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Thread: Capital Punishment

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    Last night the governor of Maryland signed a bill officially outlawing the death penalty in the state of Maryland, making Maryland the 18th U.S. state to abolish Capital Punishment. This got me thinking about capital punishment, and I decided that it was time Serebii would have a debate on the death penalty.

    It's a simple enough question: Is it acceptable for the government to take a person's life as punishment for their crimes, and if so, when?

    I am 100% against the death penalty for ANY reason. I can't think of any sort of scenario where I think death is the appropriate punishment. Below, I outline a few reasons as to why I oppose capital punishment.

        Spoiler:- Arguments:


    I know I'm not the only one with this position, and I know plenty of you are going to disagree with me. So, discuss and debate the simple, yet so controversial, question I've previously stated: Is it acceptable for the government to take a person's life as punishment for their crimes, and if so, when?
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    I'm going to step up. I don't plan on making a comprehensive argument to positively prove that the death penalty is moral or just (at least not yet). Instead, I merely wish to poke holes in your case, showing that your arguments cannot bear the weight you put on them.

    Before anything else, I should stress that, at least in modern times, the death penalty has almost overwhelmingly been understood to be for particularly violent criminals, mostly those who take the lives of others or torture others. Sure, there have been some cultures that allowed the death penalty for truly trivial things like petty theft. Think serial killer, or a violent serial rapist. Or maybe even the Boston Marathon bombers. I'm assuming that there have been, are, and will be people who are actually guilty of heinous crimes. Thus most of my examples deal with people who are actually guilty of such heinous crimes. Keep this in mind as I counter your arguments.


    Now on to the first thing to discuss:
    Quote Originally Posted by WizardTrubbish View Post
    I am 100% against the death penalty for ANY reason.
    The examples I mentioned above hint at a reason why the above statement could easily be exaggerated. And if it could be exaggerated, then perhaps your argument would only support drastically reducing the number of cases to which the death penalty applies. People have and will continue to violate the rights of others in some absolutely heinous ways, and it is certainly possible that the death penalty fits these crimes.

    Quote Originally Posted by WizardTrubbish View Post
    And how can you be 100% sure the person you're executing is guilty? If a single innocent person is executed, that's one too many. If years after the person is convicted, new evidence comes to light proving their innocence and they're in prison, they can simply be released. If they've been executed, than there's absolutely nothing to be done, and the state just murdered an innocent person.
    There are several counters to this argument. First of all, there are cases where you can be 100% sure that the person on trial is guilty. For example, if they did it in front of thousands or even millions of people, you can be 100% sure. (Or at least, you can be as near to 100% sure as you can be about anything in the world.) Other things could possibly be useful. For example, I have heard that O. J. Simpson used the argument that he beat his wife (which was significant, he or his lawyer alleged, because something like only 1 in 1000 or 10000 spouse abusers go on to actually kill their spouse). If he so freely admits such incriminating evidence, then it is all but certain that he is guilty of what he said he did. I don't think I need to belabor the point with other examples.

    Second, abortion has not been held to the standard of 100% certainty. Perhaps I shouldn't assume that you agree with abortion being legal, but it at least shows an important contrast. By the standard you mention, the argument used by the majority opinion in Roe v. Wade, which went something like, "Neither scientists, nor theologians, nor philosophers know when life begins," would positively prohibit abortion on demand. This argument even applies if you use "personhood" as the criterion rather than life. If there is a possibility that the fetus is a person worthy of rights a minute before birth, a day, a week, three weeks, or seven weeks, then killing the fetus is an act of homicide and must have sufficient justification. In fact, many of the pro-choice people I've debated on this forum have stated that they are sure that the fetus possesses personhood at a certain (generally late) point in gestation, and most of these debaters have concluded that at that point abortion should not be allowed for just any reason. And don't even get me started on the "let the baby die on the delivery table" women's rights arguments. I'm just going to go ahead and say it. Anyone who advocates that has removed all ground upon which they could argue against the death penalty.

    Third, it would be special pleading to fail to apply the same standard to self defense. But if you did, it would be necessary to have 100% certainty that your assailant is going to kill you (or maybe torture you) and at least in some cases you'd need 100% knowledge that your attack would not kill them. I don't think you want to make such an argument against self defense, but I don't think you have a reason why it applies to the death penalty and not self defense. And I think that case causes you to see what an excessive burden it is to require 100% certainty.

    A fourth argument against this point is that the possibility of being released from prison is not necessarily good enough. For example, there have probably been (or will be) some people who unjustly serve a life sentence and die in prison. Or just die young in prison from, say gang violence. Even if evidence is discovered to exonerate them, they can't be released because they're dead. This is even true of someone who serves a lesser sentence. The loss of freedom for a given time can never be recovered. They can't get that time back. Thus you could use that argument to avoid any punishment.

    Quote Originally Posted by WizardTrubbish View Post
    Perhaps I could grit my teeth and put up with the death penalty if it served some sort of practical purpose, but alas, it does not. Absolutely nothing is accomplished, except for revenge, and as I've already said, I don't consider a good reason, to say the least. "But wait," you might say "Doesn't the death penalty deter crime?" Nope. The death penalty doesn't work, because when you commit, typically, you either (a) aren't thinking of the consequences (b) don't plan on getting caught or (c) don't care about the consequences.
    First, you might need 100% knowledge that the death penalty serves no purpose. (You're going to see that 100% so many times that you will wish you had never used it.)

    Second, the death penalty is not just for revenge. Assume I accept the sources you've given. (Just like the claims of gun violence reduction by heavy restriction, there's enough reason to doubt, though I won't pursue that). Even if the death penalty does not deter crime from the general populace, it will prevent any future crime by that one criminal. And I believe you are right to say that the vast majority of people who commit crimes don't care about the consequences. If a person has committed atrocities like torture and doesn't care about the consequences, can you provide some reason the law is unjustified in seeking an end to that person's evil? Can you really say that ending that person's evil is really serving no purpose? And it should be noted that if the criminal is dead, you can be 100% sure that he or she will no longer be committing atrocities.

    Additionally, your words in section 2 tend to shore up one argument I made against your first section. You can't know with 100% certainty that such a vicious, consequence-ignoring criminal will not escape from prison. In fact, giving a life sentence to criminals who don't care about the consequences quite likely gives them time to plot an escape, after which they can commit further violations against the populace. (And lack of concern for the consequences could easily lead them to commit violent acts against fellow inmates.)

    Quote Originally Posted by WizardTrubbish View Post
    My third and final argument is that the death penalty is costly.
    I'm just going to state that this is excellent as a counter to the alleged inexpensiveness of the death penalty. But, quite simply, neither the death penalty nor the lack of the death penalty should be justified by monetary costs. If someone has killed, say, 10 people, then the prevention of further death by that person So your argument is incorrect in the way you've stated it; the cost of the death penalty cannot be an argument against the death penalty.




    I'm just going to use an example to sum up all that I've said. Imagine a man who has killed several dozen people, raping, even torturing many of the victims. In fact, in several of the cases, he killed someone in public, on camera, or in some other way leaving evidence that gave 100% certainty of his guilt. He didn't care about the consequences, and showed no remorse. He told law enforcement and the courts that he planned to escape from jail if sent there. Wouldn't you say that the state could have an interest in keeping such a man from ever committing another heinous act against another?

    Or wouldn't you at least say...that you can't be 100% sure that the death penalty is wrong in such a case?

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    I have no moral problem with the death penalty. Or, let me put it another way. I have no moral problem with someone being killed if they've done terrible things.

    That said, I could not be more anti the death penalty. Not for any mealy-mouthed hand wringing, simply because the justice system is not perfect, and killing people who turn out to be innocent is such a terrible thing the option should be eliminated altogether.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheFightingPikachu View Post
    Third, it would be special pleading to fail to apply the same standard to self defense. But if you did, it would be necessary to have 100% certainty that your assailant is going to kill you (or maybe torture you) and at least in some cases you'd need 100% knowledge that your attack would not kill them. I don't think you want to make such an argument against self defense, but I don't think you have a reason why it applies to the death penalty and not self defense. And I think that case causes you to see what an excessive burden it is to require 100% certainty.
    With self defence, you lack the time to think about alternatives to using lethal force, this is a key difference between that and using the death penalty. If the death penalty is going to be justified, it would have to be to ultimately minimise loss of life (first to innocent people, then to not-so-innocent people). In the case of the death penalty, things are very different. The perpetrator of said crimes is currently locked up, and measures should be taken to ensure the perpetrator does not get out (which the government would need to enforce), such measures could include armed guards in maximum security prisons that are authorised to use lethal force against prisoners that try to escape (this isn't quite a death penalty, but it shifts to something similar to self-defence, stopping someone when not using lethal force risks death).

    A fourth argument against this point is that the possibility of being released from prison is not necessarily good enough. For example, there have probably been (or will be) some people who unjustly serve a life sentence and die in prison. Or just die young in prison from, say gang violence. Even if evidence is discovered to exonerate them, they can't be released because they're dead. This is even true of someone who serves a lesser sentence. The loss of freedom for a given time can never be recovered. They can't get that time back. Thus you could use that argument to avoid any punishment.
    In this case the solution is for the government to find solutions to other problems such as violence in prisons, not to kill people off as a band-aid solution to the problem. As for unjustly serving a life sentence, a life in prison would still be better than no life at all, particularly if the prisoner has to work for the good of society (which is of some benefit to the prisoner, AND to taxpayers footing the bill for keeping prisoners in prison). As for killing someone, they lose all of their remaining lifespan with no way of getting THAT (greater) time back.

    Additionally, your words in section 2 tend to shore up one argument I made against your first section. You can't know with 100% certainty that such a vicious, consequence-ignoring criminal will not escape from prison. In fact, giving a life sentence to criminals who don't care about the consequences quite likely gives them time to plot an escape, after which they can commit further violations against the populace. (And lack of concern for the consequences could easily lead them to commit violent acts against fellow inmates.)
    In this case, the solution would have to be for the government to ensure maximum security prisons are just that, SECURE. Like I said previously, armed guards authorised to use lethal force would be a part of this. Also, designing the prison in such a way that any possible escape routes would be heavily guarded by said guards would make the probability of escape very close to, if not, 0. Also, there would need to be measures by the government to ensure high internal security of the prison, to stop inmates from screwing with each other. If anyone is known to be a major threat, they could be placed in solitary confinement away from all other prisoners permanently.

    I'm just going to state that this is excellent as a counter to the alleged inexpensiveness of the death penalty. But, quite simply, neither the death penalty nor the lack of the death penalty should be justified by monetary costs. If someone has killed, say, 10 people, then the prevention of further death by that person So your argument is incorrect in the way you've stated it; the cost of the death penalty cannot be an argument against the death penalty.
    Some people, however, may look into the long term effects of saving money and spending it elsewhere (which can very well including saving lives if it is spent wisely). Saving cash is not a point that can be entirely discounted. Some of the cash saved could even be used for beefing up security like I suggested.

    One point of my own:

    - If anyone commits a capital offence, they have *NOTHING* to lose by committing any further crimes, which is extremely dangerous. Such individuals would probably rather attempt to kill as many police officers as possible trying to apprehend them, if they know that getting caught means death. Putting anyone in a position where they have nothing to lose is a very good way of transforming said person into a savage, relentless monster of destruction that will stop at nothing to save themselves. Criminal justice systems that can place criminals in a position where they have nothing to lose by committing crimes is very dangerous, and, IMO, fundamentally flawed.

    EDIT - I found a research paper that argues against capital punishment as a deterrent that lowers murder rates. According to this paper, it actually INCREASES murder rates. There are results of statistical tests employed to determine whether correlation has true causation behind it, and in most cases, there were conclusive findings in favour of NOT using capital punishment as a deterrent.
    https://facultystaff.richmond.edu/~v...s374/tyree.pdf
    Last edited by JDavidC; 5th May 2013 at 8:20 AM.

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    I once made a topic about this subject. I gave some very reasonable alternatives to the death penalty.

    Stephen Colbert recently interviewed someone who was exonerated from death row with DNA evidence. Imagine getting executed because you were found guilty for a crime that you didn't commit. The death sentence is pretty scary.
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    Quote Originally Posted by marioguy View Post
    I once made a topic about this subject. I gave some very reasonable alternatives to the death penalty.

    Stephen Colbert recently interviewed someone who was exonerated from death row with DNA evidence. Imagine getting executed because you were found guilty for a crime that you didn't commit. The death sentence is pretty scary.
    I believe there is significant doubt if Cameron Todd Willingham actually did anything, as nearly all the evidence that was originally used to convict him has since been shown to be perfectly possible from a regular fire and are simply created by flashover, which could have happened at any point if a/window came open, which given he got out of the house must have happened. And he actually has been executed for it, though if he was guilty or innocent will probably remain forever in doubt because there really isn't a way to conclusively prove it wasn't arson, and while that isn't supposed to be the standard it is the one that seems to have been applied in the end.
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    Firstly, why does the death penalty have to exist? It is, as previously mentioned, expensive, unproductive, especially in comparison to the amount of cheap labour that countries like the US get from the prison system anyway. Then there's the fact that it's probably enough punishment and safe enough to keep people in prison. And then, there is always the possibility of several problems and loopholes and different legislative nightmares that it causes in so that it's probably safer to just not have the death penalty.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Dragon View Post
    Firstly, why does the death penalty have to exist? It is, as previously mentioned, expensive, unproductive, especially in comparison to the amount of cheap labour that countries like the US get from the prison system anyway. Then there's the fact that it's probably enough punishment and safe enough to keep people in prison. And then, there is always the possibility of several problems and loopholes and different legislative nightmares that it causes in so that it's probably safer to just not have the death penalty.
    i agree. american prisoners produce 100% of their licence plates and certain military uniform items, 93% of paints and paintbrushes, 36% of home appliances etc. (isn't this technically slave labour?) the death penalty causes more problems than it solves really. I mean most people are against it. it is easy to convict the wrong person and send an innocent man to his death. All that it solves is prison over crowding, which isn't a huge problem. it is in no way beneficial to use capital punishment.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fitzy909 View Post
    i agree. american prisoners produce 100% of their licence plates and certain military uniform items, 93% of paints and paintbrushes, 36% of home appliances etc. (isn't this technically slave labour?) the death penalty causes more problems than it solves really. I mean most people are against it. it is easy to convict the wrong person and send an innocent man to his death. All that it solves is prison over crowding, which isn't a huge problem. it is in no way beneficial to use capital punishment.
    I personally support the death sentence. Some people have earned death for their actions. I don't believe that most people are against it. And it is not "easy" to send an innocent man to his death. So far, I'm not aware of any innocent people being executed. Could the system be improved? Yes. Start with eliminating some of the appeals that are used to delay the punishment. Not the "I'm innocent" appeals but the various motions that are filed just to delay things. If it comes out that someone was set up, then those responsible should get the same punishment regardless of who they are.
    Most of the items you list are programs so that inmates have job skills when they leave prison.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ldsman View Post
    I personally support the death sentence. Some people have earned death for their actions. I don't believe that most people are against it.
    You are right, most people do support it, according to Gallup
    And it is not "easy" to send an innocent man to his death. So far, I'm not aware of any innocent people being executed.
    Here's a list of convicts who were executed but are now thought to be innocent
    Here's a few more
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    I personally don't support the death sentence. On the other hand I believe in a eye for an eye. Though I'd personally lack the resolve to carry it out, or agree with it when the decision fall directly on me. The punishment should fit the crime. That said, keeping murderers locked up behind bars doesn't exactly help anyone, bar giving the victim's family peace at mind. It doesn't help that prison doesn't exactly help reform criminals, and it waste billions of tax payers money. It that sense, the death sentence seems appropriate for the all around outcome. Though killing another person doesn't really help the situation.

    I'd personally go for a "beat down" punishment for these types of crimes. Where the criminal gets five minutes in a close room with the victims family. Of course the criminal will need medical attention and such, and that method borders on torture which is illegal. Anyway, while I don't support capitol punishment, there's not much against it in a social standpoint.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jb View Post
    I personally don't support the death sentence. On the other hand I believe in a eye for an eye. Though I'd personally lack the resolve to carry it out, or agree with it when the decision fall directly on me. The punishment should fit the crime. That said, keeping murderers locked up behind bars doesn't exactly help anyone, bar giving the victim's family peace at mind. It doesn't help that prison doesn't exactly help reform criminals,
    I agree, our prison system stinks, and we should be spending more time to try and rehabilitate prisoners
    and it waste billions of tax payers money.
    Not as much tax payer dollars as it would cost to execute them.
    I'd personally go for a "beat down" punishment for these types of crimes. Where the criminal gets five minutes in a close room with the victims family. Of course the criminal will need medical attention and such, and that method borders on torture which is illegal. Anyway, while I don't support capitol punishment, there's not much against it in a social standpoint.
    Couldn't that potentially put the victim's family at risk?
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    Quote Originally Posted by WizardTrubbish View Post
    Not as much tax payer dollars as it would cost to execute them.
    Interesting.

    Couldn't that potentially put the victim's family at risk?
    I was thinking more along the lines of having the suspect cuffed or something. I know it's not a great idea but I'm sure the family of victims wished they could get at the suspect.

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    Quote Originally Posted by WizardTrubbish View Post
    Key words: Possibly innocent. It's very easy to label someone who is deceased as "possibly innocent." I've yet to see an anti-death penalty group state "yes that man was guilty as sin and the trial was fair." They pick the cases that can be used to support their cause. The people that get exonarated proves that the system works and I believe that as time goes on, there will be fewer and fewr such exonarations as the evidence techniques are getting better and better.
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    I found a paper that seems to support the idea of the death penalty as a deterrent.
    http://www.ucema.edu.ar/publicacione.../zimmerman.pdf
    Unfortunately, there is so much statistical jargon in there that I find it impossible to understand exactly what is going on.
    There seem to be papers arguing both for and against the deterrence effect of the death penalty. If this is the case, then it's going to be hard, if not impossible, for me to draw any conclusions from the data. The only reason I would ever consider being in favour of the death penalty is if there was a deterrence effect that ultimately saved more lives in the long run. Using the death penalty is never justice to me.
    Last edited by JDavidC; 7th May 2013 at 11:51 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by WizardTrubbish View Post
    Not as much tax payer dollars as it would cost to execute them.
    Doesn't much of this stem from the lengthy appeals that death-row convicts often invoke? If so, it's something of a false argument, seeing as it's anti-death penalty groups who often invoke these long and drawn out appeals, which bring up costs.

    Quote Originally Posted by ldsman View Post
    Key words: Possibly innocent. It's very easy to label someone who is deceased as "possibly innocent." I've yet to see an anti-death penalty group state "yes that man was guilty as sin and the trial was fair." They pick the cases that can be used to support their cause. The people that get exonarated proves that the system works and I believe that as time goes on, there will be fewer and fewr such exonarations as the evidence techniques are getting better and better.
    Those are pretty important key words.

    I'm sure those who have died needlessly and unjustly will be glad to know their exoneration proves that the "system works".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Snorunt conservationist View Post
    Doesn't much of this stem from the lengthy appeals that death-row convicts often invoke? If so, it's something of a false argument, seeing as it's anti-death penalty groups who often invoke these long and drawn out appeals, which bring up costs.



    Those are pretty important key words.

    I'm sure those who have died needlessly and unjustly will be glad to know their exoneration proves that the "system works".
    Those who have been executed weren't "exonerated." An anti-death penalty grouped labeled them "possibly innocent." No courts have stated that they were innocent.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ldsman View Post
    Those who have been executed weren't "exonerated." An anti-death penalty grouped labeled them "possibly innocent." No courts have stated that they were innocent.
    Innocent until proven guilty; literally one of the most important cornerstones of any worthwhile justice system.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Snorunt conservationist View Post
    Innocent until proven guilty; literally one of the most important cornerstones of any worthwhile justice system.
    And a jury found them guilty.
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    Just because a jury says something, it doesn't mean that they're definitely right.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Dragon View Post
    Just because a jury says something, it doesn't mean that they're definitely right.
    Hopefully the jury makes the correct decision based off the information presented to them. Deciding that juries won't be right kind of destroys the whole justice system. Usually the appeals do show when the jury was wrong or didn't have all the facts.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Dragon View Post
    Just because a jury says something, it doesn't mean that they're definitely right.
    that's true. they may decide on who is guilty, but that doesn't mean they are right about it. it is always possible to make a wrong decision and they can't change their minds if they use capital punishment.

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    Quote Originally Posted by WizardTrubbish View Post
    I'll start of with the most obvious one: that the death penalty is unjust.
    The person being executed has also done something unjust, possibly even more immoral than just killing another human.

    If a single innocent person is executed, that's one too many. If years after the person is convicted, new evidence comes to light proving their innocence and they're in prison, they can simply be released.
    I half agree with you here. On one hand, killing an innocent person is inexcusable. On the other hand, even if they were not killed, they would still be wrongly convicted and put in jail, which is almost as bad, and sometimes even worse than death (jail isn't a fun place). Take a look at this story:

    http://m.nydailynews.com/new-york/br...sEnabled=false

    This is about an innocent man being held in jail for 38 years. That's 38 years of his life just gone, and all the while he was forced to stay in a hell he did not deserve. Sure, he's alive still, but does it really matter anymore? The government took away 38 years of your life for no reason. He went in as a young man, came out as an old man, and it essentially stole his youth. If that happened to me, I would consider it just as bad as death.

    Absolutely nothing is accomplished, except for revenge, and as I've already said, I don't consider a good reason
    Try telling that to the families of the victims.

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    Agree with this.

    With all that said, I am indifferent on this issue. There are reasons why I condone the death penalty and reasons why I am against it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ldsman View Post
    Hopefully the jury makes the correct decision based off the information presented to them. Deciding that juries won't be right kind of destroys the whole justice system. Usually the appeals do show when the jury was wrong or didn't have all the facts.
    It's a lot easier to fix the jury being wrong by not having the death penalty at all.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Dragon View Post
    It's a lot easier to fix the jury being wrong by not having the death penalty at all.
    Like I said earlier. Some people have earned their death.
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