Blog Post? YouTube Comment? Mississippi Supreme Court Order? Whatever.

Mississippi Supreme Court Presiding Justice Michael K. Randolph wanted to speak his mind, and he wanted to speak his mind right the hell now, in the first medium available to him.

As it turned out, that was not in a letter to the editor or a tweet or a LiveJournal post or in a screed made up of letters ill-cut from discarded magazines. It was in an order stopping the State of Mississippi — temporarily at least — from killing Willy Manning.

Willy Manning came so close to death he could smell the alcohol swab. But finally — with the Federal Bureau of Investigation questioning the reliability of its own forensic analysis and testimony in the case, with other elements of the case plagued by doubt, and with untested DNA samples available, the Mississippi Supreme Court was moved to stay his execution pending further proceedings, which will probably include the DNA tests he has been fighting for.

Presiding Justice Michael K. Randolph, by contrast, was moved to use his dissent from the stay to tell America what he thinks of the FBI. In addition to saying all of Manning's arguments should have been raised before — a familiar and unremarkable argument — and apparently having no other outlet, he let fly with this:

The letter also states that the Department of Justice is "assist[ing] [the Innocence Project and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers] in their evaluations." "The Innocence Project supports a moratorium on capital punishment." The "NACDL has been an outspoken critic of the death penalty system. Of critical concern is the language contained in the first FBI report stating that, "[g]iven the abbreviated time frame for review, the FBI requests the Innocence Project (IP) to advise as to whether or not they agree with the FBI's conclusions as soon as possible." Although the connectivity and expediency by which this review was accomplished is mind boggling, I should not be surprised, given that the families of the victims of the clandestine "Fast and Furious" gun running operation can't get the Department of Justice to identify the decision makers (whose actions resulted in the death of a border agent and many others) after years of inquiry, and that this is the same Department of Justice that grants and enforces Miranda warnings to foreign enemy combatants." [emphasis in original]

THANKS, OBAMA!

Mississippi has chosen this man to help decide whether inmates should live or die or spend the rest of their lives in dank holes. This should not cause you any concern, or weaken your faith in our criminal justice system. I'm sure his judgment is sound, his temperament ideal, and all of his faculties equal to the task.

Hat tip to Brian Tannebaum.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

Comments

  1. Maddy says

    Naturally the place to make such a statement is when deciding if an individual should be killed by the state or not.

    What's wrong with you Ken that you can't see this?

    His fellow judges must love him.

  2. Pete says

    I think Justice Michael K. Randolph comments extensively on articles on the L.A. Times website. I'd recognize that unique voice and those evidence-based assertions anywhere.

  3. says

    Fortunately there is no historical resonance whatsoever in a beefy white Mississippi official getting incensed at the FBI getting in the way of killing a black guy.

  4. says

    It looks like he missed an important opportunity to point out that The Innocence Project is headquartered in (gasp!) New York City. Also, take some points away for not bringing up The War of Northern Aggression.

  5. naught_for_naught says

    I know that I'm committing at least one fallacy of logic or reasoning when I say this, but the guy was appointed by Haley Barbour. What else could we expect?

    The Innocence Project, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the DOJ, they're all just outside agitators and carpetbaggers.

  6. GregS says

    The same justice is all up in arms about giving "Miranda warnings."

    Never mind that Miranda warnings are law of the land, and determined by the supreme court, and really are a very crucial underpinning of the justice system.

    And silly me, figuring that a state supreme court justice would find such contempt for Miranda warnings. I guess it's perfectly reasonable for "State Supreme Court Justices (SM)" to approve of: Just beating the flippin' tar out of suspects until they confess and he'll be dammed if we should tell them they have the right to reasonable representation.

    I have words for such a "justice" but I can't use them in polite company.

  7. Trebuchet says

    Justice Randolph has Newt Gingrich hair. Strike one.

    Justice Randolph "was decorated for heroism in Vietnam. He served as an air traffic controller with the U.S. Army 1st Infantry Division…"

    Nothing like heroically controlling the traffic.

  8. James says

    Glad to see a stay here. Next up will hopefully (but doubtfully) be William Van Poyck, (deathrowdiary.blogspot.com) over the stupidity that is allowing executions for Felony Murder.

  9. Lurker says

    @marissa : They use alchohol swabs because they're doctors, and thats the right way to do an injection. What if the injection was cancelled at the last minute?

    @trebuchet : As much as I detest defending this guy, Vietnam didnt really have a defined "front". An airbase in the rear being raided and him seeing combat as a result is a possibility.

  10. Kat says

    @Merissa: Making sure the injection site is sterile.

    The reasons why this is done are complicated, but it boils down to a cruel and unusual punishment argument if it's not done.

  11. Dictatortot says

    I have no idea where Randolph thought he was going with the "Fast and Furious" reference. However, I've seen plenty of the Innocence Project, and it's merely dealing in the obvious to point out that they'd love to see the defendant back on the street … whether he's guilty or not. For a group with "innocence" in its name, they seem remarkably unconcerned with the concept, except as a pretext for emptying the prisons. To have any credibility as an opponent of unjust imprisonment or execution, it kind of helps to give the impression that one believes in the concept of their just counterparts.

    I can't definitively say whether Mr. Manning is innocent or guilty. But neither do I believe for a heartbeat that anyone who fought for his stay cared whether he was innocent. If anything, his advocates fought harder the surer they were of his guilt–what could be more transgressive and interesting, after all?

    If Manning is innocent, I hope he goes free. but his partisans have earned no benefit of the doubt w/r/t their concern for innocence or guilt, or for anything but antinomian crusades against Caesar in all his retributive capacities.

  12. Merissa says

    @Lurker: I don't know who "marissa" is, but thanks for addressing my question. That being said, in most states lethal injections are not performed by doctors.

  13. says

    I wonder what the judges reaction woudl have been had the accused did a Hand Stand in the interrogation room while singing Dido songs.

  14. George William Herbert says

    Dictatortot:
    "However, I've seen plenty of the Innocence Project, and it's merely dealing in the obvious to point out that they'd love to see the defendant back on the street … whether he's guilty or not. For a group with "innocence" in its name, they seem remarkably unconcerned with the concept, except as a pretext for emptying the prisons."

    You appear to live in a fantasy world unconnected to the real world. The Innocence Project does in fact, by every reputable source I have ever seen on the matter, filter for actual factual innocence very carefully.

    If you have any reputable sources regarding exceptions to that information, please show your cards.

  15. Dictatortot says

    Well, let me ask you in all sincerity, GWH: If the staffers of the Innocence Project reviewed the evidence of a death-row case, and believed the suspect to be guilty, would they be all right with the execution proceeding? Would they withhold their assistance if they thought they had a reasonable procedural way of stopping it? Granted, there's probably no firm way of backing up either a "yes" or a "no" answer. But I hope you'll pardon someone whose gut instinct tells him "no" on all counts.

  16. Dictatortot says

    Xbradtc: I'd also like to hear the answer to that question. Awaiting with bated breath.

  17. a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says

    @Dictatortot: In point of fact, the Innocence Project does screen for innocence. You appear to have some hostility to the concept of requiring legitimately analyzed evidence to support the burden of beyond a reasonable doubt.

    What you fail to comprehend is that protecting the integrity of the evidentiary process protects the legitimacy of the legal system, to the greatest benefit of the innocent accused. Surely you cannot imagine being in that position yourself, but I suspect you'd want only evidence analyzed in strict accordance with best practices.

    The Innocence Project has no agenda of emptying prisons, except for those residents who aren't actually guilty. There are far too many, including those who likely would have been found not guilty with a rigorous analysis of the available evidence.

  18. Dictatortot says

    Oh, believe it or not, I certainly don't trust the government enough to think I could never find myself in such a position. On the other hand, depending on one's definition of "reasonable doubt," it's possible to conceive of a polity where criminality is de facto nigh-impossible to establish or to requite. That's a false choice, obviously (I hope), but between the two extremes, I'm not sure I wouldn't prefer the former–even if it were my innocent hide on the line. I'm still not convinced that many an advocate doesn't cherish the latter as an ideal.

  19. says

    @Dictatortot – "Would love to see " is a pretty vague statement. If by love to see you mean they are/helping/involved in faking evidence or something of that sort, I'd love to see your evidence. I've known only 2 people (and they were law students who told me they were involved, I didn't have any proof) involved and a handful of a pretty militantly anti-death penalty outfit in Miami. The latter absolutely was just about doing anything they could to stress and crack the system which they sincerely felt focused on the 'ugly', 'undesirable', 'mentally retarded', and just generally people that society didn't like. The first two however, were all about using evidence to prove prosecutors played it fast and loose and that poor people don't typically get the same representation wealthier folks do (note I said generally). Even if innocence just blindly were out to get everyone off, that doesn't delegitimize them unless they do something b/c of that belief that crosses ethical and legal boundaries. I'll shut up b/c my record is really bad talking about legal issues but I think you're being quite unfair unless I'm really missing the point(s) you're making

  20. Dictatortot says

    Not sure where you're getting that, Bill–I've no reason to think that these groups' methods are anything less than aboveboard. Nonetheless, the public is entitled to infer what it will from a group's actions–even perfectly legal ones. And though your final scenario certainly wouldn't "delegitimize" anyone in the legal sense, that doesn't extend to the courts of private or public opinion, with all their implications.

  21. James says

    @xbradtc: IMO, applying the death penalty to someone who didn't kill anyone is inappropriate. Being part of a group that kills someone during a crime is terrible and deserves a life sentence, but I think the death penalty (if utilized) should be reserved solely for the shooter.

  22. Christophe says

    Dictatortot,

    First, you seem to be of the opinion that lobbying vigorously to use DNA evidence to overturn wrongful convictions is "emptying the prisons." That does not follow.

    Second, you seem to feel that opposition to the death penalty is the same as "emptying the prisons." That does not follow.

  23. Scooby says

    @trebuchet- the justice may be a loon, but a "air traffic controller" assigned to an infantry division in Vietnam was most likely a forward air controller or combat air controller- someone who observes and coordinates close air support from right near the action- not a guy sitting on a radio at the airport.

  24. says

    @James, that's a position that I disagree with, but can understand.

    Me, I'm all for the death penalty… except… I'm also a conservative libertarian, with all the attendant distrust for government power that that implies.

    I guess my point is I'm philosophically very much in favor of the death penalty, while having some genuine reservations as to how it is actually achieved.

  25. Jon says

    From the Innocence Project Mission statement: The Innocence Project was founded in 1992 by Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University to assist prisoners who could be proven innocent through DNA testing. To date, more than 300 people in the United States have been exonerated by DNA testing, including 18 who served time on death row. These people served an average of 13 years in prison before exoneration and release.
    I see nothing in the mission statement about emptying the prisions

    Dictatortot writes "If the staffers of the Innocence Project reviewed the evidence of a death-row case, and believed the suspect to be guilty, would they be all right with the execution proceeding? Would they withhold their assistance if they thought they had a reasonable procedural way of stopping it?

    According to their website: over a five-year period, DNA testing proved innocence in about 43% of cases, confirmed the prosecution theory in about 42% of cases, and was inconclusive or not probative in about 15% of cases.

    As for their opinion on the death penalty : The Innocence Project supports a moratorium on capital punishment while the causes of wrongful convictions are fully identified and remedied. This has been the Innocence Project’s position since our inception in 1992, and it is the same position the American Bar Association adopted more than a decade ago

    This information is all available on their website.

  26. naught_for_naught says

    @Dictatortot

    For a group with "innocence" in its name, they seem remarkably unconcerned with the concept, except as a pretext for emptying the prisons.

    I'm with George. This is a thoroughly condemning statement that requires some proof on your part, regardless of your "seem" hedge. What do you have to back that up?

  27. Trent says

    No doctor participates in any aspect of the death penalty except for signing the death certificate after the fact, and that's in every state in the union. It's a direct violation of medical ethics and will get the doctors license to practice revoked in every state in the union.

    This is in fact one of the avenues of challenge that have been used against the death penalty, ie that the drugs are not administered by medical professionals.

    Personally I believe some criminals need to die for what they did, for example the two men in Connecticut that killed that mans wife and daughters (his entire family). But, I believe the death penalty as implemented in every state that uses it is grossly unfair in its application. Given the broad proof that many, in some states as high as 30% (historic) of, executions involve innocent people being put to death means that we simply don't have a reliable system of determining guilt that would warrant execution. And as a result because there is no way to undo an unjust execution we should abolish it. It's also cheaper to just lock them up for life, and I believe a far worse punishment. Unless we can ensure we aren't executing any truly innocent people we shouldn't be executing anyone.

  28. Christophe says

    I have always been astonished that people of a certain political stripe are uncomfortable with the power of the government to tax (which is a metaphorical "power to destroy"), but are completely comfortable with the government having the quite literal power of destruction in the form of the death penalty.

  29. Jacob says

    @Dictatortot:

    You are conflating two different things:
    1)The Innocence Project's position on the death penalty
    and
    2)The I.P.'s advocacy for a particular death row resident.

    While they politically might lobby for the repeal of the death penalty (which would save, though not free, all death row inmates), they don't step in and intervene on behalf on a single inmate unless they actually think he is innocent. Hence the name, "The Innocence Project"!

    If you think about it, what you are accusing them of actually makes no sense; they would have nothing whatsoever to gain by freeing a guilty man – and everything to lose if someone they freed was actually a bad guy and immediately committed a horrible crime!

    If you will forgive me for speculating, it seems like you must have taken issue with somebody they exonerated – somebody you thought wasn't innocent…? And that stuck with you…? Where else would you have developed such a negative view of them? Maybe you just need to look into it more; in fact everyone they have exonerated has been pretty clearly guilty, not to mention railroaded most of the time. Think of how hard it is to overturn these convictions, and the fact that (I'm pretty sure of this) I.P. only steps in when a defendant's appeals have been exhausted – with limited resources, and such a hard task, they naturally focus on the actually innocent, those with the highest chances of success.

  30. Jacob says

    PS also, where are you getting this bizarre idea that there are those among us that would prefer a criminal justice system where guilt is impossible to prove ("de facto")? I have never met such a person.

  31. Dark water says

    @Dictatortot,
    You stated in your first response to George w/r/t a potential client they thought guilty, "Would [the Innocence Project] withhold their assistance if they thought they had a reasonable procedural way of stopping it? Granted, there's probably no firm way of backing up either a "yes" or a "no" answer." You then go on to assume an answer to your self-posed question. You might as well assert that the Innocence Project maliciously, gleefully purple monkey telephones, even on Sunday!* given all of the evidence you've presented.
    * The rat bastards! Have they no shame?

  32. George William Herbert says

    Dictatortot wrote:
    "Well, let me ask you in all sincerity, GWH: If the staffers of the Innocence Project reviewed the evidence of a death-row case, and believed the suspect to be guilty, would they be all right with the execution proceeding? Would they withhold their assistance if they thought they had a reasonable procedural way of stopping it? Granted, there's probably no firm way of backing up either a "yes" or a "no" answer. But I hope you'll pardon someone whose gut instinct tells him "no" on all counts."

    There are other groups that oppose capital punishment in any case and litigate that. The Innocence Project does not need to do that, and would reduce their effectiveness in their stated goal.

    You did not answer my question, you threw it back and asserted an answer. Evidently you do not have or could not find an actual reliably documented case ot TIP continuing to try and get someone freed after an admission of guilt or DNA proof of guilt. I say again: you are asserting something here that you should provide evidence of, or retract.

    Rhetoric is not proof. Rhetoric is not even evidence. Provide evidence, or retract.

  33. AlphaCentauri says

    DNA testing is expensive. That's why it's such a big issue. The Innocence Project has limited resources and needs to direct them to cases where the DNA testing shows that the evidence used to convict a person actually should have exonerated him/her. Other groups are working to oppose capital punishment in all cases, or to address life-is-life sentences in cases where the incarcerated person is elderly and has a good enough prison record over the years that further incarceration seems a waste of public resources. Perhaps you're conflating two groups because the person you spoke to supported more than one of these groups.

    I see a lot of people who have strong reservations about the death penalty who point out the type of shocking case Trent mentioned as one where they believe capital punishment is justified. In general they are cases where the victims suffered a prolonged period of terror and suffering before death, where the perpetrator was aware of it and either could have stopped it or actively enjoyed it. In those cases, the fact that the perpetrator has those memories and may be continuing to relish thinking about them is a continued crime against the family and friends of the victims.

    But in reality, the death penalty is usually used against those whose crimes challenged those in power — people of color killing white people, people killing cops, treason, terrorism, etc.

    It's ironic that if you are wrongly convicted, getting a death penalty may be your best hope of eventually getting freed. Someone with a 70 year sentence for a crime he didn't commit may never merit the attention of a financially limited organization like the Innocence Project.

  34. says

    @xbradtc

    What's wrong with the death penalty for felony murder?

    Speaking as a former death penalty supporter now turned against it:

    I love the death penalty for felony murder.

    …I just have major reservations about it being used against people that have merely been convicted of felony murder by a State that can't balance a budget, can't review DNA evidence, can't understand that prohibition causes violence, can't understand the clear meaning of the 9th and 10th amendments, can't deliver the mail without running up billions of dollars of debt, can't make a pension fund's books work, can't explain to its cops that photography is not a crime, can't convict a cop of a crime unless there's clear video evidence of him sucker punching a priest in broad daylight and then pissing on the body while spray painting "I did it, (signed) officer friendly" on a wall nearby, etc., etc., etc.

    I have no reason to believe that there is a deterence effect, and I have many reasons to believe that the police work is sloppy and judicial system is corrupt.

    Finally, I hate to sound like a leftist, but when the Commander in Chief executes 16 year old American citizens with the stroke of a pen and steals trillions of dollars from generations yet unborn – and then wins reelection – I think that the same government pretending to serve up "justice" for common criminals is a mockery.

  35. Damon says

    F&F reference: The FBI can expidite a review/input from outside parties for this death penality case but can't seem to report on who what where when why and how on the F&F case where a federal agent was murdered.

    IE coverup. And he's right.

  36. Mike says

    On the subject of felony murder, are we nixing all accessorial or vicarious liability or just for this?

  37. JohnO says

    The Innocence Project is tainted by its founder, Barry Scheck, who is best known for the OJ Simpson case.

  38. says

    The Innocence Project is tainted by its founder, Barry Scheck, who is best known for the OJ Simpson case.

    I'd be a lot more concerned if Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden were part of the innocence project.

  39. Alan says

    People on all sides of all the debates in this comment are making the same mistake as hizzoner- using ad hominems and non sequiturs to attack viewpoints, persons and organizations. It's an interesting phenomenon.

  40. Dictatortot says

    "Rhetoric is not proof. Rhetoric is not even evidence. Provide evidence, or retract."

    Can't oblige you on the retraction part, there. If a group frankly uses its pursuit of justice (exonerating innocent men) in service of a more wide-reaching injustice (outlawing or setting moratoria on the death penalty), it's earned little benefit of the doubt. If the Innocence Project achieves its larger goal, it'll have done more to delegitimize the state's rightful custodianship of the rule of law & public order than the execution of an innocent man could do.

    If the state "bears the sword in vain," to steal a phrase, or is judged presumptively incompetent to wield it, its adequacy as a state is radically in question, as is its entire justice system–from top to bottom. If the I.P. helps formally forbid the requital of crime, and stablish the state's incompetence to do so, there's no reason any criminal should be suffered to reach the hands of a policeman or court.

  41. pillsy says

    @Dictatortot:

    If the Innocence Project achieves its larger goal, it'll have done more to delegitimize the state's rightful custodianship of the rule of law & public order than the execution of an innocent man could do.

    I suspect I'm a lot more comfortable with state power than a lot of the posters here, and this still strikes me as a profoundly weird argument. Doesn't the state bear unltimate responsibility for ensuring that innocent people aren't being imprisoned or executed? If the Innocence Project is able to deligitimize the criminal justice system by pointing out innocent people in prison, or, worse, on death row, it seems pretty perverse to blame the IP for making us aware of the problem.

  42. says

    Dictatortot: The mind boggles at your apparent knee-jerk reaction against the Innocent Project without the slightest bit of actual evidence. You have yet to cite one single thing the organization actually does that is so horrible.

    As a civil libertarian with a passion for criminal justice issues, the Innocence Project is one of my favorite organizations in the country (up there with the ACLU and FIRE). The Innocence Project as an organization may broadly disapprove of the death penalty (not exactly an extremist position; like Clark, I have no moral qualms about the death penalty, but many many practical concerns), but it does not litigate the issue. The Innocence Project litigates actual innocence cases (or, more commonly, procures and works with private counsel to litigate them).

    I worked at the Innocence Project clinic in law school. They get thousands upon thousands of letters from inmates every month, yet they only help take a microscopic fraction of that to court. Using volunteers and law students, they investigate and filter through cases to try to find ones with demonstrable claims of innocence (most commonly, with untested DNA evidence). As the vast amount of crimes do not have DNA evidence, in almost all cases the Project concludes "sorry, can't help you." And in some cases, the DNA evidence confirms that the inmate is, in fact, guilty, and then the Project stops helping them.

    In no way, shape, or form, does the Innocence Project support putting every inmate on the street, regardless of guilt or innocence. Your assertion to the contrary more resembles a Rush Limbaugh raving than a conclusion based on the slightest amount of reason or actual experience.

  43. MCB says

    I think there is no greater point that could be made to counter the buffoonery is this thread than the point the buffoons have already made: the execution of an innocent man doesn't bother them because they don't like the politics they have decided the innocence project (which solely represents people based on claims of actual innocence) stands for.

    Ideological purity is more important than human life. Congratulations.

  44. cb says

    "Nonetheless, the public is entitled to infer what it will from a group's actions"

    And yet you fail to list any actual actions that you are inferring from.

  45. cb says

    "If a group frankly uses its pursuit of justice (exonerating innocent men) in service of a more wide-reaching injustice (outlawing or setting moratoria on the death penalty), it's earned little benefit of the doubt."

    But you haven't shown that they are doing that. Others have had the decency of showing the actual stance of the IP, you offer only your gut. (and even if you had a shred of eivdence, the notion that a moratoria on the death penalty is injustice is absurd.[I'd argue that outlawing it is not injustice either])

    " If the Innocence Project achieves its larger goal, it'll have done more to delegitimize the state's rightful custodianship of the rule of law & public order than the execution of an innocent man could do."

    It's actual larger goal, or the goal you made up for it? Again, even if we grant your absurd claims you still come up short. Killing an innocent man is clearly far worse than having a man on death row reach a natural death.

  46. Dictatortot says

    The execution of an innocent man bothers me greatly and profoundly. The failure to execute a guilty man bothers me just as intensely–it is an insult to the victim's prerogatives on par with relieving oneself on his grave, as weighty, as vicious, and as morally damning as murder itself (though baser–far baser). If combatants against the former injustice consistently prescribe the latter injustice as a remedy, or if the logic of eliminating the former tends to ensure the latter, they'll have done nothing to make the country a juster place or ensure the value of human life–quite the contrary.

    I am glad to hear of the I.P.'s scruples and priorities. To the extent that their work is in itself good, one wishes that other advocates wouldn't use it for ends fully as abominable (and considerably more widespread) than the abuses the organization is fighting–ends that the group itself admits supporting.

  47. Dictatortot says

    "Again, even if we grant your absurd claims you still come up short. Killing an innocent man is clearly far worse than having a man on death row reach a natural death."

    We'll have to disagree, won't we?

  48. MCB says

    "The execution of an innocent man bothers me greatly and profoundly."

    The innocence project represents only on the basis of actual innocence.

  49. says

    @Dictatortot, were I planning on requesting a burial, you would have my permission to piss all over the grave. Matter of fact, if you have any way of getting hold of my ashes, the offer stands.

    I don't try not to base my judgement of what's right and wrong on symbolism. No degree of insult is on par with the state executing an innocent person.

  50. says

    @Jens Fiederer
    I believe Ken's pointing out that the judge took an inappropriate opportunity to express his political opinions. "THANKS OBAMA" is a common tag on the end of a certain flavor of political rant.

  51. pillsy says

    @Dictatortot: How on Earth is pissing on someone's grave, bad as that is, even remotely the same order of wrong as killing somebody for no reason? Just to leave aside the rather strange assertion that locking a criminal up for the rest of their lives is somehow comparable to pissing on the graves of their victims.

  52. Kevin says

    @xbradtc

    I'm also a … libertarian

    I'm philosophically very much in favor of the death penalty

    ಠ_ಠ

  53. Dictatortot says

    I suppose I suffer from certain pre-modern ideas about right & wrong, Pillsy–correctly or not, I tend to think of death as something presumptively worth requiting in kind, and at the same time don't think of biological life as a concern that automatically trumps every other value–I account some questions of honor, reverence, courtesy, etc., as less important than human life, and some more so. You're welcome to disagree, and almost certainly do, but your presumptions of what societal goods are most worth guarding are less than universal–as are mine, I grant. We must each draw our own differing conclusions about the long-term effects of some advocacies, and about whether certain cures are potentially worse than the diseases.

  54. Mike says

    @Dictatortot: and yet when asked to enumerate the most important of inalienable rights at the beginning of this experiment, which did the founders name explicitly? Pre-modern is right, prehistoric is more accurate.

  55. George William Herbert says

    Dictatortot-

    It has been repeatedly pointed out that The Innocence Project is only philosophically opposed to capital punishment, not taking any active steps to block it for clients they do not have good reason to believe are factually innocent.

    Being pro-capital-punishment, philosphically and practically, is not unreasonable. It is a common and in many areas predominant public opinion.

    Making up behavior you then ascribe to TIP and use to justify your objections to them is unreasonable. You ascribe to them an anti-death-penalty activism, when they clearly draw the line at a practical level at anti-false-conviction activism (for clients on death row, in prison for life, or long sentences).

    There is something profoundly wrong with your articulated reasoning.

  56. Dictatortot says

    Mike: we can split the difference, if you like, and go for "pre-Enlightenment." I'm at peace with that.

  57. Dictatortot says

    As I said a few posts above, GWH, I'm glad and relieved to hear about the scrupulousness of the I.E., as described by other posters. But even if we assume the purest of motives, it's not clear to me that the long-term consequences of their work will be a juster or more humane polity, or a victory for the rule of law–quite the contrary.

  58. George William Herbert says

    JohnO writes:
    "The Innocence Project is tainted by its founder, Barry Scheck, who is best known for the OJ Simpson case."

    Because there were no evidentiary problems or factual questions of innocence for OJ?

    I tend to think he did it, but…

    Had the key law enforcement personnel in question worked in San Francisco Bay Area departments, they would have been fired for contaminating evidence and raising reasonable doubt, and it's likely it would not have been able to be taken to trial. Law enforcement up here were widely offended by the misbehavior, and said so.

  59. George William Herbert says

    Dictatortot:
    "As I said a few posts above, GWH, I'm glad and relieved to hear about the scrupulousness of the I.E., as described by other posters. But even if we assume the purest of motives, it's not clear to me that the long-term consequences of their work will be a juster or more humane polity, or a victory for the rule of law–quite the contrary."

    Because the judicial murder of an innocent man is a victory for the rule of law?

    Seriously, and pardon my language, but how the fuck does the rule of law in the abstract or the practical benefit when a provably innocent person is executed because the prosecution and courts were too lazy or blind to perform simple tests or re-review now-impugned evidence or retracted testimony?

    "Pour encourager les autres" was not a decision of a justice system. Byng is not an example to try and use here.

  60. James Pollock says

    I think I get the idea Dictatortot's advancing.

    It's bad for law and order if it can be demonstrably shown to be imperfect… people will lose faith that it can EVER function correctly, and if that happens, the system as a whole becomes less effective even if, in the vast majority of cases, it reaches the correct outcome.

    TIP tries to show examples of the justice system being wrong, therefore they are against law and order, the justice system, and rule of law. If they're allowed to continue, they'll weaken the justice system, possibly irreparably.

    Shoot the messenger.

  61. Chad H. says

    Thank goodness I live in a civilised Country.

    Some of your countrymen need to remember however that every innocent man executed is a guilty man going free.

  62. Jacob says

    @Dictot:

    "The execution of an innocent man bothers me greatly and profoundly. The failure to execute a guilty man bothers me just as intensely"

    You think that the murder of an innocent man by the state is no worse than letting a murderer rot in prison for life? I notice you've switched to that position from "letting a killer back out onto the street". Either way, that strikes me (and probably almost everybody else) as a morally monstrous stance. You invoke the victims of murder, and presumably you also meant their surviving family, but what if both the victim and survivors are adamantly against the death penalty and want the killer to live? Would justice mean letting him live life in prison, or executing him? On the other side of the equation, killing an innocent man is always wrong, at least everyone agrees there.

    There's a famous line from Blackstone I'm sure every person here knows: "it is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackstone's_formulation

    I take it from your comments that you disagree strongly with this, and your position seems to be "Let ten guilty go free, or let ten innocents suffer; …I just can't decide"

  63. Dictatortot says

    Seriously, and pardon my language, but how the fuck does the rule of law in the abstract or the practical benefit when a provably innocent person is executed because the prosecution and courts were too lazy or blind to perform simple tests or re-review now-impugned evidence or retracted testimony?

    In itself, it doesn't. But capitalizing on such errors to help create a system in which a provably guilty person cannot be executed is to help the state abdicate its responsibilities in the most fundamental of manners. Such a state is a hard sell for the perception of legitimacy necessary to command rule of law. Q.E.D.

    And contra Pollock, I'm simply uncomfortable with the idea that if the state proves imperfect at meting justice, the answer is to broadly strip it of its power to do so at all, with nothing commensurate in its place.

  64. Dictatortot says

    Jacob: You nailed it. Blackstone's well-known piece of cant notwithstanding, I hold the one lapse to be as vile, as weighty, and as corrosive to a just society as the other. This strikes you as a "morally monstrous stance"? Bring me my Creature from the Black Lagoon suit.

  65. liber8 says

    @dictatornot

    "And contra Pollock, I'm simply uncomfortable with the idea that if the state proves imperfect at meting justice, the answer is to broadly strip it of its power to do so at all, with nothing commensurate in its place."

    I think you might be on to something here. If TIP is successful than we will have no choice than to abandon the government completely. How do I go about signing over my entire paycheck to these people in hopes they are successful in causing this to come about?

  66. Jacob says

    And if they aren't "going free," but instead spending their life in jail, that makes no difference whatsoever to your equation?

    Yea, I find that to be morally monstrous and counter to centuries of law and tradition. That's not just my opinion, that's Ben Franklin's, that's Maimonides', and John Adams'. A version of it is even in Genesis! I state this not to make a blind appeal to authority, but to simply say that my position is unremarkable.

    Blackstone, et al: "It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer"

    Bismarck: "It is better that ten innocent suffer than that one guilty man escape"

    Dictatortot: "Flip a coin."

    Congratulations, you're morally smack dab between Franklin and Pol Pot

  67. ChicagoTom says

    But capitalizing on such errors to help create a system in which a provably guilty person cannot be executed is to help the state abdicate its responsibilities in the most fundamental of manners. Such a state is a hard sell for the perception of legitimacy necessary to command rule of law. Q.E.D.

    Revenge is not the state's responsibility (which is what the death penalty is). Justice and protecting the rights of their citizens is. This can be done without putting criminals to death. Many states in the union don't have the death penalty and can punish criminals just fine. Your whole argument seems to rest on the idea that without the death penalty, justice can not be served. It's quite false on it's face, and it basically destroys the rest of your argument.

    Even if your "provably guilty" person can not be executed — so what? They can be imprisoned for life without the possibility of parole. Justice will still be served. That person will still be taken of the street and unable to commit more crimes. The only difference between life without parole and death is, well, if mistakes were made, death can't be rectified. And the fact the Life without Parole wont satisfy you bloodlust or your need for revenge.

  68. Some Anonymous Brit says

    @ Dictatortot

    While you might not agree with Blackstone's position as quoted in a comment above (after all, he was British), it's worth mentioning that the same sentiments, using similar language, have been stated by prominent Americans such Benjamin Franklin and John Adams. This principle has been adopted by many countries.

    It appears that you are much more towards Bismarck's position when he stated that "it is better that ten innocent men suffer than one guilty man escape".

  69. cb says

    "Such a state is a hard sell for the perception of legitimacy necessary to command rule of law"

    Of course, if somehow the death penalty were abolished then whatever other sentence would be the rule of law. How would it be a hard sell if the actual law at the time were applied? And why would it matter if some people perceived the failure of the state to kill people as illegitimate?

  70. Dictatortot says

    Revenge is not the state's responsibility (which is what the death penalty is). Justice and protecting the rights of their citizens is. This can be done without putting criminals to death. Many states in the union don't have the death penalty and can punish criminals just fine. Your whole argument seems to rest on the idea that without the death penalty, justice can not be served. It's quite false on it's face, and it basically destroys the rest of your argument.

    Your assertions are commonly held, and lucidly put … but assertions they remain, and I'm afraid I must cordially disagree with every last one of them. May the better side win.

    And Jacob: Linking me to Pol Pot is bad enough, but in the very same breath you compare me to a guy from Philly! Have you at last no sense of decency, sir?

  71. Jacob says

    I didn't choose Pol Pot for hyperbole, he actually also made a similar statement as Bismarck:

    Locard, Henri. Pol Pot's Little Red Book: The Sayings of Angkar. Silkworm Books, 2004. pp. 209

  72. Jacob says

    Also I said you were halfway between Blackstone and Pol Pot; take that how you will

  73. Dictatortot says

    Now I'm gonna have to find pictures of those two, and see what Photoshop can do about merging them.

  74. George William Herbert says

    Dictatortot:
    "In itself, it doesn't. But capitalizing on such errors to help create a system in which a provably guilty person cannot be executed is to help the state abdicate its responsibilities in the most fundamental of manners. Such a state is a hard sell for the perception of legitimacy necessary to command rule of law. Q.E.D."

    You have now had sufficient information provided that you should see – and have indirectly acknowledged – that TIP is only doing the first of those things, not following through to try and block all executions.

    All of the states whose legislatures or executives have banned further executions HAVE taken that total step, appearing to find your formulation of the problem unappealing or unacceptable. However, TIP is not.

    As I said before; you owe TIP a retraction. Even though society as a whole is incrementally taking the second step, they are not, focusing rightly on credibly only addressing actual innocence issues where courts and prosecutors have failed.

  75. ChicagoTom says

    Your assertions are commonly held, and lucidly put … but assertions they remain, and I'm afraid I must cordially disagree with every last one of them. May the better side win

    Jso we are clear.
    It is your position that Alaska, Connecticut,Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota,Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin are all illegitimate states and their residents don't respect the rule of law because they don't have the death penalty?

    That's the position you are taking?

  76. Richard says

    Dictatortot wrote:

    Such a state [in which a provably guilty person cannot be executed] is a hard sell for the perception of legitimacy necessary to command rule of law.

    So, according to you, the only states which you perceive to be legitimate to command the rule of law (in that they have executed people since 2011) are:

    People's Republic of China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, United States, Yemen, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, South Sudan, Republic of China (Taiwan), Singapore, Palestinian Authority, Afghanistan, Belarus, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, and Syria.

    I don't see anything wrong with that list of countries as a list of places where the leadership is perceived as legitimate and the rule of law is respected.

  77. Dictatortot says

    GWH: I went back to find out what I'd typed last night, and find the following:

    However, I've seen plenty of the Innocence Project, and it's merely dealing in the obvious to point out that they'd love to see the defendant back on the street … whether he's guilty or not. For a group with "innocence" in its name, they seem remarkably unconcerned with the concept, except as a pretext for emptying the prisons.

    That much I'll willingly retract. I still maintain that the long-term effects of I.P.'s efforts may be more harmful than beneficial, and remain agnostic about the motives of all their members. But their work has proved worthwhile in many individual cases. That much deserves acknowledgment; here's hoping as well that, to use your own terms, their actions lead to no "second steps."

  78. Tom says

    @ Richard and ChicagoTom:

    I dunno. You hear people every day in Iowa and Wisconsin bitching about North Korea's and Yemen's immigration policies. It's always "do you know a good realtor in Belarus" this, and "my company wants to transfer me to our Kenyan branch, but I think I'll commute from Somalia to avail myself of their sweet rule-of-law" that.

  79. AlphaCentauri says

    Of course, if that innocent man were executed, and the prosecutor had potentially exculpatory evidence and refused DNA testing, the family of the executed man would likely consider that prosecutor guilty of murder. So now you would need to apply the death penalty to that prosecutor or else the population will still despair of our country following the rule of law.

    I think that if prosecutors seriously thought there was a possibility they could face the death penalty for misconduct that led to an execution, that would put an end to death penalty cases immediately.

  80. George William Herbert says

    Dictatortot wrote in part:
    "GWH: I went back to find out what I'd typed last night, and find the following:

    However, I've seen plenty of the Innocence Project, and it's merely dealing in the obvious to point out that they'd love to see the defendant back on the street … whether he's guilty or not. For a group with "innocence" in its name, they seem remarkably unconcerned with the concept, except as a pretext for emptying the prisons.

    That much I'll willingly retract."

    Thank you.

    Your other philosophical / political position is not an assertion about TIP and, while I disagree with elements of it, is obviously your perogative to hold.

  81. James Pollock says

    WRT death penalty, you can divide the population into three categories. One category approves of the death penalty and wishes (with varying vehemence) to see it implemented, accepting the possibility that it may be applied in error. One category opposes death penalty in all cases. In between, you have a group that includes people who are OK with the death penalty being applied in some cases, with the proviso that it will be applied only if it is truly deserved. Because of this, most states have the death penalty on the books, but also have a lot of built-in safeguards that are supposed to make sure it is applied only to those who truly deserve it (both in terms of the crime they committed and their guilt being firmly established).
    This has led to the recent notice that in some states, the appeals process for death penalty cases take in excess of two decades before the penalty can be applied, and many "death row" inmates die of natural causes before they can be scheduled for execution. In some states, it's so severe that pretty much the only way for a death penalty to be executed is for the inmate himself to actually request it (OK, I'm clearly NOT talking about Texas). Thus, the question of application of the death penalty becomes budgetary… if the appeals process is so long that it basically results in a de facto life-without-parole sentence, why not just go directly to life-without-parole and save all the money spent on the (mandatory!) death-sentence appeals process (especially since the state usually winds up paying for both sides, anyway.)

  82. Dictatortot says

    ChicagoTom: I'd substitute "state governments" for residents, myself. As for the residents, they certainly aren't subject to or protected by any justice system worthy of the name. Who could fault them for acting accordingly?

    And Richard: permit me to remind you of the concept "necessary but not sufficient."

  83. says

    @Tom:

    I dunno. You hear people every day in Iowa and Wisconsin bitching about North Korea's and Yemen's immigration policies. It's always "do you know a good realtor in Belarus" this, and "my company wants to transfer me to our Kenyan branch, but I think I'll commute from Somalia to avail myself of their sweet rule-of-law" that.

    LOL!

  84. George William Herbert says

    James Pollock wrote in part:
    "This has led to the recent notice that in some states, the appeals process for death penalty cases take in excess of two decades before the penalty can be applied, and many "death row" inmates die of natural causes before they can be scheduled for execution. In some states, it's so severe that pretty much the only way for a death penalty to be executed is for the inmate himself to actually request it (OK, I'm clearly NOT talking about Texas). Thus, the question of application of the death penalty becomes budgetary… if the appeals process is so long that it basically results in a de facto life-without-parole sentence, why not just go directly to life-without-parole and save all the money spent on the (mandatory!) death-sentence appeals process (especially since the state usually winds up paying for both sides, anyway.)"

    The underlying insanity here is budgetary. It really costs X to PROPERLY try someone and execute them – which is some millions of dollars. If you fail to accept that and budget X up front, with sufficiently qualified lawyers on both sides, sufficiently complete and appropriate and exhaustive research into the evidence and forensics and so forth, on both sides, and have loose enough standards that appeals have substantiative issues in them rather than minor technicalities, then you are sucked into the 20+ year appeals process morass.

    It is established law that substantiative issues with convictions are appealable, and the results of that are known and predictable. It's cheap short term thinking to allow capital cases to go forwards without enough money for public defenders (attorneys, time, investigators, etc) as well as prosecutors and police.

    We as a society are buying into the depth of all that, to get it right. We should not permit the process to proceed without an actual up front commitment to get it right.

    It being horribly impolitic to spend that much on public defenders, however, we get the crap results we get. Big surprise.

  85. Joe Pullen says

    The execution of an innocent man bothers me greatly and profoundly. The failure to execute a guilty man bothers me – but not even remotely as much.

    Once you're dead, they can't take it back.

  86. Richard says

    Dictatortot wrote:

    And Richard: permit me to remind you of the concept "necessary but not sufficient."

    Ah, I see. So it's not that the countries with the death penalty are necessarily perceived to have the "legitimacy necessary to command rule of law," it's just that without capital punishment, they lack such legitimacy (or at least the perception of such).

    So you perceive the United States as the only Western Democracy with the legitimacy necessary to command the rule of law. In fact, from your reaction, it seems they may be the only country on the planet with such legitimacy – can you name another country which has executed anybody in the last two years that is "legitimate?"

    It's funny, though, how I haven't heard about the widespread anarchy across the Western Democracies that don't practice capital punishment. I mean, when a government is widely perceived to be illegitimate, when the populace loses its faith in the government's ability to enforce the rule of law, aren't there usually revolutions? I mean, I've heard of some riots due to the Eurozone crisis, but no outright civil war.

  87. ChrisTS says

    Dictatortot wrote:

    "I still maintain that the long-term effects of I.P.'s efforts may be more harmful than beneficial…"

    I find this just … opaque. You think that if people know their state makes errors, they will trust it less. Do you really think people do not know this? Indeed, in cases like this one, knowing that one's state is willing to refuse to explore DNA evidence makes the state look pretty indifferent to doing its job properly.

    And, to all this, add your willingness to have innocent people executed and let guilty people go free, as the price of maintaining the illusion of effectiveness and justice in the minds of some people too unthinking to recognize that all human systems are flawed.

    Poor reasoning is a flaw. Moral obtuseness is a flaw. But running them together is too much.

  88. Jacob says

    Dictator…Tot… hmmmm…interesting handle

    You don't happen to be a short, portly young man who just inherited massive tracts of land in east asia, do you? Maybe some admin can look and see if you are using a Pyongyang IP address? (JK about that, let him have his privacy). Anyway, that would explain a lot

  89. James Pollock says

    "The underlying insanity here is budgetary. It really costs X to PROPERLY try someone and execute them – which is some millions of dollars."

    This depends entirely on how much process you think is due in capital cases, which varies wildly, with some people actually asking in public "why wait for the trial?"
    As I noted, there are some people who are gung-ho for death penalty, even if they know it could be applied in error, and there are some people who are opposed to death penalty under any circumstances. The ratio of the one to the other influences just how many of the middle group are needed to form a majority. Where the gung-ho for death penalty have numbers, they don't have to get very many of the "OK with death-penalty as long as there's safeguards to prevent wrongful conviction and execution" people to make a majority, so they offer minimal process and capture the ones who require the least process to be satisfied, and that's the law of the land. Where there are fewer gung-ho and more anti-capital-punishment folks, the death-penalty side has to offer more extensive process to swing more of the "OK as long as there's enough process" over to their side.
    In my state, death penalty is on the books but with non-Texas-like efficiency, because if they didn't have extensive safeguards, the people who are OK with executing the guilty but not at the expense of executing an innocent would swing over to the "no" side, and we wouldn't have capital punishment at all. But BECAUSE of the extensive process, we have a situation where there is no execution, because the process takes so long the convict has died in prison (of natural causes or not) before we got around to executing him.
    The pro-death-penalty folks say "well, it's cheaper to execute them than it is to keep them in prison for life"… which would be true if you could take them around back of the courthouse as soon as the jury came in with death penalty verdict, but isn't in the current environment. We currently have a choice of "pay to keep them in prison while the legal fighting goes on and on and on" and "pay to keep them in prison". (Which is not to say that the death penalty is useless, even where executions are not carried out… I suppose it can be used in securing plea bargains or in getting suspects to rat out their buddies, or provide things like information about where the bodies are buried.)

  90. Doctor Railgun says

    Dictatortot: " If the Innocence Project achieves its larger goal, it'll have done more to delegitimize the state's rightful custodianship of the rule of law & public order than the execution of an innocent man could do."

    So, if a government (or its appointed agents) can't kill people, it doesn't have any authority? Authority is only predicated on fear of death? How do you get through the day? Do you have a position of responsibility – work, school, religious? DO you threaten to kill people if they don't respect your authority?

    A government's authority should rely on the good will of its citizens. There is a social contract that citizens agree to – they will be orderly so long as the government is just. A government that relies on the fear of death sounds rather tyrannical to me.

  91. Jacob says

    @DT

    "As for the residents, they certainly aren't subject to or protected by any justice system worthy of the name. Who could fault them for acting accordingly?"

    Right, those state residents commit crimes, for which we shouldn't fault them, because they know that they will never face execution. They just go ahead and steal that bicycle, and who can blame them, because they know they aren't going to face the death penalty for theft. (/sarcasm)

  92. Clownius says

    Im still disturbed by the whole argument that people who have been sentenced to death should not be defended if innocent because it hurts the perception that the state is right..

    To a layman it sounds like if we execute the wrong person thats fine. Better many innocent men die than get proven innocent by the evidence thats come to light as it shakes the public’s perception that the state/justice system is always right.

    It happens on an all to regular basis here in Australia where i live. Someone who has life in prison (we dont execute people) has their conviction overturned because its found some state actor manufactured or hid evidence and they in fact were not guilty of the crime. The difference being we can at least try to make amends to that person because we didnt kill them.

  93. Dictatortot says

    ChrisTS: We're currently in a tough position, with reformers who have legitimate points, but who palpably have long-term designs on the system to render it ultimately less just. It's not inherently "anti-reform" to worry about the implications of this. Nor does it amount to a refusal to admit that the state can be wrong.

    Dr. Railgun: As you point out, "[a people] will be orderly so long as the government is just." I maintain that in a relatively small number of cases, a government must be able to mete out death, or forfeit its claim to be just. Q.E.D.

    Under the Radar: I'd go with the Earl of Lemongrab.

  94. Richard says

    Dictatortot wrote, repeatedly:

    Q.E.D.

    This abbreviation. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    QED means, basically, "I have made my argument, point by point, and no point can be refuted, so I have demonstrated what was to be demonstrated."

    You're saying, "My opinion is that a government must use the death penalty, or they are not a just government. Q.E.D." You haven't demonstrated anything other than your opinion.

    in a relatively small number of cases, a government must be able to mete out death, or forfeit its claim to be just

    Since so few governments mete out death to their criminals, can I get a definitive list of those governments which have not "forfeited their claims to be just?" Since, again, only 21 countries (listed previously) have executed anyone in the past two years, it should be a fairly short list.

  95. Dictatortot says

    Richard, the "demonstrandum" in "Q.E.D." was the fact that I have reasons for my opinions, which you seemed to be disputing–sorry if I was mistaken. Naturally, nothing compels you to agree with those reasons, much less everyone else.

    And without sitting down and making an exhaustive geopolitical analysis of each country on your list, I hazard that many of them are less than just, to say the least–though certainly not on the grounds or their de jure death-penalty laws. But I thought we'd already been over this "necessary but not sufficient" business–what's your point?

  96. Richard says

    My point is not that that list of countries is full of unjust countries – that was my point in the previous post.

    My point was that, by your definition, there don't seem to be any countries on the planet, other than the US, that can claim to be just, because they've forfeited that claim by abolishing capital punishment.

    None in the EU, none in South America, none in the Caribbean, not Mexico, nor Canada. Every Western Democracy, except the USA, has abolished capital punishment, and your opinion is not just that they've made a mistake that will come back to bite them in the future, but that they have no right to claim that they enforce justice. A country can't just enforce what its citizens feel would be justice, it must conform to your view of justice, or – your words -"forfeit its claim to be just."

    I'm just trying to get across that I take offense to the sheer pretentiousness of an American pointing his finger at practically every other country in the world, and saying, "You all have it wrong, and only we have it right. We're morally superior because we take an eye for an eye."

    I'm trying to point out your peers, to try to say, "500 years ago, everyone used capital punishment. Now nearly everyone has abandoned it as cruel and unusual, except for these few countries. Is this really the company you want to keep?"

    Finally, I'm trying to find out, if capital punishment is a necessity, if there really is any other country in the world that you would consider to be just, or whether America really stands alone as the one true, proper example of justice and bloodthirstiness for all the world to behold.

  97. Dictatortot says

    Well, Richard, there are many areas in which a nation's actions or inactions can rightly qualify as "unjust" … but on the particular front of capital punishment, yes: America–1, rest of the First World–0. Where that single, particular detail of jurisprudence is concerned–though not necessarily on any other front–every single other Western democracy you cite is a relative moral pygmy, and shamefully so. Find that as "pretentious" and offensive as you please: honi soit qui mal y pense.

  98. Jacob says

    @DT
    "… but on the particular front of capital punishment, yes: America–1, rest of the First World–0"

    That's backpedalling! You think it's much more than that; it's not the "particular front of capital punishment," as you've made repeatedly clear, you consider that to be the "particular front" of the legitimacy of the country's whole justice system!

    Don't pretend now that you only think that in that one narrow application of the law it's USA 1, ROFW 0! In fact you are saying that in the "particular front" of Justice, its 1-0 USA (although since half of the US doesn't have the death penatly, maybe it should be USA 0.5, ROFW 0

  99. Dictatortot says

    Fair enough, Jacob: all other things being equal, and state-by-state exceptions duly noted, the U.S. justice system seems fundamentally legitimate to me in a way that the other countries' aren't, and–in theory, at least–ordered towards justice in a manner that's currently unique in the First World. (Though, again, the subject in question is far from the only way in which a country can compromise the standing of its justice system.)

  100. says

    Merissa: probably two reasons for the alcohol swab. (1) the lines go in a good bit of time before the lethal cocktail and the pardon _could_ happen between the two acts; and (2) avoidance of the "unusual" as a legal standard.

  101. says

    Just because you are "more just than (bob and ted)" doesn't mean you have no duty to be the most just period. Justice is a goal, theoretically but impossibly absolute, and the fact that others to worse or better toward that goal is not the point at all.

  102. James Pollock says

    "I maintain that in a relatively small number of cases, a government must be able to mete out death, or forfeit its claim to be just. Q.E.D."

    Ah. No worries, then. Even if the judicial system becomes entirely unable to impose a death sentence, agents of the government retain the authority to use deadly force. I'm pretty sure that police kill more people than executioners do, even in Texas. Plus drone strikes!

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