The philosophical underpinning of the death penalty

Here’s a worthwhile article that explores the whole notion of “free will” and retributive justice.


Morality Without “Free Will”

by Sam Harris

Many people seem to believe that morality depends for its existence on a metaphysical quantity called “free will.” This conviction is occasionally expressed—often with great impatience, smugness, or piety—with the words, “ought implies can.” Like much else in philosophy that is too easily remembered (e.g. “you can’t get an ought from an is.”), this phrase has become an impediment to clear thinking.

In fact, the concept of free will is a non-starter, both philosophically and scientifically. There is simply no description of mental and physical causation that allows for this freedom that we habitually claim for ourselves and ascribe to others. Understanding this would alter our view of morality in some respects, but it wouldn’t destroy the distinction between right and wrong, or good and evil.

To read more, click here.


Virginia schedules execution of mentally handicapped woman

Teresa Lewis

“Teresa Lewis, a borderline mentally retarded woman charged with “masterminding” the murder of her husband and stepson in 2002, is slated to be the first woman in almost a century to be executed in Virginia this month.

Lewis, 40, pleaded guilty to hiring two men, Matthew Shallenberger and Rodney Fuller, to murder her husband and stepson so that she could collect a $350,000 life insurance policy. Both triggermen were handed life sentences, but Judge Charles Strauss gave Lewis the death penalty, reasoning that she was “clearly the head of this serpent.”

“And in 2003, Shallenberger wrote in a letter to a fellow inmate that he had deliberately manipulated Lewis into going along with his plan because he needed the money to start a drug business in New York City.

“I met Teresa at the Walmart in Danville, VA. From the moment I met her I knew she was someone who could be easily manipulated,” Shallenberger wrote. “Killing Julian and Charles Lewis was entirely my idea. I needed money, and Teresa was an easy target.”

Three years later, Shallenberger committed suicide in prison, and Lewis’ defense team has not yet been able to use the letter as evidence to a court.”

Lynn Litchfield, Teresa’s chaplain at the maximum-security prison in Virginia where she was confined, describes Lewis in a recent Newsweek article as “slow and overly eager to please — an easy mark, in other words, for a con.”

To read more, click here: Huffington Post: Teresa Lewis, Mentally Disabled Woman To Be Executed In Virginia This Month