Social Question

GloPro's avatar

Should we let criminals choose their sentences?

Asked by GloPro (8311points) May 3rd, 2014 from iPhone

The law allows the judges to choose sentences, up to a defined maximum sentence.

If someone is convicted of murder, why couldn’t the judge offer a choice of 3 possible sentences?

For example:
– the death penalty
– life with chance of parole
– 20 years with no chance for parole

If a convicted criminal chose their own sentence they relinquish the right to appeal. If they let the judge decide all stays as it is now.
They may not choose things like which prison. In fact, pretty much all other decisions but the sentence would be the charge of the court to decide. Death penalties would be enforced within the year, as there would be no messy appeals hang-ups.

What would be the pros and cons to offering a choice of sentence?

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24 Answers

Dutchess_III's avatar


elbanditoroso's avatar

Why should the criminal get the choice? If anything, the choice of punishment ought to be up to the victim. My guess is that a lot of victims would actually be lighter on the criminal than the judge would be – forgiveness, or whatever would be the governing factor.

As for your idea doing the capital punishment within a year—I completely agree.

It is sheer idiocy that we let these folks play around on death row for 25–30 years.

For that matter, why have life sentences at all? It’s crazy. Any sentence over 10 years should be capital punishment.

ragingloli's avatar

As for your idea doing the capital punishment within a year—I completely agree.It is sheer idiocy that we let these folks play around on death row for 25–30 years.
Complete nonsense.
The fact that so many people are falsely convicted is reason enough to abolish the death penalty at all. Yet here you are, basically advocating executing innocent people.

And I find the claim that the victim’s relatives would be lighter on the criminal quite delusional. In fact the opposite is true. The bloodlust one repeatedly hears is overwhelming.

CWOTUS's avatar

Yes, certainly. Only, whatever you do, don’t throw me in the brier patch.

GloPro's avatar

Don’t forget… In my scenario, should you choose your sentence you forgo the right to appeal. @ragingloli Only a fool would forgo that right if they were innocent.
It stands to reason that only those willing to admit they are guilty, or proven guilty beyond a shadow of any doubt, would even consider the proposition. None of the three choices are pleasant. I see no reason not to let one choose their fate. Who cares if they choose what they deem the ‘best’ if they all suck? I believe if I had committed a crime that warranted the death penalty I would choose it over sitting in a cage and living in a concrete jungle for the rest of my life. Others may be comfortable living out their days in a prison community.
What difference would it make to taxpayers or bystanders if we let someone choose the lesser of 3 shitty evils?

elbanditoroso's avatar

@ragingloli – this concept of “so many people falsely convicted” is itself a rather bogus assertion. If you consider the number of criminals (felony and up, let’s not worry about the small potatoes) that are convicted every year, the number is something in the tens of thousands. I can get the number if you wish.

The number of convictions that are false are in the thousandsths of a percent – like .0002.

Sure, it’s a popular meme these days to say that lots of people are falsely convicted – it makes for good TV and it stokes liberal fires. It gets votes in some cases, and brings in contributions to politicians.

But that fact is that wrong convictions happen extremely rarely these days, and wrong capital punishment convictions are even rarer.

Shoot, more people die in traffic accidents in an hour than die in capital punishment in a year.

So spare me the holier-than-thou stuff. Wrong death penalty criminals are not a significant number, and I won’t shed a tear for their early demise.

janbb's avatar

@elbanditoroso But if it were you and you were falsely executed, would you shed a tear for your early demise??

elbanditoroso's avatar

@janbb – possibly. But the way things are going these days, I would have been in the slammer for 30 years before my time expired. Which is the greater punishment? 30 years of utterly wasted time, or a quick death?

The way I see it, by the time you have worked through the legal system and you have made it to death row, there’s a pretty darned good change that you’re guilty.

chyna's avatar

@elbanditoroso Where did you get your percentage of .0002? Did you just make it up out of thin air? Even just one wrongly accused person, and we all know there are more than that, sent to prison for life or even executed is too many.

GloPro's avatar

In this OP you do not have to choose your sentence. Wrongly convicted people are not the point of the OP…

chyna's avatar

@GloPro This is in social and social questions tend to get a bit off of the question, but we are still within the perimeters of the OP. There is really no need to shout. Just flag what you don’t like and ask for this to be put in General.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@elbanditoroso These aren’t percentages we’re talking about. They’re human beings.

GloPro's avatar

@chyna I am not the only one to notice threads are immediately getting off track lately. I don’t want it in general, nor do I want to be forced to put it there. I responded once about innocent people not being a factor, so I thought I would repeat myself. As the OP is mine, I should be able to request that we come back somewhat to the OP. I disagree that talking about innocent people getting killed is relevant when I gave opt out scenario. Innocent people would be fools to choose the death penalty and be put to death within a year, now wouldn’t they?

My third question of the day will be for you guys wanting to talk about innocent people. Please refer to it, as my polite request. Thank you.

ibstubro's avatar

Honestly, I don’t think it would change things that much. Why give up all right of appeal? If you were “convicted”, then that means you put up some sort of defense, so why should you stop? The innocent would never stop fighting, so stopping the fight would be admitting certain guilt. At the least you’d be admitting you lied (something few people willingly do)
at most you’d be causing your family grief/loss of deniability.

Then there’s the distinct possibility that anti-death penalty groups would mount a court case disputing the ‘mental state’ of anyone choosing death. Suicide is against the law in almost every instance in the US.

GloPro's avatar

@ibstubro That’s an interesting point about suicide being against the law. Hmmm.

If you don’t see it changing all that much then there would be no problem trying it out, right? Even if only 1 out of every 500 criminals took the option it would free up a tiny bit of court time and expenses.

I’m just thinking of me. Assuming I’m guilty, but tried my hand with a jury. The trial drug on for 2 years before I was convicted, and my family was in huge debt defending me. I realize I can’t live this way for 20 more years, the evidence presented is pretty strong, and although I plead not guilty I knew in my heart I was, then I would go ahead and take the option. If my whole life is miserable and painful and I see no end to it I would not want to continue that way.

Or, a different perspective… Some criminals commit a crime to get back in because they can’t make it in the real world. Life, for them, is on the inside. Why not let them choose to stay in, instead of have a judge pity them and give them a sentence that only has them out and committing another crime later?

I think some criminals would choose their own sentence.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

“It stands to reason that only those willing to admit they are guilty, or proven guilty beyond a shadow of any doubt, would even consider the proposition.”

Untrue. the innocent run out of money. They get bad advice. There are many reasons why an innocent person would choose 20 years over a death sentence.

GloPro's avatar

@Dan_Lyons The choice for an innocent person would be to give up the right to appeal. I don’t see many lawyers unwilling to continue to take your money, so it would be unethical of them to tell an innocent person to choose a sentence over choosing to maintain the right to appeal.

A sentence would still be imposed, but with appellate rights maintained maybe they could figure out the financial issue in time.

elbanditoroso's avatar

A single human being is a human being, @Dutchess_III – and to the degree that life is sacred, then that person’s life is sacred.

But when you’re talking about hundreds of thousands of people in prison, we’re talking about numbers and trends, not individuals.

And to MY mind, if someone killed someone else on purpose (as in murder), the criminal doesn’t have much claim to his own life being spared.

ragingloli's avatar

As for your 0.002% number that you clearly pulled out of your arse, the number is closer to 4%

elbanditoroso's avatar

@ragingloli – what’s your source?

ragingloli's avatar

Since you are incapable of clicking on links, posting one for your is an act of futility.
For everyone else:

ibstubro's avatar

Well, I’m not against trying it, @GloPro. I just believe that before you could get the law enacted that there would be no change. The lawmakers would give and take, pork it, and the Bar association would game the system.

Personally, if i was guilty of a felony I’d probably feel so much remorse and dread the publicity of a trial with possible life imprisonment, I’d plead guilty and take death. But then I’ve not been in the criminal justice system most of my life and seen guilty walk.

Darth_Algar's avatar

Guilty or not any arrangement that would require someone willingly give up their constitutional rights is a terrible idea.

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