Death Penalty

Death Penalty The death penalty is a major issue that brings up a lot of arguments in our society. The most important question concerning the death penalty is whether it should be abolished or not. I think that the death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights. It violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment. Race, social and economic status, location of crime, and pure chance may be deciding factors in death sentencing. In addition, prosecutors seek the death penalty far more frequently when the victim of the homicide is white than when the victim is black.The actual cost of an execution is substantially higher than the cost of imprisoning a person for life. Death was formerly the penalty for all felonies in English law. In practice the death penalty was never applied as widely as the law provided, as a variety of procedures were adopted to decrease the harshness of the law. Many offenders who committed capital crimes were pardoned, usually on condition that they agreed to be transported to what were then the American colonies; others were allowed what was known as benefit of clergy(Ploski 2).

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The beginning of benefit of clergy was that offenders who were established priests were subject to trial by the church courts rather than the non-religious courts.If the offender convicted of a felony could show that he had be ordained, he was allowed to go free, subject to the possibility of being punished by the ecclesiastical courts. In medieval times the only proof of ordination was literacy, and it became the custom by the 17th century to allow anyone convicted of a felony to escape the death sentence by giving proof of literacy(Ploski 4). In 18th-century England concern with rising crime led to many statutes either extending the number of offenses punishable with death or doing away with benefit of clergy for existing felonies, which as a result became capital(Black 2). By the end of the 18th-century English criminal law contained about 200 capital offenses. Many offenders who were convicted of capital crimes escaped the gallows as a result of reprieves and royal pardons, usually on condition of transportation, and many others who were charged with capital crimes were acquitted against the evidence, because the jury was unwilling to see the death penalty applied in a minor case(Black 5).

The unpredictable application of the death penalty in the late 18th and early 19th centuries led to demands for humanitarian reform. Between 1820 and 1840 most capital statutes were repealed, and by 1861 only murder, treason, arson in a royal dockyard, and piracy with violence retained the death penalty. Until the mid-19th century executions in England were public, and throughout the 18th century great crowds attended the regular executions in London and other cities(Ploski 6).

Often an execution was followed by scenes of violence and disorder in the crowd. Public opinion eventually turned against the idea of executions as spectacles, and after 1868 executions were carried out in private prisons( Black 7). The earliest recorded execution committed in the U.

S. under state authority was in 1864.During 1864-1890, 57 persons were executed under state authority( Kasper 8).

Since the 1960s, 100% of the executions performed under civil authority have been state executions(Mello 7). The power for local governments to perform executions, however, greatly dropped during this century. Perhaps the transfer of death penalty power from local to state governments was partially due to increased technology. Improved communications made it easier to centralize the decision-making about executions with state governments(Black 9).

The legal killing of a criminal by carrying out a death sentence is a type of punishment called “capital punishment”. By taking away a criminals life, capital punishment is the ultimate penalty. From 1930 to 1933, 4,085 prisoners were executed in the United States(Haines 3). In 1972, the Supreme Court ruled that laws regulating the death penalty in various states were defined as being unconstitutional in the form in which that existed at the time. This ruling prevented any executions from taking place period. In 1976, however, the Supreme Court upheld revised state laws regarding capital punishment, which made it legally possible again for states to carry out death sentences.

From 1977 to 1993, 226 prisoners were executed(Kasper 2). Capital Punishment offenses differ between the states, and not all states have a death penalty. Most states with the death penalty choose first-degree murder as a capital offense. Some federal crimes also can be capital offenses, such as certain crimes involving contract killing, killing on-duty law enforcement officer, espionage, or assassination of the President, Vice President, a member of Congress, or a Supreme Court Justice.

Deterrence is an argument often spoken of to justify the death penalty.On the outside, the argument makes sense. Rational people understand links between cause and effect and crime and punishment. A fear of death or the possibility of death also affects the behavior of most reasonable people. People who murder, however, are rarely intelligent at the time they commit the crime. The threat of execution at some future dates does not enter the minds of killers acting under the influence of drugs or alcohol, panicking while committing another crime, of simply lacking and understanding of the force of their crime.Hired killers obviously believe they will not be caught.

The death penalty has never shown to benefit a society. In fact, there are strong indications that it increases peoples tolerance towards violence. No credible study yet has produced any solid evidence that the death penalty prevents violent crimes. According to FBI statistics, the murder rate in some states which use the death penalty is twice that of some states which do not use the death penalty(Mello1).Even researchers who set out to prove that police officers have greater protection in jurisdictions permitting executions uncovered no deterrent value in the death penalty.

Between 1976 and 1985, almost twice as many law enforcement officers were killed in death penalty states, as were killed in states that did not execute(Mello 2). The widely respected Thorsten Sellin studies, conducted in the United States during 1962, 1967, and 1980, concluded that the death penalty has no deterrent effect(Haines 4). The British Royal Commission on Capital Punishment analyzed statistics from seven European, and three non European countries, reporting that no evidence affiliated elimination of the death penalty to increased homicide rates(Haines 5). Some researchers have found that the death penalty not only fails to reduce murder rates, but also may increase the number of homicides.The U.S.

Bowers-Pierce study, testing executions between 1907 and 1963, concluded that an average of two additional homicides were committed in the month after an execution took place(Kasper 6). Why should taxpayers pay to keep a person in prison for life, why not execute the person and save money? This question, appropriately offensive as it may be, is often posed by death penalty supporters in the U.S.

The fact is the cause of executing a person in the U.S. is higher than the cost of locking up a person for life.

The Unites States Supreme Court has realized that because the death penalty is an unchangeable punishment, capital cases require safeguards against errors. Jury selection is more lengthy in capital cases, and expert investigators and consultants such as psychiatrists must often be heard. Also, the costs of maintaining death rows in state prisons, of forgiveness hearings, and of the execution itself must be added to the price of capital punishment. A 1982 study of death penalty costs in New York placed the cost of executing a prisoner at over $1.8 million(Mello 6). This figure is three times the cost of imprisoning a person for life.California spends an extra $90 million per year on capital punishment. In Florida, each execution costs the state $3.

2 million, six times more than imprisoning a prisoner for life. Texas, with the highest execution rate, spends an estimated $2.3 million per capital case.

This is almost three times the cost of keeping someone in prison for 40 years. A study in Kansas, which recently supported the death penalty, showed that a capital trial costs $116,700 more than an ordinary murder trial(Haines 7).In conclusion, I think the death penalty is wrong and should be abolished in the United States.

Even with the precautions required by the United States judicial systems, entire miscarriages of justice take place. Innocent people have been executed in the past and statistics show that several innocent people are convicted of capital crimes in the United States each year. No matter what reason a government gives for killing prisoners in its custody and no matter what execution method used, the death penalty cannot be apart from the issue of human rights.

Human rights are not given by governments, and they cannot be taken away by governments. Human rights belong to everyone.