Capital Punishment is Murder Essays

Capital Punishment is Murder Essays

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American history is replete with examples of brutality and foolishness that will forever blot the American conscience. Early in this century, Sacco and Vanzetti were railroaded for a murder of which they were almost certainly innocent. The trial was a farce, and the verdict was a more a result of bias against Italians than of the evidence. Their lives were forfeit. Later in the century, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were tried for conspiracy to commit espionage. Despite questionable evidence and even more questionable conduct on the part of prosecuting attorneys and government agencies, they were convicted; the verdict was a statement of public hysteria and fear of Communism. They too met the executioner. Not yet ingrained in the annals of history, in the past months the state of Texas executed a man who even the state admitted had not pulled the trigger, but was only an accomplice. If the recent elections prove anything, it is that these examples of the state-sanctioned murders of innocents have done nothing to change the American mind. Many Republicans ran and won on a "law and order" platform; in New York, Governor George Pataki defeated former Governor Mario Cuomo largely on the basis of Cuomo's opposition to capital punishment. This article is an appeal to readers' morality, to their consciences. It does attempt to show that the death penalty is costly and impractical (though it is), or that it is unconstitutional (which it may well be). The article is an appeal for mercy.

Perhaps the greatest problem with the death penalty, as the cases of the Rosenbergs and of Sacco and Vanzetti point out, is the chance for error incurred in capital cases. A study conducted at Stanford University found that, since 1900, more than fifty pe...

... middle of paper ... by criminals unless the criminals are all destroyed: it is a war of us against them and we must use whatever means are necessary to fight against them. Even more moderate advocates of capital punishment tend to hold to a black-and-white morality that justifies the brutality of capital punishment as a necessary act of self- protection. However, before giving in to fear of crime and justifying the deaths of innocents that inevitably result from the institution of capital punishment, we should remember that one of the few things that distinguishes human from animal is the capacity for mercy. Even if we could be absolutely certain of a person's guilt, by killing him or her do we not make murderers of ourselves. Darrow reminds us exactly what it means for society to abandon its mercy: "I would hate to live in a state that I didn't think was better than a murderer."

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