October 24, 2010 8:55 pm at 8:55 pm #592759
As a contentious issue, whether or not the death penalty should exist under U.S. law is quite possibly the first and foremost question debated within American society, and has been so for at least forty years.
Personally, I believe that capital punishment should be an option.
There are some crimes that are so heinous they demand nothing less, such as:
-The Oklahoma City bomber, who deliberately targeted a nursery full of children.
-The Beltway sniper, who terrorized the DC area while gunning down innocents.
-Terrorists who have murdered civilians, such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
-and many other cases that were less notorious.
There is also the deterrent effect that the possibility of a death sentence has on criminals, and the leverage it gives law enforcement when extracting guilty pleas for lesser sentences, such as life without parole.
Nonetheless, there were recent cases where people were executed that I found disturbing:
It is also true that capital punishment is unevenly applied across the country.
– Some states have it on the books, and it is carried out frequently.
– Some states have it on the books, but it is never carried out (such as New Jersey, and [before it was overturned] New York.
– Several states have no death penalty (although technically some crimes committed within those states are eligible for federal capital punishment).
Personally, I find this less problematic, because differences in penalties, and even the law itself, exist from state to state.
While the pro vs. con debate is often split along Conservative vs. Liberal ideologies, there are exceptions.
Conservative pundit George Will came out against capital punishment within the last ten years, while ex-President Bill Clinton famously allowed the execution of a mentally impaired man to proceed while he was Governor of Arkansas.
What are your thoughts on the death penalty and its application?October 24, 2010 9:28 pm at 9:28 pm #951417
In the interest of fairness, the following must be added:
Many death penalty opponents don’t believe that capital punishment has a deterrent effect.
The further point out that the existence of capital punishment may put a criminal who has already murdered once in a “nothing to lose” mindset and make it more likely that he will kill again.
The frum community is overwhelmingly in favor of capital punishment, and it was a real issue in the early 90’s, when Pataki defeated Cuomo.October 24, 2010 9:30 pm at 9:30 pm #951418
Make the death penalty MANDATORY, when it fits the legal circumstances, NOT at the discretion of a judge or jury.October 24, 2010 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm #951419MoqMember
Another problem is that too often they get it wrong; I don’t believe in the system enough to let it make absolute, irrevocable decisions. It’s messed up too many times. And after you kill the guy, DNA ain’t gonna help.
I’m fine with them cooking a cold blooded killer (or rapist! the recent supreme court ruling on that was wrong – cruel & unusual my foot.) I want them to make sure they cook the right guy.
As far the mentally impaired, I’m a little torn about that. If they are capable of punishment – life in prison, say – then why are they less deserving of the chair? (Or chamber, injection…)October 24, 2010 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm #951420
There are 4 reasons why we might punish criminals. The death penalty serves 1, and arguably a second.
Retribution- This is pure justice. If the world were ending today, we would punish him any way.
The death penalty makes the most sense in this context.
Deterrence- We want to deter future crime. If the world were ending, we would not need to worry about future crime.
It is arguable whether there is a deterrent value to the death penalty.
Rehabilitation- We want to rehabilitate criminals.
The death penalty makes no sense in this context.
Incapacitation- To prevent criminals from continuing to do crime, we lock them up.
The death penalty does not incapacitate more than life in prison.
In Judaism, it is clear that we are at least also focused on retribution. Hence in parshas noach, the torah says, “shofech dam haodom, baodom damo yishafech”. I take that as retribution.
In my opinion, the principal reason why liberals and conservatives disagree on this is that liberals do not see society as justified in taking moral positions, which is a premise of retribution. Conservatives are more willing to allow society to make moral judgments, including that certain people deserve death.October 24, 2010 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm #951421
The death penalty as applied in the US does not meet even the minimal standards required of Noachide courts. In particular, someone can be executed without testimony from an eyewitness to the crime. I’ve had two different rabbis tell me that a Jew should never serve on a jury in a capital case in the US.October 24, 2010 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm #951422
Some states have it on the books, and it is carried out frequently.
No state carries it out frequently. Texas probably has the greatest frequency of any state, both percentage of murder wise and actual numbers wise. And even Texas only executes a very small fraction of the murders that occur in The State of Texas.
Consider this: In 2009 there were 1,328 recorded murders in the State of Texas; and in 2009 there were 24 executions in the State of Texas. (Even considering the executions were for murders occurring in earlier years, this data gives you a very good idea how few murderers are executed even in Texas.)
And herein lies the problem. What good is the death penalty when its application is almost nil — even in the state its most famous for! Few people realize this reality.
Once you fix this issue, and apply the penalty across the board for murder, you’re a long way towards solving this issue. This is the only just penalty for murder, even aside from any possible deterrent effect.October 24, 2010 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm #951423RSRHMember
I think this is a great topic. Often, frum Jews superficially say, “of course I approve of capital punishment; after all, the Torah allows it.” However, the issues are far more complicated than that. Do we apply the Torah standard? The Sheva Mitzvos standard? The expediency power of Beis Din standard (see Choshen Mishpat, siman 2)? Its not clear what standard American law should follow, or what standard we, as individual Torah observant Jews should personally approve of, or what standard we should advocate American governments to follow? (There are also more complicated questions about how we should view the U.S. federal system from a Torah perspective; should it be one size fits all, or should different local governments have leeway to control their own capital punishment? Also, how should we view the Constitutional Law on this issue from a Torah perspective; should Constitutional Law be given greater weight, or is it some kind of immutable inflexible Torah based standard all the way – even for non-Jewish governments?).
Leaving the Torah issues aside for a moment, its worthwhile to separate the question into several parts: (1) Are there any crimes for which perpetrators ought to be killed? If so, what are they, and what principle can we use to distinguish between them? (2) Assuming there are times when the death penalty is appropriate in principle, can we ever be sure that the convicted defendant in fact committed the crime? (3) If not, can we rightfully execute him anyway since he had the benefit of a fair trial?
A very complicated issue. Just some ideas of how to think about it, without coming out one way or another.October 25, 2010 12:58 am at 12:58 am #951424chesednameParticipant
maybe we should stick to topics we have control over, or halacha, hashkafa, etc..instead of really wasting so much of our life here, with questions that either make no sense or our thoughts will not change anything!
I think it was the chofetz chaim, who said fools talk about politics, as there isn’t much we can do about it. that would definitely apply to a lot of the topics here.
I can only try
I’ll ask you for mechilla, as this isn’t about you, or this topic per Se, i just for whatever reason decided to express it at this time.October 25, 2010 2:01 am at 2:01 am #951425myfriendMember
Behead all murderers.October 25, 2010 2:35 am at 2:35 am #951426
What are the standards required of Noahide courts? I’m unfamiliar with anything which discusses that.October 25, 2010 2:37 am at 2:37 am #951427
Charlie – The Noachide laws do not require an eyewitness for conviction.October 25, 2010 3:27 am at 3:27 am #951428
Sanhedrin 57b says that Noachide Courts consist of one judge and execute on the basis of one witness, without a warning, by strangulation.
(Can Noachide courts use lay juries? Execute by other methods? There does not exist the long history of rabbinic opinion concerning Noachide laws that we have on other areas of practical halachah.)October 25, 2010 5:38 am at 5:38 am #951429anon for thisParticipant
Moq is correct in noting that some of those sentenced to death are not guilty of the crimes for which they’ve been convicted. This happened so many times in Illinois (most notably to Cruz and Hernandez, who were convicted solely on the basis of a false confession and circumstantial evidence) that the governor declared a moratorium on the death penalty in that state.
One effective deterrent to crime might be a true sentence of life without parole, one that is not reduced due to prison overcrowding or good behavior.October 25, 2010 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm #951430SJSinNYCMember
Chesedname, we do have control over this. We have the ability to vote and rally for what we want or don’t want.
I go back and forth on this topic. But I sway towards no.October 25, 2010 1:50 pm at 1:50 pm #951431
In the US, the states without the death penalty or that don’t use the death penalty tend to have lower violent crime rates than those that do execute people. For example, New York has a far lower violent crime rate than Texas or Florida.October 25, 2010 2:21 pm at 2:21 pm #951432
Japan, which has a real nationwide death penalty, has a FAR FAR lower violent crime rate than the U.S.October 25, 2010 2:54 pm at 2:54 pm #951433oomisParticipant
The main reason to execute a heinous criminal, is to permanently remove him from ALL society (that includes prison inmates as well). How many murderers have killed guards and other prisoners while in prison?
“Incapacitation- To prevent criminals from continuing to do crime, we lock them up.
The death penalty does not incapacitate more than life in prison.”
Did I misread this? Death is way more incapacitating – it is permanent. Life in prison is not always life in prison. And personally, I don;t want my tax dollars to have to be spent in hiring personnel to guard, feed, house, and give health care to monsters who took those privileges away from someone else.
IF – and it is a big if – there is no question that COLD-blooded murder was committed by that person, with no mitigating factors (such as years of abuse, fear for life even if not imminent, etc.), then I am in favor of swift execution. if there is any mitigation at all, then I am in favor of prison time. Admitted terrorists should not even get to stand trial. They should be treated with the same “justice” that they dispensed to their victims. In fact, if they get caught BEFORE they were able to detonate the bomb – the bomb should be strapped to them and then detonated in a “safe” area. (I know, I know, it’s time for my valium).October 25, 2010 2:58 pm at 2:58 pm #951434
With 2 Eidim, Hasra’ah, Beis Din of S’muchim (not the fake stuff that we currently have) sure.
Otherwise, there have been too many overturned convictions (such as via DNA evidence) to do something that is not reversable.October 25, 2010 3:18 pm at 3:18 pm #951435
People have also spent 30 years in prison for a rape they were exonerated 30 years later. Perhaps we should abolish prison sentences of 10 plus years, as that can be worse than death and they can NEVER get back those 30 years falsely in prison.October 25, 2010 3:48 pm at 3:48 pm #951436
Perhaps we should abolish prison sentences of 10 plus years, as that can be worse than death
A Straw Man!
Is that like a red herring?
Can you please prove there are no anisakis worms in the herring before I eat it?
Or perhaps the straw man is alive (see tin man), and just needs a heart in order to be able to feel :), in which case it just needs a shrink, not capital punishment.October 25, 2010 3:50 pm at 3:50 pm #951437mghanooniMember
I think that the far lower crime rate in Japan is due to their harsh punishment of criminals. The have no tolerance and, from what I understand, they apply their harsh laws “fairly” to all criminals. Not haphazardly like we do.October 25, 2010 4:45 pm at 4:45 pm #951438
Japan, which has a real nationwide death penalty, has a FAR FAR lower violent crime rate than the U.S.
But when it applies to you (3 teens)…..
Try this on for size. Were you happy regarding the Grossman execution or not? And if not, why not?October 25, 2010 5:02 pm at 5:02 pm #951439WIYMember
“Were you happy regarding the Grossman execution or not? And if not, why not?”
Nobody was “happy” or at least nobody normal was happy. However a lot of frum people felt justice was served. If you knew the real details to the story, not the lies that were spread to get up our sypathies you would have also felt that justice was served. We as a community had no business getting involved in that mess.October 25, 2010 5:15 pm at 5:15 pm #951440
While it is true that killing people is the most certain incapacitation, the death penalty is usually advanced on the grounds of retribution. I notice nobody else here is interested in retribution, only deterrent.
Deterrence makes no sense as a sole justification for punishing people.
If you believe that deterrence is enough justification on its own, you would support punishing people as long as we can convince everyone else that they did it, regardless of if they actually did it.
Deterrence only makes any sense with an appreciation for retribution.October 25, 2010 5:19 pm at 5:19 pm #951441
I am of the personal opinion that the system of capital punishment in our country is failed and unjust. I believe that we need mental hospitals which provide adequate compassionate care instead of prisons; I believe that most people who do end up behind bars suffer from one form of mental illness, whether it be an Axis I disorder, mental retardation, a personality or Axis II disorder, or substance abuse.
That being said, on the issue of the death penalty, there is a legitimate machlokes. Reb Moshe paskined that it certainly has its place in our society, in Igros Moshe CM 2:68. He wrote that the Torah prescribes capital punishment for a number of grave offenses,including murder, certain types of kidnapping, adultery and idol worshiping. The transgressors in these cases, he explained, are capable of committing all kinds of atrocities and cruel acts for their own benefit. The punishment, however, was not to be inflicted because of hatred for the offender or concern for the survival of society, for it is the Jewish belief that G-d will punish the offenders (Bava Metzia 83b). The purpose of inflicting capital punishment for these offenses is to educate people about the severity of the offenses,rather than to end the life of the offenders.
On this note, R’ David De Sola Pool emphatically declared that the rabbonim approve of the theory of capital punishment, and in the post-talmudic era, it is brought down by the Rosh that mosrim were executed, and by the Rambam, as well.
On the other hand, voices like R’ Ahron Soloveichik, paskened that based on the fact that the Gemara says that a sanhedrin that executes more than 1 person in 70 years has blood on its hands, we should not support it.
I believe that the death penalty is generally the Jewish way, although in our society, based on the socioeconomic realia I mentioned above, there ought to be a moratorium for a while and then a reconsideration of how to make criminal justice work, and how to make mental health services work better for the marginalized in preventing against criminality.October 25, 2010 5:23 pm at 5:23 pm #951442
For some reason, I don’t think BT would agree with you: I await his/her response.October 25, 2010 5:28 pm at 5:28 pm #951443TheChevraMember
B”h the gedolim went all out to try to save a yiddishe life by Grossman. I know it isn’t politically correct to say, but since it was a yehudi in that case we need to support every possibility of saving his life (as the gedolim through Agudah, Satmar, Lubavitch, OU, Young Israel, etc. did), but if the very same circumstances it was an akum, there would be no reason to intervene to save. Like I said, it isn’t PC but it is Emes. Now y’all can start flaming me.October 25, 2010 5:50 pm at 5:50 pm #951444WolfishMusingsParticipant
I don’t necessarily have a problem with the fact that people tried to intervene for Grossman solely because he was Jewish.
My problem lay with those who said he should not be executed solely because he was Jewish. A subtle distinction, but a vital one.
The WolfOctober 25, 2010 6:13 pm at 6:13 pm #951445
No flame, but L’shitascha, the best way to make sure a Yid doesn’t die via the Death penalty is to abolish it in the first place.October 25, 2010 6:53 pm at 6:53 pm #951446
The concern with Grossman was not that he was of Jewish ancestry, but that he was mentally retarded and committed his crime under mental duress.October 25, 2010 7:15 pm at 7:15 pm #951447
I have no problem defining different punishments for the same crime. The Torah does. Nothing to be ashamed of. Ideally, if that we’re implementable. As a practical matter it isn’t. What to do at that point, is the next question.October 25, 2010 7:31 pm at 7:31 pm #951448
The concern with Grossman was not that he was of Jewish ancestry, but that he was mentally retarded and committed his crime under mental duress.
If you believe that, I have a bridge I would like to sell you.
Excellent view of Brooklyn.October 25, 2010 7:32 pm at 7:32 pm #951449
As a practical matter it isn’t.
I’m glad we agree as far as the point the OP brought up. No death penalty in America.October 25, 2010 7:38 pm at 7:38 pm #951450
gaw: On one hand the Torah defines a punishment for Bnei Noach, and on the other a different punishment and standards of evidence for others. Since the vast majority of the people are Bnei Noach here (aside from the fact the others tend not to even be involved in these types of crimes), the standards and punishments prescribed for Bnei Noach should be the law of the land, in this Bnei Noach country.October 25, 2010 7:46 pm at 7:46 pm #951451
But it is still not practical, is it?
Perhaps your efforts should be to push Noahide law.
<annoying> Or even better, Sharia. </annoying>
Not to say your idealism isn’t a good thing, when tempered, and in the right place. But at this point, in the here and now, capital punishment would do more harm than good.October 25, 2010 7:54 pm at 7:54 pm #951452
Here are the words of Rav Moshe Feinstein in a letter to the governor of New York explaining that the strict Torah law on execution only applied historically in the limited case of a well ordered society. But there is a legitimate use of capital punishment to defend society – even where the Torah law is not fulfilled. A secular society has the right to protect itself:
As a consequence of these two factors there were almost no Jewish murderers because of the awareness of the severity of the prohibition of murder and because they were educated by means of the Torah and the punishments of the Torah to understand the seriousness of the crime. They were not simply afraid of punishment in the sense of getting caught but were afraid of the crime itself.October 25, 2010 7:58 pm at 7:58 pm #951453October 25, 2010 8:14 pm at 8:14 pm #951454
Assuming you are talking to me, what is your point?October 25, 2010 8:25 pm at 8:25 pm #951455
Rav Moshe paskened the death penalty should be implemented in America.October 25, 2010 8:57 pm at 8:57 pm #951456
BT: Really! Did you read the Teshuva inside?
He says it would only be for murderers who kill to disrupt the fabric of society AKA someone like Son of Sam.
As you quoted: then a different system of law was utilized that was concerned with the pragmatic question of stopping killing and the goal became saving the society.
R’ Moshe says (in the part you left off) that otherwise Capital Punishment should not be implemented! Due to lack of a Sanhedrin (as I said originally).
Please quote entire teshuvos, not just those parts that you believe help your case.
Besides, how are you getting the english translations so quickly? If you are copying, please source (besides, it would help us who have to read it in the original hebrew!!!)October 25, 2010 9:21 pm at 9:21 pm #951457
gavra: Rav Moshe wrote this for the Governor of New York to encourage the implementation of the then proposed death penalty for first degree murder. It was applicable to more than Son of Sam; including non-serial murderers.
When there is 15,000 – 20,000 murders PER YEAR (compared to a Jewish Beis Din having ONE death case per SEVENTY [or seven] YEARS) in the United States, you definitely are in an emergency situation that requires saving society, is what Rav Moshe is saying. That’s why he wrote this.October 25, 2010 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm #951458
I believe that was the problem by Grossman’s execution. If there were a Jewish murderer who was not mentally ill, there would be no inherent moral need to try to save him, as that would lead to chillul hashem impressions among the goyim that we are playing favorites with our own kind. From an objective stance, he was a shoteh, and a shoteh cannot be considered to know right from wrong.October 26, 2010 9:50 am at 9:50 am #951459
You both analyze the issues well.
Your opinion was clearly thought out and well-written.
Draconian laws and harsh punishment can lower crime. The removal of the right to privacy, the prohibition against unreasonable search-and-seizure, avoidance of self-incrimination, etc. would put many criminals behind bars, and make it near-impossible for organized crime to operate.October 26, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm #951460
That would be missing the point. The point being, that ALL intentional murders should be death-penalty-eligible (and with a mandatory sentence.)
I agree with you that it should need to be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. I believe conviction should require only 2/3 vote of a panel of judges, not unanimous.October 26, 2010 1:09 pm at 1:09 pm #951461
“Japan, which has a real nationwide death penalty, has a FAR FAR lower violent crime rate than the U.S. “
Japan has about a hundred people on death row. The US, with about 2 1/2 times the population, has over three thousand.
Canada and European countries without the death penalty have much lower violent crime rates than does the US.October 26, 2010 1:16 pm at 1:16 pm #951462
Japan has far less people on death row simply because they have far less murders in Japan. In fact, murder is almost unheard of in Japan. And that is the case, in very large part, due to Japan’s very strict death penalty.October 26, 2010 1:23 pm at 1:23 pm #951463
“But when it applies to you (3 teens)…..”
The three bocherim are very lucky that they were not caught smuggling drugs into Singapore. It has a mandatory death penalty for drug smuggling. Anyone entering Singapore is handed a card that warns of their death penalty for drug traffickers.
Singapore does have one of the lowest crime rates in the world. But had the bocherim been caught smuggling drugs into Singapore, they would already been executed by now. Interestingly, Singapore’s first Prime Minister under self-government was a Jew, David Marshall. He was also a legendary criminal defense attorney whose success caused successor Lee Kuan Yew to abolish jury trials! Marshall’s political party is still in existence, and supports elimination of mandatory sentences, but it has no influence as Singapore has been for years effectively a one party state.October 26, 2010 4:12 pm at 4:12 pm #951464
gavra: Rav Moshe wrote this for the Governor of New York to encourage the implementation of the then proposed death penalty for first degree murder. It was applicable to more than Son of Sam; including non-serial murderers.
When there is 15,000 – 20,000 murders PER YEAR (compared to a Jewish Beis Din having ONE death case per SEVENTY [or seven] YEARS) in the United States, you definitely are in an emergency situation that requires saving society, is what Rav Moshe is saying. That’s why he wrote this.
Really? That’s not how I read it. And since I read it inside, and in the original hebrew, I will trust my judgement over yours. Besides, I don’t think your arguement is that you need capital punishemnt or society will fall apart, is it?
And you still haven’t answered which website you are quoting, and what biases it may have in the translation. I hope you will look at the teshuva inside (although you may already have prejudged).October 26, 2010 8:34 pm at 8:34 pm #951465WolfishMusingsParticipant
When there is 15,000 – 20,000 murders PER YEAR (compared to a Jewish Beis Din having ONE death case per SEVENTY [or seven] YEARS)
I think you read that wrong. No where does the Talmud state that a Bais Din had only one capital case in seven(ty) years. The correct reading is that a Bais Din that *carried out* a capital sentence in that time period was called a “murderous Bais Din.”
Considering the near-impossibility of actually imposing the death penalty under Bais Din (how many criminals do you know that are going to respond [as required] “Yes, even so I’m going to do it” to a warning?) and given the statements by other Tana’aim (was it R. Akiva who stated that if it were up to him no one would be executed?) it is, indeed, a wonder if a Bais Din actually executed one person in seven years.
But that does not mean that they only had one case in that time. I’d venture that they had many cases and that the vast majority resulted in an acquittal (or, perhaps, lacking a proper warning, witnesses and the like, were never brought to Bais Din in the first place.)
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