White, Deborah. “Pros and Cons of the Death Penalty” Retrieved from http://deathpenalty.procon.org/view.answers.reader-comments.php?questionID=1324
Deborah White in her article “Pros and Cons of the Death Penalty” said in her research that in 1972, the United States Supreme Court effectively nullified the death penalty converting the death sentences of hundreds of death row inmates to life in prison. But in 1976, another Supreme Court ruling found capital punishment to be constitutional and since then up to June of 2009, 1,167 persons were executed. Amnesty International spoke out against the death penalty stating that it is the ultimate denial of human rights. Amnesty calls it the premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being in the name of justice. It is the most cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment that could ever be meted out against an individual.
However, the Clark County Indiana Prosecuting Attorney strongly supports the death penalty and condemns those who speak against the act. He says society has no right to want to protect the murderer. In his view, “society has not only the right, but the duty to act in self-defense to protect the innocent.” Countering his argument, Catholic Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, writes “the death penalty diminishes all of us, increases disrespect for human life, and offers the tragic illusion that killing is wrong by killing.” Society believes in a retaliatory system that only heightens the pain of the families of the victim and also the families of the perpetrators, and even the perpetrators themselves. Executing the murderer will not bring back the victim but only leave another family in deep turmoil.
Considerable studies have shown that the death penalty is arbitrary, that the costs of trials and multiple appeals make the death penalty more expensive than keeping a prisoner locked up for the rest of his life. The death penalty does not deter violent crime and in fact during the 20th century more than 400 people were falsely convicted in capital cases. The racial discrimination argument in McClesky v. Kemp was denied but statistical evidence upheld the claim that often the burden of capital punishment falls upon the poor and underprivileged. Also the studies show that the majority of individuals on death row are indigents.
This revelation points to a big flaw in the system. If the majority of persons on death row are indigents then we must ask ourselves what is the reason for so many of these persons committing violent crimes. Is it that injustice has been committed against these persons and they are crying out for help? Surely it cannot be that all of them are just violent in nature. The argument that the death penalty should be retained because the majority of persons ask for it holds no water.
Zimring, Franklin E. The Contradictions of American Capital Punishment: Studies in Crime and Public Policy. (1 May 2003) 272 pages ISBN. Retrieved from https://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-contradictions-of-american-capital- punishment-9780195152364?cc=us&lang=en&#
In his book Zimring addresses pertinent questions about the United States continue to uphold the death penalty when over 50 other democracies have abolished it. He reveals that the seemingly unfathomable turmoil surrounding the death penalty mirrors a deep and long-standing division among its people in whether to put an end to capital punishment or continue this barbaric act on its people. He says it sets us apart from the rest of the world and we are regarded by other nations as barbaric. The American Society “believes in violent social justice that sees the hangman as an agent of local control and safeguard of community values. Zimring says that it is a legacy that must be stopped.
Zimring spoke about the American Constitution and the scant role it plays in the setting up of policies to deal with the death penalty. Throughout the 150 years of U.S. history the death penalty was carried out in most states. Some later took it on themselves to abolish the act until in 1935 there were about 7 states remaining that had not abolished the act. By the mid 1960’s the debate over capital punishment had shifted from the state legislature to the federal courts. Here the opponents of the act brought several lawsuits against proponents citing that they had violated the 14th Amendment which prohibits the government from depriving citizens of life, liberty or property “without due process of law.” The 8th Amendment also spoke against cruel and unusual punishments. A moratorium on all executions was instituted in 1972 through to 1976 when the Furman vs. Georgia case in the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that a jury should not be allowed unlimited power or discretion to choose between a death sentence and a prison sentence for a convicted criminal. Following this, the law also restricted the types of murder for which the death penalty could be imposed.
Presently the current system that exists in the United States differs much from the pre-existing system of the 1972 era. The federal constitution has standards that must be adhered to. The 8th Amendment sets out in its laws the cruel and inhumane acts against certain persons. Every year in the United States juries sentence between 200 to 300 criminals to death. Critics are still calling for fairness in the administration of the death penalty. Numerous studies conducted have recognized the influence of race on sentencing decisions. Those who are for it discount this argument. They point out that the statistical disparities lie in the different circumstances surrounding the offenses. Those who are for it says that in the majority of cases the attacks on a white person often results in murder, therefore that crime constitutes a death sentence. Interestingly, legal challenges of the death penalty based on allegations of racial discrimination have achieved little success.
Equal Justice USA (EJUSA) “Executions Create more Victims” The impact on those who carry them out. Washington Post, May 13, 2001. http://ejusa.org/learn/secondary%2Btrauma
In this article in the Washington Post dated May 13, 2001, research has shown that the death penalty has a far reaching impact on not only the victim and the executed but also on those who participate in the death of a human being. The system also creates a whole new set of victims who are left to grieve in silence. There is the false impression that executions heal wounds, but studies have shown that executions cause more wounds than they heal. Ron McAndrew, a former warden who presided over eight executions, says that, “I myself was haunted by the men I was asked to execute in the name of the states. I would wake up in the middle of the night to find them lurking at the foot of my bed.” Horrendous stories of persons who have been affected by this act are told by Jim Willet former warden and Steve Dalsheim, former superintendent. They say that persons will never understand what goes on at an execution; “There has to be a better way than putting men to death.” Capital punishment is too harsh. Persons must know that it does not bring back the victim and it can certainly work against restoration.
Studies into the effect that capital punishment has on those who serve in it reveal that persons who serve are likely to endure prolonged distress. These persons actually internalize the issues of whether those persons should or should not die. Like jurors, Journalists who witness these executions also suffer. Carol Pickett, a minister who witnessed almost 100 executions in Texas, says that his health problems are due to stress involved with witnessing these executions.
Everybody suffers. The families of the executed, the families of the victims of the crime suffer. Those in the judiciary, those in the prisons and even those of us who learn of persons who we may know are not spared the trauma of this wicked act.
Ellsworth, P. C. and Gross, S. R. (1994), Hardening of the Attitudes: Americans' Views on the Death Penalty. Journal of Social Issues, 50: 19–52. doi: 10.1111/j.1540- 4560.1994.tb02409.x
In their research Ellsworth and Gross found that most people’s attitude to the death penalty is based on more emotions rather than their knowledge of it. Some persons know little and do not want to know more. People would rather not know the facts and be guided by their emotions. Since 1966 support for the death penalty has risen steadily, and it has now become a much debatable issue in political circles. Both researchers will base further research on racial attitudes by comparing the death penalty with alternative methods, and also specific aspects of attitudes towards the death penalty. The criminal justice system has generated much debate and there is strong indication that although the public feels strongly about the death penalty, there are also strong arguments that it should be abolished.
In concluding their findings on this important research Ellsworth and Gross found that support of the death penalty was at an all-time high “both in the proportion of those who favor corporal punishment and in the intensity of their feelings.” They pointed out that most persons who care a great deal for the act do not even have knowledge about it. They just go off emotions rather than knowledge which are misleading. They have looked at previous studies that were done by other researchers who have based their findings off old literature on the subject rather than researching for themselves the seemingly high increase in favor of capital punishment. In their study, Ellsworth and Gross found that there is a trend in the period of 1953 – 1966 when the crime rate is at its lowest there are les persons in support of the act. On the other hand, during the period 1966 – 1982 when the crime rate is high there is increased support for the death penalty. People just want something to curb the murder rate. Further studies in this field are encouraged as the death penalty is largely driven by people’s emotions.
Critics of capital punishment put forward several arguments; the death penalty is too arbitrary, it violates the eight amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. It discriminates against racial minority and the poor and it does not deter crime. Those who call for such a system cite arguments around fairness, retribution, deterrence, economy and popularity. However, when the public is fully informed about the consequences of the death penalty there will be less supporters of the act.
Death Penalty Focus: Working for alternatives to the death penalty. Retrieved from http://www.deathpenalty.org/section.php?id=13
In this article “Death Penalty Focus”, many reasons for the cessation of the death penalty were put forward. It is too complex an issue and does not point to any single fact or argument as the most important. Executions of murderers are too costly and taxpayers have to bear the burden of the cost. In a study carried out in California in 201, the state spends 184 million on the death penalty each year and will spend a whopping 1 billion in the next 5 years. There is no proof that capital punishment discourages crime. In fact, the states without the death penalty have much lower murder rates and those that have account for the highest murder rate. Innocent persons have been convicted and executed also. In a 1990 report from the General Accounting Office it was concluded in 82 percent of studies reviewed that the race of the victim was more likely to influence being charged with capital murder or receiving the death penalty. Almost all religious groups in the USA call capital punishment immoral and believe that the millions spent on executing prisoners could be spent on helping the victim’s families.
The death penalty should be abolished as there will always be the risk of executing innocent people. The Justice system, no matter how developed, is prone to failure. The death penalty is irreversible and irreparable. The death penalty is often used in a manner that is not fair. The poor, the minority, and members of racial, ethnic, political and religious groups are often the victims of this act. The death penalty undermines human dignity and in fact does not deter crime effectively as some persons think. A life in prison without parole is the most sensible option as it sometimes allows mistakes to be corrected. There are currently over 3,300 persons in California who have received alternative sentence. The California Governor’s office reported that only seven people sentenced to life without parole have been released since the state provided for this option in 1977. This happened because these persons were able to prove their innocence.
Public support does not justify the taking away of a life. It is the job of our leading figures to point out the incompatibility of capital punishment with the rights and dignity of humans. It must be pointed out that public support of the death penalty by society stems from the desire of seeing the society be rid of crime. They must be shown other measures of getting rid of or preventing crime.