I live in Britain, which as you probably know doesn't have capital punishment. How many of you are for it, and how many against? My own opinion is absolutely no, but then that's just me. The only time this came up, was in M.S. class, and I was the only person that thought it was wrong.

If you can be bothered to know what I think (I can’t see why you would). There was a case here in Britain about fifty years ago, (I can’t remember the names) two friends were escaping across a roof. They were cornered by the police, one drew a gun, the one behind (who was young (I can’t remember how young)) told the one with the gun to “let them have it”. The friend fired and killed four policemen. In court the person who shouted out was accused of egging on (don’t know legal term) and was hanged. He was later cleared, but only after he was killed. In my opinion, if just one innocent person is killed, you can’t do it.

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How often does this practice result in false confessions? Are there any hard numbers to support this claim?
not the best study I've ever seen, and not sure what the rate would be for murders, but it seems to be pretty high in this study: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6V9F-...

7.3% of those interrogated.
7.3% is high? Also, this study isn't even relevant to police procedure in the United States (or the UK, where Euan posted this discussion from), as it's a "national study among Icelandic youth".
if 7.3% of confessions are false, I'd call that a lot. If every execution had a 7.3% chance of being for the wrong person... that's way too high a rate for me (of course there are many other complications)

But yeah, there are limits to the value of this study, it was just the first thing I could find. Find me something better and I'll look at it :-)
There's a couple of problems with your statement here.

"If every execution had a 7.3% chance of being for the wrong person..."

Were all of these Icelandic youths interrogated on murder charges?
I can't tell because it costs USD$31.50 to register on the site this study is hosted on.

For the sake of this discussion, let's assume they were. Were these Icelandic youths at risk of being executed?
No. The last application of capital punishment in Iceland took place on January 12, 1830. In 1928 the death penalty was abolished entirely. Since the 1995 revision of the Icelandic constitution, the reintroduction of capital punishment is forbidden.

Therefore, any individual (in Iceland) falsely accused of murder would probably be more likely to confess as their life is not on the line.
That's pretty faulty reasoning: people don't falsely confess to a crime because they're thinking rationally, the penalties even excluding execution are pretty high. From what I've heard most false confessions are given because the person thinks either:
1. The whole interrogation will go away if they confess
2. They think they did it (I remember hearing about a boy who confessed to his sister's murder because the police told him they had proof and he believed that he must have blacked out or something and done it. I'll try and pull up a reference if I have time)

So I doubt the rates are significantly difference in iceland than elsewhere. The bigger problems are self reporting and what types of crimes committed, at least, it seems to me.

Anyways, I just got busy at work, so I'll have to sign off for now.
You should look at what Jefferson had to say about killing one innocent.
It IS better that a thousand guilty go free than to murder one innocent.
I will go further and say the State has no business murdering anyone.
Jefferson also owned slaves and cheated on his wife. I find his morals suspect at best.

You should also clarify that "the State has no business murdering anyone", in your opinion (albeit misguided, in my opinion).
Regarding the first link, that's just one study which seems to have little if any relevance to this discussion, as being falsely accused of and confessing to a murder or rape is quite a bit more severe than being falsely accused of causing a computer program to crash. One must weigh the consequences of confessing when being falsely accused. For example, if I were to be falsely accused of causing a computer program to crash, I might eventually confess simply to get the whole thing over with as the consequences of confessing to this relatively minor offense would never result in the termination of my life.

Regarding the second link, that's why we'd need a conviction based on DNA evidence and/or with no reasonable doubt as to the defendant's guilt before sentencing someone to be executed.
I don't think you can just throw the first study out, though it's true that it isn't the same as confessing to a murder. It's much harder to do a controlled study of that though, ethics concerns and the like :-)

So you basically Agree, however, that confession and eyewitness testimony, though considered the gold standard legally, should be inferior to physical evidence, right?

Anyways, I should come out with my full opinion on the death penalty: In theory it could be acceptable (though I don't see what's wrong with life in prison), but in the justice system as it currently (and probably will forever) exists, there is too much chance of an execution of an innocent person. For me to be comfortable with the death penalty, the rate of executing the wrong person would have to be way under 1% I don't think good statistics exist, but I suspect that the rate is much higher right now, closer to 5%. 1 in 20 people executed being innocent is unacceptable, though that brings up the point at what level is it acceptable? I don't know. Since life in prison exists as an equally viable option for keeping violent criminals of the streets, I'd rather just stick to that for the foreseeable future.
So you basically Agree, however, that confession and eyewitness testimony, though considered the gold standard legally, should be inferior to physical evidence, right?

Of course.




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