Last Update: 15 Aug 00
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REPLY #11 TO
"CRIME AND PUNISHMENT"
However, even our current system virtually ensures that anybody who is convicted of a capital offense is actually the one who commited the offense.
(R) This is a false statement. The state of Illinois has found more inmates on death row not guilty (14), then it has executed (12) since that state reinstituted the death penalty. One inmate was 1 day away from execution when he was found not guilty of the capital offense. Who found him innocent? Not the "bunch of sleazeball attorneys" who "drag a lengthy, and usually worthless, appeals process in a situation that borders on complete lunacy." No, Mark, a journalism class at Northwestern University found that man not guilty. It seems to me that your concept of a death penalty process is a bit warped.
(MB) I think you may have missed the fact that this particular case is an anomaly based on a corruption scandal in the Illinois state prosecutor's office. The governor was correct in commuting or suspending the sentences until such time as the scandal is resolved. The system *does* work.
Also, you should be careful about equating a verdict of "not guilty" with the accused actually being "innocent". A person who actually did commit the crime(s) of which he has been accused can still be found "not guilty" for many technical and legal reasons that have nothing to do with whether or not he might be "innocent". Consider whether O.J. Simpson was found "not guilty" or "innocent" in his criminal trial. Our legal system bends over backwards to give every benefit of every doubt to the accused.
(R) It is a fact that while whites commit the majority of the murders in the United States, the majority of those on death row are poor blacks.
(MB) One must also factor in the different state laws and the black/white population and crime rate ratios in the states which do or do not permit capital punishment. Adding up all murders in all states will not produce valid figures for comparison.
(R) This goes for the most heinous crimes as well. Most serial killers are whites, so saying that the crimes blacks commit are far worse is a falsehood.
(MB) How many serial killers are there in comparison to the number of individuals who commit murder or other violent crimes? Serial killer cases just make for more spectacular reports on the evening news. Also, one must consider the ratio of non-violent crimes to violent crimes committed by any group. If one only goes by raw numbers, whites are always going to be on top of any statistical list simply because they constitute the overwhelming majority of the general population.
(R) I agree with you when you say that "race should not even be an issue when someone comes to trial." Unfortunately, it is. So is economic standing. A man is far more likely to get the death penalty for killing a white person than for killing a black person.
(MB) This will likely continue to be the case so long as we continue to view ourselves as "black and white" instead of as "Americans" or "humans". But, the simple existence of racial tensions is not sufficient reason to dismantle what is essentially and ideally a colorblind system of justice -- even if it may appear to be applied unequally. We must also be careful not to go overboard in the other direction and give preferential treatment to any person or group who wishes to claim some sort of oppression or discrimination.
(R) Race. The majority of urban and rural crimes are commited by whites, while the majority of the prisoners are nonwhites, despite disparate population sizes. Race, and money. For one to maintain credibility, they must maintain that there are inequities in the legal system.
(MB) I'll never claim that the system is perfect. However, there's also no justification for the efforts being made to seemingly exclude certain groups from the responsibility of playing by the rules codified in our legal system. Civil disobedience is one thing. Active disregard and disrespect for the legal system is another.
(R) If you want to execute someone, fine. But for God's sake, make sure that he is a guilty man! Otherwise, you are no better than him.
(MB) I agree and wouldn't have it any other way. My argument is with the extreme expense and length of time required by the large percentage of attempts to rescue somebody from Death Row. Often, these efforts go on even though the criminal has confessed to the crime and is not himself opposing his prescribed punishment. My argument is also with those who oppose capital punishment whether or not the criminal is unquestionably guilty of his crime(s).
(R) Usually your arguments in these essays are balanced and mature; I'm not sure I can say the same for this one, Mark. Perhaps you were having a bad day, but you did the thing you often criticize creationists for in your other essays - you let you emotion take over. Maybe you should rethink some of your statements and edit this one, you'll look far more credulous.
(MB) I've thought them over long and hard for many years. It's inevitable that some people will disagree with me on any given issue, but that's the nature of this type of debate forum. The main purpose is to allow for the presentation and refutation of all sides of the issue. I will never be so brash as to declare myself to be unerringly right about everything, but I don't write about anything which hasn't received a large amount of personal thought and study. My hard line on this issue also comes from finding no reasons to justify the commission of violent and capital crimes and the realization that appropriate punishment and deterrence are needed.
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