The Times reports that Martin Tankleff was just granted a second trial after spending 17 years in prison for a crime that he very likely didn't commit. If he's found not guilty, or, more to the point, if he's in fact not guilty, why doesn't he have the right to commit 17 years' worth of crimes "free of charge"? OK, maybe not 17 full years' worth, but you'd admit, I hope, that at least some of the jurisprudence of punishment is based on retribution, so can you discuss the role of his time served in future punishment deliberations?
For instance, say he happens to commit a crime later in life, not out of some sense of entitlement, but for any of the other "normal" reasons (like passion!): how relevant should his time served be?
In order for something to be a punishment, must there be an ending to it?
Hell, many say, is a punishment. But isn't the purpose of a punishment to try to make somebody learn that what they did was wrong and make them a "better person"?
Many believe in eternity in hell, but how can this be? What is the point of "punishing" somebody forever, if they will never be able to do good again? If they will never be faced with another opportunity to be a better person?
From a moral Christian point of view, I cannot understand the idea that we should punish anyone. In America, which is a highly Christian-dominated society, there is little resistance to capital punishment from the "right wing." My understanding is that Christians are not supposed to judge. God will judge everyone when their time comes. Isn't Christian morality about tolerance and acceptance, and not revenge? "Turning the other cheek?" "Love thy neighbor/enemy as thyself?" Are Christians simply turning a blind eye to this action?
First, I want to commend all the panelists for their efforts. I think this is a tremendous site that serves as an example of academia reaching out to the public.
In my criminal law class, we are studying the purposes of punishment. We recently discussed Kant's deontological theory for why we should punish (as opposed to say a utilitarian theory, like deterrence). The argument is that Kant's theory is unconcerned with consequences. But, isn't his original moral code that binds the individual based on consequences? And if so, doesn't this undermine his theory of punishment?
Thank you for your time.
On the morality of the death penalty:
I live in a country (Australia) where the death penalty has long been abolished and is unpopular; particularly mandatory death penalties, say, for example, for people trafficking in illegal drugs over certain quantities. I bring up this example because an Australian citizen was executed in Singapore for exactly that activity.
Certainly, I find such laws difficult to justify as consistent, on utilitarian grounds at least. If a person caught in an airport with 0.5 kg of heroin strapped to his body ought to die because that is less-bad than the reasonably presumed consequences to many people would be, were he allowed to live, then surely there is a case for the death penalty for tobacconists or sellers of alcohol. I have no statistics at hand, but I am guessing that the tobacco sold by one tobacconist over several decades would lead to comparable illnesses or numbers of deaths as would the total amount of heroin carried by this particular Australian 'drug mule'.
Lets say a man points a gun at someone's head with the intent of killing that person. Pulls the trigger, but for some reason the gun doesn't work.
His action would in this case have been the same whether the gun worked or not. So shouldn't attempted murder be judged just as severe as murder?
Should a person be judged by the result of the person's actions, or the intent of the person's action?