[Kuypers’ home at artvilla.com]

[Books and CDs][Artvilla.com][JanetKuypers.com][Bio][Poems][Prose]

Let’s Decide Who To Kill

It seems that I get riled up when I listen to talk radio, and I want to argue with their points. But I’m usually in a car and don’t have my cell phone on me — and I know that if I tried to call I’d never get through and just waste a lot of minutes on hold using my cell phone while driving (a safe thing to do, isn’t it?). But I was listening to The Deborah Rowe Radio Program on WLS AM a night or two ago, the day the Supreme Court decided that it wasn’t right to allow capital punishment to minors (through age 17). And Deborah Rowe (the splendid Republican that she apparently is) thought it was totally wrong that the Supreme Court allowed this, when there are perfectly horrendous teens out there that she deems deserving the death penalty.

I’m sure these same Republicans believe that a fetus shouldn’t be killed (they’re against abortion), but they’re okay with killing people who’ve already been living a while.

Makes sense.

I heard Deborah Rowe going on about how it is right to kill these youngsters, after some of the details of their disgusting crimes are revealed. One caller even said on the radio that they were religious, and killing people is used a lot in the Bible.

And I thought, sure, in the Old Testament, but not the New Testament.

Then I head him say that he was a Roman Catholic.

So then I wondered why he was adhering to the Old Testament’s “eye for an eye” mentality (which I think all of us feel sometimes...), and not to the Christian New Testament, where Jesus told his followers to not listen to the words of his Father, but to listen to what He has to say.

I don’t claim to be religious, but can’t we all see fallacies in his argument?

After I heard these right-wingers talking about how right it is to kill kids when they feel that they deserve the death penalty, I thought I’d look at the Judge’s rulings myself, and also look into newspaper accounts of the ruling.

From the Washington Post, staff writer Charles Lane wrote on March 2, 2005, and quoted Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s opinion:

“From a moral standpoint, it would be misguided to equate the failings of a minor with those of an adult, for a greater possibility exists that a minor’s character deficiencies will be reformed,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in the opinion for the court.

Wow, at eighteen, people in this country are old enough to drive, vote, kill people in war as a soldier, and even get the death penalty. But they’re not old enough to legally drink. Oh, wait, I’m sorry, I’m bring up other subjects again. Let me get back to the judge.

“Our determination,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy added, “finds confirmation in the stark reality that the United States is the only country in the world that continues to give official sanction to the juvenile death penalty.”

Ah, then we’re looking for that global scale again, which President Bush laughed at Senator Kerry for bringing up.

But then again, a global scale might not be a bad idea. I mean, think about it: we allow our teens to do things, but restrict them from doing other things. In European countries, you can have a soft drug like marijuana, and you won’t be put in the stockades for it. I think they also don’t impose the same strictness when it comes to drinking ages. I just think it’s funny that the United states allows people as they grow some rights, but not others.

How are kids supposed to grow and learn without a consistent set of rules to live by? And we’re the country with more violence than any other country. How strange...

Damn, there I go, rambling off on another tangent again. I guess there’s just so much that bothers me about how we run things here.

So let me get back to the death penalty thing. Stephen Boykewich of the Moscow Times wrote that while Justice Kennedy went on for 3 pages about international views of the death penalty for minors and mentioned that this was only support to his final decision to lift capital punishment for minors, Justice Antonin Scalia in his dissent wrote that “the views of other countries and the so-called international community take center stage.” Scalia then said the decision was “the subjective views of five members of the Court and like-minded foreigners.”

Hmm. Getting a little heated at the Supreme Court.

In Justice Kennedy’s notes about international law, he noted that we are the only country that allows the death penalty for minors. I know some acts committed by minors can be utterly heinous, but if they don’t have the adult mind to understand what they’ve done, do we have a right to kill them for it? Besides, it will probably end up costing less just to keep them in prison for life.

Yes, that’s what I said. Keeping them alive even costs less.

And no, I didn’t come up with that on my own. Sunfyre of http://www.sunfyre.com/deathpenalty.html wrote a long explanation of why this is true:

“The typical death penalty conviction must go through several levels of appeal. All these appeals must be heard by the courts in virtually every case. Attorneys are paid dramatically more than prison guards. One prison guard is responsible for several prisoners, where one prisoner on death row typically employs several attorneys and legal staff for many years, all while still using your tax dollars in prison. Life sentences are rarely appealed. The typical life span in prison is about two dozen years, many of the most violent prisoners get murdered in prison.”

That’s not the only source I could find. Phil Porter noted in The Economics of Capital Punishment, that:

A Duke University study found... “The death penalty costs North Carolina $2.16 million per execution over the costs of a non-death penalty murder case with a sentence of imprisonment for life.”

Sacramento Bee, March 18, 1988: “The death penalty costs California $90 million annually beyond the ordinary costs of the justice system.”

“A 1991 study of the Texas criminal justice system estimated the cost of appealing capital murder at $2,316,655. In contrast, the cost of housing a prisoner in a Texas maximum security prison single cell for 40 years is estimated at $750,000.”

“Florida calculated that each execution there costs some $3.18 million. If incarceration is estimated to cost $17,000/year, a comparable statistic for life in prison of 40 years would be $680,000.” (The Geography of Execution... The Capital Punishment Quagmire in America, Keith Harries and Derral Cheatwood 1997 p.6)”

Okay, I’ve got one more, and I think this is a good source. The Close Up Foundation looked into Capital Punishment in the United States, and Sharon C. Smith wrote and compiled this information:

“A death row inmate will have gone through the long and complex process of a two-stage trial, automatic review of sentence by state appellate courts, possible review in the federal courts, and a clemency hearing. All of this requires paid counsel for the trial and appellate processes. Then, of course, death row maintenance is expensive. Even with the restrictions placed on habeas claims of prisoners, a prisoner will see years go by between sentencing and actual execution.”

And the Close Up Foundation also noted that “it is true that it is currently more expensive to sentence a murderer to death than to LWOP (life without parole -ed.)...”

Well, those are some statistics for you. Although I’d wonder if so many people are put into prison than executed, there may be a chance that prison costs will be forced to go up, I don’t know.

And people can even complain that instilling the death penalty and capital punishment is Democracy at work, if we vote death penalty legislation, then a jury votes for death, it’s the people speaking. But Sunfyre of http://www.sunfyre.com/deathpenalty.html even had an answer for that: “It is democracy at work, only not the democracy Thomas Jefferson envisioned...Governors push the death penalty to get elected, District attorneys push it to get elected, high priced defense lawyers get more press.” He goes on to say that these “necessary evils of politics” help to harbor this desire for killing people convicted of crimes.

The point? ...Oh, I think the point was to talk about the death penalty being lifted for all under the age of eighteen by the Supreme Court. And there I go, extrapolating to how the death penalty is bad for everyone.

How obnoxious of me.

But I think, if we’re going to talk about lifting capital punishment for minors, we should talk about the pros and cons of that. I guess a pro is with the argument that if someone under eighteen commits a crime, they are not mature enough to know the scope and ramifications of what they have done. The pro is that if we allowed capital punishment to minors, then we would be allotting a mature — and severe, and final — punishment to an immature being.

Okay, good pro there. How about the cons for lifting capital punishment to minors?

Um... I can’t think of any.

Wait, I was listening to the Deborah Rowe show, where they were talking about how the lifting of capital punishment on minors was wrong. She talked about the heinousness of crimes committed by some minors.

Yes, capital punishment — killing people — gets rid of the heinous crimes, doesn’t it.

Wait, let me check the records... Capital punishment doesn’t deter people, I mean, it is a definite deterrent to stop the accused from committing the crime again to just kill them, but I don’t think capital punishment really deters people from committing crimes. Want proof? Fine (you guys are picky for wanting explanations).

Here’s a stat from the Uniform Crime Reports, Oct. 3, 1993. U.S. Department of Justice, F.B.I.: “The murder rate in the U.S. in 1992 was 9.3 murders per 100,000 population. 16 States had a murder rate higher than the national average. Of those 16 all but one, the sixteenth, was a death penalty State.” So states with higher murder rates were also states that allowed capital punishment. Interesting.

The Christian Courier’s Wayne Jackson even stated in an article (thought we’d go the religious route even on this one) that there was “an appeal of sorts to the Scriptures, allege that capital punishment is incompatible with the teaching of Jesus.” But when it came to whether or not capital punishment was a deterrent, Jackson pointed out that “no one can ever know how many potential murderers have refrained from taking human life due to their fear of prosecution, conviction, and ultimate execution.”

Good point, Jackson.

Evangelist Ted R. Weiland even wrote in Capital Punishment: Deterrent or Catalyst? that “when felons, such as Ted Bundy, can postpone their execution for prolonged periods of time by means of America’s appellate system, criminals are encouraged in their unlawful behavior rather than deterred.” He even thought about the rationale of the would-be criminal: “the prison system isn’t so bad. Heck, it’s three square meals, a bed, as much television as I want and I don’t have to work for a living!” And if they’re sentenced to the death penalty? “I have the appellate courts to rely upon. And, if my case is not overturned, how many years on death row will it be until they actually execute me. By then I’ll be an old man...” which may leave the odds in their favor.

He mentioned Ted Bundy. And you know, I heard of a study done showing that murder rates went down after Ted Bundy’s execution, so people thought there was a deterring factor in capital punishment. They then later figured out that the drops in murders were only in areas they analyzed, which were areas that also happened to get really cold, bad weather. In other parts of the country the murders rates did not change at all. Some even wondered after analyzing this study if weather was a better deterrent for murders than the death penalty.

While looking for more evidence about capital punishment, I figured that since I’m going out on these religious limbs here, I’ll even point out that ReligiousTolerance.org pointed out another good issue: “With the exception of professional hit-men, very few people are in a rational frame of mind when they kill others. It may be hopeless to expect any form of punishment to act as a deterrent.”

Wow, I keep hearing all of these rational arguments against the deterrence of these crimes, as well as the abolishment of capital punishment to minors. All I do know is that it doesn’t act as a deterrent, it costs less to keep people in prison for life, and, well, kids are just that — kids. If we don’t let them vote, or even die four our country by service in the military — why should we punish them like an adult for doing something terribly wrong?

Books and CDs  Kuypers’ Bio  Kuypers’ Poems  Kuypers’ Prose  Chicago Poet and Poetry Chicago Artist and Art