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Brain Scans Used In Murder Sentencing

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the innocent-as-a-dead-salmon dept.

The Courts 328

sciencehabit writes "For what may be the first time, fMRI scans of brain activity have been used as evidence in the sentencing phase of a murder trial. Defense lawyers for an Illinois man convicted of raping and killing a 10-year-old girl used the scans to argue that their client should be spared the death penalty because he has a brain disorder. Some experts say the scans are irrelevant because they were taken 20+ years after the crimes were committed. Others point out that the scans are only being considered because the sentencing phase of a trial has less stringent standards about evidence than those used to establish a defendant's innocence or guilt." In the Illinois case, the fMRI defense didn't help the defendant, whom a jury sentenced to death.

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OK slashdot. (1)

Icegryphon (715550) | more than 4 years ago | (#30220956)

Don't think about pink elephants or Fp's

Re:OK slashdot.Christmas gifts, see here. (-1, Offtopic)

coolforsale124 (1685626) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221054)

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Obamao is teh GAY!!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30221238)

He's bringing his Chicago game!

Re:OK slashdot. (4, Funny)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221138)

Err, what if he's thinking about Chewbacca? Might even get him acquitted.

Re:OK slashdot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30221782)

Err, what if he's thinking about Chewbacca? Might even get him acquitted.

That does not make sense.

Great defence! (4, Insightful)

Quasar1999 (520073) | more than 4 years ago | (#30220958)

If anything, it would help the jury decide to sentence him to death... obviously they're helping him by not letting him live, thus his horribly diseased brain won't make him suffer any longer... Really it's the humanitarian thing to do... :P

Re:Great defence!Christmas gift is here... (-1, Offtopic)

fytuyoiulhretryiyter (1685670) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221696)

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Re:Great defence! (5, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221764)

There are some specific cases where brain abnormality evidence seems like it would be very valuable to the defendant. This guy [ama-assn.org] for instance. Initially pretty normal. Gradually develops increasingly problematic sexual misbehavior. Just before being sent to jail, goes to the ER with a headache and neurological symptoms. They MRI him and chop out a huge tumor pressing on his frontal lobe. Sexual misbehavior stops.

Some time later, it starts up again. They check, and the tumor has partially regrown. Tumor is again resected, and patient is again fine.

In a case like that, there seems to be a compelling argument to be made that the defendant's behavior is a medical problem rather than a criminal one(and a treatable medical problem, not an "well, enjoy the secure ward for the rest of your life" medical problem). If, though, your plea is basically "But, but, this MRI shows exactly the part of my brain that makes me a violent shitbag..." That seems fairly useless to you(though it might be helpful in the long term, if it helps us figure out how to stop producing people like you). Obviously, with sufficient scientific knowledge, it will be possible to identify the anatomic basis of your behavior. So what?

Re:Great defence! (1, Troll)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221848)

Thanks to actions taken by Nazi Germany almost 70 years ago, eugenics is a dirty word in most of the world today. But, eugenics actually makes sense. If this fool is defective, then those defective genes should be flushed from the gene pool.

We have actually been practicing the reverse of eugenics. We assist congenitally deformed and defective infants to survive to adulthood, so that they can pass on their congenital conditions. It's admirable to accept Downs' syndrome children, for instance. As a society we invest huge amounts of resources to make their lives better, and more rewarding. But - what exactly do those children contribute to society? More faulty genes, of course.

I don't have the stomach to put all defective children out for the wolves to eat, like the Romans and the Spartans are claimed to have done. But, really, it's time we stopped working so very hard to ensure that every defective child matures to breeding age. It does nothing but weaken us, as a race. (I mean the "Human" race - I do NOT mean anything at all like the Nazi's, or white supremacists mean by "race".)

glenbeky? (-1, Troll)

nefertitian (1236008) | more than 4 years ago | (#30220984)

Glen Beck, Is that You?

In that case (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221048)

Keep him/her locked up for life then. After all, we do have "medical" evidence that proves they were and continue to be a threat to society. Under no circumstances should they be allows to mingle with the rest of society out in the open.

Capital Punishment (2, Interesting)

RichardJenkins (1362463) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221060)

Sure stops re-offending, not sure about a deterrent effect but I could buy it. I just don't think I have the stomach for it.

Re:Capital Punishment (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30221118)

Capital punishment can encourage heinous crimes. If a suspect has already committed a crime that warrants capital punishment, then that suspect will have nothing to lose by committing more crimes.

Re:Capital Punishment (5, Insightful)

LordNimon (85072) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221400)

If a suspect has already committed a crime that warrants life in prison without parole, then that suspect will have something to lose by committing more crimes.

Re:Capital Punishment (5, Insightful)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221404)

I could see that. Bank robbery goes wrong, accidentally kills someone, robber keeps killing because they've already crossed a line they didn't want to cross...

Even if you're wrong, it certainly seems that capital punishment does little to reduce crimes we currently deem worthy of capital punishment.

Re:Capital Punishment (2, Insightful)

Thinboy00 (1190815) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221692)

-1 Troll != -1 Disagree

Re:Capital Punishment (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221750)

Mod parent up. He makes a reasonable statement that is not trollish in anyway.

Re:Capital Punishment (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30221436)

OK, so outlaw capital punishment. Then we have a new problem.

Life imprisonment can encourage heinous crimes. If a suspect has already committed a crime that warrants life imprisonment, then that suspect will have nothing to lose by committing more crimes.

See where this is going?

I'm not in favor of capital punishment either, but your argument against it is specious.

Re:Capital Punishment (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221822)

That's a specious argument to make. Life imprisonment has already been shown to do just that, with or without the death penalty. The third strike tends to be much more violent than the previous two offenses.

Really what that's an argument for is bringing some degree of sanity to the whole process. Which can't really happen since a substantial portion of the populace defines the death penalty as the punishment for murder then says that somebody has been let off the hook if they don't get the death penalty, merely 80 years in prison.

Re:Capital Punishment (3, Interesting)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221444)

Capital punishment can encourage heinous crimes. If a suspect has already committed a crime that warrants capital punishment, then that suspect will have nothing to lose by committing more crimes.

I'm not convinced that most violent criminals are worried about what they have to lose. Take armed robbery for instance. People who hold up convenience stores rarely walk away with more than $100. For that marginal gain they are risking 10 to 20 years of their freedom, more if they used a weapon in the commission of their crime. No sane person could look at the risk to reward ratio of armed robbery and conclude that it's a worthwhile endeavor -- yet people still engage in such behavior.

I don't think the point of prison and/or the death penalty is to deter crime. Clearly neither one is effective at doing so. The point is to extract the debt that is owed to society for such behavior. The only method of payment for such debt is to require that you forfeit some of your limited time on this planet back to society.

In the case of the death penalty, if your crimes are heinous enough (treason, murder, kidnapping and rape should all qualify IMHO) then I don't see any problems with society putting you out of our collective misery. My only issue with the death penalty is the fact that no justice system is 100% perfect, although I'm not convinced that spending your entire life behind bars for a crime that you didn't commit is anymore humane than being executed for it.

Re:Capital Punishment (4, Informative)

evanbd (210358) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221532)

In the case of the death penalty, if your crimes are heinous enough (treason, murder, kidnapping and rape should all qualify IMHO) then I don't see any problems with society putting you out of our collective misery. My only issue with the death penalty is the fact that no justice system is 100% perfect, although I'm not convinced that spending your entire life behind bars for a crime that you didn't commit is anymore humane than being executed for it.

I tend to agree with you; however, the major reason I oppose the death penalty isn't that it's inhumane; it's that we make mistakes. Given an imperfect justice system (as all are), a life sentence made in error can be partially corrected later if new evidence comes to light. It's rare, but there have been a decent number of life sentences later reversed because of new evidence (in particular DNA evidence).

We owe it to the convicted to acknowledge that, in some cases, we make mistakes.

Re:Capital Punishment (3, Insightful)

Thinboy00 (1190815) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221742)

Hell yeah [wikipedia.org] !

Re:Capital Punishment (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30221802)

The thing about the life sentencing that is being reversed because of new evidence (in particular DNA evidence) is that the new evidence being used to show past mistakes is being used to prevent new ones.
 
I agree 100% that our justice system is way screwed up, in many ways because it is penalizing victims while defending repeat offenders. It is making it harder and harder to legally defend yourself, although this trend is being reversed. In those cases where there is NO question of guilt (Mt Hood anyone....) I say pop em off and be done with it. Innocent until proven guilty, but I figure a dozen witnesses, video footage, and being caught on the scene are enough to prove guilt even without a jury. (Not talking only about Mt Hood, there are plenty of cases where guilt is well known and already proven, but we still spend God knows how much "defending" them)
 
For the case at hand, I dont care if you were doped up, depressed, had a brain tumor, angry at your wife, were told by God or the monkeys in your closet, or just wanted to have fun. You did the crime, you pay for it. As someone earlier said, even knowning it was a mental condition, would it be humane to make him live the rest of his life as a crazy? Their victims are just as dead as if they were sane.

Re:Capital Punishment (1)

toastar (573882) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221910)

Mt hood, that's great....

Re:Capital Punishment (2, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221836)

Mistakes are an issue(and they aren't just mistakes, some of the "prosecutorial misconduct" that gets pulled is basically judicial murder).

What I would be very interested to see studied, though, is whether getting the death penalty, because of its high profile and controversial nature, actually improves the quality of representation, access to appeals, and the like. The ideal comparison would be between otherwise similar groups of inmates, some of whom got death, and some of whom got life or various long terms.

Does being on death row attract the attention of more useful advocates or greater judicial scrutiny than does a life sentence or very long fixed term?

Re:Capital Punishment (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30221560)

although I'm not convinced that spending your entire life behind bars for a crime that you didn't commit is anymore humane than being executed for it.

It's not, but if the mistake is discovered while you're still alive, something meaningful can be done about it (i.e. immediate release & compensation).

Re:Capital Punishment (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221606)

In the case of the death penalty, if your crimes are heinous enough (treason, murder, kidnapping and rape should all qualify IMHO) then I don't see any problems with society putting you out of our collective misery.

Gladiator fights. 100% voluntary for those sentenced to life or death. Tax the hell out of the seats and the pay-per-view revenue and we're set. It could be as simple as UFC without the ref, or we could have different classes with weapons. Winners would never be released into the public, but they'd get perks like cartons of smokes or a T.V. Big money-earning gladiators would have the possibility to downgrade their death sentences to life.

Also - tax and regulate marijuana and prostitution.

Re:Capital Punishment (1)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221634)

REHABILITATION!

I'm totally with you scro!

Re:Capital Punishment (1)

Urza9814 (883915) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221650)

My only issue with the death penalty is the fact that no justice system is 100% perfect, although I'm not convinced that spending your entire life behind bars for a crime that you didn't commit is anymore humane than being executed for it.

The question usually isn't people who we never discover are innocent - the question is those cases where we do. Look at Troy Davis - the only evidence against him was the testimony of 9 witnesses. 7 of those have since claimed that their testimony was coerced by the police, and several even implicated one of the remaining two witnesses as the true killer. Yet even after this was discovered he remains on death row. The Georgia courts have refused to examine this new evidence. Thankfully his case got national media attention and he has received several stays of execution, with the supreme court finally ordering a federal district court to reexamine his case. But not everyone gets so lucky. A significant percentage of people that we execute we discover after the fact that they are innocent. Sure, losing 40 years of your life for a crime you didn't commit is horrific, but it's a hell of a lot better than dying for it.

Re:Capital Punishment (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221700)

the only evidence against him was the testimony of 9 witnesses. 7 of those have since claimed that their testimony was coerced by the police, and several even implicated one of the remaining two witnesses as the true killer.

Why aren't those 7 people in prison for perjury?

Sure, losing 40 years of your life for a crime you didn't commit is horrific, but it's a hell of a lot better than dying for it.

I disagree. I'd rather be executed than spend that much time behind bars for a crime I didn't commit. In fact I'd probably off myself in prison if the state was unwilling to do it for me.

Re:Capital Punishment (1)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221866)

I'd rather be executed than spend that much time behind bars for a crime I didn't commit.

I concur, but there's a flaw in your reasoning none the less: not everyone would agree with us. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that most people would not agree and would rather continue to live even if it is living in prison.

In fact I'd probably off myself in prison if the state was unwilling to do it for me.

Same here. The difference is we would have made the choice die on our own--which is our right as human beings--not have someone do it for us.

Personally, I'm ambivalent about capital punishment. On one hand, I can see some logic in it. But as others here have already said, all criminal justice systems are inherently flawed; perhaps it would be wiser if we did not allow them to make irreversible decisions.

Re:Capital Punishment (1)

Urza9814 (883915) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221880)

Why aren't those 7 people in prison for perjury?

I don't know. I do know that several of them were unaware of what they were doing - the police said 'sign this or you're going to jail' to people who couldn't read to get them to sign testimony against Davis. Plus, the statute of limitation on perjury is only 5 years, and it's now been close to 20. I'm not sure when exactly they recanted their testimony, but I would imagine it was past the 5 year point.

Re:Capital Punishment (5, Insightful)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221664)

Incarceration is not for punishment or revenge; it serves 3 purposes to society:
1) Deterrent
2) Rehabilitation
3) Preventing the criminal from re-offending, at least for the time period they are incarcerated.
Of these, it can only be proven effective at accomplishing the 3rd purpose. People with a high probability of re-offending should be kept locked away indefinitely for the protection of others. Capital punishment is probably cheaper than keeping somebody in jail for the rest of their lives, but risking the execution of even 1 innocent person before they are exonerated is not a risk I'm willing to take. Finally, truly twisted criminals tend to not last very long in prison anyway; they are eventually given the Jeffery Dahlmer treatment where they are left alone with a lifer who hates them while the guards look the other way. Even cold blooded killers have no stomach for someone who rapes and kills little girls, and I probably wouldn't go out of my way to protect them from the rest of the prison population either.

Re:Capital Punishment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30221844)

Capital punishment is not cheaper than life incarceration. In fact is is several times more expensive, thanks to the long appeals process which is generally specially designed to prevent real appeals or new evidence from being considered, (well perhaps that is exaggerating, with the exception of the system in Texas which is in fact designed for that), among several other additional costs, such as attempting to revive any death row inmates who attempt to commit suicide, the additional costs for the higher security generally placed on death row inmates, the costs of building an maitaining a seperate part of the prison called death row.

Re:Capital Punishment (1)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221894)

Capital punishment is probably cheaper than keeping somebody in jail for the rest of their lives

Actually, it's not. Because of the series of appeals required in most states, it actually costs more to execute [deathpenaltyinfo.org] a prisoner than it does to keep them in prison for the rest of their life.

Re:Capital Punishment (2, Interesting)

my $anity 0 (917519) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221922)

It is more expensive in our society to dole out capital punishment as opposed to life inprisonment. This is due to the lengths which this drags out the appeals process. In order to be more certain innocent people aren't killed, we spend more to make sure we can kill the guilty. In a society where we don't care about the possibility of innocence, execution costs a bullet. Thankfully, we live in a society that attempts to be free and fair, but this means that capital punishment stops making sense.

Re:Capital Punishment (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30221698)

The point is to extract the debt that is owed to society for such behavior.

What in the name of hell is wrong with you? Prison is used for rehabilitation and/or to segregate dangerous elements, not to "extract the debt".

  • Prisons don't "extract debt", they COST money*. If it were about "extracting debt", they'd be closer to either paupers' prisons, or like slave camps (and although prisons do have workshops, they aren't turning a net profit - private prisons profit mainly by government contracts).
  • We're not barbarians (well, I'm not). Punishing people just to feel better about ourselves reeks of the sort of ignorance common in the middle ages and earlier.
  • it's called the Department of CORRECTIONS, not the Department of Extracting Debt.

Now, keep in mind before anyone gets all huffy about how this conflicts with their opinion on death penalty or whatever, this thought is in no way incongruous with the death penalty or life imprisonment or anything like that - remember, segregating dangerous elements and discouraging other criminals** is still a large part of what imprisonment should accomplish. In fact, this stance (which punishment nuts might think of as "weak"/"soft") is actually tougher in cases such as TFA - although he does not deserve punishment (assuming the brain scan can be regarded as accurate), the point is not to punish but to rehabilitate where possible and segregate where it isn't - and therefore this would have the criminal in TFA imprisoned.

*Yes, yes, prisons are managed by the government, and government wastes money like it's going out of fashion, and could never realistically be profitable, blah blah blah.

** You've argued that violent criminals are not deterred by punishment, but it's based an inherently flawed assumption - you cannot measure a negative; vis, you cannot measure how many people MIGHT have committed a crime but for the deterrent. You can compare to other similar jurisdictions opposing stances on the death penalty, but you cannot conclusively conclude that the reason for any differences in crime rate is the death penalty - there are far too many variables.

Re:Capital Punishment (4, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221942)

Anyone who claims that our prisons are rehabilitative are totally out of touch with reality. It is at least as accurate to say that petty criminals who find their way to prison get the opportunity to learn new and better ways of committing crime.

If we ever correct the serious disconnect between the idealists' vision of prison, and the reality of prison, then we MIGHT begin to correct the abortion we have today.

The United States has one of the highest per capita incarceration rates in the world. Those cells are built, and kept filled, more to keep revenue flowing throughout government and society, than to "rehabilitate" anyone. The prison system is so lucrative, private corporations are getting into the act.

Please, just drop the rehab crap. IF rehab is really a part of the prison system, it's so relatively unimportant that we can ignore it.

Re:Capital Punishment (1)

dissy (172727) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221724)

I don't think the point of prison and/or the death penalty is to deter crime. Clearly neither one is effective at doing so. The point is to extract the debt that is owed to society for such behavior. The only method of payment for such debt is to require that you forfeit some of your limited time on this planet back to society.

What type of payment are you expecting out of a dead person? Fly bait?

(Note that past here, 'you' doesn't mean you personally, it means those whom believe in that sort of punishment. I'll try to use the generic 'they' instead.)

That sounds just like the governments logic however.
For example, if you owe them some money, in order to get that money from you, they take away your right to drive (IE to get to the places that give you money for your time) and ban you from getting a job (IE the very places willing to give you money)
So logically, if you are not allowed to make any money, then you could only possibly pay your debt back faster! Oh wait...

No, such thoughts come from the revenge obsessed animal part of the brain. There is no logic placed to it, other than the minimal needed to not look like the illogical thoughts they really are.

Oh, and unless you are already 60+ when you are convicted, then 'SOME of your limited time on this planet' has been far far exceeded by putting someone to death.

There is also the detail of murdering innocent people which you touched on. A fraction (sadly, a rather large fraction, as far as fractions go) of wrongful convictions aren't discovered until later. In the case of death sentences, way too late.

Fortunately in this country, unless you plan on leaving it soon, it is not a matter of IF but a matter of WHEN you will be wrongfully arrested, or someone you know or love, who truly did not commit any crimes.
I suspect only then will people change their mind on how OK it is to put people to death, have them tortured and raped daily as a matter of course while laughing at it, on top of destroying the lives of everyone that knows that person.

I don't have an answer to the problem, but the issue is neither do they yet they are pushing for the wrong one just so they have an answer.

Re:Capital Punishment (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221766)

Maybe next time you should try reading my entire post before going off on a four paragraph rant. You might have noticed that I commented on the death penalty separately from the theory of paying back a debt to society.

Re:Capital Punishment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30221732)

In the case of the death penalty, if your crimes are heinous enough (treason, murder, kidnapping and rape should all qualify IMHO) then I don't see any problems with society putting you out of our collective misery.
 
I really like the way you put that. BTW, I am strongly in favor of capitol punishment.

Re:Capital Punishment (1)

izomiac (815208) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221526)

The same could be said about life without parole. What matters is that they reached the endpoint of what the law can do. Having an extra high-end punishment should actually help in that regard. Or at least it would if such extreme criminals were using logic at the time.

Example: a level 5 crime gets you life without parole, a level 7 crime warrants capital punishment. If someone commits a level 6 crime then without the death penalty they'd might as well go to level 10, whereas with the death penalty it'd be in their best interest to leave it at 6.

Re:Capital Punishment (1)

atheistmonk (1268392) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221912)

Kinda like getting five wanted stars in GTA and not caring about blowing everything up afterward.

Re:Capital Punishment (0, Troll)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221218)

I just don't think I have the stomach for it.

We wouldn't need capital punishment if we'd lock violent criminals up for the rest of their miserable lives. The vast majority of first-time murderers already had violent criminal records. Seems to me that if we kept them behind bars where they belong that we'd have a much lower murder rate.

Re:Capital Punishment (2, Interesting)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221452)

"We wouldn't need capital punishment if we'd lock violent criminals up for the rest of their miserable lives. The vast majority of first-time murderers already had violent criminal records. Seems to me that if we kept them behind bars where they belong that we'd have a much lower murder rate."

Nonsense. Complete and utter nonsense. Arguments like this are made by politicians only for the purpose of attracting stupid people.

It is nonsense because it will never, ever happen. The same people who cry out for prisons and law and order also scream for no new taxes. People will NEVER pay for the long term lockup of violent offenders. Hell, the USA already has one of the highest imprisonment rates among Western countries. The law and order folks will balk when it comes time to settle up the bill for increased imprisonment. It's all pure jive talk.

Get real.

Re:Capital Punishment (3, Interesting)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221472)

Actually, and I say this as a liberal lawyer who thinks prison should be rehabilitative, there is strong evidence to suggest that the plummeting murder rates in the latter half of the 90s were a result of longer prison sentences of violent offenders.

Re:Capital Punishment (4, Interesting)

hazem (472289) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221946)

I was just reading Freakonomics and they make the case that part of that decline was also because of Row vs. Wade and the greater availability of abortion. They say the evidence supports the idea that Row vs. Wade made abortion available to women in poverty and that their aborted children were among the group that would have been most likely to become violent criminals. They do quite a few comparisons between states that legalized abortion at different times and other factors to show this.

I'm not sure I accept it, but it's an interesting argument.

Re:Capital Punishment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30221506)

> the USA already has one of the highest imprisonment rates among the WORLD.

FTFY

Re:Capital Punishment (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221580)

We'd have plenty of room in the jails AND on the corrections budgets if we set our priorities straight and stopped locking up druggies.

We the people are quite justified in asking to have our cake and eat it too, because the chef wasted all the frosting making pretty sculptures instead of covering the cake.

Properly rationed our jails can hold plenty of people that NEED to be held.

Re:Capital Punishment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30221646)

A very large subset of that huge population is in jail for drug use. Now, I don't use drugs and think they are stupid to do, but locking someone up (and paying a ton for it) for smoking a few joints seems stupid to me.

If anyone is using drugs and drives I say we throw the book at them, which we don't even do right now with drunk drivers. Some guy who is getting his 13th DUI is far more of a danger to society than someone smoking stuff at home.

Re:Capital Punishment (4, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221674)

People will NEVER pay for the long term lockup of violent offenders

Stop spending ~$43,000 [yahoo.com] per prisoner to house them in Club Fed and revert prison to what it should be: Three square meals and the chance to break big rocks into little rocks. Stop locking up non-violent druggies (you'll note that I was talking about violent crimes in my previous post) and use the free space/money to lock up violent criminals that actually pose a threat to the rest of us.

A shoplifter deserves a shot at rehabilitation. An armed robber does not. Both sought unearned material gain -- but the latter was willing to threaten violence against his fellow human beings in order to obtain it. Once you demonstrate that you are willing to do that then I don't think you deserve to live among the rest of us. You are no better than a rapid dog and deserve to be treated accordingly.

Re:Capital Punishment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30221872)

Here here, my friend.

Stories like this [go.com] are far too common. For the most part, the cops and prosecutors are trying to do a good job, but it doesn't help when defense lawyers and judges just make the jails a turnstill.

Re:Capital Punishment (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221944)

Too bad one of those women didn't have a firearm. Might have ended differently.

Re:Capital Punishment (1)

jd (1658) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221556)

If you kept all the violent and really evil, sick, twisted people locked up, who would we have for lawyers? Politicians? Accountants? CEOs?!

The Huge Manatee!

Please, please, think of the scumbags!

(Seriously, I don't have any objection to people who need to be locked up being locked up. I do have an objection to that being the sole purpose of the legal system - people can change and it's fair to give them the means and opportunity even if they stay incarcerated. It also seems reasonable to give those who will be released the motive to try an alternative. Punishment alone never works and resentment is a great way to encourage people to think of other ways of being crappy to others.)

Re:Capital Punishment (1, Troll)

radtea (464814) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221296)

Sure stops re-offending,

Except in the all-too-common case when the Organs of the State kill the wrong person.

As for the deterrent effect: Texas has the death penalty and has for a long time, and the State of Texas is aggressive about killing people on Death Row. Texas has one of the highest murder rates in the US.

North Dakota does not have the death penalty, and as far as I know never has. It has one of the lowest murder rates in the US.

Anyone who is not batshit insane will look at those facts and ask, "What is it about North Dakota that keeps the murder rate so low, and what can we do to make Texas more like that?" Instead, ideological idiots distract everyone from the debate with their data-free imaginings.

Re:Capital Punishment (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30221346)

Short of the ability to alter the weather (Texas is a hot, humid, weather oppressive place to live), you're never going to turn Texas into North Dakota.

Re:Capital Punishment (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221748)

So that's what people mean when they say the weather is murderous.

Re:Capital Punishment (1)

The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221394)

Sure stops re-offending,

Except in the all-too-common case when the Organs of the State kill the wrong person.

As for the deterrent effect: Texas has the death penalty and has for a long time, and the State of Texas is aggressive about killing people on Death Row. Texas has one of the highest murder rates in the US.

North Dakota does not have the death penalty, and as far as I know never has. It has one of the lowest murder rates in the US.

Anyone who is not batshit insane will look at those facts and ask, "What is it about North Dakota that keeps the murder rate so low, and what can we do to make Texas more like that?" Instead, ideological idiots distract everyone from the debate with their data-free imaginings.

Texas has the second highest population of the US states and North Dakota is the second lowest.

Population of Texas: 24,326,974
Pop. of North Dakota: 641,481

So we should just execute 23.5 million people, or so, in Texas and the problem's solved. Oh, and maybe carve some presidents faces in a mountain or something in Mexico (since there's no state directly south of Texas) just for good measure.

Re:Capital Punishment (2, Insightful)

radtea (464814) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221570)

Texas has the second highest population of the US states and North Dakota is the second lowest.

Assuming for some reason that population plays a role in murder rate--which seems a little weird to me--the more reasonable solution would be to break Texas up into lots of little states, if you really think that the number of people who happen to fall inside an accidental political boundary is determinative of the murder rate therein.

If you're going to reify political boundaries in this way you're going to have to explain why the US as a whole doesn't have a higher murder rate than Texas: after all, it has a much higher population.

Re:Capital Punishment (1)

Thinboy00 (1190815) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221820)

Population density may make a difference, in which case artificially introduced boundaries won't change a thing.

Re:Capital Punishment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30221574)

Murder rate is typically per capita.

Re:Capital Punishment (1)

Falconhell (1289630) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221868)

It appears if you present a sensible well reasoned anti death penalty opinion today, you get modded down.

  Thats it I am not going to waste any more mod points on modding down coolforsale, I will kepp them to prevent these abuses of the moderation system.

Re:Capital Punishment (1)

Kral_Blbec (1201285) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221924)

Population density between Texas and North Dakota is hugely different. Sure Texas is huge, but they have major urban cities far far beyond anything in North Dakota. If you broke it down to counties and matched according to inhabitants per square mile, I'd wager that Texas and North Dakota would be very similar. The only exceptions being the big cities which would have no equivalent in North Dakota.

Re:Capital Punishment (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221318)

I just don't think I have the stomach for it.

You do realize that most execution methods don't require obesity as a factor, right? ;)

There was once a time when mere prison sentences would serve as a deterrent - getting chained to a straw-covered floor and being brutalized, underfed, and half-frozen tends to do that, and hard labor was usually thrown in for good measure. By the time you got out, you definitely did not want to get thrown back in. Executions were usually pretty ugly, and getting killed after sentencing was a swift near-certainty.

Nowadays? The two biggest things most convicts have to worry about are not angering the other cons, and not getting a horny cellmate. Otherwise, the system basically supports you for however long you're locked up. Even an execution can take years if not decades to arrive, and by then the condemned is likely so damned bored with life that he looks forward to it as a means of release.

So yeah - deterrence isn't so much a factor these days IMHO. I once supported capital punishment, since it seems to make the most sense (removed from society while at the same time incurring the minimum amount of expense). OTOH, the vindictive side of me prefers them to live on for years, forgotten by society, world+dog moving on, as they are driven slowly mad by the monotony of knowing they will amount to nothing, in spite of whatever brief notoriety they might have had.

Once in a blue moon they drag out ol' Charlie Manson and interview him... and every year he became less of an icon of fear, and more of a caricature or parody. In 1969, the citizens of LA feared him terribly. In 2009, he's just some crazy old nutjob that people crack jokes about, the majority not even bothering to think of him at all. And there isn't jack that he can do about it. That, especially to some fame-seeking crackpot, is the cruelest punishment of all, no?

Re:Capital Punishment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30221620)

(removed from society while at the same time incurring the minimum amount of expense)

Unless you operate your capital punishment without proper process, it actually costs more (over the whole length of the sentence) to execute someone than keep them in prison for life.

Re:Capital Punishment (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221668)

If it's your 10 year old daughter who is raped and murdered, you have more than the stomach for it. You have your own muscle and a sharp object.

Re:Capital Punishment (4, Informative)

Artifakt (700173) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221920)

The deterrent effect just doesn't happen. Looking at actual death penalty convictions, there's so few cases where the prisoner has shown any ability to imagine what their life might be like a mere six months down the road, they just aren't capable of thinking, "Ten years from now, if I do X, I could end up getting a lethal injection like that guy.".
          I don't see any way we could get the total time from arrest to execution down to six months in our legal system, and do anything remotely like justice. That's bad enough. But when so many of these cases can't even project six months ahead, any reasonable system of trial and punishment has zero deterrence.
        We have a case just finishing up in my area. Multiple defendants tried separately, for two murders with lots of additional nastiness like rape and torture. Going by what the two defendants convicted so far have said in the televised trial footage. if a program had come on the TV showing someone convicted of the exact crime they were planning, and how it took less than a week to get from the trial, to the graphically televised three day execution by slow torture, they would have still done it. You could have a 99.9% conviction rate and rotting heads on spikes on every street corner these idiots walked past, and they still wouldn't believe it was going to eventually happen to them.
        I'm not arguing for or against capital punishment, mind you, not taking a stand either way. I'm just saying a hope of deterrence shouldn't be why anyone decides to favor capital punishment, because the people who get it are just plain too stupid to deter.

Nature versus Nurture (2, Interesting)

reporter (666905) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221080)

In the United States, political correctness has concluded that all human behavior (in a "normal" person) is due to nurture and free will. To even hint that human behavior is due, in part, to genetics is taboo: it quickly leads to the conclusion that different races and ethnic groups can have different inclinations. This conclusion is forbidden.

So, brain scans of a criminal defendant will not carry any weight. If his environment (e. g., an abusive childhood) did not cause him to commit the crime, then he must have done it out of his own free will. Since he "freely and deliberately" committed the crime, then he shall be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

That is how American justice works. How does justice work in Europe?

Re:Nature versus Nurture (4, Insightful)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221136)

Let's assume, for a moment, that we have a murderer or rapist that does it because he's genetically wired to do it.

What then? Put him in a "special" place and do genetic "testing" on him? That doesn't sound so nice.

Let him go, because "he couldn't help it" and thus he is not culpable? Hm. That, from a protect-society standpoint, sounds incredibly stupid.

Re:Nature versus Nurture (1)

tristanreid (182859) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221282)

Well if "special place" is another word for "prison", then why not? I don't know where you got the genetic testing part, though. If the defendant chose to use his genetics as a defense, then yes, s/he will have to submit to testing to make that case. If it is found that the genetics defense is reasonable, then yes, I think the defendant should be able to plead for a less-harsh environment, as long as it can be shown that a future incidence is being prevented.

That last part isn't as tricky as you might think. We already have separate jails for white collar criminals, and they're sociopaths. Why not do the same thing for someone who honestly doesn't want to be a monster?

-t.

Re:Nature versus Nurture (1)

santiago (42242) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221384)

That's what Fritz Lang's classic film M is about. If you are mentally ill and commit crimes as a result, do you deserve leniency because you cannot help yourself, or do your deserve death because you cannot reform? (The ending is, admittedly, a bit of a Lady-and-the-Tiger cop-out.)

Re:Nature versus Nurture (1)

Burning1 (204959) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221934)

Let's assume, for a moment, that we have a murderer or rapist that does it because he's genetically wired to do it.

This seems to relate to the insanity clause, and the issue surrounding a retarded man put to death in Texas.

My understanding is that the insanity plea is usually used in places where it is believed that the perpetrator of a crime could either be cured meidcally, or would not repeat the crime, because the circumstances that caused them to become temporarily insane no longer exist.

For instance, before the murder of an abusive spouse could be considered an act of self defense, it could be argued that the abuse drove the murderer to a state of insanity, which resulted in the killing. Now that the abuse is removed, the person, with counseling, could lead a normal life, and would no longer pose a danger to society.

This case differs from the idea of someone being genetically pre-disposed to murder or rape in that the insanity is temporary, or can be cured.

In the case of a retarded person, the issue becomes one of intent. Was the mentally handicap person tricked or lead into performing a violent crime? Can it be shown that they didn't fully understand their actions? Perhaps some leniency is in order.

In the case of someone who lacks any sense of empathy and ethics, I believe that they genuinely need to be isolated from society. That is one of the main uses of the prison system.

Re:Nature versus Nurture (1)

tristanreid (182859) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221210)

Is that really the politically correct party line? I believe the socially liberal viewpoint is that
    a) capital punishment is wrong
    b) mental retardation is a defense
Both of which would say that a brain scan of a criminal defendant would indeed carry weight against the death penalty.

It sounds to me like you're using logic to extrapolate a political position. Your experience may vary, but I find that no existing political party is logically consistent, so you can't extrapolate.

Just my two cents,

-t.

Re:Nature versus Nurture (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221286)

In the United States, political correctness has concluded that all human behavior (in a "normal" person) is due to nurture and free will.

Funny, from my point of view political correctness has concluded just the opposite: that free will to commit reprehensible acts is a myth.

Re:Nature versus Nurture (1)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221490)

The current drive(pcness) says that society and social upbringing are the primary drivers behind a persons actions. Whether that be personal/parental/social/lack of fuzzy animals/etc. The general non-pcness is that you're responsible for your own actions unless you're criminally insane.

Re:Nature versus Nurture (1)

hamburger lady (218108) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221332)

that's idiotic. a great number of mental disorders have a genetic basis or predilection. this is well-known.

however, as far as i know there are no disorders or behaviours that are based on race or ethnicity. some ethnic groups or races have higher rates of certain disorders, but this fact isn't taboo. it too is quite well-known.

Re:Nature versus Nurture (1)

mano.m (1587187) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221412)

That is how American justice works. How does justice work in Europe?

We deport them to America and Australia in unlabelled shipping containers. Always have, always will.

Re:Nature versus Nurture (1)

rumblin'rabbit (711865) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221608)

In Canada, we put them out on the ice flows and let the polar bears pass sentence. Two mammals enter, one (fat) mammal leaves.

Psychic Justice (1)

rumblin'rabbit (711865) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221494)

If we are to have justice, concepts such as "free will" should be put aside. Beyond being satisfied that there is criminal intent, I don't care why someone did what they did or if they feel remorse or if they are likely to re-offend. Justice should not be an exercise in mind reading.

What is this MRI supposed to prove? That someone who raped and killed a 10-year-old child is abnormal? I already knew that. It's the act we should pass sentence on, not the mind.

Illinois- Death Penalty Without the Death (3, Interesting)

reverseengineer (580922) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221096)

I'm curious to see how this will turn out in terms of practice of the death penalty in Illinois. There has been a moratorium on executions since 1999- Illinois still has a "death row," as well as the facilities for lethal injections, but hasn't actually executed prisoners in some time.

Re:Illinois- Death Penalty Without the Death (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30221262)

Well I know I'm miserable when I'm waiting at the dentist's office and this can only be worse.

I'd imagine they get newer magazines though.

What exactly are you getting at with that crack? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30221428)

Are you some kind of anti-dentite?

A better title for the summary... (1)

GasparGMSwordsman (753396) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221124)

Pointless evidence completely ignored before convicted murderer sentenced to death...

If we want to talk about random stuff introduced into sentencing hearings, why don't we go for the truly interesting stuff. I am sure it wouldn't be to hard to find "evidence" of aliens or the Mob-Disney connection to the JFK assassination introduced in some trial.

Before we go insane thinking he'll be set free... (4, Insightful)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221146)

... bear in mind that when you get to sentencing for a capital crime, the options are not "death penalty" or "10-20 years with probation and time off for good behavior". Rather, it's "death penalty" or "life without parole".

You may now return to your previously-scheduled flame war.

Re:Before we go insane thinking he'll be set free. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30221792)

Correct. The difference is, if he is executed and then they discover evidence he didn't commit the crimes then an innocent man was murdered. Now, he may very well have done these things, but there are plenty of cases of people on death row who at the last moment before they were put down DNA evidence has saved them. That is why life without parole seems the more civilized option to me.

MS-NBC had this years ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30221168)

LAwyer tried to show defendant wasn't of sound mind because of brain scans that suggested to some crackpot lawyer that he was already insane.

Jury convicted him anyway.

1990? (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221178)

Did this happen in 1990, by any chance?

Re:1990? (-1, Troll)

mano.m (1587187) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221330)

Did this happen in 1990, by any chance?

I see where you're going with this, but Glenn Beck will only deny it. News at 9.

Re:1990? (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221426)

Yeah, but what about Bob Saget?

Re:1990? (-1, Troll)

radtea (464814) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221344)

Twenty years... sounds pretty close. I guess that some people, good people, honest people, might be out there wondering... "Who really did this terrible thing?" [obrag.org]

That'll show 'em! (1)

AP31R0N (723649) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221250)

Cool. This way they won't feel so bad when he's dead and evidence exonerates him. They can point to a brain scan and say "the dark/bright spot said he was sane/crazy". The jury can sleep soundly knowing they were misled by science and not at all responsible for an innocent person's death.

Re:That'll show 'em! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30221484)

No one is innocent, only potentially convicted for the wrong crime.

Glenn Beck? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30221360)

At first I thought this could have something to do with those Glenn Beck rumors (not that I believe them, but it is strange that he hasn't denied them), but then I got to this part:

fMRI scans of brain activity

Never mind.

Personally... (4, Insightful)

jd (1658) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221500)

I regard the death penalty as somewhat childish and immature. "If X can't be alive, then... then... Neither Can Yoooooo! So nyah!" The idea that it gives closure to anything seemed to get a kick in the nuts with the Beltway Sniper's execution. If you don't get closure when the other person doesn't cry, then I'm not sure it's "closure" you're looking for. Try looking up "schoolyard bully".

I'm also not keen on the way a lot of these trials are handled, especially the insanity stuff. A person being insane doesn't alter whether or not they did something, it merely alters their culpability. That should be obvious.

Ergo, it follows that insanity should not be a plea in the trial phase but confined strictly to that phase which deals with culpability, the sentencing.

However, I also disagree with this idea that there are two options - total all-out criminal insanity and total all-out sanity. For a start, it doesn't leave you with anywhere to put lawyers or politicians.

I would far prefer to see a system in which sanity is regarded as a sliding scale and where sentencing allows the judge to split the time between punishment, treatment and rehabilitation (as and where appropriate) according to what produces the best outcome overall, rather than according to what gives the weenies in the press box a vicarious thrill.

Obviously, if a person is going to be incarcerated forever, then rehabilitation to the point where the person would be safe outside is not terribly useful. On the other hand, it seems reasonable to assume that having them stew, rebel and resent is both less cost-effective and less mature than encouraging them to make effective use of their abilities.

Just because someone is sealed off from society doesn't mean society can't benefit from their mind - there's probably plenty of intellectuals and artists behind bars.

Ian Brady is probably one of the craziest crazies to be in Broadmoor, but his book on the way serial killers think, feel and act should certainly be at least browsed by psychiatrists and detectives for insights no rational mind could ever have produced. No matter how little value it really is, the chances are really good that it'll do more good than the British Police's DNA database and CCTV camera system.

I'd rather let a hundred cold-blooded killers live in jail and receive at least some respect as a person if it meant that just one of those hundred produced a masterpiece of art or a book that had significance than have all hundred die purely for the viewing pleasure of Weekend Warriors.

In a hundred years time, which makes the difference? Something that might only rarely advance humanity - but when it does, advance it a lot - or something that provides a momentary mental orgasm for a bunch of f'ed-up "witnesses" and some losers outside and that's it?

I don't see why I should pay taxes for someone getting off on watching another die, when I could be paying taxes to give those in prison a chance to do something positive and worthwhile.

Re:Personally... (4, Insightful)

dissy (172727) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221582)

I regard the death penalty as somewhat childish and immature. "If X can't be alive, then... then... Neither Can Yoooooo! So nyah!" The idea that it gives closure to anything seemed to get a kick in the nuts with the Beltway Sniper's execution. If you don't get closure when the other person doesn't cry, then I'm not sure it's "closure" you're looking for. Try looking up "schoolyard bully".

Well at least you fully understand the American justice system.

It is one thing and one thing only: Revenge

If the powers that be, and those that put them in power, even cared in the slightest about justice, stopping crime, and helping people, then our legal system would be turned on its head and look totally different.

Unfortunately this is what most people in America want however. Not justice, just revenge. Not lack of crime, just to create more crime to dish out more suffering. It satisfies both the animal rage instincts as well as gives a false sense of superior morality.

Re:Personally... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30221904)

Just when I think USA'ians cant be any more banal
they manage to take it a step further.

Re:Personally... (1)

SpinyNorman (33776) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221870)

I'll glad they're going to kill this worthless loser so my tax dollars arn't wasted feeding him in jail.

The death penalty serves two purposes:

1) Public safety - PERMANTENTLY makes sure sickos like this never do it again

2) Public vengeance - creates a lawful society by creating lawful just punishment for heinious crimes

I am shocked, shocked I say! (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221572)

A man that raped and killed a 10-year old has a brain disorder?!? And here I thought that was perfectly normal behavior than anybody was capable of! If anything, this only helps prove that they got the right guy -- anybody that would do something like that must have some sort of mental disorder! Unfortunately, drawing attention to this brings up the possibility of testing people for brain disorders and removing them from society before they commit heinous acts... which sounds like a great idea, until you are the one that tests positive.

Okay, now just re-focus. (2, Interesting)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221824)

I don't care to waste time on the three endless debates being revisited here. (Well, sort of revisited. It's such an old and tired set of problems that nobody here is even giving a full effort). Capital punishment, nature v.s. nurture, and the morality of punishing a natural-born killer.

Don't care. None of that will be solved here or today.

What I AM interested in is the use of medical technology to detect psychopathy in people. We have the technology right now. I want to see a reliable and open system of testing introduced so that we can filter people who are climbing power ladders. -We could have avoided the whole last ten years of bloodshed and economic ruin if we had a simple testing system in place for recognizing psychopaths. What we do with them after this is fodder for those endless debates, and that's fine. History will sort it out. I just think it would be nice if we stopped giving leadership roles to reptiles. You know, so we can stop living in a world where corruption and mass-murder are considered normal? That'd sure be nice.

I want to see this happen. I want to see this happen. I want to see this happen. It's my intention to live in a world where everybody wakes up.

-FL

So, you still have the death penalty... (1, Insightful)

AlgorithMan (937244) | more than 4 years ago | (#30221862)

So, you still have the death penalty...
fyi: the civilized world thinks you are bloodthirsty barbaric slaughterers... (which we also think for your gun-laws and your armed robbery of helpless countries)

the human life is the highest good there is so nobody - NOBODY (including the state) has the right to decide that someone deserves to die - even if that guy killed a lot of people.

I know this will cost me karma, but that can't stop me from telling the truth...
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