April 09, 2015

Debating the death penalty: Libertarian vs. Conservative

Marissa SemkiwArchive

The Boston Marathon bomber was found guilty yesterday and is now eligible for the death penalty.

Toronto Sun columnist Anthony Furey joined me to debate the ethics of capital punishment.

He makes the libertarian case that the State can't be trusted to carry out executions.

I'm pro-life and pro-death penalty; I explain why this isn't a contradiction.

What do you think?

Have your say in the comments!

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commented 2015-04-16 01:02:38 -0400
Mr. Mancuso, you forgot Russell Williams. As for those that believe the death penalty does not serve as a deterrent, you are only partially right. Knowing you may be put to death 30 years in the future after countless, expensive appeals is hardly a deterrent. However if the sentence is carried out swiftly, the way it was intended and actually used to be used, it changes the game. The deterrent factor would be in overdrive if murderers were executed within 2 years of conviction. The North American murder rate exploded in the years following the cancellation of quick and severe justice. There is no excuse NOT to use it in some cases, such as those with ABSOLUTE proof (DNA,video, producing the bodies,multiple witnesses, etc…). Nowadays we have the scientific means to exonerate someone but also the same means to convict someone. And yes, there have been innocent men executed in the past, we all know that, but many of us that support it would be satisfied if it were reserved for ONLY these cases. As for revenge, if that simply means being repulsed by the idea of someone who has taken the lives of others in the most gruesome, depraved way being able to go on living for the next 30 years while their victims rot in the grave, I’m all for it.
commented 2015-04-14 19:54:38 -0400
regarding the death penalty, I read arguments that say this is revenge or hatred or we are denying the murderer a chance to ask for forgiveness or repent. I can’t buy into those arguments and here is why:
1) Government is here to maintain order and to set consequences for criminal offenses. Even the Apostle Paul stated that the government carries the sword, Romans 13-4
Justice has nothing to do with hatred, revenge or forgiveness. The death penalty was installed to put a very large price on murder because the murdered have great value as a human being. When the murderer decides to kill he violates that value and chooses to bring on his own death
2) The victim of a murder no longer has the ability to forgive. Friends, family, associates and the public may all forgive the murderer from their own perspective but can not in any way cancel the crime nor the consequences. That decision was made by the murderer. Again this is not hate, or revenge.
3) The murder can still ask God for forgiveness and repent. That option should always be there but just as he can not cancel the crime he can not cancel the consequences.
I have heard that the death penalty cheapens life. That is nonsense. What cheapens life is when the consequences of taking life for what ever reasons except self protection are removed or trivialized. Just like the man in scripture who saw a gem of great value, sold all he owned and bought the field because of the gem, so demanding a terrible price for a terrible crime provides value to the life taken by that crime.
4) I agree that the death penalty may not be a deterrent to a potential murderer but that penalty should not be there to be a deterrent but rather a consequence for the crime. To influence someone not to murder should involve childhood training and public respect and responsibility. Today with all the violence in computer games, violence in movies, honour killings, drugs and who knows what else the public still buys into the ideas that we must remove God and Church from the public and educational scene. So what else can we expect but more violence. That does not mean we must remove the terrible consequences from the terrible crimes.
commented 2015-04-14 19:04:30 -0400
Arnold Broese – you cite the old testament; I the new.

Hatred and vengeance don’t heal. You want to eat your guts out with those poisons, go ahead. People change. We repent. You kill that 16 year-old who, mad from grief, killed the man who just raped his mother, and you deny him the opportunity to heal.

Lack of empathy, rabid blood-lust, is very 21st century, very pro-caliphate. If that is how you swing, go for it. And don’t complain when they hang your first grandson.
commented 2015-04-13 00:15:12 -0400
JOAN ABERNETHY commented: “Despite we often fail, we must keep trying to hate the sin but love the sinner. It is what allowed Christ to rise above death, to overcome his enemies.”
These religious arguments hold no water. The Bible is full of “smiting” and vengeance. The whole planet was drowned like rats. Plagues sent out of pure malice. Cities like Sodom wiped out. Then he had someone called Jesus nailed to a cross as part of his scheme. Not nice.
Humans need a rational moral code not something handed down from the spiritual realm. To disassociate the sinner from the sin makes no logical sense.
commented 2015-04-12 20:57:54 -0400
Ken Conrad – thanks for so eloquently arguing your case.

I would add that Ron Dalton spent 12 years in maximum security prison convicted of murder he did not commit. He now works for the Association for the Defense of the Wrongfully Convicted. http://www.aidwyc.org

Dalton says that presently, they are working on about 100 cases of wrongful murder conviction in Canada. He says there are exponentially more wrongly convicted of lesser crimes. Like Jake Carson said, the Crown intimidates innocent accused to plead guilty in exchange for less punishment because the Crown just cares about convicting enough accused to keep the system going, to keep the sunshine pay cheques coming to police, Attorneys, Corrections, etc. The whole system is corrupt, top to bottom.

Dan Mancuso, our system is not established on the rights of the convicted but on the concepts of correction, rehabilitation and penitence. It is built on the Christian ideas of reform and repentence. It may not work well but at least it tries to implement the ideals of mercy and forgiveness unlike the Islamic ideal of an eye for an eye, regardless of in whose eye the alleged offense occurred, so long as the offended has the power to execute.

As much as murder grieves me, I agree with Ken Conrad that most of those we would execute do not have the intelligence, soundness of mind, and privilege of conscience of a Dan Mancuso but are more like those poor unfortunates from whom Jesus cast out demons.

Despite we often fail, we must keep trying to hate the sin but love the sinner. It is what allowed Christ to rise above death, to overcome his enemies.
commented 2015-04-12 20:20:28 -0400
Dave Bainard – I agree! I enjoy good, lively debate. We won’t ever agree with everyone all the time so we may as well enjoy hearing all the different opinions. Just because someone has a different opinion doesn’t make them gay or a feminasty – it just makes them different. As we all have unique experiences, I’m with you – let’s hear – and tolerate – them.
commented 2015-04-12 20:16:26 -0400
Liza, the west already does th equivalent of lifelong slave labour in our forensic psychiatric units with most of those individuals found NCR. They are drugged and housed in community settings. They are treated humanely, fed, given a job and supervised society. You just never hear about those people. You only ever hear about the Guy Turcottes or the Vincent Lis who are special cases. Most NCR are incarcerated for lifr and never get out.

I say let’s extend that sort of “care” for the worst offenders. Vengeance not being ours.
commented 2015-04-12 18:54:04 -0400
It’s not just a liberal phenomenon and referring to it as such is shallow and counterproductive. Read the article below entitled, “An Unlikely Conservative Cause: Abolish the Death Penalty”.

“A conservative Christian who most recently worked at the National Rifle Association, Hyden is one of two people leading a group called Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. His mission is to convince Republicans that the death penalty fails a “conservative litmus test.” Ultimately, the goal is to see it repealed in every state”.


Consider this conservatives’ comment, “If you can’t really trust government to fill a pothole, how can you trust government do the right thing on a life and death decision?”
commented 2015-04-12 16:48:07 -0400
Years ago when I was an urban liberal – to my everlasting shame – I didn’t think the state had any good reason or right to take a life. I think differently now that I’m a rural conservative and much older and wiser.
My only real reservation about capital punishment is the possibility of the state killing an innocent man…otherwise we have four perfect candidates right here in Canada.
Olsen, Bernardo, Homolka and Picton. Well, some imbecile let Homolka get away…
Those four meet my criteria. Horrific crimes involving murder, unrepentant, and no doubt of their guilt.
I think that the executions should be public and the method, hanging…and I’m not too concerned that capital punishment doesn’t really act as a deterrent.
“… The mistaken modern liberal notion that the issue of capital punishment concerns primarily the rights of the individual criminal, is deeply defective, and most certainly creates a climate for heinous crime by implying that society has no transcendent claim to equity; in fact has a lesser claim against the murderer than he made against his victim…” Willian Gairdner, “Defending Capital Punishment” : http://www.williamgairdner.com/defending-capital-punishment/
commented 2015-04-12 15:17:35 -0400
“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.”

“I do not think that God approves the death penalty for any crime, rape and murder included. Capital punishment is against the better judgment of modern criminology, and, above all, against the highest expression of love in the nature of God.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

“As one whose husband and mother-in-law have died the victims of murder and assassination, I stand firmly and unequivocally opposed to the death penalty for those convicted of capital offenses. An evil deed is not redeemed by an evil deed of retaliation. Justice is never advanced in the taking of a human life. Morality is never upheld by a legalized murder.” Coretta Scott King

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Mohandas Gandhi
commented 2015-04-12 11:16:51 -0400
The death penalty must be available as an option to society. The usual arguments about mistaken identity don’t hold water in the most horrific cases. If somebody murders 6 people over the course of 3 days and kills a police officer as a fugitive it’s probably certain you have the right guy when you catch him.
Furey is putting his libertarian politics before good judgement.
commented 2015-04-12 09:19:27 -0400
Furey ignores the fact that many of these murderers ARE put back in the game. 20 or 30 years into the future when the horrors of some of these crimes have faded in some peoples minds, there is usually some bleeding heart politician or defence lawyer campaigning for their release. This has worked successfully for a few, even though we were told at the time of sentencing that these killers would never see the light of day. Where, exactly are the Monroe brothers now?
commented 2015-04-11 20:42:32 -0400
Like Anthony Furey I generally oppose the death penalty on the grounds that there’s too much room for error in determining the guilt or innocence of the accused. There are many examples of how people have been wrongly convicted of murder.

However, unlike Anthony, I think that in some situations, where there is absolutely no doubt about the guilt of an accused and where the crimes are sufficiently horrific, the death penalty should be on the table. Randy Williams made a great point that it is not the state that would make this determination but a jury (and, if this isn’t already the case, I’d argue that such capital cases should always be decided by a jury and not a just a judge). In the case of Boston Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the same jury that convicted him will get to decide whether he lives or dies – and that’s also how it should be.
commented 2015-04-11 18:45:50 -0400
Lots of great commentary proceeds me on both sides of this issue but I agree with Randy Williams and Peter Netterville at this time. I do hope we will hear more from Anthony Furey in the future. I usually don’t agree with him but like his passion and he does make me think carefully. Marissa, you can hold your own in any debate.
commented 2015-04-11 18:09:18 -0400
Our courts and justice system are not responsible enough to be handing out death penalties, we have to fix them first and then we can discuss what to do with these vile people. In the mean time they should be locked in a concrete box 24-7 with no visitors, TV and only the most basic food
commented 2015-04-11 17:43:55 -0400
I am as conservative as they come – in every way….economy, religion, guns, small government, maximum freedom. It is simply not true that pro-death penalty is a hallmark of conservatism.

I do not support the death penalty. For me, the why is pretty simple: I could not walk into a cell and put a bullet into the head of a helpless human being, no matter how trashy he or she is. It is hard enough to put down animals. I will not hire someone else to do what I cannot and will not do.

Now, if you’re talking about convicts working to earn their daily bread, restitution, chain gangs,….I’m your man.
commented 2015-04-11 14:42:32 -0400
I agree with Juanita below that Anthony made many good points, but that I have a lesser view of his arguments because he talked over Marissa and wouldn’t let her respond to direct questions (regardless of whether they were intended as tools of rhetoric, they were questions).

Overall I agree with many of the other posters below. Society must have a way to ride itself of cancers within its midst. “Where there’s life, there’s hope” also holds for the monsters amongst us and in jail. Prison breakouts have been noted, as have parole. The parole system is dependent upon having people who are reasonable in their outlook (having the same views and morals as normal members of society). Societal normals change over time. If, 30 years from now, the jurisdiction in which this crime occurs is primarily Islamic, then the parole board (if it still exists) will likely rule that it was a valid case of Jihad and he will be free. Supposition on my part? Of course. That doesn’t mean that it’s not a real possibility. Check the changing demographics and birth rates before discarding the idea.

There are other possible ways that a mad-dog criminal could come to be freed by useful idiots. The only way to ensure that the ideal of justice and the intent of the justice system today is met is to ensure that he cannot be freed by later action. Whether this level of punishment should be limited to the mad-dog cases or be put to more regular use for single action or repeat violent offenders is a separate question. If we want to ensure that this particular rabid animal cannot kill again, then we have to put him down.
commented 2015-04-11 00:46:10 -0400
If you are like me you have never attended a trial of any kind or been called for jury selection. If you have maybe you should be writing this.
Do you have to sign up to be considered for jury duty? What are the odds of being called to be selected for a 70 year old man?
I have never attended any trial for anything. Never been called for selection and worry if the jury list is short listed and the jurists have been preselected by some group we don’t know about.
It does seem like the jury in any major crime is hung or not able to reach a verdict or fixed in some way. The results of many trials have me scratching my head raw. Sentences like 3 years for murder and attempted murder of another smell like something is very wrong. There were others that complained but nothing was ever done and no retrial even called.
This one sticks in me still but that is because it happened in my town and just 3 years ago. He will be free this summer.
That is much to close for my liking and there are other older crimes that I heard about that baffle me and make me wonder “whats going on”.
But I have never seen a trial or been called for jury selection. Odds?
commented 2015-04-10 23:17:34 -0400
I too am not in favour of the death penalty and well put Maurice. In the case of terrorists like the Boston Marathon bomber, whose (extremist) religious goal is to strive for martyrdom, capital punishment would be what he would want as a reward for his actions.

It will be interesting to see if the recent Supreme Court decision on assisted suicide will now allow Canadian prisoners serving life sentences to end their lives. Lethal injection/euthanasia/assisted suicide; all the same thing.
commented 2015-04-10 20:48:54 -0400
Also, killing a murderer or a rapist does not have to be very expensive or time consuming. A military firing squad should do the trick.
Also, Marissa is great (of course).
commented 2015-04-10 20:45:47 -0400
My thoughts:
1) I am in favour of using the death penalty, but only if a convicted murderer or rapist was caught by the police at the scene of the crime. This probably won’t happen that often, so life imprisonment will have to be used for most cases of murder and rape.
2) All squares are rectangles but not all rectangles are squares. Similarly, murder is a form of killing but not all killing is murder.
3) The primary reason to kill or jail a murderer or rapist is not revenge or punishment; it’s to make sure that he can’t commit additional murders or rapes.
All of these things seem to be common sense to me. Why can’t Anthony get it?
commented 2015-04-10 19:36:12 -0400
Great post Jake Carson and congratulations on turning your life around. Your post reminded me of a case I knew of where a male parent (not myself) was accused of striking his child. Although he denied doing it he was encouraged to plead guilty and because he could have lost his business and home when he couldn’t make the payments he plead guilty even though i was extremely upsetting. This person had no prior criminal history and yet was told they could face a significant jail sentence. Gone would be his business, home and more importantly he worried about his family drifting away. So he accepted the deal and a while later the person claiming to be punched admitted they self inflicted it because they were angry. This stuff goes on all the time and the basic citizen doesn’t have the resources to fight this.
commented 2015-04-10 18:47:28 -0400
The main thing I learned from this is Anthony Furey is a bleeding heart liberal (I know he’s a libertarian but sounds like a liberal here) and doesn’t know what he is talking about. “Doesn’t trust the state”, does he think Bernardo and Picton “may be” innocent and therefore should be spared the death penalty. He also has the same argument libs have “Is it right to kill a person for killing another person?” That’s just stupid nonsense. It is right to put down proven murderers, rapists and pedophiles to deter others from doing it. Even if it doesn’t deter others we will be rid of those who might escape and kill or even kill another while incarcerated.
commented 2015-04-10 17:53:28 -0400
Death is an easy escape, as their is no afterlife.

A lifetime locked in a cage, now that’s a punishment.
commented 2015-04-10 17:47:46 -0400
A decade ago I did a 180 with my life, but lived as a professional criminal until that point, I can tell you from experience our justice system is a mess. I’m an advocate of the death penalty in cases where there is 100% certainty, but these are rare. Unless you’ve been caught up with the cops, prosecutor’s, judge’s, and jailer’s in this province/country it’s hard to imagine how poorly it’s run, where one level pushes you off on the next, our jails are full of innocent people who have actually pled guilty to something they didn’t do, because that’s how the system is set up. You can sit in Jail for 3yrs without bail waiting for a trial, or plead guilty with 2mths time served, and move on with your life. I’ve seen this 100 times. Plea bargains mean cops and prosecutors don’t have to bother investigating, or building a case. I don’t trust this lazy, over run system to hand out the death penalty . 2cents
commented 2015-04-10 16:18:31 -0400
One thing that needs to be appreciated is not only was Dzhokhar Tsarnaev undoubtedly influenced by his brother but they were both under the influence of a deadly cult. If you watch any documentaries on cults you will quickly realize these people are damaged goods and cannot be trusted to make rational decisions. I’m not trying to excuse the crime, only put in perspective the mind set. The more troubling prospect is he is far from alone in this cult like mentality. Dealing with that will be a monumental task.
commented 2015-04-10 13:19:10 -0400
I used to be pro death penalty but changed my mind after reading about the numerous accounts involving innocent people being framed by police and others in the “just-us” system while the well-connected people are pampered – think Stephen Truscott. He could have been executed.
The question is are we after justice or revenge? The death penalty to me is revenge.
I do believe we need a healthy debate to clean up the system first and then about the death penalty. We should be able to find better solutions to what we have now.
commented 2015-04-10 12:58:15 -0400
Anthony did not engage in a real debate here. Although his arguments were interesting he endeavoured to put them forward by talking over and on top of Ms. Semdiw. Noisily spewing many words does not win an argument. I think he was rude and would not hear or let us properly hear the other side.
commented 2015-04-10 12:47:08 -0400
I agree with Anthony but I’d much rather agree with Marissa. Are congratulations in order?
commented 2015-04-10 11:49:17 -0400
I believe that Ms. Semkiw was right, a debate deserves to take place on the subject of the death penalty. I was quite disappointed to listen to Mr. Fury bully his way through the interview refusing to have an actual debate. He refused to allow any real discourse of ideas, choosing instead to shut down any opportunity to question or challenge his assumptions by never giving any opportunity for response. His “I don’t have to listen to anyone else because I am right” attitude is a waste of anyone else’s time in any attempt to have a conversation with him. I am sorry, but if I see his face or name on any other interviews I will choose to not tune in.