On Wednesday night, the state of Georgia committed murder in front of millions of witnesses. As if that weren’t terrible enough in and of itself, it was made all the more shocking by the fact that there’s every possibility that the victim was entirely innocent. In its usual, myopic pursuit to dispense “justice”, the United States executed Troy Davis for the killing of police officer Mark McPhail, despite the failure to recover a murder weapon, the recanted testimonies of witnesses (some of which made allegations of police coercion), and no other real, tangible physical evidence linking Davis to the crime. In the end, though, it doesn’t really matter whether Davis was guilty or not; he was still a victim of state-sanctioned execution in what we’re frequently told is a civilised country, and the decision to end his life, as well as a good deal of the support for doing so, came from people for whom “thou shalt not kill” is supposed to be immutable.

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Comment by Kris King on October 1, 2011 at 2:18pm
It is pretty dispicable really, when you think about it ... the idea that anyone can see these things as a celebration is appalling.
Comment by Matthew Land on September 30, 2011 at 9:43am
Kris, I am from that part of the country, and I have to say that I am embarrassed that things like this still go on in "the most civilized country".  People tailgate these events, grilling food, drinking beer and having huge parties, celebrating these things.  Regardless of guilt, the whole Hammurabi's Code style of justice is barbaric, and has no place in modern society.
Comment by Angela Olson on September 28, 2011 at 6:06pm
Did I say, according to the humanist manifesto... I think not. But you did just add another layer of evidence that points to the conclusion that you are arguing for the sake of arguing. In which case, I am concluding this conversation.
Comment by Angela Olson on September 28, 2011 at 10:11am

This is a very touchy subject because we have been taught an eye for an eye is just, and our paranoid nature feeds into our desire for punishment and revenge. As a humanist, I feel life is the pinnacle and absolutely precious, so the termination of life in someone who is not willing or wanting to be terminated is abhorrent. I think many people have problems with the DEFINITION of murder because the bible (and other religious texts) are rather unclear on the subject as well. In the bible, thou shalt not kill is followed by stories of genocide. In rational thinking, is killing in self-defense murder? These are not easy answers. I honestly don't believe that the educated think the capital punishment is justifiable in light of what we now know of mental health disorders, psychology, and mental retardation (but don't tell that to Texas!!) But I stick by my feeling that execution is equal to revenge killing which is equal to murder that someone has somehow justified in their head. Because execution is so detestful in my own mind, I find it just as offensive as murder. But, to be honest, there are no right answers and definitions are meant to be changed.

Comment by Kris King on September 28, 2011 at 4:37am

Your main objection seems to be centred around the issue of cost rather than morality ... if so, you should probably be aware that the death penalty is actually the most expensive option (in terms of costs on a per-offender basis), averaging over $1m more per trial than a non-death penalty murder trial.  The money saved on numerous retrials, as part of the constitutional neccessity to ensure that such a profound decision is the right one, could instead be spent on underfunded police departments to ensure they do have the money to "catch these guys", with a decent amount to spare I'm sure ...

You also suggest that elected representatives are, in terms of execution, "following the will of the majority of the people" ... that doesn't make it right!  And just because we give the state the power to make decisions regarding the dispensation of justice, it doesn't mean that we've given them carte blanche to opt for execution just because everyone with a hard-on for vicarious retributive violence thinks it's a good idea - we give them the power to choose the best solution and, even just in terms of non-emotive factors like cost and the inability to undo mistakes, execution is simply not the best solution.

Comment by Kris King on September 27, 2011 at 10:29am
Why is killing someone any worse than locking them in a cell with a bunch a rapists.

Are those the only two options?

I think you are placing a sacredness on preserving life at all costs.

Not at all ... I'm just against ending it indiscriminantly

We empower the state to protect us with criminal laws.  These laws are determined by the constitution and the various representative governments.

True, but we don't empower the state to see killing someone as the best solution to a problem.
A murderous psychopath is not safe to be around.

Indeed ... and that's why we isolate them from people in maximum security prisons.  We don't have to isolate them from the whole of existence just to protect the public.  They're caught, they're behind bars, and they'll stay there forever - job done.  Anything else we might do to them is unneccesary and, by definition, retributive.

Many of these individuals will never be helped and can never be free in society.

I assume you're referring to prospects for rehabilitation?  If so, I agree, some people are beyond that - they can never, and will never be helped, and should therefore never be released.  But that doesn't mean they have ceased to provide a useful function and so we should just kill them because they're taking up space.

How is it so much worse that we execute them?  This is not murder.

Because it's completely unnecessary, and a massive waste of a diagnostic opportunity.  Knowledge empowers us to move forward, develop, and evolve as a species.  We understand, for example, how diseases work because we studied the mechanisms involved; we understand, for another example, mental illness, the different types, how it functions, how it comes about etc.  How we achieved this understanding was by pausing for a moment to study the problem, rather than continuing to get rid of it by fire.  Instead of burning them as devils, we tried to understand what was actually wrong with them.

By strapping every psychopath we find on to a table and filling them with potassium chloride we are squandering the chance to understand the vital motivations which drove their actions.  We are throwing away the opportunity to be able to identify the causes and, ultimately, prevent these things from ever getting to the "burn them!" stage in the future.  The psychopaths themselves may be beyond help, but the potential victims of anyone like them who's still out there are not.

Even so, it is NOT MURDER.

Morally speaking I would disagree ... it is the needless, willful termination of human life
Hyperbole is my enemy and you, Kris, you use it with abandon.

Dude, a rhetorical device is your enemy?  I'd have thought poverty, injustice or the existence of Simon Cowell were far more worthy adversaries :)  Besides, making a single argument for the moral equivalence of state execution and murder is hardly "abandon" ... maybe if I tried to make similar arguments for equivalence with abortion, menstruation, and masturbation, "abandon" might be an appropriate term (although "stupid" would also be a good word to describe my argument in that instance, obviously) :)
Comment by Kris King on September 27, 2011 at 4:21am

John, I know that taxes are not the same as theft, I'm not saying they are, and the point I'm making is not analogous to such a statement either.  I'm not making up definitions, and I'm certainly not calling abortion murder.

I am simply suggesting there is no moral difference between an individual willfully and indiscriminantly ending the life of another human being and the state doing it.  "Self-defence" is not an applicable justifcation in either instance.  I want to know why you think there IS a moral difference ...

Comment by Angela Olson on September 26, 2011 at 8:04pm
It is my feeling that capital punishment is no different than revenge killing, other than it is government sanctioned. Morally, they both rest on the same level.
Comment by Kris King on September 26, 2011 at 6:28pm
Yes, I understand that the definitions aren't the same, but that's not the question I'm asking.  I'm trying to establish why you think state execution and murder are morally different.
Comment by Kris King on September 26, 2011 at 7:20am

John D - what's the difference between execution and murder?  You're obviously aware of some argument for the death penalty that I've not heard before (specifically, a valid one).  And no, self-defence is not murder any more than what a soldier does, for the most part, is not murder (because it is generally self-defence also - I'm obviously excluding the indiscriminate killing of civilians, because that is murder)


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