Methods of Capital Punishment

Ignoring mental illness and severe physical pain from a terminal icondition, don’t humans almost universally endure just about any circumstance and prefer to live over being dead?

Maybe it needs to be a poll question, but id vote for wrongly imprisoned for life over dying in a plane crash tomorrow.

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Nobody here is arguing that we should lock up innocent people. You’re tilting at windmills, we’re all in agreement there. It’s simply being said that, given the reality of innocent people currently in prison, we should stop killing them.

Not one person has argued “fuck 'em, rot in prison.”

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Eh, people are making the argument that it’s so much better to let innocent people rot in prison that we should change our laws to accomplish that.

than killing the innocent? Yes, that is the preferred option.


I wonder what inmates serving life-without-parole sentences under supermax conditions (including isolation in their cell 23 hours a day) would say about that (although arguably such conditions could create mental illness…)

I also should point out that my wife, who has lived with chronic pain for over 20 years, in the wake of a car accident, has a complicated stance when it comes to life and death, best described as “not seeking death, but not desiring to delay the inevitable either” (which requires explanation and assurances that self-harm is not a concern when medical professionals who don’t know her ask her the standard depression screening questions).


Solitary is usually the result of behavior while already in prison? I guess I would think an innocent person would be the least likely to end up there compared with more truly violent people. Maybe none of that actually matters either, but it is something to think about. Hope and/or expectations that poor living conditions will eventually subside are going to be a big factor that I think would lead most to prefer living through it.

How often are there people about to be executed that don’t petition for a stay? That would give some indication of whether or not they’d prefer death or prison.

Most of us have several reasons why we think the law should be changed. This is a big one, but even if there we knew there were no innocents being executed, we still shouldn’t be executing people.

If the situation in prison is such that the choice between living there and death is something someone might actually think about, you could argue that the need for the death penalty to exist for the purpose of being a deterrent is unnecessary.

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I still heavily believe this, but for most people, the argument about executing innocents is usually the easiest “Empathy 101” argument.

Though a lot of people will intentionally ignore the point and/or argue like an impermeable rock it almost never happens that innocents are executed by the state. Or they’ll accuse you of encouraging child molesters or any number of things to keep themselves from thinking critically.


Then make that argument.

Yup. Whereas innocent people are statistically more likely to be executed than guilty people, because a large fraction of guilty people plea bargain, whereas most innocent people fight a murder conviction.

Because when the state kills people, it is killing in my name, and i am diminished. Because it’s wrong to kill people who present no risk to you, and the vast majority of people on death row can be safely sequestered in prison. Because even if there’s some tiny fraction of people who can’t be handled even in a prison setting, (the world is imperfect, after all) that’s less bad than systematically killing people.

And it’s especially bad that we know that a lot of executions are of innocent people. The death penalty is brutal, serves no deterrent benefit, certainly doesn’t help restitution, and is unnecessary in our wealthy society.


It would be interesting to see a current poll of where GoAers stand on capital punishment. I’m not motivated enough to make one, but it would be interesting.

I’m firmly in the “while there are both specific and hypothetical people I would not mind having executed due to their crimes, I am firmly against capital punishment in all cases” camp.


You want a public or private poll? Hmm, it should probably have more options than just “yes” or “no”. Let’s crowd source. What are some positions that should go into the poll?

I’ll start:

Never right under any circumstances
Wrong if society can protect itself from dangerous people in other ways
Right for especially heinous crimes, but too common in the US
Right for especially heinous crimes, the US is mostly doing okay here
Right for especially heinous crimes and the US should execute more people

And on a slightly different dimension:
Right for especially heinous crimes, but we make too many judicial mistakes for it to be right in practice

Poll probably need to allow multiple choices.


The second option is pretty vague. Something more like “wrong because the existing measures we have to protect society from dangerous criminals are sufficient” would be better IMO.

Private is probably the best option given how sensitive the subject is, and I like the options you’ve laid out. Agree that we can probably never capture all the nuance of the opinions possible, but it’s an interesting starting point. I know others who are against capital punishment have very different reasons than I do.

For example, I probably wouldn’t select “Right for especially heinous crimes, but too common in the US” but I might have to think through if I’d be okay with execution in the case of crimes against humanity (e.g. the Nazis). Crimes against humanity, including war crimes, MIGHT be the only situation that I can support, but that’s partially because I do not feel that we can safely protect societies from those people otherwise. Not sure if it’s worth an additional poll option just for that one though. That all comes out in the dialogue usually, for those willing to share.

I’m not sure that “no executions ever even if it’s the only way to protect society from dangerous people” will get much traction… but it’s probably best to have as it is an opinion some people have.

The converse would be along the lines of “We should be doing more executions even for less heinous crimes such as domestic abuse or robbery”.

Acknowledging that “heinous” is an undefined word here and I don’t like comparing the heinousness of, say, CSA versus domestic abuse. But to my knowledge we don’t kill people for normal abuse that doesn’t constitute torture or murder. Very possible it’s happened a couple times or something.

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I’ve long supported the death penalty, what can I say guess I have a vengeful streak. Heck for some folks I’d like to bring back some of the more painful and barbarous forms of execution.

That said my position has been evolving for sometimes and I’m coming around to the arguments that there is no place for the death penalty in a civilized society. The two most pervasive arguments are #1 that innocent people get executed and #2 the death penalty is disproportionately applied to minorities simply because they are minorities.


One challenge in preparing such an indication would be the following question: How many such petitions are actually requested by the condemned individual?

I think some proportion of them are automatic and/or are filed on the individual’s behalf without necessarily their enthusiastic support, fueled by the presumption that they would prefer life rather than death…or that depression (potentially brought on by extended stays in prison) or other mental disability render them incompetent to express a preference.

I don’t actually know what that proportion is. I’m pretty sure it’s not zero, but I don’t have the experience or data to objectively say whether it’s a small or large proportion.

EDIT: I suppose the potential that some condemned individuals would make such a petition but they don’t for reasons other than wanting to live (e.g. giving up in the belief that the judicial system or governor might intervene).


I think you need multiple options, to allow for the following dimensions:

Never Right / Right Sometimes / Right in the absence of not-currently-available alternatives / Right

Too common in US / adequately common in US / too infrequent in the US

Concerned about judicial mistakes

Concerned about bias

Life-without-parole prisoners should/should not have the right to suicide

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