Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Why do we have Electric Chairs, Gas Chamber, Lethal Injection, Hanging, Firing Squads

  1. Jan 4, 2004 #1
    And we call ourselves "civilized". I say get rid of all of them. A Government has no business executing its' Citizens, for any reason.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 4, 2004 #2
    Re: Why do we have Electric Chairs, Gas Chamber, Lethal Injection, Hanging, Firing Sq

    It's good for the morale. It helps everybody sleep better at night, wake up in the morning, go to church and believe they are almost without sin. It also helps keeping the ants in line. Oh, and you believe them when they say they're civilized? Should I remind you the first thing I learned about physics? That nothing gets lost, nothing is gained, everything just changes shape? The primal human just put up a mask and started manifesting his instincts in different ways.
     
  4. Jan 4, 2004 #3

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I agree. In high school and college I debated the pro death penalty position several times by choice. I have changed my mind. I now have too little confidence in the justice system to support such drastic measures, and I now find the moral and ethical objections unavoidable as well. The DNA studies that show a significant false conviction rate has cinched my position. This archaic practice must end.
     
  5. Jan 5, 2004 #4
    Ivan, what about cases like that of the green river killer in which the person admitted to raping and killing something like 46 women and it is obvious that it isn't a false confession due to the murderer giving accurate accounts of events and not fabricating anything?

    If you can prove beyond a doubt someone is guilty of a crime like raping and killing dozens of women, do you think that execution is still wrong? What about people like osama bin laden or others who head terrorist organizations or people like former nazi officers? Would you rather the American taxpayers help keep Osama bin laden alive than give him a shot? Would you have kept Hitler in some sort of maximum-security jail if he hadn't killed himself? I don't have the figures with me at the present, but it costs quite a bit to keep a prisoner alive each year, what's the point of not killing murdurers and terrorists when keeping them alive will cost alot of money, which could be used to do alot of good around the world? Imagine all the little starving African kids which could be fed with the thousands of dollars it costs per year to keep one psycho killer alive.

    Timejim, wanna back up your thoughts with reason? Who are you to dictate what a government should and shouldn’t do?
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2004
  6. Jan 5, 2004 #5
    All the people you mentioned are still useful. Even the most terible killer. Why kill them when you can painfully torture them? They would make a better example. You could make the "normal" murderers do some hard useless job like carrying a stone up and down some stairs. Death doesn't scare some people anymore. Work scares everybody.
     
  7. Jan 5, 2004 #6

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    On one level it really doesn't matter how certain we may be of guilt. I have a real problem with giving any machine like the justice system that kind of power. There can always be corruption, bias, political agendas, falsification of documents, falsification of evidence and so on. There can always be an element of doubt. Note that to kill someone, we need not be certain of guilt, just certain beyond reasonable doubt.

    What exactly is reasonable? This statement alone shows this to be a subjective evaluation and not one to which I would trust my life. This is one thought that also affected my position: If I were unjustly accused of murder, what system do I want in place. In all cases, I cannot imagine trusting a bunch of strangers with my life; especially when faced with a slick prosecuting attorney. Remember, your head could be another notch in the belt of an attorney who seeks political office.

    Also, did you know that Clinton added something like thirty more reasons for which the government can execute a person? Is that scary or what? This had to do with computer sabotage and such - crimes of high treason - but still... nearly thirty???

    Finally, it is now argued that due to the costs for the typical appeals made before the state can execute a person, it is cheaper to keep them in jail for life. This would seem to be true according to the discussions I have heard from various news sources over the years. I am sure some con death penalty group can provide the facts to back this up.
     
  8. Jan 5, 2004 #7
    Ok, but what about people like Saddam, Bin Laden, Officials in tyrannical governments etc.?

    And what if there was footage of someone going into a store and killing everyone with 2 machine guns, the police immediately caught him as he was leaving the store and he kills 3 police officers with the same guns before he's aprehended, what about then?

    What's wrong with proof beyond a resonable doubt? Are you implying that they should disprove unreasonable doubts as well before they execute someone? It's certainly possible that aliens took over someone's mind and forced them to perpetrate a crime, but rather unreasonable to consider in a court of law, wheras falsification of documents, political agendas etc. are perfectly reasonable.

    I'd imagine clinton added more reasons for which someone could be executed for due to the new ways in which people can commit crimes and cause others harm with technology.
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2004
  9. Jan 5, 2004 #8
    Eh, I was simply arguing death vs. imprisonment. Forced manual labor was kind of abolished a while ago in the USA and I don't think anyone who thinks killing people with a shot is uncivilized would be happy with those same people doing hard labor for no pay for their whole lives.

    I do support goolags for prisoners though, if we had prisoners work as slaves we could boost the economy mucho.
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2004
  10. Jan 6, 2004 #9

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    A martyr is more dangerous than a crippled leader. You can only kill a martyr once. His influence can live forever.

    Well, if someone I loved was killed in that store, then obviously I might be filled with hatred and want "an eye for an eye", but looking at this objectively, what do we gain by killing anyone?

    How do we elevate ourselves as a people by killing? How does this improve society? If the threat to society is effectively removed by a life sentence, then the death sentence becomes an act of vengence. Since there can never be absolute certainty of guilt, how many false convictions should we accept in order to satisfy this need? We cannot assume a perfect system since this will likely never happen. We must accept that some innocent people will die by false convictions. So you tell me, how many innocent lives may we sacrifice? How about if you or a loved one was the sacrificial lamb for our bloodlust? How would you feel about the death penalty then?

    1). What exactly is reasonable doubt?
    2). How do you ensure that each juror or judge agrees with your interpretation?
    3). What if I don't agree with your interpretation; and Russ doesn’t agree with mine?
    4). How do we ensure that each juror and judge is objective and honest?
    5). Why do you call for aliens when one dirty cop will do?

    This is what I said. This is just too much power for any machine to have over real people. Again, one act of corruption could end an innocent person’s life. The older I get, the more I realize how foolish it is to give the government or any agency any more power than it absolutely must have to in order operate effectively. We are taught about grand notions like “Social Contracts”, and "God and country", and other broad spectrum and ill defined notions like "National Security", and surely these all have their place, but these words can ring hollow as well. Princes and despots all use the same language.
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2004
  11. Jan 6, 2004 #10
    I'm just thinking not to recognize their quality of being human. Let the RSPCA handle them.
    And who said anything about not being paid? They are being kept alive. Isn't that enough? If they want out we can introduce a posibility for suicide.
    The main thing is that you cannot reason with an animal and man is an animal. If education and concience don't step in to control the disaster you only have an animal which must be treated as an animal.
     
  12. Jan 6, 2004 #11
    Why is it that the government doesn't have the right to kill it's citizens, but it has the right to imprison them (remove their freedoms)???


    I support the penalty, but the prospect of making such people slave laborers is quite appealing to me as an alternative :eek:

    Rapists, murderers, child molesters....hrrmmmm, all that free labor! Works for me!! :D (no pun intended ;) )
     
  13. Jan 6, 2004 #12
    Other states are trying to abolish the death penalty. In Texas, we're adding a nexpress lane

    Forensic evidence and 3 eye witnesses means you will be dead within 6 months of judgement, thus cutting down on the cost of housing people for 18+ years and appeals.
     
  14. Jan 6, 2004 #13
    The survival of our own ideals. And of course, in the scenario you created, the removal of a menace of society.
     
  15. Jan 6, 2004 #14
    Re: Why do we have Electric Chairs, Gas Chamber, Lethal Injection, Hanging, Firing Sq

    Luckily I live in a nation which does not do any such things.

    I agree, a state should never have the authority to execute its citizens.

    However, I think that in the case of crimes which either end life (murder, negligent homicide, et cetera) or permanently reduce quality of life (rape, mutilation, et cetera), the victim or relatives of the victim should be given the opportunity for revenge. Ie. the law should permit them to take some form of revenge (injure, kill, whatever) if they wish. Allow individual citizens the choice to become killers if they wish. But never let the state have the authority to execute citizens.

    As for me, no, I would not ever want to murder a bound, unarmed human. That would make me a coward. But other people might choose to do it.
     
  16. Jan 6, 2004 #15
    An important matter to consider. Regardless of the authority or ethics you think you have, or you think your state has, none of it changes the fact that if you kill the prisoner, or support his execution, then you are a killer, or at least condone killing.

    Is it worth being a killer? Do you want to be one? What does life mean to you?
     
  17. Jan 6, 2004 #16

    selfAdjoint

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    Right on!
     
  18. Jan 6, 2004 #17
    I repeat....

     
  19. Jan 6, 2004 #18
    Why do we have Electric Chairs, Gas Chamber, Lethal Injection, Hanging, Firing Squads?



    Because it's a sadistic thrill inflicting torture and death on other organisms, animals, people, whatever. The fact that someone committed horrific acts is just a convenient excuse for ppl. who aren't out of control sociopaths to satisfy the deep down curiousity of what it's like to do something like that to someone. Even I'm aware of this in myself, but I have enough consciousness and logic to know better.

    I remember when I first saw the WTC buildings on tv the morning of 9-11 thinking of calling the President (yes, *this* president) and asking, "where do I stand"; but in the next few time frames I started looking around and noticing how my fellow persons were reacting. They weren't angry because it happaned. They were angry because it happened to *them*. My sympathy turned to fog and evaporated away.
     
  20. Jan 6, 2004 #19
    Don't have to because "reason" is an opinion "one" develops within their own mind to justify their belief. You cannot justfy reason. Here is some food for thought: I have a good understanding for what I say as I was "Police Officer" at a Texas municipality for 3 years. I graduated Valedictorian of the Police Academy. I finally realized the "reason" Police officers are recruited at a young "adult" age. It is very, very easy to "brainwash" a young mind to the "Systems" way of thinking more than it would be, say, a 50 year old. They taught us at the Academy that EVERY traffic stop must be handled as though the individual you are stopping had "just killed their whole family and is escaping". Therefore, your actions at the traffic stop should be to act accordingly. Seen any replays of "COPS" lately on TV? Notice how OFTEN the police have their GUNS directed at someones HEAD? Scary.
     
  21. Jan 6, 2004 #20
    I'm an American and so I am the government!

    I would deal with a tragedy like that happening in my life with perspective and eventual healing if I lived in a society that was committed to doing the right thing, that was trully just -- that is, a society that didn't ignore children who torture and kill animals until they grow up and do it to a human being; a society that kept violent ppl. in a cage away from the rest of us instead of letting them out after "punishing" them for some period of time; a society that didn't glorify violence at every turn.

    Here's why folks today have a problem with the idea of keeping only violent ppl. in jail and really keeping them their. A lot of folks like to think it's pretty cool to "punch out" or other wise do something violent to someone who says something that hurts their wittle feewings so they pull up short of supporting the idea of making room in prisons for all violent ppl. and leaving them their. Ppl. are self serving like this. Consider that the prison guard unions will do whatever it takes to thwart a law that will lessen crime and free up prison space because that would mean a need for fewer prison guards.

    And ppl. wonder why aliens don't make contact.
     
  22. Jan 6, 2004 #21

    If one day you're lucky enough to have the power to jail or otherwise eliminate political prisoners, dissidents etc. then naturally it makes sense to get started today on a system that gets them out of the way quickly!

    At least, that is what these ppl. are fantasizing about down in the bubbling smelly pit of their unconscious mind.
     
  23. Jan 6, 2004 #22
    You really want an answer? If I had to kill to save someone I loved early so that he should not be killed, I would do it. I would not want to be a killer. Wanting is different from having to be one. Life means too much and I would avoid killing anyone if I saw a chance.
     
  24. Jan 6, 2004 #23
    Lots of people against me, I'm not going to be able to reply to you all, I'll reply to Ivan and then some general things.
    A leader in prison can be an inspiration, just as a martyt can. Nelson Mandella spent something like 20 years imprisoned, black people in south africa didn't suddenly stop wanting equality, and after he got out he became president.

    Simmilarly, if we had imprisoned hitler for life it's very likely that nazis would start hating america along with everyone else they already hated and done things in honor of their captured leader, perhaps even try to break him free.

    Though I see your point that if we humiliate the leader, like capturing him in the situation we did Saddam Huessein and then having that video of him being examined copmlacently that it might hurt the morale of their followers, but then again it could encite them and they could write it off as propaganda ment to degrade their leader.

    I know that if I were part of some sort of hypothetical revolutionary group and my leader was imprisoned and humiliated I'd be enraged and what vengence for my leader. Imagine that you're fighting in the american revolution and Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams and Ben Franklin were all taken prisoner by the british and publically humiliated, would your desire for american independence suddenly fade away or would that just make you despise the british even more?

    It's not what we gain so much, as what we don't loose. I really have doubts that all the things that are required to keep someone alive for several decades is less expensive than whatever it costs the state to hold trials. Depending on your religion/ethical beliefs, killing a wicked man might bring you satisfaction/honor. Of course the system isn't perfect, but I'm only hypothetically defending the death penalty in a case where it's certain someone is guilty.

    Of course peoples ideas of what is a resonable doubt will differ, and the system isn't perfect, but being guilty beyond a reasonable doubt is the criteria which must be presented for anyone to be convicted of any crime at all. People can be just as crooked and dishonest on a trial and convict a man of murder and sentence him to life in jail. What you seem to have is a lack of trust in the american executive and legislative branches of government as a whole. By your logic no one should ever be convicted of any crime because there is always some doubt which someone will consider reasonable in the case. If you abolish the death penalty people won't suddenly become honest and all knowing and only imprison people who are totally guilty. Innocent people will still be sentenced to life in jail.

    Plus, we live in a democratic republic. Officials are voted upon to decide things like what is a reasonable doubt, if you're unhappy with what is the consideration of reasonable, try to change it.

    And I think a dirty cop is a perfectly reasonable doubt in someone's conviction.

    Are you saying we shouldn't make new laws for punishment of crimes as new ways of commiting crimes appear? Without the death penalty one act of corruption could send an innocent man to jail until he dies, is sentencing someone to life without liberty any better than death?


    Timejim: In response to your comment about reason being personal, read my response to ivan highlighted in red. And by saying that reason is a personal thing and that you can't justify it, you're negating any claim you make, since, by your own logic, it is a totally personal stance and totally unjustifiable. Personally, I doubt that you were a police officer.

    In general response:

    I have no moral problems with killing a killer, especially not one who will spend his whole life doing nothing productive in jail that I will have to help pay for with my taxes. I also have no qualms about killing an unarmed man who's done things I would have killed him for while he was commiting them in the past. Maybe some of you would rather fight to the death with someone who raped and killed your mom, I'd be fine restraining him and giving him a shot. Now if prisoners were forced into labor, I'd like to keep as many alive as possible, but that's not the case largely.
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2004
  25. Jan 6, 2004 #24
    I condone justified killings,and yes it is worth it being a killer.
    Do I want to be one? By you, I am one.





    So, why did the USA get rid of hard labor? Cruel and unusual? Seems everyone on both sides supports convicts doing free labor for the rest of us who choose to play by the rules.




    No one has yet answered my question BTW.
     
  26. Jan 6, 2004 #25

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Dunno about you, but when I signed up for the military, the requirement to be a killer was something I was aware of. I did however room with a guy who quit after 2 weeks because he had never considered the possibility. Boggles my mind.

    So yes, in the confines of my job in the military, I could have been a killer and I certainly did condone killing. Worth being a killer? Essential. Did I want to be one? No - but I'd do it if necessary. Life is not something to be taken lightly - its the most fundamental right. But it can be taken.
     
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook