Death penalty, Musings on the

A hypothetical I’m sure no-one will thank me for posing….

So, let us suppose there’s a man in jail. He is a singularly wicked and evil man. He is perfectly lucid and in fine mental and physical health. Among his lesser crimes are murder, rape and paedophilia. He is, quite clearly, a danger to the public and will no doubt be locked up indefinitely, such is the risk he poses.

Using Glover‘s [1] definition of side-effects, in this case, again using Glover’s example, the man has no family, no relatives and no loved ones; not one person would feel loss at his death. He has repeated his desire to re-offend if he were to be let out. Such would be the terror installed in the hearts of the public if he were to be released there is no question of him ever becoming a beneficial or reformed member of society. Due to the danger he poses to others he must be kept in solitary confinement, at great cost to the taxpayer. Faced with no prospect of ever being released, his entire life is now a miserable, solitary and non-worthwhile existence.

In short, here is a man nobody would miss and whose net presence dead would be considerably better than alive.

But this individual has consistently repeated his desire to die by a method other than his own hand. Not only does his wretched state of current existence contribute to this state of mind but he has, in his own head, created some bizarre form of religion which sees his final ecstasy, and indeed martyrdom, created by being killed for past misdemeanours. In his mind, to waste away and die of natural causes would be the ultimate failure of his life’s purpose. He repeatedly pleads with his guards to kill him, and frequently goads others into trying to harm him. Death holds no fear for him, and the more gruesome the method the better.

Now imagine you are part of the jury that decides his punishment. You are not there to decide his guilt; that much has been established and confessed to. You can chose to give him the death penalty or life incarceration in his current conditions.. The power is yours and yours alone. What would be your choice?

[1] Causing deaths and saving lives, 1977

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5 Responses to “Death penalty, Musings on the”


  1. 1 Lori January 28, 2007 at 11:02 pm

    Let him rot in prison. I don’t belive in the death penalty for the same reason I could never abort a baby. Who am I to take a life? To decided what it’ end should be like, to decide what it is worth? I also think that prison, run as it should be, would be a much worse penalty than death, as would solitary confinement.

  2. 2 Matt January 29, 2007 at 9:25 am

    The obvious thing would be solitary confinement. But rather than death–which I oppose unilaterally, unless you kill my mother, in which case I will be killing you very shortly–I’d actually attempt to establish a system that exposes to him why he is there, in an attempt, however naive of me to ponder to rehabilitate, or at least become aware that death is actually something to be feared, and that maybe it’d be better for him to do something good, however inferior to his original crimes, to in some way furnish him with a point, per se.

    Perhaps, and this is a very perhaps, this would start by having a systematic break-down presented to him, if not forced upon him, of the effects of his crimes on the victims. Interviews, transcripts, anything, really. Something to highlight the worthlessness of him, something that might eventually cause him to ask, or question, if there is anything he can even remotely do to make it better, or approaching better. People deserve second chances, however disgusting their pasts.

    Kind of a reverse It’s a Wonderful Life, then.

  3. 3 Chris January 29, 2007 at 10:27 am

    “Perhaps, and this is a very perhaps, this would start by having a systematic break-down presented to him, if not forced upon him, of the effects of his crimes on the victims.”

    I suspect most sick bastards would just get off on that though.

    The death penalty is basically hypocritical: “Killing is wrong. You killed. So we’re going to kill you.”

    Anyone here want to allow the state to be above the law or the moral requirements of the rest of us? Thought not.

  4. 4 Katherine January 30, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    Nope, no death penalty. The state should not have that power and state sanctioned murder is still murder, which, as Chris says, is a crime no matter who does it.

    The other trouble with arguments about the hypothetically un-rehabilitate-ale prisoner who wants to die, has a miserable life and is of no use to anyone is that he doesn’t actually exist. And as soon as you start saying “well, in that case…” you are on a slippery slope. What if he is hypothetically as you say, but has a mother? Or doesn’t want to die? Or doesn’t need to be kept in solitary confinement? Where is the line between this hypothetically perfect death-penalty candidate and the imperfect one? What is the factor, or combination of factors that saves someone’s life?

  5. 5 Andy January 31, 2007 at 12:52 pm

    I’ve got one word for you all: Robo Cop.


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