Capital Punishment is the ultimate denial of human rights. There are strong indications that rather than deterring violence, it increases peoples tolerance of and tendency toward violence. Though capital punishment does not deter capital crimes it does constitute a uniquely cruel and degrading punishment. Its imposition forever deprives a potentially innocent individual the benefits of new evidence or a new law that might warrant the reversal of a conviction or the setting aside of a death sentence. In addition, the cost of executing a person in the U.S. is far higher than the cost of imprisoning him or her for life. States wishing to condemn cruel and inhuman acts of killing do not serve their purpose by repeating the act of killing.
The average homicide rate in the 13 states without the death penalty is lower than the average homicide rate in the 37 states where it is legal. Between 1972 and 1990, the homicide rate in Michigan which has no death penalty, was generally as low or lower than the neighboring state of Indiana, which restored the death penalty in 1973. The U.S. Bowers- Pierce study analyzing executions between 1907 and 1963 concluded, that an average of two additional homicides were committed in the month after an execution; they also noted a brutalizing effect on society resulting from executions. According to FBI statistics the murder rate in some states which use the death penalty is twice that of some states which do not use the death penalty. Between 1976 and 1985, almost twice as many law enforcement officers were killed in death penalty states as were killed in states that dont use the death penalty. The death penalty has not proven its worth to society; study after study has shown!that it fails to deter crime, no credible body of evidence contradicts them.
Capital punishment is pre- meditated killing and, like all killing, involves a cruel and violent assault on the human body. If administering 100 volts of electricity to the most sensitive parts of a mans body is rightly condemned as torture, how does a state condone the administration of 2,000 volts to a human body in order to cause death? At a 1990 Florida execution, a malfunction of the electric chair equipment caused flames to leap six inches above the prisoners head each time the current was turned on. In 1992, a prisoner in Oklahoma had a violent reaction to the drugs used in the lethal injection. While he gasped and gagged violently, the muscles in his jaw, neck and abdomen reacted spasmodically. Eleven minutes elapsed before the man died. In 1994 it took five minutes for David Lawson to die in North Carolinas gas chamber. During that time he screamed, Im human! Im human! Since 1984 there have been over 24 botched executions, all of which have inflicted cruel!and unusual punishment and have clearly violated the eighth amendment.
Experience has shown that innocent people are often convicted of crimes including capital crimes and that some of them have been executed. A recent study revealed over 400 cases of wrong conviction for capital offenses in the United States between 1900 and 1991. Most of the convictions were upheld on appeal, with evidence produced years after sentencing to prove the prisoners innocence. But, for 24 of the prisoners, that evidence appeared too late they had already been executed. Because human beings are fallible, innocent people have been executed in the past and will continue to be executed in the future. As stated by the famous social historian Marquis de Lafayette, I shall ask for the abolition of the punishment of death until I have the infallibility of human judgement demonstrated to me. Supreme Court Justice, Harry Blackmun made this statement on the subject, Nothing could be more contrary to contemporary standards of decency or more shocking to the conscience t!han to execute a person who is actually innocent. That comes perilously close to simple murder. All of society is responsible for the death of an innocent person when the state kills in our name. Abolition of the death penalty is the only guaranteed protection against this tragedy.
The actual cost of an execution is substantially higher than the cost of imprisoning a person for life. A 1982 in- depth study of death penalty costs in New York placed the cost of executing a prisoner at over $1.8 million. This figure is three times the cost of imprisoning a person for life, and it includes only three stages of the judicial proceedings. It does not include additional court security, and counsel fees, nor does it include the estimated millions of dollars associated with state and federal post- conviction reviews and with the execution itself. California spends an extra $90 million per year on capital punishment. In Florida, each execution costs the state $3.2 million, six times more than incarcerating a prisoner for life. Texas, with the highest execution rate and one of the highest murder rates in the country, spends an estimated $2.3 million per capital case. This is roughly three times the cost of keeping someone in prison for 40 years. The death penalty!costs more than life imprisonment and wastes scarce resources, which could be better used for proven anti- crime programs.
Opposition to the death penalty does not arise from misplaced sympathy for convicted murderers. On the contrary, murder demonstrates a lack of respect for human life. Executions give society an unmistakable message that human life no longer deserves respect when it is useful to take it and that homicide is legitimate when deemed justified by pragmatic concerns. A decent and humane society does not deliberately kill human beings. But who better to explain this than those who know firsthand of the deep hurt and pain that occur when a loved one is murdered.
As one whose husband and mother- in- law have died the victims of murder assassination, I stand firmly and unequivocally opposed to the death penalty for those convicted of capital offenses. An evil deed is not redeemed by an evil deed of retaliation. Justice is never advanced in the taking of a human life. Morality is never upheld by a legalized murder. -Coretta Scott KingConcerning the claim of justice for the victims family, I say there is no amount of retaliatory deaths that would compensate to me the inestimable value of my daughters life, nor would they restore her to my arms. To say that the death of any other person would be just retribution is to insult the immeasurable worth of our loved ones who are victims. We cannot put a price on their lives. That kind of justice would only dehumanize and degrade us because it legitimates an animal instinct for gut- level, blood thirsty revenge. Marietta JaegerMariettas daughter was kidnapped, raped and murdered.
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