Monday, September 29, 2008

Research Paper: The Death Penalty

((( 10/20 update )))

Finished paper. Received B in class. What did I learn here? BATTLE THE DAMNED PROCRASTINATION. Srsly.

I wasn't originally going to post this, but I think I will in order to show you all that literary genius does not come easily and is sometimes very painful.

No, I did not just call myself a literary genius. This is me (holds up one hand), this is the road to literary genius/success/whatever (holds up other hand), and this is me on the journey to that place of magical rainbow pooping and riches brought forth by the sheer power of my awesomeness (holds hands as far apart as they can go).

I'm trying. Right now I'm currently working on another paper and blogging about it, too. (Link will come when post is done.) Why blog? Doesn't that take more time than just writing the damned paper?

Yes, yes it does. But the real question is, does it help?

YES. YES IT DOES. Apparently I'm one of those people that needs to talk through things with other people in order to psych myself out of a complete anxiety attack brought on by sheer stress and "OMG I'm going to fail." So here I am talking to you, the reader, and educating you whilst helping myself.

Read on if you dare.

(((Originally started 09/29 10pm-ish)))

Okay, so, I'm doing my paper on the Death Penalty. (It's for my ethics class, in case you couldn't tell.) It's a 5-7 page philosophical research paper with x amount of minimum sources, one source has to be a Journal, etc etc. I'm writing to you guys right now because I'm having an extreme case of anxiety-induced writer's block and damn it all to hell I need some sort of outlet, so here I am.

Alright, the research paper... I was going to take the stance that the Death Penalty is immoral even if justifiable, which at the onset sounded okay until I realized I needed a bunch of scholarly sources to back up my stance. Yes, alright, I could have picked something easier, but off to the online library I go. I search and search and search and YAY! I has sources. Now I just got to look through these puppies and...

... amigahd, there's too much info. I don't know what to include! Or leave out, for that matter. More than that, I don't know what possible counter-arguments to anticipate and address that I can accurately refute in order to make my stance stronger (yes, this is a requirement of the paper). This is my first friggin' research paper in 6 years I don't know how to organize it or if my thesis is okay or did I even pick the right topic and oh god she's going to give me an F I just know it /hyperventilate

Stop! Wait. Slow down.

...I am making this to hard, I am making this too hard, I am making this too hard...

Chant it, become one with it, make it your motto in life. Get your fluffy bunny butt in gear. It is not as hard as you think it is.

/try to twist self into meditative mode
/fail due to current position in a foldy chair
/try to at least relax shoulders
/fail at shoulder relaxing
/give up and continue to blog

Well, what do I have, then? Sources. Let me see... where is... ah! Here we go:

European Union Policy. (2004, February). International Debates, Retrieved September 28, 2008, from Academic Search Premier database.

****lookit, the email puts it in APA format for me!****

-- "Furthermore, [the United States] is permitted to sentence to death and execute young offenders under age 18 at the time of the commission of the crime, in clear infringement of internationally recognized human rights norms." (p 43)
-- "Although [EU] member states' experiences in abolition varied in time, they shared common ground -- that of the inhumane, unnecessary, and irreversible character of capital punishment, no matter how cruel the crime committed by the offender." (p 43)
-- "... for the European governments the death penalty as a means of state punishment rapidly revealed itself as a denial of human dignity.... At the same time, there is insufficient justification on either criminal or criminological grounds for maintaining such a punishment." (p 43)
-- "... it is scientifically undemonstrated that the death penalty and its application deter criminality any more effectively than other forms of punishment. Indeed, crime rate and the death penalty are independent realities, capital punishment and its execution failing to have a deterrent effect and thus to produce less violent societies." (p 43)
-- "... maintaining capital punishment would not fit the philosophy of rehabilitation pursued in the criminal justice systems of all EU member states and... is that of the rehabilitating or resocializing the offender." (p 43)
-- "... capital punishment should not be seen as an appropriate way of compensating the suffering of crime victims' families, as this view turns the justice system into a mere tool of illegitimate private vengeance."(p 43)
-- "Even highly advanced legal systems, which rest upon the principle of the fule of law, including the principle of due process, are not immune to miscarriages of justice. That irreversibility removes any possibility of correcting such miscarriages of justice, allowing for the execution of innocent people." (p 44)

Revenge begins to seem less sweet. (2007, September). Economist, Retrieved September 28, 2008, from Academic Search Premier database.

-- "Twelve [states] have no death penalty on their statute books. Of the 38 that do, some apply it often, some never. Texas has executed 401 people since 1976, the entire north-eastern region only four. By and large, the way the penalty is applied mirrors local preferences."
-- "Before the 1990s, juries used to worry that if they did not send the man in the dock to his death, he would be freed to kill again after a decade or two. Now nearly every state allows the option of life without parole (Texas introduced it only in 2005)."
-- Americans used to support the death penalty because of deterrence, religious conviction, and taxes (because it used to be more expensive to house inmates for life than kill them, and no one wanted their tax money to be spent on the "outrageous cost" of life imprisonment).
-- "It is now far more expensive to execute someone than to jail him for life; in North Carolina, for instance, each capital case costs $2m more. Ordinary inmates need only to be fed and guarded. Those on death row must have lawyers arguing expensively about their fate, sometimes for a decade or more."
-- "If you find you have jailed the wrong man, you can free and compensate him. If you have executed him, however, it is too late."
-- "Since 1973, 124 Americans have been released from death row because of doubts about their guilt; and of the 7,662 sentenced to death between 1973 and 2005, 2,190 had their sentence or conviction overturned. But in no case has it been legally proven--for example, with DNA evidence--that an innocent person has been executed. Mr Grant says it simply does not happen. 'The fact that some people are released from death row is proof that the safeguards work,' he says."
-- "The chance of being executed in America is so remote that it cannot plausibly be a significant deterrent, argues Steven Levitt, of the University of Chicago. Even if you are on death row--a fate over 99% of murderers escape--the chance of being put to death in any given year is only about 2%. Members of a crack gang studied by one of Mr Levitt's colleagues had a 7%-a-year chance of being murdered. For them, death row would be safer than the street."
-- "Mr Morton discovered that over 30% of murders in America are unsolved, like his son's. He found out, too, that the states spend millions of dollars putting a handful of murderers to death while detection is under-financed and thousands of murderers walk free. ... Anyone close to a murder victim 'wants the son of a bitch who did it to die,' he says. 'But you've got to catch the son of a bitch. That's more important.'

Hicks, E. (2007, Spring2007). Will New Jersey Ban Capital Punishment?. Human Rights: Journal of the Section of Individual Rights & Responsibilities, 34(2), 1-2. Retrieved September 28, 2008, from Academic Search Premier database.

-- "...we heard testimony from exonerees who served disturbingly long sentences in New Jersey prisons for crimes they did not commit... Their testimony, and our appreciation of what has happened nationally, as more than 115 innocent inmates have been released from death row, led us to conclude that the penological interest in executing a small number of persons guilty of murder does not justify the risk of making an irreversible mistake."
-- "We cited the testimony of a father, Lorry Post, who, like me, lost his daughter to murder. Post testified that the death penalty 'drains resources and creates a false sense of justice.' ... Importantly, many of the surviving family members supported the death penalty in concept, but recognized that it failed to help victims in practice."
-- "The attorney general, who in court has defended our state's administration of the death penalty, stated that 'we would not be honest with victims or the general public if we ignored the practical realities of our capital sentencing scheme' by, among other things, subjecting 'the families of homicide victims to protracted emotional grief and frustration' and 'forcing them to endure decades of litigation in pursuit of a sanction not likely to occur.'"

1AM UPDATE: I started this post at about 10pm. Why, then, is it now 1am and I haven't gone much further than 3 sources? Okay, yes, I browsed a few blogs for like... 30 minutes. Maybe an hour. But that still means it took me almost two hours to formulate the first half of this blog post, including the reading of about 6 pages worth of material and the time it took me to type the notes. I am so slow when my only motivation is deadline stress and fear of failure, though I don't tend give myself enough time to avoid said stress. Clearly I need to fix this sort of self-defeating behavior, especially if I intend to be published someday. Though my other problem is now lack of sleep and therefore lack of focus... so I will seek out about 3 hours of sleep and get my procrastinating butt back here. If I'm late, you'll know what happened.

1:15 AM UPDATE: Just spent 15 minutes proof-reading and formatting this post. Mystery of time-wasting partially solved. Off to bed for real this time...

((( 09/30 )))

6:15 AM UPDATE: Heard alarm. Hit sleep once. Turned it off after that. Sooooooooo tired. Forgot to put laundry in the dryer. Got to go to work soon. Is it Friday yet? Maybe my boss will let me go home early.

Radelet, M., & Borg, M. (2000, August). THE CHANGING NATURE OF DEATH PENALTY DEBATES. Annual Review of Sociology, 26(1), 43. Retrieved September 28, 2008, from Academic Search Premier database.

-- "However, over the last two decades more and more scholars and citizens have realized that the deterrent effect of a punishment is not a consistent direct effect of its severity--after a while, increases in a punishment's severity have decreasing incremental deterrent effects, so that eventually any increase in severity will no longer matter. If one wishes to deter another from leaning on a stove, medium heat works just as well as high heat." (p 45)
-- "Overall, the vast majority of deterrence studies have failed to support the hypothesis that the death penalty is a more effective deterrent to criminal homicides than long imprisonment." (p 45)
-- "There is widespread agreement among both criminologists and law enforcement officials that capital punishment has little curbing effect on homicide rates that is superior to long-term imprisonment." (p 45)
-- It was believed if a murderer was not executed he would eventually be free to kill again (due to no existing long-term imprisonment without parole). "Arguably, today's more sophisticated prisons and the virtual elimination of parole have reduced the risks of repeat homicide even further." (p 46)
-- "Another segment of the population realizes that life without parole is an alternative to the death penalty, but in spite of this, believe that future political leaders or judges will find ways to release life-sentenced inmates. It is a paradoxical position: Such citizens support giving the government the ultimate power to take the lives of its citizens but do so because of distrust of these same governments and/or the perception of governmental incompetency." (p 47)
-- Racial bias in regards to the defendant is not as noticeable as racial bias in regards to the victim, though both exist. (p 47, 48)
-- "Two decades ago, some citizens and political leaders supported the death penalty as a way of avoiding the financial burdens of housing inmates for life or long prison terms. ... Since then, however, research has firmly established that a modern death penalty system costs several times more than an alternative system in which the maximum ciminal punishment is life imprisonment without parole." Includes initial court costs plus appeals. (p 50)
-- "Absent the death penalty, its critics argue, states would have more resources to devote to the ends the death penalty is allegedly designed to pursue, such as reducing high rates of criminal violence or rendering effective aid to families of homicide victims. Those in favor of capital punishment, however, would argue that its retributive benefits are worth the costs." (p 50)
-- "Death penalty retentionists now admit that as long as we use the death penalty, innocent defendants will occasionally be executed. Until a decade ago, the pro-death penalty literature took the position that such blunders were historical oddities and could never be committed in modern times. Today the argument is not over the existence or even the inevitability of such errors, but whether the alleged benefits of the death penalty outweigh these uncontested liabilities." (p 50)
-- "Retributive arguments are often made in the name of families of homicide victims, who are depicted as 'needing' or otherwise benefitting from the retributive satisfaction that the death penalty promises." (p 52)
-- "... the death penalty offers much less to families of homicide victims than it first appears. For example, by diverting vast resources into death penalty cases--a small proportion of all homicide cases--the state has fewer resources for families of noncapital homicide victims and for more effective assistance for families of all homicide victims." (p 53)
-- "Or, one could argue that the death penalty serves to keep the case open for many years before the execution actually occurs, often through resentences or retrials, continuously preventing the wounds of the family of the victim from healing." (p 53)
-- "...we are aware of no research specifically studying the short-term and long-term effects of the execution of a killer on the family of the homicide victim, or on the family of the executed inmate." (p 53)

Kaveny, C. (2008, February 15). Justice or Vengeance. Commonweal, 135(3), 9-9. Retrieved September 30, 2008, from Academic Search Premier database.

-- "...retributive justice aims to restore balance to the community by imposing a cool, measured, and fair punishment on the transgressor."
-- "A punishment that is both cruel and unusual doesn't further retributive justice. It does, however, advance two other objectives that are frequently confused with retributive justice: private revenge and social control through deterrence."
-- "It has taken humanity a long time to uncouple justice from vengeance. Biblical scholars remind us that the lex talionis was intended to be a limitation on punishment, not a call for greater harshness: only an eye for an eye, only a tooth for a tooth."
-- "From a moral perspective, the real question isn't whether the Eighth Amendment prohibits methods of execution that impose 'unnecessary risk' of severe pain, or merely 'a substantial risk' of severe pain. The question is whether the death penalty itself continues to serve the goals of retributive justice, rather than merely vengeance or deterrence."

Marquis, J. (2005, Winter2005). THE MYTH OF INNOCENCE. Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, 95(2), 501-521. Retrieved September 28, 2008, from Academic Search Premier database.

-- Marquis challenges the notion of "innocent." He makes a distinction between true innocence, which is "no involvement in the death, wasn't there, didn't do it," and those who were merely exonerated or acquitted. The estimation by abolitionists of about 150 innocents executed, he argues, can be narrowed down to an actual number of about 30.(p 520) Even then, he says, there are some people that while innocent of the crime they may be prosecuted for, it is unlikely they are completely innocent. He gives the example of a man who was attempting an "armed robbery in the same park, at the same time as a drug murder," and witnesses blamed him for the murder rather than the armed robbery. So while he was innocent of the murder, he was in fact committing another crime at that time. (p 517)
-- "Some claim that in a civilized society must be prepared to allow ten guilty men to walk free in order to spare one innocent." Marquis then goes on to note the additional victims of freed criminals who were once on death row, including a man who "did so well in a woman-free environment (prison) that he was released--only to abduct, kill, and dismember women again."

8PM UPDATE: Notes finished (except for textbook citations, which I'm going to ask about later). I hath found a couple of arguments to refute in order to make myself look smarter, so here's hopin' I do a good job. (In case you're curious, they're listed up there in my notes, I just haven't organized it so it's obvious at first read. ... Okay, for some of you it might be obvious. You are, after all, smart(ass) writerly or at least worldly types.) Bottom line, I have renewed vigor. This is good considering it's the last free night I have to work on this and I haven't yet done my homework for the other class.

retribution. (n.d.). WordNet® 3.0. Retrieved September 30, 2008, from website:

((( 09/31 - Paper due date )))

3:10AM UPDATE: AHMAGAHD I'm done. Except for the intro and conclusion, but give me a break, I'm brain dead.

1 comment:

jessica said...
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