Our group is researching the death penalty and whether it truly should remain standing in American society. Although it has been prevalent in sentencing codes since ancient times, killing someone for their crimes was first observed in the United States around the 1600s. It was seen as the harshest punishment and was reserved for the worst acts, such as murder. Many people believe that capital punishment has no place in modern society. They argue that it is immoral and outdated, downright uncivilized in our society.
There are multiple sides to any argument, but the question at hand is whether or not the death penalty is fair and how it impacts different cultures.
When people think of death penalties, they typically envision a man in an electric chair. After the criminal is fried, the trouble is in the past and the victims receive sweet relief. In ideal circumstances, that would be the case, but more often than not, the families of the victim feel regret for pushing the court towards the utmost verdict.
“…I’m convinced significant healing would have occurred for us all if our family had engaged in a frank conversation with him at the prison. I wish I had had the chance — consistent with my Christian beliefs — to have told him in person that I forgave him for what he did to our innocent and precious daughter.” (Hall, 2016) This is an account from a man whose daughter was violated and murdered. He personally recounts how he thought everything was over when the man who had stolen his innocent baby girl was finally executed.
Quite soon after, he learned that the image of a bloodthirsty criminal just wasn’t on par with who Ferguson really was. Jim Hall and his family learned that Ferguson was involved in many programs to improve himself and others in the prison. Mr. Hall firmly believes that all death sentences should be switched to life in prison without parole. “The death penalty, however, stands as [restorative justice’s] polar opposite, implying that the God-given life of some people is devoid of any value and can justifiably be taken.” Mr. Hall provides a unique perspective, as someone who in fact pushed for an execution.
After a criminal is executed, their family is left ignored most of the time. Many people don’t think about how the loved ones of the criminal feel after their relative is marked as an irredeemable nuisance to society. “Part of his trauma, Gardner says, is guilt about not shepherding Ronnie to a better life…Randy says he also feels tormented by his decision not to turn his sibling in. The two met up in the days immediately following Ronnie’s first murder, while he was still at large.” (Janos, 2018) Randy’s brother, Ronnie, was sentenced to execution in 2010, after more than one murder and a rocky childhood spent in and out of detention centers. This is an excellent example of someone that didn’t have the proper environment to become what would be considered a functioning member of society. He didn’t have enough support, and a death sentence ensures that he’ll never get the chance to. Randy goes on to explain that he has recurring nightmares about his brother. He can’t maintain a steady job anymore, and his life is irreversibly changed. If his brother had been given a life sentence without parole, Randy would’ve had the chance to make up for his mistakes. Now that his brother is gone, he might never reach resolution or get closure.
The most important thing, regardless of sentencing, is that justice is blind. However, in the statistics for execution rates, it is very clear that the scale is tipped in white men’s favour. “Notably among the 38 states that allow the death penalty, approximately 98% of the prosecutors are white.” “between 1983 and 1993 prosecutors in Philadelphia voted to remove 52% of potential black jurors while trying to remove only 23% of other potential jurors.” (American Civil Liberties Union, Although these stats are hard to interpret, it sums up that the system is pushed to skew the votes and thus the verdict. The fact that such a large percentage of death row prosecutors allows us to assume that minorities are less likely to push for a capital punishment sentence, but it can’t lead us to the conclusion that specific race groups are being targeted. The evidence showing that more than half of black juror candidates are removed is clear. Presumably, black people would be less likely to vote in favor of a white prosecution and allow a redeemable person off. Above assumptions, it’s important to recognize that eliminating people of colour from the jury panel lowers diversity and gives the defendant less chance of getting off. More perspectives pushes towards a more fair trial.
Furthermore, how can the prosecution be sure they have the right criminal? “As a result, the great majority of innocent defendants remain undetected. The rate of such errors is often described as a ‘dark figure’.” (Drehle, 2014) Officially, about 4% of executions are of innocent people, but it’s very difficult to find out after the fact. A person could be pleading not guilty and the evidence can be directed to prove that’s not the case when it really is. False accusations, perjury, and misconduct are no strangers to the legal system. After someone gets executed, it can’t be undone. Families are forever influenced and a spark of life is snuffed out, even if the evidence doesn’t prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.