Thursday, April 28, 2005

Death To A Traitor

Sgt. Hassan Akbar killed 2 officers and injured more than a dozen others in a grenade attack on an Army base in Kuwait leading up the Iraq War leg of the WOT. He was tried by a jury of 15 in a military trial and sentenced to death.
The 15-person jury deliberated seven hours after hearing a barely audible and unsworn statement from Akbar, who said he was sorry.
I hope he was sorry, because he committed a terrible crime against his own and his country. The description of his mercy plea doesn't sound very convincing though, does it?

My position on the death penalty is fairly simple. I have no problem with it in cases of murder or attempted murder where there is no doubt about guilt. Many people think that most convictions involving the death penalty are based on solid but possibly wrong evidence. There may be innocent people on death row, I don't know. I do not do criminal law by choice. I have several close associates that have worked death row cases from behind the bench, however. In Georgia, over 90% of the death row cases involve defendants who are "no doubt" guilty. They only try the case to try and prevent the death penalty. The real trial doesn't even start until after the guilty verdict. The defendants have typically admitted to the guilt and take the stand to mitigate the sentence. In these cases, the death penalty is fine by me.

In cases where guilt is denied and there is only circumstantial or eyewitness evidence, I would impose life without parole, even if I felt the evidence was strong enough to convict. A real public example would be the Scott Peterson trial. I think he did it. I think the jury was right to convict him of two murders. I would not have imposed the death penalty. He denied it, and the case was circumstantial. The evidence was very strong, but that case was not a no doubter. Life is the safer decision.

I wonder if the death penalty is as hard to complete in military court as it is in the civilian courts. This is one of those "no doubter" cases as far as guilt and innocence go. Thus, carry on.


At 10:15 PM, Blogger Pile On® said...

Legally how does one define the difference between beyond a reasonable doubt and no effing doubt whatsoever. The proposition seem a little dicey.

It is amazing how much better the site looks when you get rid of those rounded corner chingaderas. I don't understand why they design the templates with very little room for text and huge areas on the side. I am not long on words and before I expanded the text area a normal lenght post looked longer than War. Not War and Peace together, don't be silly, it's just a blog.

At 11:05 PM, Blogger DumbSwede said...

I have no great moral opposition to your stance on the Death Penalty, but I’m still against it.

Since one can never know with absolute certainty in all cases the guilt of the accused, the Death Penalty is inevitably used with an unavoidable degree of capriciousness. As long as the Death Penalty is an option, the innocent may also be put to death, and those deaths most likely end any further search for the truth (the justice system burying its mistakes). Despite your creation of a “No Doubter” category there will always be doubt and cases on the edge.

Still assuming one could know with certainty, and the case of this soldier probably passes this test, I would be against it for more practical reasons. In the case of terrorists (homegrown or not) you create martyrs for the cause. Should this man or Zacharias Moussoui be put to death, their deaths would be celebrated in radical Muslim circles and probably inspire other to take their place. While keeping them in prison might invite attempts to blackmail for their release, their deaths would more likely inspire what is seen in their supporters’ eyes as rightful retribution. I suspect if you took a poll as to the preference of gun toting radicals whether they would prefer life in jail or the death penalty they would enthusiastically vote for the death penalty and the speed with which it takes them to their rewards in Heaven. Granted this mind set might change after getting caught, but my point is the recruiting potential it has for those uncaught.

For an even more practical reason to give up the Death Penalty is the better footing it would put us on with those we consider allies and more clearly distance us morally from those we consider foes. Mexico will not extradite some criminals to the US because of the possible application of the Death Penalty, the same with many European nations. Many in the world see America as barbaric and backward because we haven’t given up the death penalty. Even if it is not barbaric, and I don’t think it is if you can guarantee certainty, it accomplishes so little in deterrence it is not worth the complications it creates in matters of international extradition.

We do not currently know all the factors that shape a human psyche. Who is to say a poor upbringing or some unseen congenital brain condition would not be mitigating factors in abrogating some of the blame. Still not to get all weepy liberal on you, but what is the point of the Death Penalty? Fairness, Revenge, Deterrence? The first is debatable, the second unworthy, the third proven again and again to be ineffective.

When you argue victims’ rights you are arguing revenge. That it may salve some emotional wounds I won’t deny. I for one don’t think you should kill people just to make people feel better.

Sure there are they that no doubt deserve to die. My arguments are about the complications and abuses that arise in the system when it is an option and the lack of cooperation it gets us when dealing with other nations.

I respect your opinion and reasons for it. I have no doubt you are a moral person. I have a different opinion, but unlike some shrill voices on my side of the debate, I can respect those on the other.

At 11:07 PM, Blogger KJ said...

Look, I'm not writing the law. I know how to apply the standard since it's my standard. And I do think the "no effing doubt whatsoever" standard is pretty easy to apply. Was he caught in the act; did he confess; did he lead the police to the effing body; did he put up a defense. If the answer to any of these are, respectively, yes, yes, yes and/or no, there is no effing doubt.

Helk, I gave you an example. Peterson denied it, put up a defense on the issue of guilt. No one saw him do it much less catch him at the scene in the act. There is some doubt - not reasonable doubt - but some doubt. This Hasan guy admitted it, confessed, appologized, sort of.

At 11:39 PM, Blogger KJ said...

My last comment was to Pile, not Dumswede, whose post crossed in the mail.

Dumswede, I too have no problem with your position.

I am very comfortable in the existence of the no doubter cases. My friends who have been involved in their trials don't debate the guilt or innocence of the accused in most (if not all, really) death penalty cases they worked. I also understand the martyr situation in cases like this one, though I do not think that such is a consideration in the average gang banger killing of a store owner or the child abduction/killings like have happened in Florida recently (another no doubter case there).

The issue beyond that is simply political. I think deterence does exist, though not as much as it would if the death penalty were actually carried out. It is only carried out regularly in Texas and Florida.

I'm not going to take to the streets over a killer getting life without parole. That is good enough. I do claim that a moral society can impose the death penalty, and it is certainly consitutional -- the Constitution says you can take "life, liberty or property" with due process of law.

It was nice to have you come by and comment. Please stop by again.

At 12:40 AM, Blogger DumbSwede said...

KJ, thanks for visiting in kind

Both your responses have been well reasoned and responsible. About the Death Tax, my closing statement about taking it all was meant in jest. I am all for people who have worked hard to pass along to their kids. It is the super wealthy I take umbrage with and believe an Estate Tax kicking in at a Million Dollars or possible more would have little impact on the small businesses and family farms you wish to preserve. I could be wrong and you make a good case.

The next time I update I will list your blog in my sidebar as a Friend of BNL.
Let me know if you would prefer not.

At 1:11 AM, Blogger KJ said...

That is fine BNL. I will reciprocate, though not tonight. I need to get to bed after I finish some work.

At 2:50 PM, Blogger Masked Menace© said...

I suspect if you took a poll as to the preference of gun toting radicals whether they would prefer life in jail or the death penalty they would enthusiastically vote for the death penalty and the speed with which it takes them to their rewards in Heaven. - Dumbswede

I can't speak to what most would want, but I just read where Moussoui just pleaded for life w/o parole instead of death.

At 7:46 PM, Anonymous PR said...

I think that Sgt Akbar and Mr Moussoui both ought to be hanged by the neck until they are dead.

Tape it.

Show it on Al Jazzera.

With this graphic in Arabic:

"This is what happens when you really piss us off."


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