To Be or not To Be

By
Real Estate Technology with Carmody and Associates LLC

It is the coldest morning of the season... we have had snow in the Western panhandle of my home state of Florida.  And I am going to devote a blog post to the cheery subject of Capital Punishment.  I'm for it, by the way.   Having said that, I would also like to point out that I would be extremely selective in the cases where I believe it to be an appropriate sanction.  But I believe that the authority to take a life as a deterrent to extraordinary antisocial acts is inherent in governmental sovereignty - and should be.

Opponents of capital punishment typically say that no case has been made for the deterrent effect of the government taking a life under color of law.  It is true that it a very difficult task to prove a negative fact of deterrence. 

I was an official state witness for a Florida execution in 1979.  So this is not simply an academic discussion for me.  Capital punishment was halted in this country in 1972 by the US Supreme Court (Furman v Georgia).  The Court wrestled with arguments that the death penalty, as it was being applied, would violate the Constitutional prohibitions of cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the 8th Amendment and the 14th Amendment.  Death row inmates -- to include Charles Manson in California, recently deceased at 83 years of age by natural causes -- had their sentences commuted to life in prison.  If you are not familiar with the Manson case, you should probably look it up.  Florida revised their statutes to include a separate sentencing phase to the trial, consideration of mitigating and aggravating circumstances and an automatic appeal to the Supreme Court in death penalty cases.  The new Florida statutory scheme was approved by the Supreme Court in 1976 (Proffitt v Florida).   John Spenkelink was tried and convicted under the new laws and was set to die by electrocution at Florida State Prison in Stark in May of 1979.  

I had flown to Stark in a private plane.  The apron for parking of aircraft at the prison was located between the area occupied by protestors and the building that housed the execution process, so officials suggested that I fly to a neighboring prison facility and park the aircraft there, returning by car. I returned with the warden of the neighboring facility.  He was a long time employee of the correctional system and was extremely experienced in his job - and, in fact, his father had been a prison warden who had died in a prison riot years before.  He explained things to me that made me secure in my belief in favor of maintaining the death penalty in certain limited circumstances - and I have never forgotten our conversation. 

He told me that in the limited population of inmates in the state prison system, the deterrent effect and benefit of the death penalty was easy to demonstrate.  In fact, without the death penalty, it would be difficult to maintain order in the correctional facilities.  Without a death penalty, any prisoner with a life sentence would be able to murder inside the facility with impunity - guards or other prisoners would be their victims - because there was no further penalty that they could be subjected to.  

So there is the answer, for me, to opponents of the death penalty who ask for proof of deterrence or benefit to the society.  However, there are currently 19 states which do not approve the use of capital punishment meaning that 31 states and the federal government approve the practice at present.  

At present, there are few suppliers of the drugs which have been approved to put a person to death. This has created a shortage and some executions have had to be postponed.  This is reminiscent of recent gun control advocates who have tried to limit the amounts of ammunition available in the supply chain to legal owners of firearms.  

There is evil in the world which still needs to be faced by our society.  Capital punishment is, regrettably, still necessary in these dangerous times as a response to the depraved acts of antisocial (whether sociopaths or psychopaths) people. There are other approaches which may be appropriate for some cases but as a last resort, the state or federal government must have this ultimate power to survive and to protect their citizens.  

I apologize for intruding on our holiday season by directing your thoughts to these uncomfortable topics.  My post was prompted by a series of recent articles citing the shortage of some of the necessary chemical agents to carry out an execution and the observations that witnesses to executions were being subjected to unpleasant sights to carry out their duties.  While that may be true, I hope we can concentrate on the importance of the task, though unpleasant.  Although a state witness to the execution, I am not convinced that the case of John Spenkelink was an appropriate set of circumstances to call for the death penalty.  But that determination was made by the judge and jury on the case and approved by a series of appellate judges ending with the US Supreme Court. 

By the way, there is a disconnect between the legal definitions of insanity and the medical definitions. For example, while serial killers may exhibit antisocial personality disorders of sociopaths and psychopaths,  neither is considered to be a mental illness according to the American Psychiatric Association (in their DSM-5). More on that in a later post if I get interested comments.

 

 

 

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Rainmaker
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Nathan Gesner
American West Realty and Management - Cody, WY
Broker / Property Manager

I agree. There are many examples where the murderer is caught red-handed yet we still allow them to spend decades appealing their case and wasting millions of dollars and court time. Certain egregious crimes should be tried quickly and the sentence carried out quickly.

Dec 10, 2017 08:15 PM #1
Rainmaker
3,187,111
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

My take the issue is that it takes a long time to get the desired result, in other countries you do something brutal the punishment is swift while every one remembers it and it is a deterrent from other people doing brutal acts, but if you linger on for 20-30 years waiting for hundreds of appeals it defeats the purpose, Endre

Dec 10, 2017 09:33 PM #2
Rainmaker
429,100
Ted Baker
Carmody and Associates LLC - Winter Haven, FL
MidFloridaMediation.com

Gentlemen, I hear you and I think I probably agree.  That delay in the process is part of the reason we can't demonstrate a deterrent effect in the general population.  But we have something that other countries do not always have and that is due process.  20-30 years would be ridiculous, but what is reasonable?

We try to expedite the appeals and, I believe, we can ask that all points be raised on appeal in the first go around - but still it can take time to exhaust all state appeals then federal appeals. 

It is a serious step for the government(s) to decide to take a life.  But there should certainly be a system to fast track certain types of appeals through the system. 

Thank you, both, for your comments.

Dec 11, 2017 12:38 PM #3
Rainmaker
429,100
Ted Baker
Carmody and Associates LLC - Winter Haven, FL
MidFloridaMediation.com

Nathan - I worked as a Deputy County Attorney years ago in Gillette, WY.

Beautiful state - but the snow never melted - it just wore down from friction from the winds.  That and the idea that the state tree was the telephone pole are my two greatest memories of the state.

Dec 11, 2017 12:46 PM #4
Ambassador
934,985
Mike Frazier
Carousel Realty of Dyer County - Dyersburg, TN
Northwest Tennessee Realtor

Ted, Romans chapter 13 in the bible gives the authorities justification to execute people who are guilty of capital crimes such as murder. I agree that there should be 100% proof of the guilt before doing so. 

Dec 12, 2017 01:19 PM #5
Rainmaker
429,100
Ted Baker
Carmody and Associates LLC - Winter Haven, FL
MidFloridaMediation.com

Hi, Mike.  There is rarely 100% proof of guilt. The legal standard would be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  And beyond that, I do not think every murderer deserves to die at the hands of the state.  The typical murderer in a crime of passion is unlikely to repeat his crime and the death penalty may not be necessary to protect society.  But the psychopath whose crime includes such disregard for life or depravity of spirit because of multiple murders or the extremely depraved mind displayed in the commission of the act, he (or she) may be a candidate for the death penalty for the protection of us all, in my opinion.  

Dec 13, 2017 08:20 AM #6
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Mike Frazier
Carousel Realty of Dyer County - Dyersburg, TN
Northwest Tennessee Realtor

agreed!

Dec 14, 2017 10:22 AM #7
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Ted Baker

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