Teresa’s Execution Tonight, Another Confirmation that the Death Penalty is No Deterrent


by Delina Cummings, Woman to Woman (All rights reserved) LISTEN TO AUDIO RECORDING click this link http://womantowomansite.blogspot.com/2010/09/teresa-lewiss-execution-another.html

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 “The key issue in capital punishment debate is whether it can actually lower the murder rate and save lives. Despite its inherent cruelty, capital punishment might be justified if it proved to be an effective deterrent that could save many lives.(Senna,1998)

Virginia woman to be slain tonight another proof of the inefficacy of Capital Punishment

Tonight, while you have a fancy dinner with your date at a five star restaurant; or while you socialize with the so called elites; tonight while you sleep in your posh house, or you’re driving your posh car, tonight, some place, where someone is having a good time, a woman’s life will be taken by the state. The life of a borderline retarded woman, Teresa Lewis, will be snuffed out by a dose of lethal injection, as family of the murder victims watch, to their satisfaction. She has ordered her last meal: two chicken breasts, sweet peas with butter, a Dr. Pepper and either German cake or apple pie for dessert.

We know her crimes and we are aware of the penalty attached, but why do we still believe that executing one man for the vindication of another is the answer to crime?

After the people placed power in the hands of government and the state, these institutions became the arbiter of life and death. They argued and justified the death penalty as a deterrent to murder and other heinous crimes, for which death is the reward. But it is a trite argument that the death penalty is a deterrent. So what is it, then? Is it that we get a sense of peace and satisfaction from taking other people’s lives, to prove that we have the power over life, and to prove that we are doing something about crime?

Another look at capital punishment as a (so-called) deterrent

Efficacy

The purposes, the methods, the proportionality and effectiveness of punishment are among the essential considerations, but above all, perhaps, is the consideration of efficacy. We must be able to convince, without qualms, that the punishment meted out is effective in its purpose, and therefore justified. The punishment of death is no exception.

The death penalty is no doubt extreme in nature. Dubbed an “ultimate punishment,” it constitutes the infliction of death, by hanging, lethal injection, the gas chamber etc., on the murder convict. Its imposition for the crime of murder has had a long history of legal acceptance both in the United States, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean.

But the landmark case of Furman—v—Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972) would come to question the constitutionality of capital punishment (lethal injection in this case), citing it as cruel and unusual punishment and therefore a clear violation of the constitutional rights of the citizen. Gregg—v—Georgia, 428 U.S. 153 (1976) later confirmed the constitutionality of the death penalty.

On April 17, 2008, the U.S Supreme Court ruled against a challenge to the three-drug procedures in place in Kentucky that employs three drugs to sedate, paralyze and kills death row inmates. Similar methods are used by some three dozen states. The argument against the procedures is that if the initial anesthetic does not take hold, the other two drugs can cause excruciating pain. One of those drugs, a paralytic, would render the prisoner unable to express his discomfort.

In the meantime various states within the US continue to struggle with the question of constitutionality as well as attempts to abolish the death penalty, because of a consensus that the death penalty has failed as a deterrent. For legal positivists, such as John Austin and Jeremy Bentham, law is the command of the sovereign and derives efficacy from the mere threat of sanction.

Whether capital punishment is in accordance with right reason and acceptable moral standards depends on value judgments of the society and the collective conscience’s tolerance for crimes such as murder. But “The key issue in capital punishment debate is whether it can actually lower the murder rate and save lives. Despite its inherent cruelty, capital punishment might be justified if it proved to be an effective deterrent that could save many lives.” (Senna,1998).

From a utilitarian point of view, the pain of punishment may be outweighed by its good consequences if it deters the offender from offending again, or if it can be made the occasion for reforming the offender, or if it results in a dangerous person being removed from society.” (J.W Harris 1980)

So the vital question which arises here is does the threat of the penalty of death deter people from committing murder?

The death penalty has been unsuccessful at being a deterrent, or as I put it, death-terrent, because people are still committing the crimes for which death is the recompense. If the death penalty is required for the protection of society, then there must be some degree of evidence that it largely produces the intended result. It has been argued that imprisonment has as much force upon the minds of those who are criminally inclined, as would a penalty of death. Perhaps, capital punishment is an effective deterrent for those who are not predisposed to commit crimes, those who had the opportunity to engage in that rational process of weighing the consequences of their acts or omissions, but a questionable deterrent for those who are criminally inclined.

Therefore, should a person who is mentally incapable to form the intention to kill, or to rationalize both the act and consequence of murder suffer the death penalty? Does he or she have the necessary mens rea to make him/her fully culpable for the crime committed? This was in essence the argument of Teresa’s lawyers. They put forward evidence showing that she was a borderline retard, though the court was not convinced that the evidence was enough to exculpate her, even as a mastermind of the murders committed and not the actual killer.

For now, those who subscribe to capital punishment may be guided by this absolute approach fraught with  retributive principles:

Whoever has committed murder must die…This ought to be done in order that everyone may realize the desert of his deeds, and that blood-guiltiness may not remain upon the people; for otherwise they might all be regarded as participators in the murder as a public violation of justice.” (Immanuel Kant)

UPDATE: A frightened Teresa was executed after final words to victims’ relative click link below

https://woman2womansite.wordpress.com/2010/09/23/virginia-executed-teresa-lewis-by,-lethal-injection-tonight/

Read more on Teresa’s story click here http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1314170/Supreme-Court-reject-Teresa-Lewis-death-row-appeal-Virginia.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

Save Teresa Website http://www.saveteresalewis.org/petition.html

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3 thoughts on “Teresa’s Execution Tonight, Another Confirmation that the Death Penalty is No Deterrent

  1. Eddie Bauer

    Couple of things here. “We must be able to convince, without qualms, that the punishment meted out is effective in its purpose, and therefore justified. The punishment of death is no exception.”

    I agree with you that Capital Punishment is not a deterrent for crime. However the same can be said about prisons. After all, the US houses approximately 10% of its population in cells. And today we are faced with the harsh reality that the costs of these prisons are creating record budget deficits. Nonetheless, we still continue to add more people to the prison system.

    The death penalty was never supposed to be a 100% deterrent, but actually a measure that the victim’s family can “feel good” about the justice system. The death penalty is actually a political campaign prop that shows the people that the people that are being put in place to interpret the laws, and administer punishment are actually going to do so.

    Regardless of the individual feeling, the community has a sense of “feel good” when certain punishments are meted out. For example in the State of Texas, Gov. George W. Bush had some of the highest approval ratings, yet under his rule, he oversaw the most executions in the history of the US. So by that sentiment, there must be some sort of validity to this means of punishment, or the people of the Great State of Texas would have elected someone else.

    I am not an advocate for the death penalty by any stretch of the imagination. But to ask the question, “why do we still believe that executing one man for the redemption of another is the answer to crime?” seem a bit presumptuous. From a victim’s standpoint, it is not for anyone to decide what level of punishment is severe enough for a crime.

    It is often times easier to coach our fellow citizens on how to think and how to feel when we are not walking in their shoes. Usually once as the shoe gets on our feet and we are feeling the same pain as the victim, then all the prior logic goes out the window and we have knee jerk reactions.

    I don’t know this woman and I don’t know the intimate details of the trial. However, if it is one thing that she has on her side is that she was brought to trial and found guilty by a judicial system that is second to none. She had her opportunities for appeals, and all of them led her to this point. This tells me that the arguments that the victims family presented must have been compelling enough to continue with the execution.

    You have presented arguments against the methods being cruel and unusual. Yes, our Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. However, there is really no humane way to execute a person. By decree, the word execution already carries with it a negative cogitation. We have evolved from the gallows, to lethal injection. While not being perfect, to date, lethal injection is the most humane method.

    I know of the arguments that Kentucky has presented about the violations of the convicts rights to a punishment that is not cruel and unusual. However, I have to ask this question, what about the victims rights? Was the victims right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness respected by the convicts?

    Judges, and governors are not put in place to advocate on behalf of the felon. They are in place to act on behalf of the victims, and as such, the rights of the felons are automatically placed in second place when compared to the rights of the victims.

    A theory of mine is that the Death Penalty does serve as a deterrent for crime. Just as speeding tickets serve as a deterrent from speeding. We will never know how many people thought of killing someone but the thought of loosing their life was enough to make them rethink their options.

    We just don’t have a means of quantifying the number of people who have not killed because of the death penalty. Just like the state can never really know how many people would have sped if there was no speed limits. The only data we can quantify is the people who are caught for either crime.

    In closing, I would say, as imperfect as the justice system is in the Western World, I would take it over some other “justice systems” in the Eastern parts of the World. At least here, you have a voice.

    EB

  2. Pingback: Politics and the Death Penalty: The Death Penalty as Another Political Campaign Prop « WOMAN TO WOMAN—Empowering Women, Appreciating Men…

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