Archive for the ‘capital punishment’ category

Parallel Universes

August 14, 2015

A New York Times article today discussed the Obama Administration’s preparation underway for the President’s upcoming meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping. Not surprisingly the Administration is taking the meeting seriously and the Administration wants to be well prepared. There are trade issues, openness of southeast Asia sea routes, terrorism, cyber security as well as expansion of cultural ties to name a few. Crowded agenda it would appear.

The article, however, focused upon the readiness of President Obama to discuss “human rights”. Hmmm.

Of course human rights are important. One cannot help but wonder, however, why the President of a country which operates Guantanamo Bay detention center where prisoners are held with out charge indefinitely and others who are cleared of charges and still kept imprisoned, can speak to human rights?

The Chinese are dealing with a billion and half citizens and have chosen to impose strict regulations on public displays of dissatisfaction. Anyone who has visited Beijing, Xian, or Shanghai would have found these cities quite fascinating and easy to move around in. Visiting China cannot be confused with cold war era visits to the Soviet Union where “handlers” were assigned to visitors and every effort was made to limit contact with Soviet citizens.

China can certainly make improvements in free speech and the plurality of their political system (China is a one party country). The question is why should anyone expect that a two party China would take a different stance on claiming sovereignty of the South China Sea? Why would a pluralistic China decide to cut defense spending or crack down on cyber activity?

The principles that have worked so well with the US, such as free speech, rule of law, free and open elections, and capitalism should in time be valuable to China too. The Chinese government are competent leaders and will in time find the utility of many of US customs…  when they are ready.  Look at what happened when the US pushed hard for Egypt to adopt democratic elections and imposed a constitution on Iraq.  Unintended consequences.

With the death penalty, Guantanamo, NSA spying, Ferguson, and guns in the hands of just about anyone who wants one, the US ought examine itself before it tries to advise other countries.

Death Penalty – Why?

May 16, 2015

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev received the death penalty yesterday for his role in the Boston Marathon bombings. Dzhokhar was tied to two of the deaths and that was enough for the “death qualified” jury to hand down its verdict.

While this ended the second of a two part trial process, it most likely began at least a 10 year process of appeals before the sentence is actually carried out. Why was this expensive trial undertaken when there was no argument that Mr Tsarnaev actual did commit the crime?

The first reason, of course, is that in a civilized country guilt should be proven before punishment is handed out. Video evidence combined with defense admissions made this a relatively quick trip to the verdict “guilty”.

The second reason is much more difficult to answer. Why was it necessary to conduct a second trial and even have to consider a sentence of “death by lethal injection”? The answer most often provided is Tsarnaev committed a capital crime punishable by death if so deemed by a “death qualified” jury.

And this again begs the question, why would a jury consider “death” at all? The death penalty has been eliminated in most advanced societies and remains popular mainly in third world and authoritarian regimes. Hmmm.

The sad answer that emerges connects “eye for an eye” retribution with the notion of “death as a deterrent”. Despite the fact that study after study has shown that murder or other serious crimes are not deterred because the death penalty exists, advocates continue to claim such heinous crimes deserve the maximum punishment.

Most peculiar about this case is that the State of Massachusetts has no death penalty. Had Tsarnaev been tried in Massachusetts State Courts, he would have been found guilty and sentence to life imprisonment. Boom, done and over. Instead the Federal Government stepped in and exerted jurisdiction. Now there is a death sentence but an uncertain future over when and how the sentence will be carried out.

In many other States, the death penalty is live and well. Since the advances of DNA analysis, however, a number of death row prisoners are being freed because the previous ironclad
evidence that convicted them (and lead to their death sentence) is now shown in error.

Once dead,new evidence is of little use. In the case of Tsarnaev, there will be no new evidence, there can only be a new understanding of why a civilized society would revert to killing when it has laws that say its own citizens should not kill each other.

IMO, if Tsarnaev’s appeal process does last 10 years, there is a very good chance that the death penalty will again be considered “cruel and unusual” punishment. Consequently there is a better than average chance he will not be put to death in any case.

Wouldn’t it be better for our society to look around at other civilized modern societies, decide the death penalty was no longer consistent with our values, and eliminate its use without relying upon the Constitution?