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Note to self, do not read the Sun, it will only make me angry.… - Sally's Journal
February 25th, 2008
01:06 pm

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Note to self, do not read the Sun, it will only make me angry.



Yes, even when the guy near you on the train keeps waving around an article saying "99% of you want this [the death penalty]" and you're utterly perplexed how the Sun managed to find any statistic to suggest 99% of people were in favour of the death penalty [the answer is, of course, that they asked Sun readers. I think when I am a famous statistics lecturer I will use this as an example] Anyway, not being able to deduce this immediately, I went and found the article.

I suppose "Sun readers in favour of Death Penalty" is not news. I was more shocked to discover that leading lights in both of the major political parties (oh, OK, Anne Widdecolme and David Davies) were in favour of it. But then we do have $lots (over 600, I think) MPs, so you can probably find 2 in favour of anything.

Of course, let it not be said that the Sun does one sided reporting. There is the balancing story from Sarah Payne's mother:

Sara said: “I don’t think anyone should be able to take another’s life. It’s one of our core values as human beings living in a civilised country that you do not kill. A lot of people think [the death penalty] should be introduced for child killers. But I favour locking them up for ever and ensuring they have a horrible time.”

You'd have thought by this time I'd have had more sense than to read the "Have your say" equivalent. Especially the thread started with "THE SUN SAYS 99% OF US WANT CAPITAL PUNISHMENT BACK WHO ARE THE 1%? NOT ME" Still, it was worth it for this priceless insight into the Problems Facing the Right Today:

well i disagree shock horror !!!!!
because sharia law is all about that and it wil become a muslim state !!!!


Ah yes, that age old dilemma between wanting to Kill the Perverts and needing to Fight to Stop Our Country Becoming a Muslim State.

Please, please, please tell me that these people aren't real, and the comments are really my friends-list just trolling?

Death penalty*

Yes
7(7.4%)
No
88(92.6%)


*For any crime whatsoever, including the worst crimes you can imagine, but in a reasonably economically stable and rich western country like Britain is at the moment.

(159 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments
 
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From:aiwendel
Date:February 25th, 2008 01:15 pm (UTC)
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but I have to temper that with saying I'm in favour of using criminals as lab rats for pharmacological testing...
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From:ilanin
Date:February 25th, 2008 01:15 pm (UTC)
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Because obviously your friends list is much less politically skewed than the 8ish million people who read The Sun could ever be.
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From:atreic
Date:February 25th, 2008 01:17 pm (UTC)
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Exactly! I'm glad you worked that out :-)

[only 95,000 voted in the Sun's poll though...]
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From:lavendersparkle
Date:February 25th, 2008 01:19 pm (UTC)
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Anne Widdecombe being pro-death penalty really shocked me when I heard about it about a year ago. For such a vocal Catholic it's very surprising that she would go against the churche's teaching on such a fundamental life issue. I feel like dobbing her in to the Pope.
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From:emperor
Date:February 25th, 2008 01:30 pm (UTC)
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I am frequently dismayed by Christians who are pro the death penalty :(
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From:oedipamaas49
Date:February 25th, 2008 01:26 pm (UTC)
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aargh! I just pressed the wrong button. Meant to answer 'no', of course.

oops. Now, if 99% of people were as clumsy as I am...
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From:oedipamaas49
Date:February 25th, 2008 01:28 pm (UTC)
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although I find the death penalty far less cruel that jailing people for the rest of their lives and then preventing them killing themselves in prison. Can't we have the death penalty as an option that the convict could choose as an alternative to a life sentence - I'm pretty sure I'd choose it.
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From:ewx
Date:February 25th, 2008 01:39 pm (UTC)
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The people who answered "yes" (and 99% of Sun readers) should explain what they'd do about miscarriages of justice.
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From:pm215
Date:February 25th, 2008 01:51 pm (UTC)
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I believe "sweep them under the carpet" is the usual solution.
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From:gerald_duck
Date:February 25th, 2008 01:43 pm (UTC)
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I think I made my views on the death penalty clear a couple of years ago.
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From:alitalf
Date:February 25th, 2008 01:56 pm (UTC)
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Although, for some crimes, I would not want the criminal ever let out of prison. Personally I would rather a clean death, whether or not I believed I had actually committed the crime, than to stay in a cell until I died of old age.

One thing you can do if you don't kill a convicted murderer is to let him or her out if it is later shown that the conviction was incorrect. However, that does not seem to have helped Sally Clark too terribly much, nor, I vaguely remember, some others over the years. Would it actually be kinder to offer the choice of death, after a considerable period of time? Should that offer even apply to those found to have been innocent, if they are by then unable to return to any kind of life they could cope with?

All there seems to be is a selection of wrong answers, of which judicial murder is probably the most wrong.
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From:naath
Date:February 25th, 2008 01:56 pm (UTC)
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I'm against the death penalty; but I think prisoners ought to be able to opt for humane execution if they prefer that over a life in gaol (although also I think *anyone* ought to be able to opt for assisted suicide if they don't want to go on living)- the problem being that I don't know how you would ensure that they were actually choosing that rather than being forced to it. Also I think that gaol shouldn't be a really horrible place to live, obviously it should be bad but I don't think it should be bad enough to drive a significant proportion of offenders to opt for suicide.
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From:naath
Date:February 25th, 2008 02:05 pm (UTC)
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I might add that I do also believe in life-meaning-life for people who commit sufficiently horrible crimes; I'm not sure which crimes I consider to be "sufficiently horrible" and I'm glad I'm not in charge of setting such things.

I'm also interested to see that many people think "killing children" is the 'worst' crime. I think that there are worse crimes - things coming under the heading of "War Crimes" for instance. I'm not sure whether I consider "high treason" to be worthy of similar levels of punishment though (and setting fire in the royal dockyards is, er, not something I'd expect to be up there with the "really bad" crimes but thinking about it I can see that when the navy was really important and mostly wood...)
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From:cartesiandaemon
Date:February 25th, 2008 01:56 pm (UTC)
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Well, I'm not *necessarily* against the death penalty any more. But I'm definitely against it for anything but the worst crimes, and think that in that case, the administrative overhead (the whole faff of legalising it, the great risk that it would start being applied to lesser crimes, the fact that it would be applied when the evidence isn't overwhelming, or if not, it would be unfair that the severity of the sentence depends on the certainty of your guilt.) (And I'm against what I infer the article there is calling for, I couldn't bring myself to go and see.)

And I've been tarnished by media statistics enough that I instantly knew what the 99% would be
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From:peredur_glyn
Date:February 25th, 2008 02:18 pm (UTC)
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I saw the paper in the newsagents and was sufficiently piqued to read the articles briskly. I was, for probably the first time, pleasantly surprised by the Sun in that They (i.e. the editors) are against the death penalty, according to their "The Sun says" (editorial) column.

However, none of this is made clear by the front page nor the main article, and it's clearly meant to appeal to the (apparently really overwhelming, uh-huh) majority of the populace who want to kill people they don't like. I give the paper some credit for not cow-towing completely to right-wing lunatics, but they should have made their position on the front page rather than seven pages in.
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From:atreic
Date:February 25th, 2008 02:26 pm (UTC)
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This article? That seems to have just made me madder. It's like "oh, look, it's OK for us to write pages and pages about the Death penalty in a very positive 'it's a good thing to have revenge and it's what people want' and then so long as our editorial mentions in the small print that we think it's a bad idea it doesn't matter what hysteria we whip up, because that was them, not us..."
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From:randomchris
Date:February 25th, 2008 02:24 pm (UTC)
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I'm thoroughly amused that the Sun also (as I recall) supported the campaign to get Kenny Richey freed in the US. And by the fact that they'd be up in arms about removing the death penalty if anyone innocent ever got convicted.

I seem to recall hearing somewhere that in the US, executing prisoners on death row actually costs more than imprisoning them for life.
From:ex_robhu
Date:February 25th, 2008 03:07 pm (UTC)
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I seem to recall hearing somewhere that in the US, executing prisoners on death row actually costs more than imprisoning them for life.
I wonder if that means they spend a lot on executing people, or very little on detaining them.
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From:catyak
Date:February 25th, 2008 02:35 pm (UTC)
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I could be in favour of the death penalty where there is 100% positive proof that the accused really did kill someone in cold blood, but how many such clear-cut cases have there been? Enough people have been freed on appeal to make it not a good option, at least until someone makes it reversible.

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From:atreic
Date:February 25th, 2008 02:37 pm (UTC)
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The cryogenic storage penalty. Why aren't people working on it?
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From:arnhem
Date:February 25th, 2008 02:45 pm (UTC)
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I'm generally of the opinion that pretty well by definition you have to be mentally ill to commit the kinds of crimes that would be candidates for the death penalty were we to have one. It therefore seems inappropriate to do anything other than attempt to treat such people, possibly protecting them and society from each other. [ The one bunch of people who get shafted by this policy are the mental health care workers, who already get to deal with unreasonable levels of risk, IMO ].

My understanding has always been that for all of my life, significantly over 50% of the UK population eligible to vote were in favour of the death penalty [ and a bit of googling shows up a considerable amount of supporting evidence for this assertion ]. So that about wraps it up for democracy, then.

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From:aureo1e
Date:February 25th, 2008 03:17 pm (UTC)
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Democracy's always been a bad idea, and we've never really pretended to be one anyway ;).

From:ex_robhu
Date:February 25th, 2008 03:05 pm (UTC)
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I'm going to go out on a limb and say I'm not opposed to the death penalty. I'm not for it though either.

If one of the purposes of a sentence is for punishment (disconnected from 'reforming' the person) then if a death sentence is worse than being in prison for the whole of your life (I'm not sure it is worse though) then it might be OK.

There is also the issue of prisons being very expensive, and is it really right for society to have to shoulder a huge burden because some people committed terrible crimes? Probably not.

The most convincing argument against the death penalty to me is that people could be wrongly convicted of a crime, and if you kill them you can't bring them back, whereas you can release them from jail and try to compensate them somehow. That's a persuasive argument, but I think it needs to be balanced with some data on how many wrongful convictions there are for such serious crimes.

If 1 in 10 were wrongly convicted then it would be very bad to execute people for such crimes. If it was 1 in 1,000,000? It'd be nice to live in an ideological utopia where we don't have to worry about such things, but in the real world the money that was spent on that criminal could have been spent on something else that would have saved lots of lives. So economics ought to be a factor in our thinking.
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From:olithered
Date:February 25th, 2008 03:15 pm (UTC)
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From what I've heard the economics in the USA is such that it is actually cheaper to imprison someone for life than go through all the appeals against a death penalty.
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From:arkannath
Date:February 25th, 2008 04:47 pm (UTC)
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Only 99%? ;-)

Of course, some of the non-idiotic ones may be in favour of the death penalty. There are some strong arguments in favour, but not as many as those against (IMO).
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From:olithered
Date:February 25th, 2008 03:46 pm (UTC)
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There are too many people on the planet. Why should those who comit "the worst crimes you can imagine" stay in the genepool?
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From:ewx
Date:February 25th, 2008 04:04 pm (UTC)
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If it's their genes you're worried about, you should be executing the children of murderers (or whichever crimes it is) too.
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From:bluesbell
Date:February 25th, 2008 05:40 pm (UTC)
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I quote Jon Carroll of San Francisco Chronicle (my emphasis):

"The death penalty is wrong because the state (which is to say: us) should not be involved in killing people, particularly in cold blood. To kill people because they killed people -- it doesn't make any actual sense. A society should be slightly more civilized than its sociopaths."
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From:rochvelleth
Date:February 25th, 2008 06:24 pm (UTC)
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I'm anti-death penalty for ethical reasons, and wouldn't want a state to do it in my name. I don't see why it's anything but institutionalised murder. Etc.

I can see economic advantages though (chiefly by cutting down on numbers of people in prisons[1]). I wonder if pro-death politicians have this kind of reasoning behind their beliefs, and feel that this justifies unethical actions?

[1] Though waiting times on Death Row in the US tell us this won't necessarily be the effect, of course.
From:ex_robhu
Date:February 25th, 2008 08:18 pm (UTC)
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Is all killing murder? If someone holds a gun to your head and a police sniper shoots that person has the sniper committed murder?

Murder is not a synonym for killing (as I'm sure you're aware). The words have different meanings because presumably at some point a significant number of people have considered state sanctioned killing to be different in an important way.
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From:ringbark
Date:February 25th, 2008 06:48 pm (UTC)
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Speaking as a Scouser, I don't read The Sun.
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From:lacuna
Date:February 25th, 2008 07:05 pm (UTC)
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I saw that in a newsagent today, as well, and wandered around feeling rather depressed about it for some time afterwards. I really feel slightly miserable to think that the majority of people (whatever it is, somewhere around 60-70%, I think) in this country would so sanction the killing of other men and women. Serious criminals clearly show a lack of humanity when committing their acts, but I'd like to think that the state would respond with greater humanity - not least because we arguably have less justification for outrage at heinous crimes if we're then going to impose something similar on the perpetrator.

I also think it's rather ironic that most people are only too willing to criticise the excesses of 'the nanny state', yet they're simultaneously willing to give the state that most extreme, invasive power of taking life.

I was, I must admit, surprised that The Sun ran this so prominently, given my suspicion that its editors probably did not share the pro-death penalty view. As we often hear, "The Sun is written by very clever people for very stupid people" and there is a general correlation between level of education and view on the death penalty.

BTW, which leading lights in the Labour Party favour the death penalty? Both the ones you name are Tories...
From:ext_72852
Date:February 25th, 2008 10:19 pm (UTC)
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I read the online version of our local rag (Southern Daily Echo at dailyecho.co.uk), and I have to make an effort to resist reading the comments, because they're inevitably a steaming heap of garbage. (Mind you the daily news is almost always "holdups on the M27", with occasional "holdups on the M3" and "traffic lights failed in city centre" for spice).
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From:jane_somebody
Date:February 26th, 2008 02:26 pm (UTC)
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Our local paper, from our previous town, once ran the front page headline "Killer Heron Ate Our Goldfish", complete with colour photo of mournful couple standing next to their garden pond. (And I lived in So'ton for 20 years, so I know what you mean about the Echo) ;-)
From:emarkienna
Date:February 25th, 2008 10:31 pm (UTC)
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The Sun wouldn't let me vote (claimed I didn't have cookies enabled).

According to the side column, hanging was brought to Britain by German IMMIGRANTS, so perhaps that fact could be used to sway the Daily Mail readership to be against....

From TFA:

"In cases with no scientific doubt, there’s no chance of hanging a wrong man"

The ex-deputy head of my school was convicted of murder, as a result of scientific evidence but several years later he was acquitted. As it happens, I was watching some Richard Dawkins programme yesterday, which covered the dangers of people misunderstanding science to be able to show absolute certainties, and gave the case of another man who had been wrongly convicted of murder.
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From:the_marquis
Date:February 25th, 2008 10:46 pm (UTC)
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A relevant point that seems to have come up a few times above is that you shouldn't put people to death, but that prison should be horrible. Snag is then you have the problem the criminal justice system is facing of prisoners seeming to have a cushy life, tv, playstations, family visits etc on account of the well meaning middle-classes saying we shouldn't be too harsh in previous decades ... and perhaps some of this ranting about death penalties comes from that perception of "cushiness"



Edited at 2008-02-25 10:47 pm (UTC)
From:ex_robhu
Date:February 26th, 2008 11:29 am (UTC)
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Interestingly the Catholic church does think the death penalty is acceptable in some cases although those are probably not cases that occur in rich western countries like our own.
From:yrieithydd
Date:February 26th, 2008 11:51 pm (UTC)
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Ah yes, that age old dilemma between wanting to Kill the Perverts and needing to Fight to Stop Our Country Becoming a Muslim State.

I did observe at one point in the ++Rowan `calls for sharia law'* furore that it was ironic that a number of the most fervent people against the idea of sharia in British law were people who would support the death penalty whereas I am fairly sure that ++Rowan himself opposes it!

*No he didn't.
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