The United States belongs to an exclusive club of nations that put their own citizens to death

Amnesty International is out with a new report on the death penalty – showing that only 20 out of the 198 nations worldwide carried out executions last year – the United States is one of those nations. We’re also the only Western democracy to still use the death penalty. The United States ranked fifth in the world in executions in 2011 – behind nations with upstanding human rights records like China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq.

On the bright side – worldwide, the number of nations embracing the death penalty has plummeted from ten years ago – when more than thirty counties still executed their citizens. And more and more states in the United States are taking steps to abolish the death penalty.

Then again – 16 states have passed “Stand Your Ground” laws like the one that killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida – leaving it up to average citizens to play the role of judge, jury, and executioner on the streets.


jmanstro's picture
jmanstro 10 years 52 weeks ago

My personal view is that in the context of our current system, the death penalty seems costly and ineffective. I doubt eliminating the death penalty would have a significant impact on the incidence of crime, and it might save some money over the current set of laws and practices. It seems that the appeals are endless, and the type of incarceration is very expensive.

That being said, my heart does not bleed for people who commit heinous crimes. But my definition of heinous and yours may not be the same. And DNA has demonstrated that we don't always know beyond a reasonable doubt at all, let alone absolutely know who is guilty and who is not.

I think the more important question is what we are doing to ourselves as a society when we decide to put someone to death for their actions. We remove what we believe is a serious threat, but we incur a massive cost, I assume it is beyond what life imprisonment costs us if the person carries out their full allotment of appeals.

I'm intrigued by the idea of allowing people to volunteer for assisted suicide, after they receive a life sentence without possibility of parole. Given my understanding of life behind prison walls, I think I would opt for that.

At least three functions of our prisons should be to protect the public from those who pose a real danger, to provide a deterrent to others who may contemplate crimes we are unwilling to tolerate, and to rehabilitate those who can be rehabilitated. If a prisoner is unwilling to cooperate in a rehabilitation program, or exhibits behavior that we cannot accomodate in such a program, then we have few options. A sentence of life in prison can still protect society, but what is the impact on his fellow prisoners, if he is allowed to interact with them?

We jail more people than most if not all other large countries. We seem to produce bigger and stronger and smarter criminals from our systems, at least some of the time, and it appears that in some situations, we are allowing rape and assault to occur among prisoners without reasonable efforts to protect them from these crimes while in our custody.

So we can't really claim a large degree of success relative to other nations. Is there something about American society and its freedoms, or perhaps how it came to be a nation, that leads us to have a larger than average population of incorrigables?

We can probably do better, and we ought to work on it. But if someone commits a horrible crime on an innocent child or defenseless citizen, and can't demonstrate an ability to be productive and useful to society in a controlled environment, I can certainly understand the argument that we can't afford to keep them locked up at great expense for the next 50 years.

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 10 years 52 weeks ago

Well, I think it is pretty obvious by now that our current legal, judicial, law-enforcement system, etc is not effective at protecting us against criminals all the way from the top of the sh!t pile to the lowly ones that attack us in the streets. Why wouldn't people be fed up with such a corrupt and effete system? Ever hear the saying: "I'd rather be before a jury of 12 than be 6 feet down"...something like that anyway. There is such a thing as self-protection. When some people think they can attack and mug other people in the streets they may think twice if every citizen is armed to the teeth and willing to protect themselves rather than try to rely on an ineffective system that is so bogged down with legal bullsh!t that these criminals who attack us can end up suing us.

On the other hand, there are people who go way overboard and become self-appointed vigilantes who need to be put on meds before they hurt someone. These kinds of people don't need to be patrolling our streets in search of trouble because, if they don't find it, they will creat it. I tend to think that this vigilante was way over his head in smug self-righteousness...not to mention pretty racist. I've known such people and they are right-wing dick-heads who should all be shut inside cages to protect the public.

Most people who get attacked in the streets have no doubt that they are being attacked. This particular incident is the exception rather than the rule and gets all the press. There are way more victims, even dead ones, that would have stood a much better chance of protecting themselves if they had their own weapons, and knew how to use them, and who passed a training course on the legality and potential consequences of shooting someone else. Potential attackers would be less like a fox in a chicken coop as in the current system.

And come on you really think Zimmerman shot Trayvon because of the "Stand your ground laws passed in 16 states" made it possible?

bemad 10 years 52 weeks ago

Thom, Thom, Thom; you, like so many American miss the pointers of liberal conservative social communist facists origin don't get how this country is built on development moving ahead idealism. All these many thousands hundreds decades years of past glory has lost its gotcha, its lets get things done, its lets things etc, etc, and finally, and I mean finally, American Advertising has found THE way to re-ignite the engine that drives world wide desire. In fact this new way of doing things in the get the attention of the hordes is most likely getting a post universal n + 1 infinities copyright on it at the past moment and you hit it right on softest part of the head skull killing point. You see Thom mankind has been going around forever wasting time bureacracy earthenware ozone layers etc., trying to rid themselves of their neighbors, some of who become you, meaning, like Genghis Khan has to keep riding west hence further and further from one's home. As you can see riddance is so very very expensive and it makes for so much PTSD since there is so much difficulty in forces getting to go home after a hard days personhoodbodilyfunctioningkilling of like matter, but with the killing of one's own, well, then a soldier(ette) can, under the new ways of local warmongering, go home to family and friends and sit back and relax afore the next shift. Fewer barracks and buildings to maintain, pilots can take their aircraft home with them, and a soldier(ette) has no need of costly R&R or emergency leave or even transportation. No cooks, no washing up, send your armored vehicle to the 20 minute oil change place in a bomb crater, and on and on. Just think of all the golf soldier(ette)s can watch or participate in.

Thom, this is a major major major breakthrough in racism as well. An American is an American as long as they have a SSN, a valid voter ID, a gun, and an illogical mind. Remember people like to kill people and have been doing so since someone told them to and now, thanks to America the Zimmerman in everyone can come out legally and without bias in their hometown instead of some lice infected nowhere on the other side of the earth (cuts back on expensive innoculations/quarantines too). Truly brilliant thinking on the part of American Ingenuity Society!!!

Clarissa Smith's picture
Clarissa Smith 10 years 52 weeks ago

Sorry, this isn't "exclusive", it's flat-out primitive -- we're just behind and many Americans downright paranoid.

America is divided in many ways: Rich/poor, sophisticated/stupid, sane/insane, goodhearted/devilish, civilized/savaging, part of the developed world/part of the 3rd world ect./ect. ....

If you watch Florida from upstate NY, it's simply another culture, an alien world with different values..... Is this Union really a united nation?

If those righties say, "Why do you liberals hate America?" -- they actually mean: "Why do you hate MY kind of America?" Our liberal America is a totally different America and they hate THAT. We aren't them--PERIOD.

Pshaw, idiots!

Margaret Humphrey's picture
Margaret Humphrey 10 years 52 weeks ago

It would take pages for me to express how abhorrent and barbaric the death penalty is. I live in Texas and I am constantly fighting without much help to get it repealed here. Thanks!

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 10 years 52 weeks ago

In addition to the racial slurs from Zimmerman, he did not listen to the police during that 911 call that asked him if he was following Trayvon and Zimmerman said he was. Zimmerman was told that "We do not need you to do this". Zimmerman did not follow that advice and continued to track Trayvon. This changes everything...even if Trayvon did jump Zimmerman and hit him in the face and banged his head on the ground as Zimmerman claimed. He could have just been lashing out in self-defense against Zimmerman. Trayvon was being stalked and he was just trying to protect himself against the obvious aggressor. Zimmerman crossed the line when he continued to stalk Trayvon after being told not to.

But, now, we are hearing another story about Trayvon not being exactly an innocent because of his troubled past and drug problems. Is this just more propaganda from the one side that would like to see Trayvon the guilty one in this issue?

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 10 years 52 weeks ago

On the other hand:
Hello....911? I am witnessing this little old lady being accosted by this big thug who is dragging her into the alley.
911: Are you following them?
911: Ok, sir, we don't need you to do this.
Uh, Ok, so I won't but please hurry and send police.
911: What is your name, sir? Where do you live? What is your telephone number? Are you or have you ever taken drugs? etc. etc.....
Two hours later, the police arrive and find the old lady stabbed, robbed, and raped.
This was just a made up story but it is what I believe is not too far fetched from reality.

Now, if that old lady had a gun...or the 911 caller had one and followed them into the alley... there may be one dead criminal but a very thankful old lady...and think of all the other assaults in the future on other little old ladies by this guy would have been prevented. The police would look stupidly incompetent, as they often are (they are only quick to beat up or tear gas peaceful demonstrators, you know), which is the largest reason why so many people would feel safer carrying their own weapons. Of course, the dead criminal would have family members trying to claim that their son was an innocent victim of either the little old lady or the 911 caller and wanting them to pay for their son's murder. And they may even play the race card or any other trick they think of to rally public support.

But, again...we know that there was no little old lady or any other potential victim whose life was being threatened...yet Zimmerman, acting only on his paranoid, perhaps, feelings and against authorities orders, went ahead and followed the guy anyway. I hope all neighborhood watch "Barney Fifes" learn from this and unless someone is obviously having their life threatened..there is no mandate for them to take any more action than to report it to the police.

historywriter's picture
historywriter 10 years 52 weeks ago

Execution is immoral, it is reprehensible, it cannot be justified.

Not only is it against all our moral and religious parameters, someone is dead. There have been countless cases recently of people who were released after 20 years or more because it is shown they are innocent or the case is ambiguous. We can't help anyone after an unjust conviction that kills them.

Troy Davis broke my heart. From everything I read, it looked like he was innocent, but at least he deserved a new trial or a review of the pathetic thing that passed for a trial.

SteveS's picture
SteveS 10 years 52 weeks ago

Execution is barbaric, and it doesn't deter anyone from murdering someone else. It's also more expensive than putting a murderer in prison for life. There is no justification for it.

Sadly, too many Americans have been taught from childhood that execution is justified. Look at the audience at the Republican debates. What a bloodthirsty crowd! I think we won't be able to abolish it for some years because most politicians are afraid to take a stand against it.

HalFonts's picture
HalFonts 10 years 52 weeks ago

While I could flip-the-switch without hesitation or guilt -- on some terrible folks who knowingly committed horrible evil against others -- our miserable record convicting, incarcerating and executing innocent people make me strongly opposed to the death-penalty. Fact is, I advocate for reducing our inexcusably high prison population, most incarcerated for victimless "crimes." Like so many social (political) issues, we just can't seem to get it even close to right.

No Fraud's picture
No Fraud 10 years 52 weeks ago

A society that upholds Capital Punishment (execution) as a means of punishment falls way short of justice...Fullfilling only vengence which lacks true peace.

As for "standing your ground"...Everyone has the right to defend & protect themselves from bodily harm by another person(s); just as long as they do not knowingly or willingly put themselves in harms way.

douglaslee's picture
douglaslee 10 years 52 weeks ago

Most of the justified homicides since the alec law passed were against unarmed victims. Maybe some of newer civil rights legislation could include body armor vests complimentary for minority citizens if residing in a human hunting state [that's what the alec law is, a human hunting license]

France quit executions in 1963,or '66 they were still guillotine then, too. I don't know if they had advanced to the Saudi level of consideration then. Saudis inject a blood clotting agent in the soon to be beheaded. It keeps the spray off the public crowd. The hand chops just get a tourniquit. The stonings don't bleed that much.

Clarissa Smith's picture
Clarissa Smith 10 years 52 weeks ago

It very much looks like many red stats are driven by flat-out criminal minds with a gangster mentality. Maybe the case we heard about from Wisconsin was even worse: An obviously drunken minor ended up on a porch (outside the house!) and the owner shot him without asking what he did there. District attorney Mark Bensen considers this justified under the Castle Doctrine. The idea of the Castle Doctrine is, that your hopefully safe home can become your fatal trap, in case armed people break in. In this case there was a harmless kid outside the house!

What this district attorney utters, actually proves a primitive butcher mentality : killing innocent humans like flees. This is not a spirit of a decent citizen. It is simply a killer, a gangster mentality.

We have the greatest geniuses in the U.S. and kindest people, you hardly find in other parts of the world. Plus, sadly we have the worst sadists as well. If Americans don't care to have them rule this country, they better NEVER AGAIN vote for GOP! And don't forget : none-voting is half a vote for empowering these criminals!

It's your choice voters.....

Wanna see a source?

Gordon Wilder's picture
Gordon Wilder 10 years 52 weeks ago

1. This is legalized killing.

2. Why emulate those things which we most abhore in others?

It is not cost effective from what has been told me. Wny do we persist?

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 10 years 52 weeks ago

Seems we vacillate from one extreme to another. It was, not long ago, the common belief that we really could do very little to protect ourselves...even inside our homes...without the likely-hood of being hauled in on murder charges ourselves. Now, we can go on a safari anywhere we are if we believe we are being threatened.

The police have always had this and most criminals would not dare try to rape, rob, or murder a policeman. They have guns, you know! And they don't hesitate to use them! But, for us non-police, we had to prove that our life, or that of our loved ones, was in immediate life-threatening situation before we could protect ourselves, or our loved ones. The intruder had to be armed with a knife or gun and about to stab or pull the trigger before you could use deadly force yourself. You really were not allowing much of any excuse if the intruder were merely outside of the home and not armed or actually attacking you yet.

The laws seemed to be stacked in favor of the would-be criminal...and they knew it! No wonder crime paid. Yes, you may find a few anomalies of some drunk being killed by a frightened homeowner if that drunk was on the front porch trying to get in....and mistakenly killed by the owner. But, you would find an overwhelming number of examples of those who are supposed to protect us...either not responding in time or not responding at prevent the intruders from murdering, robbing, or raping you.

And when you look at the criminalization of our very institutions as examples...what is a person to do? The lowly criminal sees what is going on in the upper echelon of what should be good examples. ie: be good because, they preach the mantra: "crime doesn't pay"...but crime often does pay very well, especially if it occurs on a grand the criminal Ponzi schemes..and politicians and judges being bought off by the rich and powerful .etc.

What it really comes down to is that the powers that be have convinced a number of anti-gun liberals that we would all be better off with no one owning guns and only those in power should own guns. That worked quite well for Stalin, Hitler, and all the other leaders that have been responsible for murdering masses of people. I am a liberal/progressive in all things except gun control.

Has anyone else noticed an increase in the number of door-to-door scammers? I have! Whether it is some kid ostensibly selling magazines for college or "to keep them off the streets" some couple trying to raise funds for their daughter attacked by a pitt bull. Many things that may tug at your heart strings but you have to turn them away because you know that all the people are really trying to scam you. To put it another way...they really don't have a daughter that was ripped apart by a pitt bull...they are organized scammers out to get your money. But how many people are going to be hard and cold enough to turn them down? You have to be, unfortunately. And don't ever, for any reason, open your locked screen door to take a pamphlet or anything else. They could grab you and force their way in. It has happened many times. Some door-to-door scammers have even dressed up in police don't be fooled...especially if they are asking for money...or your private information.

LuCifer's picture
LuCifer 10 years 51 weeks ago

How can a country call itself CIVILIZED when it still has the DEATH penalty???

Clarissa Smith's picture
Clarissa Smith 10 years 51 weeks ago

Your're **R I G H T !**

We have some relatively (not completely until we have functioning public healthcare!) civilized states, but on the whole we're actually tending to the 3rd World. To me Florida, Alabama ect. is 3rd World. Not only because of poverty, but also mentally.

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