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Capital Punishment Essay

“An eye for an eye, makes the whole world blind,” Mahatma Gandhi. When the murders of today are murdered by the government, is that not hypocrisy? Capital punishment is legal in 32 U.S. states. Capital punishment was a penalty for many felonies under English common law, and it was enforced in all of the American colonies prior to the Declaration of Independence. Since 1976 lethal injection has been the primary method, although electrocution, gas chamber, hanging, and by firing squad are still legal and practiced in some states. The death penalty is barbaric and unethical. Innocent lives are being taken away. U.S. tax payer’s money is thrown out the window. Capital punishment laws should be abolished in the entire United States.

“Studies have consistently failed to demonstrate that executions deter people from committing crimes.” (Death Penalty Information Center) As we sit in a jury box playing God, deciding who must live and who must die, we hand out the death penalty to teach society a lesson. We step into the shoes of a God and pass an irreversible judgment to mask our pain or disdain. Why kill people who kill people to show killing is wrong? This is hypocrisy. In our judicial system, we do not rape rapists, make drunk drivers stand in front of a speeding car, or chop off the thieving hands of someone who steals. In Muslim practicing countries, the harsh punishment used to deter humans from stealing is to have the thieves hand cut off. This practice does not deter thievery and is considered barbaric and irrational in today’s American society. For some reasons unknown, we resort to a revenge mentality society when man kills man. A family who has lost a loved one due to a murder, will not find closure from the killer’s death. They will find closure with acceptance and forgiveness in themselves. We cannot take away the life of another who may or may not be guilty of a crime.

Consequently, innocent people have been convicted and executed. The wrongful execution of an innocent person is an injustice that can never be rectified. Any error rate is completely unacceptable, when we are talking about life and death. “Since 1973 the U.S. has released 144 prisoners from death row because they were found to be innocent of their crimes.” (Amnesty) Wrongful conviction causes range from eyewitness error, to government miscount, false confessions, informants, mishandled evidence, improper forensic evidence, and bad lawyering. Capital punishment is also discriminatory towards minorities, poor, and the mentally ill. “Africans make up about half of all homicide victims.” Glenn Ford, a black man, was released last month after 30 years on death row in Louisiana’s notorious Angola Prison for a crime he did not commit.

As a result of his poverty, Ford was assigned two lawyers to represent him at his capital trial -the lead attorney was an oil and gas lawyer who had never tried a case – criminal or civil – to a jury. The second attorney had been out of law school for only two years and worked at an insurance defense firm. As often happens in capital cases, the prosecutors used their peremptory strikes to keep blacks off the jury. Despite a very weak case against him, Ford, defenseless before an all-white jury, was sentenced to death. (ACLU) Ford is just one of many people who were found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in capital and non-capital cases, but were actually not guilty at all. Once an inmate is executed, nothing can be done to make amends if a mistake has been made.

Additionally, the death penalty is a huge cost to taxpayers. Sending someone to death row in the United States costs roughly $5 million, because the government takes the burden of paying for both sides. With appeals, and execution costs, death row is around $4 million more than an adult serving life in prison. The Constitution requires and long and complex judicial process for capital cases. The process is supposed to ensure that innocent men and woman aren’t wrongful executed, yet even with that the risk of executing an innocent person isn’t completely eliminated. Death penalty cases consume much additional prosecution and law enforcement staff time because much additional work must be done. Prosecutors must investigate and prepare aggravating evidence for presentation in the sentencing phase of the trial, respond to evidence, file many more motions, and spend significantly more time in court than they would in a non-death penalty case. In addition to these staff costs, prosecutors, like defense attorneys, hire experts and consultants, including consultants to assist with jury selection and witness preparation. Sheriff’s departments must transport defendants and must provide additional courtroom security for lengthy death penalty trials, extra expenses that add up quickly.

Indeed, a study of the federal system found that prosecution costs were 67 percent higher than defense costs in death penalty cases. The same study found that defense costs in death penalty cases were four times higher than in non-death penalty cases. (ACLU) Richard C. Dieter, MS, JD, Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said the following on June 7, 2010, in his testimony before the Pennsylvania Senate Government Management and Cost Study Commission, “The death penalty is the most expensive part of the system on a per-offender basis. Millions are spent to achieve a single death sentence that, even if imposed, is unlikely to be carried out. Thus money that the police desperately need for more effective law enforcement may be wasted on the death penalty. Every stage of a capital case is more time-consuming and expensive than in a typical criminal case… There is no reason the death penalty should be immune from reconsideration, along with other wasteful, expensive programs that no longer make sense.” (Death Penalty Info)

Thus the alternatives are more ethical, just, and less costly than capital punishment. By substituting a sentence of life without parole, we meet society’s needs of punishment and protection without running the risk of an irrevocable punishment. “Over two-thirds of the countries in the world – 141 – have now abolished the death penalty in law or practice.” (Amnesty) It is time for the United States of America to catch up with the rest of the world and abolish capital punishment forever.

“Death Penalty Facts.” (n.d.): n. pag. Amnesty Usa. Amnesty International, May 2012. Web. 8 Sept. 2014. .

“No Government Should Experiment with Human Life.” American Civil Liberties Union. ACLU, 2011. Web. 08 Sept. 2014. .

“Testimony of Richard C. Dieter, Esq. Executive Director, Death Penalty Information Center to the Illinois House of Representatives Addressing Innocence and.” _DPIC_. Death Penalty Information Center, 2014. Web. 08 Sept. 2014. .

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