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back to article Killers laugh in face of death penalty threat, say US experts

Researchers have concluded there's no concrete evidence that the death penalty has any effect on homicide rates in the United States. The Committee on Deterrence and the Death Penalty took a look at "conflicting" studies of the threat of capital punishment's influence on would-be murderers since the US Supreme Court ended a four …

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Anonymous Coward

I'm reminded of the Life of Brian "Jehovah" sketch

"You're only making it worse for yourself!"

Seriously, if someone has committed a Capital offence, what incentive do they have not to do it again?

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Re: I'm reminded of the Life of Brian "Jehovah" sketch

I think the intent is to deter the first offence (no murder is better than one murder after all). Whether deterrence works is always open to debate and interpretation.

As to the cost? Well, this is directly attributable to massively long and expensive appeals processes that can lead to death row inmates being banged up longer than a UK life sentence.

Depending on your perspective, life without parole could be considered a far crueler sentence than death. Can you imagine 70 years or so in a prison, knowing you aren't getting out?

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Thumb Up

Re: I'm reminded of the Life of Brian "Jehovah" sketch

"Can you imagine 70 years or so in a prison, knowing you aren't getting out?"

It must be at least something like what those who care about the victim feel, knowing that person is now gone from their lives.

So yeah - sounds like a fitting punishment to me. Much more than the death sentence (life is cheap to those people anyway).

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Trollface

Re: I'm reminded of the Life of Brian "Jehovah" sketch

Depends.

On an absolutely brutal usefulness sense. A person after spending 50 years in the nick.

What use to society is he or she going to be ? They are a net drain on limited resources and forever will be.

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Re: I'm reminded of the Life of Brian "Jehovah" sketch

I believe that many on deathrow are psychopaths or psychopathic tendencies. I can't remember where I saw that.

Which means they place no value on life, neither their victims or their own, so I agree - the death penalty is ultimately useless as a deterent.

In an ideal world you'd gene test for the psycho gene, and make the appropriate environment adjustments to ensure that gene doesn't get 'oxygen to burn'. Naturally, some will have moral objections to this, so downvote away...

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Re: I'm reminded of the Life of Brian "Jehovah" sketch

Actually, my objection is that the existance of a "psycho gene", or anything else that can serve as a somewhat reliable test for murderous tendencies, is a massive, unlikely assumption.

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Re: I'm reminded of the Life of Brian "Jehovah" sketch

Well presumably if they've been caught for the first, they shouldn't have much opportunity to commit a second. And if they haven't been caught for the first then it's more or less irrlevant unless they are.

But really, the penalties for murder et al are so high (unless your governments says these people are okay to kill and pays you for it), that you'd already have to be unable to rationally factor in consequences to do it anyway, unless you thought you'd get away with it. Basically, to any person behaving rationally, committing murder or similar is already a bad idea. If someone discards the risks of years in prison, they're almost certainly going to discard the risk of execution.

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Re: I'm reminded of the Life of Brian "Jehovah" sketch

@Kenno:

The US nearly profits from the prison system. Some ridiculous percentage of "US-made" products are made by in-mates in prisons. We're talking billions of dollars of products every single year. They are effectively used as slave-labour.

Never seen the Shawshank Redemption? The way the prison governor basically blackmails the local craftsmen because all his prisoners can actually steal his work from him any time they want? It's not entirely fiction, and still happens today.

Which is hilarious given that U.S. law has banned imports of goods made in foreign jails since 1890.

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@Silverburn

There was a program on TV about the psycho gene. The guy in the program had it. It didn't manifest in making him a murderer, because of his surroundings, nurture. It did make him aggressive and very competitive.

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Re: @Silverburn

Programme is here.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b014kj65

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Profits from prison labour

"The US nearly profits from the prison system. Some ridiculous percentage of "US-made" products are made by in-mates in prisons. We're talking billions of dollars of products every single year. They are effectively used as slave-labour".

http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175531/tomgram%3A_fraser_and_freeman%2C_creating_a_prison-corporate_complex/

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Re: moral objections to this, so downvote away

Yeah, because all us neanderthal Bible thumpers are SO into eugenics.

/end sarc.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I'm reminded of the Life of Brian "Jehovah" sketch

The study isn't about recidivism. Nobody said anything about letting murders walk free.

Californian stats based on murders who aren't murdered by the state (and other crimes, quite interesting actually):

http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/reports_research/offender_information_services_branch/Annual/RECID2/RECID2d2004.pdf

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Re: you'd already have to be unable to rationally factor in consequences

actually the converse is true. If you rationally work out the odds of being caught, convicted, and imprisoned for life/executed it's a logical choice, particularly if it is a stab and grab. Of the murders that get solved, they are mostly crimes of passion where victims knew killers or paid hits where somebody bragged.

It's still wrong to kill, but contrary to the popular meme, it's a moral issue, not a logic issue.

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Re: @King Jack

Right, because nobody would ever make anything up for TV. And no documentary has ever been proven to be completely bogus.

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Re: Can you imagine 70 years or so in a prison,

knowing you aren't getting out?

Good point. I sometimes wonder if even for the likes of Khadafi or Saddam Hussein, being put in prison for the long haul and being treated as if you were ordinary would not be the worst possible punishment for those types.

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Anonymous Coward

@Silverburn - Re: I'm reminded of the Life of Brian "Jehovah" sketch

Suppressing the genetically unfit individuals. Hmm, I wonder where have I heard this before ? Something about a beautiful, perfect race... Oh, what's that you say, he had to actually commit suicide inside his bunker ?

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Anonymous Coward

@King Jack - Re: @Silverburn

This means very proficient at killing, if he's given the chance.

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Angel

Re: I'm reminded of the Life of Brian "Jehovah" sketch

The really important benefit of sticking someone in jail for the rest of their natural life rather than executing them is that when a person (e.g. you) is wrongfully convicted (remember the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad) they can be released rather than being dead.

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Coat

Re: I'm reminded of the Life of Brian "Jehovah" sketch

Put 'em in solitary, life with no parole.

Supply three square meals per day. And a rope.

For added incentive, a secure and protected TV screen running 24/7 Jeremy Kyle and/or Jerry Springer shows.

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Angel

<< New TV show >> Prison Death Match

Well life in the nick without parole means they will only have each other to kill so that’s ok by us. let them all make each other extinct.

OR

A new TV show :D ... Prison Death Match, where they all fight to the death only one can survive, his reward, he gets to fight another day. Costs can be recouped in adverstising revenue.

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Gimp

Re: << New TV show >> Prison Death Match

Ah, the arrogance of modernity.

The Romans had this show running for years.

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Re: @Silverburn - I'm reminded of the Life of Brian "Jehovah" sketch

@ AC 20/04 15:25 (and other posters thinking the same)

Actually, I didn't mention gene suppression at all.

If you'd watched the program others have provided the link for, you'd realise that having the gene does not automatically make you a killer. One of the researchers even had the gene, yet was not a killer (though did display some strange behaviours), mainly due to the environment he was raised in. The program theorised that a good percentage of people have the same gene, yet don't become killers, for the same reasons - a nuturing environment.

Which was my point - if you knew someone had the gene, you'd be especially careful to cultivate their enviroment so as not to give 'oxygen to the flame'.

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The problem I have is that the death penalty should only be used in cases of serial or mass murder where guilt is 100 percent certain - not plain old murder where one person kills one other person (even in cold blood). Also, I'm curious about the cost of someone fighting a life sentence for years versus someone fighting the death penalty for years - is there much of a difference?

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"is there much of a difference?"

Yes, very much - in fact the figure is in the article :) This is due to higher security, less social interaction (meaning more staff and more stressed inmates), higher costs of appeal, etc etc. Remember also there will be a very long time (often 15 or more years) between initial conviction and execution.

I read the figure phrased differently somewhere a couple of years ago, but I think it costs about $1.5 million more to execute an inmate than to jail them for life without parole.

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Yag
Trollface

Re: "is there much of a difference?"

I'm pretty sure you can probably reduce the costs by selling the convict's organs...

Heck, recycling is in the air...

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Anonymous Coward

Murder = Murder

State condoned premeditated murder is no example to the rest of society on how to behave and only reinforces the belief that premeditated murder is acceptable. I as a juror could not give a guilty verdict if I knew the penalty was going to be death as mistakes do happen. A good example of such a travesty of justice is Stefan Kiszko (see A Life for a Life 1998) who would have undoubtedly received the death penalty if it had still be on the statute books in the UK.

"It's a hell of a thing, killing a man. Take away all he's got and all he's ever gonna have. "

Will Munny, Unforgiven (1992)

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Re: Murder = Murder

One of my all time favourite lines from a Movie, that. one.

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Re: "is there much of a difference?"

"...often 15 or more years..."

I remember reading that the leading cause of death for Death Row inmates is actually old age.

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Holmes

Re: "is there much of a difference?"

Only if you hang them. Lethal injection destroys the organs and electrocution just cooks them.

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Re: Murder = Murder

And a brilliant movie, from start to finish, which is almost guaranteed to change any reasonable person's ideas about death and killing. In my book, Clint Eastwood repaid society for any foolish ideas about vigilante killing he may have spread through the "Dirty Harry" series.

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Re: Murder = Murder

"...only reinforces the belief that premeditated murder is acceptable."

So, you are saying we can't put the mad dogs down. But does that also mean we cannot lock them up, as it would be showing that it is acceptable to hold someone against their will thus promoting kidnapping? Its an extension of your argument.

And we have the Hannibal Lecter types in permanent lockdown. If they get loose and gnaw a guard's face off there isn't much more they can do to them. Safer to everyone if they get humanly put down.

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Anonymous Coward

@ Wize Re: Murder = Murder

Nice Daily Mail outrage there, however there is nothing humane about premeditated murder no matter what the perpetrators crime and you become the very thing that you demonize.

I suggest you watch the full series of Brass Eye, however I fear it will be over your head and you will take it literally.

PS Hannibal Lecter is a fictional character, he's not real you know.

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Re: "is there much of a difference?"

Smothering with a pillow?

Seriously, though, this very debate stinks of right wing righteusness. Capital punishment stinks because it turns your country and its citizens into murderers too. The very discussion of the financial details while obviating this is extremely disgusting.

There is no capital punishment in any western european country I can think of, possibly not even for life inprisonment (30 years max in Spain, with posibility of parole), and the assasination rates are lower by far than in the US of A.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "is there much of a difference?"

Does imprisonment stink because it turns your country into kidnappers?

Should there be no enforcement of laws?

Mexico has no capital punishment, yet it has far higher assassination rates than Gringolandia. Y que?

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Windows

Re: "is there much of a difference?"

Good news! Igor has found a new liver for you!

How did the donor die?

Lethal injection.

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Shame on El Reg

The text doesn't come to the conclusion that it doesn't act as a deterrent - just that nobody knows if it does act as a deterrent. These are two VERY different things! Anything for a sensational headline though, eh?

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Re: Shame on El Reg

It may or may not deter, but it certainly prevents recidivism. Outside Hollywood horror films, no murderer has ever killed anyone after he was dead.

We have to balance the need to protect potential victims against the need to give the alleged criminal a fair chance. I used to think the death penalty was a good idea in many cases of deliberate cold-blooded murder; then I discovered how often and how easily miscarriages of justice happen. Much as I was a big fan of nuclear power, until I realised how cynical, lazy, dishonest, slipshod and uncaring many of the people responsible for our safety can be.

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Re: Shame on El Reg

Actually we do, but the anti-death penalty crowd don't want to admit it.

The death penalty does act as a significant and measurable deterrent, but only when it is:

- carried out in close proximity to the time at which the crime was committed (practically guaranteed not to happen in the current environment

- is carried out consistently so it is perceived as a roulette wheel type event

- is public and well publicized

That last one is even more important than the first two even though they are all critical. And given the current environment, guarantees something that could be an effective deterrent isn't.

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Yag
Trollface

"- is public and well publicized"

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to our new episode of "The Running Man"!

*Applause*

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Shame on El Reg

So, basically you are arguing for Judge Dredd-style in the spot executions, as happened recently in Florida.

Meanwhile, we have many examples of people being found innocent of capital crimes after years of imprisonment. A pardon is little consolation after you're dead.

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Re: Shame on El Reg

"So, basically you are arguing for Judge Dredd-style in the spot executions, as happened recently in Florida."

Really? Which case was this? The only thing I know of from there is an unresolved self-defense case with no verdict yet that is being used as a political football by wannabe politicians who have nothing to play in their career except the race card.

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Anonymous Coward

The death penalty isn't about deterrent, it's about satiating a bloodthirsty populations demand for vengeance.

Even though I oppose the death penalty I would rather die than spend my life in one of America's utterly inhumane and barbaric prisons.

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Devil

It can be about deterrent

It can be about deterrent - if the punishment is public. This is valid for any punishment (including the death penalty).

A private "humane" punishment can never be a deterrent because the population does not observe the punishment and does not see exactly what it will go through if it commits the offense. So why on earth can someone expect it to be deterred?

In any case, the system is broken, we should be:

1. Forced labour, not "Hotel Stay twiddling thumbs and learning new techniques" - there are enough yellow fever and malaria breeding grounds swamps to irrigate and minefields to clear worldwide. Regular reports on the public service announcements on TV are essential - there is no better deterrent than watching someone in the last stage of yellow fever kick the bucket (it can be merely cleaning the streets for minor offenses of course). Channels that do not transmit let's say 1 minute during each news bulletin and/or 5 min per day in advert breaks should not get a license.

2. Term in advance - you are welcome to commit any crime you like as long as you serve half of your term first. Want to kill someone, fine, sign the papers and do 7 years of digging trenches in a malaria swamp (if you do not do it in advance you dig 'em 15 years). If you quit early you get nothing (besides the set of diseases and amputated limbs).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Norfolk 'n' Goode

Again, assuming they have the right guy!

Or does a lack of 'borderline autism' also remove the requirement for justice?

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Re: @Norfolk 'n' Goode

"Call it vengence, call it revenge, its a primal human emotion"

- much like the "primal human emotion" that caused the perpetrator to commit the crime in the first place. Face it, you're no better than they are.

I like to think that humanity should be above that kind of thing. Put the perp away where he/she can't hurt anybody else and leave it at that. The right to live is the most basic human right of all, and nobody -- nobody -- has the right to take it from you.

If you want revenge, you're perfectly welcome to take it out on the perpetrator. As long as you're willing to face a murder charge yourself, of course.

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FAIL

Re: @Norfolk 'n' Goode

"I like to think that humanity should be above that kind of thing."

Why? You think you're better than someone who believes in revenge? I've got news for you pal.

"The right to live is the most basic human right of all, and nobody -- nobody -- has the right to take it from you."

Really? Says who? Human rights arn't carved in stone , they're a man made construct - they are whatever society decides them to be at any given time. If a society decides that executions are legal then they have the perfect right to take someones life.

And thats before we get onto war where every society permits it.

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