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Capital Punishment Essay - Death Penalty is Another Name for Revenge

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Capital Punishment: Another Name for Revenge

 

 "An execution is not simply death.  It is just as different from the

privation of life as a concentration camp is from prison.  It adds to

death a rule, a public premeditation known to the future victim, an

organization which is itself a source of moral sufferings more terrible

than death.  Capital punishment is the most premeditated of murders, to

which no criminal's deed, however calculated can be compared.  For there

to be an equivalency, the death penalty would have to punish a criminal

who had warned his victim of the date at which he would inflict a

horrible death on him and who, from that moment onward, had confined him

at his mercy for months.  Such a monster is not encountered in private

life."   -Albert Camus

 

            There have been at least 349 people wrongly convicted of crimes

punishable by death since 1900. -Stanford Law Review 1987.  How can

fallible human beings allow themselves to impose a punishment that is

irrevocable?  Capital Punishment is cruel, especially in botched

execution cases.  It is cheaper to contain a prisoner for life than it is

to kill one.  The death penalty is imposed unequally among the races. 

Capital punishment isn't an effective crime deterrent.  Innocent persons

will inevitably be executed as long as capital punishment remains a part

of our legal system.  For these reasons, capital punishment should be

abolished.

            Capital punishment is cruel and unusual.  Many would argue this statement

false, but how can an execution that requires repeated attempts be

humane?

 

            On December 12th, 1984 Alpha Otis Stephens was electrocuted.  The first

jolt of electricity, which lasted for two minutes, did not kill him. 

Officials waited for six minutes to allow Stephens' body to cool, so

physicians could examine him.  Upon examination, it was declared that a

second jolt was needed.  During the six minute interval, it was reported

that Stephens took 23 breaths. -http://www.abolition-now.com/

           

            Donald Eugene Harding was executed in a gas chamber in the state of

Arizona on April 6th, 1992.  Cameron Harper (a reporter for KTVK-TV)

said, "I watched Harding go into violent spasms for 57 seconds."  Harper

continued, "Then he began to convulse less frequently.  His back muscles

rippled.  His head went down in little jerking motions.   The spasms grew

less violent.  I timed them as ending six minutes and 37 seconds after

they began.  Obviously, the gentleman was suffering.  This was a violent

death, make no mistake about it.  It was an ugly event.  We put animals

to death more humanely.  This was not a clean and simple death."  Another

reporter, Carla McClain said, "Harding's death was extremely violent.  He

was in great pain.  I heard him gasp and moan.  I saw his body turn from

red to purple." -http://www.abolition-now.com/

 

            There are over twenty cases similar to the two above that clearly show

how an idea that may seem humane in theory can turn into torture in

reality.  For those who say, "Let the creep fry.  Who cares if it is

painful?  The crime he committed was painful for the victim."  Ask

yourself, "What is the purpose for capital punishment?"  The purpose is

to remove incorrigible individuals from our society, and to deter crime. 

Capital punishment should not serve the purpose of revenge.  It is

understandable that a father would desire to kill his child's murderer,

this is human nature, but a community's desire for revenge is barbaric

and unjustifiable. 

 

            When asked why they support the death penalty many would reply,

"My taxes shouldn't pay to support a cold blooded murder for the rest of

his life."  The Miami Herald reported that the state of Florida has spent

over $57 million to execute 18 people from 1973 to 1988, this is $3.2

million per execution.  The average cost of life imprisonment is just

over $500,000.  The most comprehensive study in the country found that

the death penalty costs North Carolina $2.16 million more per execution

than the costs of a non-death penalty murder case with a sentence of life

imprisonment. -http://www.abolition-now.com/ 

            After listening to these figures, many would say, "That is why all those

appeals should be limited."  This has been done in 35 of the 38 states

that impose the death penalty.  In fact, seventeen states have limited

the time allowed to present new evidence to 60 days after conviction. 

Eighteen other states have limits from one to three years.  The states

strictly adhere to this rule.  Limitations of appeals may reduce the

dollars that taxpayers shell out, but it doesn't make our system more

just.  Limiting the appeals process further increases the chances that

innocent persons will be executed.

 

            "Roger Coleman's volunteer attorneys uncovered evidence of his innocence

after his conviction for murder.  However, his appeal based on this newly

discovered evidence was filed three days late, and because of this error,

MADE BY HIS ATTORNEYS, the Virginia state courts and the federal appeals

courts refused to hear the new evidence.  Roger Coleman was executed on

May 22nd, 1992." -http://www.abolition-now.com/

 

            "Proving one's innocence after a jury finding the guilt is almost

impossible.  While reviewing courts are willing to entertain all kinds of

collateral attacks when a death sentence is involved, they very rarely

dispute the jury's interpretation of innocence.  If a man has been found

guilty, he must then depend on the good faith of the prosecutor's office

to help him establish his innocence." -US. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood

Marshall

 

            But why would the prosecutor's office cooperate in overturning a

conviction that they had worked so ambitiously to achieve?

            Capital punishment is imposed unequally among the races.  Larry

Lustberg, a criminal defense and public interest lawyer, said, "The odds

of receiving a death sentence are 10 times greater for a black defendant

than for a white defendant who has the same socioeconomic background and

whose case has the same aggravating and mitigating circumstances." 

Lustberg made this statement after examining 341 New Jersey murder cases

in which the defendant faced the possibility of the death penalty.  He

added that, "No statistician can look at this study and conclude that

race is not a very statistically significant factor in the application of

the death penalty in New Jersey."

            Inconsistent sentencing of capital offenders is practiced by states other

than New Jersey.  In fact, there were no records found which indicate

fair sentencing in any state.  In Louisiana 67% of death row inmates are

black, blacks constitute 31% of the population.  Of the death row inmates

in Pennsylvania, 59% are black, while only 10% of the residents in

Pennsylvania are black.  In Ohio 50% of death row inmates are black, only

10% of Ohio's residents are black. -http://www.abolition-now.com/

These are just a few examples of how grossly biased the application of

the death penalty is.  This brings to mind the 14th amendment to the

Constitution, which ensures that all people regardless of race will be

protected and prosecuted fairly under the law.  Juries throughout our

nation's history have proved that we cannot fairly administer the death

penalty.  Racial bias is inevitable.

 

            "Be it resolved that because social science research has demonstrated the

death penalty to be racist in application and social science research has

found no consistent evidence of crime deterrence through execution, the

ASC publicly condemns this form of punishment and urges its members to

use their professional skills in legislatures and the courts to seek a

speedy abolition of this form of punishment." -American Society of

Criminology 1987

 

            Most would agree that the purpose of capital punishment is to deter

heinous crimes and to remove individuals who commit these crimes from

society forever.  While capital punishment may remove some of these

individuals, it does not remove all, and some of the individuals it

removes from society have not committed heinous crimes.  And it has been

proven, legal killings are not effective in preventing illegal killings. 

Florida homicide rates in 1976, 1977 and 1978 were the lowest on record

in the state.  In 1979 Florida resumed executions after going nearly 15

years without.  In 1980, 1981 and 1982 homicide rates were the highest in

recent history, with a 28% increase in 1980.  Georgia, which resumed

executions in 1983, experienced a 20% increase in the homicide rate in

1984.  Nationally, homicides in 1984 fell by 5%.  A New York study of

homicide rates from 1907 to 1963 (years when New York lead the nation in

executions) found that there had been on average two additional homicides

in the month after an execution.  Over a fifteen year period (1952 to

1967) when California carried out an execution every other month, murder

rates increased 100% annually on average.  Between 1967 and 1991 there

were no executions in California, the murder rate increased only 4.8%

annually on average.  Crime statistics confirm that the average homicide

rate in the 12 states that don't have the death penalty is lower than the

average homicide rate in the 38 states where executions are legal. 

-http://www.abolition-now.com/

            Is it possible that states which impose the death penalty create a brutal

atmosphere, which leads to an increased number of brutal crimes?  If the

state uses killing to solve its problems, individuals may be inclined to

see killing as a solution to his/her problems.

 

            "No matter how careful courts are, the possibility of perjured testimony,

mistaken honest testimony and human error remain too real.  We have no

way of judging how many innocent persons have been executed, but we can

be certain that there were some."  -US. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood

Marshall

 

            Leonel Torres Herrera was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1982

murders of two police officers.  Some years after his conviction, an

attorney who had represented Herrera's brother came forward with evidence

that Herrera's brother, Raul, who had died in 1984, had confessed to the

murders.  In addition, Raul's son, who was nine years old at the time of

the killings, gave a sworn statement that he was an eye-witness to the

crime and saw his father commit the murders.  Because Texas law says that

any new evidence must be presented within 30 days of the conviction,

Herrera's motion was denied.  The US. Supreme Court upheld Texas'

decision by ruling that his claim of "actual innocence" was not a

constitutional claim for which judicial relief could be granted.  Justice

Harry Blackmun attacked what he saw as an outrageous and ominous decision

by the court, declaring in his dissenting opinion that "the execution of

a person who can show that he is innocent comes perilously close to

simple murder."  Leonel Herrera was executed on May 12th, 1993

-http://www.abolition-now.com/

 

            At least 23 wrongly convicted people have been executed in the USA since

1900.  -Stanford Law Review 1987.  All humans are born with certain

unalienable rights: the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of

happiness.  It may be argued that a person forfeits those rights upon

committing the greatest crime known to the law, but what about the one

innocent individual who had not forfeited his unalienable rights?  This

is the second instance in which capital punishment violates the

constitution. 

            Capital punishment is cruel, is applied unfairly, is more expensive than

life imprisonment, and is not an effective murder deterrent.  A system

created and operated by humans is not perfect, we should not fool

ourselves into thinking it is.  An imperfect judicial system should not

entrust itself to forever condemn a person who may be innocent.  The

person should at least be given the opportunity to vindicate

himself/herself.  This is not an opportunity held by one who is dead. 

This is the primary reason capital punishment should be abolished. 

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