In Utah a fellow human being was strapped in a chair and six men with rifles took aim.

Now as is a custom of formal firing squads, only five out the six had real bullets while one would have a blank. This so that the members of the firing squad can ease their feeling of guilt or reservation by excusing them as they were the one with the blank.  As such the penalty of death was carried out against that human after being convicted and sentenced to death for killing someone in his attempt to escape from his trial for murdering another human being.

A cold and orderly murder by the State and the society of Utah.

Is it the right of a humane society to order and carry out the intentional killing of a human being?

A question that has been discussed and argued for hundreds of years in this country among others.  Some other countries even if the crime does not carry the death penalty will not extradite someone to the United States because we have the death penalty for some crimes.

Is the death penalty a deterrent? In 1973 a survey was done of everyone who had been sentenced to death and were waiting for the sentence to be carried out. They were asked “Did you ever consider you could be put to death for committing the crime before you committed it?”  To the person not one said it was ever a consideration before committing the crime.  So in that aspect it is not a deterrent and for the most part crimes are committed due to emotion and impulse, not with reasoning that comes from a sound mind which would take into account what punishment might result in committing the crime.

The laws, courts and penalties imposed are more a deterrent to those who do not need a deterrent.  They are not prone to or having those circumstance that would make committing a crime a reasonable thing to do for them.

So what is the reasoning for a society to put someone to death for having committed a crime of any degree?

An explanation that I have heard came from a reporter who though she was against the death penalty witnessed an execution.  She described the actual execution as being rather simple and not appearing to be unduly painful.  A needle put in the arm of the condemned, the injection of drugs that seemed to just make the man go to sleep.  The condemned simply nodded off and it was over except for the reality being he was now dead.  Her explanation was, that is was the most extreme example a society has to show that certain crimes will not be tolerated by the society.

Now of course the real deterrent is that this one person shall never again commit the crime or any crime that they received the death penalty for. Once they have died they can never do anything again.

But once they have been put to death there is no chance of redemption and for the most part both humans and society want to believe that there is always a chance of redemption.  We all make mistakes and never believe we should be damned for eternity for a mistake.

Else then why not have the death penalty for any crime?

“Penitentiary” a place for dong penance is the meaning of having a prison and locking someone up.  Though the reality is that a prison is a walled barrier, that keeps insanity from the sane.  I was once told that the cure for crime is time, a man spends so much of his life locked up he gets too old to do crime. Prison is a young man’s game!

The kinds of murders are as varied as the reasons they have committed murder.  There are the incidental murders, those that have killed not because that was their intent, but simply the occurrence ended in the taking of another’s life.  At least three of those I have met that were charged with first-degree murder believed it was in self-defense. They took a life because they were of the belief that if they had not then the person would have killed them.  Another I have met was so premeditated that he was actually charged with five counts of murder for killing one person. He went to kill the person, decided to just rob the man and then left only to come back a second time to beat the man unconscious. Then left again and came back with the intent of just killing his victim.

For some there is the reasonable possibility of redemption and penance.  So are there those who there is no reasonable possibility of redemption and or penance?  The Carr brothers and BTK come to mind, but the answer is yes that there are some who no matter how long or how much treatment they would receive can not be reformed or cured.

So why not just lock them up forever? Out of sight and out of mind!

The only thing accomplished by that is to make a pretense of civility in an otherwise less then civil society. The human being is one of the most adaptable creatures on Earth that is demonstrated by the sheer wide spread of the human animal.

Likewise with those imprisoned for life, they adapt and have a life.  One where they have many of the same conditions they had on the outside.  The Carrs are in a world where they are the king and the norm among their fellow beings.  Still deadly and still unpunished for their crime in a real sense.  AND, still surrounded by other human beings so they can still inflect their pain and suffering.

I am torn about this subject; I met someone that would on the face of it be subject to being put to death after being convicted of killing a police officer.  I believe to the core of my being that he was not guilty and a great injustice was knowingly done by the system. I was not alone in this, the U.S. Marshall’s office also concluded that the State had convicted the wrong man and knows so. And that the State knew who the guilty is…  I have no doubt that if at the time the death penalty had not been deemed to be unconstitutional the State of Kansas would have murdered him.


Filed under Death Penalty


  1. Freebird1971

    My opinion on this is that there are some among us who by the very nature of their deeds have forfeited their right to live among other human beings.For those individuals the death penalty is appropriate and just.

  2. WSClark

    Stay tuned for my column on Tuesday regarding the death penalty.

    As for the firing squad – the shooter with the blank knows it because there is no recoil. Those that fire the live rounds know it also. They do a similar thing with lethal injection – two switches – but it that case neither party knows which one is the real one.

    • tosmarttobegop

      Yeah my dad told me that, having fired both a live round and a blank.
      The shooter could not dismiss the differences and would know which he fired.

  3. I am opposed to the death penalty. I agree that some shouldn’t live among law abiding citizens, and think being locked up for life should be their punishment.

  4. tosmarttobegop

    I do agree, there are those who there is no redemption, reform or penance.
    I have met a few and the incarcerating them is factually pointless.
    It is the same as penning up a rabid animal, their illness is not going to be overcome.

    But there is also the troubling dilemma, how to judge between them?
    The same generic actions can and often does have many reasons and motivations.
    As I pointed to, there are those who otherwise would not have killed but felt their lives were endangered.

    Ranging from the guy who shot the victim because she was first shooting at him.
    Now the added facts were that he had just robbed the bar where she was the bartender.
    He had threaten her with death and when he turned to leave she pulled a handgun from behind the bar and started shooting.

    If not for her shooting he said he had not intent of shooting her.

    Another had been told that the victim was waiting outside the home where he and his family were.
    He went to confront the person he had several encounters with which had ended with a physical altercation.
    The victim had in the past threaten him and his family, so when within about four feet the person who had told him of the victim being out front. Held out a gun and told him that the victim intended to kill him when seen.

    He took the gun and then inside the car the victim upon seeing him reached under the seat.
    The killer then fired four shots into the car killing the victim.

    Both are different then the case of the Carr’s or BTK yet in all these case the crime of murder occurred.
    Motivation and reasons were totally different but we do tend to handle those cases as if they are the same.

    Appearances is not always as they seem, in the case of Ivory Hayslip the appearance was that he had walked to the side of a Police car and fired a shotgun into the side of Officer Paul Garofallo. There were three witnesses who identified Hayslip as the shooter.

    It was what appears to be a “dead-bang” case, but the reality was it was not that simple.
    And the system is not that foolproof As said by a sergeant in the Sheriff’s department.

    “ I firmly believe that 1 out of every 100 that are convicted are truly NOT guilty.
    But that means that 99 out of every 100 are guilty and the one is the price we pay for the other ninety-nine“.

  5. We don’t put physically ill people to death — not even to help them when they suffer! In fact we put Kevorkian in prison. Why would we put mentally ill people to death? People who kill are very ill people. Yes, sometimes, as tstb pointed out in his thread header, death happens without it being intended — the fight that ended in death for one of the fighters… But when it’s intended, planned, not accidental, can we say the perp is sane?

    • GMC70

      Yes, we can. One can make a rational, knowing decision to kill. In fact, most human beings, given the right circumstances, are quite capable of doing so.

      That said, for reasons I’ve written about before, I’m not a fan of the death penalty. I have no philosophical objections; some are entirely deserving of it. But as a practical matter, it’s time to end the practice.

      At the same time, the death penalty is most certainly NOT unconstitutional. Ending it is a legislative decision, not a constitutional one.

      • GMC70

        To invoke a recent subject, fnord: Was Bobby White insane?

        No. He chose to kill, knowing exactly what he was doing, and understanding fully the implications of the choices he was making.

      • I don’t even know who Bobby White is or what he did that I should know.

      • wicked

        fnord, Bobby White was the man who killed our friend in the Augusta Walmart.

        No, he wasn’t and isn’t insane. A real A-hole, but not insane.

        It was because of this particular case that I was able to show my daughters that the death penalty has no merit. Worse for some to let them live—in prison, sometimes in fear—than to end their already miserable life. Those who are given the hard 40 or 5o or whatever or what is now the death penalty should never again be allowed to come in physical contact with anyone other than those in the prison. No family members, friends, no one.

        The death penalty doesn’t do anyone any good, not even those people who believe it gives closure in the death of someone close. Taking a life for a life doesn’t replace the person lost.

        Besides, we all know I believe in karma. 🙂 Whether in this life or the next…karma’s gonna get ya. tee hee

      • I respect that everyone has their own opinion, mine remains that people who are capable of committing a crime that would carry the death penalty as a punishment, ie. murder, aren’t sane.

        I heard once about a Senator — guy named Frist — who could diagnose from videos, but I’m not that talented.

  6. Sometimes crazy people will still know what they’re doing is wrong. As for sociopaths, they are often very smart and crafty, and know what society expects of them and consequences.

    This being said, if they have mental illnesses they should be given appropriate treatment and be punished according to how much they understood their actions.

    Sociopaths, however, are another thing. Since they have a personality disorder, there is no cure for not having empathy. They feel that they’re ok and everyone else has a problem.

    But I don’t believe in killing people except in self-defense, no matter what a person did. Let them live out their sentences in prison under humane conditions. As long as they’re off the streets I am happy.

    And if the death penalty is so ethical, why do we do it in the middle of the nite and try to keep the executioner’s identity unrevealed and make the executioner not know if it was his/her switch that killed the prisoner?

    Also the death penalty is handed out to some but not others with the same sort of crime.

  7. “Sometimes crazy people will still know what they’re doing is wrong.”

    I agree. But I still think it’s the mental illness that allows them to commit an atrocity like murder, a person who doesn’t suffer from mental illness would not only know that was wrong but have the control not to do it.

    I think we still handle physical and mental illness differently in our attitudes. I hope someday we can do better at empathy for illness of all kinds. I think if our attitudes improve we may be able to help more people who are ill.

  8. Well, true.
    When I wrote that I was thinking of a man with schizophrenia who must have plotted to do what he did b/c he knew she was prone to pick up her paper at 4am on her porch. He robbed her, turned her around so she wouldn’t see him, and violated her. then beat her so bad her glass eye fell out. She was 90 years-old but lived. They decided he knew what he was doing. Perhaps he didn’t know, I don’t know, but it seemed he had some inclination what he was doing was wrong. Maybe an institution would be better suited to such a case, but wherever he is, I’m glad he is locked up somehow.

    But of course either way his schizophrenia should be treated, even if he’s the lowest scum on earth. I couldn’t in good conscience lock someone up w/o meds. I imagine hell would be being trapped in your own mind, seeing terrible things, and thinking everyone is out to get you.

  9. “In 1973 a survey was done of everyone who had been sentenced to death ….. not one said it was ever a consideration before committing the crime.”

    For this survey to be accurate wouldn’t you have to have a control group? How can they possibly know how many people actually thought about murdering someone but didn’t because of the death penalty? How would you know since they never committed the crime? (I just have an issue with surveys)

    • tosmarttobegop

      I did address that in that it works as a deterrent for those who would not likely kill in the first place.
      The majority of us live our lives and never have as the ole saying goes, “Having the right buttons pushed”.
      Think of it this way, inside your head is a control panel of series of buttons.
      Each action or reaction is the result of having a certain series of buttons pushed in the correct order.

      Though it might cause an argument, I will make the blanket statement that everyone is capable of any crime.
      Murder, rape, child molestation, robbery or burglary, circumstances and impulse being right.
      And yes sanity is conditional, you may never have circumstance where your control and reason is so pushed that it in in a insane moment.

      A good example I can give is the man who got laid off and finally the unemployment ran out and the situation became so dire that gas for the car was limited to only going for a job interview.
      One he had went on an interview and since being out he went fishing to try and get some food for the family. His children and wife were suffering and it was difficult getting help to the point he had used it up for the most part.

      He was on his way home and stopped to put what little money he had in gas for the car.
      He went in to pay for the gas then before he knew it he was driving a couple of blocks away.
      There was a sack with cash beside him, he said he had made no couscous decision to rob the store.
      He had returned to the car and saw his fishing knife on the seat and the next thing he knew he was driving away with the sack of cash.

      He turned around and walked in to return the money, the Police had just gotten there and was beginning to
      take the report. Of course I met him and heard what happened because he was brought to jail.

  10. tosmarttobegop

    There were those times I did meet someone that it was absolutely a mental disorder.
    One guy and he was the nicest guy you could ever meet, killed four people with a shotgun.
    Went to his ex-girl friend’s counted how many people were there and then that number of shells one per person.

    There were five people there, the only one who lived was a fourteen years old girl who was holding a two years old. The baby had taken the majority of the blast but it did take off three of the girl’s fingers.
    She had the mind to pretend to be dead when she fell to the floor.

    Robert walked up and looked down at her, covered with the baby’s blood and appearing to have been hit.
    He did not fire the shell he had for her.

    The jail Physician’s assistant told me the guy was on the highest level of drug he had ever given anyone.

    Half of the dosage caused others to become catatonic while with Robert the only sign of the effect was he would begin to shake violently when it was wearing off. Otherwise he was sane and pleasant to be around.

    No, in his case the death penalty would not be acceptable though he had committed the most horror able crime.

  11. wicked

    Let’s not lump all sociopaths with psychopaths. There’s a difference. I’m sure if Steven were here, he’d point that out.