September 16, 2015

Why I oppose the death penalty. (But just barely.)

Damian PennyRebel Blogger

This article at helps explains why I oppose the death penalty:

At 3 p.m. tomorrow, Oklahoma will administer a lethal cocktail of drugs into the arm of Richard Glossip, a man who is likely innocent of the crime he was condemned for.

A number of well known figures and celebrities, including Susan Sarandon (who appeared on Dr. Phil to talk about Glossip’s case), former University of Oklahoma football coach Barry Switzer, and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), have publicly pleaded with Gov. Mary Fallin to spare Glossip’s life.

Some brief history: Glossip was tried twice, convicted, and sentenced to death for the 1997 murder of his boss, motel owner Barry Van Treese. The state argued that it was a murder for hire, committed by 19-year-old Justin Sneed at the behest of Glossip. Sneed, also an employee of the hotel, admitted to beating Van Treese to death with a baseball bat, but claimed Glossip ordered him to do it in exchange for money and the opportunity to manage one of Van Treese’s motels.

However, there was no corroborating evidence tying Glossip to the crime—no fingerprints, no DNA, nothing. He was convicted and sentenced to death based upon the testimony of Sneed alone. What’s worse, there’s video evidence, which Glossip’s lawyer failed to introduce to the court and therefore the jury never saw, that shows Detective Bob Bemo pushing Sneed to implicate Glossip. In exchange for this testimony, Sneed was able to avoid the death penalty.


Glossip’s case will not be the first time a man has been executed for a crime he likely did not commit. In 2004, Texas executed Cameron Todd Willingham for setting fire to his home and killing his three daughters—a fire scientists say was started accidentally by a faulty electrical wire in the attic. There’s also the case of Carlos DeLuna, executed by the state of Texas in 1989 for a crime many believe was committed by a similar looking man from a nearby neighborhood.

Many convictions that have resulted in death sentences have relied, at least in part, on witness testimony, or “snitch” testimony. In 2005, the Northwestern Law School’s Center on Wrongful Convictions found that false testimony was the leading cause of known wrongful convictions in death penalty cases. False testimony was used in nearly half of all death row exonerations at that time.

So, this is our justice system in 2015, folks. Despite all we know about wrongful convictions, and the fact that a likely innocent person has been put to death before, we still require a person who is about to be murdered by the state to prove his innocence, not just reasonable doubt of guilt. States are so eager to administer the highest form of punishment—death—that they’re willing to rely on the shoddiest of evidence and overlook even the most glaring examples of possible innocence to get the job done.

[UPDATE: After this post was published, Glossip was granted a two-week stay of execution.]

It's bad enough that a possibly innocent man may be executed by the state, but it's even worse that it's happening in Oklahoma, where he could very well suffer horribly as he's being put to death.

And then, along comes a case that brings me thisclose to supporting the death penalty:

A vigil for a murdered Crowsnest man and his missing girl was interrupted Tuesday night by the announcement that human remains had been found and the Amber Alert was cancelled.

Terry Blanchette, 27, was found dead Monday morning in his home. Police determined that his daughter, Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette, had been abducted in the middle of the night and issued an Amber Alert.

The community had hoped the toddler would be found alive, and organized a candlelight vigil for Tuesday evening.

The vigil took a devastating turn when an RCMP member from victim services, speaking on behalf of the family, told the crowd the Amber Alert had been called off.

The crowd was shocked and many started crying.

At 10 p.m., police held a news conference and issued a release to confirm that Hailey had been found dead and that the family had been notified.

Early reports say the little girl and her father were murdered by her mother's boyfriend. I wish I could say I was surprised; as much as we fear strangers driving unmarked white vans snatching children off the street, cases like this usually involve someone who knows the child.

So, I simultaneously believe two seemingly contradictory things:

In an imperfect justice system the state should not have the right to take a life, and the person who murdered little Hailey deserves to die.

In the end, I think the head must win out, and I have to maintain my opposition to capital punishment even in seemingly deserving cases. 

Without the death penalty, monsters at least die behind bars. 

With the death penalty, innocent people will lose their lives.

If you truly believe in limited government and individual rights, I don't see how you can take any other position. But it's not always easy.

(BONUS: Here's a lively debate from The Rebel's archives:)


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commented 2015-09-24 22:38:25 -0400
Well, Mr Penny, there’s more than one way to solve a problem. If you think people are unjustly convicted, then you could demand a higher standard instead of rejecting the death penalty. I notice you used a US example of unjust conviction but a Canadian example of the need for strong punishment. Relevant? I think so. Using your US example, we could reject such testimony for death penalty but accept it for lesser penalties. And maybe a wait period or automatic retrial. And I notice you don’t mention the cost of long term incarceration (profit to the prison industry) or the cost to future victims when parolees/ escapees reoffend. Keep thinking Mr Penny.
commented 2015-09-18 12:24:38 -0400
“I oppose the Death Penalty, (but just barely)” because I worship a foreign monarch and permanently bend over while claiming I’m “free”. Paul Bernardo should be dead, despite what the “bleeding hearts” and BAR members may say.

Mr. Penny, you are at odds with the majority of Canadians who want to see the pedophile murderers among us brought to permanent, final Justice.
commented 2015-09-18 10:43:28 -0400
Death penalty is required(unlike death penalty using abortion) however our corrupt dysfunctional special interest group UN contaminated justice system could never assure a fair trial, until we replace the bribed out justice system with true patriots we cannot expose people to this punishment!
commented 2015-09-18 04:56:26 -0400
There are two issues here. One is the justice of the death penalty, and the other is the application. In the first case, those who claim that the death penalty undermines our value of life are overlooking something. It is the killer who loudly proclaims life has no value, and proves it not just by words, but by action. He is the one who puts the noose around his neck and uses the law to achieve that end. By removing a threat to the lives of others (no executed killer has ever re-offended, which is more than can be said for killers on parole) we show we value life, not the opposite.
The second point addresses the main subject here, and points out the weakness of the way we are using the death penalty. People are convicted when found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, which is fair enough if the penalty is not death, since errors can be rectified to some degree. That is not the case with those sentenced to death.
How to deal with all this then? My suggestion is never to apply the death penalty when there is any doubt, but reserve it for the most heinous crimes that are proved beyond ALL doubt.
Examples might be cases where the suspect was caught red handed, clearly filmed or observed by credible witnesses (with their own proof of what they saw), and information supplied by the accused, such as showing where and how he did his deed. (Information only he could know).
All that said, then I can agree that the death penalty, as it is now applied, is too open to abuse. I am against it. But, correctly applied, it is a call to justice, that you reap what you sow. That I am for.
commented 2015-09-16 23:51:49 -0400
And then there’s the Opposition, the Media, and the Courts saying that “Life Behind Bars” is cruel and unusual punishment, that the convicted should be “rehabilitated” (which means what, exactly? and who can prove the “rehabilitated” is not just smart enough to play the system?). Harper tries to enact legislation effectively meaning that “life behind bars” MEANS “Life Behind Bars”, but the “progressives” want none of that…

With our current “justice” system, I think the death penalty should be re-instated. Yes, I know innocent people will die. But there’s a more just Judge who will take care of that.
commented 2015-09-16 20:35:25 -0400
“Without the death penalty, monsters at least die behind bars.” Really, you must live in a country other then Canada?