‘I disagree with proponents of capital punishment for many practical and legal reasons’

by Aaron Wherry

Conservative backbencher Brent Rathgeber explains why he opposes the death penalty.

As with any socially controversial policy, individuals have varied and strongly held viewpoints.  As a result, I fear that a jury, comprised of several death penalty opponents, would be much less likely to convict knowing a Sentencing Judge had a death penalty option following that jury’s finding of guilt.  One can debate which is worse: finding an innocent man guilty or letting a guilty person be acquitted; suffice it to say both need to be minimized for the justice system to be just.

Moreover, I actually believe that in many instances, life in prison without any possibility of parole is actually a “stiffer” and therefore more appropriate sentence than sentencing a prisoner to death.  A libertarian, facing the prospects of spending the rest of his natural life behind bars, might instinctively prefer to reduce the actual time liberty is to be denied.

Stephen Harper said last year he believes “there are times” when the death penalty is appropriate, but that he has no plans to bring the issue forward.

The Canadian Election Study included the death penalty among its various questions about public policy and found the following responses.

Favour 37.8%
Oppose 51.3%
It depends 5.8%
Don’t know 4.1%




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‘I disagree with proponents of capital punishment for many practical and legal reasons’

  1. So 51% are onside, that’s good. Now we just have to work on the other 49%. Breakdowns are fairly similar on abortion and euthanasia.

    Unfortunately the people who believe in capital punishment often aren’t the people who are against abortion and euthanasia and vice versa. Pretty much everyone seems to agree that there are times when the killing of people is permissible. They just argue at which point between conception and natural death that killing is appropriate, and for what reasons. Which is really depressing.

    • yup. you and luka magnotta have the same value of life, you are just haggling over details.

      • That’s not only an offensive statement, it’s a profoundly stupid one. 51% of respondents OPPOSE capital punishment, as does Yanni.

        • Yes, in case I wasn’t clear, I oppose capital punishment. I hope for a future where human life is respected from conception to natural death as sacred.

          • Thanks for the clarification because on first read I thought you were pro CP. On this, I agree.

          • Perhaps not completely though, since I also oppose abortion and euthanasia, and I believe you support both of those things.

            I’m well… lumping you and your right wing pro-capital punishment enemies all into the same group as the culture of death.

          • If as you say, you want to work on the 49%, you might want to tone down the rhetoric.

          • There is no way to tone it down. My whole point is that your group is just as cold, ruthless and heartless as the pro-death penalty group is.

            Until you realise that, you’ll continue to think that your attitude is correct.

        • I accept an error was made here regarding Mr. Yanni’s position and tretract it as it applies to him.

  2. As vile as state sanctioned murder is, the it depends crowd should probably be added to the in favour crowd, because even those is favour don’t (usually) say it’s a punishment for everything.

  3. If the state is found responsible for the wrongful murder of one of its citizens, it delegitimizes the state and its laws prohibiting murder. Capital punishment is never worth the risk and its expensive as hell. Just ask the Americans.

    • Agreed. Though it is strange that people believe that we can institutionalise euthanasia without leading to similar wrongful deaths as capital punishment. You simply cannot institutionalise killing without killing people you didn’t mean to kill.

  4. I have always opposed capital punishment, but I can still agree with Harper (a very rare event) that it is sometimes appropriate. I oppose it not in principle, but in practice because, as we’ve seen over the years, our courts often convict the wrong people and the richer you are, the less likely you will ever face the death penalty. Also, in the case of someone like Russell Williams, chances are very remote that he would ever have co-operated with police or pleaded guilty if he faced execution. His trial would probably still be in process.

    • There are lots of scum who I would prefer not walk this earth with the rest of us, but I have read for years that juries would return way more “not guilties” if they were faced with sending people to death. And so more scummies would walk altogether.

      More than I think Paul Bernardo or Russell Williams should be put to death, I do believe Karla Homolka and Vince Li should have remained behind bars for life.

  5. Let’s ask murderers which is worse.

    LIFE: MUCH PREFFERRED OVER EXECUTION:
    99.7% of murderers tells us “Give me life, not execution”
    Dudley Sharp

    Since 1973, there have been about 50,000 murderers (1) who may have qualified for the death penalty, based upon post Furman laws. Only 0.3% of those volunteered for execution and were executed. The rest, 99.7%, have fought for life and against the death penalty/execution, using plea bargains, trials, appeals and commutation, in any fashion possible to avoid death.

    No surprise. Death is feared more than life. Life is preferred over death, not just with murderers, but for all of us.

    That’s a fact based review of which sanction murderers find to be more severe and just one of many uncontested examples of why executions are found to deter more than life (1).

    1) As of 2012, there have been about 8300 sent to death row since 1973. Of those, about 140, or 1.7%, have “volunteered” for execution. So far, 98.3% of those sent to death row prefer life over execution.

    No surprise. Death is feared more than life. Life is preferred over death, not just with murderers, but with all of us, save for the determined suicidal, or the profoundly physical suffering.

    Only about 1/3 of all death penalty cases that go to trial end with a death sentence; 2/3 of the defendants received sentences less than death, as they wanted.

    Even more death penalty eligible cases are plea bargained to sentences less than death, pre trial.

    2) THE DEATH PENALTY: SAVING MORE INNOCENT LIVES

    Of all endeavors that put innocents at risk, is there one with a better record of sparing innocent lives than the US death penalty? Unlikely.

    1) The Death Penalty: Saving More Innocent Lives
    http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2012/03/death-penalty-saving-more-innocent.html

    2) Innocents More At Risk Without Death Penalty
    http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2012/03/innocents-more-at-risk-without-death.html

  6. One can debate which is worse: finding an innocent man guilty or letting a guilty person be acquitted.”

    Sure, one CAN debate that, but is anyone still seriously doing so?

    Blackstone’s famous formulation that it is “better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer” is from the 1760s for Pete’s sake. I know from Wikipedia that Bismark and Pol Pot apparently disagreed, but is there really anyone out there (whom I should take seriously) who still sincerely argues against this well-established 250 year old principle of justice???

    • I suspect Vic Toews could breathe new life into the debate.

  7. In cases like Mike Duffy, innocence is pretty much beside the point.

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