Is the death penalty a justified form of punishment Essay

An issue that has continually created tension in today’s society is whether the death penalty serves as a justified and valid form of punishment. According to the research that has been done, the death penalty should be abolished as it is an expensive, controversial form of revenge that targets the underprivileged and is applied inconsistently and unfairly. The death penalty is flawed in a number of ways;

First of all there is a belief that the death penalty acts as a deterrent of future crimes by making an example out of the current criminals.

However there is no evidence to prove this, in states where the death penalty has been abolished, the crime rate is usually the same as where the death penalty is still implemented. This is as often criminals rare under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, or the perpetrator is not in rational control, or they are hit-men doing contract killings and typically never expect to be arrested, or psychopaths and other mentally ill individuals who have little regard for human life and who are unable to accept responsibility for their actions or the criminal commits crime on a spur of the moment and just doesn’t have time to weigh their options.

Even if capital punishment did act as a deterrent, is it acceptable for someone to pay for the predicted future crimes of others? Some people argue that one may as well punish innocent people; it will have the same effect. This isn’t true – if people are randomly picked up off the street and punished as scapegoats the only consequence is likely to be that people would be frightened to leave their homes. To make a scapegoat scheme effective it would be necessary to go through the appearance of a legitimate legal process and to present evidence which convinced the public that the person being punished deserved their punishment. While some societies have operated their legal systems on the basis of fictional evidence and confessions extracted by torture, the ethical objections to such a system are sufficient to render the argument in pointless.

There is another misconception that the death penalty is cheaper to implement than keeping a criminal in a correctional facility for long periods of time, however oddly the reality turns out to be quite the opposite as the option of keeping a criminal in a correctional institute is actually cheaper than executing them. Capital cases cost more from the start because case law mandates that a defendant facing a possible death sentence is entitled to two attorneys rather than just one. Most capital defendants are however poverty-stricken which means this cost is absorbed by the state. Capital defendants are entitled also to representation by relevant experts in their cases (investigators, mitigation specialists, psychologists, etc.) all paid for by the state. Trials involving the death penalty usually last longer than trials not involving the death penalty. Additionally, and probably more important with respect to driving costs up, there is the appeals process. This is put into place to try to avoid executing an innocent person, but these attorneys cost even more than trial attorneys because of their specific expertise. Finally, the costs of supervision on high security death row while appeals proceed outweighs the costs of supervision in general population. In the United States tax payers have paid $37.2 million for each of execution.

Everyone has a right to live; this phrase is present in the constitution of every country. Even someone who has committed horrific murders cannot be forfeited of this right. Even though there is the counter argument for this that people who have taken other lives must forgo this right They believe that the value of the offender’s life cannot be destroyed by the offender’s bad conduct. Some abolitionists don’t go that far. They say that life should be preserved at all costs, and that those who are in favor of capital punishment are the ones who have to justify their position. Every human being is entitled to receive a second chance in life. Putting a convict behind bars is always a logical option than killing him, as there is a chance that he may improve. People who have served life sentences are reported to have bettered their earlier ways of living and have made worthwhile contribution to the society. Also capital punishment puts great amounts of strain on the person who is receiving the capital punishment, the person who is killing the perpetrator of crimes, the victim who must watch the criminal be executed and the person who has sentenced the criminal to the death penalty and all their loved ones.

Many people believe that retribution is morally flawed and problematic in concept and practice. The government cannot teach that killing is wrong by killing. To take a life when a life has been lost is revenge, not justice. When a government sentences a murderer to be murdered, it brutalizes the law, it brutalizes the state and it stoops down low to the level of the felon, it does to the crook what the crook did to the victim. The argument to this is that it does offer closure to the victims and their families however when one loses a family member to violence, such a loss cannot be replaced, cannot be “closed.” Secondly, when murder victims’ family members are interviewed after executions, they frequently comment on it as being “easy” and or that the criminal “did not suffer enough.” In fact it does seem unfair to the victims or their families that they were subjected to so much violence and torture by their attacker while he or she gets a “white” “clean” “sterile” death. And also consider the families of the person being executed they are being put through trauma for no fault of theirs. And many cases have been recorded where even when the criminal sincerely apologizes his apologies are only met with bitterness. So when the government sentences a murderer to capital punishment it is doing to the criminal what the criminal did to the victims and that is the very definition of revenge.

Many methods of execution are quite obviously likely to cause enormous suffering, such as execution by lethal gas, electrocution or strangulation. Today the most common forms of execution are beheading, electrocuting, toxic gas, hanging, lethal injection and shooting and obviously all these are extremely traumatic and painful to undergo and perform. Many countries that use capital punishment have now adopted lethal injection, because it’s thought to be less cruel for the offender and less brutalizing for the executioner. However this method has serious moral flaws, it requires medical personnel being directly involved in killing, and this is a direct breach of medical ethics. The second flaw is that research in April 2005 showed that lethal injection is not nearly as ‘humane’ as had been thought as post mortem findings indicated that levels of anesthetic found in offenders were consistent with insomnia and the ability to experience pain concluding that they went through enormous amounts of pain.

In places where the death penalty is instated it used rather inconsistently with a huge difference in the number of white people executed and the number of other ethnic groups executed. A study in the state of Ohio confirmed this. The study showed that: Offenders facing a death penalty charge for killing a white person were twice more likely to go to death row than if they had killed a black victim. Death sentences were handed down in 18 percent of cases where the victims were white compared with 8.5 percent of cases where victims were black. Also people who are poverty-stricken are much more likely to get the death sentence. This is as they often would not be able to afford good lawyers and instead get state appointed lawyers, state appointed lawyer are underpaid, overworked and often the least qualified, there are even cases where the state appointed lawyer did not even know the defendant’s name it is no wonder that most of their clients get much heavier sentence whether they are guilty or innocent. A example; Serial killers such as the infamous Gary Ridgway in Seattle who admitted killing 48 prostitutes and runaways got life in prison. A nurse in who admitted killing 17 people got life. Meanwhile, mentally ill and impoverished murderers who could not afford good lawyers and did not receive much media attention were given the death penalty. In Alabama, David Hocker was executed after a one-day trial as his mental illness was not sufficiently described to the jury. Alabama also executed a 74-year-old man who had been on death row for 27 years and was beset by medical problems which would have probably soon caused his death by natural means: cancer, high blood pressure and the early stages of Alzheimer’s. In Texas, a man with schizophrenia was executed even after the Board of Pardons and Paroles recommended clemency after learning of his time spent in mental hospitals and his unintelligible rambling.

Lastly there is always the threat that an innocent life will be taken, this is the LARGEST threat and the most important reason why the death penalty should be abolished. On average for every seven people executed, one is innocent. There are various causes for this huge miscarriage of justice;

Eyewitness misidentification: Mistaken eyewitness identification has often been a factor in cases where an individual’s conviction was overturned by DNA evidence. Many times victims or witnesses are going through trauma and cannot properly identify the accused, and in many cases where DNA evidence is not present, sentences are given purely on witness accounts.

Circumstantial evidence: Often in a rush to finish sentencing the accused and closing the case, circumstantial evidence is used (the logic is “Post hoc ergo propter hoc”). For example if the crime scene has a footprint of the same shoe owned by accused and the bullet used was a .22 calibre which is also the same type of bullets in possession of the accused then the victim is found guilty, this is an only extreme form of chance and should not be used for a conviction.

False confessions: The most common factors that contribute to defendants admitting to crimes they did not commit are the individual’s mental illness or mental retardation, intoxication or extreme duress. The length and intensity of interrogations have also been seen as an important factor in obtaining false confessions. Sometimes in a huge perversion of justice, the accused confess to “lesser” crimes which they did not commit in order to get a lighter confession.

Faulty science: Though DNA testing has been useful in establishing innocence and locating those who are responsible for crimes, the results of this testing are only as reliable as those who conduct the investigation. However experts have violated the principles of the scientific method by testifying about tests that were never conducted, suppressing evidence, falsifying results, misinterpreting test results, and exaggerating statistical probabilities.

Flaws in the system: Witnesses, (where they are part of the process), prosecutors and jurors can all make mistakes. When this is coupled with flaws in the system it is inevitable that innocent people will be convicted of crimes. Where capital punishment is used such mistakes cannot be put right. A person who has been given a large sentence or even a life sentence can be compensated however a person who has been wrongfully executed can never be compensated. The death penalty legitimizes an irreversible act of violence by the state and will inevitably claim innocent victims. As long as human justice remains imperfect, the risk of executing the innocent can never be eliminated.

The death penalty is something courts do not understand and certainly do not know how to use. It is unethical and gives very few people too much power. Capital punishment must be abolished as once it is used it can never be undone or compensated for. There will always be flaws in government systems and no matter how finely the “net” is woven there will always be people who fall through it, except from this “net” there is no coming back.

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