General Question

troubleinharlem's avatar

Why isn't killing people who kill people wrong?

Asked by troubleinharlem (7976points) November 12th, 2010

I was thinking about it, and with things like the death penalty and such… there’s that unwritten rule that we shouldn’t kill others. I was just wondering why its okay to kill people who kill other people – I mean, I know that its better (somehow), but I don’t know how to work it out in my mind.

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77 Answers

tedd's avatar

Eye for an eye… and deterrent (though its proven it doesn’t deter) to future killers… and to keep them from possibly getting loose and killing again.

Rape and murder are the only two crimes I would consider the death penalty for.

john65pennington's avatar

Okay, look at it this way. if a criminal broke into your house and killed your parents and raped your sister, what form of punishment should he receive? most people never think about this, until the situation personally effects them. then, they have a wakeup call….the death penalty.

One surefire thing about executing a convicted criminal, he will never do it again and society does not need this person.

Blackberry's avatar

From my belief that there is no afterlife, I feel that torture is even better than death lol. Although seriously…. killing them is letting them get off the easy way, they need to physically suffer for the consequences for a long period of time, in my opinion. I am for letting them rot in solitary confinement….For-ev-errrrrr.

iamthemob's avatar

@tedd – if you get the death penalty for rape and murder, why would you leave any rape victim alive?

@john65pennington – the state is responsible for ensuring that the people are safe in their persons and their homes. The idea of what a victim’s family would want to do to the person if given the option is exactly why the government is given this responsibility. It’s incredibly problematic to bring up this argument because it makes vengeance an appropriate goal of criminal law. It also is another wake up call…as the death penalty is not what you’d want to do. You’d want to have that person raped and killed as well, a lot of the time. I know that I would.

There’s also the insane problem of the re-victimization of the family of the original victim in the court process…and also, if the DP defendant had a family, what are we doing to them? What are we doing to a mother begging the court for her son’s life. What are we doing to his child, who watches as the court states that his father should be put to death. What kind of respect for the state would you have if the state did that to your father?

Here’s the main problem – the death penalty encourages the brutalization of society. We privilege the satisfaction of the family of the victim’s need for vengeance over the idea of reconciliation and rehabilitation. Rehabilitation doesn’t mean release in any sense…however, in the end, I would prefer instead of watching a monster die never apologizing for what he did to be able to know that, after years of seeing what the results of what he’d done, realized and had to work through that devastation.

Randy's avatar

“An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”
-Mohandas Gandhi

Mikewlf337's avatar

Look at it this way. A person goes around killing people for no reason other than it gives him a thrill. A person kills people to take their money. A person breaks into someones home and kills the occupants and steals everything. A person rapes a woman or a man than kills him/her to silence her so he can get away with it. Murders like these are only punishable by one way and that is death. If you put him/her in prison the rest of his/her life then they will more than likely victimize the other inmates and not to mention that he will cost alot of money for his imprisonment. I frankly don’t care if they made their executions public and executed them by hanging, beheading or firing squad. Some people are too evil to be kept alive.

iamthemob's avatar

@Mikewlf337 – and what if someone who is innocent is executed?

CMaz2's avatar

It is a form of power that can easily become absolute power.
History has proved that in the past and currently. So it is assumed best to leave that form of “vengeful” behavior to the lord.

Which seems to be a bit of contridiction.

“Anyone who maims another shall suffer the same injury in return”
– leviticus 24:19–24:21

“Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD.”
– Romans 12:19

Mikewlf337's avatar

@iamthemob what about throwing an innocent person in prison for the rest of his/her life? Is that any better? I would say it is worse. Besides I said people who DID commit these crimes without a shadow of a doubt.

iamthemob's avatar

@Mikewlf337 – absolutely that’s better – because (1) the person still gets to live, and (2) there is a chance for release on proof of innocence. The execution of an innocent person is an irremediable mistake, and drastically undermines the legitimacy of the state.

Mikewlf337's avatar

@iamthemob 1) Life in prison is not living. 2) I said without a shadow of a doubt.

GracieT's avatar

@milewlf337, as @chazmazziest says, God tells us not to kill which is why having Christians support the death penalty is one of the most hypocritical things possible. I know that not everyone on either side is Christian, but that, to me, is the strongest reason to agree with the Libertarian stance that jailing people for things such as drug abuse is the wrong way to go. I also am a democrat, and a liberal, and a Christian, to confuse things further. I don’t have all of the answers.

Mikewlf337's avatar

@GracieT the death penalty is not revenge. It is justice and is a way to keep society safe from sociopaths. One can argue about wether it is justice or not depending on the point of view. If a dog bites someone that dog is put down and nobody thinks that’s wrong.

marinelife's avatar

I think it is wrong.

iamthemob's avatar

@Mikewlf337 – Dogs are not people. You’re getting into some very dangerous territory with that comparison.

As to the shadow of a doubt, you should probably look into the Capital Jury Project. Also, the Innocence Project. I worked on some death penalty cases in my time, reviewing some post-sentencing jury surveys. Let me tell you – it is horrifying what people are willing to let influence them when making the decision on guilt in these juries. One person voted in favor of death because the defense attorney spit on the jury sometimes when he talked. That’s an extreme example – but the problem is that, considering that people are imperfect, having a death penalty means that, inevitably, one of us is going to die for something we didn’t do.

Mikewlf337's avatar

@iamthemob No I’m not. Dogs being put down is not on the subject of this question. A sociopath in my opinion has become a monster and not a person. He/she has no respect for the lives of others. As for proving innocence. Death row inmates have the oppurtunity to prove innocence. They can spend many years on death row before they are executed.

Winters's avatar

@iamthemob one could also argue that not having the death penalty also means that, inevitably, one of us is going to be killed/raped/brutalized at the hands of someone who wasn’t given the death penalty.

morals, ethics, blah blah blah… they’re all abstract, this is something that relies on the individual’s perspective. Personally, the “value” of life is overrated and taken by people in a manner that is ridiculously short sighted.

nikipedia's avatar

Killing people who kill people is wrong.

wundayatta's avatar

It’s stupid, besides being wrong. Vengeance, and that is all it is, it doesn’t deter and it doesn’t bring back the dead person, is pure emotion. The victim’s family wants vengeance, and that doesn’t help them, either. It might make them feel better for a moment, but it won’t for the long run. What is needed in the long run is forgiveness.

Sounds weird, doesn’t it? However, that is the only way to get rid of the anger you feel about the loss you have suffered. To forgive, you need to be able to understand why it happened and how it happened, and you can’t do that if the person is dead.

There are practical reasons, too. It is much more expensive to put someone on death row than to give them life without parole. It might make it easier to convict people. It might actually be the deterrent we seek. It is counter-intuitive, but people find that the possibility of forgiveness gives people a reason not to do things they will need to be forgiven for. Looked at the other way around, if you know you will be killed, then you might as well do whatever you want. You are lost, anyway. It’s what keeps addicts addicts. It is only learning about forgiveness that allows people to control their behavior.

iamthemob's avatar

@Winters – The death penalty hasn’t been proven to be anything but a specific deterrent. Considering that millions of dollars spent on trying to put one person to death in a state could be spent on better and increased law enforcement, I feel safe in saying I believe that having 100 or so more cops on the beat every year would make me feel safer in my person than knowing that if there’s a psychokiller out there…he can get the death penalty.

I understand the argument – but I think it ignores the monetary resources that could be much more effective in other areas of law enforcement.

Mikewlf337's avatar

@iamthemob life inprisonment is more expensive than an execution. You have to take care of the prisoner for the rest of his/her life. 100 more cops every year? So basically you want the whole country flooded with cops? That would make this a police state. You want everyone to be supervised 24/7 like children?

Winters's avatar

@iamthemob We could change the method in which the death penalty is carried out in a manner that could drastically decrease the monetary resources wasted on them.

But monetarily speaking, we waste so much more money elsewhere.

Got to say I LOVE the Big Brother approach, excellent solution.

CMaz2's avatar

“Vengeance belongeth unto me”.

I being God, pitty the fool that tries to climb into my window in the middle of the night.

ragingloli's avatar

It is wrong. By doing so, you lower yourself to the level of those who you condemn.

iamthemob's avatar

@Winters – the problem is, no one has been able to think of a way that is more efficient but still meets constitutional muster.

And I don’t think more and better trained police is the big brother approach. That statement reads a little slippery slope at this point in the discussion.

Winters's avatar

@iamthemob I was being sarcastic with reference to @Mikewlf337 comment (forgot to stick the @Mikewlf337 up in the previous comment) of a police state, but if we ever get to the point of being in a police state, I’m blaming you.

Mikewlf337's avatar

@iamthemob Life without parole is more inhumane than death. It is more of a cruel and unusual punishment than death.

iamthemob's avatar

@Winters – If I helped to do it, and watched it happen, I’d have to take the blame. ;-)

iamthemob's avatar

@Mikewlf337 – I’ve provided you with a few resources as to where I’m getting my information, as well as my background in death penalty litigation and research – it would be cool if you could provide me with some of the evidence you are basing your assertions on.

Winters's avatar

@Mikewlf337 The inhumane matter depends on the individual, some people would rather live for whatever reason, and others would rather die.

absalom's avatar

It is wrong; the death penalty is wrong and should be abolished.

Mikewlf337's avatar

@iamthemob I am not scouring the internet for “resources”. There are resources that support both sides of the issue. You think I pulled my views from my a$$? Some people are so evil that they deserve to die.

absalom's avatar


Some people are so evil that they deserve to die.

That is not a sufficient reason. It’s arbitrarily judged and, as an answer, is a cop-out.

Evil doesn’t really exist anyway, but that’s another question.

iamthemob's avatar

If what you say is right, and you know where you got it from, you shouldn’t have to scour.

Making the statement that some people are so evil they deserve to die has been a dangerous start to propaganda used by the most totalitarian regimes in history.

The government used to say that about me just because I am gay.

Winters's avatar

How about this?

We ship them off to Antartica and let them die from natural causes.

Mikewlf337's avatar

@absalom Evil does exist. Ask a holocaust survivor.

Winters's avatar

@Mikewlf337 Evil doesn’t exist and neither does good. Its just a bunch of rules, norms, standards, that we call morals and ethics. If you follow them you’re deemed good, if you don’t, you’re evil.

iamthemob's avatar

@Mikewlf337 – It’s hard to do so…the government put them to death because it accused them of being evil.


whitenoise's avatar

I don’t think it to be right at all. The state represents the people and therefore the death penalty turns the people into killers.

I do not want the government to kill on my behalf. When people are killing others, that in itself is bad enough, without also turing me into a killer. If they’re guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt, then sentence them. If they are likely to kill again, then lock them away forever, but don’t turn me into a killer. On the same not: when locking people away, treat them humanely, otherwise the punishment may even be harsher. Still I would prefer that over the state turning me into a killer.

whitenoise's avatar

@Winters Whether good or evil exists depends on your defintion of good or evil. The problem is that the existence of anything and everything is dependent on your definition.

Good and evil in the way that I would define it, and in the way I feel most people do – would definitely exist, regardless of your definition and (moral) rule sets.

hungerforpizza's avatar

Check out the show Dexter.

CMaz2's avatar

No such thing as good or evil.
Life is a process. Is a Volcano “evil”? Or wind “good”?

Right and wrong is another thing. But, still defined by the individuals that define it.

Good = Safe/secure
Evil = fear

tinyfaery's avatar

It is wrong. No one has the right to to decide if another deserves to live or die.

JilltheTooth's avatar

And then there was Ted Bundy who escaped and killed again. Just sayin’.

iamthemob's avatar

Ted Bundy’s escapes were made during the trial phase, prior to conviction. There were various transfers between the courthouse and the jail. Although escape is always a possibility…it’s generally during this period (prior to any findings at all) when I’ve heard of it.

The problem is, they’re going to be on death row…sometimes for decades. So you’re not really reducing the chances significantly with it. It also is imposed on a significantly smaller portion of those who commit violent crime are sentenced to death. There are 132,000 inmates under a life sentence approximately, and about 3000 on death row. That’s 1% of the population. Therefore, the amount of “protection” we’re receiving from putting these people to death is highly suspect.

The problem is that with an imperfect system, and there is no way to get a perfect criminal system because it requires people to run it, it’s going, at some point, to make a very, very big mistake.

Mikewlf337's avatar

Evil does exist. Wrong is something we all do. Evil is something an evil person like Ted Bundy, Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot, Timothy Mcviegh, etc do. Wrong is egging someones house because they made fun of you. Evil is killing someone because they made fun of you! Putting these people I listed to death is justified in my opinion.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

It’s wrong if killing them is for reasons other than keeping people safe. Killing just to make an example is wrong. The Death Penalty is a slippery slope, I believe killing unrepentent or uncurable/uncontrollable dangerous people is justified but not necessarily “right”. Right would be not having to worry about rape, tortue, molestation and violent murder for thrills.

josie's avatar

It is not wrong in principle.
Currently, however, the power to kill as punishment is granted to the political State.
These are the same morons who write your tax laws and tell you whether or not you can buy liquor on Sunday.
I am not about to support the notion that they can be smart enough to to do something irreversible like kill another human being who may or may not be factually guilty.

Justice13's avatar

An eye for an eye should be taken in the most literal of terms, it is not enough to just make someone receive imprisonment. I consider rape even worse than murder, because the victim has to live with trauma they can never fully erase, but that’s beside the point.

If we were to take this even further, we could subject the relatives of the perpetrators to received the same fate as the equivalent (or closest in equivalence to) relative of the victim. You might be willing to sacrifice your own life by killing someone, but would you risk your loved ones if they were to pay the price instead/in addition to you?

If someone kills your husband/wife, what would killing the perpetrator accomplish? We want people who hurt us, to feel the EXACT same feeling or a similar feeling of hurt. When we lose someone to the actions of another, do you think it enough to just have that person killed?

Having the person who killed your husband/wife killed, would just leave you with resentment that has no appropriate target, and that would make the victim probably become a perpetrator on their own.

But having the wife/husband (of if unmarried, the significant other, the son/daughter, the father/mother, etc) of someone who killed your own husband/wife, killed, would not only be a true form of justice (no matter how immoral you think it is, you can’t give out much more equal justice than that), but it would leave the person that killed your own husband/wife feeling the exact same pain you yourself are experiencing, and you can continue to resent that person without feeling guilt, because you know what they did was wrong, and they deserve to wallow in torment for their crimes.

We are both capable of love and hate, but how many of us are willing to sacrifice their own loved ones, when enacting their own hatred upon others?

absalom's avatar


(no matter how immoral you think it is, you can’t give out much more equal justice than that)

I may not adhere to typical interpretations of morality, but it’s impossible not to recognize the inequality in your proposed ‘true form of justice’.

There is no ‘more equal’ or ‘less equal’. There is only equal and unequal. And what you’ve proposed is obviously the latter.

I wonder who could upvote an answer like that.

iamthemob's avatar

@absalom – I have to believe that @Justice13 was parodying the inevitable result of the retributionary nature of the death penalty if we claim that justice is, essentially, based on the “eye for an eye” mentality.

I have to.

Winters's avatar

@whitenoise try being a nihilist… or just look up nihilism, you’ll have a better understanding where I’m coming from.

absalom's avatar


I hope so, too.

Edit: Incidentally… (Sorry if someone’s already linked to it.)

whitenoise's avatar

To paraphrase Homer Simpson:
“Just that I do not agree with you, doesn’t mean that I do not understand what you’re saying.”

I am perfectly aware of nihilism, thank you, and what it stands for.
And it doesn’t appeal to me.

spittingblaze's avatar

Isn’t killing people who kill people in the wrong? Mostly but then again- I suppose even those loyal to their country are in the wrong for killing other soliders in war? I think somehow- I don’t know. There’s so much death in the world people kill themselves, kill others in war, self defense, accidently hitting them and so on I just think that it’s probably all wrong but there’s nothing we can do about it. I guess all death is dreary and wrong. But again we cannot control everyone one person’s wrong action against another. We cannot feel so unhappy that that feeling stops all the death in the world. We could be depressed till the day we day but it doesn’t change the creepy stuff that occurs in the world. A lot of what humanity does to each other is wrong and yet there is nothing one can do about it.

augustlan's avatar

[mod says] This is our Question of the Day!

JustJessica's avatar

I don’t think we have the right to “play God” and kill anyone no matter what they did… I do on the other hand believe these rapists, murderers, molesters and so should be let in with the general population in prison, instead of being protected. That’s what I call a true jury of your peers, and they will handle it however they see fit. No reason to let them rot in solitary where we have to feed them and pay for their room and board.

Justice13's avatar

@JustJessica Ok, except prison should be for people who have done menial things then, like stealing, for example. There should a separate place, a more appropriate hell, for the people whom have killed, raped, and molested.

Ivan's avatar


Right, we shouldn’t base our opinions on rational thought, we should only form opinions directly after something terrible has happened and we are consumed with rage and the desire for petty revenge. Also, it’s best to base your beliefs on ridiculous worst-case scenarios that are designed to manipulate you through fear.

AstroChuck's avatar

It’s obviously subjective but I feel capital punishment a flawed practice and that it is inherently wrong. Besides being racially and classically biased it is, in my opinion, cruel and unusual punishment. There has never been any conclusive research that proves it’s a deterrent to murder. All it seems to do is provide that human desire for revenge. I believe the entire concept of an eye for an eye as barbaric. And I find it incredibly hypocritical for a nation such as the US to condemn human rights abroad but to then allow the death penalty.
Of course that’s just me. I could be wrong.

JustJessica's avatar

@Justice13 I don’t believe any sick person who would commit such crimes even has a conscience, so therefore any hellish type place we (people I’m assuming have a conscience) think is a hell would never be sufficient.

Justice13's avatar

Exactly, just let me have five minutes with one of these criminals in public. THAT will be a deterrent.

Winters's avatar

@whitenoise Eh sorry if I came across rude, today has not been a good day, I’ve been on the edge for most of it and it probably is seeping a bit into my fluthering.

Also, everyone that I bump into in daily life has almost no clue what nihilism is.

(And I’m at West Point for crying out loud, the best and the brightest… sometimes I wonder)

cockswain's avatar

@Winters Is nihilism about not believing in the utility of any sort of social structure, or more about not believing in anything? I’ve seen different explanations of nihilism. At one point I thought a useful definition for one who is skeptical without sufficient proof would be a nihilist, but then I realized that wasn’t an apt description.

Winters's avatar

@cockswain I’m not a true nihilist, still somewhere in the phase of going from an Agnostic to a Nihilistic Atheist, but I’ll probably be stuck in the middle somewhere till the day I die.

There are different types of nihilism, Wikipedia actually does a decent job going over all of them (or all that I am aware of).

I’m closer to being a moral and existential nihilist than any of the others.

cockswain's avatar

Ah, I should have read that a long time ago. No question I’m an epistemological nihilist, and would love to know whether or not moral and existential nihilist philosophy are congruent with reality. I’m really torn between accepting and denying those last two. The other forms (political, mereological,and metaphysical) aren’t as important to me. I tend to think of epistemological nihilism as agnosticism, but one can get caught up in semantics about such definitions.

Winters's avatar

Well glad to help out, on the subjects of moral and existential nihilism, well I hope it doesn’t cause you as much pain, or take as much time, as it did with me to find where my compass pointed on those matters.

and loving the “A Clockwork Orange” just for that I’m giving you GA’s. LOL

cockswain's avatar

Thanks. A while back I realized Hitler and Gandhi have possibly suffered the same fate, and that shook me up.

kheredia's avatar

I don’t believe in the death penalty. Often, you’re just giving them what they want. An escape. Solitary confinement for the rest of their lives would be a real punishment if you ask me.

cockswain's avatar

plus an occasional 7-iron to the nuts

faye's avatar

I didn’t read all your answers- just wanted to bring up that Canada has no death penalty. I don’t think pedophile rapist/murderers should eat let alone 3 squares a day and someplace warm to sleep.

chocolatechip's avatar

Humanity isn’t free. As I’ve expressed before, you can’t violate another person’s humanity without giving up your own.

So, would killing a heinous criminal be wrong? First ask, are they even human anymore?

kheredia's avatar

Anybody here seen The secret in their eyes? It’s an argentenian film that is related to the topic kind of.. anyhow, great film.. I recommend it if you haven’t seen it.

cockswain's avatar

@kheredia I’ve got it in my Netflix queue already. Glad to hear another recommendation.

mattbrowne's avatar

As a last resort, if it’s the only way to save the lives of innocent people, soldiers, police, or private citizens can wound or kill the perpetrator(s). However, this doesn’t justify the death penalty, because preventing future crimes can be achieved by life sentences as well.

NATO soldiers for example stop the slaughter of innocent people in Kosovo. In Rwanda soldiers didn’t intervene which led to the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

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