Jordan Sheard And The No-Capital Punishment Slippery Slope

Ah, come, on, show some compassion! All he did was set a guy on fire for being gay! Anyone can make a mistake!

Ah, come, on, show some compassion! All he did was set a guy on fire for being gay! Anyone can make a mistake!

One of these days, when CNN’s designated miracle-worker Piers Morgan (because making Larry King look brilliant is a miracle) is extolling the superiority of the land of his birth over the stupid, violent, individual rights-obsessed U.S., someone should ask him about Jordan Sheard. Sheard, a sadistic 20-year old bully, set his sights on a young gay man, Steven Simpson, whose offenses included, in addition to his sexual orientation,  a speech impediment, epilepsy and having Asperger’s  Syndrome. Sheard forced Simpson to strip down to his underwear and wrote gay slurs over his body, covered him with tanning oil, and set him on fire.

At his birthday party.

Sheard ran away, leaving his victim burning and screaming. Simpson, burned over 50 percent of his body, later died. Sheard’s defense was that it was all just a prank gone wrong, and he was allowed to plead guilty to manslaughter. The sentence?  3½ years…but the way the British penal system works, Sheard will probably be released  after serving half that.

This is a particularly awful example of British justice, but it is not an anomaly. All over Western Europe, human life is routinely devalued by progressively lower and lower sentences for killers adn all criminals. Why is this? As I have written here before, I believe it is because the range of sentences in those nations is not anchored to an absolute punishment for the worst offenses against human kind. . Without a death penalty as a reference point, however it is set, punishments for lesser offenses—even vicious lesser offenses— begin sliding down the slippery slope, until the punishment for shocking, cruel and horrific crimes like Sheard’s amount to a slap on the wrist. What occurs along with this phenomenon is a gradual devaluing of life in that culture, since the sentence for murder is, in essence, the price society exacts for a life taken by another. If the price is too cheap, life is too cheap, and society and the culture gets the message.

Maryland looks like it will abolish its death penalty, becoming the 18th state to do so, and naturally most of the news media is cheering it on. The Washington Post editors wrote a virtual template of an “end capital punishment now!” editorial last week, and it amassed all the arguments we have heard for a century:

“With popular opinion generally in favor of retaining capital punishment, it took guts for Mr. O’Malley and lawmakers to press for repeal. They will have to summon even more spine to fight for its repeal at referendum if the question gets on the ballot next year. Until then, it is worth revisiting and reminding voters of the powerful arguments for repeal — the lack of deterrence; the racial imbalance in the administration of capital punishment; the steady drip of defendants wrongly convicted in capital cases; the impossibility of undoing the execution of a person who has been mistakenly condemned. Since 1978, when capital punishment was reinstated in Maryland, just five people have been executed in the state — none since 2005 — but untold millions of dollars have been spent in litigating the cases of more than 50 others sentenced to death. As Mr. O’Malley has recognized, that is a damning portrait of ineffective and wasteful public policy.”

None of this litany argues for the elimination of the death penalty in appropriate cases; it is a mish-mash of various assumptions, rationalizations, and fallacies. No, the death penalty probably doesn’t deter killers very often. There’s not a lot of evidence that any punishment deters crime much, because 1) most criminals are dumb as bricks, and 2) they don’t plan on being caught. On the other hand, as my father was fond of saying, the death penalty sure as hell deters the killer sentenced and executed from killing anyone else. Ted Bundy, you may recall, was adept at escaping from prisons. Other murderers have continued to kill people in jail. Deterrence isn’t the best argument for capital punishment, but the deterrence of further killing by some of our worst criminals is a nice little side benefit I wouldn’t underestimate. The racial imbalance in the administration of capital punishment, if it means that blacks tend to be sentenced more harshly than whites, demands that we start sentencing whites as harshly, not that we should stop executing murderers who deserve to be executed. If it means that blacks are being punished more harshly than their crimes warrant, then fix that aspect of the system. If you eliminate capital punishment, the same argument will remain for whatever serious punishment remains. Black killers who are justly executed have not been mistreated because some white killers unjustly avoid their punishment.

The Post editors, like most opponents of  capital punishment, rig the debate by insisting that the system must be perfect,that it is fatally flawed and should be scrapped because mistakes are sometimes made. No system is perfect, and they know it. We need a system of clemency and appeals, but sometimes a mad dog killer is released who wreaks havoc on society. Should we eliminate clemency? We need a system of choosing leaders, and sometimes it gives us fools, crooks and incompetents who get citizens killed and throw the nation off its tracks.  Should we junk democracy? The drip-drip-drip has been coming from innocent men sentenced to life or long sentences because of prosecutorial misconduct—why isn’t the Post advocating eliminating life without parole…life…25 years to life? This is how a culture gets to the point where ending the life of an innocent, vulnerable, gay man in pain and terror is punished with a likely 18 mouths in prison. “What  if somehow we’re wrong?

I have no problem with reserving the death penalty exclusively for cases where “beyond a reasonable doubt” has become “absolutely no doubt whatsoever,” and the crime or crimes involved are momentous, cruel, and beyond redemption. The D.C. snipers.  Bundy. The BTK killer. The Cheshire home invaders, Steven Hayes  and Joshua Komisarjevsky. Timothy McVeigh.  We can scale the severity of punishment from their horrible crimes down, knowing that our reverence for life will not be subject to progressive deflation….as it has in England.

______________________
Facts: The Sun

Source: Washington Post

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at  jamproethics@verizon.net.

43 thoughts on “Jordan Sheard And The No-Capital Punishment Slippery Slope

  1. Stumbled across your blog read a few, and am always impressed. Thanks for elevating the discussion level on the internet.

  2. I first became aware of the radical difference compared to European sentences after al-Megrahi got a compassionate release because he was about to die, but lived in freedom for three years. The same thing when I heard about sentences tossed around as fair for that attack on a youth camp.
    I couldn’t get over the lack of consequences for killing that many. Life in prison might have be acceptable if there is no death penalty but no less, especially for many deaths. Murder should cost more than a mortgage. Heinous crimes carrying so little punishment is a blank check, saying the criminal’s freedom is more important than a victim’s life.

  3. I think Ive mentioned her here somewhere before but its an argument originally made by Judith Jarvis Thompson.The gist of it is “Its not so much that you have the right to life, its more so that you have the right to not be killed unjustly.”

    Its a subtle but elegant shift that more adequately describes the thinking behind all forms of societally endorsed killing; e.g. soldiers in war, murderers, self-defense, etc.

      • I read that as “death penalty for murderers”, but I don’t want to put words in Jeremy’s mouth.

        –Dwayne

        • And having said that, I strongly disagree with “Its not so much that you have the right to life….” because our founding documents make it clear that one’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are fundamental and sacrosanct.

          We tolerate the taking of someone’s life only in cases where that someone has taken away someone else’s right to life, or is imminently about to do so. This model also fits with all three examples.

          –Dwayne

          • The argument goes like this (and Im paraphrasing): The phrase is “right to life” but the practice is “right not to be killed unjustly.” And we can prove this with a couple of examples.

            1) Absolute pacifists and American culture both observe the right to life. Absolute pacifists, in keeping with this theology, will not kill anything – even in self defense. America, however, does a great deal of reactive (self defense / executions) and proactive killing (war – notably drone strikes).

            2) If you are dying a slow but early death of some untransmittable medical illness, the government is not obligated to cure you. if you had a right to life then surely, since you aren’t actively endangering other people, the government has the responsibility to guarantee your right to life?

            Considering the above two examples, which arguably cover a great range of preventable death, which is a more accurate definition for the American practice of right to life? You have “the right to life unless you are actively endangering another person?” This fits some of the above examples. Or “you dont have a right to life, you have a right to not be killed unjustly?” This fits all of the above examples.

            Its worth noting two things here though. The bar for justly killing someone is fairly high and the difference between the philosophies may seem large, but functionally they spend a lot of time overlapping.

  4. The European disease is apathy.

    After 2 World Wars, the 2nd of which was accompanied with massive state sanctioned slaughter of innocents, Europeans have simply decided they just don’t care. Anything that even remotely resembles an aggressive lethal action by the state is to be avoided at all costs (even when it sacrifices other societal good). Hell, they even avoid necessary wars and only half heatedly send assistance to the ones they choose to take part in. Their efforts in the UN against petty tyrants inevitably involve doing *nothing* about the tyrant in order to avoid bloodshed.

    It seem their attitude is this: as long as nothing is happening to me, I don’t care what happens elsewhere…. And that includes letting murderers loose or unpunished.

    It’s an easy sheepish attitude to have. But a dangerous one that is an open door for all manner of uncivilized existence. It’s a blatantly open door to allow for another wild pogrom to occur again, because hey “as long as it isn’t happening to me”

  5. Stories like these make me understand the “no snitching” ethos(a refusal to cooperate with the police celebrated in hip hop.) Simpson’s family got all the pomp and circumstance of a legal proceeding without getting anything resembling justice for their son. Why risk cooperation with law enforcement and the legal system when there little chance that an offender will be punished, much less with a punishment that fits the crime. When the system doesn’t provide justice people make their own justice. The implications of a society where the law is a joke is chilling.

  6. What I have noticed in the British justice system is that a crime against people is treated much less severely than defiance of the government.

    A few years ago, three men broke into a home, duct taped a mother and her children to chairs, and then began to torture them for the location of valuables in the house. During the torture session, the husband returned home, grabbed a cricket bat, and beat all three armed men out of his house. In the US, the husband would have been hailed as a hero and the three crooks would have been facing serious charges. In Great Britain, the husband received a double digit prison term and the three men who broke into his house and tortured his family received “non-custodial sentences” (probation). The three thugs offense was merely against a private citizen. The father and husband TOOK THE LAW INTO HIS OWN HANDS. Someone who dares to do that cannot be allowed in European society.

    These policies leave the European public afraid, powerless, and wholly dependent on the government. The high crime rates in Great Britain actually serve the government’s interest. The fear of this outcome is what makes people oppose gun control.

    • Are you talking about the case of Munir Hussain from 2008? If so, you’re not presenting the facts of the case quite accurately, and you’re also making unproven assertions about the intentions of prosecutors.

      As I understand the events, Hussain’s family wasn’t being tortured and the attackers weren’t after the family’s valuables. Hussain himself was the target of the attack, and while his wife and daughter were present, it was he and his son who were being beaten by the intruders. But that’s neither here nor there. What’s important is that when Hussain got loose, all of the assailants ran off, and while two of them got away, one was chased out of the house and onto a neighbors lawn and beaten with weapons by Hussain and his brother who lived elsewhere on their street while the neighbor begged them to stop before they killed the man.

      Now, I’m not saying that Hussain was wrong in what he did, and I don’t think it would be inappropriate to let him off for the severity of his response in light of the circumstances. But neither Hussain nor his family was severely injured, while the intruder was. I don’t see how you can take the outcome as an example of the British legal system “devaluing human life” (in Jack’s words). They gave the greater punishment to the person who did grave physical harm to another citizen. The charge leveled against the intruder was “false imprisonment,” and it seems absolutely right that under the letter of the law that should carry a lesser sentence.

      Nevertheless, in this particular instance there is the appearance of an unjust imbalance. I don’t know one way or the other, but I would say that it’s entirely possible that that has more to do with racial and religious bias than some European rejection of the principle of self-defense. Indeed, that would put the Hussain case in a category similar to how Alexander Cheezam understands the Jordan Sheard case further down in these comments. He sees Sheard’s light sentence as a consequence of the devaluing not of life itself, but of a particular kind of person, namely the autistic. Whether it’s persons with disabilities, certain races, or certain religious identities, this kind of bias occurs in every society, and it is sometimes demonstrated within the legal system.

  7. A few years ago, three men broke into a home, duct taped a mother and her children to chairs, and then began to torture them for the location of valuables in the house. During the torture session, the husband returned home, grabbed a cricket bat, and beat all three armed men out of his house. In the US, the husband would have been hailed as a hero and the three crooks would have been facing serious charges. In Great Britain, the husband received a double digit prison term and the three men who broke into his house and tortured his family received “non-custodial sentences” (probation). The three thugs offense was merely against a private citizen. The father and husband TOOK THE LAW INTO HIS OWN HANDS. Someone who dares to do that cannot be allowed in European society.

    Is there a cite for this?

    Of course, if such things are actually happening, this would give al Qaeda and other terrorist groups an effective recruitment tool,.

    Does not injustice breed terrorism?

    • I don’t know this exact case, but check your facts. I do know for a fact that in England, if someone breaks into your home and you have a legal hunting rifle to protect your home and family, YOU’RE the one who will go to jail, not the invader. Fact.

      • Appending the word fact to an assertion doesn’t make it a fact. Facts may be confirmed statistics or historical events that are known to have happened. “X will happen” is at best a logical inference. In any event, it’s an unproven assertion until backed up. What are you basing your claim on? Are you aware of a large number of cases of British citizens being prosecuted for using a legal firearm in defense of their homes? Is there something in British law which states that doing so is illegal?

        I’m really asking, because by no means do I have any special knowledge of the British legal system. However, everything that I can find online indicates that, much like with the American system, the standard for reasonable force in defense of life or property is determined by juries on a case-by-case basis. And according to the website for the Crown Prosecution Service:

        Prosecutions of householders for tackling intruders are extremely rare – only a very few in the past 15 years. Even where householders have badly injured, or even killed burglars, the CPS has declined to prosecute unless they have used wholly excessive force.

        Granted, this says nothing about guns, but considering the reference to cases where intruders have been killed, it seems unlikely that the type of weapon used to kill somebody would make a big difference.

  8. In the case of Jordan Sheard, I almost believe in “an eye for an eye.” Let HIM experience the “joke gone wrong,” and find out how it feels to be set on fire.

    That is not our culture, however. I would be happy if Sheard (in the US) got life in prison, if and only if it really meant life in prison… no chance of parole. After all, he’s young and good looking, and doing hard time in a US prison would probably make him wish they HAD just set him on fire and gotten the torture over with…

  9. I was going to write a rather long explanatory post on just why (and how) my interpretation of these events differs from yours. Unfortunately, I’ve been distracted by a series of ongoing situations, the most recent of which (see http://www.notdeadyet.org/2013/04/autistic-writerbloggeractivist-amanda-baggs-facing-life-threatening-discrimination-in-vermont-hospital.html for a summary) probably deserves e-mail submission to this blog (although that would now be redundant, given that I’m posting it here).

    The fact of the matter is that incidents such as the one I describe above are commonplace in the world of disability. In fact, I was pointed to a blog entry as I started writing this ( http://disabilityrightnow.wordpress.com/2012/04/17/the-death-of-al-bing/ ) which details several others of various types.

    I could bring up the case of George Hodgins and the media coverage surrounding his murder (e.g.see http://autisticadvocacy.org/2012/03/remarks-on-the-murder-of-george-hodgins/ for one of the major autistic rights organization’s remarks on the matter). I could bring up any of the other absurd cases which cross my metaphorical desk on a regular basis.

    But… I won’t, beyond the above. While I do recommend following (and reading) the links above, I will mostly just remark that those of us with experience in the field have a radically different interpretation of Jordan Sheard’s absurdly light sentence.

    • I would love to hear a differing interpretation of these events.

      I assume “differing” implies something of an agreement that a 3.5 year sentence for this crime is appropriate?

      • Good God, no. The “sentence” was absurdly inappropriate.

        Jack, however, is arguing that this is connected to the alleged slippery slope of disallowing capital punishment. *That* is where my interpretation disagrees.

        Fact: Society generally values the lives of autistic people less than they do the lives of nonautistic individuals.
        Fact: People who kill autistic people tend to get off absurdly lightly, both in terms of sentencing and in terms of general societal condemnation.
        (Note that the same can often be said about gay people.)

        Interpretation: This is just another demonstration of the above two facts. The “slippery slope” involved here has little-to-nothing to do with it.

        • (1) “Fact: Society generally values the lives of autistic people less than they do the lives of nonautistic individuals.”

          What is that ‘fact’ based off of?

          (2) “Fact: People who kill autistic people tend to get off absurdly lightly, both in terms of sentencing and in terms of general societal condemnation.”

          I trust you have stats for that, I’m not questioning this.

          However, if (1) is based off of your evaluation of (2), then you haven’t made a fact out of (1). Its just a conclusion following Premise (2) and a suppressed premise.

          Your objection to the slippery slope argument may be valid, I’m not gonna oppose it or agree to it. Just curious about (1).

          • Countless incidents — there’s plenty of support for (1) in my original comment. Incidents of (2) are also described.

            Or, if you want me to pull out another piece of evidence, Joel Smith, a well-known autistic self-advocate, used to maintain a list of murdered autistics, including what happened to their murderers. While it went offline at some point in ’09 or ’10, an archived version can still be found at http://web.archive.org/web/20090822070706/http://thiswayoflife.org/murder.html … and serves as somewhat more representative sample (and provides a *lot* of further support).

            • Ok, so (1) is a conclusion to premise (2) and a suppressed premise that I assume falls along the lines of “The way a judicial system treats perpetrators of crimes against X, shows how the overall society values X”.

              I don’t think that is necessarily a fair premise to assert.

              I think the suppressed premise is far more complex than that and a fairer conclusion ought to be that people don’t really know what equal treatment under the law looks like, don’t realize that the law is not being applied equitably, or they value not taking action over solving a problem for a variety of reasons, or many other factors not listed here.

              • Uhh… no. While I would argue that the treatment in the judicial system acts as support for (1), the evidence I provided was by no means confined to there.

                The ongoing incident I mentioned? It involves, among other things, a hospital stonewalling on an essential (and fairly routine) procedure for a colleague of mine, simply because she’s autistic. Earlier, they tried to simply refuse to admit her (never mind that she was near death) for precisely that reason.

                The evidence I provided involved the media — and media coverage of autistic people’s deaths. It involves how various institutions treat autistic people’s heath issues. It… well, you get the idea.

                • The hospital refused to help her because of autism?

                  Don’t get me started on the media. Media coverage about pretty much anything is abhorrent, slanted, and plain wrong. If they aren’t informing the public of *actual* injustice, then they are failing, but that isn’t a condemnation of the people at large.

                  • Yes, if you’re referring to the initial admission.

                    When it comes to the actual procedure, however, they didn’t actively refuse. They simply stonewalled on that basis and repeatedly (at least twice that I’m aware of) attempted to talk her out of it on the basis of her being, in essence, better off dead.

                    And as for the media coverage… as bad as that is, the comments are usually far worse. We actually have to vet the comments and put relevant trigger warnings on links when we share the stories most of the time.

                    (And “trigger warnings”, for those of you don’t know, mean, effectively, “Warning: This will likely trigger PTSD flashbacks if you have relevant trauma in your past.”).

                  • To provide further (publicly available) detail on the initial admission: they demanded a 24/7 aide from a developmental disability services agency before they’d admit her. They eventually backed down (although I don’t have the details on that).

                    • Sorry, work picked up over the past week, leaving me time mostly for short bursts of involvement on the more recent posts.

                      I think everything you are bringing to light is abhorrent.

                      Technically, lumping in the overtly classless haters into the stats, then yes, as a society we don’t like autistic individuals.

                      However, I’m afraid that is still an unfair over generalization.

                      Institutional discrimination of course ought to be addressed and defeated.

                      Complicating things in this whole discourse unfortunately:

                      We don’t really know what autism is.

                      Additionally, when we don’t know what a problem is, we often call it autism (because we don’t really know what autism is).

                      The people at large aren’t really all that informed on what little we do know about autism. Given a bit more info, I think you’ll see society’s attitude shift to more positive. Of course I wouldn’t condemn all of society to begin with because of certain institutions and certain malevolent people.

                    • 1) Yes, I’d agree that the things I’m bringing to light are generally abhorrent. That’s the *point*.

                      2) No, the “overly classless haters” aren’t the point. What happens when an autistic person has to go to the hospital or generally seek medical treatment? What happens when one of us is murdered? What happens when we try to speak up on issues which pertain to us? I’ve addressed all of these and more.

                      And all of these speak to the value that we — as a society — place on autistic lives. All of them show a consistent pattern.

                      You will not see me “condemn all of society”. I haven’t done so. There are parts of society who respond decently. The general trend, however, is clear.

                      3) I’ve blogged on the topic of us “not knowing what autism is” (quotes intentional): http://aspieperspective.blogspot.com/2011/09/on-diagnosis.html . You may want to read the article.

          • In addition to the discussion above/below… you do realize that only the judicial response aspects are required for my interpretation of Sheard’s sentence, right?

  10. I should have replied to this when it was fresh. I’m doing so now.

    You know, Jack, unless you can convincingly demonstrate the existence of a slippery slope, such an argument is a fallacy. All I see in this post is an assertion. You say:

    Why is this? As I have written here before, I believe it is because the range of sentences in those nations is not anchored to an absolute punishment for the worst offenses against human kind. Without a death penalty as a reference point, however it is set, punishments for lesser offenses—even vicious lesser offenses— begin sliding down the slippery slope, until the punishment for shocking, cruel and horrific crimes like Sheard’s amount to a slap on the wrist.

    Why? Even if we grant that the removal of a death penalty option results in punishments for every offense moving one step down, what is it that would drive them further down your claimed slippery slope? Why can’t an alternative punishment, e.g. life without parole, be set as an alternative absolute standard by which all lesser crimes are measured?

    Slippery slope aside, you seem to reject this alternative standard because only the death penalty is a guaranteed deterrent for each particular murderer. With imprisonment, after all, there is the possibility of escape. But unless you’re proposing summary executions, this possibility exists as long as a person is awaiting execution. I understand that that danger disappears much sooner in the case of death sentences as opposed to life sentences. However, with the possibility of escape, the possibility of exoneration also vanishes, in cases where a death row inmate is actually innocent. A just legal system has to allow for reasonable risks. It’s up for discussion which is the worse risk: that a guilty man might escape, or that an innocent one might be executed. To see the latter as worse is not to devalue punishment generally.

    There’s also a question of which of these two risks is more easily mitigated. I would say that Ted Bundy wasn’t so much adept at escaping prisons as his prisons were incompetent about keeping him in. In one instance, he was allowed unguarded access to a library when acting as his own defender, and he simply left through a window. I’m confident that everyone involved learned from that mistake. I’m not so confident that known executions of innocent men have led to any significant reforms with respect to problems like racially-biased prosecution.

    • You will also note an alternate interpretation is provided above.

      Also, there’s a rather substantial body of research on jury decision-making. I’m not going to get into detail on that… but suffice it to say that there’s ample evidence that juries tend to have a distorted interpretation of the evidence… and, more practically, that there’s a surprisingly high false conviction rate for a variety of crimes.

      Looking at what the availability of DNA evidence did to rape convictions, for instance, or looking around the Innocence Project’s assorted information (their website is at http://www.innocenceproject.org/ ), should give you some idea.

      Hell, if you have the time, I strongly recommend reading Thompson-Cannino, Cotton, & Torneo’s Picking Cotton (ISBN-13 978-0312599539). It’s an excellent case study in… well, a lot of the problems.

    • “Even if we grant that the removal of a death penalty option results in punishments for every offense moving one step down, what is it that would drive them further down your claimed slippery slope? Why can’t an alternative punishment, e.g. life without parole, be set as an alternative absolute standard by which all lesser crimes are measured?”

      Why? Because there are crimes far short of mass murder, murder by torture, cop-killing and others that would justify life without parole. Bernie Madoff comes to mind. But once the “it’s not the worst thing” rationalization comes into play, then the slippery slope is assured. You can’t give Bernie the same sentence as a killer, because “at least he didn’t kill anybody.” You can’t give a mere white collar criminal a long sentence as Bernie, because nobody is worse than Bernie. Pretty soon you’re letting muggers and burglars out after a week in jail, because any harsher sentence would seem “unjust.”

      Not all slippery slopes have to be proven. Setting caps of any kind always triggers slippery slopes. Human experience is proof; you don’t have to keep “proving” the same phenomenon over and over.

      • Your justifying one slippery slope by arguing another slippery slope. We can’t given white collar criminals and violent criminals the same sentence? Why? If different types of crimes have to have different sentences, then doesn’t that apply to different types of murder, as well? “We can’t give the death penalty to the guy who killed a cop, because there’s another guy on death row who killed twenty people in a terrorist attack and that’s way worse.”

        Your comments about the “it’s not the worst thing” rationalization seem like a complete non-sequiter. What does that have to do with opposition to the death penalty?

        Yes, slippery slopes do have to be proven. Your assertion that setting caps of any kind triggers them is just absurd, especially as an argument against any particular cap. If you really believe that the justice system is so prone to slippery slopes, maybe you’re not going far enough. The right of freedom from cruel and unusual punishment is a cap. If the appropriate response to murder is the death penalty, don’t we need other options that scale up from there in response to even more heinous offenses? Maybe we need to get back to that old “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” idea. Torture the torturers. Make sure the pain of punishment matches the pain of victimization. It’s the only way we can be sure that we don’t let anyone off with less than what they deserve, right?

        You see, that’s the thing about slippery slopes. They tend to run in both directions. If the setting of a lower standard of punishment ultimately leads the way to non-enforcement, then the setting of a higher standard ultimately leads the way to barbarism.

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