On Andy Dean; Lessons in Self Contradiction
California may become the 18th state to abolish death penalty
California will vote on eliminating the death penalty in the November election. If the ballot measure passes, California will become the 18th state to abolish the death penalty. One of the most interesting aspects of this development is that there appears to be significant bi-partisan support for this ballot measure. The Los Angeles Times reports:
Growing numbers of conservatives in California have joined the effort to repeal the state's capital punishment law, expressing frustration with its price tag and the rarity of executions. California has executed 13 inmates in 23 years, and prisoners are far more likely to die of old age on death row than by the executioner's needle.
On Andy Dean’s April 24, 2012 radio show, Mr. Dean exhibited precisely the kind of self-righteous, self-contradictory thinking that conservatives generally demonstrate in leading America over the cliff as they have done in recent years. During the 3rd hour of his 3-hour radio show (make sure you select the 04/24/2012 3rd hour segement) he had a guest named Mitch Langberg, a constitutional attorney, first amendment specialist. Introducing the topics they would discuss, Andy listed California’s November vote on whether or not to abolish the death penalty. Andy is a hard-core right-wing conservative and proclaims himself “very pro-death-penalty” and describes Mitch as a leftist, hyperbolically calling him a socialist. (For those who wish to listen to the broadcast, it can be found at the above link and the death penalty discussion starts at approximately 15:20 into the segment.)
Andy starts the death penalty segment by saying that the idea of abolishing the death penalty makes him “physically ill” and that he’s a “big believer in the death penalty”. When asked for his opinion, Mitch immediately says, “The death penalty should be a thing of the past”. Mitch goes on to explain that he has “no moral issue with […] the state executing a person who has willfully intentionally murdered another human being without cause.” Mitch presents the realist argument that we have innocent people sentenced to death in prison because the system for trial and conviction is not infallible.
Mitch says, “It just nauseates me to think of someone I know and care about being wrongfully convicted and executed …and, to me, that’s the end of the story.”
Obviously, Mitch views the killing of an innocent highly immoral and recognizes that a system that can’t guarantee the guilt of those convicted, should not involve a “justice” that realistically ends in the killing of an innocent – the very crime for which the convicted is being executed. To me, that seems clear enough, but not to Andy Dean.
Andy interrupts Mitch with a logical fallacy while accusing Mitch of two logical fallacies; straw man and red herring arguments. In fact, Andy is erecting a straw man argument by arguing against something that Mitch did not say. Andy interjects that Mitch objects to the system “with these decades of appeals”, which is, obviously, NOT what Mitch said, at all. In fact, Mitch never mentioned the issue of “decades of appeals” as charged by Andy.
Mitch clarifies that it is the fact that innocents are sentenced to death because the system that convicts them makes mistakes. In Andy’s mind, that argument is a “straw man”, which makes no sense at all logically, since it is presented as the supporting reason for why we should abolish the death penalty. Also, Andy charges that the argument about the “decades of appeals” (that Mitch did not present) is a “red herring”. Andy states that if it is the appeals process Mitch objects to, “…we should fix the appeals process, not get rid of the death penalty”. I’ll return to this statement further down the page.
The most striking thing that transpires between Andy and Mitch is that Andy clearly states he sees it more important that hundreds of families get some kind of “justice” by having someone killed than to be concerned about an innocent being executed by the state. Andy says to Mitch, “It’s really sad when that one [innocent] person dies but what about the hundreds of families who are waiting for justice and you’re weighing that one person against hundreds of families?” Andy’s version of “justice” is killing an innocent, wrongly convicted, to satisfy the bloodlust of “hundreds of families”. That’s Andy’s clear declaration. But, wait …the reasoning gets worse.
Recall Andy’s statement, “…we should fix the appeals process, not get rid of the death penalty”. Starting at about 27:05 in the segment, Andy is talking to a phone-in listener, Travis, and the idea of fixing the system arises. In speaking to this particular caller, who has said we need to fix the system, Andy states clearly, “Yeah, but, Travis, you and I both know there’s never going to be a perfect system where innocent people don’t go in, I’m just saying, yeah, one out of every whatever …, it’s a risk we take to make the families of victims feel better …”.
Just to make it clear:
Andy’s argument is this: the argument that we need to stop executing people because the system is flawed and innocents might be (probably have been) executed is a straw man because all we need to do is “fix the system” even though, as Andy says, “you and I both know there’s never going to be a perfect system where innocent people don’t go in, I’m just saying, yeah, one out of every whatever …, it’s a risk we take to make the families of victims feel better …”.
Andy thinks killing somebody who is innocent is wrong, unless that person has been wrongly convicted by a system that he knows will never be perfectly capable of NOT convicting an innocent person. And there are many who agree with Andy. Need I say more?