoning is.

    Your sad little Toryboy student attempt to infer some form of anti-Americanism on the behalf of those who have posted here opposing it is ridiculous.

    One famous statistician has made the point that aborting unwanted (mostly black) low-income children has been the major cause of the decline of criminality in the US.

    I’d really like to read that freakanomic study….Whose it by ?

    The fact that innocent people can be wrongly convicted and murdered should be argument enough for the proponents of capital punishment to wake up and smell the coffee. Imagine you were a brother or sister, father or mother of Troy Davis, you still gonna argue for its use after this?
    That aside, even if someone is undeniably guilty, its still wrong. Society is not made better by lowering itself to the standard of that which it deems too obscene to remain in society.

  • Alias

    There is overwhelming support for the reintroduction of the death penalty in the UK, with the two largest polls finding 71% and 65% support respectively.

    The problem is that the British public’s opinion doesn’t count in a post-democratic issue. If the HRA was ever repealed or amended to allow for the exercise of democracy then the game would be up regarding the actual value of the UK’s Charter opt-out.

  • Rory Carr

    “Too right, mate. Bring back that there capital punishment, I say. We ‘ad it back in my day. Didn’t do me no ‘arm !.”

  • Harry Flashman

    “I’d really like to read that freakanomic study….Whose it by ?”

    Oddly enough the author of “Freakanomics”.

    Any other questions?

  • Harry Flashman

    “It’s her body.
    Her choice.”

    What about the baby, doesn’t it have a choice?

    The death penalty is similar to abortion; no one is forcing you to execute murderers, if you don’t want to execute murderers that’s fine, but you should allow people to have the choice in executing murderers if that’s what they want.

    Yes, a little bit smart alecky but sometimes people need to think before shooting off their silly little trite phrases.

  • DC


    In life you will just have to learn that you simply can’t control everything, particularly so in relation to abortion and those that opt for it. Their choice and you can’t do a damn thing.

    On abortion you need to follow your own advice that you give out on the death penalty:

    ‘However would it be too much to leave Americans to order their own justice systems as they see fit and stop these absurd almost annual US-death row vigils that seem to occur these days?

    It’s frankly none of our concern’.

  • Alias

    Rory, that was a rather poor attempt to characterise 70% of the British public as cockneys (and, presumably, to imply that they should be democratically disenfranchised if they were). They might not speak with a posh (ahem) Belfast accent but are nonetheless entitled to their politics.

    They’ll be looking to head-hunt you in Brussels with that contempt for ‘populism’. Anyway, I’m delighted that you support the ‘right to life’ agenda and look forward to your forthcoming denunciations of the Shinners in NI who didn’t share it.

  • RepublicanStones

    Any other questions?

    Yeah a couple as it happens. First, i’d love to know why my use of the word freakanomic didn’t set an alarm bell off in your head? (Im well aware of Levitt’s discredited theory)

    And why you never bothered to check the veracity of his claims, for if you had they would have brought you to the same critiques as I. Critiques which have been available for several years.

    New Study Further Disproves Freakonomics
    Abortion-Crime Reduction Theory


    ‘Freakonomics’ Abortion Research Is Faulted by a Pair of Economists


  • Rory Carr

    I should be careful of that tendency oyf yours towards literalism, Alias. A man could surely die from a surfeit of it.

    He would in any case surely pine away from lonliness having driven all else from the room.

  • RepublicanStones

    The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime: Comment


    Freakonomics Claim Abortion Drops Crime Rates Refuted Again


  • carl marks

    Im a bit late into this post, Most of what i would say has been said already but i will throw my two cents worth into the ring.
    I believe turgon has got it about right here,
    The death penalty is wrong, no man, state, or group has the right to kill another, that’s it. There should be no need to say any further but alas there is.
    I doubt you would be such a fervent supporter if someone you love was due to be hanged.
    If i was on a jury tasked with judging a person were a guilty verdict may well result in a death sentence I would not be able to say the word guilty, if as I suspect I am not alone in this then perhaps a guilty man would walk free and I would have broken the oath that as a juror I would have taken. This may sound terrible but since I do not have the power to see into people’s souls I could never be 100% sure the man or women I was sending to the gallows was guilty and is often been the case in the past if it turned out that he or she was innocent of the crime that they were executed for then I would be guilty of murder.
    I hope that makes sense to you all it how I personally feel about the whole thing

  • carl marks

    oh i forget to add if my actions meant that a guilty person walked free and they killed again then I would also share some (a large portion) of the guilt for that.

  • Rory Carr

    Let Orson Welles (here using the words of Clarence Darrow ‘s appeal for clemency in the infamous “Crime of the Century” – the Leopold and Loeb case, Chicago, 1924) from the film Compulsion (Richard Fleischer 1959), make the case against capital punishment for even those guilty of the most heinous child murder for no reason other than the thrill of believing that they could do so with impunity and that their superior intelligence and great privelege placed them above society’s retribution.


    What stands out for me is Darrow’s own great unfaked compassion which is such that he, the most maligned atheist of his day, detested and feared as the devil incarnate in the Bible Belt, was able to unashamedly appeal to Christian values of mercy and love to make his case. Apparently, in the actual case, even the judge was moved to tears.

    With the death of Darrow, they broke the mould. They just don’t make ’em like that any more.

    Oh, go on then – here is Spencer Tracy playing Darrow ( thinly disguised as the character, Henry Drummond), defending the teaching of Darwinism from public censure in the Scopes Monkey Trial in Tennessee in 1925. Make sure to watch and listen to the end. Stirring stuff indeed. (When Spencer Tracy died they also broke the mould. They don’t make ’em like that any more either. Well, o.k., I’ll concede Robert Duvall.)

  • Rory Carr


    Failur of concentration. Here it is:


  • orly

    The comparisons between a death penalty and abortion are frankly laughable.

    Most fans of pro-choice would likely be more than happy with an abortion in a case of rape for example. Setting aside the crime committed by the rapist and the obvious harm to the mother, it is the child being “punished” as the ultimate result. The child has no notion of the crime nor is it responsible in any way yet it is essentially killed for it’s part in the trouble.

    But when murderers, and I believe only murderers, are convicted and executed for their crimes it’s apparently a great injustice because it is an imperfect system?

    I’d ask anyone out there who is pro-choice but anti death penalty to give themselves a shake and think for a change. Come up with a more consistent stand point.

    For clarity, I’d probably say I’m anti-abortion except for instances where the mother will be endangered or the child is shown to have a serious illness or disease likely to cause a poor quality of life or lack of opportunity to thrive as well as putting a significant drain on resources. In this instance I view it more as mercy despite it being a bit “cold”.

    I’d be very comfortable with a death penalty for murderers, serial rapists, predatory paedophiles and the like.

    And for further clarity, I’m not religious. Religion seems to be another topic people need to think about. Omnipotent dude creates everything in a week and unless you kiss his ass enough you’ll burn in a fire for eternity? Give me a break.

  • DC

    I’d ask anyone out there who is pro-choice but anti death penalty to give themselves a shake and think for a change. Come up with a more consistent stand point.

    Why does there need to be consistency – surely if a woman is raped and forced to breed with a guy that has ripped into her why shouldn’t she have a choice to terminate? Think of the child, but think of the fact the mother never wanted those genes in the first place and if that’s the way she feels during and after birth then there isn’t going to be any love for the kid.

    So there doesn’t need to be consistency really, just what suits for the circumstances and the person involved.

    Apologies for the crudeness of the above – but I am exaggerating to stress a point, something which Harry has done likewise.

  • Kevsterino

    One thing to consider regarding the logic in the title of this thread, is that another man was executed the same day as Troy Davis. This was in Texas. The executed man was a white racist who dragged a black man behind his truck until he fell apart. No doubt at all about his guilt. No petitions for mercy, either.

  • Kevsterino

    the point being, much humanitarian capital is expended on behalf of a black guy who killed a white guy. But I have yet to read anything from my side of the pond condemning the execution of the white guy. I’m not sure what to make of that.

  • I’d ask anyone out there who is pro-choice but anti death penalty to give themselves a shake and think for a change. Come up with a more consistent stand point.

    I am pro-choice and anti-death penalty and my position is entirely consistent, because I do not regard embryos at a non-viable age as people. If you do regard non-viable embryos as people then in order to be consistent you should treat all miscarriages as stillbirths, including the 75% of pregnancies that miscarry ‘silently’ within the first two weeks.

  • Pigeon Toes

    “For clarity, I’d probably say I’m anti-abortion except for instances where the mother will be endangered or the child is shown to have a serious illness or disease likely to cause a poor quality of life or lack of opportunity to thrive as well as putting a significant drain on resources. In this instance I view it more as mercy despite it being a bit “cold”.

    Strange that abortion is offered for my precious girl’s “condition”..Or is eugenics acceptable?

  • Pigeon Toes

    If you do regard non-viable embryos as people then in order to be consistent you should treat all miscarriages as stillbirths, including the 75% of pregnancies that miscarry ‘silently’ within the first two weeks”

    Thing is Andrew these are labelled “silently” for a reason i.e the woman isn’t aware of the miscarriage. I grieved for all the babies I knew that I lost, but accepted that given my history, nature is wee bit wiser than me…

    Whilst personally I could not contemplate abortion, I am unable to judge others’ making that decision. I imagine it is never a decision taken lightly….

  • BluesJazz

    “the logical conclusion to the ‘human potential’ argument is that we potentially deprive a human soul of the gift of existence every time we fail to seize any opportunity for sexual intercourse. Every refusal of any offer of copulation by a fertile individual is… tantamount to the murder of a potential child!”

    All together now..
    ‘Every sperm is sacred…’

  • Pigeon Toes,

    Thing is Andrew these are labelled “silently” for a reason i.e the woman isn’t aware of the miscarriage. I grieved for all the babies I knew that I lost, but accepted that given my history, nature is wee bit wiser than me…

    Indeed. I’m sorry for your loss, and perhaps I was overly blunt. I just wanted to point out the absurdity of taking a fundamentalist position on the matter. I’m not a fan of abortion, I just recognise that it is sometimes the lesser of two evils.

    To get back on topic, there is the question of why some death sentences get more activist attention than others. The answer to that is the same as for other questions of consistency such as “why did we support the Libyan rebels and not the Syrians” or “why do we allow North Korea to develop nukes but complain about Iran”. You pick the battles you can win. Consistency is only required for those things that are within your power.