August 24, 2007

Child Rapist-Murderer John Couey Loses By Eight

couey 

 

Here's an example of what I've been talking about.

I'll spare you the details, but John Couey is found guilty of kidnapping, raping, then burying alive, 9 year old Jessica Lunsford.  Here's the part relevant to our disussion: defense attoneys said Couey could not be executed because he was mentally retarded-- his IQ was tested by the defense at 64.  (They even let him color with crayons during trial.)

But, and I'm quoting:

Circuit Judge Ric Howard in Citrus County ruled that the most credible intelligence exam rated Couey's IQ at 78, slightly above the 70 level generally considered retarded.

That's it, people.  8 points.   We may not agree whether the death penalty is good or bad, but can we at least agree that decisions of life or death shouldn't come down to, well, how stupid you are? 







Comments

(I'm against the death pena... (Below threshold)

August 26, 2007 6:10 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

(I'm against the death penalty completely so I'll ignore that part of your post and simply ask a question.) How stupid is IQ 78? If we told the guy that if he ever raped and killed another person, unicorns would come and eat his scrotum, would he believe us?

Alone's response: you missed my point. I'm against the death penalty also (I think), but the point is that it makes no sense that someone should be exempt from the death penalty just because his IQ falls below 70. If you want to abolish the death penalty, by all means go ahead and abolish it. But don't do this. If it helps conceptualize it, think of it like this: if his IQ is 78 not 64, then it is ok to kill him?

IQ 78 is basically unskilled laborer: janitor, construction worker, etc.

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If we agree that the death ... (Below threshold)

August 26, 2007 10:14 PM | Posted by Gianna: | Reply

If we agree that the death penalty is wrong then how stupid you are becomes a moot point.

Alone's response: no, it becomes even more relevant. If the death penalty is wrong, then why is it ok to execute smart people? (I'm exaggerating to make a point.)

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I prefer this angle: A lot ... (Below threshold)

August 27, 2007 12:23 AM | Posted by Whatever: | Reply

I prefer this angle: A lot of people are "stupid" but don't do this kind of stuff. Just like a lot of people are very intelligent but they still do crimes.

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How can anyone be against t... (Below threshold)

August 29, 2007 8:19 AM | Posted by Steve: | Reply

How can anyone be against the death penalty in light of this tragic case? Could you really say that to the faces of Jessica's parents? Seems like it is so fashionable these days to be against the death penalty, but what would be the appropriate penalty for someone like Couey?

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While making no judgement o... (Below threshold)

August 29, 2007 11:41 AM | Posted by Obdulantist: | Reply

While making no judgement on the particular case you present, my answer to your question would be that presumably because as we slide down the 'intelligence' scale, we come to a point (admittedly not easily definable) at which the person does not understand that what they did was wrong, and why it was so, and hence were unable to exercise proper 'moral' judgement and self-restraint. Imposing on them conventional notions of criminal culpability has no intrinsic or practical meaning or benefit.

For what it is worth, I am opposed to the death penalty because inevitably imperfect human legal systems make mistakes, and hence will end up executing innocent people, which is the worst possible outcome.

Alone's response: the fact that this is the death penalty is a distraction to the core issues: a) are the "less intelligent" (happy now, G?) less responsible for their crimes EVEN IF THEY HAVE FULL UNDERSTANDING THAT THEIR CRIMES ARE WRONG, AND HAD FULL CONTROL OVER THEIR BEHAVIOR-- in other words, are the less intelligent ALWAYS AND BY DEFINITION less responsible for their actions; b) should society care why you performed an action, or merely what the consequence of that action is on society? Because if you think a) is true, then you are saying that the less intelligent have less responsibility and therefore fewer rights as well; execution is off the table, but perhaps sterilization is not? And b) is at the heart of the political question: if society is really an artificial CONTRACT that somewhat limits freedoms in return for safety and equalization of rights, does it matter why you chose to disrupt that society, only that you must be dealt with?

So to your (Obdulantist)'s point, you are correct in framing the question. What I am asking is not whether you are correct-- that's for later-- but whether why you did something in society is more important than whether you might do it again, etc.

No one ever asks you why you got married. they only ask why you got divorced.

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I am a death penalty suppor... (Below threshold)

August 29, 2007 2:42 PM | Posted by Erica: | Reply

I am a death penalty supporter, so talking about it doesn't really bother me. However, what I tend to take away is what the last commenter alluded to: just because you're stupid doesn't mean you're not dangerous.

Death penalty aside, I think that he's proved that whatever his IQ, Mensa or turnip, he is not safe to run loose in the general population with the rest of us who don't bury little girls alive in our back yards.

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Whatever wrote A lot of ... (Below threshold)

August 29, 2007 6:48 PM | Posted by Devon: | Reply

Whatever wrote A lot of people are "stupid" but don't do this kind of stuff. Just like a lot of people are very intelligent but they still do crimes.

The moral axis and intelligence axis are not aligned, obviously. That said, having an arbitrary IQ cut-off for the death penalty is strange beyond explanation. If the courts determine that a person is a danger to society, shouldn't that be enough?

Alone's response: RIGHT. Or, put another way, if low IQ makes you less culpable, should high IQ make you more culpable, put you at a higher standard? So, if I'm a genius, should I get punished more severely if I run a red light then the average guy?

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no, it becomes even mor... (Below threshold)

August 29, 2007 9:50 PM | Posted by Gianna: | Reply

no, it becomes even more relevant. If the death penalty is wrong, then why is it ok to execute smart people? (I'm exaggerating to make a point.

This is ridiculous smart people, stupid people--no one should be executed. I maintain--being stupid is a moot point. And it's also an offensive way to talk about people with lower IQ's.

Alone's response: It's ok, I'm not offended.

But as to the point: if execution is wrong, then it should be wrong for everyone, not just for certain people-- using an arbitrary cutoff, rendered even more meaningless by the multiple tests and possible scoring systems, then issues of test bias, etc. In other words, there are two questions: should the mentally retarded get an exemption to execution that the not mentally retarded are not entitled to; and is an IQ of 64 really any different than an IQ of 78?

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I forgot to add: If it's ok... (Below threshold)

August 30, 2007 10:16 AM | Posted by Whatever: | Reply

I forgot to add: If it's ok to kill the smart ones, it should be ok to kill the stupid ones. Or isn't justice as blind as I thought?

Personally I'd prefer no killing, even though I think it should be appropriate in some cases. Too many innocent men have died.

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.." is at the heart of t... (Below threshold)

August 31, 2007 8:25 PM | Posted by Stephany: | Reply

.." is at the heart of the political question: if society is really an artificial CONTRACT that somewhat limits freedoms in return for safety and equalization of rights, does it matter why you chose to disrupt that society, only that you must be dealt with?"

Execution is wrong for any person.

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"For what it is worth, I am... (Below threshold)

September 4, 2007 9:36 PM | Posted by Steve: | Reply

"For what it is worth, I am opposed to the death penalty because inevitably imperfect human legal systems make mistakes, and hence will end up executing innocent people, which is the worst possible outcome."

How is that the worst possible outcome?

Can you point me to 1 case in modern US history is which an innocent person was executed?

I agree that there are some people who are so profoundly retarded that they don't understand the moral consequences of their behaviors -- but cases like Couey really about about that level of retardation. No, those who oppose the death penalty for the mentally retarded are arguing that mildly mentally retarded people (you know, the CI range from 60-75 group) should not be executed. Now are we really going to allow a bunch of stuffy headed psych doctors who are almost always liberal democrats decide what the proper moral response of our legal system should be? I sure hope not.

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How can it possibly be of a... (Below threshold)

September 5, 2007 8:49 AM | Posted by Obdulantist: | Reply

How can it possibly be of any benefit to society to convict, and especially execute innocent people? Are you seriously suggesting that if it happened to you or a close loved one, that you would just shrug your shoulders and say that is the price we pay for 'getting the bad guys'? Give me break. You would be screaming blue murder at the whole system.

Nothing will create contempt and disregard for the legal system faster and more effectively than convicting innocent people, and especially executing them.

"Can you point me to 1 case in modern US history is which an innocent person was executed?"

It is very difficult to prove someone is innocent after they have been executed. Apart from any other reason, legal systems generally don't allow retrials for dead people.

I don't know US legal scene, I live in a different country and continent, so I can't answer that. But I think this organisation

http://www.innocenceproject.org/

would almost certainly be able to give you an answer. (Though you would probably dismiss them a priori as namby-pamby liberal democrats.)

And, frankly, if you think there has not been even a single innocent person executed in the US in modern times, let alone a whole bunch, then you are living in total lala land. The fact that so far 207 death row inmates have been exonerated since the start of the innocence project, very strongly implies that a fair few innocent people did get executed.

"Now are we really going to allow a bunch of stuffy headed psych doctors who are almost always liberal democrats decide what the proper moral response of our legal system should be? I sure hope not."

With respect, that is just ignorant partisan populist nonsense, and clearly reveals your prejudices and agenda. I hope you are never on a jury judging me, if that is the level of reasoning you operate on.

I suspect you wouldn't accept any evidence that someone was innocent, certainly after they were executed. It would be too confronting to acknowledge that your precious 'moral' legal system could get it so horribly wrong.

Oh, and law is not about morality, or revenge, it is about social control.

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"The fact that so far 207 d... (Below threshold)

September 12, 2007 10:03 AM | Posted by steve: | Reply

"The fact that so far 207 death row inmates have been exonerated since the start of the innocence project, very strongly implies that a fair few innocent people did get executed."

Oh please, that is not logical. Just because a conviction is reversed doesn't mean the defendant was innocent. Convictions get reversed mostly due to procedural matters; not substantive ones.

You're right, I dismiss the innocence projects outright because they claim, like you, that reversed convictions means innocent people were on death row. They have an agenda to push just like everyone else.

Besides, I thought that the mantra was "life in prison is worse than the death penalty." So who's more humane?

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Smart enough to find a kid'... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2007 9:29 AM | Posted by Iamliberaltoo: | Reply

Smart enough to find a kid's vagina.......

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"Oh please, that is not log... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2007 9:45 AM | Posted by Obdulantist: | Reply

"Oh please, that is not logical. Just because a conviction is reversed doesn't mean the defendant was innocent."

Doesn't mean they were guilty either. It does raise very serious questions about their guilt, and the legal standard for criminal cases is 'beyond reasonable doubt'. I think you will find that at least a number of those cases are clearly serious miscarriages of justice, that went way beyond simple 'procedural' issues.

What you are effectively arguing is that it doesn't matter if a few innocent people are executed, because in some perverse way it is still better for society.

Or are you sticking to your claim that NO innocent people have been executed in modern times? Not one? Not many people would be bold or foolish enough to make that claim.

And if you are going to go down the 'everyone has an agenda' path, then there is no basis for rational, evidence based debate. The death penalty advocates also have a pretty massive, one-eyed agenda as well.

Truth is, you don't want to even consider the possibility that your precious legal system got it wrong, and innocent people got executed. It is just too confronting.

I repeat what I said back up the thread: Nothing will induce contempt of the law faster than convicting innocent people, let alone executing them.

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i do not know if i am the o... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2007 12:58 PM | Posted by Griss: | Reply

i do not know if i am the only one who wonders this. but when was this IQ test given? if it was after he committed the crime. this could be a ploy for his defence. it is quite easy to blow one of these tests. i am pretty sure i could take the same test and come out with the IQ of a carrot if i wanted to.

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I understand where you are ... (Below threshold)

September 27, 2007 9:43 PM | Posted by Therapist4Chnge: | Reply

I understand where you are coming from, and it may sound arbitrary, but there has to be some kind of measure, though it as part of a larger competency assessment. I think what is more important than the number, is his actual level of functioning. IIRC, this case had his IQ low, though he was functioning above that score.

I am admittedly for the death penalty, but I would have a hard time advocating for it if there weren't measures in place to properly assess for things like this.

Alone's response: So in theory we agree-- "larger competency assessment." But in fact it is solely the number-- the IQ-- that matters. What got this guy the death penalty is that the judge didn't believe the number was accurate-- not that the judge didn't agree with the standard.

So maybe this is my point: if you're going to have a death penalty, it has to be for the behavior, not the reasons for the behavior. If you're going to apply a death penalty-- and I'm not saying we should-- for the case of a guy likely to commit such a crime again, then it shouldn't matter whether he did it out of malice, or aliens told him, or too retarded to know better. Again, I'm not saying this is a good idea; I am saying that it is logically inconsistent to create an exemption for precisely the factors that, supposedly, got him into trouble in the first place.

I'm not for the death penalty, but I against applying more harsh penalties to, for example, people supposedly more able to change.

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