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Captured by Jesus

Capital Punishment

Today, November 13, 2007, I read in the Spokesman Review, that Joseph Duncan’s attorneys filed legal arguments saying the death penalty is clearly arbitrary and unfair. It is reported that federal prosecutors have complained in court that one of Duncan’s attorneys, capital punishment specialist Mark Larranaga is on a “crusade” against the death penalty rather than specifically seeking to represent Duncan.

The article reports, “Duncan has admitted to killing three members of the Groene family in a bloody attack in 2004 at their home hear Coeur d’Alene, before he allegedly kidnapped to young children from the family for sex and killed one, a 9-year-old boy.” What the article doesn’t say is that the surviving child, who was 8 years old at the time, Shasta Groene, witnessed her mother, teen brother, and mother’s boyfriend being beaten to death. Then she endured sexual abuse (over a period of weeks) and probably had to watch her 9-year-old brother also be sexually abused and then killed and burned up in a campfire.

It’s obvious that Duncan’s attorneys have given no thought to the surviving victim and the victims’ family, not to mention the many of us who wept, hoped, and prayed that the two children would be found alive. I don’t know Shasta Groene, but my heart broke for that young girl and her living relatives, and the four lives that were put to an abrupt end before it was time.

Some of the arguments:

“Evolving standards of decency” in deciding what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the US Constitution’s 8th amendment.

The punishment should fit the crime. Duncan murdered four people and tortured two children. No, we should not torture him like he tortured those five people. But why should they die and we let him live? Capital punishment fits the crime of murder to the fourth power. He arbitrarily inflicted his own will onto five people to satisfy his perverse sexual appetite for innocent children. Personally, it wouldn’t bother me if we made it as humane as possible by giving him a general anesthesia before lethal injection. That way, he most probably wouldn’t feel a thing, but simply go to sleep and never wake up. There is no torture in that, and nothing cruel. It’s a bit unusual, but only in the sense that it makes the death as comfortable as possible for the perpetrator who bludgeoned to death four innocent people and repeatedly raped two small children.

Studies have shown no deterrent effects on murder rates in states that have capital punishment.

There’s a reason for that. There’s rarely an immediate consequence for someone on death row. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_row “Due to the lengthy, expensive and time consuming appeals procedure that must be followed in the United States before an execution can be carried out, prisoners may wait years before execution; nearly a quarter of deaths on Death Row in the U.S. are in fact of natural causes.” We are, in a sense, saying, “There are no real immediate consequences for your actions, no matter how heinous. The worst that can happen to you is being placed in prison while the powers that be try to figure out what to do with you. And don’t worry – there are plenty of lawyers like Mark Larranaga fighting for your right to rape and murder without severe penalty. So, dream up your most wicked fantasy and have the time of your life, because even if your buddy Mark loses his battle for you, you’ll still likely die of natural causes on death row. You just need to decide if it’s worth it.” If anything needs reform, it’s the United States appeals procedure.

Since 1973, 124 inmates have been released from death row because of new evidence of innocence.

Many of these cases were overturned because someone had originally withheld evidence. There should be severe penalties for anyone who withholds evidence or perjurers themselves. It should be severe enough that if they’re found out the result is painful, like losing law license, job, and serving jail time and restitution payable to the person whose life they destroyed, or if too late, the family of the deceased. In fact, if someone is put to death because someone withheld evidence or perjured themselves, that person(s) should be tried for, at the very least, manslaughter.

Many of these cases were overturned because of the leaps and bounds made in forensic science. If anything, that should be a case for keeping the death penalty, because it’s less likely mistakes will be made and more likely the right person will be tried for the crime. Most of the cases that have been overturned have been since 1993, clearly, when knowledge has increased to the point of aptly finding the truth. Perhaps, with forensic science, there will be less margin for error.

This is what makes Duncan's case a bad place to "crusade" for abolishment of capital punishment.  He's admitted it.  There is no question as to whether he's done it -- and no amount of appeals would change that outcome.  He was caught red-handed with the girl and confessed he did the crimes.  According to the article I read, there is no doubt Duncan is guilty.   Therefore, he should accept the consequences of his crimes.  What gets to me more than anything at all is that the legal system seems to have failed all of Duncan's victims, past and present, and if the death penalty is abolished as a result of this trial, that will have been his legacy.  He'll have come out of this somewhat of a hero for those who oppose the death penalty, and there will be no justice for the Groene family or the other families Duncan has tortured, tormented, raped and murdered.  All hail the perpetrator!  


His lawyers ought to be disbarred for stupidity
It's sickening. I remember weeping and praying for those two little kids and wishing I could rescue them, myself. :'(
IMO today's method of capital punishment is too "nice" compared to what the murderous scum did to their victims
I agree with you completely, but I'd rather have nice capital punishment than no capital punishment. :\
You do have a point
The death penalty is not even the real issue here. The real issue is that activists have consistently been able to twist our Constitution into saying what it doesn't really say. "Cruel and unusual punishment" does not exclude execution by any of the usual methods for the crime of murder. If you had suggested it to the men who wrote those words they would have laughed at you. That is an extremely dangerous practice. If words don't mean what they mean, then we are no longer living under laws, but the whims of powerful men. Bye-bye English common law; bye-bye constitutional republic; bye-bye liberal democratic tradition.

To invoke another example: making the words "cruel and unusual" exclude all forms of the death penalty is just as much of a funhouse-mirror version of Amendment VIII, as making the words "the people" mean only the State and not individuals, in Amendment II. Both are dishonest in the extreme and it is proof of our degeneracy as a society that they are so widely accepted.

I believe that criticism of the death penalty is fair on the grounds that it is misapplied and innocent people can be railroaded. However, I don't think this is an insurmountable problem. The same people who care about those few unfortunates usually don't care about the more common and much more indiscrimnate new method of corporal punishment by the state: paramilitary police raids.

Edited at 2007-11-14 12:45 pm (UTC)
I'm against capital punishment in all instances, so while I understand and appreciate what you're trying to say with this post, I'll be thrilled if its use is banned completely. We've had no capital punishment in Denmark since WW2 and even so crime rates (percentage wise) are lower than in the US.

This is NOT a comment on Duncan's crimes, victims etc. It has nothing to do with him at all, but is just a reflection of capital punishment on its own.
I agree with you. I'm a proponent (in my small way) of returning to biblical law (which is the basis of English law). For example, a person can only be executed for a crime on the strength of two or three witnesses. Well, we definitely have that in Duncan's case.

Capital punishment until the 20th century was a deterrent to crime because the community participated. Hangings were public. During Biblical times, a person was stoned to death by the community for his crimes - and the sooner, the better, in God's opinion.

Having the view on death that I do - believing that there's more to life than this physical life we lead now; believing that those who had no opportunity to accept God's love and laws in this life will have a chance when Christ returns to earth - I take a longer view on life and death than most people do. Somebody who's committed crimes as heinous as Duncan needs to be removed from this life; set on the sidelines to take a time-out (for lack of a better word) until Christ returns and he can learn the truth of God and feel the real enormity of his crimes rest on his shoulders and lead him to repentance. He won't repent in this life with Satan whispering in his ear. Removing him now takes away the opportunity to commit even more sin and gives his soul a chance in God's kingdom.

Those who've been executed for crimes they didn't commit will get their apologies in the kingdom of God.

I could go on and on, but I'll stop now.
Capital punishment until the 20th century was a deterrent to crime
Capital punishment is NOT meant to be a deterrent to crime hence the name Capital PUNISHMENT
A punishment works as a deterrent when the idea of the punishment keeps one from committing the crime.

The small child who's stopped from - whatever - by the thought of the spanking to follow has been deterred from the malfeasance by the thought of the punishment. The adult who's stopped from committing heinous crimes by the thought of losing his own life for committing them has been deterred from them. Seeing someone punished by a public hanging or stoning or firing squad would certainly be a deterrent to others thinking of committing the same crimes.

You are very well spoken in issues you are passionate about. I do agree with your point of view.
Capital punishment is the one topic I've struggled to come to a decision about. I've decided that I'm incapable of making a final determination on my stance, so I read, pray, and consider until I do.
“Evolving standards of decency” in deciding what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the US Constitution’s 8th amendment.

I don't know how I feel about that claim. I'd like to think that our society has an advancing, not just evolving, sense of decency, but I'm not sure what bearing that should have on our interpretation of the Constitution. However, I think that it is fair to say that the way that capital punishment works in our country *is* cruel and unusual punishment. It is applied disproportionately by race and by socio-economic class. We execute people for crimes committed as children, we execute the mentally disabled, we execute the mentally ill. Far too many death sentence convictions have been overturned to believe that we can have any real confidence in the system's accuracy. Altogether, I think that makes capital punishment, as it exists in our country now, cruel and unusual.

However, I don't think that makes it inherently cruel and unusual. I think the system could be sufficiently fixed to deal with that.

However, I oppose capital punishment - in at least most cases, not sure about all - because of my faith. "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." The Law of Moses clearly said that the woman should be stoned, and Jesus made it clear that He had a a higher standard in mind. God is sovereign, and life is his domain. We have a right to protect ourselves and our society, , but I believe we have no right to take human life.

Another reason I oppose it is compassion. Jesus tells us that He desires the salvation of all. By cutting a life short, we cut short that person's window of opportunity to be saved. (I have serious, serious, jaw-on-the-floor-where-is-that-from theological problems with the below comment about accepting Jesus at the Second Coming.) I think that we should not become an obstacle to God's desire for the salvation of a soul. He will leave the 99 for the 1, I can't believe He would look kindly on us killing that 1.