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Argument: Proportional justice risks justifying extreme punishment such as torture

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"Torture And Capital Punishment". 17 Mar. 2005 - Eugene Volokh, a blogging American law professor, has this post up, arguing that in some cases, capital punishment should take the form of of what I would call torture. This is simply insane. I willing to concede that there is at least an argument to be had about whether capital punishment is justified, and the infamous ticking bomb case does genuinely trouble me, even if it has no bearing on whether or not we should, in fact, legalize torture, because of the bizarre nature of the hypothetical. By all means, there are proper moral arguments involved in both cases seen separately, but once they are co-joined, the results are simply morally repugnant....


"Deliberately Painful Executions." Tabloid Edition. 19 Mar. 2005 - The major point that occurs to me concerns the very basis of what the Professor [Eugene Volokh] is putting forward. That for certain crimes death is not enough, there must be pain too. Which leads to the uncomfortable thought (in the Professor’s view of the world) that perhaps there are crimes which are so heinous that death itself is undeserved, that such evil was perpetrated that the release from pain by dying is not to be allowed. In essence, permanent torture, a daily or hourly application of pain, with medical treatment, food, refreshment and care, so that the infliction of it can be continued in the next hour, tomorrow, next month. A sentence handed down of a week’s torture before release from this world, a month, a year.

Ridiculous? Perhaps, but I can’t see the fault in the logic, if we accept that there are some crimes that deserve the death penalty, some worse ones which deserve a painful death, then there will be some that deserve a more painful death and so on ad infinitum until a Stalin or a Hitler must be kept alive so that we can inflict yet more pain.

As at the top, I don’t accept the contention that there are crimes that deserve the death penalty, so fortunately I don’t have to accept the latter part of the argument either.


Henry B. González, Congressman, San Antonio, Texas. - The empty echo of the death penalty asks for simple retribution. Proponents advocate that some crimes simply deserve death. This argument is ludicrous. If a murder deserves death, I ask you why then we do not burn the arsonist or rape the rapist? Our justice system does not provide for such punishments because society comprehends that it must be founded on principles different from those that it condemns. How can we condemn killing while condoning execution?[1]


Henry B. González, Congressman, San Antonio, Texas. - The empty echo of the death penalty asks for simple retribution. Proponents advocate that some crimes simply deserve death. This argument is ludicrous. If a murder deserves death, I ask you why then we do not burn the arsonist or rape the rapist? Our justice system does not provide for such punishments because society comprehends that it must be founded on principles different from those that it condemns. How can we condemn killing while condoning execution?[2]

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