Talk:Capital punishment

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Japan has the death penalty - and while some may argue they're not "Western," I'll reply that "Western" is a construct, Japan is in the G8, builds the cars we drive and participates in the capitalist system. PFoster 22:34, 1 January 2008 (EST)

Yeah, and you added the word "developed", which is more appropriate than "Western" anyway. humanUser talk:Human 22:45, 1 January 2008 (EST)
I do argue that Japan is not western. "Western" may very well be a construct but in this case it is an arbitrary one - Americans may see Japan is "western" but the Japanese certainly do not consider themselves "western". Furthermore, issues like capital punishment are deeply routed in social attitudes, culture and history, and have very little to do with capitalism or who trades with who. On this map, you can see that virtually all of Asia (including democratic countries) maintains capital punishment. It makes much more sense to view Japan's use of capital punishment within this context, rather than categorising Japan with America and European countries which have approached the issue from a wholly different perspective. weaseLOIdWeaselly.jpg~ 19:35, 26 August 2008 (EDT)
I changed it over to leave "Western" out, in favor of "developed democracies", which I think makes the point much more clearly. ħumanUser talk:Human 19:41, 26 August 2008 (EDT)

I also removed the statement saying that the Catholic Church is consistently anti capital punishment. They upheld it for hundreds of years. The catechism which was cited confirms that the death penalty is 'not excluded' by church teachings as a deterrent. weaseLOIdWeaselly.jpg~ 20:03, 26 August 2008 (EDT)

As I recall, the RCC is against capital punishment - you know, "in the modern day". We'll just have to find a better source. Vatican II might be a good start. ħumanUser talk:Human 20:07, 26 August 2008 (EDT)
Wikipedia reports: "In 1995 Pope John Paul II stated that the death penalty was appropriate only when it was the only way to defend society, and the modern penal system made this option rare or nonexistent" PBS. Retrieved on 2008 June 12. ħumanUser talk:Human
And that same part is in the cite above. So I reinstated the statement. The current Pope too has many times spoken against capital punishment. (Editor at) CP:no intelligence allowed 20:14, 26 August 2008 (EDT)
That's funny, I thought I did it. I do remember changing the reference... I think? ħumanUser talk:Human 20:29, 26 August 2008 (EDT)
Thanks for the info. I've rephrased it just slightly to reflect the subtleties, & also as the previous wording seemed to be comparing Catholics to conservatives as if they are two distinct groups. weaseLOIdWeaselly.jpg~ 20:32, 26 August 2008 (EDT)


I have read this article and do somewhat object to one small part. "...which still retain this barbaric institution" does seem to have a slight insertion of POV. While the death penalty is a touchy topic, I don't think the "barbaric" term is needed. ĴαʊΆʃÇä₰ Give a man a face, and he will say what you want to hear. Give him a mask, and he will say what he wants

Explain to me what is not barbaric about it? ħumanUser talk:Human 20:07, 26 August 2008 (EDT)
To the best of my knowledge, the death penalty is fast and nearly painless. "Barbaric" to me, would be beating the guy to death with rocks or similar crude methods. The death penalty today, for the most part, consists of
  1. Hanging
  2. Lethal injection
  3. Electrocution
  4. (only one state) firing squad (choice between that or injection.
You might note that the above are, for all but one, mostly painless, and lethal injection, the most widly administered, is almost the same procedure for putting a dog to sleep. Barbaric? I don't think so. ĴαʊΆʃÇä₰ Give a man a face, and he will say what you want to hear. Give him a mask, and he will say what he wants (Edit conflict!)
It's fucking barbaric to take anyone's life! The eye for an eye mentality of the death penalty - that's what's barbaric. Aargh - I could rant for hours but I won't. SusanG  ContribsTalk 20:21, 26 August 2008 (EDT)
Um, Javascap, how on earth do you know they're painless? ħumanUser talk:Human 20:26, 26 August 2008 (EDT)
Also, putting an animal "to sleep" is euthenasia and except in the case of excess strays (what a stupid problem...) is done to relieve pain and extreme disability. Not as a "punishment". ħumanUser talk:Human 20:28, 26 August 2008 (EDT)
The only thing I am objecting to is the word "barbaric". I do not have a problem with this article having a lean against the death penalty. What I am seeing occuring is placing a burden of proof on something that cannot be proved. If we are on the process of barbaric, than please choose from the following situations, and tell me which is worse.
  1. Guy dying in an instant from the electric chair
  2. Woman dying in a pool of her own blood, pantyhose stuffed down her windpipe after being raped for half an hour?
I do not understand how this erupted into a debate on the merits on the death penalty when the only thing I objected to was just the word "barbaric"? ĴαʊΆʃÇä₰ Give a man a face, and he will say what you want to hear. Give him a mask, and he will say what he wants
You're comparing apples and chairs: Guy being killed by the state v woman being killed by moral degenerate. SusanG  ContribsTalk 20:41, 26 August 2008 (EDT)

I'd rather see the guy (who I presume in this example committed the rape/murder?) walled into a 6 by 9 foot cell until he is ready to be interred. No cable TV, and barely adequate ("army") food. Let him suffer for a bit, too. The burden of proof you ignored above, and are ignoring again, is whether CP is "instantaneous and painless". ħumanUser talk:Human 20:46, 26 August 2008 (EDT)

And ... if you're wrong, it's a bit late if the guy's 6ft under. A retrial won't do him a lot of good. SusanG  ContribsTalk 20:51, 26 August 2008 (EDT)
The "burden of proof" you are trying to have me prove is a burden of proof that cannot be proved. Just the same, the opposite burden of proof also cannot be proved, lending a slight impasse on this particular problem. As for the problem of false accusations, that problem is becoming, due to modern technology, rarer and rarer. My question still remains unanswered, HOW did this erupt from a debate on removing "barbaric" into a debate as to if the death penalty is painful and therefore should be abolished?ĴαʊΆʃÇä₰ Give a man a face, and he will say what you want to hear. Give him a mask, and he will say what he wants
By the way, what's the difference between beating someone to death with rocks, or beating them to death with a rope, chemicals, electrical current, or bullets? Now, if we came equipped with "reset" buttons, we'd know we were intelligently designed to be turned off if necessary... ħumanUser talk:Human 20:55, 26 August 2008 (EDT)
Well, I asked you to back up the claim of painlessness. I could prove to you they are painful by "half killing" you by any of those methods. ħumanUser talk:Human 20:56, 26 August 2008 (EDT)
Stop sign.svg

This conversation is about to go badly downhill, inevitably ending in comparisons to Hitler, and hurt feelings all around.
Stop now. Step away from the keyboard.
Go pet a jerboa, or milk a goat.

I am only objecting to "barbaric", a compromise to which was suggested below. Seriously, death threats are not nessecery, neither is cartoon steam erupting from my nose. ĴαʊΆʃÇä₰ Give a man a face, and he will say what you want to hear. Give him a mask, and he will say what he wants

Technically, it's only a half death threat. I suppose the other half of you would be free to go on its way. --Kels 21:12, 26 August 2008 (EDT)
hehe, template duly noted. Trouble is, most of the methods of CP are dubious in their "humanity" (vs. barbarity). If you actually analyze what the condemned experiences, it is almost always several minutes of excruciating pain at some level. The only "quick and painless" death (besides a stroke in one's sleep) is having one's head/brain "instantly" destroyed (one thinks of nuclear weapons detonated nearby). I made no threat, I hope. I only asked you to think of how those methods feel when used. I'll go into detail if you're curious. Oh, and to the templater, I think you jumped in way too early. Aren't we just enjoying ourselves discussing things we hope will never happen to us? ħumanUser talk:Human 22:10, 26 August 2008 (EDT)

I must say that while the methods for death penalty in the united states are the most "humane" possible, the instituion of capital punishment is plain barbaric itself, all developed countries have moved away from this practice, wherever/whenever there's death penalty, there's unfair executions, it's unavoidable, many innocent people have been executed, not to mention that the conceptions of what deserves death penalty are very relative, a simple difference of political opinion has been a cause for death penalty Lalumierebleue (talk) 03:54, 12 June 2013 (UTC)

Proposed edit[edit]

One solution would be to just remove this sentence: "The US and Japan are the only developed democracies which still retain this barbaric institution". Apart from the word "barbaric" (which I myself don't object to), it just repeats what the previous couple of sentences say (I.E. that most western democracies have abandoned capital punishment but the USA hasn't). Also, as I've outlined above, I find it rather arbitrary to mention Japan when we are not mentioning other major nations such as India and China. weaseLOIdWeaselly.jpg~ 20:46, 26 August 2008 (EDT)

Why don't we do that and add a section listing where it is still practiced (sorted by "kind of government"?)? I see barbarism is raised in a later section anyway... ħumanUser talk:Human 20:52, 26 August 2008 (EDT)
I do agree with that idea. Shall I start banging away on South America? ĴαʊΆʃÇä₰ Give a man a face, and he will say what you want to hear. Give him a mask, and he will say what he wants
(ed conflict) OK then. For now I've removed the contentious sentence, & added a link to Wikipedia's map of countries still using capital punishment. This is a temporary measure as we should definitely add our own countent listing major countries where it is still practiced. weaseLOIdWeaselly.jpg~ 21:05, 26 August 2008 (EDT)
I am thinking we could make a subpage, something like Capital punishment/nations, which lists all the... 191(?) nations, their status on the death penalty, and their government status, divided by continent. ĴαʊΆʃÇä₰ Give a man a face, and he will say what you want to hear. Give him a mask, and he will say what he wants
Sounds good to me. I'd also like to see what crimes the various countries inflict the ultimate sanction for. The US argument of the extreme rape/murder is one part of the "conversation", but there are countries where a woman can be stoned to death for being raped (thus made dirty?). ħumanUser talk:Human 22:12, 26 August 2008 (EDT)

Brilliang idea I have been sitting on til it hatches[edit]

Wooden it be phunny if we wrote this article in all caps? (NOT) But still, I made mysefl chuckle. Twice. ħumanUser talk:Human 22:48, 29 November 2008 (EST)


"The name comes from the pig latin apocay" What about capital (from caput...

So correct it to "aputcay"... ħumanUser talk:Human 21:56, 6 March 2009 (EST)

So much codswallop, so little factual act[edit]

Be it here known that I object to "There is also the rather abstract concept that a state is subservient to its people, and may never take their lives for any reason."

Abstract indeed, and hardly grounded in the facts of any government's existence. Every single state, bar none, without exception, claims a monopoly on the use of deadly force. Ostensibly a good idea, since it allows weaklings to contribute to the fund for arming (and feeding) the authorities, in return for (a sometimes tenuous) assurance that their lives will not be cut short by a random thug who thinks he can use their absence better than their company. Various arguments are used to convince citizens that paying for the accompanying bureaucratic overhead is in their own interest.

States are perfectly free to use the flower of their people's youth for cannon fodder, which involves wasteful loss of life, often in uncomfortable and tediously lengthy scenes. As a life ends, debate becomes irrelevant. Sprocket J Cogswell 02:41, 21 September 2009 (UTC)

I think the problem is that you're equating the state taking the lives of its citizens in a direct and intended way--capital punishment--with the state asking/compelling its citizens to risk their lives for the common good (at least the common good as far as the state sees it). While I see where you might want to think the two situations are identical, there are important differences between the two. TheoryOfPractice 02:47, 21 September 2009 (UTC)
There is "common good" to be found or declared in both types of activity. Particulars of the important differences will be useful in making a distinction, if there is indeed one to be made. Sprocket J Cogswell 02:56, 21 September 2009 (UTC)
The distinction is in intent. "You (one specific individual) are going to be, without question put to death by the state legal apparatus" is a different situation than "You (the general "you," which will often be enframed as "we" to underline the fact this is an ostensibly national endeavour) are going to engage in a series of activities that will in all likelihood lead to the deaths of some among you." The first is a clear attempt by the state, will full forethought and intent, to kill a particular person--for revenge, for the common good, whatever. In the second, the death of any citizens--we can't say for certain who or how many--is an unfortunate side effect, not the intent of the endeavour (In fact, if the state could find a way to conscript soldiers to fight a war and guarantee their safe return, it would probably do so...). TheoryOfPractice 03:04, 21 September 2009 (UTC)
Intent is vital in one's personal life. In public matters, I prefer to think in terms of effect. Intent is transient, tenuous, difficult to assess, and often impossible to prove. A mortal effect is permanent, and after the fact, there is no difference in deadness between a dead soldier, a dead criminal, or a dead enemy whose life has been ended by the state.
Please understand that I am not arguing the utility or justice of capital punishment here. There are questions that I expect to meet my own end without getting or articulating answers to, and that is one of them. I take issue here with the blissninny notion that the state is subservient to the people. Platitudes given out in elementary school notwithstanding, sovereign states are organized to serve their own ends, or rather the ends of those in power, making use of their people. That is not likely to change anywhere soon. Sprocket J Cogswell 02:25, 22 September 2009 (UTC)

1.Don't discount intent. It matters in the realm of states and international law--read the UN Convention on Genocide as a quick example. You're right: at a certain level, a dead person is a dead person is a dead person. But that doesn't mean we treat all instances of the taking of a life equally. The effect may be the same, but murder and manslaughter are meaningfully different. Just as you can't blur them together, you're making the same fundamental mistake by equating the deliberate killing of an individual with the putting-at-possible-risk of death of a generalised mass of people. They may both be wrong, but they're both wrong for their own particular reasons. 2. Don't be patronizing. I don't need you to tell me about the state and power. I am not in elementary school and I don't fall for "blissninny notions." I know to what end "the state" (as a general category of political organization) exercises its power. But again, while states are states are states in that they work to exercise power in order to benefit certain people at the expense of the masses, Sweden is not the United States is not North Korea. There are important differences in place, and in time. And it's not a question of the state being "subservient" to the people--it's a question of sovereignty being embodied in the people. Which it can be, and in some cases is. The extent to which that fact translates into the shaping of particular power relationships is contingent on a number of historical and other factors. TheoryOfPractice 02:47, 22 September 2009 (UTC)

Granted, the statement "a state is subservient to its people, and may never take their lives for any reason" was presented as a "rather abstract concept." Still, killing an individual convicted of a capital crime takes fewer lives and costs a lot less than the institutionalized killing of large numbers of productive citizens. That the state does not know beforehand which fraction of the combatants will die is small comfort to their survivors. At the scale of war as it is now practised, sending troops into harm's way will certainly kill a fraction of them.
If you propose to defend that statement, how will you deal with the part that says "may never take their lives for any reason?" There is no room for differences of time, place, intent, or legalistic interpretation there. Never. For any reason. Sprocket J Cogswell 11:01, 22 September 2009 (UTC)
You keep bringing it back to war, and I keep telling you that war has nothing to do with the question. States as a rule can compel their citizens to fight wars. That's one thing. Some states reserve the right to put people to death for crimes. That's another. We can debate each of those things on their own merits, but just because they both involve dead people does not mean they are the same thing. As for the state "taking their lives," well, there the question in war is one of who is taking the life for starters. Typically, it's the enemy, not the state compelling the citizen to fight who does the actual killing. Again, agency and intent matter here. If you're just going to keep bringing it back to equivocating two different things, I think we're done here. TheoryOfPractice 12:50, 22 September 2009 (UTC)
It is about killing. I believe the law recognizes culpability when someone starts a process that they know might lead to the loss of life. In the case of war, there is no "might be" about it, there is a certainty.
It is also about consistency. Much mockery is made of "pro-life" people being all concerned about life before birth, inconsistent with what support they are willing to grant folks who are indisputably alive.
We do seem to be talking about two different worlds. Mine is mostly a world of brute fact, where if you touch the wrong places in a live circuit, the mains will poke you, or if you pound on a hornets' nest you will suffer repeated stings. Politicians and other lawyers, the ones who make up institutional facts such as that UN genocide thingy, inhabit a different world. I've met one or two lawyers with a grain of common sense, but none of the politicians I've encountered were expert at running their own lives, much less anyone else's. Sorry, I don't trust 'em. A smile and a handshake gets you nowhere with a siezed engine; it owes you no favors.
In public matters, or even where two or three are gathered, intent carries quite a burden of proof. As they say, there are always at least two reasons for something: a good reason and the real reason. Subject to obfuscation, evasion, prevarication, and incompetence (e.g. that mains poke above) declarations of intent are not to be trusted without a whole lot of corroboration.
I don't disagree with much of what you have said, but the line in question, while suitably snarky for this venue, is still illogical. Sprocket J Cogswell 01:19, 23 September 2009 (UTC)

Seeing as there is a discussion and how I was tyrying to shape the sentence in question in terms of that discussion, I don't appreciate you hiding it away like that. And I really don't give a shit about what you're "okay with" if that's how you're going to approach things. TheoryOfPractice 02:13, 23 September 2009 (UTC)

You turned it from an interesting point to bland PC not supportive of the section it sat in. Knickers need not be twisted over this. Sprocket J Cogswell 02:43, 23 September 2009 (UTC)
I support my knickers for "There is also the rather abstract concept that a state is subservient to its people, and may never take their lives for any reason." It's a pretty clear statement - idealistic, obviously, that's why it's called "rather abstract". I also have enjoyed reading the above discussion, although I don't think it leads to necessary changes in the article. ħumanUser talk:Human 02:48, 23 September 2009 (UTC)
Oh lordy do I gotta explain everything? You got it bassackwards. Your knickers support you, unless you favour going regimental/commando. I've had my fun here, and bear no ill will to anyone involved. Really. Sprocket J Cogswell 02:52, 23 September 2009 (UTC)

List of innocent people who were executed[edit]

  • Colin Campbell Ross, who was executed by the State of Victoria, Australia, in 1922, despite his protestations of innocence — DNA testing in 1998 proved that the alleged hairs of the victim used to convict him did not come from the victim after all, and in 2008 he was posthumously pardoned by the Governor of Victoria. The State of Victoria chose to use his execution as an opportunity to test a new type of rope for hanging. The experiment did not go according to plan, and Ross was slowly and painfully strangled to death.
  • Timothy Evans

On account of the above being incomplete, I've cut it to the talk page to stop it looking like some joke that no one has every been wrongfully executed. ADK...I'll confuddle your lumber! 21:17, 7 September 2011 (UTC)

The Other Wiki covers it well. Actually listing them would probably be a silly endeavor to try as there's a difference between new evidence emerging, actual posthumous pardons and cases where guilt was doubted. ADK...I'll fumble your ox! 21:23, 7 September 2011 (UTC)
It's still a valid point, that "one never knows, even if you have a clear cut case". But that said, I can see why a list would be problematic. Can we summarize, and say "it is estimated that in the last X years, X people were killed who were innocent", or is such a statement impossible to find/prove?Pink mowse.pngEn attendant Godot 21:37, 7 September 2011 (UTC)
Yeah, it's a case that it's difficult if not impossible. Firstly, we'd only be able to call the US out on it - mostly because it's practically the only "civilised" country that still kills its own citizens for sport. Other places have different criteria so they could be executing people that are innocent but it would still be legal and justified for them. But at the same time I wouldn't want this to be an America-is-the-centre-of-the-world-again article. Secondly, "X number of years, Y number of people" is problematic for the reasons outlined above. There are various ways to get out of the death penalty - and it's often remarked that "not guilty" is not the same as "innocent". Here are a few that makes such a simple sentence a little misleading. I would count everything from the third one down as someone being wrongfully executed in principle even though the act may not have actually happened:
  • A prosecution asks for the death penalty and a judge or jury rejects it. This is the most hypocritical part because this is arbitrary and we can statistically show racist and sexist motivations.
  • Someone is found "not guilty" at trial, which is fine.
  • Someone is fount "not guilty" at appeal. This is one I take massive issue with because if they have the death penalty waved at appeal, that means they had sufficient doubt when they were convicted. If it was truly "beyond all reasonable doubt" at the time of conviction no appeal would ever be successful.:::
  • Someone is granted clemency or has their sentence reduced after a considerable amount of time on Death Row. This is so fucking arbitrary it makes me fume.
  • Someone is executed and new evidence proves their innocence.
  • Someone is executed and only after the fact do they bother to call a mistrial.
That's just a few. Note I would count people who have been convicted and sentenced but haven't yet been actually killed on the grounds that they are pretty much dead walking. cf. this quote: ('When you majesty says "let a thing be done", practically it IS done, since your majesty's word is law. So if your majesty says "Kill a man", a man is told off to be killed. Consequently he is as good as dead, practically he IS dead, so why not say so?') ADK...I'll seize your cockroach! 11:53, 8 September 2011 (UTC)

Here's another fun little incident[edit]

Via a article on typos:,4260877

Basically, a judge issued instructions that the options were the death penalty or life in prison without chance or parole. But the typo suggested he would have a chance at parole. So while the jury may have been repeatedly told in court that it definitely was without chance of parole, the idiot clause was firmly in effect and it was judged to be unfairly influential in their decision. Though if true that it influenced the decision, it's quite damming of the jury, who seem to be guilty of going for maximum bloodlust. ADK...I'll discombobulate your squibble! 11:22, 23 September 2011 (UTC)


The arguments for the determent are very bad; it assumes too much. I am pretty sure whoever typed that got it from Penn & Teller.--Yuppie (talk) 23:19, 26 January 2012 (UTC)

Probably, looks like something I wrote after the relevant Bullshit episode. But it's pretty true, if it was a successful deterrent then Texas should have the lowest execution rate, not the highest. The psychology of deterrence is pretty complicated, and for the most part any impulse that gets passed the usual human motive to avoid killing probably won't be stopped by a threat of punishment. No one, when in the middle of a "crime of passion" is going to stop thinking "actually, I might get executed for this". Scarlet A.pngnarchist 00:38, 29 January 2012 (UTC)
Even if you are thinking "logically," it shouldn't be a deterrent considering the minuscule fraction of people who actually get the death penalty, especially white people. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 00:45, 29 January 2012 (UTC)
That's the problem: deterrence assumes you're thinking logically. But if you're thinking logically you'll perform a per-meditated murder in a manner that ensures you won't be caught. If you're not thinking logically, then deterrence is a dead end as a mechanism. Scarlet A.pngd hominem 00:59, 29 January 2012 (UTC)
"deterrence is a dead end as a mechanism" - Was that a deliberate pun? Redchuck.gif ГенгисYou have the right to be offended; and I have the right to offend you.Moderator 17:38, 15 March 2012 (UTC)

Mostly Harmless[edit]

"You know they've reintroduced the death penalty for insurance company directors?"
"Really?" said Arthur. "No I didn't. For what offence?"
Trillian frowned. "What do you mean, offence?"
"I see."

-- Seth Peck (talk) 17:34, 15 March 2012 (UTC)

Update section on racism[edit]

The information in the racism section seems in need of an update. The last example provided was in 1986 and society has changed significantly since then. It would be nice to provide examples of racism in the 21st century with regards to the death penalty.Forces (talk) 21:06, 12 April 2014 (UTC)

The PZ link[edit]

I've already intruded too much on Teenage Wasteland's talk page, so I'll bring this here to get better exposure. From the linked PZM blog post: "So why does our bloated, over-funded penal system have such difficulties with this whole process?" It's been said that since killing a human being is wrong, we should not be discussing how it may be done with minimal suffering. In my view, it is far worse to let it be done incompetently. To put it in terms of the RW mission, refusal to discuss that incompetence leads to wilful ignorance. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 15:01, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

I don't mind the intrusion on my talk page, I thought it was a productive discussion. But, as I said there, beyond the question of giving approval to the death penalty by debating how to do it more "humanely," as though it was at all "humane" to needlessly kill a human being, a move I find akin to debating how we should treat our slaves or encouraging men to hit their wives with an open hand as opposed to a closed fist, I'm not sure how PZM is relevant to the discussion. Is it because his job requires killing animals? If so, my reply would be that we're not talking about killing animals, we're talking about human beings, something qualitatively different. Are there not professional ethicists, people who actually study these sorts of questions for a living, writing about these issues? I'd rather read what the professionals say, rather than an interested amateur. But I've said my peace and won't edit out a reference to Myers if that's what people want. TeenageWasteland (talk) 15:32, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
Human beings are different from other animals, humans likely know they are going to die. Biologically human beings are mammals, what causes or prevents physical pain to humans also causes or prevents physical pain to other mammals. Therefore the experience of biologist, PZ Myers is relevant, see Charles Pierce is a bit angry. Proxima Centauri (talk) 16:08, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
Do you think you can write it in a way that won't require others to make it readable this time?TeenageWasteland (talk) 16:13, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
The rights and wrongs of killing people judicially are a matter for ethicists, and rightly so. I suspect published work on euthanasia will be easier to find than texts on the ethics of execution methods. I also suspect that someone like PZ, or any competent veterinarian, has more relevant expertise regarding the practical methods of ending a life serenely than the great majority of professional ethicists.
Whether the state should be in the business of ending human lives has only a tenuous connection to chattel slavery or domestic violence, and I don't see such comparisons as helping. The legality of it is not likely to be settled soon. Until that happens, allowing the rare occasion when the penal system does kill someone to involve needless suffering amounts to monumental systemic stupidity. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 16:48, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

Pre-death penalty suffering[edit]

Why should it matter whether or not they're going to suffer emotionally before they're executed? If they're innocent, they shouldn't be in there in the first place; if they're guilty, some emotional trauma is the least punishment they deserve. (I'm one of those the article mentions that's pro-death in theory but against it in practice) Thanos6 (talk) 21:17, 4 April 2015 (UTC)

Well, inevitably, some innocents are going to be in there, regardless of whether they should be. And if someone's already been sentenced to death, something many view as the ultimate punishment, do they really need to receive additional punishment before their execution? (talk) 21:23, 4 April 2015 (UTC)
People on death row have been sentenced to death, not to a period in prison and then death. It's generally accepted that the sentence should be carried out expeditiously, even allowing for appeals. The average wait on death row in the US is about 12 years if memory serves, and can be as long as 25-30 in some cases. To put that in perspective, the Privy Council decided in 1994 in Pratt v Attorney-General of Jamaica that the entire domestic appeal process should be completed in 2 years, with anything longer than 5 years constituted "inhuman or degrading punishment or other treatment." It's quite a beautifully written judgment, definitely worth a read in full, but the best bit is: "There is an instinctive revulsion against the prospect of hanging a man after he has been held under sentence of death for many years. What gives rise to this instinctive revulsion? The answer can only be our humanity; we regard it as an inhuman act to keep a man facing the agony of execution over a long extended period of time." Spot on. Pascal yuiop (talk) 22:29, 4 April 2015 (UTC)
There's no instinctive revulsion in me. If someone has committed a crime worthy of death, then I see no problem with making them suffer beforehand. Thanos6 (talk) 02:37, 5 April 2015 (UTC)

Disappointing article[edit]

Article is heavily biased against the death penalty (for serious crimes), for example it doesn't mention the fact there is evidence capital punishment has a deterrent effect, e.g. here's what a study in 2003 found:

In particular, our most conservative estimate is that the execution of each offender seems to save, on average, the lives of 18 potential victims. (This estimate has a margin of error of plus and minus 10).

- "Does Capital Punishment Have a Deterrent Effect? New Evidence from Postmoratorium Panel Data". Hashem Dezhbakhsh , Paul H. Rubin and Joanna M. Shepherd. American Law and Economics Review. Vol. 5, No. 2 (Fall 2003), pp. 344-376 [1]


An important issue in this debate is whether capital punishment deters murders. Psychologists and criminologists who examined the issue initially reported no deterrent effect (See, e.g., Sellin, 1959; Eysenck, 1970; Cameron, 1994). Economists joined the debate with the pioneering work of Ehrlich (1975, 1977). Ehrlich’s regression results, using U.S. aggregate time-series for 1933-1969 and state level cross-sectional data for 1940 and 1950, suggest a significant deterrent effect, which sharply contrasts with earlier findings.

Krom (talk) 09:43, 17 August 2015 (UTC)

(2004) Professor Zhiqiang Liu finds that legalizing the death penalty not only adds capital punishment as a deterrent but also increases the marginal productivity of other deterrence measures in reducing murder rates. "Abolishing the death penalty, therefore, not only discards a valuable deterrent but also lowers the marginal productivity of other possible deterrents in reducing murder." "[T]ne deterrent effects of the certainty and severity of punishments on murder are greater in retentionist [death penalty] states than in abolitionist [non death penalty] states. These results are fairly robust to alternative specifications and competing hypotheses and lend support to the deterrence hypothesis concerning capital punishment and other deterrents.

- Zhiqiang Liu, State University of New York at Buffalo, Capital Punishment and the Deterrence Hypothesis: Some New Insights and Empirical Evidence, 30 Eastern Economic Journal 237 (2004).

(2003) Clemson University Professor Joanna Shepherd found that "each execution results in, on average, three fewer murders. Longer waits on death row reduce the deterrent effect. Therefore, recent legislation to shorten the time prior to execution should increase deterrence and thus save more innocent lives. Moratoriums and other delays should put more innocents at risk. In addition, capital punishment deters all kinds of murders, including crimes of passion and murders by intimates. Murders of both blacks and whites decrease after executions.

- Joanna M. Shepherd, Clemson University, Murders of Passion, Execution Delays and the Deterrence of Capital Punishment, 33 Journal of Legal Studies 283 (2004).

(2003) Emory University Economics Department Chairman Hashem Dezhbakhsh and Clemson University Professor Shepherd found: "The results are boldly clear: executions deter murders and murder rates increase substantially during moratoriums. The results are consistent across before-and-after comparisons and regressions regardless of the data's aggregation level, the time period, or the specific variable to measure executions.

- Hashem Dezhbakhsh, Emory University, and Joanna M. Shepherd, Clemson University, The Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment: Evidence from a "Judicial Experiment," (American Law & Economics Ass'n Working Paper No. 18, 2004 Krom (talk) 09:56, 17 August 2015 (UTC)

(2006) University of Colorado (Denver) Economics Department Chairman Naci Mocan and Graduate Assistant R. Kaj Gottings found that the original findings of their Mocan/Gittings 2003 Study "are robust, providing evidence that people react to incentives in the domain of capital punishment

- H. Naci Mocan, University of Colorado at Denver, and R. Kaj Gittings, Cornell University, The Impact of Incentives on Human Behavior: Can We Make It Disappear? The Case of the Death Penalty, National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 12631 (Oct. 2006)

2006) Gary S. Becker, Nobel Laureate, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, and a University Professor of Economics and Sociology at the University of Chicago, in response to the Donahue/Wolfers Study, states that "capital punishment has an important deterrent effect even with the way the present system actually operates," and that "[i]t is very disturbing to take someone's life, even a murderer's life, but sometimes highly unpleasant actions are necessary to deter even worse behavior that takes the lives of innocent victims

- Gary S. Becker, On the Economics of Capital Punishment, Economists' Voice 3, art. 4 (Mar. 2006) Krom (talk) 10:00, 17 August 2015 (UTC)

(2006) Richard A. Posner, Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and a Senior Lecturer at the University of Chicago, states that "even with the existing, excessive, delay [in executions], the recent evidence concerning the deterrent effect of capital punishment provides strong support for resisting the abolition movement.

- Richard A. Posner, The Economics of Capital Punishment, Economists' Voice 3, article 3 (Mar. 2006) Krom (talk) 10:03, 17 August 2015 (UTC)

Of course someone could find criticisms of all the above studies, but the current article doesn't even mention there is an ongoing debate among academics regarding this issue.Krom (talk) 10:18, 17 August 2015 (UTC)
# Some of those cites are opinion pieces, not papers.
# The practical question is not whether the death penalty has a deterrent effect, but whether it has a greater deterrent effect than imprisonment. From those summaries, that doesn't seem to be addressed.
# The elephant in the room is that countries do not seem to have ever experienced an uptick in 'serious crimes', even allowing for trend, after abolishing the death penalty.
# The first cite: 18 +- 10 (!) makes me very, very suspicious. Particularly when another of those papers gives a value of 3. Most conservative indeed, but perhaps not in the way the authors of the first paper meant.
# Given that rage-induced crimes in general are not significantly subject to the deterrent effect, these conclusions imply a large quantity of 'serious crimes' that are cold-blooded
# Why are most of these economists? What do they know about best practice in criminology?
# A handful of contrarians publishing outside their field to advance a particular hypothesis is not really 'ongoing debate'.
I'm not convinced on this. Queexchthonic murmurings 10:28, 17 August 2015 (UTC)
I'm not convicted on this. WalkerWalkerWalker 10:32, 17 August 2015 (UTC)
"If we execute murderers, and there is, in fact, no deterrent effect, we have killed a bunch of murderers. If we fail to execute murderers, and doing so would in fact have deterred other murders, we have allowed the killing of a bunch of innocent victims. I would much rather risk the former. This, to me, is not a tough call." - John C. McAdams Krom (talk) 11:43, 17 August 2015 (UTC)
"The first cite: 18 +- 10 (!) makes me very, very suspicious. Particularly when another of those papers gives a value of 3." -- they range from 3 - 24 (not taking into account margin of error), and the average is 8. The range doesn't matter, because all these studies agree there is a deterrent effect.Krom (talk) 11:46, 17 August 2015 (UTC)

Another point: its true capital punishment is more expensive in all states of America than incarceration (life imprisonment), but this is only because of the way the American legal system works. In most other countries (e.g. China, Iran, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, North Korea etc) capital punishment is a heck of a lot cheaper:

Supporters of the death penalty often present it as a quick and cheap process. This is probably true in countries such as China, where execution quickly follows a short trial. It is not true for the U.S., where the trail and appeal process take many years. - Stearman, Kaye. (2008). The Debate about the Death Penalty. Rosen Publishing Groups. p. 39.

There is no mention of this on the article (more bias again).Krom (talk) 12:05, 17 August 2015 (UTC)

I also take issue with the argument against capital punishment innocent people will be killed. Yet the irrational people making this argument can only quote innocent people that were executed from 50-100 years ago (even look in the sections above, someone is quoting some guy wrongly killed in 1920s). Yes, sure. Back then there was no video surveillance, cameras, DNA evidence, advanced forensic technology and so on. It was a lot harder back then to show someone without any doubt committed a crime. This argument hardly applies today.Krom (talk) 12:17, 17 August 2015 (UTC)
(EC) Then why does that first paper cite 18 as the 'most conservative' estimate? It speaks to dodgy methodology if their most restrained result is towards the top end of the range for the results as a whole. And who gives a shit if this handful of studies agree there is an effect (remember - inconsistency of magnitude is a count against validity, even in a messy subject)?
The fact that it can be done cheaper shows what, exactly? It's always cheaper and quicker to do a job badly. It's expensive and time-consuming to have appropriate safeguards. Such safeguards are not negotiable without sacrificing morality. Even with these safeguards, we're still looking at at least a 1 in 25 death row convictions being in error [2]. Not 50-100 years ago. Have you never even heard of the innocence projects? something like 150+ exonerations from death row in the last handful of years. The fact that you poo-poo this argument really just demonstrates that you don't have a fucking clue what you're talking about.
On another note, what's with all these sly appeals to authority? Why mention what post the authors hold? If the paper is valid, the position of its authors is not relevant. It makes your case weaker that you went out of your way to talk up their importance. Similarly, I don't give two shits what some feller called McAdams says, no matter how pithy, unless it's backed up with substance.
As it happens, that quote is laughably flawed because a) who says the potential victims are 'innocent' (gang activity is often overstated as a bogeyman, but inter- and intra-gang killings are not generally of the innocent), b) you can't guarantee the convicted culprit is actually guilty and c) no respect is given to the relative probabilities of the two outcomes. Here's a pithy quote to counter your pithy quote:
"If the death penalty is practised it is inevitable that innocent people will end up executed. I will not risk that without extremely compelling evidence of a strong deterrent effect beyond life imprisonment. This, to me, is not a tough call." - Queex.
Also: for fuck's sake learn to use the preview function and not cause edit conflicts by going off half-cocked. Queexchthonic murmurings 12:22, 17 August 2015 (UTC)
4.1% is a conservative estimate, and note they used 1973 crime data up to 2004. 1970's was before DNA was used by forensic scientists and even the study notes: "13% of death row exonerations since 1973 (18 of 142) resulted from postconviction DNA testing". This confirms to some extent what I wrote above. False conviction among death-sentenced inmates in the 21st century is much lower than 4.1% and is a negligible percent.Krom (talk) 12:48, 17 August 2015 (UTC)
"False conviction among death-sentenced inmates in the 21st century is much lower than 4.1% and is a negligible percent." Umm... what on earth makes you think that? Given how long it generally takes miscarriages of justice to be uncovered, we're not long enough into the 21st century to be able to make such a sweeping statement. It takes an average of 10 years for it to be uncovered [3]. Also, CSI lied to you - DNA evidence is not often invoked even in serious cases. Often the results are inconclusive and thus not evidence in either direction. CSI lied to you in other ways - other forensic methods have turned out to be unscientific bollocks, including some kinds of fibre analysis and bite mark analysis. Even fingerprints aren't as reliable as they're cracked up to be. There is a class of convictions made without recourse to modern DNA technology, but it's far from the only one, or even the largest. So, no reason other than wishful thinking to elide the other 87% of overturned cases. Have you not even read about the cases of forensic lab staff being discovered to have not performed the testing and just returned a positive result, because it brings more work their way and they can do more cases in the same time? It's happened more than once and it's the major scandal in the field. Do you even statistics? Queexchthonic murmurings 13:21, 17 August 2015 (UTC)
Blatant confirmation bias is blatant. (talk) 13:30, 17 August 2015 (UTC)
[Lotsa ECs] If you really think the current justice system is that flawless, you need to go out there and educate yourself. Stat! To refer to your John Adams quote; If we execute murderers and innocents wrongly convicted of murder, we will have killed a bunch of innocent people, along with a bunch of people whose fate we are far less concerned with. If we don't execute anyone, we won't have any literal, visceral blood on our literal, physical hands. The question isn't whether the death penalty has a deterrent effect, the question is whether its effect is so significant so as to make other deterring/preventative measures obsolete and justify the human lives unavoidably lost by applying this punishment.
Further, let me just quote one thing from the article: "China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, North Korea and the United States are the nations which perform the most executions." Does that sound like a list you'd like to be in? Finally, I highly recommend that you watch this video of John Oliver and tiny hamsters eating tiny burritos. (talk) 12:53, 17 August 2015 (UTC)

Methods of execution[edit]

I notice that this page has a section dedicated to lethal injection, but it doesn't go into much coverage about other methods of execution, whether they be modern or historical. Possible candidates which might be worth adding are the firing squad, hanging, the electric chair, beheading, the gas chamber, and others. There's also the recent nitrogen asphyxiation law that was approved in Oklahoma which is a new form of gas-based execution if I recall correctly. Master of Time 01:38, 15 September 2015 (UTC)

The only ones I see worth mentioning are the electric chair and the gas chamber: those two had the most controversy and coverage since the two are the most cruel and unusual capital punishments, plus both happened only in the U.S. (with the exception of Germany for gas chambers). Dandtiks69♪♫ (talk) 03:44, 15 September 2015 (UTC)


nice quote TheSockter!!! ShabiDOO 12:46, 22 September 2018 (UTC)

I read up on all the executed but innocent people[edit]

It proves that the law is not about justice, it's about control. All who support the death penalty are bastards. Oxyaena Harass 20:58, 6 December 2019 (UTC)

"The law" is referring to specifically the death penalty? Because if you're referring to the very general concept then I think there's some holes in that reasoning. --It's-a me, Lgm sigpic.png LeftyGreenMario!(Mod) 21:22, 6 December 2019 (UTC)
Oxyaena, your approach to judging and shaming (an even sometimes dehumanizing others) for their views, many of which are based on a lack of knowledge because it is never provided to misguided. I did my MA thesis on the American death penalty, why people support it and just how misinformed most people are about it. When most people recognize that it is expensive, doesn't deter crime, innocent people get executed, its disproportionately against african americans etc. they reconsider their position on the topic and many change their mind. The answer isn't to hate people who support the death penalty. The answer is to educate people on it. That requires actual effort, using your free time to make actual change, doing advocacy work or even dedicating a few minutes to posting articles that inform on social media. Calling them ALL bastards is the opposite. It's easy, takes no time, it's pointless and worst of all it's toxic. — Unsigned, by: Shabidoo / talk / contribs
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One innocent executed was an intellectually disabled black man who was tortured by a rural Texas sheriff in order to get a false confession out of him. Said sheriff later became a Congressman, while Texas executed the innocent and disabled black man. Oxyaena Harass 23:50, 7 December 2019 (UTC)
Yes but supporters of death penalty hear this argument all the time. They think the drawback is worth the potential reduction in violent crimes. --It's-a me, Lgm sigpic.png LeftyGreenMario!(Mod) 01:29, 8 December 2019 (UTC)
Advocacy doesn't work by repeating one liners like: "Innocents might die" and "Black people are more likely to be executed". As terrible as it is...this is honestly too abstract. Using statistics and even plain old direct rational arguments don't take you very far either. Contextualizing the problem, explaining what the consequences mean not just for those who are executed but the American justice system in general helps. Using concrete examples and portraying innocent executed people painted as ordinary humans, with lives, dreams etc and their victimhood. Ensuring that alternatives like mandatory life sentences without any chance of parole also makes a huge difference (though I personally consider that a cruel and unusual punishment but that's a different debate). Some support the death penalty because they believe the murderer will just get out of jail eventually otherwise. Escaping justice. Stay away from pushing "rehabilitation vs. retaliation" because it's irrelevant in this discussion. And by all means get into the very nature of the death penalty. For those who are radically against "big government" and "government interfering in our lives" then there can be no greater possible interference than the governments ability to take your life away (murder citizens). If, and only if you have an audience willing to listen, refer to capital punishment as murder, since that it what it is and use that world multiple times. Point out that the rest of the civilized world is really puzzled why the USA hasn't given up the penalty yet (without framing it in terms of judgement or looking down on the US). Phrase it as though giving up the penalty is inevitable and a natural step in social progress. By all means bring up the mentally challenged murdered citizen but again, avoid framing the issue as: "If you support the death penalty then you support killing mentally retarded children". Not only is that a faulty argument but it won't motivate people to change their minds. If you support A then you are negative quality B is far less effective than if you support ending A the benefits are B. Benefits sell. The fact that it could possibly happen to a loved one (being innocent yet executed) can at least plant seeds of change in some people's minds. Trust me, after a short meaningful conversation...lots of people at the very least reconsider their position. And naturally some never will regardless what you do. That doesn't automatically make them bastards. ShabiDOO 03:32, 8 December 2019 (UTC)