Sunday, February 11, 2007

William F. Blowhard, Jr.

William F. Buckley concludes his latest column, the subject of which is his unwavering support of capital punishment, thusly: "It is a pity that arguments on the question are so often made by citing the number of people who are discovered, years later, to have been innocent. To attempt to devise a criminal justice system that absolutely ensures against mistaken verdicts is to guarantee the immobilization of justice."

Some might argue that the true pity is Buckley's callousness towards those wrongfully convicted.

4 Comments:

Blogger Old Lady said...

I agree. Some people are innocent. I have tried to put myself in the victims shoes many times. I keep coming up with that I would not want someone else's life on my conscious. Sure, revenge is sweet, but it doesn't make one feel better. I think the fact that any person has been convicted while innocent is reason enough to not have a death sentence. The only other solution would be it would have to be so obvious, like Jeffrey Dahmer or John Wayne Gacy then it might be justified. If they could set it up that way...

10:31 AM, February 11, 2007  
Blogger Jeremy said...

It's not just about mistaken verdicts. It's the fact that the mistaken verdict leads to the ultimate and irreversible punishment.

9:31 PM, February 11, 2007  
Blogger Beth said...

Interesting that he'd bring up the number of people exonerated, then not go there. Guess it would defeat his argument.

4:43 PM, February 12, 2007  
Blogger Saxdrop said...

okay, I'll bite. It may be callous, and it doesn't address the, oh, let's call it ontological, aspect of a death penalty, but I don't think he's incorrect that reducing an argument to that maxim would be unproductive.

Consider the two possible extremes of the justice system should achieve (holding the number of resources, such as cops and judges and such, constant):

1. Not a single innocent person should be found guilty. (Type I errors)

2. Not a single guilty person should go free. (Type II errors)

Of course we don't operate in either of these worlds, but somewhere in between. Maximizing along the first constraint would allow a lot of crime to go unpunished because it would require a burden of proof so onerous as to make it meaningless. Of course, the second is no utopia either--leads to many wrongful convictions.

In this country I think we lean more towards the the first, thus we have due process and and the burden of proof on the prosecution. Also, capital punishment cases, we have an obligatory appeals process which is quite lengthy. That said, one can oppose the death penalty on other grounds such as the irreversability, but everything is a balance.

I have a professor right now, who found, in his empirical work that the death penalty does have a deterrent effect. I don't think I buy it, because the evidence is certainly mixed, but at the very least that effect may not outweigh other concerns.

10:48 PM, February 15, 2007  

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