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The Executioner

2

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  • Wibbs wrote: »
    Measured, not overly emotional, efficient, even detail obsessive, but compassionate in carrying out the duty of the court/society in as humane a way as possible(someone who can keep their mouth shut to the media a given). That's pretty much the standard by which the UK government selected for executioners back in the day.

    The compassion aspect seems to have been a consistent character trait among them. It's why the scientific approach to long drop hanging came about in the first place. To make the extinction of life as fast and painless as possible. The guillotine was again designed to be efficient and painless(though the jury is a little out there*) and the French executioners also used the compassion word when talking about their duties.

    It may be a cultural thing again though. The US culture seems much more geared to outright revenge, more medieval in its application of the death penalty, so the bravado can be more. Interestingly various methods of execution were tried the most in the US. New fangled electricity was thought to be scientific and painless(highly unlikely), the gas chamber another attempt to avoid "cruel and unusual punishment", yet it is both and took long enough to be removed from wider use, even when from the off it was seen to be grisly and extremely painful and distressing. The Islamic cultural vibe in Saudi Arabia prides itself on a speedy beheading(stoning is another thing entirely however), so pride is involved in the execution of that. The Chinese approach seems to be, at least from an outsider, one of expediency and efficiency.

    Could I do it? I dunno. Beyond bravado, I reckon I could in "hot blood". IE if the condemned had viciously murdered someone close to me, or I was up for the job of hanging Pol Pot or the like. That would be revenge type action though. In "cold blood", with a stranger and me as an arm of society? I really doubt I'd have the stomach for it TBH. Though I suspect the hot blooded action would be more likely to cause lasting mental and emotional damage. Being an arm of the state would allow some distance. If you look at the list of UK executioners, remarkably few retired because of emotional/mental strain and remarkably few, if any took any relish from the job. Clearly the selection process was a solid one.





    *the story of the "living head" experiment by a doctor that has some currency is utterly bogus mind you. Never happened. It couldn't have happened.

    The compassion argument is fascinating, because it always gets trotted out in these debates, but compassion always depends on the focus of victim identification and where it lies.

    We are to have compassion for the criminal when faced with the death penalty and his family and his children and his parents, and we cringe at the state carrying out such an act. Change the focus of victim identification to the horrendous crimes the convicted has committed, perhaps causing insurmountable grief to many other parents, children, etc, and the compassion for those victims as well as potential victims, suspends any compassion for the man hanged in the morning.

    Justice in a way is revenge, it's just more civilised.

    I know someone made a comparison to the military on this thread and in my opinion a relevant one. How could someone do this? How could someone be an executioner? The same way someone can shoot another human in war. They cut themselves off from that part of their humanity.




  • Absolam wrote: »
    Are you confusing medical professionals with Doctors? My understanding is that in the USA Doctors (or Physicians as they say) only certify the death; they don't participate in the execution for the very reason you mentioned; it violates their Hippocratic Oath.
    Overseeing, certifying, or even being present at an execution is a de facto violation of the hippocratic oath for a doctor. The American board of Anesthesiologists agrees. Whether you call them 'doctors' or 'medical professionals' doesn't detract from the fact that executions in the US have become medicalised.

    Regarding the alleged distinction between 'lawful death' and 'murder', I don't see how legalising the process somehow takes away the fact that it is cold-blooded murder. A group of individuals strap another individual down and kill him; dress the procedure up all you want, the fundamental act remains.




  • Valmont wrote: »
    Overseeing, certifying, or even being present at an execution is a de facto violation of the hippocratic oath for a doctor. The American board of Anesthesiologists agrees. Whether you call them 'doctors' or 'medical professionals' doesn't detract from the fact that executions in the US have become medicalised.

    Regarding the alleged distinction between 'lawful death' and 'murder', I don't see how legalising the process somehow takes away the fact that it is cold-blooded murder. A group of individuals strap another individual down and kill him; dress the procedure up all you want, the fundamental act remains.

    Exactly.

    Who is the criminal?




  • Valmont wrote: »
    Regarding the alleged distinction between 'lawful death' and 'murder', I don't see how legalising the process somehow takes away the fact that it is cold-blooded murder. A group of individuals strap another individual down and kill him; dress the procedure up all you want, the fundamental act remains.

    The fundamental act is the ending of another human beings life. This can happen in many ways not all of which are murder even if premeditated. If its legalised and as I said earlier seen as necessary with a clear benefit and not simply done for retribution then imo it may be justified and be done without a conflict of conscience. The current death penalties done for retribution I don't think are justifiable.

    I always get confused in this argument though when people say its murder regardless. As my understanding of the term "murder" is that its unlawful killing which cannot be justified under the law. So if it can be justified under the law I don't see it as murder, just homicide.
    diveout wrote: »
    Exactly.

    Who is the criminal?

    Whoever is guilty of committing a crime under the law. Which isn't the executioner.




  • The fundamental act is the ending of another human beings life. This can happen in many ways not all of which are murder even if premeditated. If its legalised and as I said earlier seen as necessary with a clear benefit and not simply done for retribution then imo it may be justified and be done without a conflict of conscience. The current death penalties done for retribution I don't think are justifiable.

    I always get confused in this argument though when people say its murder regardless. As my understanding of the term "murder" is that its unlawful killing which cannot be justified under the law. So if it can be justified under the law I don't see it as murder, just homicide.



    Whoever is guilty of committing a crime under the law. Which isn't the executioner.

    Legally yes, philosphically no. Consitutionally, probably not... as in "Life, Liberty.."

    The state does not have the philosophical or constitutional right to take the life of its citizens.


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  • diveout wrote: »
    Legally yes, philosphically no. Consitutionally, probably not... as in "Life, Liberty.."

    The state does not have the philosophical or constitutional right to take the life of its citizens.

    When you say philosophically though do you really mean "In my opinion" ?

    As for the constitution, life, liberty etc are rights with limits that do not absolve people from their responsibility for crimes they commit. You infringe on others rights by committing a crime and your own rights and freedom will be restricted in accordance with the law. The constitution itself is simply a legal document is it not ? And in some states one which allows for capital punishment.




  • When you say philosophically though do you really mean "In my opinion" ?

    As for the constitution, life, liberty etc are rights with limits that do not absolve people from their responsibility for crimes they commit. You infringe on others rights and your own will be restricted in accordance with the law.

    Murder is to kill without reason in philosophical and theological frameworks.

    Is the state arguing self defense when it executes its citizens? It's so premeditated that I can't see how the state actually has a defense.

    Life and liberty are unalienable rights according to the Constitution. They should at least be honest about it and admit they are entirely disregarding it.




  • diveout wrote: »
    Murder is to kill without reason in philosophical and theological frameworks.

    So its a subjective term then if it depends on the validity of the reason ?
    Is the state arguing self defense when it executes its citizens? It's so premeditated that I can't see how the state actually has a defense.

    The state doesn't have to argue self defence. In jurisdictions that have the death penalty, the execution is as valid as self defence. Self defence itself being a legal clause by which one can kill another human being without being held legally responsible for their death.
    Life and liberty are unalienable rights according to the Constitution. They should at least be honest about it and admit they are entirely disregarding it.

    Honest or not if they can disregard it without being in breach of the law then their right to do so is possibly more valid than the citizens rights to those "undeniable rights" after committing the crimes they committed. As I said the constitution is just a legal document, and those things you mention were written a long time ago. Just as with Ireland the constitution is not always relevant to how modern society actually works.




  • So its a subjective term then if it depends on the validity of the reason ?



    The state doesn't have to argue self defence. In jurisdictions that have the death penalty, the execution is as valid as self defence. Self defence itself being a legal clause by which one can kill another human being without being held legally responsible for their death.



    Honest or not if they can disregard it without being in breach of the law then their right to do so is possibly more valid than the citizens rights to those "undeniable rights" after committing the crimes they committed. As I said the constitution is just a legal document, and those things you mention were written a long time ago. Just as with Ireland the constitution is not always relevant to how modern society actually works.

    I foresee that one day, like slavery, this will be a huge black spot on the conciousness of the nation.




  • Valmont wrote: »
    Overseeing, certifying, or even being present at an execution is a de facto violation of the hippocratic oath for a doctor. The American board of Anesthesiologists agrees.
    I don't think I'd agree that certifying a death as a result of an execution is a violation of the oath. And since many States require doctors to be present to do just that, I'm guessiong those doctors also disagree with American board of Anestesiologists.
    Valmont wrote: »
    Whether you call them 'doctors' or 'medical professionals' doesn't detract from the fact that executions in the US have become medicalised.
    I suppose it depends on what you mean by 'medicalised'. Most executions no longer use electrocution or hanging, they use lethal injections. I suppose if you consider a lethal injection 'medical' then by that definition they have. I don't think it's such a bad thing either, considering the reasoning is that it is likely to cause less suffering.
    Valmont wrote: »
    Regarding the alleged distinction between 'lawful death' and 'murder', I don't see how legalising the process somehow takes away the fact that it is cold-blooded murder.
    Well, legalising it is the distinction; murder is a legal term for a particular kind of killing. Execution is a legal term for a different kind of killing.
    Valmont wrote: »
    A group of individuals strap another individual down and kill him; dress the procedure up all you want, the fundamental act remains.
    What's being dressed up? In one case the State sanctions the death of an individual, in the other case the State doesn't. I don't know why you think it's being dressed up, it seems pretty straightforward.


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  • I suppose I take a morally absolute approach to this issue. It is morally wrong in my opinion to kill someone who is not in the process of attempting to harm your person or property (the self-defence exception). I believe that all individuals, whether they work in Tesco or for the prison service and as far as they follow certain moral precepts, must apply them to all individuals, regardless of institutional affiliation. If they do not then they are guilty of hypocrisy. Trying to claim premeditated homicide is wrong for me and you but ok for the state because they had a law passed making it 'legal' is nothing but a double standard.




  • Valmont wrote: »
    I suppose I take a morally absolute approach to this issue. It is morally wrong in my opinion to kill someone who is not in the process of attempting to harm your person or property (the self-defence exception).
    The problem with that is morality is subjective; what is absolutely immoral to you may be absolutely moral to someone else.
    Valmont wrote: »
    I believe that all individuals, whether they work in Tesco or for the prison service and as far as they follow certain moral precepts, must apply them to all individuals, regardless of institutional affiliation. If they do not then they are guilty of hypocrisy.
    It is obviously hypocritical to claim to follow certain moral precepts and not follow them. But it is not at all hypocritical not to claim to follow them and therefore not abide by them.
    Valmont wrote: »
    Trying to claim premeditated homicide is wrong for me and you but ok for the state because they had a law passed making it 'legal' is nothing but a double standard.
    How so? The State has the right (and obligation) to sanction the death of an individual conferred on it by the will of the people; you and I do not have that right conferred on us. So there's no double standard, the single standard is the will of the people.




  • Absolam wrote: »
    The problem with that is morality is subjective; what is absolutely immoral to you may be absolutely moral to someone else.
    It is obviously hypocritical to claim to follow certain moral precepts and not follow them. But it is not at all hypocritical not to claim to follow them and therefore not abide by them.


    .

    You can't punish someone for taking a human life while doing so yourself.

    It's like spanking a child and telling them hitting is wrong.




  • diveout wrote: »
    You can't punish someone for taking a human life while doing so yourself. It's like spanking a child and telling them hitting is wrong.
    You can in fact do both, as is evidenced by the fact that both are done. And both may be effective, regardless of your opinion of their morality.




  • Absolam wrote: »
    You can in fact do both, as is evidenced by the fact that both are done. And both may be effective, regardless of your opinion of their morality.

    Yes because the death penalty has brought peace to America. :rolleyes:




  • diveout wrote: »
    Yes because the death penalty has brought peace to America. :rolleyes:
    Well, it assuredly prevented the murderers who were executed from murdering anyone else.




  • Absolam wrote: »
    Well, it assuredly prevented the murderers who were executed from murdering anyone else.

    All I can say is a government might start by leading by example.




  • Valmont wrote: »
    I suppose I take a morally absolute approach to this issue. It is morally wrong in my opinion to kill someone who is not in the process of attempting to harm your person or property (the self-defence exception). I believe that all individuals, whether they work in Tesco or for the prison service and as far as they follow certain moral precepts, must apply them to all individuals, regardless of institutional affiliation. If they do not then they are guilty of hypocrisy. Trying to claim premeditated homicide is wrong for me and you but ok for the state because they had a law passed making it 'legal' is nothing but a double standard.

    Is this the only issue you take that morally absolute approach to though ? Take for example incarceration. Is it wrong to lock someone up who was not in the process of attempting to harm you or your property where the last wrong doing they did could be some years previous ?

    In that situation are those responsible also not guilty of hypocrisy for imprisoning this person against their will, which is an act no average citizen can legally do ? Can a judicial system exist without certain individuals having power to do things with the authority that average people do not have including the ability to remove certain rights and freedoms from others as deemed necessary for the benefit of society as a whole ?

    If the issue with execution is that is removes rights that you believe under no circumstance should be removed is that then not just a matter of perspective of how far can the state go after you accept they have the right to cross that line of having the authority to do things no average individual has the authority to do ? Would that mean it may be an ever changing limit depending on the view at any particular time with the legality changing in accordance with the view of the morality rather than the legality determining the morality ?




  • diveout wrote: »
    All I can say is a government might start by leading by example.
    Surely they should start by governing?




  • Absolam wrote: »
    Surely they should start by governing?

    Well don't expect your population where we are all created equal and have a sense of entitlement that exists nowhere else in the world not to think they too can't also carry out executions and that premeditated violence is a solution to perceived injustice.


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  • diveout wrote: »
    Well don't expect your population where we are all created equal and have a sense of entitlement that exists nowhere else in the world not to think they too can't also carry out executions and that premeditated violence is a solution to perceived injustice.
    You are aware that capital punishment does currently exist in various countries which are not awash with the entire citizenry carrying out executions and using premeditated violence as a solution to perceived injustice?




  • diveout wrote: »
    Well don't expect your population where we are all created equal and have a sense of entitlement that exists nowhere else in the world not to think they too can't also carry out executions and that premeditated violence is a solution to perceived injustice.

    Perhaps the issue is retributive justice itself then ? Is that not just doing something to someone in payback for a crime when that something itself is not something anyone else can or should do to other people ?




  • Black Swan wrote: »
    Is this the essence of a moral dilemma (above) for the medical professional called upon to be The Executioner? Is the spirit and intent of medicine and its practitioners in contradiction with the premeditated killing of another human being? To what extent do persons enter medicine to be premeditated killers? Given this moral dilemma, how in good conscience can other people ask their medical professional to take on this burden for them: to be The Executioner?

    Part of the problem in discussing this issue is that we may be objectifying and distancing ourselves from the personal ramifications of asking another person to be The Executioner. I could not ask the medical professionals I know personally, and share friendships with, to be premeditated killers. Could you?

    That was my point with making registered voters do it. I would never ask someone else to run my gauntlet. And if this country wanted to start killing people with mental and social problems, they should understand just what they are doing and who is responsible.
    How can you be a conscientious objecter if you uphold this system of governance? The very system that would be killing sick or mentally ill people.
    I suppose just like with war, if a person opted out they would do prison time.
    In which case, pay an executioner a handsome fee and when they run out of voters afraid to do what they agreed to, then bring in the executioner.
    Or offer the job and handsome reward to a non voter a political outsider of sorts.

    I know I am being unrealistic. But we are living in a complete joke of a society. So my suggestions are aimed to fix the main issue,that of soecity through voting, distancing responsibility from the individual voters to the umbrella of government. If people were made responsible, we might actually see responsile decisions made and responsible voting.
    If a couple of thousand people have to be shocked awake by being forced to push the button, so be it.
    The people of Ireland are not carefull enough with their voting "power". It would be for their own sake.

    The problem with this, is responsibility. You can't atually keep government afloat and let citizens take responsibility. That's the whole foundations gone. Which is very interesting!
    If this happens to be the case, then should people without any sense of responsibility be allowed to vote? Have I created a paradox of sorts? lol

    What about oter methods of absollving responsibility?
    Maybe an island, where all these death row inmates can be sent to.
    No rules just throw the on a large island and let them hunt or die. That at least a fighting chance. Eventually it would be fullof cannibals I guess.. But the problem of being responsible for our decisions would be avoided somewhat :)




  • Perhaps the issue is retributive justice itself then ? Is that not just doing something to someone in payback for a crime when that something itself is not something anyone else can or should do to other people ?

    Yes that is retribution to me. The justice part dependent on society in theory(reality is different completely, when the government tells the masses what to think).
    And so I say, if society do not understand fully, the consequences of their gorvernments actions, they are not equipped to make that decision through voting.
    That's why to me, the only fair and logical conclusion is to make voters fully understand what it involves, before being allowed to pass off responsibility to another and still have the actions take place.

    I suppose that's why in movies, when an aggressor is doing something bad to an enemies loved one, they might force them to watch. To fully appreciate what is being done. The voters are the only ones legally propping up government decision. They should know what beast they have in power at any time. If the citizens are really the ones in power, then the citizens willbe fully aware of what the decisions result in.
    At the mmoment theyare not and the day they are fully responsible, is the day you don't need a government, in my opinion.

    I suppose then, in my view the executioners themselves, taking the work, could be seen as a bad parent, when lumped in with government decision.
    The hand of the government.
    Don't do as we do, do as we say....
    Making it easier for the tough decisions to be made, by taking responsibility in part away from society. They probably suffer a lot for that personally too, in most cases I guess anyway.
    I guess I see the executioner role as socially and morally irresponsible, in the long run.




  • Slightly off topic, but executioners seemed to have got paid a pittance.

    This account says that Albert Pierrepoint's fee for execution was £15, in 1956.
    Pierrepoint resigned over a disagreement about fees in 1956. He had driven to Strangeways on a bitterly cold day in January 1956 to hang Thomas Bancroft. He arrived at the prison only for Bancroft to be reprieved later in the afternoon. He claimed the full fee of £15,

    According to this website, if you adjust that for inflation, Pierrepoint was getting £343.41 per execution.

    There may be some uncertainty regarding the number of people that he executed, but let's assume that it's 400.

    In today's terms, that's £137,364, earned over a lifetime. (400 x £343.41)

    It's not enough money on which to live. However executioners were regarded, they were not well paid, and they must have had other jobs in order to survive. Albert Pierrepoint worked as a delivery man, and became a publican later on, after making some extra money, carrying out executions of war criminals in Germany.

    Back on topic, on Pierrepoint's personal views:
    "A condemned prisoner is entrusted to me, after decisions have been made which I cannot alter. He is a man, she is a woman who, the church says, still merits some mercy. The supreme mercy I can extend to them is to give them and sustain in them their dignity in dying and in death. The gentleness must remain." He would not tolerate anyone making macabre or lewd remarks or jokes about the body, and never did so himself, even in the convivial atmosphere of his pub.


    When his autobiography was published in 1974, it was the first time he had made his views on capital punishment public - a decade after its abolition. "If death were a deterrent, I might be expected to know. It is I who have faced them last, young men and girls, working men, grandmothers. I have been amazed to see the courage with which they take that walk into the unknown. It did not deter them then, and it had not deterred them when they committed what they were convicted for. All the men and women whom I have faced at that final moment convince me that in what I have done I have not prevented a single murder. And if death does not work to deter one person, it should not be held to deter any."
    Yet there is nothing he ever wrote suggesting that he felt any regret or remorse at the central role he had played; nor any explanation of why and when he had reached that startling conclusion. There are no indications that he found it morally difficult to try to reconcile his feelings about the efficacy of hanging with the job he did with such pride. He was capable of analysing his own contribution in a vacuum, divorced from the national debate on the larger issue. Perhaps he only discovered his intellectual objections to the death penalty long after he had ceased being the hangman; he does not tell us.


    If Pierrepoint felt any strong emotions about the people he executed, he did not admit to it. He showed no signs of being affected by, or indeed interested in, the details of the crimes committed by those whose lives he was to end; he seemed untouched by knowing that some of the men he had executed had been innocent - Timothy Evans, for instance. Others may have made a mistake; it was not his concern. Even when Pierrepoint tells the story of having to execute someone he knew - a regular customer and his singing partner at the pub, who had killed his girlfriend in a jealous frenzy - he expresses no particular sorrow, only satisfaction that he had made the condemned man's last few minutes more bearable by addressing him as a friend, by his nickname, Tish.




  • Maybe he eleviated the guilt of responsibility, by telling himself he did not make the judgement of death, but carried it out. A way of denying he was responsible for the death. Acting as the hand and blaming the head.

    He does seem to see the futility in death sentences as a solution.




  • Torakx wrote: »
    That was my point with making registered voters do it. <...> But the problem of being responsible for our decisions would be avoided somewhat :)
    Wouldn't the biggest problem with this be that most people in Ireland don't seem to want capital punishment?
    Torakx wrote: »
    Maybe he eleviated the guilt of responsibility, by telling himself he did not make the judgement of death, but carried it out. A way of denying he was responsible for the death. Acting as the hand and blaming the head.
    Maybe he felt that as the hand of the State, which is the embodiment of the will of the people, he shared collective responsibility with everyone who was a part of the State and was simply determined to fulfil his appointed task as humanely as possible?




  • Torakx wrote: »
    Maybe he eleviated the guilt of responsibility, by telling himself he did not make the judgement of death, but carried it out. A way of denying he was responsible for the death. Acting as the hand and blaming the head.

    He does seem to see the futility in death sentences as a solution.
    Maybe he rationalized things to himself in this way. I don't know a lot about the man.

    From reading a little about him, Pierrepoint took pride in his work and was regarded as being a quick and efficient hangman. Fred Leuchter (mentioned previously) was very concious of the need for efficient executions, in order to minimise the suffering of the prisoner. Perhaps Pierrepoint held a similar view, and reasoned that if he was not the one carrying out the executions, that the executions would be carried out less skilfully by some other person, thereby causing needless additional suffering to condemned prisoners.

    After all, the prisoner would have been sentenced to death by a court; somebody would have to execute him anyway. That being the case, it would stand to reason that a skilled executioner would be well placed to ensure the minimization of a condemned prisoner's suffering.

    Perhaps that is how he rationalized it.




  • Is this the only issue you take that morally absolute approach to though ? Take for example incarceration. Is it wrong to lock someone up who was not in the process of attempting to harm you or your property where the last wrong doing they did could be some years previous ?
    Yes, I think it may very well be wrong. However, minus our machinery for justice there would have to be some other consensual system in place. Perhaps along the lines of a contract for living in a certain city stipulating your acceptance of the fact that you may be locked up for x, y, or z.


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  • Valmont wrote: »
    Yes, I think it may very well be wrong. However, minus our machinery for justice there would have to be some other consensual system in place. Perhaps along the lines of a contract for living in a certain city stipulating your acceptance of the fact that you may be locked up for x, y, or z.

    I wonder is such a contract already implied on some level simply by living in any given state. The state itself is already obligated to protect you and provide you access to certain services and opportunities. Therefore as an individual choosing to live in that state it can also be inferred that you accept that you must in turn live within the law and agree to the states authority over you and their ability to hold you accountable for any breaches of the law.


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