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filmfann's avatar

Is televising sanctioned executions cruel and unusual punishment?

Asked by filmfann (48050points) March 18th, 2019

In California this week Governor Newsom changed all death penalty convictions to life, without possibility of parole. One reason is that the death penalty isn’t a deterrent if no one isn’t being executed, and no one in California has been executed by the government in 13 years.
So, if executions return, it would make sense to broadcast them on television to enforce their effectiveness as a deterrent.
I foresee a television show showing the prisoner marching down the hall, towards the death chamber. Then, a 10 minute review of the crime and the victims, and finally the injection or whatever.
It would be a ratings smash, and certainly would deglorify crime.
But would this violate the Constitution’s cruel and unusual provisions?

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17 Answers

elbanditoroso's avatar

I’m all for it. If society has deemed killing a prisoner to be legal and it meets the needs of the state, then absolutely, it should be televised for the world to see. Why not? Surely the state has nothing to be ashamed of, right?

Look at the Saudis – if a person is caught stealing, his hand is cut off, and it is done in the public square for everyone else to see.

Or the Iranians, and a host of other countries see list that use the lash to physically whip criminals in their countries, again in public.

From the US State Department Human Rights Report on Saudi Arabia, March 2007

During the year the press reported approximately 38 executions. The government executes individuals who have been convicted of murder, apostasy, narcotics-related offenses, rape, and armed robbery. Twenty of these executions were for crimes related to illegal drugs. There were no executions for apostasy during the year. The authorities punished repeated thievery and other repeated offenses by amputation of the right hand and left foot. The government also punished people for various offenses with lashings, including for alcohol-related offenses or for being alone in the company of an unrelated person of the opposite sex. According to press reports, lashings were generally administered with a thin reed by a man who must hold a book under his arm to prevent him from lifting the arm too high. The strokes, delivered through a thin shirt, are not supposed to leave permanent damage but are designed to leave painful welts that bleed and bruise. According to the NGO National Society for Human Rights (NSHR), there were unauthorized and excessive lashings in the women’s prisons.

So if the US wants to act like our fellow dictatorships and authoritarian regimes, we may as well broadcast it.

kritiper's avatar

No, I’m not against it. I can’t say I’d watch, but if someone else does, go for it.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

I feel sick.

Caravanfan's avatar

Executions are immoral and should be illegal. So yes, televising them is cruel and unusual punishment. I am no Gavin Newsom fan, but I agree with him on this point.

Darth_Algar's avatar

The death penalty has never been a deterrent. And executions use to be public spectacles. Still wasn’t a deterrent.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

It doesn’t seem like any kind of penalty has been a deterrent, but then again, we only see the people who it didn’t deter.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Regardless of the efficacy of whatever government is involved, we must never trust the state to be in the business of killing people.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

It would make no difference to the people being executed I don’t think. So who would it be cruel and unusual punishment for?

stanleybmanly's avatar

Their families?

joeschmo's avatar

@filmfann don’t you mean glorify crime?

Not all, but many murderers, be they the terrorists or mass murderers or even those who have killed their families, seek fame. They will be locked away forever, hidden from view, experiencing a kind of hell. I hope.

The victim’s family and friends do not have to relive it. They deserve quiet and respect, slowly healing, hopefully, finding strength to carry on from their children and loved ones.

I am against the death penalty… well, most of the time when pondering it.

I say no to televising it… Good question.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Yes @stanleybmanly. It would be cruel and unusual for their families. Not them.
And what deterrent would that be?

ragingloli's avatar

Because the public hangings in medieval times did so much to reduce crime.

KNOWITALL's avatar

No, not if it’s a choice. Let the prisoner choose.

I’m not a big fan of the death penalty, personally, but I can’t imagine wanting to live in a cage, I’d take the bullet first.

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