Capital punishment is a very divisive topic in the United States and also in our home state Ohio. This is a topic that sparks passion within people about the equality and effectiveness of the American Judicial system. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion about this topic but the throbbing question that lingers in the air is that is it morally right? Capital punishment is also known as the death penalty is the brutal ordered execution of a prisoner as a punishment for a serious crime which might be murder or treason. The amounts of problems associated with capital punishment are massive, ranging from the innocent dying for a crime he/she never committed to racism, and the only way to resolve these problems is to eliminate capital punishment.
According to the online Webster dictionary capital punishment is defined as the judicially ordered execution of a prisoner as a punishment for a serious crime, often called a capital offense or a capital crime. In those jurisdictions that practice capital punishment, its use is usually restricted to a small number of criminal offenses, principally, treason and premeditated murder. This method of punishment is practiced differently among the fifty states in the U.S. In the 38 states and federal government that currently have death penalty statutes, five different methods of execution are prescribed: Lethal Injection, Electrocution, Lethal Gas, Firing Squad, and Hanging. The vast majority of jurisdictions provide for execution by lethal injection. 20 jurisdictions provide for alternative methods of execution, contingent upon the choice of the inmate, the date of the execution of sentence, or the possibility of the method being held unconstitutional.
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Only one state does not have lethal injection as a primary or optional method of execution. Nebraska is the only state that provides for electrocution as the sole method of execution. No states provide for Lethal Gas, Hanging, or Firing Squad as the sole method of execution (Kuttner 19). This brutal method of punishment has for a long time stay past its expiration date and needs to be put to an end immediately, just like the famous saying “Out with the old and in with the new.” Whatever the style of punishment might be maybe by shooting, electrocution, gassing, hanging, or lethal injection it has accomplished nothing but terrorizes not only the criminal but the family and friends as well. There are a lot of negative scenarios that come into mind whenever this divisive topic is raised, but the number one is that innocent people will be executed while the real criminals escape the punishment.
The worst feeling of all is for the family to discover that their loved one was innocent. One of the most often asked questions associated with this brutal murder is what are the chances that an inmate being executed is innocent? The fact is that two out of every six inmates being executed is innocent (Kuttner 20). That information alone is enough to raise a lot of eyebrows. Throughout our history, there have been mistakes in convictions of defendants and the death penalty prevents any opportunity to rectify any miscarriage of justice. Capital punishment is irrevocable, and the errors of justice cannot be rectified. All possibility of a change of heart is totally gone. An innocent person has been hanged or electrocuted and the judge, jury, and the whole legal machinery involved have fallen short of the purpose they sought to accomplish.
The majority of the people that support the death penalty do it on the belief that it deters people from committing gruesome murders and treason but that is far from the truth. Modern scholars and theologians claim that over 20,000 homicides are committed each year, and only 300 convicted murders receive the death penalty (Alexander 59). It is very clear that the death penalty does not deter crime. Better protection for society would be achieved by incarcerating dangerous individuals for the rest of their lives without parole. This would also address the idea of rehabilitation which capital punishment in no way addresses. Two-thirds of the countries in the world have now abolished the death penalty in law or practice including our neighbor to north Canada and south of the border of Mexico. If we compare the crime rate between other first-world countries that have abolished the death penalty and the U.S for example Canada, we would find that Canada’s crime rate is a lot lower than that of the U.S.
Compared to the United States, Statistics Canada data have consistently demonstrated a substantially lower rate of violent crime, but similar rates of property crime. For example, in 2000 the United States’ rate for robberies was 65% higher, its rate for aggravated assault was double that of the Canadian rate, and its murder rate was triple (Prejan 39-40). This is a prime example that the death penalty does not deter crime.
A study conducted by three professors David C. Baldus, George Woodworth, and Charles Pulaski called the Baldus study found that of the 2,000 murder cases that occurred in Georgia during the 1970s, the defendants charged with killing white persons received the death penalty in 11% of the cases, but the defendants charged with killing blacks received the death penalty in only 1% of the cases. These numbers also indicate a reverse racial disparity according to the race of the defendant: 4% of the black defendants received the death penalty, as opposed to 7% of the white defendants (Alexander 50).
The poor, minorities, and the underclass in the country are the hardest to be hit and most often victims of capital punishment. Those without money to hire private attorneys and those not the favorite of police, prosecutors, judges, and governors are seen as the victims of discriminatory application of the death penalty (Alexander 47). Most people support the death penalty because they believe it is less costly to kill a felon than to keep them in prison for life but that is far from true. Huge amounts of money go into each execution including the cost of the whole legal process. At the trial level, death penalty cases are estimated to generate roughly $470,000 in additional costs to the prosecution and defense over the cost of trying the same case as an aggravated murder without the death penalty and costs of $47,000 to $70,000 for court personnel. The death penalty has cost New Jersey taxpayers $253 billion and in the state of Texas, the death penalty cases cost more than non-capital cases.
According to state and federal records obtained by The Los Angeles Times, maintaining the California death penalty system costs taxpayers more than $114 million a year beyond the cost of simply keeping the convicts locked up for life ( DPIC). The use of the death penalty as a punishment has made it very difficult to secure convictions and has often resulted in the acquittal of guilty defendants. Does capital punishment have a deterrent effect? Yes, it deters jurors from convincing probably guilty people. Family and friends of the person to be executed go through a lot of emotional trauma from the time leading to the execution and after the execution which often causes them serious trauma for years afterward. It was reported by Brad Thomas, a top advisor on capital punishment told the St. Petersburg times “More than 9 out of 16 families go through some sort of serious trauma shortly after execution is taken” (Sherrill 13).
It is often very difficult for people to come to terms with the idea that their loved one could be guilty of a serious crime and to make matters more badly that he/she would be killed through the death penalty. For those people who strongly support the death penalty, two wrongs do not make one right. How does making the family of the criminal suffer and go through a lot of pain make up for the loss of the victim’s family? Nobody can really justify the fact that making the victims family suffers is equally valid to that of the already murdered victims’ family. We should also remember that criminals are real people too who have life and are capable of feeling pain, fear, and the loss of their loved ones, and any other emotions that the rest of us are capable of feeling. It is easier to put this thought aside when discussing the most gruesome psychopathic murderers but less when discussing, say an 18-year-old girl convicted of drug abuse. In Singapore, the government hung two girls for this crime in 1995 who were both only 18 at the time of their offense (Prejan 29).
Also, China follows Singapore in a different form of punishment by shooting an 18-year-old in the head for the same offense in 1998 (Prejan 29). This kind of gruesome punishment happened just only four months ago in China when the head of the Chinese Food and Drug agency was hanged. In the case of the worst criminals, this may be acceptable but it is more questionable in the case of less awful crimes.
Whole life imprisonment is the best option for the worst murders with appropriate stages for less awful murders. Imprisonment which is very expensive and largely pointless, except as a means of removing criminals from society for a given period is least enforceable upon anybody who has committed murder.
However, this option might appear to be soft to some people but this view needs to change. When sentences of imprisonment are handed out, it needs to be passed with a sensible rule combining both punishment and treatment to help the murder realize the negative implications of their actions. Capital punishment is final and irreversible which is one of my strongest reason for calling to an end to the death penalty. There is definitely no humane method of putting another human being to death no matter what the country or anybody may claim. Any method of punishment must be fair, sufficient, and most of all enforceable. The power to administer capital punishment is a power that no man or woman deserves to make for another human being because life is so sacred to be wasted.
- Alexander, Williams Jr. Christian ethics and capital punishment: A reflection. Journal of Religious Thought, Summer92/Fall92, Vol. 49 Issue 1, p59, 19p; (AN 9604292088)
- Death Penalty Information Center. Cost of the Death Penalty. 2007. 01 November 2007.http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/article.php?did=108#FromDPIC
- Kuttner, Benjamin. A Legal Quest Against the Death Penalty. New York Times, 1/2/2005, Vol. 154 Issue 53082, p19-20, 999p, 1c; (AN 15641973)
- Prejean, Helen. No peace in vengeance. Commonweal, 11/19/93, Vol. 120 Issue 20, p30.
- Sherill, Laura J.; Pierce .Arbitrariness and Discrimination under Post-Furman Capital Statutes. Crime & Delinquency, Oct80, Vol. 26 Issue 4, p13, 73p, 19 charts; (AN 5335329
- Webster dictionary. Capital Punishment. 2007. 01 November 2007. http://www.websters-online-dictionary.org/definition/capital+punishment
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