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Selected replies to "When Does it Become Murder?"

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Not in a Civilized Society | Please ... half of them were innocent?

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Not in a Civilized Society
In your article, I lacked one argument against the death penalty:In a civilized society, there shouldn't be any "penalty" or "punishment" at all.Therefore, the european justice system focuses on REINTEGRATION of criminals. People are arrested so they will be able to learn social behavior. And this is why there is a strict ban of capital punishment in the whole European Union.I know about this, but I didn't want to offer it as an alternative to capital punishment for my U.S. readers, who are rather far removed from grasping this perspective.

Also, there is very little evidence to support the idea that certain criminals can be re-educated away from their antisocial behaviors. This is because psychology is not a science, and has no established track record for reliably modifying behaviors. I am not offering this as a justification for capital punishment (IMHO there is none), only to say there is no evidentiary basis for an effective rehabilitation program for some percentage of criminals.
In a civilized society, there shouldn't be any "penalty" or "punishment" at all.I find this rather unrealistic, even from the perspective of someone totally against the U.S. system.

Thank you for writing, I appreciate your feedback and contrasting perspective.
Please ... half of them were innocent?
I enjoyed your article, "When Does It Become Murder?," and agree wholeheartedly that, in a civilized society, we should never execute innocent people.Although personal views are irrelevent in an objective discussion, I would like to say that I have no particular stance on this issue; I'm neither for nor against. That is to say, although I'm not against the death penalty, I would refuse to personally administer the punishment. A copout? Maybe.I've always thought a person can't morally favor the death penalty unless he agrees to two conditions:

  1. In order to support this punishment against those who are actually guilty, he must be willing to accept a small possibility of being personally put to death for a crime he knows he did not commit.
  2. Further, he must be willing to personally administer the death penalty under circumstances in which the evidence is not absolutely compelling.
Absent these two preconditions, anyone favoring the death penalty is abrogating the personal responsibility that comes with citizenship in a democracy — instead hiring "experts" to administer a system that most people would rather avoid any contact with.

Democracy is not about hiring experts. It is about accepting personal responsibility.
The point I'd like to address is the alleged innocence of over half of the Illinois death-row inmates in 2000,What? That claim has never been "alleged" by anyone. Not me, not anyone. Here is what I said in the article:

"In Illinois, since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1977, more death row inmates have been freed than executed." That statement is true, and it bears no relation to your claim about it.
... leading to a moratorium on executions at the order of the Governor, George Ryan. I say alleged because there is evidence that this statement is, at most, completely false and, at best, misleading.Your claim about the content of my article is completely false, very misleading, and never alleged by anyone. You have just invented a position to disagree with, a position no one has ever taken.The reading I have done indicates that the largest percentage of cases of exoneration are due to legal technical discrepancies, not actual innocence of the convicted.
  1. That is false. The majority of exonerations result from a failure of the prosecutor to meet his burden of evidence.
  2. For the remainder, you are certainly not in a position to make the distinction between technical and actual innocence, and neither am I.
The article considers the question of whether innocent people have been put to death, not whether convictions are justly reversed because of misdeeds by prosecutors.

What kinds of misdeeds? How about the misdeeds of Prosecutor Mike Nifong, who concealed exculpatory evidence that would have cleared (and eventually did clear) a group of defendants of an accusation of kidnapping and rape, in the infamous Duke University case? In this case, the accuser was lying, had lied in similar circumstances before, and is now judged to be mentally incompetent.

These legal rules are in place for a reason — to assure that the system works. If the system doesn't work, the problem lies with the system, not the defendants.
Additionally, where the convicted is found innocent after the fact, it is usually "technical innocence," not "actual innocence."When a person can be put to death because of a hair of a particular color, or an inadequate alibi rather than concrete evidence, there is no difference between "technical" and "actual" innocence.

Just yesterday, a man was freed after spending 18 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. His imprisonment resulted from a single hair and the claim of a 12-year-old girl that he was the guilty party. He was released because DNA testing proved his innocence:

After 18 Years, DNA Leads To Prisoner's Release

By the way, the only reason this man was freed was because a conscientious police officer kept evidence from old cases in his closet at home, evidence thrown away by the police after the cases were decided. It is reasonable to conclude on simple statistical grounds that there are other innocent people in jail who won't be saved by a retired police officer's personal collection of evidence.
I won't vouch for the accuracy of this information,Then you had better not make these kinds of claims until you understand the issues. By completely misinterpreting my article, you have just proved that you can't be relied on to decode ordinary English prose. Based on that performance, maybe you are not in a position to decide these weighty legal issues.Aside from the quibble about the accuracy of your opening argument, I found your article interesting and spot-on.There is no quibble with the accuracy of my opening argument. You simply misinterpreted it. I hope I never have to face you in a court of law, under circumstances in which my freedom depends on your ability to decode everyday reality.

Some of my regular readers wonder why I feel so strongly about this issue. The answer is very simple — I was myself falsely accused.

In a story told more fully here, a few years ago a woman tried to get me to meet her son, and, after receiving a polite refusal, persisted in trying to arrange a meeting for seven months. Finally she simply brought her son to a place she knew I would be. Her son and I became friends, his originally dark outlook improved greatly, and it would seem that I had given mom what she wanted. But as it turned out, I had no idea what she wanted.

After discovering that I wasn't going to reciprocate her oft-expressed affection for me, mom marched into a court of law and made the vilest imaginable accusation about my friendship with her son. Unfortunately for this paragon of virtue, her accusation was contradicted by her own prior written words, and a background check revealed she had falsely accused another man.

What if I had not kept all her e-mails, e-mails that revealed the true situation? What if I had not looked into her past, to discover that she was a serial accuser?

Fortunately for me, the fact that this woman was lying was immediately apparent to everyone. But this is not a guaranteed outcome — as with the Duke University case, some people are born liars, and sometimes they choose the most damaging possible lies.

Some people lie, some tell the truth, and sometimes it takes years for the truth to come out. The death penalty slams the door on any future possibility of reëvaluating the facts, of hearing new evidence.

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