Peter

The Death Penalty revisited by the Supreme Court

Recommended Posts

The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it. -- Flannery O'Connor.

Washington (AFP) - A Florida inmate challenged the US Supreme Court on Monday arguing that he is intellectually disabled and therefore should not be executed . . . . Hall has an IQ of 71, but was declared "mentally retarded" since childhood . . . . Part of his appeal rests on the fact that he falls within a five-percent margin of error cited by psychiatrists and experts when assessing IQ scores, and that an IQ test alone is not enough to judge whether someone is "mentally retarded" or not.

There are two issues here, and one is, should we still be executing people? The other issue is, should IQ be a factor in determining a convicted murderers sentence? Objectivisms answer to the first issue is execution is morally justifiable, but I will put Nathaniel Brandens answer in another letter labeled notes, where he says in actuality, no.

The IQ level is a conundrum, and I wont rehash Evolutionary Biologys controversies, but the average IQ is 100. However, the average IQ for European Jews is 117. The average IQ for blacks in Africa is 70 but the average IQ for blacks in America is 80 with black women slightly higher than men. Asians score a bit higher than whites, in America and in their countrys of origin. Using an IQ of 70 as a cut off point means that people who are guilty should be institutionalized but never executed. So using 70 as a cut off point is racially discriminatory.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Notes: In January 1963, Nathaniel Branden published this in THE OBJECTIVIST NEWSLETTER, "What is the Objectivist stand on capital punishment?”:

In considering this issue, two separate aspects must be distinguished: the ~moral~ and the ~legal~. The moral question is: Does the man who commits willful murder, in the absence of any extenuating circumstances, ~deserve~ to have his own life forfeited? Here, the answer is unequivocally: ~Yes~. Such a man deserves to die -- not as "social revenge" or as an "example" to future potential murderers -- but as the logical and just consequence of his own act: as an expression of the moral principle that no man may take the life of another and still retain the right to his own, that no man may profit from an evil of this kind or escape the consequences of having committed it.

However, the ~legal question~: Should a legal system employ capital punishment? -- is of a different order. There are grounds for debate -- though ~not~ out of sympathy or pity for murderers. If it were possible to be fully and irrevocably certain, beyond any possibility of error, that a man were guilty, then capital punishment for murder would be appropriate and just. But men are not infallible; juries make mistakes; ~that~ is the problem. There have been instances recorded where all the available evidence pointed overwhelmingly to a man's guilt, and the man was convicted, and then subsequently discovered to be innocent. It is the possibility of executing an ~innocent~ man that raises doubt about the legal advisability of capital punishment. It is preferable to sentence ten murderers to life imprisonment, rather than sentence one innocent man to death. If a man is unjustly imprisoned and subsequently proven to be innocent, some form of restitution is still possible: none is possible if he is dead.

The problem involved is that of establishing criteria of proof so rationally stringent as to forbid the possibility of convicting an innocent man. It should be noted that the legal question of capital punishment is outside the sphere of philosophy proper: it is to be resolved by a special, separate discipline: the philosophy of law.

end quote

From, "The Missing Link," by Ayn Rand

I am not a student of the theory of evolution and, therefore, I am neither its supporter nor its opponent. But a certain hypothesis has haunted me for years; I want to stress that it is only a hypothesis. There is an enormous breach of continuity between men and all the other living species. The difference lies in the nature of man's consciousness, in its distinctive characteristic: his conceptual faculty. It is as if, after aeons of physiological development, the evolutionary process altered its course, and the higher stages of development focused primarily on the consciousness of living species, not their bodies. But the development of a man's consciousness is volitional: no matter what the innate degree of his intelligence, he must develop it, he must learn how to use it, he must become a human being by choice. What if he does not choose to? Then he becomes a transitional phenomenon - a desperate creature that struggles frantically against his own nature, longing for the effortless "safety" of an animal's consciousness, which he cannot recapture, and rebelling against a human consciousness, which he is afraid to achieve.

For years, scientists have been looking for a "missing link" between man and animals. Perhaps that missing link is the anti-conceptual mentality.

end quote

From “The Missing Link, Part II” (ARL, 21 May, 1973):

"But the development of a man's consciousness is volitional: no matter what the INNATE DEGREE of his intelligence, he must develop it, he must learn how to use it, he must become a human being by choice."

end quote – I capitalized “innate degree” for emphasis – Peter

Here is what Rand wrote about "acquired skills" in, The Comprachicos, p.156-158. TNL:

If, in any two years of adult life, men could learn as much as an infant learns in his first two years, they would have the capacity of genius. To focus his eyes (which is not innate, but an acquired skill), to perceive the things around him by integrating his sensations into percepts (which is not innate, but an acquired skill), to coordinate his muscles for the task of crawling, then standing upright, then walking - and, ultimately, to grasp the process of concept-formation, and learn to speak - these are some of an infant's tasks and achievements whose magnitude is not equaled by most men in the rest of their lives.

The process of forming, integrating and using concepts is not automatic, but a volitional process - i.e., a process which uses both new and automatized material, but which is directed volitionally, It is not an innate, but an acquired skill; it has to be learned - it is the most crucially important part of learning - and all of man's other capacities depend on how well or how badly he learns it.

This skill does not pertain to the particular *content* pf a man's knowledge at any given age, but to the *method* by which he acquires and organizes his knowledge - the method by which his mind deals with its content. The method *programs* his subconscious computer, determining how efficiently, lamely or disastrously his cognitive processes will function. The programming of a man's subconscious consists of the kind of cognitive habits he acquires; these habits constitute his psycho-epistemology.

end quote

Rand wrote

“The possession of a rational faculty does not guarantee that a man will use it, only that he is able to use it and is, therefore, responsible for his actions." ("Ayn Rand Letter," 27 July, 1972.)

"Man's volition is an attribute of his consciousness (of his rational faculty) and consists in the choice to perceive existence or to evade it." (ARL, 27 July, 1972).

Rand wrote in her Journals (July 20, 1945):

"If men claim that the rational faculty is an innate gift (which it is, or rather its power is, just as the degree of any physical talent varies from birth) and, therefore, a man cannot be blamed if he is born with a mental capacity insufficient for his survival, and he cannot make it the standard of his survival-the answer is that he has no choice except to exercise his mind to the full extent of his capacity . . . .”

Rand wrote in "The Objectivist Ethics:"

"Man is born with an emotional mechanism, just as he is born with a cognitive mechanism; but, at birth, both are 'tabula rasa.'"

Rand from "Kant Versus Sullivan:"

"The possession of means and their use are not the same thing: e.g., a child possesses the means of digesting food, but would you accept the notion that he performs the process of digestion before he has taken in any food? In the same way, a child possesses the means of "interpreting" sense data, i.e., a conceptual faculty, but this faculty cannot interpret anything, let alone interpret it "correctly," before he has experienced his first clear sensation."

Rand wrote:

"The process of forming, integrating and using concepts is not automatic, but a volitional process - i.e., a process which uses both new and automatized material, but which is directed volitionally. It is not an innate, but an acquired skill; it has to be learned - it is the most crucially important part of learning - and all of man's other capacities depend on how well or how badly he learns it."

"This skill does not pertain to the particular *content* of a man's knowledge at any given age, but to the *method* by which he acquires and organizes his knowledge - the method by which his mind deals with its content. The method *programs* his subconscious computer, determining how efficiently, lamely or disastrously his cognitive processes will function. The programming of a man's subconscious consists of the kind of cognitive habits he acquires; these habits constitute his psycho-epistemology." AR

Ayn Rand wrote in *Atlas Shrugged*, pages 1020-1021, through the character of John Galt:

". . . as man must produce the physical values he needs to sustain his life, so he must acquire the values of character that make his life worth sustaining -- that as man is a being of self-made wealth, so he is a being of self-made soul -- that to live requires a sense of self-value, but man, who has no automatic values, has no automatic sense of self-esteem and must earn it by shaping his soul in the image of his moral ideal, in the image of Man, the rational being he is BORN ABLE TO CREATE . . ."

end quotes

I capitalized “born able to create,” for emphasis.

Peter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thought I would just add one more gem from the archives.

From: BBfromM@aol.com

To: atlantis@wetheliving.com

Subject: Re: ATL: Normal Distributions and Human Differences

Date: Wed, 17 Oct 2001 03:16:15 EDT

David Bozzini wrote:

<< I am often amused to find the following attitude, even among presumably educated persons: "There just can't be any differences between races or ethnic groups when it comes to IQ, or any other ability that might matter in the real world." >>

I don't think anyone has been arguing that there are no differences among races or ethnic groups in their IQ's. The argument is about what – if anything -- follows from that. Some say that because of differences in IQ, the lower IQ groups should be seen as inferiors and refused admittance to the United States, and that those already here should be repatriated. Others insist that people should be judged as individuals, and that the average IQ of their group is irrelevant to any judgment of the individual. The argument is about individualism versus collectivism.

Barbara

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Peter:

I would expect that you have heard of the "Innocence Project."

http://www.innocenceproject.org/ Here is the link to their website.

Except Janet "the drunk, Waco chldren killer, Elian Rodriquez abuser" Reno, B.J. Clinton's hit person Attorney General, it is a pretty quality Board...

The Innocence Project Board of Directors
Name arrow-none.gif Title arrow-none.gif Marvin L. Anderson Former Innocence Project client. Exonerated in 2002. Gordon DuGan Chief Executive Officer, Gramercy Capital Corporation Rodney Ellis Texas State Senator / Innocence Project Board Chair Jason Flom President, LAVA Records John Grisham Author John A. Kaneb Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President of HP Hood LLC Dr. Eric Lander Director, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University. Renowned geneticist and DNA expert. Vered Rabia Partner, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP & Affiliates Steven Alan Reiss Partner, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP Janet Reno Director Emeritus, Former Attorney General of the United States Matthew Rothman Senior Vice President, Acadian Asset Management Stephen Schulte Founding Partner and Of Counsel Schulte, Roth & Zabel LLP Darrel Stephens Instructor, Johns Hopkins University School of Education, Division of Public Safety Leadership Andy Tananbaum President and CEO, Capital Business Credit, LLC Jack Taylor Innocence Project Board Treasurer Ekow N. Yankah Professor of Law at Cardozo School of Law

There numbers are stunning. In Illinois, a little over half of death row inmates were cleared by DNA evidence from crimes they were waiting to die for.

Therefore, the potential use of the death penalty shall have clear and convincing to beyond a shadow of a doubt evidentiary bar to hurdle.

A...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you end an incarcerated mans life. You also end his suffering. If it is about retribution for the victim and his/her family would it not be better to let them rot? No rehabilitation or other progressive "treatments". Have a special place made just for them. Make them suffer, make them WANT to die, and do not grant it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you end an incarcerated mans life. You also end his suffering. If it is about retribution for the victim and his/her family would it not be better to let them rot? No rehabilitation or other progressive "treatments". Have a special place made just for them. Make them suffer, make them WANT to die, and do not grant it.

Coventry typs place?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Adam wrote:

There numbers are stunning. In Illinois, a little over half of death row inmates were cleared by DNA evidence from crimes they were waiting to die for.

end quote

Good point Adam. I enjoy a BBC show called “Ripper Street,” which is better by far over Canadian Parliamentary sessions. Forensic Science is just developing but they use the actual evidence as viewed at the crime scene and under a microscope. The show takes a few liberties with its historical accuracy by placing more modern science into its story lines but it is a jolly good show.

Lack of DNA evidence, and utilizing the methods of the time (when crime scene evidence was haphazardly collected after being contaminated by cops “on the beat”) makes conviction for any crime problematic. Today, I would have no problem with eye witness testimony being screened for truthfulness. I think most murderers should not be executed without compelling evidence.

It is difficult discussing “the numbers” pertinent to *race* so I will levitate my letter into the land of whimsy. Remember the House Elf Dobby in the “Harry Potter” movies? He was a member of a race of humans with an average IQ of 70. Good folk, all, but they gravitate to jobs as servants and butlers serving the wizards who may be 20 IQ points over normal muggles who have no magical skills. So the intelligence range in this alternative universe would be from 70 to 120.

If a house elf commits the crime of stealing the silverware what is a wizard to do? Should their IQ’s of 70 play a factor? Obviously, few house elves would ever be punished if that is their average intelligence. It would embolden all larcenous house elves to take all that they can without fear of retribution.

The wizard psychologist Stanford Bidet has determined that normal IQ for house elves is between 60 and 80 with 70 being the norm with a hedge of 5 points either way. Oddly to a wizard, house elves of an IQ around 50 or 60, function quite well, in the tasks suited for them, but a wizard or muggle of that range would be retarded.

Are three standards needed, for house elves, muggles, and wizards? Should everyone be treated the same? Let the Supreme Court decide as it must but house elves should not be arbitrarily excused from punishment for crimes.

Notes:

From www.imdb:

Dobby is a House Elf, a being that is bound to one family until he (or she) dies or is freed, whichever comes first. In Dobby's case, until the end of the Chamber of Secrets, Dobby was bound to the Malfoy family, where he was treated brutally and constantly punished himself. Harry Potter tricks Lucius Malfoy, Dobby's master, into freeing the House Elf, by means of handing him clothes, or in this case, Harry's sock in a diary. After the Chamber of Secrets, Dobby is not mentioned until it is discovered that he is working at Hogwarts, (with paid wages and holidays, something unheard of among House Elves). Dobby befriends many of the Hogwarts residents and even takes Winky, (a fellow House Elf who was freed, but for different reasons, mainly failure) under his "wing".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Peter,

I'm against capital punishment for a reason I heard Rand give during the Q&A of a Ford Hall Forum speech. She convinced me.

(I paraphrase in my own words, of course.)

The problem is not whether a person should forfeit his or her life for taking the life of another human being. That is just.

The problem is that death is permanent.

People can and do make errors. Generally they can fix their errors, but they can't go back to someone they executed and say, "Oops. My mistake. Sorry about that. Let me make it up to you."

That alone is reason enough to abolish the death penalty.

I support hard labor, a boring life, and no goodies for people incarcerated for murder. And a huge settlement for innocent men and women who are wrongly put away.

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Agreed.

There are two (2) areas that I would consider the death penalty, one would require DNA/other sophisticated scientific technology regarding child molestation.

The second area is Treason, which is dealth with in the Constitution. The witness part is the part that gets sticky.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Michael wrote:

I support hard labor, a boring life, and no goodies for people incarcerated for murder. And a huge settlement for innocent men and women who are wrongly put away.

end quote

And Adam responded:

There are two (2) areas that I would consider the death penalty, one would require DNA/other sophisticated scientific technology regarding child molestation . . . . The second area is Treason, which is dealt with in the Constitution. The witness part is the part that gets sticky.

end quote

I think I understand the conflict between what Adam and Michael are saying. We must first establish that conviction by a jury can be justified, because I do remember several real or fictional accounts of “witnesses” who were all lying as to what happened. Evidence to convict can be irrefutable by the defense in a trial, as when DNA is discovered, or an un-coerced confession is obtained. Some criminals brag about what they did and supply corroborating evidence as did the man who shot John Lennon. And what if the evidence is self evident in other ways? Cell phone video, surveillance cameras, and even the lowly wire tap can supply evidence that cannot be refuted. I don’t think images can be created on a computer or in a special affects lab that can hide their artificial origins. Therefore, a “guilty verdict” can be justified and proven.

So is it morally correct to sentence a murderer or a traitor to death? In Illinois, many cases have been overturned because of re-tested DNA, so I think the death penalty should only apply to those cases where the defendant gladly admits to murder, with corroborating evidence, or where the evidence is irrefutable because the murder was recorded for all to see. Therefore, before the present, all murderers should have their death penalties overturned and life in prison should be the reconsidered sentence, except in the cases of a confession “happily” given or if the evidence is a visual recording of the crime.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So is it morally correct to sentence a murderer or a traitor to death? In Illinois, many cases have been overturned because of re-tested DNA, so I think the death penalty should only apply to those cases where the defendant gladly admits to murder, with corroborating evidence, or where the evidence is irrefutable because the murder was recorded for all to see. Therefore, before the present, all murderers should have their death penalties overturned and life in prison should be the reconsidered sentence, except in the cases of a confession “happily” given or if the evidence is a visual recording of the crime.

Excellent reasoning Peter.

A...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...