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 …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    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?

    1. GitMeMyShootinIrons

      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?

      1. Semaj
        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).

        1. Silverburn

          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...

          1. Filippo

            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.

          2. King Jack


            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.

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

            2. Tom 13

              Re: @King Jack

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

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              @King Jack - Re: @Silverburn

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

          3. Tom 13

            Re: moral objections to this, so downvote away

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

            /end sarc.

          4. Anonymous Coward
            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 ?

            1. Silverburn

              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'.

      2. Kenno

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


        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.

        1. Lee Dowling Silver badge

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


          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.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            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".


        2. Axel

          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.

      3. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

        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.

      4. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. h4rm0ny

      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.

      1. Tom 13

        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.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      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):

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      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.

    5. This post has been deleted by its author

    6. The People

      << 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.


      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.

      1. P. Lee Silver badge

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

        Ah, the arrogance of modernity.

        The Romans had this show running for years.

  2. Johnny Canuck

    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?

    1. AndyS

      "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.

      1. Yag

        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...

        1. King Jack

          Re: "is there much of a difference?"

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

          1. Periquet dels Palots

            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.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              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?

        2. P. Lee Silver badge

          Re: "is there much of a difference?"

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

          How did the donor die?

          Lethal injection.

      2. Matthew 3

        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.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      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)

      1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

        Re: Murder = Murder

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

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          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.

      2. Wize

        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.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          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.

  3. AndyS

    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?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      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.

    2. Tom 13

      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.

      1. Yag

        "- is public and well publicized"

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


      2. Anonymous Coward
        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.

        1. Figgus

          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.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    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.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      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).

      1. stanimir

        Re: It can be about deterrent

        why is Voland downvoted so badly - the joke is good?

    2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      1. Anonymous Coward
        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?

      2. rjmx

        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.

        1. boltar Silver badge

          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.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @ Boltar

            "Really? Says who? Human rights arn't carved in stone"

            To argue that the right to life can be taken away makes you sound like a Sociopath.

        2. Subtilior

          Re: @Norfolk 'n' Goode

          It is not about being "better than the perpetrator" - that is hardly a meaningful statement in a society that no longer pretends to have a common system of morality. Rather than trying to score goody-goody points, you should ponder how society works better or worse with the policy.

  5. jake Silver badge

    Most murders are gang, drug, alcohol or sex related.

    And in that order (at least here in California). I'm talking 95+%.

    Not a single one of the killers I'm typing about even thinks about it before doing the deed. Laws, and the threat of punishment don't enter the picture. It's an emotion-based thing, brought on by poor up-bringing (for the most part), IMNESHO.

    Might not be politically correct to state it, but the male children of un-married mothers in the inner-cities are by far the largest percentage of murderers here in CA.

    Gut feeling is that the worst problem is people living in hamster-habitats. We're built to be small-group hunter-gatherers, not spoon-fed masses.

    The other problem is welfare mothers smacking their kids around, thus teaching the kids that violence is a good way to get your point across.

    I have no answers.

    1. Schultz

      The answer

      Legalize drugs, or find a way to hand them out to the addicts (see Switzerland and other examples). That will make a big dent in the crime statistics by removing drug crime and most of the gang crime.

      1. jake Silver badge

        @Schultz (was: Re: The answer)


        The social issues that make "drugs" an option is a problem, not an answer.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @Schultz (was: The answer)

          Jake: Do you drink alcohol?

          What about the social problems that make Alcohol an option.

          A bit flippant, I know, but smoking dope at the very least, shouldn't involve a meeting with a criminal. People have always and will always want to change their state of mind, it should be up to the state to make sure that it's done in as safe a way as possible - ie: You get pharma quality, known dose drugs that don't involve a visit to a crime gang. The state should also supply the sort of support that it does (or should do) for alcohol and tobacco dependence.

          1. Armando 123

            Re: @Schultz (was: The answer)

            "A bit flippant, I know, but smoking dope at the very least, shouldn't involve a meeting with a criminal. "

            Well, we're getting there with cigarettes, too ...

        2. Sweep

          @ Jake

          Balls to your sweeping statement Jake.

          Drugs have always been an option, throughout human history, and across human cultures. From a champagne reception to a shaman's hut in the rainforest, people have always, and will always, like to get off their tits. . It's the prohibition of drugs that is new and is the problem, not the drugs.

          Drugs are never going to go away, no matter what kind of social utopia you imagine you want to live. Me, my utopia would be one in which individuals are allowed to make their own life choices, to the extent that they don't harm others with those choices.

          1. moiety

            Re: @ Jake

            Definitely agreed. Legalise the lot and let Darwin sort it out. Or just legalise weed (except when it hurts society, like driving or operating heavy machinery stoned). The resources and prison space saved by that alone would enable society as a whole to focus on things that are actually a problem.

            Won't happen of course...US prisons make a profit by incarcerating herbal cigarette users; lots of guns to be sold in South America etc etc ect. There are too many people scamming a living out of the "war on drugs" for anything to change in the near future.

            1. jake Silver badge

              You lot are going off on a tangent ... (was: Re: @ Jake)

              I was commenting on the article, re: murders here in the US.

              "Schultz" decided that drugs being legalized would solve everything.

              I disagreed, because the problem runs deeper than that.

              You lot decided to run off at the mouth about legalizing drugs, rather than the actual topic, that being murder and it's multiple causes.

              Why? Are you drug-addled? Can't follow a topic?

        3. stanimir

          Re: @Schultz (was: The answer)

          Drugs stimulate the brain directly - creating dopamine for instance (cocaine, meth). Even precluding any social aspect the pure physiological effect is hard to dismiss. Always, there will be temptation.

          So it'd be better off safely acquiring the fix than breaking the law. People do not break the law buying cigarettes.

      2. Tom 13

        Re: The answer

        Nope. A couple headlines here in DC the last couple of weeks: MS-13 moving out of gun running and drug smuggling in favor of pimping underage girls.

    2. Tom 13

      Re: Most murders are gang, drug, alcohol or sex related.

      Sure you do. You even put it in your post. It's just too damn many pols think they know what's best for us: Stop zoning for ultra dense cities to protect the trees and start zoning for suburban areas.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just an opinion

    The absence of any compelling evidence of a deterent effect suggests that the prime motivation for capital punishment is either revenge or financial considerations. I don't think either is a good enough justification for carrying on with formalised cold-blooded killing. Not in a civilised society, anyway.

    1. Kenno

      Re: Just an opinion

      Albert Pierpont is a prime example of this.

      He was anti death penalty. Which is ironic as he served as the last British hangman. He quickly changed his tune when one of his friends was murdered. He suddenly changed to being pro death penalty.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        You should read his autobiography and not rely on film. In the TV film a lot was made of his friendship with someone he later hanged however the friend was no more than a regular in the same pub. He never out and out stated whether he was pro or anti capital punishment. The most he said was that he thought none of the executions he performed acted as a deterrent. Also he was not the last person to hang someone in Britain.

        Apart from that, and the misspelling of his name, your comment is quite accurate.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @Kenno

          "He never out and out stated whether he was pro or anti capital punishment".

          I think the 450 people he hanged give us a clue. Had he disapproved of capital punishment, he could have found a different line of work.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @Tom Welsh

            It was much more than 450 but it doesn't mean he was pro capital punishement. He was following in his fathers and unlces footsteps and being a Yorkshireman was very pragmatic, somebody had to do it.

            He was known for his efficiency so you could argue that had he been pro capital punishment he might just have let the criminal linger a little on the trap door or maybe not adjusted the rope correctly.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just an opinion

        Even if true it indicates how the emotional hit from personal tragedy is a barrier to retaining unbiased judgement. This is why independent people are needed as judge and jury, and those who know the victim should have no say.

    2. Ole Juul Silver badge

      Re: Just an opinion

      "The absence of any compelling evidence of a deterent effect suggests that the prime motivation for capital punishment is either revenge or financial considerations."

      This bears repeating. Also, on the surface I tend to think that revenge is the prime motivation. However the whole business is financially rewarding for so many people that one could guess that there are subtle forces keeping the whole thing going.

      1. Tom 13

        Re: Just an opinion

        Repeating the meme doesn't make it true.

    3. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      Re: Just an opinion

      "The absence of any compelling evidence of a deterent effect...." The ability to measure a negative is always going to be hard. No-one is likely to stand up and admit "Hey , I was thinking about killing so-and-so but changed my mind at the thought of being executed if caught"!

      "......Not in a civilised society, anyway." Which gets to the crux of the problem - if we were truly all 100% civilised there wouldn't be any crime at all. Indeed, all we would need would be a set of behaviour rules taught to us as children, and our overwhelming desire to be good citizens would then preclude us from committing any crimes. But the reality is we are human and even "normal" people are driven by many emotions (let's not even get into discussing sociopaths and psychopaths), hence we have laws and associated punishments.

      Laws and their associated punishments are actually aimed at 99+% of the population - those that can tell right from wrong. Of the remainder, some will be unable to make that judgement call either due to psychological issues or mental disability.

      As human beings, we are designed to make judgement calls as part of everyday problem solving, just like every other animals. Cats may not conciously think about "can I make that jump from the tree to the roof" but they instinctively do so, judging the distance relative to their own jumping prowess. The cat may make the jump for fun or curiosity but is usually driven by a simpler emotion - wanting to hunt the birds on the roof, for example. For the cat, the desired result is caching the bird, with the undesired result being an injury due to a missed jump.

      We do similar judgement calls daily just when crossing the road or driving a vehicle. We largely get those decisions right, as shown by the ability of even whitevan drivers to pass the driving test. We often get those decisions wrong, as shown by the large numbers of road accidents, either through not evaluating the parameters of the situation correctly or by not being realistic about our driving ability. We have road laws and training to help us make those decisions. In effect, we take that decision-making ability originally designed by Nature to help us survive in the wild, and apply it to the "civilised" issue of driving without killing ourselves or others. But we don't always follow the road laws, as evident in the number of people that speed without crashing, beacuse we also look at the situation and often decide (rightly or wrongly) that we can exceed the lawful speed and survive. It's all about weighing up the situation and looking at the resulting pros and cons - can I go faster than the speedlimit and get to where I'm going sooner (or just get the thrill of driving faster) without crashing?

      So, to make us more likley to err on the side of the safer option of following the driving laws, we have punishments associaited with driving crimes. We don't have to know the exact details of each punishment to be deterred by them. I'm not a lawyer or judge, I can't tell you the fines you get for different speeding offences, just as I can't tell you the exact prison sentence you would get for a violent crime, but the thought of losing my licence makes me think twice about speeding. I'm sure you drive and don't speed continually for the same reason - not because you can't drive faster than the limit, and not because you may not want to do so, but because you weigh up the deicision and decide the pros (getting there faster or getting the thrill) often don't match the cons (death, serious injury, or losing your licence).

      You can't measure how many times it has stopped me or yourself or any other driver speeding as it is a negative effect, so you cannot say exactly how effective a deternet it is, just as you have no way of even guessing how many potential murderers were deterred by the thought they might get the death penalty.

      So then it comes down to a judgement call by that civilised society you mentioned - can we afford to keep the convicted killers locked up or could we spend the money on making the lives of other citizens better? What would be your decision if you had to chose between keeping a multiple-murderer locked up for the rest of his life, or spending that money on funding a project that would keep deprived kids out of streetgangs and possibly stop them entering a life of crime, which then frees up even more tax dollars for the "good" citizens' needs?

      Most anti-execution arguments seem to be driven by the idea that it is "wrong" in a civilised society to kill people regardless, that we should just shoulder the cost of keeping killers locked up for life. This is amusing given that societies make decisons daily that condemn people to death due to cost. Don't believe me? OK, a simple example is driving - why do we let people drive themselves? We could cut the number of road deaths by insisting on automated vehicles which self-drive, also neatly reducing the need for expensive road law enforcement and safety services. The technology to do so is already available. We choose not to because we see automated cars as too costly to implement, either as an individual cost to the car owner or as a vote-loser for politicians. We choose to accept the chance of road deaths as we, the civilised society, have made the judgement call that it is "unlikely to happen to me" and therefore not worth the cost. We instead satisfy ourselves with driving laws and safer vehicles to reduce the likelyhood of a fatal accident, neatly ignoring that in civilised countries more people die every year in cars than do by murder.

      Another more ironic case is hospital care. Due to the restraints of budgets and taxation, every year civilised societies forces doctors and administrators to make funding choices about treatments that literally mean some people get to live and others die. We accept that even though we don't like it, the truth is when we choose which politician to vote for, we citizens make the choice of how the money is spent. If we don't like the politician's choices then we may choose to vote them out. We don't often ask ourselves "Could I save another ten cancer patients' lives if I spent more on cancer treatment by not keeping one convicted murderer in prison for life?"

      Just an opinion, of course.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @ Matt Bryant (Re: Just an opinion)

        A long post and I can't do it justice in the sort of response that I'm up to. But I'll try.

        As far as the absence of evidence is concerned, I'm going by the article and the fact that I've never seen any meaningful evidence one way or the other. I see that aspect as indicating that one of the key arguments in favour of capital punishment isn't proven, or even demonstrated.

        I think the 99% of us that can understand right from wrong are not killers simply because of that. The 1% with a problem distinguishing between the two are, I think, likely to kill in the appropriate circumstances regardless of the consequences.

        I take all your points about the decisions society makes on financial grounds that incidentally condemn certain people to death. The argument that money spent on a lifer could better be spent on a hospital is valid, but do you really think the money would be spent that way? It's not as if society is short of money for the things that are really important to its citizens (I'm talking about both the UK and the US here) - it just has different priorities. Cutting back on foreign adventures would do a lot more for the balance sheet than hanging murderers.

        It's a subject I've thought of on and off for the best part of 50 years and I've never been swayed by either side of the argument.

        In the end I'm going by my gut feelings - I'd rather live in a society that doesn't coolly put people down (for whatever reason). But I know it is not necessarily a logical argument, which is why I chose the title "Just an opinion".

      2. stanimir

        Re: Just an opinion

        We could cut the number of road deaths by insisting on automated vehicles which self-drive, also neatly reducing the need for expensive road law enforcement and safety services. The technology to do so is already available.

        Unless you talk about rails the tech. does not exist.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The death penalty is vengance not a deterrent

    You only have to look at those countries which have automatic death penalty for drug trafficking. People still do it and this is not a heat of the moment emotional thing like some murders

    Crimes are comitted because the perps think they will get away with it.

    The only deterrent to crime is a higher detection rate followed by conviction. To paraphrase officer Don from 3rd rock from the sun.

    Let me lay out the cold hard facts for you, Tommy. If you are involved in something criminal, there is a one in five chance you'll be caught. If you're caught there is a 10% chance you'll be prosecuted. If you are prosecuted, there is a 2% chance you'll be convicted. So don't play with fire.

    Not sure as to the validity of the numbers.

    1. Anonymous Coward 101

      Re: The death penalty is vengance not a deterrent

      "You only have to look at those countries which have automatic death penalty for drug trafficking. People still do it and this is not a heat of the moment emotional thing like some murders"

      They do it, but in much lower numbers. Anybody fancy trafficking drugs to Singapore?

      I'm only saying...

      1. h4rm0ny

        Re: Anybody fancy trafficking drugs to Singapore?

        Now all those people who thought: "yeah, I don't fancy that", raise your hand if the penalty being a decade in a Singapore prison rather than exectution suddenly makes you think "Okay, I'll try it now".

        No takers? Well then capital punishment is no greater deterrent to the rational mind than ten years in prison.

        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

          Re: Re: Anybody fancy trafficking drugs to Singapore?

          ".....raise your hand if the penalty being a decade in a Singapore prison rather than exectution...." The argument is not logical as we all make decisions on the basis of how good or bad the likely outcomes are going to be, and the relative chance of each outcome happening. If the punishment was twenty years you'd think that was worse than ten years because it is twice as many years of your life lost, so you might consider it more of a risk. An execution means you lose all the remaining years of your life, often far greater than twenty. Criminals often make poor decisions because they think more about the "good" outcomes of a criminal action than the "bad" ones. Not many crimes are committed with the criminal already decided he will go to prison but still going to do the crime, not unless they think the punishment is less than the benefits of dong the crime, and very few people would think death was a benefit unless they were suicidal already.

          Where the death sentence fails to be a deterent is to those whose life is already so sh*t that they really couldn't care, which makes their likelyhood of behaving like model citizens unlikely anyway, or those that simply fail to see themselves getting caught. The latter would do the crime regardless of the likely punishment, but for every one of those "I'm-too-smart-for-the-cops" numpties that does get caught and executed, more and more potential crims will see the chances of them getting caught is actually higher than they might have thought. I'm betting you don't know much about Thai law, I certainly don't, but we have both heard about the harsh the harsh penatlies for drg-smugglers there, emphasising the actual deterent effect. Would the point have been raised if the Thai sentence was just ten years in prison? Unlikely.

          1. Tom 13

            Re: Anybody fancy trafficking drugs to Singapore?

            If you want to know what deters, you ask the convicts what risks they consider. There's a fellow who has done that and published a book about it. Convicts all have a list of risks they evaluate before they rip someone off, and they are surprisingly similar: How easy it is to break into the place, how well protected is it, how many people routinely walk by it, will they encounter someone wielding a gun. It turns out the legal death penalty rarely figures into their thinking, even when they're carrying the gun and are willing to kill someone. But the possibility they will run into someone carrying a gun? Yeah, that death penalty they take account of, and usually look elsewhere for easier prey.

            Oh, the guys is John Lott, and his book is More Guns, Less Crime.

        2. L.B.

          RE: Re: Anybody fancy trafficking drugs to Singapore?

          For most people who have jobs and live a (mostly) law abiding life any jail term is too long.

          But there are those who will commit crimes or just do really stupid things if given enough motivation.

          If you put a revolver with one round loaded on a table and offered £100 to anyone to stick in their mouth and pull the trigger and survided, you would not likely get any takers.

          Make that a £1000 and you may get some try it, as to some a £1000 is a lot of money.

          Make that £10,000 and you’d like get more and by the time you offered £1m you’d probably be surprised at the number of takers (there are lot of stupid people out there).

          The death penalty in Singapore almost certainly does deter some, but as with any system of prohibition all that happens is the supply gets reduced and the profit potential increases to the point that someone will take the risk.

          This is why all drug prohibition is futile, when the local plod catches some and advertise how they have stopped £n million of drugs hitting the streets, all that happens is the street price goes up.

          The police know this and the politicians know this is true. The politicians are just scared of the mass media morons and the public not voting for them.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm sure the death penalty has some effect on those who may be considering killing someone, but how many cases of murder are pre-meditated as opposed to the result of arguments getting out of hand or other spur of the moment actions?

    In theory I'm all in favour of the death penalty. My caveat is that guilt has to have been established beyond any doubt whatsoever, i.e. the murderer was recorded in the act via several different CCTV cameras and at least five or six people who had no connection with either victim or murderer were eye witnesses and able to positively identify the murderer. Otherwise, lock the murderer away for life with no parole.

    1. Alan 6

      Have you seen the quality of most CCTV footage?

      In a foolish attempt to fit as many cameras as possible into as little hard drive space as possible most systems record in CIF resolution (352 x 288) and use quite aggressive MPEG4 compression.

      Most people look like they're made of lego...

  9. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    It's been obvious for years that punishment does not deter;

    If it did, there would be no crime.

    Perhaps it's the fear of being caught that deters? The recent riots in London had some evidence I think that there was an assumption by the looters that they could not be caught from a group so large...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's been obvious for years that punishment does not deter;

      "It's been obvious for years that punishment does not deter;

      If it did, there would be no crime."

      That is an absurd statement.

      For all we know the amount of crime might be 4 or 5 times higher if there was no punishment.

      All this proves is that it punishment does not deter everybody.

      Would there be a reason to make examples out of people that were involved in the London Riots otherwise?

    2. Anonymous Coward 101

      Re: It's been obvious for years that punishment does not deter;

      "If it did, there would be no crime."

      1. People who are convicted of crime are punished to deter them and others from further crime.

      2. There still exists crime.

      3. Ergo, punishment does not deter crime.

      1. ed2020

        Re: It's been obvious for years that punishment does not deter;

        1. All cats have four legs.

        2. My dog has four legs.

        3. Therefore my dog is a cat.

      2. Matt Bryant Silver badge

        Re: It's been obvious for years that punishment does not deter;

        "1. People who are convicted of crime are punished to deter them and others from further crime.

        2. There still exists crime.

        3. Ergo, punishment does not deter crime."

        You cannot say how many more crimes there might have been if other criminals had not been deterred by seeing the sentence given to other criminals. Saying punishment has to be 100% effective in reducing crime is unrealistic.

        1. Anonymous Coward 101
          Thumb Down

          Re: It's been obvious for years that punishment does not deter;

          Er, I was attempting to show the faulty logic of Neil Barnes above, but I see from the down votes that people thought I was being serious. Down votes are important.

  10. jungle_jim

    Singapore has the death penalty for drug smuggling.

    I haven't seen any drugs out here yet, which doesn't mean there aren't any about, but people are bloody careful about them if they do.

    don't get the odd whiff of weed like i frequently would in the UK

    1. Turtle_Fan

      Correlation is NOT causation

      It's fine extolling the law abiding virtues of a strict dictatorship of the kind that Singapore is, but do try and get figures for lawlessness/crime from areas sharing Singapore's very high per capita GDP and median income.

      As most criminologists would attest, meeting Maslow's basic needs (food, shelter, safety etc.) the incentive for criminality diminishes exponentially.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Correlation is NOT causation

        "It's fine extolling the law abiding virtues of a strict dictatorship of the kind that Singapore is, but do try and get figures for lawlessness/crime from areas sharing Singapore's very high per capita GDP and median income."

        Could Singapore's high capita GDP and Median income be because rather than taking drugs they're all being productive and working?

      2. jungle_jim

        Re: Correlation is NOT causation

        Whilst i agree with a lot of what you are saying regarding 'dictatorship', im not so sure i agree with the whole median income.

        I see plenty of old boys and dears rummaging through bins in the evenings looking for stuff to take out and sell.

        There are a lot more poor people here than is let on. I see many more people going through bins here than i did in the UK.

  11. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Crimes of dispassion

    OK all you criminals out there, hands up if ...

    When you were planning your last heist (english translation - robbery) or slaying (murder), how many of you thoroughly worked out your plan and then ran the risk / reward possibilities through a spreadsheet before deciding whether to go ahead, or try something less risky instead.

    No-one? How odd. You'd think that with "the needle" on the table, there'd be some sort of rational assessment on whether to embark on a life of crime. Maybe, it's just that people who slide into such a career (and it does seem to be a career - greater job "security" than most employment opportunities offer) aren't great at controlling their impulses - or have an innate view that they won't get caught.

    If that is the reason then it explains why, 150 years after prisons became "popular" as a way of dealing with criminals, we still have a crime problem. After all that time, you'd think that if chokey worked as a deterrent, the problem would have gone away by now. As it is, the only things that a custodial sentence (or a terminal one) achieves is to remove the unsuccessful (i.e. the ones who get caught) criminals from society for a period and also, as Chris W says to satisfy the victims' and society's demands for revenge - or "justice" as it's usually called.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Crimes of dispassion

      You are of course wrong.

      No they may not use a spread sheet, but many criminals will try to reduce the risk of long term prison. Typically by things like using a replica firearm in place of a real one, simply because in many parts of the world they would get a shorter sentence if caught.

      Just a thought, but do you think if those bastards who fired a machine gun into a corner shop, and hit that little girl were taken out and hung from the nearest tree, that not one of there fellow gang members would think twice about doing something like that again.

      Whereas spending the next 15-20 years in conditions and with facilities that are better than a 1960's holiday camp is hardly even a punishment.

      1. Pete 2 Silver badge

        Re: Crimes of dispassion

        > ... many criminals will try to reduce the risk of long term prison. ... using a replica firearm ... get a shorter sentence if caught.

        But that just illustrates the irrationality (and complete lack of actuarial sense) of criminals who do that. They are implicitly saying "if I rob some premises and get away with £1000 but get caught with a replica gun I'll only go to jail for X years, but if I use a real gun, I'll be locked up for Y years".

        So they have done a calculation and decided that £1000 is a worthwhile reward for X years of lockup, but not for a longer term. It still seems to me that this is extraordinarily dumb behaviour and is a prime example of a crim still assuming they won't be caught - but just hedging their bets on the offchance they do.

        1. Tom 13

          Re: Crimes of dispassion

          You gotta put real numbers in there to see how absurd your attempt is.

          Rob the premises. Chance of getting caught 10%. Chance of getting convicted, 20%, Time served if committed with a gun, 5 years. Time served if committed with a gun replica, 6 months, making it a possible release for time served when the conviction comes down. Time in jail nets 3 squares a day, medical help, plus a chance to learn new crime skills from and make contacts with other inmates who might be useful to me when I get out.

          Yeah, that's a no brainer: carry the replica and the risk is negligible, regardless of my earnings.

        2. Vic

          Re: Crimes of dispassion

          > is a prime example of a crim still assuming they won't be caught

          That would appear to be a pretty resonable assumption...

          Here's one of my pet theories: in order to provide *effective* detection, any police force needs significant support from the local community.

          Because the bobbies spend their time trying to get as many convictions - of any sort - as they possibly can, much of the population won't have anything to do with plod if they can avoid it. There is a fear - probably grounded - that an attempt to help the Old Bill will end up with a problem for the person trying to help...

          So it is that we have a disconnect: there is a real "us and them" situation between the community and the Police. Just look at how many drivers jump on the brakes when they see a cop car - even if they were already driving legally.

          There is a solution to this. But it'll never get past the readers of the Daily Fail.


    2. Intractable Potsherd

      @ Pete 2

      "... revenge - or "justice" as it's usually called". Revenge is not justice. Revenge is never what a rational person would call justice. Justice is a balance of the rights of individuals and society, with the balance quite correctly tipped slightly towards the individual (for many reasons). Revenge is merely the howling primitive inside some people that cannot get a sense of perspective, and which leads to atrocities. In principle, revenge leads to a never-ending cycle of violence, such as vendettas, which do as much damage to society as doing nothing at all.

      Personally, I think the way to deal with this is to give someone convicted of a life-sentence a choice - prison or death. I think a reasonable number would take the option of death rather than live in a prison for the rest of their lives (no matter how "good" you think prisoners have it).

  12. Helix

    The death penalty is not a deterrent. It's to protect society from people who are too dangerous to let roam free. And the death penalty is a 100% certain method to prevent recidivism.

    1. Daren Nestor

      This is the first rational comment

      What we currently have in terms of prisons and the removal of gain as a result of crime is as effective a deterrent as we're going to get.

      The western justice system is dysfunctional - its purpose is to both punish and rehabilitate. Because of this it does neither very well, but this is a policy decision. The decision needs to be made - is its purpose punishment or rehabilitation? Most would plump for initial rehabilitation, I believe (although I may be wrong) followed by increasingly severe punishment for repeated crimes.

      That said, there are those who are clearly a danger to everyone else. At that point the decision needs to be made whether to remove them from society. There are two methods of that since exile is no longer an option - life imprisonment, or death. And at that point it DOES become a cost/benefit analysis. If you're going to put someone away for life, what is the benefit to society of leaving them alive? The determination has already been made through the courts that this person is too dangerous to be allowed free ever again. The rational thing to do is to put an upper time limit on time in prison, to allow for appeals, and after that to kill them.

      1. Tom 13

        Re: This is the first rational comment

        If you're going with that analysis I'll refer you to a comment from a long-time law enforcement officer: if you commit a felony between the ages of 21 and 35, throw them in jail until they are 35. Doesn't matter what the crime, they don't have the right perspective on life and for some reason, if the right perspective is going to kick in, it does so by 35. If they commit a felony after the age of 35 shoot them because they'll never get it and they can't be rehabilitated.

  13. ainsley

    Mind numbingly simple

    If its wrong to kill someone, then its wrong to kill someone.

    1. NinjasFTW

      Re: Mind numbingly simple

      thats not quite true.

      Its wrong to murder someone, state sanctioned killing happens all the time for various reasons.

      Other wise its like saying its wrong to steal yet HMRC steals from me every month!

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Mind numbingly simple

        Ninjas, that's not a valid comparison.

        The contractual relationship between you and HMRC is essentially you paying the Government to supply you with the various useful stuff of a nation - education, healthcare, law and order, defence etc.

        If you don't want to accept that contract then you do technically have the option to leave the country and move somewhere where some or all of the above is not provided and therefore doesn't need paying for.

        You probably don't want to do that though.

        Most states do sanction killing in self-defence, however I fail to see how killing someone who's already locked up can ever be considered that.

    2. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      Re: Mind numbingly simple

      "If its wrong to kill someone, then its wrong to kill someone." Yes, I can see that your mind is very numb. Please consider the following train of thought:

      1. How about self-defence? If I'm going to kill one of your loved ones, and the only way to stop me is to kill me, would you get off your moral hobbyhorse and do it or let your loved one die (probably in great fear and pain) just to keep your moral cleanliness intact?

      2. Is it easier morally if you can stay on your hobbyhorse and keep your hands clean by having someone else, a designated, trained and authorised person (such as a soldier or a cop), do the defensive act of killing for you, as long as you are 100% sure I'm a threat and they act within the law?

      3. How about if you really want to ensure that nasty old me does not get even close to your loved one, because if you wait too late I may manage to kill that loved one anyway, would you be happy if the authorised defender killed me as soon as it was shown I had an intent to kill your loved one?

      If you thought at point one that a killing in self-defence was not justified then I just pity your loved ones, they obvioulsy mean less to you than your ideals. If you agreed to point two then you're like most civilised people - agree that sometimes killing is justified, just don't want to do it yourself, hence why we have military forces. If you got down to the last part at least thinking "maybe", then you just came out in support of the death sentence.

    3. Tom 13

      Re: Mind numbingly simple

      So if there's a guy with a machine gun about to use it on the crowd of people at the bus stop, and you happen to be in a watch tower 100 yards away with a scoped rifle, it is wrong to shoot the guy with the machine gun?

      1. Keep Refrigerated

        Re: Mind numbingly simple

        Well let's just I happened to be 100 yards away from you on a rooftop with my own precision rifle. I can't see the guy with the machine gun but I can see you sitting there with a scoped rifle about to shoot someone down below... what then?

        That's the problem with these 'shoot-first' self-defense laws as exhibited in Florida currently. At what point do you draw the line between standing your ground against someone standing their ground? At what point are you qualified to judge a 'suspicious' person is guilty of committing a crime and it's your place to stop them?

        Anyway the discussion was about the death penalty, not hypothetical life or death situations - in this case what to do about the man who already slaughtered those people with his machine gun.

        Sadly no matter what punishment is done to him, that's not going to resurrect those people and history shows, it's not going to prevent similar future incidents either. Perhaps there are other useful ways he could be made to compensate?

  14. Turtle

    Not necessarily about deterrence.

    It might be the case - and certainly is the case, in my opinion - that the only fit punishment for some crimes is the death penalty, irrespective of its effectiveness as a deterrent, or its cost.

    Did John Wayne Gacy or Ted Bundy really deserve anything other than the death penalty? And Richard Speck, having murdered eight student nurses one evening, had a wonderful time in prison! Or to put this in terms more understandable to those across the sea, for the names given, substitute "Fred West" and "Ian Brady", for example. Or "Harold Shipman". Well two of those topped themselves, so they had the last laugh, now didn't they? And we know what happened, or is happening, to Ian Brady. Is that really so humane?

    1. Schultz

      John Wayne, Ted Bundy

      I believe it's Al Bundy and he deserved everything he got.

      Concerning John Wayne, I don't believe he could be deterred, being a cowboy and all...

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mind numbingly simple


    So a mass-murderer slaughters your mother, wife, children and will do it again if given the chance. Do you

    a) end their life preventing it ever happening again while also providing a small comfort to the family of the victims as they know that person can never harm anyone again

    b) Keep them locked up for the rest of their lives at a cost of tens of thousands a year that is being paid for out of the taxes of honest law abiding people. Money which could have otherwise gone to improve or save lives in the form of better government services, infrastructure or NHS (I know free health care is the spawn of the devil according to a lot of Americans). The cost of keeping one person alive who by their own actions has shown they do not want to be part of society vs improving the lives of many

    Option a seems to be the mind numbingly simple option to me and put the money to better use

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: Mind numbingly simple

      I think you've missed a point here - by the time perps finally get executed in the US, they've already cost law-abiding citizens more than simply banging them up for life in the first place.

      That's how I interpret the figures, anyway.

      1. KroSha
        Big Brother

        Re: Mind numbingly simple

        Which only highlights a flaw in the lawyer feeding system in the US. Have capital crimes tried by the highest authority in the region and carry out the sentence within 1 month. Problem solved.

        1. Filippo

          Re: Mind numbingly simple

          That would save money, and it would increase judicial errors. Are you OK with the State killing innocents for money?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Filippo

            Yes. I would rather they put 100 scumbags to death and take the chance that 1 of them might be innocent than allow 100 scumbags to live just because people are worried 1 of them might be innocent. This is where reasonable doubt comes in. If there is doubt then it should be a life sentence unless new evidence comes to light. Do you really think these psychopaths would show you the same compassion if they were allowed to decide if you lived or died?

            BTW: I am not including 1 offs that happened during a heated argument or other such circumstances and it is likely that the person would pose no danger to other people in future. In those cases I do feel that the death penalty is too far. I'm just talking about the truly sick people who get off on maiming, torturing and taking someone else's life just because they can. Why exactly should we keep them alive?

            And the argument about sinking to their level doesn't wash. They chose their victims and usually put them through unbelievable hell before killing them just because they could and they got their kicks from it. The state is not picking a person at random and killing them on a whim and when they are executed after the presentation of evidence that proves their guilt it is done so in a much more humane manner than they showed their victims.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Filippo @AC 10:20

              There's always one and sometimes there's a whole country of them.

          2. Tom 13

            Re: OK with the State killing innocents

            Maybe not today, but let me tell you about the scariest thing I ever saw. It was on the Phil Donahue show (for those of you not old enough to remember him and not immersed in 'Merkin culture, he was the daddy of all talk show hosts) back around the time Reagan was first elected President.

            There was a story about a US diplomat's son being caned 20 times in Singapore (odd how they keep popping up in these discussions) for keying cars and the diplomat was trying to make a stink about the barbarity of it all (I would have fired the SOB on the spot, diplomats above all others should know about when in Rome etc if you don't have diplomatic immunity). Crime at that time had been rising in the US and people thought it would never end. In NYC two or three people were being murdered every day. A male WASP stood up on national tv and said something to the effect of "if caning vandals is what it takes to restore law and order over here, we should adopt it and stop complaining about what they do." And he got a rousing round of approval from the audience.

            People will only tolerate random violence for so long before they are willing to sign on with any dictator who promises them security. Ben Franklin may have been right about those people, but the time will come, and when it does, it is not just those people who go down with it.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Mind numbingly simple

        So speed up the system instead of allowing appeal after appeal after appeal but only in cases where there is no doubt whatsoever about the person being guilty

        1. teebie

          Re: Mind numbingly simple

          "no doubt whatsoever"

          Such as the cases of Cameron Todd Willingham or Timothy Evans where the prosecutors and judges has no doubt they were innocent? Both innocent men were exeuted because of bad science and evidence not yet discovered respectively.

      3. L.B.
        Thumb Down


        You are mistaking a terrible legal system with a specific argument for or against capital punishment.

        In the US many people are sentenced to death as much for a plea barganing chip by the DA as anything. A typical example being offer them the choice of the death sentence or confess and only get 20 years when they are not certain of a win.

        Most advocates of the death penalty would want a system closer to that of Japan, and the better states in the US, where the death sentence is only applied to the worst cases.

        These typically being where the perpetrator is exceptionally viscous, serial killers or killing for profit, though I would also add those indiscriminate killers like those who shoot into shops or crowds of people and those with previous convictions for assault and BGH.

      4. Tom 13

        Re: Mind numbingly simple

        The cost isn't part of the equation. And I say that in part because it's the noodniks who started pushing the anti-death penalty meme who are driving up the cost. One appeal and done, then off to the chair/wall/chamber fixes that problem real quick.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mind numbingly simple

      Obviously your mind is either too numb or too simple.

      Option b achieves the same as a without killing the convict and if you bothered to read anything about the cost of having someone on death row you'll find b is cheaper. Once the death sentence has been passed there is an automatic appeal process, just go read up on things before spouting crap.

      You also avoid the issue of deterrence. Money saved by not having the death penalty could be used to pay for a few more law enforcement agents to act as such a deterrent.

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

        Re: Re: Mind numbingly simple

        ".....Option b achieves the same as a without killing the convict...." The reality is unles you die before the end of your term, i.e. your sentence is so great it exceeds your llifespan, most "lifers" do not die in prison and will be eventually released on parole. Here in the UK we are subject to Article 110 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which sets minimum (25 years) and maximum (35 years) terms for life sentences before a review which could lead to a parole or even a reduction in sentence (e.g., reduced from life to a fixed term of years). The state actually has to go to court after these periods to keep you locked up, as shown in the Myra Hindley case after her sentence was upped to life, and where the Home Secretary even considered charging Hindley with additonal crimes to keep her locked up (thankfully she died unexpectedly before her campaign for release could succeed). So, no, option b is not the same as option a, which guarantees the criminal will definately never enjoy freedom again.

  16. Peter 48

    Looking at it from a completely unemotional point of view, what is the cost difference between incarcerating someone for life and executing them? The financial incentives alone could sway this debate.

    The biggest problem with the death penalty is that to be just the guilt of the convicted would have to be 100% proven. Not without reasonable doubt as it currently is but with absolutely no doubt what so ever and that is virtually impossible. If there is even so much as a minuscule chance that an innocent person is being sent to their death the system should not be allowed to proceed. There have been too many cases where people on death-row have been acquitted to call executions a just punishment.

  17. Piro


    How exactly do you make an execution expensive?

    How much is a piece of rope or a 9mm round? Christ...

    1. Filippo

      Re: Costly..

      Execution is cheap. Making sure that you're killing the right guy is costly.

      1. Turtle

        Re: Costly.., OR... Costly.

        "Execution is cheap. Making sure that you're killing the right guy is costly."


        "Sentencing someone to life imprisonment is cheap. Making sure that you're sentencing the right guy is costly."

        The idea is that when you are sentencing someone to death, or to whatever is going to replace the execution, "making sure you've got the right guy" is as easy or as hard as it is, irrespective of the sentence in prospect.

        Another thing: Death sentences are subject in numerous layers of judicial review. I do not believe (I could be wrong) that life sentences are subject to the same intensive scrutiny. If so, that would lead to the conclusion that more innocent people could be erroneously sentences to life imprisonment, than would be subjected to execution.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Death penalty

    If you belive in an afterlife a death penalty makes sence.

    However if you do not then its an easy way out.

  19. Crisp Silver badge

    Since when were sentences supposed to be a deterrent?

    Aren't we supposed to be rehabilitating offenders for the day when they will eventually get released back into society? The whole idea of revenge and vengeance completely undermines the concept of justice. This is why we don't allow the victim to decide the sentence.

    I for one would rather have people released from prison rehabilitated, rather than be released after harbouring a grudge against society for 25 years.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Since when were sentences supposed to be a deterrent?

      Killing someone doesn't really manage much in the way of rehabilitation, so it can only be a deterrent or revenge.

    2. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      Re: Since when were sentences supposed to be a deterrent?

      Sentences have alwasy been meant as a punishment and a deterrent. And they are not imposed for just any crimes, even many murders do not get life sentences. They are supposed to be the ultimate punishment for exceptional crimes. Public executions back in the day were all about letting the public know that justice was being served and to deter them from acting illegally themselves. Now we have the media circus to do the publicity for us.

      "......I for one would rather have people released from prison rehabilitated, rather than be released after harbouring a grudge against society for 25 years." Which is what parole is about - if you're judged to have "rehabilitated" you get out early. Even murderers can get out on parole. It is only if they are judged not rehabilitated or still a risk to the public that they are kept inside, therefore protecting the public. The latter not only prevents crime by the incarerated but deters other crims by letting them see they cannot just bank on getting out early. However, some people, like Moors Murderer Ian Brady, simply cannot ever be judged to not be a threat to the public, and so you have the choice of locking them up or executing them. In Ian Brady's case, I'd rather they'd hung him.

      1. Intractable Potsherd

        Re: Since when were sentences supposed to be a deterrent?

        The thing is, Brady has been trying to die for years. Successive governments keep stopping him, seemingly out of spite.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Isn't it curious...

    ... that in the US, before you get killed as an act of "justice" by the various US states, you get to spend years and years on death row, costing lots more than when simply left to rot until you pop your clogs of your own volition? One could make a case of cruel and unusual punishment on the grounds of prolonged psychological torture without any chance to redeem oneself whatsoever.

    To me, it says something about the "reasoning" US law bases itself on. Like most crime, this "anti-crime" system is hardly rational. Lots of crims believe they'll get away with it or in their heart of hearts cannot admit responsibility for their own deeds; it's always someone else's fault, even if they get punished. US law seems more about retalliation than deterring, and has a rather negative incentive on trying to becoming a right upstanding member of society through redeeming oneself. Once a crim, always a crim is a pervasive thought in that system, and it doesn't matter that the system isn't helping there; the results are self-reinforcing.

    I don't think I like my justice based on that, no. There are other possibilities, of course. One reason why you could have the death penalty is to decide that you want to protect society from a certain someone so bad that the most effective way is to kill them right away. Such states exist, they don't dally with the execution. Kill, bury, next case please. This has drawbacks, but if you don't mind the occasional innocent killing then this is a lot cheaper.

    Or you could try other ways, like that Norwegian prison island where inmates have to pull their own weight. Apparently very few who've served their sentence there fall back. You could simply look at all the cases that go through court each year and measure that sort of thing, then figure out more ways to show them the error of their ways in a way that sticks and prevents them from straying again. There's amazingly few studies about that, apparently.

    There will still be people that do things so bad, that are so far gone that I wouldn't know how they could possibly redeem themselves, but that's not really the point. The point is that "justice" is what we say it is and some systems are stuck in rather primitive tit-for-tat "reasoning". You could equally well have a different system, that doesn't hand out arbitrary and set-in-stone sentences, but that actively looks at what effect they have, and adjusts as necessary.

    But to do that you must understand what you're doing it for. I think many have taken it as obvious and haven't really thought about it. Seeing frequent calls for "tougher sentences" regardless of how tough the system already is, really thinking about crime and what to do about it isn't popular at all.

    1. Tom 13

      Re: Isn't it curious...

      The randomness of which you complain is the result of a system in which on one day anti-deterrent activist posing as moral people win the argument and on the next realists who understand the differences between types of crimes, rehabilitation, deterrence, and punishment do. If only one side were winning we'd either have a system that works or have decayed to anarchy so people would know it was the wrong choice.

  21. Magnus_Pym

    The only deterent...

    ... is the certainty of getting caught.

    It doesn't matter what the penalty is, if the crime has any thought behind it at all (and most don't) then the sure knowledge that you will not profit from it is the only thing that might stop you doing it so put the money into policing not punishment.

    Most murders are crimes of passion and/or anger. The murderer isn't making a considered judgement at all so possible punishment can make no difference. Other murders, those for profit or gain can be effected by the possible outcomes but people have to have something to lose for the threat of loss to be a deterrent and in a world where national lotteries are popular bets with odds a billion to one it's no surprise some people will think an armed robbery for a few dollars against a slim possibility of the death penalty represent a good punt

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      Re: The only deterent...

      ".....Most murders are crimes of passion and/or anger....." Most crimes of passion do not get death sentences. In fact, the majority or murder convictions do not lead to death or life sentences even when that option is available.

      Either way, you are also ignoring that we are all emotional creatures but we control our emotions as part of being sociable creatures. We do so by balancing the desire to emote with the consequences. Most people will bite their tongue if insulted as they realise they cannot be sure the result of a confrontation will be good, others just fly off the handle at the merest slight. For an ordinary person to lose control and commit murder takes an exceptional emotional pressure and there are legal guidleines for establishing just what point a person's argument that they "lost control" is justified. Not every husband that catches their wife in bed with another man immediately loses control and beats her or the other guy to death, in fact it is quite rare given the number of affairs. If it was massively more common then it would probably be more of a deterrent to infidielity!

      However, most violent incidents with real loss of control do not end in a fatality simply because unintentionally killing people is simply not that easy, just look at the number of muggings or Satruday night street fights compared to the number of deaths. It is when the violence is sustained, usually long after the point where the attacker could claim they were still inflamed, that fatal injuries usually occur. Or when a weapon is used, which leads to discussions of premeditation.

      If you were to get in an argument with your alduterous wife, start fighting and land a punch that kills her, you might get away with it being classed as a loss of control leading to manslaughter or second degree murder. However, if you got into the argument, then went to get a carving knife from the kitchen for the fight and ended up killing her, that premeditation of getting the weapon would usually rule out genuine "loss of control".

    2. Tom 13

      Re: The only deterent...

      No, most murders who are CAUGHT murdered in passion.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    hockeymask redemption

    Lecter gets 10 years off a 100 year sentence by mopping up and stuff in a damaged Nuclear reactor. Then at least they pay society back in some way.

  23. Crisp Silver badge

    Death Penalty

    The thing I've always wondered about the death penalty is, what do you do if it later turns out the guy you executed is innocent? Who is punished for the murder of an innocent man then? How do you go about giving the wrongly convicted prisoner his life back?

    1. LPF

      Re: Death Penalty

      blah blah blah blah using that analogy we should close down the NHS becuase it kills a couple of hundred people thoough mistakes every year.

      Its your kind of liberal stupidity, that means that the filth running around the streets of England, can shoot a 5 year old and paralse her and know the most they get is 14 years and their walking, and that will probally be less!

      In turkey, when rival football fans attack each other they stab their rivals in the buttocks, not becuase their gay, but becuase if you do that its classed as a minor assault, anywhere else and you do serious time.

      Murder you should get the rope, ned of story, its only expensive becuase of the lawyers, China seems to have no problem , dealing with the death sentence quickly.

      It make not stop all crime , but you can be damn sure people think twice before comitting one! and as someone pointed out you dont hear a lot of people stupid enough to try smuggling drugs into sinapore!

      1. teebie

        Re: Death Penalty

        That post didn't have an analogy in it.

        When there is a miscarriage of justice the victim should be compensated. You can't compensate a dead person. You can admit fault, and you can pardon them, but you can't come anywhere close to making up for the mistake/deliberate attempt to frame an innocent.

      2. Intractable Potsherd

        Re: Death Penalty @LPF

        If you are reduced to using China as an example of a functioning society, you have already lost the argument.

  24. Johan Bastiaansen

    don't underestimate the lawyers

    Don't underestimate the lawyers and their stupidity.

    We have had a couple of criminals in Belgium, like Dutroux, where it would be obvious for everyone that they should never be allowed to return to society. Another example is Breivik.

    However some lawyers are toying with the evil idea to do just that. They seem to find pleasure in twisting the law just to piss of the ordinary law abiding citizen.

    A way to stop them is to kill their client.

    If you know an alternative, please tell us.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: don't underestimate the lawyers

      Henry VI, Scene II, Act 4.

      And yes, I do know that he meant it for exactly the opposite reason.

      1. Tom 13

        Re: exactly the opposite reason.

        yeah, but that was a couple hundred years ago before lawyers devolved even further.

    2. Graham Bartlett

      Re: don't underestimate the lawyers

      Lawyers don't (always) enjoy it, but they're required by law to do it. Everyone being prosecuted gets a lawyer - that's one of the basic requirements of a fair trial. So the court system says "We need a lawyer for him. Mr Smith, you're not busy, so you're doing it." You aren't allowed to say no. And if you don't do your job of defending him properly, then (a) he could get released on appeal, (b) you could be struck off as a lawyer for not doing your job, or even (c) you could actually be prosecuted for contempt of court.

      1. Tom 13

        Re: don't underestimate the lawyers

        Yeah, you keep smoking that. It's the defense lawyers who make all the money. And having talked to one of the more prominent ones in my state (if you are ever found standing over a dead body with the smoking gun in your hand, he's the one you want), they KNOW their clients are guilty but they work to get them off anyway.

        1. Magnus_Pym

          @ Tom 13


    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: don't underestimate the lawyers

      "If you know an alternative, please tell us."

      Well, we could execute anybody that shows a propensity to violence. That would include anybody that advocates executing people (like you). Of course, cunning psychopaths would then hide their evil natures and stop killing. So, we'd have to execute anyone who doesn't advocate execution, just to be on the safe side.

  25. moonface

    Suspended animation

    I wonder if in the future, a 'Minority Report' style system may actually come into favour.

    A forced induced coma would certainly be a frightening deterrent for perpetrators and could satisfy the public's desire for vengeance. It is a pretty terrifying prospect to be disconnected from the natural world of time and space. Denied seeing the development of society and culture. To know that you will be denied even small pleasures such as eating, reading, TV, etc

    Costs may actually be reduced. Smaller Prison footprints, reduced guards and physical security. Obviously, offset against increased medical monitoring, etc.

    Miss carriages of justices resulting in an instant Lotto type lifestyles as compensation.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Suspended animation

      Well, Minority Report also had the concept of pre-crime. Since most of the execution fans commenting on these pages clearly have murder in their hearts, I guess they'd be among the comatose.

  26. Tom 7 Silver badge

    If you want to really make them suffer

    get them to tidy up some other bastards source code.

  27. Richard Scratcher

    If you can't do the time...

    I wouldn't murder someone. It's not the thought of a deterrent that prevents me, it's the idea that it's morally wrong. If by some means I was brought to an extreme state of mind that overruled these morals then I'm sure I would give little thought to the deterrent.

    That said, I think the following scenario might work with some criminals:

    "Drop the gun kid! You don't want to shoot me. So far you've only pirated a few DVDs but if you kill me you're looking at life."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If you can't do the time...

      >"Drop the gun kid! You don't want to shoot me. So far you've only pirated a few DVDs but if you kill me you're looking at life."

      Kid: Forget it cop, were both going to hell in a handcart. Rather that than be buggered by the RIAA in perpetuum.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Deterrent or not, Killers should be killed! Eye for an Eye.

    Better we get rid than keep paying to keep them alive locked up somewhere.

    1. Magnus_Pym

      Including the killers of killers?

      Of course not. They are state appointed killer.

      So a state appointed killer can shoot his wife if he wants?

      Of course not. There must be due legal process first.

      So anyone who is found guilty of killing someone after due legal process must be killed, no matter what the circumstances?

      Of course not. A woman who kills her kidnapper/rapist may have a reasonable case.

      So as long as they are found guilty and have no case to appeal they should be killed? Isn't that what you have got?

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Shorten the appeal process

    Being from Texas - I believe in the Death Penalty - I think they just need to speed it up some.

    Instead of 250 appeals to higher courts, you get 1 year.

    If you admit to guilt, they should just shoot you behind the courthouse and save even more money.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Shorten the appeal process

      Timothy Evans confessed and thousands of others lacking their full mental capacity confess to all sorts of crimes. Still, by killing them we'd be strengthing the gene pool and you'd get the fun of shooting the real murders later, a sort of two perps for one crime offer, but probably after they'd killed a few more people themselves.

    2. jake Silver badge

      @AC:10:27 (was: Re: Shorten the appeal process)

      "Being from Texas - I believe in the Death Penalty"

      Look up the meaning of "belief", A. Coward.

      But you're a self-identified "texan" ... You are sheeple, and either aren't equipped, or won't, understand my point, so I'll drop it there.

    3. jukejoint

      Re: Shorten the appeal process

      Oh yeah you Texans are reeeaaaal manly!

      I feel quite sure in my statement that your last example is too close to the truth.

      Because - are you sure Texas HAS an appeal process?

      I've heard it called "the railroad".

  30. mark 63 Silver badge

    Fun Facts

    2 fun facts that may be related.

    -America has by far the highest proportion of its population incacerated in the world

    - Life expectancy for certain demographics is higher on Death Row

  31. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    That Norwegian bloke...

    Anders Breivik *wants* the death penalty, coz he wants martyrdom.

    He's going to get life imprisonment.

    He called that a joke yesterday.

    Methinks that's because the prospect scares him rather more than a quick death.

  32. Vanir

    The fight against evil

    ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing’

    It may be necessary for good people to kill to halt the triumph of evil.

    Maybe the saying should be:

    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people lack the courage or will to act against evil."

    1. Magnus_Pym

      Re: The fight against evil

      Maybe. But that would be a completely different saying.

      I would suggest that that thought and form of words has been available for a long time so something similar has been has probably been said before. It has not, however, remained in the collective concious in the same way as the original. So it probably isn't as good.

    2. Intractable Potsherd

      Re: The fight against evil

      The problem is, there isn't any such thing as "evil".

    3. ainsley

      Re: The fight against evil

      Being presumptuously good, I defy your evil.

  33. Rande Knight

    Rehabilition And Cost

    Execution is a very costly rehabilitation - those executed never even think about doing it again.

    There's an easy way to make it cheaper. Only execute volunteers. If a prisoner decides they would rather die than live 10+ years in jail, I don't have a problem with this. Could be combined with assisted suicide legislation.

    1. Intractable Potsherd
      Thumb Up

      Re: Rehabilition And Cost

      I totally agree. However, it would require acceptance of the idea that convicted murderers have any rights to make decisions for themselves. That doesn't go down well with the "hang 'em quick and hang 'em high" brigade.

  34. Jonathan Samuels

    The issue with the penalty is it lowers the level for when violence can be justified.

    Civilized countries generally say the only time violence is acceptable is in immediate self defence of yourself or others.You are not killing a defenceless (even if totally evil) prisoner out of self defence you are doing it because its feels right

    Once you start using it for revenge or even 'justice' its becomes a lot easier to start justifying foreign wars, beating children etc and the general level of violence in society increases for everyone

  35. Shakje


    I see a lot of posts in this forum on both sides commit the same basic errors that the paper has been trying to correct - that you need a properly conducted study to assess these claims.

    The problem, in general, I've always found with the death penalty arguments is that they are driven by this very human idea of "common sense". It's obvious to some people that the death penalty is a deterrent in some or all cases. It's obvious to others that state-killing makes the population more violent. The reason that you have conflicting views is because you've taken an opinion, and decided that because that opinion seems obvious to you (presumably with absolutely no basis in psychology, or in studies concerning capital punishment) that it must be right, and then you may even have gone cherry-picking to show why your opinion is right above all others. Since neither side is (mostly) basing their statements of fact on anything other than personal opinion, you end up with some useless information about what people feel, without having any idea of what the actual answer is in regards to the death penalty.

    This is the same problem that features heavily in talks about video gaming violence. It's obvious to some people that kids who play games must become more violent. It's obvious to others that it has no long term effects. Throw in a few anecdotal examples of kids who never jacked cars until they played GTA, and the classic "I played video games all my life and I turned out ok" and you have a melting pot of anger and conflicting opinion.

    Do video games cause increased violence? I honestly don't know. I'd like to think they don't, and I do think that I turned out ok, but there's still no really definitive answer on the issue, so I'll reserve my opinion until there is.

    With the death penalty it's a little more difficult, because there's a moral aspect as well. Personally, I think it's wrong for the state to kill someone, but that really comes down to my views on morality, crime and punishment as a whole, and is heavily influenced by determinism. But when it comes down to whether or not it's effective as a way of influencing society or lowering crime rates, there's pretty even split on whether it does or it doesn't, and many of them have flaws, and there are an *awful* lot of factors that have to be considered whenever you talk about something like this.

    I was talking to someone once who tried to argue that because the murder rate was far lower in the 50s in the States, it showed that society was gradually getting worse and declining morally (this was intricately linked to his beliefs as a Jehovah's Witness, which necessitated a declining society, but he's a really smart, learned guy, and I enjoy talking to him, however he did try and tie in this figure with abortions, atheism, and socialism). Of course, if you look at the data, there was a sharp decrease about 1945, and started rising as the new generation grew up. Now I don't want to make too many inferences so I'll let you piece it together yourselves, but I don't think it's coincidence that an event which took away large chunks of the most murderous age group in society matches up with a sudden drop in crime.

    Things like inter-state migration, gun laws, increased gang activity, all these things can change the murder rate, so it's still a pretty open ended question, so can we please all stop stating what we think is obvious as fact? Or treating people who disagree with these opinions as if they're stupid because it's not obvious to them? Take Newtonian gravity. If we step even a teensy little bit outside of our everyday experiences, it breaks. This alone should show us that everything we think of as obvious, until it's backed up with *solid* evidence, is a lucky guess at best.

    I apologise for the long post, but it is one thing that really annoys me.

    1. Tom 13

      Re: sharp decrease about 1945

      bad correlation. For that to be the correlation it should start in 1942 because the change was pretty quick.

  36. mrfill

    Let him have it....

    If it is such a great deterrent, why is it that in neighbouring states in the US, one with, one without the death penalty, the murder rate (especially the murder of police) is always higher in the states with the death penalty?

    Perhaps it could be that in a state with the death penalty, you may as well kill as many as you can. In which case the death penalty actually encourages murder rather than deter it.

    Most murders in the UK are 'crimes of passion' - man killing nagging wife or wife killing violent husband. If you want to deter murder, it would be more effective to ban Stella Actatwat.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      Re: Let him have it....

      "....In which case the death penalty actually encourages murder rather than deter it..." You have failed to link cause and effect, simply pointed to two symptoms and assumed one caused the other. It could just be that the people in the state with the death sentence are more likely to murder for other reasons (they drink or do drugs more, or have people with more strongly conflicting views/beliefs in the same area, or have more deprived cities, etc, etc).

    2. Tom 13

      Re: Let him have it....

      Because you made it up to support your point of view.

    3. GotThumbs

      Re: Let him have it....

      You can't compare the UK with the US. The general ethics of the US society is not remotely close to the UK or Canada.

      In the US, the standards of society are dropping. Race is such an issue that most give in to lowering standards....just so headcounts can match up. True equality, would eliminate race all-together, but then everyone would be expected to be self-responsible and self-reliant. There IS a large number of people (all races) in the US who want things given to them...without working, and they have zero ethics/morals when it comes to getting what they want.

      My parents are both from the UK and I was born in Canada. I've lived in the US most of my life and I feel the US is in a downward spiral. I feel it is quite possible that I will leave the US if things continue as they are.

      1. Intractable Potsherd


        I had to downvote you for this; "There IS a large number of people (all races) in the US who want things given to them...without working, and they have zero ethics/morals when it comes to getting what they want." This is an awful statement with no evidence, and reeks of prejudice.

        However, I do agree with all your other comments.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Never going... stop people killing each other, for one reason or another. The penalty makes precisely NO difference. If you're at the point of murder, you're not thinking `what if I get caught`.

    Death penalty, no death penalty, whatever. People will kill people, forever. It's our inner ape. Not much to be done about it.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There's no conclusive evidence that the death penalty deters crime

    There's no conclusive evidence that easy access to guns cause crime.

    However, the US has guns, the death penalty, and an awful lot of crime. US right-wingers advocate freedom from Big Government, but support the state's right to take life. They'll happily take up their guns and kill to deny women access to abortions. Why would people like this, and their Daily Mail-reading cousins* in the UK be swayed by any rational study?

    In the name of Life, Death!

    (*Yes I read the Grauniad, and, oooh, I could murder a bowl of muesli right now)

  39. aelfheld

    Deters at least one person

    every time - never heard of an executed criminal killing anyone after the execution.

    Besides, anyone who thinks the purpose of execution is to deter others is not living in the real world. It's the ultimate punishment, which is why it should be used sparingly.

  40. MRMe


    If they were executed straight away on conviction maybe the would not be so amused

  41. Local Group

    To deter or not to deter

    If you want to deter murders and not just be members of a High Minded Society, you must televise every execution, including the condemned dragging his version of Marley's chain down a long corridor to the device of execution where he gets a cream pie in the face before the trap door opens.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: To deter or not to deter

      ...and the country's elected leader of the day should be the one pulling the lever, since it is done In Our Name.

  42. Anonymous Coward001

    It's not about deterrence

    It's about societal vengeance.

    The death penalty, like ANY penalty, is a form of social vengeance. If criminal penalties were in fact about deterrence, people would be released as soon as we had some sort of assurance that they "Were very very sorry and would never ever do that again."

    The state protects the rights of its citizens but alone reserves the ability to remove those rights when those rights are abused. To drastically simplify, in the US our constitution grants us life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as inalienable rights granted by God.

    Clearly we require that some curb be placed on those rights and indeed, the social contract as laid out by political philosophers from Locke to Hobbes by definition involves the curtailment of ones natural freedoms. The law-abiding accept the state as the sole authority that may through judicial process temporarily or permanently remove those rights. The death penalty is there as one of the options a state may pursue in case of grievous injury done to its citizens, injury for which no recompense may ever reasonably be made.

    It's not a question of, "Very sorry, won't do that again." It's simply, "You shouldn't have done it, our judgement is that the rights of which you deprived others now be taken from you."

    As for deterrence... I've never once seen an executed individual on the repeat offender list. Executed criminals have absolutely perfect records thereafter, without exception. That's pretty good deterrence I'd say. They can laugh at it all the want... right up to the execution.

    Love the bit about posters unwilling to submit PII being anonymous cowards by the way. Very cute. The idea that someone's being unwilling to submit information to yet ANOTHER website that can thereafter flood one's mailbox with useless crap makes one a coward struck me funny. Get over yourselves Reg. Throughout history anonymity has been a method for the law abiding to question an individual, policy, law, or a social trend without suffering what may be unjust censure or in this case, yet more spam email.

    Jefferson's critiques of President Washington were all submitted to their various outlets anonymously because it was the only way those critiques could be vented without causing rifts in a fledgling government. Palestinian gays attend their parties anonymously and go to great lengths to protect their identities reasons that should be quite obvious to even the most passive observers.

    This case is far less ground-shaking in that the Reg and its denizens are incapable of any great harm to me... but for the sake of my email box, I shall bear the epithet laid on my head by the people who so blatantly seek my PII with pride. Let this be one Anonymous Coward's mini-manifesto, from me to you via this self-destructing email addy... Ppppththth!

    1. Local Group

      Re: Isn't the fear of vengeance a deterrent?

      The penalties meted out in the courts of law are the costs of criminal behavior. Mugging an old lady will cost the mugger so much time in the slammer. Kidnapping and blackmail will cost a lot more Slaying a police officer in the performance of his duty will assure the perp the loss of all the time he has left. Some in jail, the rest in the grave.

      Why shouldn't our Capitalist Society look at crime as a function of supply and demand?

      The higher the price for the commission of crime, the less willing will criminals be to pay for it..

      The mindlessness of NATO or the EU's desire to eliminate capital punishment is a relic of the Age of Reason. "Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right."

      The world today would be wise to return to "An eye for an eye." It has a much better track record.

      1. Magnus_Pym

        Re: Isn't the fear of vengeance a deterrent?

        "The world today would be wise to return to "An eye for an eye." It has a much better track record." reference required.

        1. Local Group

          Re: Isn't the fear of vengeance a deterrent?

          If the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia were only more forthcoming about their beheadings and hand loppings, maybe this could be settled once and for all.

  43. John LS

    only reason death penalty is not an effective deterrent is because they pussy about and don't lop their heads of immediately verdict is passed

    1. Magnus_Pym

      @John LS

      That's because they want to be sure they are not lopping the heads off the right people.

      They could lower the burden of proof and play a percentage game on the guilty/innocent quotient. But that leads to slippery slop of lowering the value of human life. You might as well say 'Just kill anyone accused of murder and save the cost of prison AND the trial as well; after all, it's probably 75:25 that you will get the right person'. What was the point of not killing O J Simpson? He probably did it and there are millions of other people in the world. What about Kenny Richey? What would be the downside of killing him even though he didn't do it? He's not going to add a great deal to human existence in his remaining years is he? If fact why bother with the cost of investigation. If they look guilty they it's better than 50:50 that they are guilty, at least of something.

      Why stop at murder? What right has any bad citizen got to using an inordinate amount of tax dollars required for the over-careful justice system?

      We should just put our faith in the police and politicians in the sure knowledge that they are competent and incorruptible. Any mistakes are just the cost of living in a crime free society.

      1. Local Group

        Re:That's because they want to be sure they are not lopping the heads off the right people

        That's what the politicians want their constituents to think. The members of Club Death Row have the Criminal Lawyers Lobby to thank for the 5 and 10 year extended stays of their execution.

        There's no reason we should not execute convicted criminals a month after they are sentenced.

        And if we should accidently execute an innocent, as you said, that's the cost of doing business.

        The collateral damage of running the most successful empire in history.

        Why do we weep so for an innocent man or woman executed in error, while we just tsk tsk at the 40,000 annual deaths on our highways?

        Highways are essential to our economy and we are unwilling to do anything which slows the flow of goods and services.

  44. GotThumbs

    Of course....if its 10, 15, or 20 years in the US, before a killer might be executed...

    "Researchers have concluded there's no concrete evidence that the death penalty has any effect on homicide rates in the United States."

    Because the US is the WORST at actually enforcing the death penalty in any way that resembles timely consequences for taking a life. Many, many cases go on for 15 to 20 years before the killer is actually executed. There is NO swift justice...even when it's clearly beyond the shadow of a doubt. Mean-while, the killer is living on the states dime. 3 hot meals a day, shelter, individual bed, clean sheets, warmth, clothing, exercise and media access. Yes, its supposed to be punishment, but I'm willing to bet the US has the most comfortable prisons on the planet. When one of the Somalia pirates was sentenced to 15 years in US Prison, I read he had a smile on his face. The bulk of our prisons are a joke, because most liberals feel it would be cruel and unusual punishment to withhold access to services many law abiding citizens don't have access to. We have people who don't have quality housing, eat less than quality food, have no guaranteed access to healthcare, etc. US Prisons are for the most part....a great place for those who have zero desire to be self-sufficient. Our most famous sheriff...Sheriff Joe gets razed because He actually makes time in his jail feel like a punishment. Pink garments, chain gangs, some live in tents....which is a great way to address over crowding. $250.00 tent and you can house two or more inmates. America is being run more and more by individuals who do not care about whats right or just. They care about votes...and some states even allow illegal immigrants to vote....then no politician wants to piss any potential voters off. Personally, I think most of the self-sufficient people will slowly migrate....either north....or out of the US all together. 20-30 years from now....see if I'm right.

    1. Local Group

      Re:The wheels of justice turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fIne.

      I guess they need some oil. Like everybody else.

      The best ever story of American Justice. The story of Governor Bill Janklow.

      "He served four terms as South Dakota’s governor and was elected to represent the state in Congress in 2002. Janklow resigned in 2004 after his conviction in the accident that killed a motorcyclist the year before.

      At the press conference when he announced he had inoperable cancer, Janklow called the accident his sole regret in life.

      “If I had to do it over, I’d do everything I did, but I’d stop at a stop sign,” Janklow said at the time, according to the AP.

      Janklow had sped through a stop sign after leaving an event in Aberdeen in 2003, killing motorcyclist Randy Scott. At his trial, Janklow’s defense attorney argued that he had hypoglycemia and was confused by his low blood sugar.

      The jury convicted the congressman of second-degree manslaughter and he resigned shortly after. He was sentenced to 100 days in jail."

      He went through the stop sign at 70 and was drunk as a lord, needless to say. He was released after 30 days.

    2. stanimir

      Re: Of course....if its 10, 15, or 20 years in the US, before a killer might be executed...

      but I'm willing to bet the US has the most comfortable prisons on the planet.

      This must be a joke. The majority of US prisons are private owned and the inmates are virtual slaves.

      1. Magnus_Pym

        Re: Of course....if its 10, 15, or 20 years in the US, before a killer might be executed...

        "The majority of US prisons are private owned and the inmates are virtual slaves".

        If you are rich enough you can get to go to one of the other ones though.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    An eye-for-an-eye

    I don't care if they are crazy, insane or laughing when they die - as long as they die.

    1. Local Group

      Re: apropos of low blood sugar and 'scaping the hangman's noose.

      "Martha Sharp Crawford von Bülow (September 1, 1931 – December 6, 2008), known as Sunny von Bülow, was an American heiress and socialite. Her husband, Claus von Bülow (b. 1926), was convicted of attempting her murder by insulin overdose, but the conviction was overturned on appeal. A second trial found him not guilty, after experts opined that there was no insulin injection and that her symptoms were attributable to over-use of prescription drugs. The story was dramatized in the book and movie, Reversal of Fortune. Sunny von Bülow lived almost 28 years in a persistent vegetative state until her death in a New York nursing home on December 6, 2008".

      One day soon, villains will be murdering their victims with 50 units of fast acting insulin. And all of us will be forced to carry a pound of Godiva chocolates with us at all times.

      1. stanimir

        Re: apropos of low blood sugar and 'scaping the hangman's noose.

        the extra fats in the chocolate slows up glucose intake. You need pure glucose, not chocolate, although 50units dose is a might one.

        1. Local Group

          Re: apropos of low blood sugar and 'scaping the hangman's noose.

          I prefer several dark chocolate truffles for hypoglycemia and am willing to wait a few minutes longer to be able to walk and talk. I try not to post anything during low blood sugar events.

  46. Nameless Faceless Computer User

    Old News

    Penn and Teller reported this years ago. Their report might still be up on YouTube.

  47. jukejoint


    I found this too entrancing not to post.

    When I clicked on this story, it said there were 187 comments.

    187 is the penal code for homicide in the state of California.

    Homicide comments!

    (Not as lethal as the "homicide comet" featured in the sci-fi story I am writing...}

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's not all about deterent, its about justice. An eye for an eye.

  49. Pete the not so great

    Just kill everyone

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