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The Death Penalty Essay

One of the most controversial topics of the modern day United States is Capital Punishment. Many arguments have been posed for both the pros and cons of whether it is “right” to be able to put someone to death. It is such a divided topic that the Federal Government has left the decision up the individual states to decide for themselves on which way they will choose. However, when the facts are examined and the morality issues are understood, it is clear that capital punishment is not the way to proceed and should be abolished throughout the United States.

One argument for abolishing capital punishment is that it is a major expense to the taxpayers of a State. A single death sentence is at least two million dollars per person at a minimum. (Reasons) That’s four times the price of keeping a person in prison for life. The cost is so high because it is a much longer processing time than a regular life sentence trial. The complete process takes around 20 years on average, which as a consequence, then clogs up the court system. It costs 70% more to execute a prisoner than to give him a life sentence without parole. A federal death case trial cost for one person is on average about two million dollars.

California has spent over four billion dollars since 1972, and the costs of incarceration since 1972 has been one billion dollars. If the state of California switched from death row to life without parole, it would save approximately $170 million dollars annually. As a reality, if a state did that for 20 years, they would save in excess of five billion dollars. (Costs) With the United States in so much debt, it would be a good idea to abolish capital punishment and use the savings on other needs of society such as education and the homeless. Also, people who do not have the money to pay for a good lawyer have a court appointed attorney, which costs even more money in the long run.

As the statistics show, an accused individual has a 44% higher chance of receiving a death penalty sentence at trial, which will create additional costs for the appeal process and potential mistrials. When the defendant doesn’t have the money to pay for his or her own attorney, the court appointed public attorney could add a significant amount of additional cost over time. Since the beginning of 2012, there are 32 states that still retain the death penalty. That means that 18 states have banned the death penalty.

The states that have kept the death penalty have to isolate the inmates into special buildings, which translates to the more guards who are needed to secure the death row inmates. (Statistics) This means more money is added to the overall state/national debt because the extra guards aren’t going to work for free. As stated before, the average a person is on death row is for 20 years. This is because deciding to take someone’s life takes time. The longer it takes to decide if a person is guilty or not the more money the overall trial costs will be.

Since death row takes a long time, the costs for each individual session in court takes money. Many people die before they get their actual sentence of guilty or not. They die from old age, other inmates, medical conditions, and some even take their own lives. (Forum) The states that abandoned the death penalty had reasons for it. New Jersey banned executions in 2007 because of money. An additional reason is because DNA has found that many convicts are actually innocent. In Illinois, in the year of 2000, the governor George Ryan abolished executions.

Since the governor chose to abolish capital punishment, 163 death sentences turned into life imprisonments. Furthermore, in 1992 there were 284 death sentences to 111 by 2008. Also, a judge in California sentenced nine men to be on death row; thankfully, none of those convicted have been executed as of January of 2013. One man ended up dying and that was because of a heart attack from a previous health condition. “It’s a waste of time and money”, says the 82-year-old retired judge. “Convicted inmates are on death row for about twenty years.

It takes that long for a case to go through the whole system of appeals. It only makes the victims suffer longer”. (English) Another point for abolishing the death penalty is the fact that the Courts are not perfect and does not treat ethnic backgrounds equally. Since 1975, there have been numerous studies and statistics proving this point. One study showed that murders of Hispanics resulted in a six percent chance of catching the murderer and placing the person on death row. African Americans were slightly better by having a fifteen percent chance of catching the murderer and placing them on death row.

The discrimination of receiving a death row sentence is when a murder of a white person has a seventy-seven percent of catching the murder and placing them on death row. (Race of Death) This shows that people who killed a white person had a very high chance of being found and convicted for the death penalty. The University of Maryland in January of 2000 did an investigation on geography and race as prime factors in death penalty decisions.

Particularly, prosecutors are at an increased chance to obtain a capital punishment charge when the race of the victim is of the white decent and is not as likely to obtain a capital punishment charge when the victim is of an African-American decent. In January of 2003, Senator Russ Feingold on Civil Rights as a Priority for the 108th Congress stated, “We simply cannot say we live in a country that offers equal justice to all Americans when racial disparities plague the system by which our society imposes the ultimate punishment.” (Race of Homicide) This statement shows that not everyone is equal in the matter of equal justice when the victim isn’t white.

Another study in 2007 was an investigation of death sentences in Connecticut conducted by Yale University School of Law. The people at Yale University came to a conclusion that African-American defendants do receive the death penalty at a three times higher the rate of all white defendants in cases where the victims were white. In addition, the study conducted concluded that killers of white victims are treated much more severely than people who kill other ethnicities. (Race of Homicide) In the court system, one in seven people are accused wrongly in the court system. Killing innocent people in the court system happens more often then we know. (Reasons) An example is in1980 there was a murder right down the street from where Thomas Goldstein lived.

He wasn’t anywhere near where the murder happened but was arrested for the crime anyway. The court concluded that he was to serve twenty-seven years to life because of 1st degree murder. He was an innocent man who ended up serving 24 years. He was put to death by lethal injection. Later on there was evidence of false testimonies, eyewitness error, and Misconduct of the prosecutor. So, the court sentenced an innocent man to death because of false accusations. (Death Penalty ) In eyes of religion, Buddhists and Hindus are against capital punishment and the death penalty.

Buddha once said, “an action, even if it brings benefit to oneself, cannot be considered a good action if it causes physical and mental pain to another being.” The death penalty does cause both mental and physical pain to the family and the people who are being put to death. According to the Hindu religion, Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye ends up making the whole world blind.” This shows that the eye for an eye method is not the way to go and again, this is why the death penalty should be abolished. (BBC) Thirdly, The Death Penalty goes against what the law states. It’s as simple as that. The Fifth Amendment is an example. The Fifth Amendment is the due process of law.

(Constitution) The fifth amendment is usually random, but always final, which forever strips an individual person of their circumstances to benefit from new findings or new acts or bills that could possibility permit to the overturning of a ruling, or setting aside the death sentence. An example of the Fifth Amendment being violated by the death penalty was in the court case Quinones v. The United States when US District Judge, Jed Rakoff, of New York, on July 1, 2002 stated:

“…The unacceptably high rate at which innocent persons are convicted of capital crimes, when coupled with the frequently prolonged delays before such errors are detected (and then often only fortuitously or by application of newly-developed techniques), compels the conclusion that execution under the Federal Death Penalty Act, by cutting off the opportunity for exoneration, denies due process and, indeed, is tantamount to foreseeable, state-sponsored murder of innocent human beings.” (Georgia)

In the quote above, Rakoff states that in this case, the defendant was being denied the protection of life, liberty, and property by the government. Another example would be denial of the eighth amendment. The eighth amendment states, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”(Constitution) An additional example of a court case would be in 1976 was Gregg v Georgia. A Justice of the US Supreme Court, William J. Brennan, declared:

“Death is not only an unusually severe punishment, unusual in its pain, in its finality, and in its enormity, but it serves no penal purpose more effectively than a less severe punishment… The fatal constitutional infirmity in the punishment of death is that it treats ‘members of the human race as nonhumans, as objects to be toyed with and discarded. [It is] thus inconsistent with the fundamental premise of the Clause that even the vilest criminal remains a human being possessed of common human dignity.’

As such it is a penalty that ‘subjects the individual to a fate forbidden by the principle of civilized treatment guaranteed by the [Clause].’ I therefore would hold, on that ground alone, that death is today a cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Clause… I would set aside the death sentences imposed… as violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.” (Is the)

This quote shows that the death penalty does cause pain to the person who is receiving the injection, which then shows that the death penalty does in fact does take away our rights. This is just another example of how the death penalty does break the law. Lastly, The main reason why states in the United States want to keep the death penalty is because states think the crime rate will go down. The United States government thinks that the death penalty is a deterrent. The comparisons of the murder rates in the United States compared to that of Great Britain’s is six times as much and the United States compared to Australia is five times as much.

The United States has the death penalty but neither Australia nor Britain do. (Reasons) In retrospect, the death penalty does not act as a deterrent and does not bring down the crime rates. Many people may think that capital punishment deters crime, but in fact there is no factual evidence that it does. The highest murder rate regional is in the South and it counts for 80% of the executions. Only ten out of the thirteen states in the United States that don’t have the death penalty have killing rates below the average within the US. The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) have statistics that present evidence that more then half of the states with capital punishment have higher homicide rates above the nation average.

The New York Times did and investigation with a state-by- state analysis, showing that since the early 1990s, execution rates have been 48 percent to 101 percent higher in states that don’t have capital punishment. At the State University of New York Albany, Steven Messner, who is a criminologist, examined a study by The New York Times saying “It is difficult to make the case for any deterrent effect from these numbers.” “Whatever the factors are that affect change in homicide rates, they don’t seem to operate differently based on the presence or absence of the death penalty in a state.

“(States) This shows there is evidence that crime rates do not go down when a person is convicted for doing something wrong. Above is where the “eye for and eye” theory does not work. Mr. O’Hair is a prosecutor and judge for about 30 years, said, “I do not think the death penalty is a deterrent of any consequence in preventing murders.” Most homicides, he said, are “impulsive actions, crimes of passion,” in which the killers do not consider the consequences of what they are doing.” (States) This is again another example of why the death penalty should be abolished because it is not deterrent in any way and is not helping the public bring down their crime rates.

As one of the most controversial topics of our time, it is clear to see that there is a resolution to the Capital Punishment debate when all of the facts are identified. In just the simple economics alone, the death row process costs the taxpayers a significant amount of money every year that could be used to fund other areas of society that are in need.

In addition to the economical aspects, the morality of this process is definitely considered cruel and unusual punishment to the people who have to suffer through the process for many years to include the victims’ families. Capital Punishment should be abolished as it does not accomplish the reduction of horrible crimes within society and has been proven to be a burden rather than a deterrent.

Works Cited
BBC News. BBC. 25 Jan. 2013
“Costs of the Death Penalty.” Death Penalty Information Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2013. “Death Penalty : Stories of Wrongful Conviction from California.” Death Penalty : Stories of Wrongful Conviction from California. 25 Jan. 2013 “English-Online.” Death Penalty. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2013. “Forum: Inmates Who Died On Death Row.” Inmates Who Died On Death Row. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2013. “Georgia.” Death Penalty Information Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2013 “Is the Death Penalty Unconstitutional? – Death Penalty – ProCon.org.”

Is the Death Penalty Unconstitutional? – Death Penalty – ProCon.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2013. “Race of Death Row Inmates Executed Since 1976.” Death Penalty Information Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2013 Race of Homicide Victims in Cases Resulting in an Execution since 1976. 25 Jan. 2013 “Reasons to Be Against the Death Penalty.” Reasons to Be Against the Death Penalty. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2013. “States With No Death Penalty Share Lower Homicide Rates.” Death Penalty Information Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2013. “Statistics.” Statistics. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2013.

US Constitution, Amendment 5th, 1791
US Constitution, Amendment 8th, 1791

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