Deadly Justice – Part 4

My previous post outlined some of the harsh realities of the Death Penalty. That was more than 2 weeks back. So, let’s plunge neck-deep into this post right away. There’s nothing like starting a post with a bitter, divisive issue. Does Death Penalty deter Murder?

The idea of gauging a punishment on its merit as a deterrent – is rooted in the Utilitarian Justice system. Here’s the essence: The threat of the Death Penalty looming large, along with a few highly publicized executions (Example Killings) should reduce the number of gruesome murders. As a supporter of the Retributive Justice system, I do not buy this – but let’s pursue the Utilitarian line of thinking further.

Many people – law-makers among them – believe that the Death Penalty is effete. By Utilitarian norms, it has outlived its usefulness & hence, should be disbanded. What is this belief rooted on? Has Operant Conditioning failed, where Capital Punishment is concerned?

Compare these Homicide Rates per 100,000 Citizens: (Source: FBI, Uniform Crime Reports. Year – 2007)

Homicide Rates - US 2007 Data

It may seem that Capital Punishment has failed to curb murder – The fallacy of statistics with a small sample. Shall we increase the sample size?

Homicide Rates Table 2 - US 2007 Data

What about Michigan? It outlawed the Death Penalty 150 years back. Its Homicide Rate is  well above Texas, Florida & the US Average. Not to mention Washington DC. Its Homicide Rate knocked the wind off my sails!

Let’s view this globally. Abolitionists use Sweden as an example. What about a few counter-examples?

Homicide Rates - World Data

South Africa has one of the worst crime rates in the world. And BTW, it abolished the Death Penalty in 1997. Its citizens are wondering if Capital Punishment should be reinstated. Guatemala had a Moratorium on Death Penalty since 2000. Its Homicide Rate has been steadily on the rise. In 2008, Guatemala announced its intention to resume executions.

All I’m saying is, some countries & states are peace-loving – like Sweden & North Dakota – and crime rates are traditionally low. Homicide Rate is dependent on several parameters – Death Penalty is only one of them. Unemployment, Narcotics, Gun Control, Policing – are a few of the several other variables involved. Tying Homicide Rates solely to the Death Penalty is unscientific & shows a poor grasp of Statistics & Curve Fitting.

Implications of the 8th Amendment

In most discussions on the Death Penalty, the 8th amendment of the US Constitution is cited. What then is the 8th amendment? The US Constitution has a list of amendments included in its “Bill of Rights”. The 8th amendment expressly prohibits Excessive Bonds, Imposing Excessive Fines & Inflicting Cruel & Unusual Punishment. Abolitionists state that the Death Penalty is cruel & unusual & it should be rejected under the statutes of the 8th amendment.

As an Engineer, I personally find most legal clauses loose, subjective & ambiguous, for our Specifications are precise, clear & avoid the use of adjectives. What punishment could be termed “Cruel & Unusual”? For that, we should understand the penal systems of 1791, when the 8th amendment was ratified in the US. Or 1689, when United Kingdom enacted similar provisions to its Bill of Rights:

People were burnt alive, Disemboweled, Torn into 4 pieces by horses, Drowned by Dunking or Had their hands cut-off.

Such punishments seem horrid & repulsive now, but they were common 200 – 300 years back. The intent of the 8th amendment was to prevent such barbaric punishments from being meted out.

Of late, I’ve realized that the fluidity of the law shows the foresight of our founding fathers. For the laws to stand the test of time, it should be open to interpretation. To quote US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor:

The 8th amendment prohibits punishments that were prohibited historically as well as those that run counter to evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.

Most of us abjure harsh punishments. But, a lot depends on our definition of “Harsh”. Nigeria is harsh. If a woman commits adultery, she is stoned. Singapore is harsh. Vandalism is punishable by caning. The common modes of Capital Punishment around the world – Lethal Injection, Electric Chair, Hanging, Firing Squad, Gas Chamber – are they harsh?

It is important to distinguish between a Punishment & its Mode. We may find Gas Chambers reminiscent of Nazi Germany & hence reprehensible. But that’s an indictment of the mode, not the punishment of death itself. The mode of capital punishment has changed over the years. Latin “Caput” from which the word “Capital” is derived, means “Head”. In centuries past, capital punishments meant cutting off the offender’s head – a practice that is found abhorrent today, a mode we would denounce as repugnant & harsh.

How Evolved is our Decency?

Extrapolating Justice O’Connor, the penal system of a land should balance not only its “Evolving Standards of Decency”, but those of humanity. Several exceptions have already been made to accommodate our sense of decency. To cite an example, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) prohibits the execution of pregnant women. To unilaterally abolish the Death Penalty, enough people around the world, or at least in the specific country that’s mulling over the matter, should find the very act of the State killing a murderer, however gentle the means may be, grossly indecent. Overpowering public opinion, not the moral indignation of a few.

I do not think, at the time in which this post is written, that there’s an overwhelming opposition to the Death Penalty in the world. As of 2008, out of the world’s 207+ countries, 94 had abolished the death penalty & 35 others had issued temporary bans. The gentler neighbor of the US & the 2nd largest country in the world – Canada, has abolished the Death Penalty. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union forbids Capital Punishment.

Yet, I do not think the above statistics contradict my view. Consider this: The 4 most populous countries of the World – China, India, US & Indonesia – routinely kill murderers. Just these 4 make up about 50% of the world’s population. The populations of Luxembourg or Sweden, that have abolished the Death Penalty, are mere round-off errors in comparison. A Worldwide Gallup poll in 2000 concluded that 52% of the people favored the Death Penalty. Gallup further found in 2008 that 64% of the Americans supported the Death Penalty. None of that sounds like a resounding endorsement for the abolitionists, to me.

Incredibly, while the European Union has outlawed the Death Penalty, public support for reinstating it has been increasing steadily in United Kingdom. UK abolished Capital Punishment in 1973, but large swathes of her Citizens are clamoring for its reinstatement now. And UK is just the tip of the iceberg.

Summing Up

And what of the hand-wringing, that harsh punishments make us coarse? “Make us Coarse”? We are born coarse! Civilization is the tussle between the Ruthless Reptile, the Nurturing Mammal & the Thinking Human in all of us. One can’t force humanity to take the high road. As a die-hard fan of Star Trek, I can’t resist quoting from it. In “First Contact”, Captain Picard says:

The economics of the future is somewhat different. You see, money doesn’t exist in the 24th century. The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of Humanity.

A wonderful goal to aspire for. In a similar fashion, one day, some day, in the distant future, we can aspire to rise above needing Capital Punishment. Only, we have miles to go. I rest my case.


  1. Quote
    pk.karthik said February 18, 2009, 8:34 am:

    Excellant research Priya….Good writeup…..

    But having death penality is not same a giving death penality.I mean in India…people who have been sentenced to death 15 years back sre still waiting to be hung….

    Take the recent case of Nithari killings..both the murders have been handed capital punishments by session courts ,but when reach supreme court it will be atleast 10 years ..and god knows they may be even released or the capital punishement be commuted.

    So I feel its not about having Capital punishment but by having it enforced…Say for example if u take Saudi where Sharia is stricly enforced then crime rate is really low( i dont have figures for the same :()

  2. Quote

    Karthik – Thanks for your comment.

    Yes, in India, the court system is abominably slow. We don’t have enough courts & judges to deal with the case-load. So, appeals take longer.

    Saudi has low Homicide Rates & it follows Draconian laws. They usually yield good results. If we want to move to a more evolved society, the laws should be a little more humane, I think.

  3. Quote

    What a way to conclude the series! I couldn’t agree more with whatever you have said. I ain’t no star trek fan but that quote certainly is catchy. 🙂

  4. Quote

    The amount of research that has gone into this series will never fail to amaze me!!
    One of the best series on this blog Priya!!

  5. Quote

    Jass – Thanks for your comment & kind words.

    That quote made quite an impression on me when I heard it first.

    I know I’m in the doghouse after this series – Liberals & the gentler souls from the Bible Belts must be pretty pissed off with me.

  6. Quote

    Revs – Thanks for your comment & kind words.

    Verily, treating cold-blooded murderers with kid gloves annoys me. I’m relieved that many in the civilized world concur with me – That proves that I’m not a barbarian on a sabbatical 😉

    I’m glad I wrote this series.

  7. Quote
    Hariraj (subscribed) said February 18, 2009, 9:02 pm:

    Great post backed by facts! I do feel that every state should review the position on regular basis in these days of faster cultural evolution.

  8. Quote

    Excellent analysis and you have made a strong case in favor of death penalty. I agree with you that cruel punishment, death penalty yields good result but point is how much we have to sacrifice humanity and human rights. I still disagree with death penalty, here are my refutes…

    1. Major cities always have higher crime rate than other small ones, but i think it is because of gang/mafia/drug dealer’s presence. Most of the murders happening in small pockets of places with in big cities. For example, Chicago’s most of murders happening in zip code between 60621 to 60651[Source:] where gangs are concentrated now. How much time it took for police department to stop this, but they choose not to, that is a tactical way of eliminating gangster from city, by allowing them to kill each other. We can’t compare this murder rate with capital punishment. What is the big difference between FL’s 6.6 with MI’s 6.7, for mere 0.1 advantage, we have to kill human, I don’t think so.

    2. Even though 8th amendment is old, it is must needed one now, as science advanced so do torture and methods of killings. Electric chair is cruel than horse way of killing. Several researches suggested that people feel abnormal pain and literally burn people slowly. [Source: Lethal injection also bears pain if it used wrongly.

    3. I think 51% of Americans supports Iraq war so the whole world should support it. I think the survey had +-5% margin of error, so my point is U.S equally divided on death penalty issue also.

    More to come but stopping here for now…

  9. Quote

    Hari – Thanks for your comment.

    Yes, states & countries should review their position on a regular basis.

    Opinion Makers such as Amnesty International give the picture that the entire world is moving towards a Death Penalty free era. While in reality, some countries that banned capital punishments are wondering if they made a mistake. So any state/country that abolishes capital punishment should exercise caution. It won’t be easy to unring the bell, as UK is finding out.

  10. Quote

    Subba – Thanks for your comment & kind words.

    You are entitled to your opinion, but when its enacted as the law, I’ll have a problem 😉

    1. Yes, major cities are criminal magnets. In Chennai, impoverished areas in North Chennai have astonishing crime rates.

    But you have misunderstood the point I made about Florida & Michigan. I used that to refute people who claim that Death Penalty states have a higher crime rate, ergo Death Penalty should be dismantled. I laid out my case that there are many reasons for high Homicide Rates such as unemployment, drugs, weapons etc. I did not say – “Oh, FL is better than MI by 0.1, so let’s kill all murderers”.

    2. Ok, let’s do away with electric chairs – it seems pretty bad. I’m all for cleaning up the lethal injection process, so that it is humane. But – I’m not squeamish about the state inflicting SOME pain while killing the offenders. We are killing them, not extracting a broken tooth. Some amount of pain should be expected!

    3. What do you mean, the US is equally divided on Death Penalty?! 64% of people support it. The margin of error for that kind of poll is +/- 3%. So, 61% – 67% of Americans support the death penalty. I like your optimism, but the numbers don’t support your claim 😉

  11. Quote

    I think my understanding is, FL and MI differentiators is 0.1 and both of them are above U.S average so what is the point of killing people for 0.1 advantage and high murder rate…

    Any form of killing is not okay whether we use injection or chair or whatever. All forms of killing bears equal amount of pain.

    Yes..number is not supporting me but one point of time more than 80% people agreed death penalty now only 64% and in future i might get enough support. This means people are start thinking,maturing and not seeing world as only black and white.

  12. Quote

    Subba – I’m not saying FL is marginally better than MI, so Death Penalty works. But, if you want to talk about it – Well, what about Washington DC? Comparing just MI & FL is again the statistics of small numbers.

    Any way, that’s not my point. I do not agree with the utilitarians that the main purpose of the Death Penalty is to deter crime. The main purpose is revenge. It is a sign that the society has given up on repeat murderers. We are voting them out of this planet. We can agree to disagree on the Death Penalty.

    Not all forms of killing bear “equal” pain! I’m sure garroting – which was outlawed by Spain – must have been excruciating. Compared to that, a humane form of a lethal injection will be comparatively better!

    “Yes..number is not supporting me but one point of time more than 80% people agreed death penalty now only 64% and in future i might get enough support. This means people are start thinking,maturing and not seeing world as only black and white”

    I think here is where Anti Death Penalty folks get it wrong. Numbers supporting the death penalty have not seen a steady decline. It oscillates. Check the Gallup site for the historical % points. If what you say is true, why do countries – that too 1st world countries like the UK – have 2nd thoughts about reinstating the death penalty?

    And I have to politely point out to you that Anti Death Penalty people are the ones seeing the world in black & white. “Death Penalty is Wrong any which way” – is a stark black & white position to take. Those that advocate it only for extreme cases, while making it more humane – are able to see more shades of gray.

    But yes, perhaps some time in the future, people may be in a more advanced society where Death Penalty is seen as an unthinkably cruel form of punishment.

  13. Quote

    “It is a sign that the society has given up on repeat murderers. We are voting them out of this planet.”

    We don’t have rights to vote that who can live and who should go out of this planet. This is the sign of superiority. Based some witnesses, assumptions and circumstantial we can’t vote to kill someone, all we can do is separate them from main society. As you said in previous post, it is all depend on money that make difference of proving guilty and not guilty.

    “lethal injection will be comparatively better”

    I read some time ago that one case took 3 hours to kill a person by injection. Imaging how much pain he might have experienced.
    Here is step by step process for injection

    “first drug — sodium thiopental — which renders the prisoner unconscious, wears off too quickly. Some prisoners are awake and able to feel pain as the procedure continues, the condemned men contend.

    The second drug — pancuronium bromide — paralyzes all muscle movement, then prevents the condemned person from speaking out and expressing awareness of the pain, according to the men’s attorneys.

    The third drug, potassium chloride, which induces cardiac arrest, is “excruciatingly painful in a conscious person,” the inmates and lawyers say in their court papers.”


    “I think here is where Anti Death Penalty folks get it wrong. Numbers supporting the death penalty have not seen a steady decline. It oscillates. Check the Gallup site for the historical % points. If what you say is true, why do countries – that too 1st world countries like the UK – have 2nd thoughts about reinstating the death penalty?”

    From the same Gallup poll, 1993 poll, 80% Americans in favor of death penalty and latest 2008 poll 64% American’s in favor of death penalty, and year by year it is steadily decreasing. I don’t care it is oscillating or not, as long it is decreasing we are fine. In UK death penalty was politicized, as usual some party want to reinstate death penalty just to cover some votes.

    I leave black and white issue here, it is clear that who is seeing colorful world just by which side we are…

  14. Quote

    Subba – Only 42% of the people supported it in 1967. If you choose to see the data between 1993 & 2008, fine. If you see the larger picture, you’ll see what I mean, that opinions see-saw, that they oscillate. There’s no guarantee that it will continue to decrease. It might, then again it might not.

    1 case took 3 hours to die. That is sad, but how much time does it take normally? 1 swallow doesn’t make a Summer. And I have already said in my previous comment that the lethal injection process should be more streamlined, more humane.

    I *never* said justice is only about money, funny how it was misconstrued. There are problems that must be addressed. But that doesn’t make the law very arbitrary.

    I imagine the steps that an innocent victim goes thru, when they are savagely murdered. I wonder how long it took for them to die. And how much pain they would have been in.

    About UK, what I wrote about was public opinion. Not what a political party did. And its not as if the Anti Death Penalty lobby doesn’t politicize the issue to garner support.

    And there are other countries in the same boat as UK.

    “We don’t have rights to vote that who can live and who should go out of this planet. This is the sign of superiority”

    Call it whatever you want. By repeating your stance, you won’t convince me. And it was never my intention to change the opinions of others. You are free to hold your opinion, just like I’m free to hold mine.

  15. Quote

    Agreed…everybody has there own opinions, and i respect those. I’m not forcing my “Philosophy” nor saying always those are right but try to make a point here. :-))

  16. Quote

    Death Penalty creates a certain level of fear but the homicide rates cannot be directly mapped to the fact that death penalty is there in the state or not. Wonder if a killer would consider that before committing a crime.

  17. Quote

    Rajesh – Thanks for your comment.

    “Wonder if a killer would consider that”.

    Excellent point. As you say, there is a certain stigma around murder brought about by societal conditioning. And it will act as some kind of a deterrent. But how strong a deterrent it will be, we can’t say.

    Cold blooded, calculating killers for gain may not worry about the death penalty – since they’ll focus more on on how to evade justice & how to foist the blame on others. Vendetta murderers may not think about it either, because they aren’t thinking that far ahead.

  18. Quote
    Ganesh Vaideeswaran said February 21, 2009, 11:29 pm:


    As much as we have agreed to disagree on this topic, kudos on a well researched and well written series. Impressive piece of writing.

    I was reminded of the various discussions in this thread when I saw this
    in CNN. As much as I can understand the angst and maybe the emotion behind such a demand, the rationale side of my brain cannot agree with it.


  19. Quote

    Excellent research Priya. The summary is spot on. Let us hope we can reach the utopia imagined by Capt Picard. Until then, long live the death penalty.

  20. Quote

    Ganesh – Thanks for your comment & kind words.

    The link you sent is interesting – it is, literally an “Eye for an Eye” punishment. I don’t seek the Death Penalty as a mirror punishment. I would seek it for all extreme crimes against humanity – I see such offenders as a form of cancer. I don’t approve of schlepping around the dregs of our species. I’d rather offload them without pity.

    I know such statements would make gentler souls like you & Subba squirm. But, that’s how honestly I feel. And judging by the comments I’ve received, I have some company.

  21. Quote

    Sukumar – Thanks for your comment.

    I’m rather surprised to see you support the Death Penalty. But hey. I’m glad for the company.

    I believe in looking deep down inside myself – what is there is real. Its not a value, not a precept, not a judgment. It is instinct. Its there for a reason. I say it like I see it.

  22. Quote

    Oh! It ain’t 5, eh? I spent the last 5 mins scourging for the 5th. Anyway.

    So having read, frankly, not too meticulously, all the 5 in a single day – I hope not to miss the point. Your research and flow continues to boggle me; someday I shall learn too. Coming to the point now, I would want to put my arguments down categorically – point for point – but from prior experience I have found that, people differ in the definition of the term they argue upon. So, putting that experience into play, I would like to, if you permit of course, dwell on your basis for the entire volume.

    1. Revenge.

    I am not too crystal with the reasons on why you prefer retribution to restoration. I read only mentions of revenge being a human emotion – and us needing to stay true to it. If I have missed the point, please ignore all further and if time, patience and work permits – clarify. If I ain’t doing that bad, continue.

    Define revenge. If you agree revenge is an emotion, a state of mind, then we can proceed. I am being a pain in where-not introducing checks ridiculously often. But it is only so that we tap the diff. of opin. at the bud.

    Emotions are nurtured, moulded and they change. Hunger is not an emotion. Anger is. Sleep is not an emotion. Revenge is. We can’t help hunger, but we sure as earth can help revenge. It is there in every human being, maybe – but if the only outcome of that emotion, cause notwithstanding, is harm of any nature then shouldn’t the first step taken be to clot it. Then dissuade it. Then make it vanish. Or am I being idealistic, oh! how I hate that word, or anything.

    2. Reason for Revenge

    I am not sure if you flirt with this head. in your dissertation. Why nurture revenge? Because it gives you peace of mind? Are there other ways to get it, peace of mind – not revenge, w/o causing harm to another life in anyway? Is it for this selfish, note: not individualistic, motive that we seek or support revenge?

    Would I be looking a complete fool, if I assumed that hedonism isn’t the driving force here? Am I out of place in assuming that it is indeed the preventive measures that accompanies revengeful stimuli which justifies our seeking of revenge? And if it is true that we seek revenge, so as to put a stop to the cruelties of caused by another, is showing cruelty to that another life the way out? Stone for stone, eye for eye? Is there then a difference between the one who causes and the one who effects the revenge?

    I would love to post my thoughts on this – but I suck at structuring thoughts. I am much better off talking it out most of the times, but well yeah. If I can convince myself on the above two points with your explanation or retort – I shall proceed to build my arguments further on this base. Else, we can always ATD., agree to disagree I mean. 🙂

  23. Quote

    Abhinav – Thanks for your comment.

    We can aspire to be better human beings, to get close to Godliness. If & when that happens, I submit there would be very few crimes & even fewer murders. When that day comes, yes – we can disband capital punishment. That’s an ideal we can all aspire for. I’m all for it.

    The law cannot deviate from the sordid realities of the society & the people it chooses to govern. The shoe should fit. When murders are rampant enough, I believe we have to deal with the worst killers, who have no mitigating circumstances, very harshly. I don’t care for such people – they have forfeited their right to live in a civilized society. I’m not going to waste my pity on these squeaky wheels.

    The promise of revenge will strengthen the belief that innocent people have in the law. Ergo, it will make people more law-abiding.

    While hedonism isn’t the word I would have used – yes, it gives pleasure when you extract revenge. Revenge need not be nurtured – its natural. And people are, to a certain extent, selfish. That’s also natural. I think we should recognize that we are animals. Like any animal, we have baser, primitive instincts. We can’t deny those feelings & wish them away. Let’s recognize their presence & slowly work towards improving ourselves.

    We can’t force Godliness on people. Let them evolve steadily & reach a point where the death penalty isn’t needed. When that day comes, I’ll oppose the death penalty. It would have become too indecent at that point.

    Again, note that I don’t intend to convince you or anyone else. But, we can’t start a discussion assuming the death penalty is wrong. If you want to convince me your position is right, you need to build a stronger case.

    ATD is always an option. I respect people who are staunchly opposed to the death penalty on moral grounds. I may disagree with them, but I admire their moral fiber.

  24. Quote

    Priya – you don’t have to thank every comment. It is assumed that you are thankful..! 🙂 Kiddin’ there!

    Coming to the point. I wouldn’t use the term ‘moral’ yet – it is too personal. People define morals for themselves. I have one for me – and slowly, if our discussion persisits, you will see that that is where my points come from; or lead to. So – till then I will try and delve deeper with my point.

    Yes, Priya, the sordid realities of life is much different than Buddha’s textbook definition of life. But nevertheless, “The promise of revenge will strengthen the belief that innocent people have in the law.”, seems to me as if it is out of an ‘extremist’s rule book’. Not the kind of peaceful extremists we all aspire would rule us.

    ‘Hate the sin, and not the sinner’. Revenge, when not nurtured, will die by itself. If we have the law of the land reinforcing the very emotion we wish to wish away, wouldn’t it keep becoming all the more difficult? If you do want an ideal society – it has to be through avoidance of violence; not retribution, don’t you think. Your argument, if I follow, is weeding out the violence – murderers, you say, and the engine being ‘helping people extract revenge’. [Why not rapists? Child molesters?, some may ask; but we shall refrain from going into those; not yet at least.]

    Are there ways in which we can obviate the emotion, revenge that is? Can we stop murders from taking place? If we can have cutting edge technology that can beyond any reasonable doubt – objectivise a case so much so that we could prove with unconfronted conviction the person, time, situation and motive of killing without as much as a speck of doubt – can we not instead invest in ways to prevent murder. Why invest in a system that we all want to be sunset? I am making an almost ridiculous statement here – not knowing the first thing about either law or technology to help prevent murders. [No, no – not Minority Report: too fantastic that one.] But yeah well, I don’t know – increased police patrolling maybe. Or using, cumulative psychology – tougher punishments for petty crimes? Life (and I mean until death) sentences for first time murderers. Why aren’t we thinking on those lines?

    Shouldn’t law be preventive? And then, restorative?

    I agree we are animals. And we have base instincts. Revenge in my accordance is NOT one of them. I think, we would need to delve into psychology – which I am again poor at, to understand the emotion. Revenge might be an emotion formed by aggregation of a life time of experiences. It needs a vent. And should the law be providing that vent, is a question that is troubling my mind. In spirit, wouldn’t it lead to humankind seeking revenge for every speck of dust kicked in their eye?

    Besides, there is this another line of thought limited to revenge – so, must law also abet revenge in petty crimes. So, if someone slaps me – should law help me seek revenge and have him slapped? Is this the kind of culture we want to cultivate? I might sound a trifle trivial here – but the very philosophy bothers me.

    [Would you happen to have insight/ research on why murderers commit murders? It becomes all important to reach the root cause of the issue.]

  25. Quote

    Great series…
    So much research done in the 4 part series!!!!

    1) Like to know what you think of the following…
    Your primary reason for supporting capital punishment is not utilatarian view but retributive justice.And you have also said that retributive justice needs to be applied to ‘serial murder’like cases only ,as it is a different class of crime and so this reasoning cannot be made to justify mirror punishments for a lesser crime (which happens to be outside the scope of this posts as you have stated in a comment).
    And somewhere else it is stated that you dont care if the lethal injection is painful or not and we are not commited to smoothen the death process of a heinous criminal.

    My question is, whether ‘capital punishment’ is the ultimate punishment which the society can render on an individual?Will the theory of proportional justice suddenly breaks down at capital punishment? For a Hitler or for a Milosovic who organised murder of millions and spend such a conisiderable time even writing down and propogating the motivation and for a Joe Atkins who killed two family members the maximum you can give is capital punishment.And remember in what all heinous ways Hitler killed his victims.Since capital punishment is not primarily given for deterence but for the satisfaction of revenge,
    are there any factors which prevent you from thinking of guillotine,crucifiction or any such mode of punishments in a proportional way?

  26. Quote

    Abhinav – You haven’t provided any new argument to defend your position, apart from moral, ethical or spiritual (pick your word) outrage. I’ve already outlined my reaction to this line of thinking. About the other questions you’ve asked – they’ve been asked by other readers & I’ve already responded to them. Also, please note that none of the ideas proposed in your comment are new. It has all been said before & tried in varying ways with varying results. I’d like to deal with issues scientifically, on positions backed with research & data. It seems to me that you need to read more on what has been done & tried so far and construct your position.

  27. Quote

    Arun – Thanks for your comment.

    Unfortunately, prevailing notions of decency prevent us from giving cruel & unusual punishments to the likes of Hitler or Milosevic. Even though killing such monsters give us satisfaction, we have to deal with it as voting them off this planet. So, the execution should be done swiftly & as painlessly as possible (such as using the lethal injection).

  28. Quote

    Sorry Priya. You are absolutely right.

    I haven’t said anything new and moreover I have done zero research; but I am not contending your position on Capital Punishment yet. I am contending the reason you suggest cap. pun. – revenge. And my line of argument is still that revenge shouldn’t be encouraged. This, of course is a very subjective matter – and the only possible research I would get on this is psychological; and as mentioned – I haven’t done that either. 🙂 But, as I mentioned before, the need for revenge hasn’t been substantiated methinks. It is mentioned that it is a base instinct – which really hasn’t been proved.

    I shouldn’t have suggested alternate methods yet – and frankly it wasn’t my intent to create an idea that I am doing so; I was just trying to provide cushions for my thought. Anyway.

    So, the root need for necessitating cap. pun.:
    – you say is the need to quench revengeful feelings, and
    – I say revenge is an emotion that needs to be done away with and law, last of all, shouldn’t be abetting it

    To that extent we both aren’t providing research or data backing! So, I shall create some space and simply assume that the point has been proven objectively; that revenge is indeed an emotion that shouldn’t be quelled – and maybe proceed to think on the lines of capital punishment. But this time, I shall comment IF and WHEN I have done some reading and research myself.

    Thanks for responding patiently.

  29. Quote

    OK … 🙂
    So the ‘prevailing notion of decency’ is the only thing that which prevents you from thinking of using methods like crucifiction.If I am right I can also conclude that you are not a wee bit concerned about taking this ‘notion of decency’ one step forward or going further in the direction in which ‘penal system of the country has so far evolved’.
    You have acknowledged in the very first post that modern law is a derivative of Utilitarianism;But rather than making a case based on utilitarian philosophy
    you have chose to support capital punishment based on retributive justice. Does that mean ,you have basic differences with the underlying philosophy of the modern law?Or if it is no particular philosophy ,but the ‘prevailing notion of decency’ that matters , how will you react if I say that it is only an inertia or complacence with the present law that prevents you from supporting the abolition of capital punishment.

  30. Quote

    Arun – DO NOT post strident comments. You are communicating with a stranger & toning down your language goes a long way. It will take me less than a minute to post a heated response. But, I choose to respond calmly this time.

    My post is not just about my views, but about the evolution of the laws. The 8th amendment is about “Prevailing standards of decency in the world”. My “inertia” or “energy levels” will have no impact on the cultural attainment of the world populated by 6 Billion people. Such changes take time.

    Please read my series again. What I have shown is the history of the law. The laws have evolved over a period of time. Luckily, we don’t live in a country whose laws are governed by a particular idealogy. So some laws are utilitarian & others aren’t. I have clearly explained where I think a retributive system doesn’t work.

  31. Quote

    Iam sorry if my comment appeared harsh!!….I never thought it to be.
    Thanks for replying 🙂

  32. Quote
    senthil (subscribed) said May 21, 2011, 9:22 pm:

    The prisons and death penalty are largely alien to Indian society.. The below link would be an interested read..

    India was NOT law based, but commune based.. Constitution, Laws are alien to our psyche, and today, it is the urban anglicised indians who speak about law of land etc.. but the rural people speak only about dharma..

    Indian society handled punishment rather in a different way.. they did not put in prison nor banish the culprits.. they just outcasted the criminal, either with physical penalty or without..

    Even at an empire level, a particular community is outcasted, and NOT persecuted as it happened in the west..

  33. Quote
    senthil (subscribed) said October 27, 2011, 12:17 pm:

    Wanted to share this article on occupy wall street protest..

    How do you explain, actually, the convergence of the two? The legal immunity for the elite classes, and at the same time—because the period coincides exactly, four decades. From 1972 to 2007, imprisonment rates in the U.S. increased fivefold, from 93 per 100,000 to 491 per 100,000.

    The prisoner rate of america is largest than that of the developing worlds.. Yet, America is called the land of justice.. The Utopian world of the Americanised Indians (LOL.. i need not say whom) has been shattering for the past few years..

    Its NOT about deadly Justice.. Even Justice cannot be established merely by imprisoning everyone.. The concept of Law of the west has to be deposed with, and the concept of Punishment as it exists today is to be dispensed with.. In indian polity, all the issues, are handled locally at the village level.. only severe crimes to up.. and there is no fixed law.. the circumstances, and the prevalent situations of the crime is considered.. there is No Idiotic Blind “Rule of Law”..

    Take for another example.. there was no concept of prisoners of war, in the indic polity.. there is no equivalent word for prison in indic language.. no equivalent word for Prisoner .. “Kaithi” is an urdu word which we are using today..

    The losing king and army were kept out of the society in our polity.. and it is they who were branded as dalits, later..

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