Life after the death penalty


Tell me: Does any sane person really believe that the world would be a better and safer place if Rick Stevens had been executed by the state of California?

The guy was all fucked up on drugs when he shot three men. Horrible crime. He spent most of his adult life in prison. And now, at 72, he's out on the streets -- where the odds that he will ever hurt anyone again are infintessimally small.

Instead of spending millions and millions of dollars to kill him, the state gave him a life sentence, with the possibility of parole, which was finally granted. It's hard to argue that justice wasn't done.

This was the legacy of the Rose Bird Court, the most progressive Supreme Court in California history, from back when Jerry Brown was a young governor. Bird and her colleagues didn't like the death penalty, and ultimately ruled that the state's executiion process was unconstitutional. So people like Stevens got a second chance.

Not saying he should have gone free; nobody says that. But the state saved money, and saved a life, by failing to carry out the ultimate punishment. And I think we're all better off for it.


30 years in prison should be the maximum punishment for civilian crimes. War crimes and crimes against humanity, using the state to kill, should still be a capital crime.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 11:18 am

Even older people can pose a threat, and Lawrence Singleton is one good example. At the age of 34, he raped and hacked off the arms of a teenager, Mary Vincent, (she miraculously survived the murder attempt). He served eight years in prison and then he was paroled. Years later, at the age of 69, while living in Florida, he brutally murdered a woman, Roxanne Hayes.

30 years is insufficient for brutal crimes, and we will never accept that in the U.S..

Lawrence Singleton should have served life in prison for the initial rape and murder attempt, and anyone else like him should be sent to prison for life, and I am happy to pay my share of taxes to keep them there. I certainly agree with individuals who commit non-violent crimes getting lesser sentences. I also agree with giving juveniles and certain adults (even those who commit murder under some circumstances) an opportunity for release, but I would never support a blanket limit of 30 years in prison for all crimes.

As for capital punishment, it seems odd to me to reserve it for war crimes, etc. I am not sure how a war crime is more terrible than a brutal first-degree murder of one or more individuals outside of a war context? I have moral reservations about capital punishment, but I cannot say I completely object to it in all cases.

Posted by Chris on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 11:31 am
Posted by Guest on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 11:44 am

I think war crimes and crimes against humanity are, in fact, worse than ordinary murders, AND such criminals are probably more likely to be deterred by the death penalty.

I want to go back to what one of the Guest trolls wrote in response to me on the Bratton thread. I had made the point that catching criminals by routine traffic stop is probably an inefficient method of catching criminals, because I'd be careful to drive perfectly if I had an outstanding warrant. Trollish Guest made the point that *I* might be careful, but then I'm not out there shooting people over a gold chain -those people are generally young and have poor impulse control. I don't think you can necessarily make such sweeping generalizations, but... stereotypes and sweeping generalizations aside, Guest troll actually has a bit of a point. *Most* of these murderers are young, and do have poor impulse control. They're also not very mature. They also have societal pressures of inequality working against them.

So for those kinds of individuals, no law really serves as a deterrent. If they have an outstanding warrant for their arrest, and they can't even obey basic traffic laws to avoid unwanted police attention, do you really think some law passed in Sacramento making the death penalty easier to enforce is really going to make them less likely to shoot someone for a gold chain? OTOH... paroling them after 30 years is probably not a bad idea. By then, they're older, wiser, and are likely to be a very different person. Not everybody... like this very rare example of a 69 year old murderer, but that's why the parole board has some discretion.

War criminals -particularly the higher-ups, and those who commit crimes against humanity -they are a different breed.
First, their crimes are not due to impulse control. They know exactly what they're doing and often they believe it's right, based on absurd rationalizations.
Second, they're incorrigable. 30 years in the pen won't generally make them a different person. You can see that with a lot of Nazis that got out of prison, only to re-engage in causes of the far-right.
Thirdly, they are actually more likely to be susceptible to stricter societal controls. Unlike an 18-year old kid, people like say Bush or Kissinger probably wouldn't murder if they themselves knew they'd be subject to the death penalty.

Their motivations are different -these are true sociopaths. They cannot generally be rehabilitated, and age is no barrier to their murderous intent. Only the threat of punishment. But because they fashion themselves as respectable members of society, punishment is MORE likely to be a deterrent in their case. Thus when they say the death penalty is not a deterrent, they're only partly right. It's not a deterrent against the kind of folks we use it on, but it WILL be a deterrent against these other types of murderers.

And... there's one other reason why the death penalty would be more appropriate in the cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity -they're usually a lot worse!!! As the saying goes... kill one person and its murder, kill a million and it's foreign policy.

I'm not a death penalty absolutist. Some people richly deserve it. The main problem I have is that in *our* society, the way *we* use it, who gets the death penalty has little to nothing to do with the severity of the crime, or even if the person is innocent or guilty. It has to do with class, race, and gender (with men getting treated more harshly for the same offenses). That being the case, I don't think our justice system is capable of using the death penalty in a manner that would be fair and effective, so under those conditions I'd rather take away its use entirely.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 12:54 pm

abolition of the death penalty if that were accompanied by a requirement that parole never be granted for those perps who would otherwise have had the death sentence.

Of course, the Feds can and do still use the death penalty on Californians and, unlike the ponderous and expensive State system, they are quick and efficient about it.

If you want your criminal executed, hit him with a federal rap.

Posted by anon on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 12:40 pm

Despite Tim's longing for Rose Bird Californians have ALWAYS reaffirmed the death penalty by defeating repeal efforts again and again. People who disagree with the death penalty make it expensive by mandating endless appeals, driving up costs and then demand the death penalty be repealed because it's so expensive. The answer is to speed up executions - fire up the lethal injection apparatus and send 'em to the cemetery!

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 2:34 pm

Two years max and you are toast.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 2:51 pm

What kind of drugs are you on and why have they not sentenced you to death for that yet and executed you?

Posted by marcos on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 9:32 am

and not just by the State. The Feds run a tight ship vis a vis executions.

Posted by anon on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 9:37 am

Johnson, Corey Black VA 1993 Sentenced to death (in 1993!) for his participation in a series of drug-related murders. (Co-defendant with Richard Tipton & James H. Roane, Jr.)

Posted by marcos on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 9:47 am

There is too much thought given in consideration to MURDERERS. I implore you, to take a moment, and give consideration to the VICTIMS...

Each Murderer, CHOSE to kill.
Each VICTIM had no choice but to die.
Each VICTIM'S FAMILY has no choice, but to continue living a life that is EVERY PERSON'S WORST NIGHTMARE...

Saskia Savana Burke was a brilliant girl! She answered every question correctly on the CA state test two years in a row. The depth of her love and compassion for humanity was wise beyond her 18 years. She was not just my daughter - she was my best friend, my companion -
my one true soulmate in this journey through life! She is the one person, I truly cannot ever again exist without! The pain and the horror she died with, will never leave me! I heard each scream as she was stabbed in the face, the chest - her hands and feet!

You consider the one person who MAY be innocent... Stop to consider the thousands of VICTIMS and their families forced to endure the DEATH SENTENCED IMPOSED UPON THEM BY EACH MURDERER. And may this wisdom guide you in your journey to make the right choice.

It is a travesty to Victims and their Families, society's misconception that we are seeking JUSTICE or REVENGE.
As a VICTIM - and - the Mother of a MURDERED CHILD, those two things will NEVER be possible. WILLIAM GARY SIMPSON chose to throw his life away, when he came into our home to murder ALL OF US. He destroyed ALL OUR LIVES when he attacked us, and murderer our daughter - Saskia Savana Burke!

THE ONLY THING that the Death Penalty sentence WILL do, is to return some sense of peace to my 14 year-old daughter. That's all. But, that's enough too. For you see, she heard her sister's screams as she was being brutally and viciously stabbed to death. Kessa stood on the stairs, at the tender age of 13, and watched in horror the bloody battle as the Gary stabbed her daddy and a 17 year-old boy who was staying with us over Christmas break. And as she ran out the front door of her home that morning to escape, she feared her mother - who was the only one left to battle with the Gary Simpson and his arsenal of knives, would die too!

Kessa has not slept a single night since, without the nightmares. Her post traumatic stress is too large, for such a young girl! And yet - she is brave enough, strong enough to fight to survive this! And what she NEEDS to survive, to go on and put together her NEW LIFE - is what you are debating right now! Please, don't take from VICTIMS any more than the MURDERER already has.

We tell our children, monsters don't exist. Except in Kessa's case, she knows THEY DO! And she lives in constant terror, each moment Gary Simpson is alive. Kessa asked me, when California was trying to get rid of the Death Penalty, "what" the Death Penalty is - and "how" they would put Gary to death. I explained he would be put in a 'special prison', and that some day they would place him on a table and insert a needle into his arm. He would be given a drug that was not painful, but would stop his heart and he would die. At first, she was ANGRY that he would not suffer.

Many weeks later, she came to me and asked if she could watch when they executed Gary. I told her yes. She pondered this for many days more. And then, my 13 year-old came to me again. "I need to see Gary die, momma. I need to know he is REALLY dead, and he isn't going to hurt us anymore! I think I could sleep again, if I knew he was dead... Please momma, make sure we keep the Death Penalty in California, so I can stand behind the glass and watch Gary die."

To a society who thinks there's more, well, there's not. The ONLY thing that can be gained from the destruction of our lives, is the chance for this young girl to build a brand new life. And what she needs, to do this, is to have her sense of safety and peace restored to her. WILLIAM GARY SIMPSON, who came to annihilate Kessa's family simply because they loved each other - and he coveted that love, MADE HIS OWN CHOICE. He chose to throw his life away. And if Kessa needs to see him dead to rebuild HER LIFE - it's the least society could give to her!

Kessa once had a loving, happy family. A mommy and a daddy, a brother and a sister. We were ONCE THE BURKE'S- and now, there's just Kessa...

She's the only one who stands a chance of going on,
in the aftermath of what WILLIAM GARY SIMPSON

Posted by Catherine Burke on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 9:14 am

... and irrational. That's why we don't let victims or families decide on punishment. They do that in a few tribal societies... in some Islamic countries in certain cases, but I think most places are a little bit beyond that sort of 7th century "justice."

Another killing won't bring the victim back.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 8:55 am

I have to agree with you. I do understand how she feels though. She's just angry and afraid and she is having a hard time managing her anger and fear. No matter the circumstances, revenge just isn't okay and it won't bring the victims back. I do believe that killers should stay in a cell, where they belong, for the rest of their miserable lives without parole.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 10, 2013 @ 11:20 pm

Well, as long as he was "all fucked up on drugs," then I guess it's OK.

Posted by Chromefields on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 11:07 am

An absurd straw man version of Redmond's logic. Redmond's real logic, as outlined by Redmond, seems a lot more logical than Chromefields' logic.

What the hell is a Chromefield anyway? Weirdo.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 11:53 am

well i have found that the anti-death penalty people will always resort to calling people like you and me, cat, who have had their babies brutally murdered, all kinds of names like vengeful and full of hate. It is funny if not so sad, that their mercy seems to be completely for the murderer and not the victim. We, it seems, are just not as enlightened as they, nor as intelligent. We are "uninformed", bloodlusting, etc. I could resort to name calling as well but will not stoop to it. It is sad, as we are in the vast majority, those who believe in the death penalty, but it seems are not allowed to have a difference of opinion.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 2:22 pm

People said that California would never abandon the death penalty. We didn't quite make it this time, but 48%+ makes "never" look like it's not so far in the future anymore.

Most countries are already there. You can say that you have a difference of opinion, that neither view is inherently more enlightened... you can say that, but there's no denying that the civilized world is moving beyond the death penalty. Look at this map:
Look at the countries that still use the death penalty. Do you see any democracies among those countries? Do you see any place you'd remotely like to live?
We're in an increasingly isolated group of rogue states. But don't worry, we'll get there. America always seems to be last in social progress, but we'll get there. Mark my words.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 3:40 pm

Japan is a democracy and part of the "civilized world." It is also a considerably less violent country (in most respects) than the U.S. and has one of the highest standards of living in the world. India is also a democracy. Singapore is a partial democracy; however, it is an attractive and clean place to live with a very high standard of living. Other countries on the list are also democracies, if not exactly wealthy nations. Finally, the U.S. is a democracy, and I assume you live in the country and want to live in it.

I already made my comment above about the death penalty (I generally oppose it, but I cannot say I have an absolute objection in every case).

That said, your comment about the countries on the list allowing capital punishment is not entirely accurate.

Posted by Chris on Feb. 02, 2013 @ 2:27 pm