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Nov. 2 2009 - 2:05 pm | 131 views | 0 recommendations | 2 comments

Crowdsourcing the Capital Murder Debate to Facebook

One of the more sobering Facebook groups I’ve followed recently is the one calling for Richard Poplawski’s capital murder.

Mr. Poplawski is the lone gunman from Pittsburgh’s Stanton Heights neighborhood accused of killing three Pittsburgh police officers on April 4. The shooting — which I detailed briefly here, and which involved a terrifying four-hour standoff in a tree-lined residential block on an otherwise calm Saturday morning — was followed by a media circus and calls from seemingly everywhere for Mr. Poplawski’s death at the state’s hands.

With nearly 14,000 members, this Facebook group not only serves to unify those calls, it also — in typical social-networking fashion — serves as a fascinating sociological experiment that gets to the core of the issue fast: There is no public debate over whether Mr. Poplawski should receive the death penalty; there’s only debate over how he should be killed. As a friend pointed out, this group is filled with “vengeance-morality, where people seem to relish coming up with the most painful way to kill another human being.” Some examples:

Amie Petroski I say tie each of his limbs to a horse, then pull him to the 4 winds.

Denny Blaine I have an idea – why don’t we use modern science to “Neutralize” these mad dog killers? Have a surgeon do a nip an tuck on his spinal column so the guy can’t even escape – EVER. Sure, we wind up with a hospital ward of Charlie Mansons – and somebody has to feed them and change their diapers, but wouldn’t that be a better disincentive than being put to death? Just an idea…

Lisa Miller My favorite version of a prison is in Asia or Tibet or some cold desert with no heat and the prison is simply stone rooms and a slab to lay on and that is basically it. Food is bread and water and a life sentence to come to terms with their Creator. It is surrounded with barren desert and nothing green. I don’t k…now where the prison is but it exists. I think it was in Nat’l Geographic. Now that would be a decent life sentence. God Bless our officers and their families. :*/

Christopher Nash all methods of execution are too humane for this piece of garbage. crucify him. upside down.

Michele Lynn Hess AND NOW THE CREEP DEFENSE ATTORNEY OF DICKS IS CRYING ABOUT NOT GETTING A FAIR TRIAL FOR HIM IN THIS AREA?, OH, PLEASE! IT WAS NATIONAL NEWS BITCH!, DID PAUL, STEPHEN AND ERIC GET A FAIR CHANCE TO DEFEND THEMSELVES? THERE IS NOT ENOUGH THAT CAN BE DONE TO THIS PUNK LEGALLY TO EVEN UP THE SCORE!, WHAT A WASTE OF HUMAN… LIFE RICHARD IS! CREEP!, I JUST HOPE THAT ” BUBBA” GETS TO MAKE HIM HIS BITCH BEHIND BARS!, HE DID MENTION ON HIS MYSPACE THAT HE HAS BOYISH GOOD LOOKS, BUBBA WILL LOVE HIM LONG TIME!, HONESTLY THAT SORT OF BEHAVIOR SICKENS ME, BUT IN THIS CASE I WILL APPLAUD SUCH BEHAVIOR!, BUBBA, STICK IT IN AND THEN BREAK IT OFF! WOO HOO! HOWS THAT FEEL RICHIE? LOL!

And of course:

Kara Steppe Persun this is just another reason for us people in PA to vote out the Liberals, who for some reason, do not think our local, state & federal law enforcement are worth trying a “cop killer” for capital murder with death penalty. an eye for an eye. keep getting more and more people to contact state representatives, we need to get the books changed! thanks for this site.

The comments go on and on. I’ve only gone through a couple hundred and honestly it’s tough to know how to start writing about this. Is the revenge mentality really this strong and consistent in the United States? Is this yet another example of Town Hall mania splayed out for the world to see? I’m thinking it’s a bit of both. And stay tuned for more. Mr. Poplawski’s court date has not yet been set.

Here’s the latest in his case.


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    The Prison Dilemma is a collection of links and other stuff I stumble across while writing and reporting for the Innocence Institute of Point Park University -- an organization that investigates claims of wrongful conviction in Pennsylvania's State Correctional Institutions. If you have tips, thoughts, ideas, requests -- or if you know someone with a wrongful conviction claim -- contact me here:

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