Justice in the USA: The Death Penalty

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Mead Shumway, a resident of Nebraska, was convicted and sentenced to death by a jury for first-degree murder based on circumstantial evidence. However, despite his claims of innocence and his plea for forgiveness from God before his execution, the husband of the deceased confessed to being responsible for his wife’s murder on his deathbed the following year. Such cases have occurred multiple times throughout history, although an exact count remains uncertain.

According to Hugo Bedau and Michael Radelet, experts in capital punishment in the United States, there were 140 cases since 1990 where innocent individuals were wrongly sentenced to death (Hook and Kahn 92). In the state of Illinois alone, 12 people on death row have been exonerated and released since 1987 (Execution Reconsidered).

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According to Bedau (345), the most compelling evidence for this argument is the significant number of individuals whose convictions have been overturned and who have been released from death row. Civiletti further reveals that approximately 15% or one out of every seven people sentenced to death row are innocent. Clearly, these statistics are alarming.

The United States judicial system is causing innocent people to become victims due to its overlooked imperfections. According to John J. Curtin Jr., a former president of the American Bar Association ABA, it is essential for a system that takes life to first provide justice. He emphasized the importance of executing justice rather than people. Despite some innocent death row inmates managing to avoid execution, many others are unable to overturn their sentence through appeals. Consequently, numerous cases of innocence remain unheard and result in the unfortunate fatality of innocent individuals. In 1972, the death penalty was deemed unconstitutional in the Furman v. case.

The United States justice system was built on the principle of safeguarding society from harm. The Justices in Georgia anticipated that implementing specific sentencing procedures would prevent wrongful convictions and death sentences. However, the likelihood of innocent individuals being executed remains remarkably high (Bedua 344). Although the system has established processes and procedures to ensure fair treatment for all, its imperfections have allowed criminals to return to the streets and led to the wrongful imprisonment and sentencing of innocent people.

Can the nation’s people trust an institution that has consistently disappointed them? The system has, in previous instances, wrongly charged and unfairly convicted individuals who were later put to death. Once a prisoner is executed, there is no way to undo it. Death cannot be reversed. The public finds it deeply troubling that innocent people may be killed by the government.

According to Hook and Kahn (91), advocates for the death penalty oppose the killing of innocent individuals. It is widely accepted that ending someone’s life is ethically unacceptable. Both supporters and opponents of capital punishment agree on the gravity of murder and believe it should be met with appropriate consequences. While proponents condemn murderers, they see executing them as a fair retaliation for their criminal actions.

Execution can be seen as “legal murder” because it shares similarities with murder. It entails an unwilling victim and an agent causing their death [Yanich 98]. According to the Britannia-Webster Dictionary, the words “kill” and “murder” have identical definitions. Killing involves ending someone’s life, while murder suggests intention or premeditation. Therefore, execution can be viewed as a deliberate occurrence that leads to the demise of the accused individual.

Despite its flaws, the U.S. justice system continues to support the death penalty, despite the fact that it is causing significant financial strain. In California, even in times of economic hardship and with cuts being made to social programs, hundreds of millions of dollars are still being devoted to capital punishment (Bedau 408). Between 1977 and 1995, California only carried out two lethal injections as executions over a period of 18 years (United States Department of Justice 16). It is imperative for both federal and state governments to acknowledge that funding capital cases has become excessively costly (Bedau 409).

Financial resources in the U.S. are becoming increasingly limited, yet state governments continue to support death penalty cases as a result of politicians’ “get tough” proposals. However, these politicians fail to acknowledge the excessive financial burden that the death penalty places on taxpayers (Bedau 405). Texas, having more death row inmates than any other state, is particularly burdened by the costs of the death penalty, which are about three times higher than the cost of imprisoning someone at the highest security level in a single cell for 40 years (Bedau 402). Some authorities are now recognizing that the funds allocated for death penalty trials could be better utilized for additional prison space, rehabilitation efforts, education, and addressing juvenile issues (Bedau 404).

The death penalty has caused strain on social programs, such as initiatives to increase police numbers and improve the criminal justice and correctional systems. Although there is a widespread agreement that it is morally wrong to take someone’s life, there is an ongoing national debate in the United States concerning capital punishment legislation. The public remains divided on the effectiveness of these laws. Supporters argue that they serve as a strong deterrent and protect society from criminals, while also benefiting the economy. However, opponents raise concerns about potentially executing innocent individuals under the guise of “justice.”

Moreover, proponents of capital punishment have found that it fails to effectively discourage criminal activity and is ultimately costlier than imprisoning individuals for life. Nonetheless, despite both sides advocating for the punishment of unlawful conduct, their contrasting viewpoints on what serves the best interests of the nation lead to division. The discussion surrounding the death penalty primarily centers around the fairness and legality of the United States’ judicial system. Numerous studies have uncovered instances of bias and inconsistency in how the death penalty is administered. For example, defendants in cases where capital punishment is sought are typically impoverished members of marginalized communities who often receive inadequate legal representation from court-appointed attorneys.

Court-appointed counsel for indigent defendants receive insufficient funding from the state, which amounts to only a few thousand dollars, in order to defend against the “ultimate penalty” (Stewart 52). In contrast, financially stable defendants have the resources to hire skilled professionals who can conduct comprehensive investigations and provide expert witnesses, thereby bolstering their case. Consequently, indigent defendants face disadvantages in court due to their underfunded representation. Numerous court-appointed attorneys are overwhelmed with heavy workloads, inadequate compensation, and lack of experience.

The way the death penalty is portrayed may vary, but there is also bias and randomness in deciding who receives it or not. This decision remains arbitrary, as some individuals are convicted before juries can consider applying the death penalty, while others are initially charged with capital murders (Barkan 526). It is clear across the nation that “defendants accused of similar murders are treated unequally without any rational grounds.”

Both individuals accused of capital murders and those who are not face different outcomes in their sentencing. Some may be eligible for the death penalty, while others may avoid it. Experts in this field have determined that the process of capital punishment is akin to a lottery system, and receiving a death sentence is no more logical than being struck by lightning (Barkan 527). Furthermore, there are disparities in the sentencing of capital cases based on race, socioeconomic status, and gender.

According to the United States Department of Justice, there was a significant disparity in the number of men and women receiving the death penalty in 1995. In that year, 48 women and 2,986 men were sentenced to death. This means that the male population on death row is at least 62 times larger than the female population. It is important to note that out of all male inmates on death row in the United States at that time, only 56 were executed while all female inmates remained on death row (United States Department of Justice 1).

Regarding racial demographics, approximately 41% of individuals on death row are black, with whites representing slightly over 1% (Bedau 117). Additionally, a majority of those facing capital punishment come from financially disadvantaged backgrounds. Furthermore, studies have demonstrated that individuals accused of murdering a white person are more likely to receive the death penalty compared to those who murder someone from a non-white background (Bedau 119).

According to Bedau (117), around 75% of black individuals have the belief that a black person has a higher likelihood of receiving a death sentence compared to a white person for similar crimes. This perception has led to opposition towards capital punishment laws in the United States due to concerns about their unfairness, bias, arbitrariness, and discrimination. Additionally, this approach does not guarantee protection as it can lead to wrongful convictions caused by improper police procedures, unfortunate circumstances, and false accusations (Radin 18).

Although it is crucial to acknowledge the shortcomings of the death penalty policy, it is impractical to expect perfection in the extensive justice system of the United States. Consequently, an alternative solution must be embraced to maintain social order and safeguard society while avoiding the grave mistakes associated with wrongful executions. It is vital to remember that once the death penalty is executed, there is no chance for reversal.

The argument presented is that the death penalty is flawed because it lacks the ability to undo the loss of innocent lives. The suggestion is to replace it with an alternative punishment that would enable wrongly convicted prisoners to be released and reintegrated into society. It is important to establish a substitute for capital punishment due to the possibility of errors in the justice system and other government branches. By doing so, wrongful executions can be prevented, leading to substantial cost savings for the country.

In order to prevent wrongful convictions, my proposal is to replace the death penalty with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The government should eliminate the death penalty as a way to safeguard innocent individuals involved in capital cases and avoid unfair executions resulting from flaws in the United States justice system. Sentencing accused criminals to life imprisonment without the chance of parole provides an opportunity for their sentences to be reversed if they are proven innocent at a later time.

Although incarceration can be regrettable, it offers individuals the opportunity to eventually reconstruct their lives (Stewart 99). In contrast, once a person is executed, there is no chance to reverse that decision and bring them back. Choosing life imprisonment not only eliminates the possibility of wrongly ending innocent lives but also proves to be a more cost-effective approach.

Abolitionists argue that the death penalty incurs higher costs due to the numerous appeals requested by inmates while in prison (Barkan 525). As most death row inmates are unable to afford legal representation, the government provides funding for these appeals through tax money. Capital trials in California are six times more expensive compared to other murder trials, primarily because of intricate pre-trial procedures, extensive jury selection processes, and expenses related to expert witnesses. Additionally, the efforts made by the majority of death row prisoners to reverse their sentences through appeals also impose substantial financial burdens. (Bedau 402).

According to Steven Barkan, a criminal sociologist, the complexity and expense of death penalty cases are due to the high stakes involved – the prisoner’s life is at risk. The state typically covers all costs associated with these cases, including pretrial motions and appeals. Barkan estimates that each death penalty case can range from $2 to $3 million 525. In California, a report suggests that if capital punishment were abolished, it could result in annual savings of $90 million for the state. Similarly, New York’s Department of Correctional Services predicts that implementing the death penalty would lead to an approximate cost of $118 million per year.

According to Barkan (525), sentencing someone to life imprisonment without parole costs approximately $25,000 per year for the state, resulting in a total of $1 million. Instead of using this amount for the death penalty, it would be more efficient for the government to allocate it towards other crime-fighting strategies. Bedau (401) suggests that instead of spending a million dollars on executing one defendant, it could be better utilized for long-term efforts such as hiring more police officers, expediting trials, or funding drug rehabilitation programs. Research studies have demonstrated that the death penalty is an ineffective approach and investing the money in improving the judicial system and preventing criminal behavior would yield superior outcomes.

To enhance the justice system, one possible strategy is to concentrate on different aspects such as arrest, prosecution, and sentencing. A viable solution involves granting extra funds to local governments for the purpose of recruiting additional police officers. By augmenting the number of on-duty police personnel, it is possible to potentially decrease crime rates in neighborhoods. This approach directly addresses citizens’ worries regarding insufficient law enforcement presence in their communities.

Abolishing the death penalty nationwide would not only free up funds for hiring more police officers, but it could also provide support for various social programs. It is crucial to guarantee adequate financial funding for court-appointed counsels to ensure genuine representation for defendants who cannot afford legal counsel. This increased financial support will allow court-appointed counsels to build stronger cases for defendants, thereby empowering them against the prosecution.

The court-appointed attorney has the ability to acquire expert witnesses and conduct thorough investigations. By removing the death penalty, defendants are afforded the opportunity for a fair trial. In order to prevent bias and discrimination in the sentencing process, strict guidelines should be established to guide jurors and judges in making decisions. However, despite the implementation of such guidelines, they were not executed properly.

The guidelines for sentencing should be rigorous and unbiased, aiming to eliminate disparities in the sentencing process. It is unfair when individuals who commit similar offenses receive different punishments. To address this issue, every criminal act should have a specific and consistent punishment. Consider a hypothetical example of a liquor store robbery. Regardless of any additional factors, such as the specifics of the crime, a punishment should be determined solely based on the act of robbery itself.

Lets say hypothetically that a robbery results in a sentence of 8 to 10 years. The consequence must not be broad, such as 1 to 9 years. The consequence must be narrowly defined so that jurors and judges have less room to include their personal beliefs and biases. Take for instance that the robber injured a hostage with a knife.

The duration of imprisonment increases with each criminal act. Possession of a deadly weapon may result in a sentence of two to three years, while causing bodily harm to the victim may result in a sentence of four to five years. When evaluating all law violations, it is possible to determine the appropriate punishment without taking into account an individual’s race, class, or gender. Race, class, and gender should not influence the sentencing for criminal behavior.

The crime, rather than the individual, is under trial. However, mitigating factors such as prior offenses should also be considered in sentencing or parole decisions. Taking into account what the defendant has done, it is expected that they will receive a jail sentence of approximately 15 and a half years. I arrived at this conclusion by adding up the average value for each crime committed. While the judge has the discretion to sentence the defendant to the maximum term for each offense, it would not differ significantly from the sum of the averages, which is 15 and a half years. Thus, a judge who imposes the maximum sentence would incarcerate the defendant for 18 years, only two and a half more years than the sum of the averages.

Now that these offenders have been sentenced to jail time, there is a need for the judicial system to ensure that they serve their entire sentence. The death penalty is often favored by many because it eliminates the possibility of early parole for criminals. However, due to overcrowding in correctional facilities, prisoners on average only serve 20% of their sentence (Bedau 119). This discrepancy between sentencing and time served has led some to be skeptical about relying solely on life imprisonment terms.

By eliminating the death penalty, the government could save hundreds of millions of dollars. This surplus could be allocated to the corrections system, allowing for the construction of additional facilities and the recruitment of more correctional officers. Although this would require substantial investment, it would not only safeguard society but also generate employment opportunities for the numerous unemployed individuals. The expanded capacity and increased staff would prevent the need for early prisoner releases in order to accommodate new inmates.

The entire judicial system must adhere to consistent and objective principles, including the requirement for prisoners to serve their full sentences before being released. In order to communicate to the public that the justice system upholds strict, unbiased, and uniform standards, the concept of parole should not be acknowledged. This approach ensures that all individuals are treated equally and fairly without any exceptions. Additionally, we have deliberated on how reallocating funding from capital punishment could be utilized more effectively for society’s protection.

No, we will discuss how redirecting the significant financial resources invested in the death penalty towards preventing deviant behavior could be more beneficial. A considerable proportion of criminal activities are perpetrated by men, and the key to crime prevention lies within understanding the reasons behind this disparity. Men and women are socialized differently based on their gender roles.

During childhood, there is a noticeable disparity in how males and females are treated. Boys are encouraged to display characteristics of toughness, strength, and independence, while girls are expected to exhibit attributes of softness and dependency. As a result, boys are granted the freedom to stay out until nighttime, whereas girls are required to return home before sundown. Parents tend to have more faith in the ability of their male children to be self-reliant, whereas they believe that girls necessitate greater parental guidance.

The distinction persists as people grow older. Although acts of physical violence are infrequent among both genders, they are significantly more prevalent among men. The significant difference between men and women can be attributed to distinct parenting approaches. Although more women are engaging in criminal behavior, society should strive to raise children without any gender disparities (Glietman 559-561).

The increase in female offenders can be attributed to the current shift in gender roles. Numerous parents are making efforts to raise their children without predetermined notions about appropriate behavior for males and females (Weiten 312). This ongoing shift is necessary to promote a more secure nation. Instead of using funds for capital punishment, the resources could be allocated towards educating parents, teachers, and other socialization agents on how to raise children without relying on traditional gender roles.

Social critics consider this period of transition as a positive development (Weiten 312). The laws regarding the death penalty should be abolished nationwide. Hopefully, the Justice Now (JN) organization acknowledges the harmful consequences the death penalty could have for the country (Mac Farlane 14779). The impact of the death penalty extends beyond the individual on death row, affecting numerous people.

The execution of a murderer may bring some solace to the victim’s family, but it also adds more grief to the prisoner’s family. Executions do not create a mutually beneficial outcome, particularly if the prisoner is innocent. Anyone can be unfairly caught up in the justice system due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. By completely abolishing the death penalty nationwide, substantial funds could be redirected towards enhancing the judicial system.

Using life sentences without parole instead of the death penalty offers a more affordable option, allowing for the allocation of excess funds towards ensuring all convicted criminals serve their full sentence. This involves establishing more correctional facilities and increasing the number of officers. The elimination of the death penalty also leads to a boost in employment opportunities through the establishment of additional facilities. Additionally, the abolition of capital punishment allows for increased funding for social programs, ultimately contributing to the creation of a better society.

The extra funding can also be used for the prevention of crime by reducing the differential treatment that is evident in children rearing. The death penalty poses many problems for the nation. If we can get the majority of the population to believe that life imprisonment without parole is a better method for capital punishment, then the United States can join the industrialized nations that have abolished executions and become a much safer country. However, because the United States has used the death penalty throughout its history, many are struggling to comprehend the benefits that come with abolishing it.

There is consensus that putting the lives of innocent individuals at risk is a negative consequence of capital punishment. However, there is a lack of agreement on a superior alternative. By implementing life sentences without the possibility of parole, it can be ensured that no one will be mistakenly put to death. Additionally, this approach would allow for the allocation of hundreds of millions of dollars towards more advantageous social programs.

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Justice in the USA: The Death Penalty. (2018, Jun 07). Retrieved from


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