Monday, October 29, 2007

Is the use of the death penalty ever appropriate?

This weekend, Russia's "Chessboard killer," a man who claimed to have been responsible for 60 murders (although he could only be indisputably convicted of 48 of them and 3 attempted ones) was sentenced to life in prison. Alexander Pichushkin murdered his victims in extremely gruesome ways. His usual method involved asking the victim to take a walk to a park with him, where they shared some alcohol, usually vodka. When the victim was at least partially intoxicated, Pichushkin bludgeoned them with a hammer and stuck the remains of the bottle of alcohol in their skull (at this point, the victim was usually still alive and then was left to die). Pichushkin earned his nickname by taking the cap to each bottle of vodka that he used to get his victims drunk and placing each on a separate square of a numbered chessboard.

Disgusting? Gruesome? Yes. Deserving of the death penalty? Russia says no. We've talked about how "civilized" countries have abolished the death penalty -- but when a serial killer who has killed at least 48 people (and probably more) clearly cannot EVER be rebahilitated or released back into society, wouldn't the use of the death penalty be appropriate? Opponents of the death penalty argue that prison is for rehabilitation, but I very much doubt the death penatly's opponents would feel safe and secure if this man was "rehabilitated" and then moved in next door. Furthermore, we keep hearing that "an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind," but there isn't there a point at which we should draw the line? How about "an eye for 48 pairs of eyes makes the world a safer place"?


Abby said...

The gruesome nature of the murders should not influence whether he receives the death penalty or not – should the punishment of a murderer who kills in a less gruesome fashion receive a less severe punishment? I don’t think that anyone, including Russia’s “Chessboard Killer,” should be subject to capital punishment. Alexander Pichushkin should obviously be punished severely – he should be imprisoned for life. The emphasis should not be on his rehabilitation, but on the protection of society. Sentencing a murderer to death is not a means of protecting society, nor is it an act of justice. It is murder on the part of the state acting on the primitive impulse of revenge. It would only degrade society as a whole by sending a message of violence and perpetuating a cycle of death. In his essay entitled “On Revenge,” Francis Bacon states, “Certainly, in taking Revenge, A Man is but even with his Enemy; But in passing it over, he is Superiour […].” In promoting government executions we are degrading ourselves to the level of a murderer.

rugbyplayr said...
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rugbyplayr said...

Of course a gruesome, mass murderer should be treated significantly more severely than someone who commits any other crime. The murderer of one person should be treated differently to the murderer of 48. I am not an advocate for the death penalty in all situations, but in a case like this, I have no objections to the use of the death penalty against him. What is the point of simply taking him off the streets and allowing him to die a peaceful death in jail. The purpose of jail is to at least attempt to rehabilitate the criminals but when there is not use doing so, like in the case of the "Chessboard Killer" instead of using tax-payers money to sustain him it should be used to take his life as a punishment for the lives he indiscriminately took. Some do say an eye for an eye makes the world blind, but this is hardly an eye for an eye, how about an eye for 48, as Jenn correctly stated, is that reasonable? I believe so!

jurisprudence said...

The death penalty issue is always very hard. I believe that prison isn't just for rehab it also serves revenge. In the American case for example the state says we will take revenge for you so that you don't have to become anarchical and seek revenge for yourself. I think humans wanting revenge and justice is part of human nature and I believe state seeks justice for people to maintain order, if you happen to be rehabilitated in the process good for you. I think prison serves multiple functions and can serve the function of rehab and punishment simultaneously.
That being said all prisons are different, you have max and min security. I doubt that the chessman killer will be living a cushy life playing on the net reading books and enjoying cable. Most likely he will be in a really tiny cell alone without any contact with anyone for 23 hrs a day and 1 hr of exercise. Before we decide how harshly the murderer is being punished we should have a fun understanding Russian prisons and what kind of life he will now have. Foreign prisons can be much harsher than American ones, think of Thai prisons or Chinese prisons.
Also one could argue that death is too easy and life in a harsh prison is much worse. Others say that murderers like this thrive in violent prisons because they like violence and thus death is more appropriate. For those that appeal to the financial side asserting that its cheaper to kill, that is not wholly true in the U.S. at least. Killing costs money too and so does his request for appeals that the state is paying for.

Abby said...

In response to rugbyplyr, the point of jail is not only to rehabilitate criminals. It also serves to punish them and remove them as a threat. When a murderer is kept behind bars we are safer than when he or she is executed because we are not perpetuating this cycle of violence and death. Additionally, Jurisprudence is correct: capital punishment in America is more costly than life imprisonment – and, even if it weren’t, it’s very, very sad to think that one would consider putting economic factors above human rights.

Also, rugbyplyr, how do you determine who can be rehabilitated and who cannot? If evil can exist as a result of situational pressures how can you determine which wrongdoers have the potential to reform?

Something certainly is being accomplished by executing murderers – people are achieving a sense of visceral satisfaction, but certainly not justice.

yrjb11 said...

Someone with a mind so evil to kill atleast 48 people most likely does not have the potential to be rehabilitated. However, I believe Alexander Pichushkin and other horrid perople should be sentenced to life imprisonments rather than capital punishment. Life is amazing and worth living, but living would not be such an amazing thing if you were locked behind bars under maximum security. Those with such malicious thoughts that they do not have a problem killing anybody (let alone atleast 48 people) may very well not be afraid of death. Giving someone like this the death penalty would give them the temporary brutal pain as they were dying. However, life in prison would guarentee pain for the rest of their life.
Additionally, the death penalty is not consistent sentence and is very circumstancial. This means most murderers are probably not thinking about receiving the death penalty. Therefore, the death penalty does not really serve as an intimidation method to deter murders from occurring. If you are turning to the death penalty as a method of revenge, life in prison can be just as harsh.