Playing God in America

Truth, Justice, and the American Way. Is capital punishment what Superman had in mind?

New Jersey has joined the ranks of states banning the death penalty in favor of life without parole. According to

This is the first legislative abolition of the death penalty since it was reinstated in 1976. Iowa and West Virginia in 1965 were the last states to vote out capital punishment.

So where is California on the issue? Fun facts:

Death Penalty? Yes
Number of Executions Since 1976? 13
Number of Executions before 1976? 709
Current Death Row Population? 660
Women on Death Row? 15
Can a defendant get death for a felony in which s/he was not responsible for the murder? Yes
Method? Choice of Injection or Gas
How is the Sentence Determined? Jury

Should California follow suit and ban capital punishment?

Photo of Florida’s Idea of Justice

10 thoughts on “Playing God in America”

  1. What was that rap line?

    “Tookie helped kids so they took his life away but f%*n Charles Manson lives to walk another day…”

  2. Art, I wish it were that simple. Chuck baby did his murders during the period we had no death penalty. His actions were one of the arguing points to get it back. You can’t change the sentence with the law on that one.

  3. Actually Fraz I think the murders committed by the Manson followers were done when capital punishment was in force. Wasn’t it sometime shortly after their convictions that the death penalty was overturned, thus resulting in commutations to life sentences?

  4. Thanks will, I knew there was a wrinkle to it all. End result is that as much as some want him to fry he never will.

  5. I know Fraz, I just like quoting gangster rap on urbanist/real estate blogs. My goal is to get 10 lyrics down by the end of the year, I’m around 7 or 8 now.

  6. Execution is killing. Simple as that. The only reason it’s not murder is for the same reason waterboarding isn’t torture.

    Except waterboarding is torture, no matter what the prez says. A rose is a rose… and all that. So what do we do about executions?

    Lock them up and throw away the key. Hard labor for the belligerent, and the hole or supermax for the real assholes. But we don’t need state sanctioned killing. We’re better than that.

    For those who say that’s too expensive, I say we’re spending $13.7 million per hour in Iraq (never mind Afghanistan, and anywhere else). I’m not interested in sending the message that we desire death because it’s cost effective. That should be worth a few hours worth of war.

  7. Reading this headline and skimming comments reminds me of the usual differences in thought between “pro-life”/pro-death penalty believers vs. the “pro-choice”/anti-death penalty crowd.

    It may not be “murder” but there is far more legalized killing going on outside of the death penalty than within it. And, being simple-minded, it’s quantity that wins my attention and thus my concern.

  8. The Death Penalty, War, and Abortion are not the same topic. To mention one when discussing the other is really just a red herring tactic.

    Personally, I think there is an ethical problem with state-sponsored killing, but that’s just my own personal compass.

    Aside from that, the death penalty law in this country is TERRIBLE. Most of it was hastily written and a lot of it was written with politics in mind more than clarity. Say nothing of the fact that blacks and hispanics, per capita, are significantly more likely to get the death penalty.

    There’s also the issue of carrying out the execution. Because of the oath they take when they become licensed, medical doctors CAN’T be present during lethal injection. Instead, it is performed by someone entirely unqualified from a poorly-written manual that is 30 years old. Many executions are horrific; its not as easy as putting-down a dog. If you want botched execution stories, go here:

    Before 2002, 1 in every 10 men or women initially put on death row was later exonerated and found to be innocent. Those are just the one’s we’re able to catch. How many innocent men or women were killed because of a politically-motivated crime policy? Maybe 0, maybe 100. We’ll never know.

    Regardless of your ethical feelings on the death penalty, any sensible, rational, sane person has to agree that the system is woefully inadequate. There should be a federal moratorium on the death penalty until the system can be made humane and just.

  9. I disagree that the death penalty, war, and abortion are not of the same topic. OK, maybe they’re just the same subject and not the same topic. But the topic is “Playing God in America” which does make me think of killing in general, despite Mr. McShane’s attempt to police my thoughts.

    And I’m against killing in general; killing for fun in particular. Self-defense killing is fine in a cool Chuck Norris kind of way. Which makes the basics of war acceptable to me. The death penalty is a kind of self-defense. Though so is permanent incarceration. Whichever is less expensive (financially speaking) to society is the way to go. Abortion isn’t self-defense except in a few threatening instances (not financially speaking). Though abortion could be termed “Playing God” as could capital punishment.

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