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Do you think the death penalty deters murder?

Asked at Massachusetts Street on June 11, 2007

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Photo of Amanda Pritchard

“I don’t think so because I don’t think they really take that into account. They obviously aren’t thinking rationally about it.”

Photo of Aaron Butell

“No, I don’t think so. I think in a perfect world, where people understood the consequences of their actions, it would work. But typically they are seizing their passions and not thinking of consequences.”

Photo of Richard Stukus

“No, but I’m for it even though I know it doesn’t deter it. To take a life deserves the ultimate punishment.”

Photo of Evan Williams

“No. I think that if you’re that psychotic, distressed or depressed, you’re not thinking clearly regarding the ramifications of what you’re about to do.”


Sigmund 10 years, 10 months ago

Did it occur to anyone that it is hard to count murders that were deterred because by definition they didn't happen? Anyone? Seriously anyone?

Kat Christian 10 years, 10 months ago

Ohhhhhhhh YES. Don't get me started. Since this country stopped capital punishment there has been an increase in murders and kidnappings. Why not criminals only face a number of years in prison and know they will get an option for parole (which is a waste of time and money) even though most won't get out - BUT some do. I believe in humaine uthinization for murders and kidnappers such as the needle. But I believe if someone takes another person's life on purpose and by being careless they need to repay with their life. Such as the person (and persons like him) who kidnapped and killed young Kelsey Smith. To me that person has no soul. As person who does such thing can't possibly have a soul, therefore they must be in a state of mental chaos themselves. The kinder thing society can do for this human form it to put it to sleep. It is cruel to allow it to live on and suffer. To allow it to suffer is being cruel and this is not what our society is about. Right? Some people think capital punishment is cruel, is killing just like the murderer. Well think again folks. I don't particular like to think I breathe the same air as these monsters. I hate knowing that pedifiles live not far from me and wonder if my next door neighbor is a pervert who has been charges a couple of times. That's another thing pedifiles should get life in prison. (period) Society has been way too lenient on severe criminals. Too many have gotten away with murder and it seems they have more rights then the victims. Well that's all I have to say about this.

Dani Davey 10 years, 10 months ago

Anyone who thinks the system should move faster should see "After Innocence". It is available for rent at Liberty Hall.

sunflower_sue 10 years, 10 months ago

I have no idea. I would like to think so. When I was a wee one, it seemed like life in prison was life in prison. Now, life is 25-50 years and if you eat all your vegetables, you could be out next week. I'm sick of that.

mom_of_three 10 years, 10 months ago

"Who so sheddeth Mans Blood, by Man shall his Blood be shed" - John Locke

works for me

Kat Christian 10 years, 10 months ago

Begin sympathetic towards these monsters is not going to cure them. Don't think for a minute they'd feel remorse. Oh they'd let you think they do and get religion, but once their out on the streets again - back to the old ways they'd go. It's in their nature to be evil and I believe they just can't control it. Whether they are in their right mind or not there is no cure for these people. The humaine thing to do is put them down and give them peace and let their God deal with them at that point.

50YearResident 10 years, 10 months ago

The death penalty would work as a deterant if it was implemented right. When a murderer is caught in the "ACT" and there is no question of being "GUILTY" then the death penalty should be carried out very quickly (30 days). The next person thinking of commiting the same type of crime would then have some very serious second thoughts. Speed is the deterant!

For those not caught red handed but are proven guilty in a court of law the death penalty could have a maxium of 12 months to be completed. This 12 months would allow for any appeals to be reviewed.

Summary: It needs to be carried out quickly to be effective, and it would work.

Katie Van Blaricum 10 years, 10 months ago

Studies show that executions might deter murder, IF they were made public. As they are, they're done behind closed doors and remain an intangible mystery to would-be criminals. Intangible punishments aren't going to deter anybody. In Europe, they used to have public hangings, beheadings, etc., which were much more effective at deterring people because the threat was more real to them.

EvaTrujillo 10 years, 10 months ago

doesn't matter, cull 'em out of the flock.

salad 10 years, 10 months ago

The way we do it in this country, NO, it's not a deterant. In china, where they they say, "guilty" and then execute you 30 min. later it's a better way to do it. However, I like my civil rights, and there's WAY to much opportunity for evil men in power (like the current administration) to do away with political opponants and undesireables, so we better not do that. The worst thing about our death penalty? $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ plus it takes too long. How about we get rid of the death penalty so we can all be humane and stuff, and just get rid of our trash by air dropping them 101st airborne style onto a remote island in the aleutian chain, where they have to fend for themselves and live forever with other criminals. problem solved.

beatrice 10 years, 10 months ago

Not at all. If it was, there would be no murders in this country. Murders are either planned by people who think they will get away with it, or it is a violent response to a situation. In either case, thinking "I could die for this" won't stop the crime. If it truly was a deterrent, wouldn't Texas have the lowest murder rate in the country, since murderers do get executed there? Instead, they keep killing the murderers because murders keep happening there.

However, the punishment is fitting for the crime of ending a life or lives, so it shouldn't really matter if it is a deterrent initially.

Now, if the death penalty was given out to spammers, that might work as a deterrent. And I would still be in favor of it.

Crossfire 10 years, 10 months ago

I believe that death penalty makes us all killers. When the people we vote to represent us decide to kill we all kill. If the wrong person is killed by our government then we all conspire in that murder.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 10 years, 10 months ago

My wife's uncle counsels murderers in prison. He said that the vast majority of people in prison for murder committed crimes of passion (came home from work early and found the wife with the UPS man, etc.). Most murders are not PREMEDITATED. Therefore, there is no time to consider "Gee... what will the consequences of my actions be if I shoot the UPS man?" Most murders are impulsive acts. Knowing that there is a death penalty will not prevent someone from killing when they are in a dissociated rage.

"I believe that death penalty makes us all killers." My views tend to be conservative, but they are first of all Christian. I don't like the idea that we use death to combat death. Besides, DNA evidence is freeing people every day. How many have died on death row because there was no DNA analysis?

I'm big on harsh penalties, but not big on the death penalty.

Kat Christian 10 years, 10 months ago

Aquakej we have reality TV now these days.

acg 10 years, 10 months ago

Not in its current state, no. If we were to tweak it a bit, then maybe it would be a deterrent. I think it should be public and humiliating and painful and depending on the circumstances, slow. I'm tired of the whole "cruel and unusual punishment" argument. Bring back the firing squad, hangings and beheadings. Lets get some stuff done around here!!

ms_canada 10 years, 10 months ago

Are you kidding???????? Of course not. Our (both US and Can.) justice systems are so screwed. What death penalty? When was the last time a murderer was executed? Not in my country. And life does not mean life. Even a 25 year term does not mean that. I like this line from one of Gillbert and Sullivan's operettas, "My object all sublime, I shall achieve in time, To make the punishment fit the crime, the punishment fit the crime." That appeals to me. And yes, as others have said, it all takes too much time, what with appeals etc. and costs too dang much. Let's just get it over with.

Janet Lowther 10 years, 10 months ago

In order for the death penalty to have any noticeable deterrent factor, the executions would need to be public, horrific (like short-drop hanging or the Guillotine) and timely.

Quietly putting a murderer to sleep like a dog a decade or more after they are convicted of the crime doesn't do much to prevent murders.

On a more practical note: I believe death by imprisonment would be a much harsher sentence: Send 'em to a "super-max" prison with the understanding that the only way they are getting out is dead.

There are things that are worse than death, and I'm not sure but what that would be one of 'em.

purplesage 10 years, 10 months ago

John Locke, mom_of_three? Try Genesis 9:6, KJV, as the source for that quotation. "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man."

Justice has little to do with what happens in our court system today. It is a process of overcharging people with crimes and negotiating a "deal". Seeing what I have observed in relatively minor cases, to think of what might happen in a capital murder cases is frightening. Additionally, there is no consistency in sentences handed down from one judge to another.

I don't know about the "deterrent" effect because people risk a lot for a little all the time. A huge percentage of our crime rate is attributable to the drug problems. These people risk fines, imprisonment and more to feed the addictions. They don't think about deterrent effect.

Several have mentioned Edwin Hall. If convicted, he is certainly a candidate for the death penalty. Follow his history, what little we know. In foster care for reasons I haven't heard, a family stepped into this boy's life at the age of 7 and tried to show him love and provide him care. Who knows what had happened to him prior to that? Despite it, he became too violent for the adoptive family to care for and he was presumably put back into foster care or institutionalized. He is passing on the problems generationally his family will be profoundly affected by his actions as well.

This is not an attempt to explain his actions by his background, a certainly not to excuse them. What I want to say is that the death penalty represents the ultimate failure of a society to care for its members. It remains as a tragic necessity.

Grundoon Luna 10 years, 10 months ago

I've got news for you, Sunshine. The death pentaly was reinstated over 30 years ago and most states reaffirmed it well over 20 years ago.

If the death penalty were a deterent then the State of Texas would be the safest place to live on the planet and it surely is not. Life, real life (why let them off the hook with death? Make them suffer in prison), for murderers and rapists, house arrent for non-violent criminal offenders, unless they live in a manion. Get 'em a trailer for the duration of their sentence. So they don't scream "cruel and unusal punishment," make is a double wide.

Bone777 10 years, 10 months ago

Recidivism is 0% for any crimes following execution.

The families have some finality, which is really the most important point.....

acg 10 years, 10 months ago

If we're not going to use the death penalty to fry these ba**ards, then lets set up all prisons like that one down in AZ. That guy has the right idea. Prison isn't a deterrent either. I have a cousin who's spent about half of his life behind bars, starting when he was 11. He doesn't even mind jail or prison. He's told me that when he goes in, he gets his teeth fixed and any medical problems worked on, gets a nice rest from the daily grind of working (aka, stealing from others and running drugs up the coasts) and he doesn't have any responsiblities. He's met some "cool guys" that have given him "great ideas" on how to "streamline his activies". It's a freaking joke.

bunnyhawk 10 years, 10 months ago

Thou shalt not kill....................................

I don't recall any 'buts' or 'excepts' or 'unlesses' ........................

unite2revolt 10 years, 10 months ago

Like any law and corresponding punishment, its a matter of risk vs reward. If there was no law agianst murder, there would be more murders, if the penalty for getting convicted of murder was a $500.00 fine, there would be more murders. Locke is an interesting choice, as in a natural enviroment free of societal restrictions murder is ok, even nessecary for survival. Look at what happened to the panda released in China, he was brutally murdered by other male pandas who saw him as a threat of some kind or wanted something he had. Nature thrives on a survival of the fittest mentality that includes many things we civilized folk have to outlaw in an attempt to protect ourselves and still maintain a society. It's not suprising that despite all our civilization the natural impulse takes over occasionally and we break the laws that are designed to protect us. Punishment has to fit the severity of the crime, otherwise the cost-benefit ratio becomes in-balanced.

Justice is imperfect, the innocent get punished ocasionally and the guilty get away with it sometimes. 300 years ago we were burning witches at the stake. We have come a long way since then but it still happens that someone is wrongly punished. That doesn't make the punishment inappropriate. There is NO punishment that an be undone. If you think of a better system for our courts then the trial by a jury of your peers, please let the world know and write a book detailling how it should work. Otherwise accept that occaisonally the innocent will be punished and that the guilty will not be punished, but most of the time justice is served. Punishment should be up to the judiciary. Guilt has to be proved to a jury beyond doubt. The acused is considered innocent. Its a pretty fair system. It's just not perfect.

minko224 10 years, 10 months ago

i don't think it works as a deterrant. out of site out of mind. They need to have all executions televised. Maybe then it would act as a deterrant.

TtownKUlivin 10 years, 10 months ago

I had quite a few friends and acquaintances go through the justice system. Most have actually had to spend some time in jail or prison. These were people I grew up with in Topeka and went to school with, although I've tried to help them, some get "stuck" in that life of crime for whatever reason. Oh wait, it's because jail and prison are common grounds for networking. Go into prison with few contacts and come out with a lifetime of contacts. Anyways, I think we should bring back the Guillotine, seriously. It would be a lot less cheaper than administering drugs, plus the effectiveness of it is unmatched by any other method.

acg 10 years, 10 months ago

Yay Ttown, bring back the guillotine! I think it's a fantastic idea.

mom_of_three 10 years, 10 months ago

Yes, John Locke, 2nd treatise of government -

"And upon this is grounded the great Law of Nature, Who so sheddeth Mans Blood, by Man shall his Blood be shed. And Cain was so fully convined, that every one had a Right to destroy such a Criminal, that after the Murther of his Brother, he cries out, "every one that findeth me, shall slay me; so plain was it write in the Hearts of all Mankind." He does refer to Genesis 9:6 - equating a divine command with the law of nature.

he also says "Each Transgression may be punished to that degree, and with so much Severity as will suffice to make it an ill bargain to the Offender, give him cuase to repent, and terrife others from doing the like." All punishments should be equitable to the crime.

preebo 10 years, 10 months ago

Is not a deterrent; crime rates have not gone down...

In fact, the murder rate in the US is 6 times that of Britain and 5 times that of Australia. Neither country has the death penalty. Texas has twice the murder rate of Wisconsin, a state that doesn't have the death penalty. Texas and Oklahoma have historically executed the most number of death row inmates, yet in 2003 their state murder rates increased, and both have murder rates higher than the national average.

armyguy 10 years, 10 months ago

I can not find my Criminal Justice books to get some quotes for the cost of keeping prison for different classes of prisoners, however I recall it being around $30K per year for non death penalty cases and over one million $ per year for all other. If one assumes a 50 year life sentence that is about 1.5 million to keep a person in jail for life as opposed to 10 years on death row in excess of 10 million dollars. There is no reason that my tax dollars are wasted on this. Lock them up and throw away the key. Perhaps the money could be spent on something productive like fixing social security, reducing taxes, outfitting our military or anything else.

"A California study found that the cost of inmates was about $21,000 annually."

The Sacramento Bee estimates that California's bill for processing death-penalty cases between 1977 and 1993 came to $1 billion--although only two people were executed during that time. The Dallas Morning News figures that sending a killer to death row costs an average of $2.3 million, or about three times the cost of imprisoning someone in a single cell at the highest security level for forty years

Bone777 10 years, 10 months ago

Hell, at $30,000 a year, give me ten. I have a lot of chores around the place that I could use some help with.
I'll start with Paris Hilton and add from there.

Bone777 10 years, 10 months ago

With DNA and the advances in criminal science, how hard can it be to keep from executing an innocent man.

We need to streamline the process from verdict to vindication...

sunflower_sue 10 years, 10 months ago

Ms_C, did you participate in the "nekkid" bicycle ride yesterday?

beatrice 10 years, 10 months ago

"Texas has twice the murder rate of Wisconsin, a state that doesn't have the death penalty."

Maybe that is because there are just twice as many people in Texas worth killin'. Wisconsinites ... er Wisconsonians, um ... People of Wisconsin tend to be nice folks in general and maybe that has something to do with it.

verity 10 years, 10 months ago

Do you think the death penalty deters murder? What you or I think has nothing to do with the facts. If you are really interested in facts, go to the website: and in particular read "Facts and Statistics".

The death penalty may satisfy a need for veagence, but I have never seen one study that shows it is a deterrence.

acg 10 years, 10 months ago

I was thinking the same thing Bea. Why would anyone want to murder a Wisconsonite? What have they ever done to anyone? Now a Texan....well that's totally understandable. LOL!

Bone777 10 years, 10 months ago

Could it be the high rate of immigrants from Mexico and Louisiana (Hurricane Katrina) that contributes to Texas's inflated murder rates?

spammer89 10 years, 10 months ago

Bring back public execution, whatch what happens when they throw the switch (nothing like what is in the movies) and it might deter someone. Just bring back all forms of public punishent. You watch someone else serve it and it might make you think twice.

samsnewplace 10 years, 10 months ago

if only OJ could have been so lucky to get what he gave......that still burns me!

Sigmund 10 years, 10 months ago

The Death Penalty may or may not deter murder, but it most certainly prevents repeat offenders!

Bone777 10 years, 10 months ago

Holy cow!!! I wanted to read a few blogs, not a novel... Thanks, Fudgepop

Carmenilla 10 years, 10 months ago

Hey did you hear the one about how the death penalty prevents repeat offenses?

That shore enuff is a good one, yep!

Catbacker 10 years, 10 months ago

Death penalty opponents tend to "skew" the housing costs numbers. With DNA and other technological advances, an inmates appeals should run out in a few years. I say, once convicted and sentenced to death, there is a two year clock for appeals, finding God, etc., then ... bye-bye.

Even at $1M a year, it would be a bargain: $2M (and dead) vs. $400,000 (and out in 17 years... but also taking up needed bed space for 15 extra years).

Besides, punishments are deterrants eventually ... some are just more hard-headed then others. I know for a fact that not one executed murderer has gone on to kill again. The same can not be said of those released after "life" sentences, which in many, many states is only a 15 year minimum ... before the 15-30% good time is taken off!

Jamesaust 10 years, 10 months ago

The research is pretty convincing that murderers are not logical, forward thinking people who are deterred in their short-term actions by the very minimal odds of punishment far in the future. Beyond those impressed by the emotional satisfaction of retribution, the remainder are rational people who THEMSELVES would be deterred and transfer that same rationality upon people that normally no one would think of as rational persons.

To my knowledge, the definitive debunking of a linkage between the death penalty and deterrence was published in the December 2005 edition of the Stanford Law Review: "Uses and Abuses of Empirical Evidence in the Death Penalty Debate." Those whose minds aren't closed on the subject might profit from a read.

Kat Christian 10 years, 10 months ago

I just bet the ones who believe in saving a killer's life are young and have no idea what the world was like when capital punishment was around. It was a safer world where kids were able to play outdoors and in the neighborhoods without parents having to worry so much. Thanks to all you bleeding hearts we have an epidemic of killers running loose and raising more killers to boot.

Linda Endicott 10 years, 10 months ago

That's all fine and dandy, catbacker, in cases where DNA tests can be used. There are numerous murder cases every year where people are convicted on circumstantial evidence, and no physical evidence exists linking them to the murder.

What would you do in those cases?

Do you have a link, Jamesaust? (I'm being lazy this morning...:) )

Linda Endicott 10 years, 10 months ago

Hmmm...I tried doing a search myself, Jamesaust...

I would love to read the article. Unfortunately, it's a pay service...

kanshawk 10 years, 10 months ago

it may not always deter murder but it will rid our society of scum that are going to keep acting this way regardless of time and money spent in an attempt to rehabilitate them.

Tom McCune 10 years, 10 months ago

Some years ago, I worked on a few projects in Saudia Arabia. The law there was that upon conviction of a capital crime, there was one appeal within 30 days. If the conviction was upheld, sentence was executed within another 30 days. Method of execution was beheading with a big sword in the public square. That's a deterrent.

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