Capital Puinishment Capital Punishment is an Unlawful and Ineffective Deterrent to Murder The United States is one of the few countries left in the world to practice the savage and immoral punishment of death. Retentionists argue that the consequence of death prevents people from committing the crime of murder. It is proven that the death penalty does not deter persons from committing murder, nor does it serve as an example of the consequences of capital crimes to society. Furthermore, it is impossible to guarantee that the criminal justice system will not discriminate against or execute the innocent.
Above all, the methods of execution are horrifying and barbaric, as well as the devaluing of a human life. We must realize that the life of a murderer is worth as much as the life of the victim.An indecent justice, one that takes human lives based on ideals of vengeance and violence, is an immoral system that is unacceptable. The most widely used argument in support of capital punishment is that the consequence of execution influences criminal behavior more effectively than imprisonment does (Against the Death Penalty).
Although the argument may sound reasonable, in reality the death penalty fails as a deterrent. First, punishment can only be a useful deterrent if it is rational and immediately used. Capital punishment cannot meet those conditions.The number of first degree murderers who are sentenced to death is small, and of this group an even smaller number of people are eventually executed.
Moreover, the possibility of increasing the number of convicted murderers sentenced to death and executed by requiring mandatory death sentences was declared unconstitutional in 1976 Jewett 2 (National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty). Murder and other crimes of violence are not always premeditated. For example; gang violence, drive by shootings and kidnaping for ransom are serious crimes that continue to be committed because the criminal thinks he is too clever to be caught. Most capital crimes are committed during times of great emotional trauma or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, when logical thinking is in no doubt absent (NCADP). In such cases, a person will commit a crime of violence regardless of the consequences.The majority of the evidence shows that the death penalty is in no way more effective in deterring murder than life imprisonment. Evidence of past use of the death penalty establishes reasonable doubt that it does not deter murder, and there is no evidence to prove otherwise.
In a thorough report on the effects of criminal sanctions on crime rates, the National Academy of Sciences concluded that it is misleading to justify the use of capital punishment on such fragile and uncertain results (NCADP). Moreover, there are clinically documented cases that reveal the death penalty actually provoked the capital crimes it was intended to prevent (Mappes). These include cases involving the so-called suicide by execution syndrome in which a person with a desire to die but also fears taking his own life will commit murder, believing the state will execute him. The use of the death penalty obviously guarantees that the criminal will never commit another crime, for the murderer is dead, but, there is no evidence that capital punishment deters another individual from committing murder (Glover 139).Furthermore, it is a high moral price to pay when studies have proven that few convicted murderers commit further crimes of violence. An alternative, one that is far less inhumane, is a policy of life imprisonment without the Jewett 3 possibility of parole (139). It is commonly reported that Americans approve of the death penalty. But, more careful analysis of the attitudes of the public shows that Americans prefer alternatives to capital punishment (Smart).
In fact, most Americans would oppose the death penalty if convicted murderers were sentenced to life without parole and required to make some form of financial restitution. In a 1993 nationwide survey 77 percent of the public approved of the death penalty, but the poll dropped to 41 percent if the alternative is no parole plus restitution (Smart).Only a minority of the American public would favor the death penalty if offered alternatives. By law, the trial and sentencing of the accused must be conducted with the utmost fairness, especially when incorporating the irreversible sanction of the death penalty. Only 88 percent of all executions since 1930 have been for murder (Warner). It is evident that courts have sentenced some criminals to prison while putting others to death, which clearly demonstrates uncertainty, racial prejudices, and simply unfairness. In his article American Dilemma (1944) Gunnar Myrdal reported that the South makes the widest application of the death penalty, and sadly Negro criminals are in for much more than their share of the executions (Warner).
Recently a study of capital punishment showed that the current system is an outgrowth of the racist legacy of slavery (NCADP). Between 1930 and 1996, 4,220 prisoners were executed and more than half were black. A disproportionately large number of African Americans have always occupied the nations death rows, considering the percentage of African Americans in the overall population (Dieter 144). During the past century, blacks were more often executed for what were considered less-than-capital offenses for whites, Jewett 4 such as rape and burglary (Dieter 145). Furthermore, a large percentage of the blacks who were executed were juveniles, and the number of executions without having ones conviction reviewed by a higher court was higher for blacks (NCADP).
In recent years, there has been wide belief that racial discrimination is a thing of the past. However, since the renewal of capital punishment in the mid-1970’s, approximately half of the death row population, at any given time, have been black (Smart). When those under the death sentence are examined more closely, it is apparent race is a factor after all.
A statistical study of racial discrimination in capital cases in Georgia showed that those convicted of killing a white person were more likely to receive the death penalty in all indicted cases.Further evidence proved unfairness in capital cases as reported by the U.S.
General Accounting Office (GAO). The GAO review concluded that of the 28 studies there was a pattern of evidence indicating racial disparities in the charging, sentencing, and imposition of the death penalty, and that the race of victim influence was found at all stages of the criminal justice system process (Dieter 144). One can conclude that in the courts of the nation, even today, the murder of a white person is treated much more severely than the murder of a black person. Therefore, it can be noted that our criminal system reserves the death penalty for those murderers (regardless of their race) who kill white victims (Dieter 145).
Gender and socio-economic class also aid in the discrimination of those who will receive a death sentence. Only one percent of all those on death row were women, although women commit about fifteen percent of all criminal homicides (NCADP). Only 33 women, of whom 12 were black, have been executed in the United States since 1930. Fairness in capital cases requires most a competent counsel for the defendant. Yet, 90 percent of those on death row were unable to afford a lawyer when tried. The most common Jewett 5 characteristics among death row defendants are poverty, lack of social community, and inadequate legal representation at trial or on appeal (NCADP).The above flaws in the actual administration of capital punishment are only one of the many clear reasons for abolition.
In the judgement of the fair-minded and unprejudiced capital punishment is a power that cannot be exercised fairly and without discrimination (Smart). Therefore, we cannot put human lives in the hands of a flawed system, for society will suffer the consequences, as well as the victims. Unlike all other criminal punishments, the death penalty is irreversible. Once a criminal is put to death no once can bring back the human life taken when a mistake is discovered too late. However, some supporters of capital punishment argue that its advantages are worth the sacrificing of innocent people, as well as the ideal that there is little chance that the innocent would be executed.Nevertheless, there is evidence showing that from the 1980’s to the 1990’s innocent people have been convicted of capital crimes as well as executed (Against the Death Penalty).
Since the 1900s there have been an estimated four cases a year in which an innocent person was convicted of murder, in addition to the many that were sentenced to death (Against the Death Penalty). In many cases a reprieve or commutation arrived just hours, or even minutes before the scheduled execution (Against the Death Penalty). Those wrongful convictions have occurred in almost every jurisdiction in the nation.
Furthermore, despite the new death penalty statutes approved by the Supreme Court, the numbers of the wrongfully accused have not declined. Unfortunately, the innocent persons convicted of crimes they did not commit are not always saved from execution or released from their sentences.There are several other cases in which evidence that would have released the convicted was discovered after the execution. These examples explain why the judicial system cannot guarantee that justice will never make mistakes.
To retain the death penalty Jewett 6 and overlook the serious flaws in the system is unacceptable, especially since there are no strong overriding arguments to favor the death penalty (Glover 145-146). Among the flaws of the justice system, we must remember that the taking of a human life is immoral. The methods used to perform these violent executions are barbaric and unnecessary.
But, prisoners continue to be executed in the United States by any one of five methods; in a few jurisdictions the prisoner is allowed to choose which fate he or she pre …