Death Penalty Controversy:Should it be permitted or
eliminated?            The death penalty has been the topic
of passionate debate in the United States and around the world for hundreds of
years.  During this time, many supported
and unsupported findings have been made for both sides of the argument.  Should the death penalty should be permitted
or eliminated?  Does the death penalty
deter crime?  Is it humane or fair?  My belief is the death penalty
should be eliminated.  The death penalty
is a costly and uncertain remedy to crime reduction.  There
are many reasons to argue and support the abolishment of the death penalty such
as: the death penalty is not a deterrent; it is arbitrary and unfair due to
racial bias, mental illness and social standing; potential for wrongful
execution; and it is not cost effective. 
The detailed reasoning for the aforementioned points are expressed
below.DeterrenceCapital punishment does not serve
as a deterrent for crime and ranks last as a way of decreasing violent crime
rates.  Although the leading argument before
us is that most people will not commit a crime if they think execution is the
consequence, that theory is faulty because it relies upon the unlikely idea of what
a perpetrator identifies as the social norm. 
In fact, Research reported in Homicide Studies, Vol. 1, No.2, May
1997, shows that executions may actually increase the number of homicides
rather than deter them because those who have previously committed a capital
crime are impulsive with nothing to lose, therefore they will not hesitate to
commit another crime.  Another reason the
death penalty does not act as a deterrent is because the threat of execution is
not a thought that crosses the mind of one under the influence of drugs and/or
alcohol, of someone that is fearful or enraged, of one who is flustered while
committing another crime, or of someone who suffers from mental illness.  In recent studies, it was found that people
that commit crimes punishable by death may do so because of a conscious or
hidden desire to commit suicide.   This
mentality acts as motivation and has a counter effect to any deterrence the
death penalty may have. Statistics show the deterrent
effect of capital punishment is no greater in states where executions take
place than in states where executions are banned; and when comparisons are made
between the two, the murder rate in non-death penalty states has continued to
stay lower than in the states imposing the death penalty.  The Times reports that ten of the twelve
states without the death penalty have homicide rates below the national
average, while half of the states with the death penalty have homicide rates
above the national average.  The average of
homicide rates per 100,000 population in 1999 within death penalty states was
5.5, while the average of homicide rates among states without the death penalty
was 3.6.  There are approximately 1,900
fewer murders per year in New York City today than compared with that of the
early 1990’s when New York City enforced the death penalty.  With this in mind, death row prisoners can be
resentenced to life without parole without having a negative effect upon the
security of the prison.  Imprisonment keeps
dangerous criminals away from society just as well as execution.Though law enforcement officers are
known to be the strongest supporters of capital punishment, evidence shows that
officers are no safer in societies that use capital punishment than in those
that have eliminated it.  In fact,
officers are subjected to the most danger in the southern states where more
than 80% of all executions occur.  In a concurring opinion by Justice
Brennan regarding Furman v. Ga., 408 U.S. 238,
he concurred “It is not denied that many, and probably most, capital
crimes cannot be deterred by the threat of punishment.”  Id. at 301.  He adds, “If the deliberate
extinguishment of human life has any effect at all, it more likely tends to
lower our respect for life and brutalize our values.  Id.  at 303. 
 “In sum, the punishment of
death is inconsistent with all four principles: Death is an unusually severe
and degrading punishment; there is a strong probability that it is inflicted
arbitrarily; its rejection by contemporary society is virtually total; and
there is no reason to believe that it serves any penal purpose more effectively
than the less severe punishment of imprisonment. The function of these
principles is to enable a court to determine whether a punishment comports with
human dignity. Death, quite simply, does not.” 
 Id. at 305.Justice White added when “Imposition
of the penalty reaches a certain degree of infrequency, it would be very
doubtful that any existing general need for retribution would be measurably
satisfied. Nor could it be said with confidence that society’s need for
specific deterrence justifies death for so few when for so many in like
circumstances life imprisonment or shorter prison terms are judged sufficient,
or that community values are measurably reinforced by authorizing a penalty so
rarely invoked.” Id. at  311-12. 
Subsequently, the imposition of a
penalty is defeated if a criminal is executed. 
Criminologists concur that the death penalty does not effectively reduce
the number of murders.  Arbitrary and UnfairHuman Rights, Status, Race and
Mental Illness             The right to life is the basic right
of all living beings regardless of whether they have a criminal background or
not.  These rights are given to all
people and should not be obstructed no matter what actions an individual has
taken.  Congressman
Bingham, maintained that “the privileges or
immunities of citizens of the United States” as protected by the Fourteenth Amendment included protection against
“cruel and unusual punishments.” Id. at 241One of the main forms of bias is one
of class.  This being noted, the poor
become the lone victim of this type of punishment.  Many inmates cannot afford to hire an
attorney for trial due to the high cost of an effective attorney.  Therefore, inmates are appointed an attorney
by the court.  Many times, these
attorneys are overworked, underpaid and lack the experience needed to try
capital cases.  A favorite saying on death row is
that those without the capital get the punishment. Location also
plays a role in the implementing of the death penalty.  Since
the death penalty was restored by U.S. Supreme Court in 1976, 82% of all
executions have taken place in the South with the Northeast accounting for less
than 1% of executions.  It is advocated that the most reliable predictor of whether
somebody will be sentenced to the death penalty is the race of the victim and
the race of the perpetrator.  Approximately 48% of criminals on death row are
African American.  Prosecutors will
pursue capital punishment more frequently when the victim of a crime is
Caucasian rather than if the victim is African-American or another racial
origin.  It is also found that the
penalty for killing a white person is harsher than killing minorities.  In a study conducted in 2007 by Yale
University School of Law, it was noted that African-American defendants
received a death sentence at an alarming rate of three times that of Caucasian
defendants in cases the victim was Caucasian.The execution of those declared insane
is banned by international law and violates the U.S. Constitution.  Most countries throughout the world forbid the
execution of people with mental illness. 
Here
in the United States, Constitutional protections for people suffering from
mental illness are nominal, however, many prisoners have been executed regardless
of any signs of mental illness.  Some
examples of:  ·     
Askari
Abdullah Muhammad had a history of serious mental illness, including a
diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia.  He
was executed in 2014.  ·     
James
Colburn had an extensive history of paranoid schizophrenia, and it would found
at trial that he had been “seriously sedated.”  He was executed in 2003.  ·     
Charles
Singleton was “seriously deranged” and “incompetent without
treatment.”  He was executed in
2004.  ·     
Kelsey
Patterson was executed in 2004 after being diagnosed with schizophrenia.   The National Association of Mental Health estimates
that five to ten percent of death row inmates have serious mental illness.  Cost of Capital Punishment Regardless of court efforts, the
American death penalty process remains slow, inconsistent and costly.  The cost is much more than a
life-without-parole sentence because a death sentence involves two trials
followed by appellate review that costs hundreds – if not thousands – of
dollars.  Even without appeals, the death
penalty would be more expensive than its alternative.  Studies show that a death sentence to execution costs at least six times as much as a life sentence.  Instances proving such are: ·      According
to a survey by the Kansas Legislative Post Audit, it was found that the
estimated cost of a death penalty case was 70% more than the cost of a
comparable non-death penalty case. Death penalty case costs were counted
through to execution (median cost $1.26 million). Non-death penalty case costs
were counted through to the end of incarceration (median cost $740,000). ·      In a
2004 Report from Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury Office of Research, death
penalty trials cost an average of 48% more than the average cost of trials in
which prosecutors seek life imprisonment. ·      Urban
Institute, The Cost of the Death Penalty in Maryland, March 2008 notes the death
penalty cases cost three times more than non-death penalty cases, or $3 million
for a single case. ·      California
Commission for the Fair Administration of Justice, July 2008, states the
current system costs $137 million per year; it would cost $11.5 million for a
system without the death penalty. Spending money
on the death penalty costs more and reduces resources needed for crime
prevention, mental health treatment, education and rehabilitation, and drug
treatment programs.    In
the end, there is no doubt that it costs
more to execute someone than to keep him in prison for life.Lethal
InjectionThe search for
the most humane manner of execution —quiet and orderly— has brought us to lethal
injection.   “As it
currently stands, lethal injection is the overwhelmingly predominant method of
execution in the United States.”  49
U. Rich. L. Rev. 693.   It was intended that lethal injection was a better
solution to electrocution, gassing or hanging, although in the USA, a
number of lethal injection executions have been botched with problems such as resistance, delays
in establishment of an intravenous line or not being able to find an acceptable
vein.  The incorrect mixture of drugs and
the direction of flow of the injection with chemicals incorrectly directed into
tissue rather than a vein are complications as well.   Some executions have lasted between twenty minutes to
over an hour with inmates gasping for air, twisting and convulsing during the
execution.   In Arizona,
prison officials needed almost two hours to finish the execution
of Joseph Wood.  in 2014, Oklahoma
authorities spent forty minutes attempting to
execute Clayton Lockett before he finally died of a heart attack.  Autopsies have revealed severe chemical burns to the skin
and needles found within soft tissue. InnocenceThe execution of innocent people is
a key concern for the American society. 
It is seen that innocent people are wrongfully executed for reasons such
as: inadequate legal representation, prosecutorial misconduct,
mistaken eyewitness testimony, police misconduct, racial prejudice, snitches in
jail, misrepresentation of evidence, and the communities pressure on
authorities to settle a case.  With a flawed judicial system, there is
always a chance that individuals will be wrongfully sentenced to death.  Since humans are imperfect, the risk of executing the
innocent can never be eliminated. 
It is stated “Capital
punishment is imposed discriminatorily against certain identifiable classes of
people; there is evidence that innocent people have been executed
before their innocence can be proved; and the death penalty wreaks havoc with
our entire criminal justice system.” 
Id. at 364.   Countless individuals
have fallen victim to wrongful execution leading to societies’ loss of faith in
law and the judicial system.   Since 1973, 140 people have been released from
death rows throughout the U.S. because evidence showed they were wrongfully
convicted, and in 2009, nine wrongfully convicted defendants were released from
death row.  Over the years there have been
numerous cases of wrongful convictions. 
Some examples are:North Carolina: Henry
McCollum and Leon Brown, charges dismissed in 2014 due to discovery of DNA
evidence that implicated someone else.    Alabama: Daniel Wade
Moore, acquitted in 2009 when 256 pages of unreleased evidence was revealed.  Texas: Anthony
Graves, charges dismissed in 2010  it was found that prosecutors elicited
false statements and withheld testimony that could have influenced jurors. 
Florida: Seth Penalver,
acquitted in 2012, due to no physical evidence to link him to the murder. International InfluenceYears ago, the
American public avidly supported the death penalty while many close allies of the
U.S. were rejecting capital punishment. 
These days, opinions and laws are changing in the United States mainly
due to international law and our need for international assistance when faced
with issues such as extradition, execution of foreign nationals, and military
personnel dealing with suspected foreign terrorists.  The death penalty has been abolished in 141
countries around the world with the majority
of executions taking place in five countries – China, Iran, North Korea, Yemen
and the United States (in 2010).  In
order to secure relations with our allies, the United States will need to
conform to the ways of our international counterparts and support the evidence shows
the death penalty is not effective.     

In conclusion, a large majority of U.S. citizens prefer alternative
punishments over the death penalty in part to. 
Much of the United States say the death penalty
is a “broken system.” There are nineteen states plus the
District of Columbia that have ended the practice of the death penalty, Nebraska
becoming the most recent state to abolish the death penalty.  Six more states have not done an execution in
ten years or more, and only seven states carried out executions in 2014.   It has
been proven that capital
punishment, in the U.S. and around the world, is biased and is used
against the poor, minorities, and different ethnic and religious communities,
as well being as an ineffective deterrent of crime.   As noted in 
15 Mich. J.
Race & L. 223,
“The Supreme Court’s death penalty jurisprudence is evolving and has
proved to be responsive to state-by-state action, so there remains a
possibility of nationwide repeal.”  For
the reasons stated within this paper, I support the abolishment of the death
penalty.

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