Dancing Around the Death Penalty

My TIME.com column today on the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the death penalty:

Image

Is this man sufficiently “executable”?

Central casting couldn’t produce a better illustration of what’s wrong with the death penalty than Marvin Wilson, the 53-year-old Texan with an IQ of 61 who is (barring an unforeseen stay) scheduled for execution this evening. With the mental age of a 6-year-old, he reportedly had trouble mastering basic self-care skills like tying his shoes and counting change. His alleged role in the kidnapping and murder of police drug informant Jerry Williams was always unclear; no evidence or eyewitness reports directly linked him to the murder, and his alleged co-conspirator, Terry Lewis, escaped with a life sentence (with parole) when his wife testified that Wilson had confessed the crime to her.

Yet, the focus on extreme cases like Wilson’s — and whether he is legally and somehow “legitimately” executable despite his mental incapacity — prevents us from facing a larger truth that all state-sanctioned executions are a shameful relic of a bygone era along with the burning of witches and the use of child labor in mines…

Read more: http://ideas.time.com/2012/08/07/dancing-around-the-death-penalty/#ixzz22s6ZQDGN

About ErikaChristakis

Yale Lecturer in early childhood education/Licensed teacher/Former preschool director and Harvard College house master/some-time journalist. In possession of: unmarketable bachelor’s degree (Harvard, anthropology), semi-marketable graduate degrees (public health, education…). Rewarding career at the intersection of family, society, and schools (including long stint in parenting vortex). Forging a new path to connect all of the above.
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14 Responses to Dancing Around the Death Penalty

  1. Sharon Kass says:

    You show no familiarity with the main reason for punishment–retribution.

    Much careful writing has been published on this subject. Why don’t you read some?

    • Thanks for the tip but I’m already quite familiar! You might try Dan Gilbert’s, The Paradoxical Consequences of Revenge:

      http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~dtg/CARLSMITH,%20WILSON,%20&%20GILBERT%20(2008).pdf

      Gilbert is one of the world’s authorities on human behavior and, specifically, what makes people happy. One of the main reasons people generally feel worse after enacting retributive punishment is because they continue to think about the person who has wronged them.

      • dudley sharp says:

        Just retribution and revenge are very differnt.

        Just restirbution is based upon sanctions which are just, appropriate and proportional to the crime and enforced within a criminal justice system controlled by due process.

        Revenge has none of those characteristics.

        “The Death Penalty: Neither Hatred nor Revenge”

        http://homicidesurvivors.com/2009/07/20/the-death-penalty-neither-hatred-nor-revenge.aspx

      • dudley sharp says:

        Erika:

        There are distinct differences, both morally and factually, between revenge and just retribution with due process. Revege and justice really are different.

        Folks support the death penalty for the same reasons they support any sanction, that being they find them appropriate, proportional and just for the crime committed.

  2. dudley sharp says:

    All indications in Wilson’s life are that he is not mentally retarded, as the tests confirm.

    “The following evidence was presented in two hearings during the state habeas proceedings.”

    “Wilson presented school and prison training records, including standardized testing results. Five I.Q. scores are reflected in those reports. The first I.Q. test, the Lorge-Thorndike, was administered by Wilson’s school when he was approximately 13 years old. Wilson’s full-scale score on this test was 73. At age 29, Wilson was given an I.Q. test by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and scored 75. In April 2006, when Wilson was 46 and during the post-conviction proceedings, Wilson scored 61 on the WAIS III I.Q.”

    “Case: 09-70022 Document: 00511667534 Page: 10 Date Filed: 11/16/2011 test. On further testing by the defense, Wilson scored 75 on the Raven Standard Progressive Matrices and 79 on the TONI-II I.Q. tests. A score of 70 or below supports a finding of mental retardation. ”

    from

    http://federal-circuits.vlex.com/vid/marvin-wilson-rick-thaler-director-332585578

  3. Hear hear! I’m with you. Why do we kill people who kill people to show that killing people is wrong? Thanks for highlighting this important issue.

  4. dudley sharp says:

    My posts that have been held in the comment que have not been posted. Can you tell me why?

  5. I bet I know why. Mr. Sharp, you have too much time on your hands. Think of the good you could do if you would give up chasing every single writer who posts something that is against the death penalty. You could teach a kid to read. Or become a pen pal to someone on death row. You spend too much time combating something when you could use your time more wisely for the greater good of our society.

    • dudley sharp says:

      How do you know I don’t do that?

      Plus. truth and justice matter, a great deal.

      If Erika would make the effort to fact check, before she wrote, it would be helpful. Also, her blocking corrective posts is counterproductive.

      Maybe you could instruct her?

      • This is her own personal blog. She has every right to post or delete comments as she chooses. If I remember correctly, you tend to high jack threads and post too many links to your own writing. Start your own blog. Maybe you can write about all your humanitarian endeavors and encourage others to join you.

      • dudley sharp says:

        Pamela:

        I never questioned her ability to run her blog in any fashion she wishes. I am grateful to her that she has allowed me to post, which I only do at her discretion.

        All I did was publically challenge her withholding posts which correct her work, somethining that she is free to block, even though I think it contradicts her stated purpose of her own blog.

        As the death penalty represents justice and does save innocent lives, I am encouraged that 80% in the US support its enforcement.

        I try to set the reocor dstraight, as I have done here. When there is more disinformation, it takes longer to correct. I like to provide links which factualkly back up my claims, as well. Very Simple.

      • dudley sharp says:

        Pamela:

        I never questioned her ability to run her blog in any fashion she wishes. I am grateful to her that she has allowed me to post, which I only do at her discretion, as with any blog.

        All I did was publically challenge her withholding posts which correct her work, somethining that she is free to block, even though I think it contradicts her stated purpose of her own blog.

        As the death penalty represents justice and does save innocent lives, I am encouraged that 80% in the US support its enforcement.

        I try to set the reocor dstraight, as I have done here. When there is more disinformation, it takes longer to correct. I like to provide links which factualkly back up my claims, as well. Very Simple.

      • I want to expand on Pamela’s remarks. I deleted some of Mr. Sharp’s posts because I felt that he was undermining the purpose of my personal blog, which is to serve as a repository for my thoughts and writing. I have always wanted to encourage comments but Mr. Sharp has really pushed the limits of what I think a healthy comments section should be on a personal blog like mine. My blog covers both serious and playful subject matter; it’s not a forum exclusively or even primarily for capital punishment debate. Mr. Sharp has hijacked it for his own agenda, and I think that is discouraging to others who might want to comment. It also gives the false impression that I am engaged in a robust and honest dialogue with him. It was never my intention to engage in an ongoing fake-dialogue with a stranger who wants to harass and accuse me, chronically, publicly, and anonymously (both at TIME and here). It’s my blog and, as Pamela says, that’s my prerogative. I’m not suppressing Mr. Sharp’s ‘facts’ because he has offered none that are persuasive to me. But that’s beside the point. I gave him a platform for his accusations and disagreements. Now we’re done. He should create his own blog about the death penalty where he can post whatever he wants. Going forward, I will not post further commentary from Mr. Sharp about the death penalty. He can continue to add to his already voluminous commentary at TIME.com, of course, since I do not moderate those posts.

        Thanks to all who read my blog -whether or not you agree with my ideas.

      • dudley sharp says:

        I never post anonymously.

        You’re welcome and thank you for allowing me to post.

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