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Any Second Thoughts Today?

A little more than seven months ago, the Governor of Connecticut, with much fanfare about how advanced it all was, signed into law a bill repealing the death penalty for murder committed after the law's passage.

Today, for either kicks or revenge, a 20 year-old man, apparently the son of a teacher at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.,went to his mother's place of employment and murdered 20 children, all between five and ten years old, and six adults.  Earlier, he killed his mother at home. 

What will happen now is that we'll hear a good deal of blather about how we need a "national conversation" about this "senseless tragedy" and some deep "introspection" about what an awful, violent place America is.  We are also certain to hear the standard-issue statements on gun control.

We can do without it.  Is there anything being said now that hasn't been said a thousand times before? There is, however, something to do:  The Connecticut legislature should have the decency to reinstate the death penalty tomorrow morning.



He killed himself, Bill, in case you hadn't noticed. So there's no one to take vengeance on today. But don't let that stop you.

"He killed himself, Bill, in case you hadn't noticed."

Actually I had noticed, but that fact makes no difference to the point of my post -- if you hadn't noticed. Since it seems to have escaped you (or you pretend not to get it), the point is that a crime of this magnitude could wake up even the most naive or blase' Connecticut legislator to the fact that, contrary to what they might have thought after the grotesque Petite rape/murders, there actually is something even worse that can happen, and that therefore to permanently bar the death penalty NO MATTER WHAT THE FACTS is a foolish idea.

If you knew any law, you would understand that my post could not have been suggesting the DP for today's killer, even if he were alive, since tomorrow morning's (proposed) reinstatement of the death penalty would be ex post facto as to him.

"So there's no one to take vengeance on today."

I hope our readers will take note that the only basis you can perceive for the death penalty is "vengeance." The idea that it's justice just never gets through your skull. Only you take morality seriously or act in good faith. The people who disagree with you, albeit a large majority, must be rooted only in atavism.

Gosh, decencyevolves, how do you stand being so much more morally advanced?

"But don't let that stop you."

You need not worry on that score. I spent a career not letting apologists for the worst kind of behavior -- people who put on their ever-so-indignant, holier-than-thou front (but less publicly took fistfuls of money to defend mobsters) -- stop me. No matter how determined you are to walk past today's horror to regurgitate the same, tired "you-people-are-barbarians" baloney, you're not going to either.

Decencyevolves: And your next post is of a piece with this one; politicians should stop talking, while I spout off about my preferred criminal justice solution! And that goes double for gun control advocates! We all have our opinions I suppose. There are plenty of people who have foregone making substantial sums of money to defend indigent capital defendants and habeas petitioners, and I'm sure you'd be shocked to know that some of them are pretty commendable people. In that vision, if you haven't watched it, I would recommend Bryan Stevenson's exemplary lecture at TED. Here is the link:

1. This site is about criminal law issues, including the death penalty. It was about those issues before yesterday, it is today, and it will be for the future. When a grotesque murder, even by defense bar standards, gets committed, it is going to be discussed here. Something wrong with that, Sen. McCarthy?

2. Decencyevolves is not a politician, and, contrary to what you imply, I never suggested he or other longtime criminal law commenters should be silent. What I did say -- and you do not and could not deny -- is that politicians are grandstanding with a bunch of platitudes we've all heard before.

3. "There are plenty of people who have foregone making substantial sums of money to defend indigent capital defendants and habeas petitioners, and I'm sure you'd be shocked to know that some of them are pretty commendable people."

Then you'd be sure about something that isn't true. I would guess this happens to you quite a bit.

4. It's revealing that you, like decencyevolves, walk past the murders and concentrate your rage on those who disagree with your gushing solicitude for, as you put it, "indigent capital defendants" -- in other words, and to put away the fluffy legal characterizations, child killers.

Have at it. Yesterday's horror exposes the shortsightedness of Connectucut's death penalty abolition, so you people are furious. Fine. Go be furious. Some of us prefer thinking to emoting.

Im not furious, Bill, more amused at the knee jerk solution to this proposed by you, and your denunciation of conversation on the subject by others. If you really want to see thinking, rather than emoting, this conversation is the wrong place to see it. A much better and more thoughtful response is available at:

"Im not furious, Bill, more amused at the knee jerk solution to this proposed by you, and your denunciation of conversation on the subject by others."

1. Learn to read. I am not proposing the death penalty as a solution to this episode, since the killer has rendered himself unavailable, and it would be ex post facto in any event, as I have said. I am proposing it as just punishment that should be available to juries in the event of future mind-bending mass child murders -- an event we know is certain to occur.

The only "knee jerk solution" I'm seeing is the drumbeat for unspefified gun control, without any evidence that gun control, however defined, would have prevented these murders. Do you have such evidence?

2. Nor have I denounced a "conversation" by "others" -- that's just something you've concocted. What I have denounced is grandstanding PRNOUNCEMENTS by self-serving POLITICIANS. You do understand the difference between a pronouncement and a conversation, don't you? And the difference between grandstanding politicians and longtime practicioners of criminal law?

"If you really want to see thinking, rather than emoting, this conversation is the wrong place to see it."

Is anyone forcing you to read ths site? But for however that may be, had the killer survived, even the liberal press would not be able to suppress a discussion of the recent repeal of Connecticut's death penalty, and how that looks in light of yesterday's developments.

In California, Prop 34 had a fighting chance, and was gaining in the polls -- until the Aurora murders. It then plummeted, and never recovered. People wake up when reality strikes.

3. Just to try to return to substance: Is it your view that, had the killer survived and been found legally sane, the death penalty would have been an unjust punishment?

You argue that Connecticut is worse off because it lacks the death penalty. I don't agree, and don't think that the fact that this individual engaged in a mass shooting and then killed himself justifies the conclusion that the death penalty is wise policy. I've seen it at work, close up, and from my perspective, a life without parole sentence serves just as well, without the increased possibility of totally irremediable errors, at least cost, without having the state kill on behalf of its citizens. After tragedies like this, I generally feel that One more death isnt going to really help anyone, other than ambitious politicians.

I've seen life sentences handed out in horrific cases, and it doesnt make me grind my teeth in anger. For instance, I don't look at the life sentence Jared Loughner got as some sort of travesty of justice. I know Judy Clarke, who represented him, and she is a brilliant advocate and one of the most humane and decent people I know.

More and more, executions are becoming a Southern regional phenomenon. After trailing in the polls throughout most of the election season, Proposition 34 failed by a mere four points. Raising sale taxes was more popular with California voters than the death penalty. Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California, passed by the same margin four years ago, and we will see how long that lasts, if the Supreme Court ends up upholding it.

That's a bit of a change from 1978, when the Briggs initiate passed by a 42 vote margin, or 1986, when Rose Bird lost her election by 34 points and the voters removed Joseph Grodin and Cruz Reynoso from the California Supreme Court over the death penalty. New York, Illinois, Connecticut, New Mexico, have all gotten rid of the death penalty. The times, they are a changin'

| “I know Judy Clarke, who represented him, and she is a brilliant advocate and one of the most humane and decent people I know.” |
“But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.”

Were not Adolf Eichmann's attorneys, Robert Servatius and Dieter Wechtenbruch, at least more humane then their client?

So what? Does her decency make her cause just? Was Churchill more humane than Chamberlain, or was his judgment superior, and who saved more innocent lives?

Regardless of the alleged decency of Judy Clarke in other affairs, if she laboured to have a mass murderer found innocent due to a mental excuse, or to be housed for his life rather than to be executed, good judgment and humanity have escaped her


I have little patience for people who are unwilling to show mercy to individuals whose unmedicated schizophrenia challenged their basic contact with reality, and as you should know, Jared Loughner fits this description. http://www.examiner.com/article/jared-loughner-sentenced-to-life-prison-schizophrenia-diagnosis-a-factor

In Ford v. Wainwright, the Supreme Court noted that constitutional prohibitions on individuals deprived by mental illness of an understanding of the fact of their execution and the reasons for it are necessary to protect the dignity of society itself from the barbarity of exacting mindless vengeance. Imposing the death penalty on individuals not yet that far gone, who are losing their contact with reality due to psychotic illness, is nit much better. In my view, Ms. Clarke is enforcing principles of humanity that appear to have escaped you.

One other thoughts, Adamkis. Elie Wiesel, acclaimed author, human rights activist, Nobel Peace laureate and Holocaust survivor, spoke about his opposition to the death penalty during a lecture on capital punishment at Wesleyan University in Connecticut in October 2010. Wiesel, who lost both parents and a sister in the Nazi death camps, focused his remarks on family members of murder victims. He said that murderers should be punished more harshly than other prisoners and encouraged the criminal justice system to focus efforts on the survivors of violent crimes "so that families will not feel cheated by the law." "But," he said, "death is not the answer." He said that he might change his stance if the death penalty could bring back victims. He remarked, “I know the pain of those who survive. Believe me, I know… Your wound is open. It will remain. You are mourning, and how can I not feel the pain of your mourning? But death is not the answer.” Has Wiesel lost his humanity?

Do you have any evidence that Lanza was psychotic, or even that he had been seeing a psychiatrist?

If so, please post a link to it. If not, why the rush to minimize Lanza's blameworthiness?

The culture that has something to worry about is the culture that watches 20 of its six and seven year-olds get mowed down, and is then so flumoxed and paralyzed that it can't decide whether punishment is due.

The problem in Newtown, Connecticut is not that the law exacts "mindless vengeance." The problem is that it had a fellow who looked at little children and saw target practice. It is the society that tolerates such a person, not the society that punishes him, that is rightly accused of barbarism.

I'm not talking about Lanza, Bill. I am defending Judy Clarke from charges of bad judgment and lack of humanity by Adamkis because she had the temerity to defend Jared Loughner. She had neither.

I do not understand Adamakis to be attacking Ms. Clarke personally, but to be attacking the enterprise of providing help to those obviously guilty of the worst sort of crimes. Thus, Adamakis said of Ms. Clarke, "Does her decency make her cause just?" That is not an ad hominem question, and seems to me to acknowledge, rather than deny, her decency.

Of course, Ms. Clarke, whom I know slightly and like (who wouldn't?) is not the issue here. The issue concerns events and ideas, not persons. I therefore hope you will respond to these questions I have previously asked:

Do you have any evidence that Lanza was psychotic, or even that he had been seeing a psychiatrist?

If so, please post a link to it. If not, why the rush to minimize Lanza's blameworthiness?

More generally, do you think that a sentence of imprisonment, no matter what its length, is proportional to the planned, deliberate murder of 20 six and seven year-old children?

Listen whoever you are...no hard feelings. I have a Mom who is largely death penalty averse...
people of good conscience disagree...Perhaps I should not have addressed Clarke's character,
though you raised the topic. [& thanks to Bill Otis for his accurate defence].

The Elie Wiesel reference is valid but hardly definitive and easily countered inter alia:
1). Have you heard of the Ten Boons? Corrie's elderly father, sister, herself--though she survived Ravensbruck? Death Penalty supporters...

2) My step-father's 1st cousins, uncles, aunts, an unbelievable proportion of his German-Jewish
family gassed by Nazis! Why does he not "humane[ly]" oppose death for murderers?...

3)Why did nearly every relative of mine in Philly and NY and even step-family in Israel and Argentina support the death sentences of Nuremberg?

[Perhaps you could speak to the Greenberg/Rosenfeld side
of my family--chock full of decent people who favour the execution
of murderers.]

Need I go on,
or do you understand that all truths are
not germane to the matter at hand?

The death penalty is supported by American Holocaust survivors and
those with no relationship to the genocide alike;

Death Penalty Abolitionism is a policy which
is narrow-minded, unjust, and with exceptions, unsupported by Americans.


This is decency evolves and I have relatives who died in Dachau myself, so obviously there are Jews, like you and me, who fall on both sides of the issue. Your first response of course, proved Godwin's law of Nazi analogies, "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1." As Wikipedia noted in its discussion of the subject, "there is a tradition in many newsgroups and other Internet discussion forums that once such a comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever debate was in progress." The reason for this, is that comparing anything to Hitler or be Nazis pretty much ends rational debate. Perhaps we can agree that a person who enacts and enforces official policies that kill tens of millions of people is qualitatively different from a schizophrenic individual like Loughner going on a murderous rampage; perhaps not. If you feel I, or Elie Weisel for that matter, are narrow minded or unjust, thats your privilege.

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