Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

March 9, 2011

With Gov. Pat Quinn’s Signature, the Death Penalty is Abolished in Illinois

by Stephen Littau

ABC News reports:

In a ceremony behind closed doors today Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill that will make Illinois the 16th state to abolish the death penalty.

“I have concluded that our system of imposing the death penalty is inherently flawed.” said Quinn in a statement issued after the signing.

“Since our experience has shown that there is no way to design a perfect death penalty system, free from the numerous flaws that can lead to wrongful convictions or discriminatory treatment, I have concluded that the proper course of action is to abolish it.” he said.

This is precisely the same reasoning that brought me to my anti-death penalty position. Can anyone really argue the system is “good enough” when it comes to the state’s legal ability to kill?

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  • http://thelibertypapers.org/ Brad Warbiany

    On Twitter someone said that any state that elects Blagojevich doesn’t deserve to administer the death penalty.

    But he forgot that it’s Illinois, where we might kill convicts, but they’re still voting Democratic for the next dozen election cycles!

  • Pingback: "Quinn ends death penalty in Illinois: His struggle to a decision." and related posts | ItsStillAmerica.com

  • http://www.neediff.com Reena

    I like the libety papers

  • http://samsonblinded.org/news/ Claire.Welsh@Israel

    I suppose no one can insist on its being flawless. But aren’t there enough cases when its flawlessness seems to disappear when particularly violent crimes are committed??? People should have some deterrents in their lives and death penalty may be one of them when other things like imprisonment won’t work.

  • http://thelibertypapers.org Stephen Littau

    @ claire

    Assuming for a moment that the death penalty is a deterrent (I think there’s plenty of evidence to suggest it isn’t ), how many innocent people are you willing to sacrifice? We both agree a flawless system isn’t achievable so …1 in 100? 1 in 1000?

  • Benjamin

    Just one question to all sides, if I may…

    If a person tried for a heinous crime is not found guilty enough to be put to death, then how, pray tell, is there enough evidence to lock them up for life?

    This really gets to me in a big way. The pros and cons are so busy promoting their same arguments that they overlook that very simple question. Which puts the nail in the coffin. If there is not overwhelming evidence to put a person to death, there is no point sending them to prison in the first place. End of story.

    That said, yes, the death penalty should stand. When a person is found guilty through overwhelming evidence, there is no other sane and just choice. Such a person should not be allowed to keep what they willfuly and maliciously denied to another. To allow that would not be justice, even in the most backwards of cultures.

  • http://www.simplifylunch.com Jeff Molby

    If a person tried for a heinous crime is not found guilty enough to be put to death, then how, pray tell, is there enough evidence to lock them up for life?

    Easy. It’s infinitely easier to mitigate unjust imprisonment than it is to mitigate unjust execution.

  • Benjamin

    Jeff Molby,

    Ah, so this topic isn’t dead yet. Good. Anyway, it’s not so easy. But I didn’t exactly make it as clear as I could have…

    But first, “reversibility” has nothing to do with justice. Justice is not sending people to prison for any length of irreplaceable time, nor executing them, if their guilt concerning a specific victim is not certain. If we can both agree on that…

    Now, if prison is the only outcome of a guilty verdict in a capital trial, we would allow people to be sent to prison on “better safe than sorry” or, more alarmingly because it is, on mere suspicion. After all, prison being perceived as humane and reversible, juries can very well become more comfortable with pronouncing life sentences. And with more imprisoned, this would make it all the more unlikely that an innocent would be released. Law of unintended consquences. Even if you do not agree, we already know there are people on death row who are not guilty. So it stands to reason that at least as many errors with life-sentence-only would be made as with execution sentences today. The same or more injustice is something we should strive to eliminate.

    But if the death penalty is the only outcome of a guilty verdict, then we must use it only under the strictest of standards, which is irrefutable evidence. If this is not met, then the defendant should be let go. And that’s…that.

    I realize how unpalatable this sound to many people, whatever their persuasion. But done that way, no one spends irreplaceable time serving an unjust life sentence, nor any executed with any chance of being innocent. In exchange for real justice, we would have to accept that we can’t convict for all crimes commited. But justice is not concerned with convictions, any more than it is with deterents. Justice is concerned with balancing the scale, which can only be done if the known guilty pays an equal amount for the known one(s) they wronged.

  • http://www.simplifylunch.com Jeff Molby

    “reversibility” has nothing to do with justice.

    I said “mitigate”, not “reverse”. Don’t put words in my mouth if you expect me to take you seriously. Time served is no more reversible than execution, but it can be mitigated by retrials, pardons, compensation, etc.

    Now, if prison is the only outcome of a guilty verdict in a capital trial, we would allow people to be sent to prison on “better safe than sorry” or, more alarmingly because it is, on mere suspicion.

    Feel free to offer evidence that non-capital punishment states have de facto replaced the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard with a “mere suspicion” standard. I hope you won’t mind if I opt not to hold my breath in anticipation.

    irrefutable evidence

    I’m all for stricter standards, but I’m having a hard time picturing what “irrefutable evidence” means in practical terms. The only standard stricter than “beyond a reasonable doubt” would be “beyond a doubt”, which implies that you’re willing to acquit in the face of an unreasonable theory.

    In a world where a supermajority of people believe in supernatural beings, I can’t imagine you would ever convict anyone under such a standard. Seems like mental masturbation.

    In exchange for real justice, we would have to accept that we can’t convict for all crimes commited. But justice is not concerned with convictions, any more than it is with deterents. Justice is concerned with balancing the scale, which can only be done if the known guilty pays an equal amount for the known one(s) they wronged.

    I generally agree with your outlook, but I adamantly disagree with your presumption that it is possible to know something with absolute certainty. Even the most learned scientists will readily acknowledge that their next dataset could greatly alter their conclusion and I haven’t seen anything out of the legal community that shows they merit a greater degree of certainty.

  • Benjamin

    Jeff Molby,

    “Irreversible”: I meant reverse as in reverse the situation/sentence, to set them free, no longer in prison, etc (though I admit to having wanted to crack a joke about time travel, I thought better of it. That’s why the quotes are still in place around the entirely wrong word; my fault).

    Mere suspicion: I said mere suspicion would become as or more common in a post death penalty world, as a result of unintended consequences. So naturally, I would have no numbers on the future. And frankly I’d rather not wait until there are any, either, given what it would mean for our already beleaguered liberties.

    But whatever the numbers would be, what difference does it make? Aside from the fact that we know innocent people to be on death row/life sentences already, it matters not one of every million, every other eon, or 10,000 every year; it is as injust to imprison an innocent as it is to execute one.

    Mitigation of injustice: Mitigation doesn’t make it okay to do one over the other. If I steal all your money or only some of it, am I not still a thief? If so, then injustice is injustice, no matter the extent.

    Absolute proof: There is no doubt that Dahmer, Gacey, and Bundy were guilty.

  • http://www.simplifylunch.com Jeff Molby

    Mere suspicion: I said mere suspicion would become as or more common in a post death penalty world, as a result of unintended consequences. So naturally, I would have no numbers on the future

    There’s no need speculate about what a “post death penalty world” would look like. There are many sufficiently large jurisdictions that have disavowed the death penalty. Use data from those jurisdictions to back your claim or let it go.

    it is as injust to imprison an innocent as it is to execute one.

    Mitigation of injustice: Mitigation doesn’t make it okay to do one over the other. If I steal all your money or only some of it, am I not still a thief? If so, then injustice is injustice, no matter the extent.

    If you steal my money and give some (or all) of it back, I’ll be less pissed than if you never returned it. If you lock me up for 10 years, I’ll be less pissed than if you locked me up for the rest of my life.

    Alive/dead is a binary choice. Despite what you may have heard in Princess Bride, there’s no “mostly dead”.

    Time and possessions are a different animal. They are continuums. They amount of harm is variable and can thus be mitigated.

    This will be my last response, because I’m having a hard time believing you’re being sincere on this point.

    Absolute proof: There is no doubt that Dahmer, Gacey, and Bundy were guilty.

    The devil framed them and their confessions were forced. There’s no reasonable doubt, but I can be unreasonable all day long.

  • Benjamin

    Jeff Molby,

    “This will be my last response, because I’m having a hard time believing you’re being sincere on this point.”

    I argued the way I did as way of getting to the point, via the scenic route. I was hoping to bring someone down the path of reasoning, by making the points first, and then revealing the rational and just outcome. Perhaps this mislead you, which wasn’t my intention, but since you’re no great debater, but rather an impatient brat… Forget it.

    Furthermore, what I find most disgusting about your views, nay character, is that this is, from the look of it, a Libertarian site. I am a Libertarian. What I am concerned about is that among Libertarians, this infection of a statist view that calls for imposing on others another’s view, through the state no less!, is on the rise.

    And it’s wrong. Neither you nor anyone has a right to impose views on anyone else’s justice scales, just as the state does today. This is an adbomination to Liberty. Any objective person can see that it’s not which means that matters, but rather the _choice_ of which, available at all times, to all.

    To seek justice according to the extent of injustice commited, as perceived by the wronged, is not only a right, but an obligation to ones well-being, as well as society. For the system to work, people need to experience justice when there is an injustice revealed. For an unknown number of people over all of time, their views may demand of them to seek out the DP for the ones they have lost to a killer.

    This they need to put the loss behind them. It’s cruel to deny anyone that right and fulfillment of obligation, to balance the scale through an institution of civilization. It’s a threat to society to allow for resentment and misturst in the system, via the forcing of it in/on others.

    Just know that that is what abolition is all for, whether or not they realize it or will ever admit it. And it’ll be over my dead body come the day these “improvements” lord over me in my country.

    And finally, given your attitude throughout, I think you’re a jerk. I came in here with nothing but the best of intentions and willigness to debate, which I’ve sufficiently expressed in my posts. If you did not think so, you should not have replied in the first place. But since you have, you’ve mostly been nothing but irrationaly defensive and dimissive of anything I’ve had to say, while I’ve remained patient and willing to discuss. Going by that, I don’t think YOU take the issue nearly as serious as we all should. I think you’re just interested in getting YOUR “entitled” way in an argument, as well as the world…

    …like a common, scum-of-the-earth statist (spits).

  • Benjamin

    My apologies to the forum, it’s readers, and moderators if I seem to be annoyingly persistent, but the following point needs to be confronted and denounced for what it is…

    “The devil framed them and their confessions were forced. There’s no reasonable doubt, but I can be unreasonable all day long.”

    Some, perhaps many abolitionists think it okay to be unreasonable in one instance, but not another, depending on what the punishment is. ie, According to _prejudice_, which cannot in any way be construed as serving justice, any more than is consciously choosing to convict blacks or republicans on the basis of those traits.

    Furthermore, attempting to shape law in order suit prejudices ought to be considered an attack on civilization itself, as well as treason against ones countrymen. Because that is what it is. Forbidding someone their natural right to choose in their judicial process in order to suit one group’s views can be nothing else than an attack on them. And while the state has done this to those who oppose the death penalty, two wrongs do not make a right; over-turning the DP is nothing to celebrate and keep crusading for. It’s wrong.

    So in conclusion, if evidence is sufficient to convict someone, then it is also sufficient to convict them for either a life sentence or a death sentence. Otherwise, one cannot convict at all (and no amount of rationalizing a prejudice changes that).

    I thank to all for listening. I also apoligize for the way I chose I initially chose to engage in this topic. I should’ve just gotten to the point, but at the time I didn’t want to come across as a ranting nut, and… I wasn’t exactly clear as to what was bothering me so much. Now I am. So if anything, I should thank Jeff Molby for that, at least. Thanks Mr Molby. Unlikely as it seemed at first, you were a big help.

  • http://www.simplifylunch.com Jeff Molby

    So in conclusion, if evidence is sufficient to convict someone, then it is also sufficient to convict them for either a life sentence or a death sentence. Otherwise, one cannot convict at all (and no amount of rationalizing a prejudice changes that).

    I understood that to be your point in your first post and I still disagree with it. I’ll summarize my reasoning for you.

    * Perfect knowledge is unattainable
    * Therefore, every legal system will make mistakes
    * Most forms of punishment can be mitigated when mistakes are recognized
    * The death penalty cannot be mitigated
    * Therefore, you have a very high hurdle to leap before you convince me that the death penalty deserves a role in our legal system

    I’ve read every word you’ve written and you’ve said nothing that leads me to question the soundness of any portion of my premises or the reasoning I’ve built upon them.

    You should probably check my track record before you hurl insults my way. There are far more people that accuse me of being an anarchist than there are that accuse me of being a statist.

    I also have a solid record of engaging in thoughtful debate. In fact, I was recently highlighted for it on this very site. I took over an hour out of my weekend to engage you in this conversation. That’s more time than I gave 99% of the people in this world, including my own mother. It’s unfortunate you feel you deserve more. Good bye, Benjamin.

  • http://www.simplifylunch.com Jeff Molby

    Damnit, Brad… where’s that Edit button? =P Can someone fix the closing tag on my link, please?

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/ Brad Warbiany

    Got it, Jeff.

  • http://thelibertypapers.org Stephen Littau

    Jeff:

    Of course if you ever decided you wanted to be a contributor here, you could use that edit button as much as you wish :)

    As always, you argued your position well in this thread.

  • http://www.simplifylunch.com Jeff Molby

    LOL. Well played, Stephen. :-)

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