Penn & Teller: Bullshit! Forums

Showtime (ended 2010)

Death Penalty

  • Avatar of tlindsay

    tlindsay

    [1]Nov 1, 2006
    • member since: 11/18/05
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    *** SPOILER ALERT ***

    I'm gonna discuss the episode here, so if you haven't seen it and want to watch it fresh, don't read further... you've been warned.


    This episode gave the only reason against the death penalty that I ever saw that was any good.  First to dispense with the first two biggies.

    1) We know from past experience that we have executed people and then later discovered them to be innocent.  This means we shouldn't execute anyone because they might be innocent.

    Answer) We have undoubtedly also sentenced people to life in prison and let them die there even though they were innocent as well.  In other words the system of justice we use is flawed and makes mistakes, and some of those mistakes cost innocent people their lives.  The question becomes are we more worried about the innocent people who die or the guilty people who go on to commit further crimes?  Personally I find the statement "I'd rather let ten criminals go free than execute one innocent man" is flawed since if those ten criminals go out and kill two innocent people, you now have one less innocent person than you would have as well as ten criminals still out there.

    2) The death penalty is not a deterrent to other criminals.

    Answer) It shouldn't be used as one.  The whole point of the death penalty should be that it is used to prevent the person responsible from comitting further crimes.  Period.  That's it.  You could chop off the hands of thieves, but this just puts beggars in the streets and is far crueller than execution.

    P&T's) Killing except in war or self-defense is murder, a crime.  Any action our government takes is effectively taken by all of us.  Therefore an execution is a murder and if we execute someone we are guilty of murder and deserve to be executed.

    This was a new one for me... but after some thought...

    Answer) Making someone come onto your property through force or the threat of violence and then preventing them from leaving is kidnapping, a crime.  Therefore holding someone in prison is kidnapping and we are all guilty then and deserve to be in prison.  Since this is clearly not what we want, it holds then that we as a society can do things that impinge on personal rights and freedoms that we cannot do as individuals.

    The only other thing they said was that our current execution methods don't measure up to SPCA standards for humanely euthenizing animals.  But later in the same show they said "Prisons are too expense?  Build cheaper prisons."  In the opposite direction you could just as easily say "Current methods are too cruel?  Use better methods."  Personally I agree the methods should be better.  Gun shot to the head of a strapped in person works.  So does guillotine through the skull instead of the neck.  Drugs to put someone to sleep first are good too.

    The main thing I'm saying here is that the death penalty should be viewed as a subset of the real point.  It should be called (in this pollitically correct era we live in) "Permanent Removeal From Society".  Want a kinder, gentler method?  Fine, exile them on pain of death.  If they return, they're dead.  If they can find another country to take them, fine.  If they can't, offer to put them on some tiny, remote island in the middle of nowhere.

    And don't call the death penalty cruel, either.  How is locking someone up for the rest of their life less cruel?  It's still an execution, it just take 20 or 30 years instead of 10 (the kind of time many people spend on death row before being executed).  Additionally, we should set the death penalty based on the chance of recidivism instead of severity since it is really PRFS.  After all, what good does locking up a thief do when, after 2-5 years, he gets out and steals again? Then we have to catch him again, put him in again, and let him start all over!  That's silly.  Remove him permanently and get it over with.  The only other option I see is mandatory counselling and job training.  Instead of saying "You're in prison for X years" say "You're in prison until a liscenced psychiatrist pronounces you safe and you've got a job skill and prospects for a job."  That way they won't be in a hopeless situation when they get out, and their time in prison is based on their performance.

    Just some thoughts.
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  • Avatar of kba85

    kba85

    [2]Feb 5, 2007
    • member since: 12/11/05
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    That was an interesting reaction to the death penalty episode of penn and teller did a pretty good job of comparing the death penalty and life in prison. I think one flaw there though is that you seem to present the possibility of being freed to commit crimes as the alternative to capital punishment, when these judges are actually choosing between life without parole and capital punishment. Judges don't think, "Should I kill him, or let him out after three years?"

    Also, by killing a criminal, you do prevent that criminal from committing crimes--but that doesn't make Penn and Teller wrong about the importance of not killing innocents. If you don't kill the criminal, he will get life without parole in a maximum security prison. His opportunities to commit crimes there will be limited to hurting other people who have committed crimes worthy of being in a maximum security prison. Even his opportunities at that are limited by, well, the maximum security. Also, if it is found that he is innocent, he can be freed--but you couldn't bring him back from the dead.
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  • Avatar of LMH68

    LMH68

    [3]Mar 23, 2007
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    ...

    Edited on 05/09/2009 9:25am
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  • Avatar of Heist81

    Heist81

    [4]Mar 24, 2007
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    That was an awesome episode. When they talked about the methods of execution getting botched, I felt a little sick to the stomach picturing it.
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  • Avatar of runtheplacered

    runtheplacered

    [5]Mar 29, 2007
    • member since: 07/10/06
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    "After all, what good does locking up a thief do when, after 2-5 years, he gets out and steals again?"

    Am I reading you right? You want to axe thieves? What the heck is wrong with you?

    You act like if we don't execute people that we just let them go. Which is obviously you being uninformed.

    Reasons why Death Penalty is stupid?

    #1 our Justice System is not based off of an eye for an eye. If you believe otherwise, I'd remind you that the justice system is not to be abused so you can take revenge. #2 It serves no purpose to kill a person. None. When a person is dead, they're dead. There's no purpose or use we can gain from them anymore. If they're alive, perhaps we could study their "evilness" and gain knowledge we may lack in criminal behavior. #3 It costs too much in appeals.

    #4 It's not a good enough deterrent. You said penalties aren't supposed to be deterrents, instead it's to be used to stop criminals from committing further crimes. Which is..... guess what..... drum roll please..... a deterrent! If you get busted drinking and driving, are they giving you a suspended license and a huge fine to stop your next crime? Yes! Why? Because it's a deterrent! I thought this was fairly obvious. You really didn't make a point here.

    #5 It's a human life. Yeah, yeah. Call me a hippie, I guess I just have compassion for our fellow man. Go figure.

    #6 Innocent people may die. If you put an innocent man in prison for life and 15 years later realize he was innocent, he may live our his life. If you put an innocent man in prison on death row and 15 years later realize he was innocent, he's dead. It's too late. I thought this was all fairly obvious to everyone, but I guess not.
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  • Avatar of asecooper222

    asecooper222

    [6]Apr 18, 2007
    • member since: 03/12/05
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    I think things like eye for an eye and vengeance should be left in the hands of individuals, not the court. I'm Canadian, so this episode didn't really apply to me, but this was one of the few episodes I was on the fence. I don't agree with capitol punishment, but if someone killed my child/wife/parent/relative/friend, I'd see red and not rationale and if given the oppourtunity, might actually kill that person. But like I said, indiviiduals, not through the courts. I know that sounds like a contradiction, and maybe it is.
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  • Avatar of Richiebcfc25

    Richiebcfc25

    [7]Jul 18, 2007
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    im english but i live in arizona but P&T was right about the death penalty

    death penalty is always morally wrong and till the justice system is infallible i will always be against it

    in england we have had loads of people who were hanged and have now been proved to be innocent (bently, evans etc.)

    what is the real reason for the support for the death penalty

    REVENGE: well there is worse a things in life than death just ask dr shipman or fred west who chose to kill themselves than face life in prisonment

    DETERRENCE: no punishment can deter a crime because when you commit a crime you do not expect to get caught

    COST: it is cheaper to keep someone locked up than to kill them becuase the appeal process is so long and drawn out it cost millions well you can buy alot of bread and water with that

    if you lock someone up he has to spend the rest of his life thinking about what he did but if he is innocent and forensics and DNA is getting better than you can release him say you are sorry and compensate him which is pretty difficult to do when you are DEAD

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