Is one individual’s life worth more than others? The death penalty is a prevailing issue in the United States. The justice system hasn’t perfected the use of the death penalty to where only the guilty are convicted and punished. Currently, in the United States, capital offenses are punishable by death and 31 of the states permit the use of the death penalty for these offenses. Inconsistencies within the justice system have caused major turmoil over the issue of the right and wrong of the death penalty. Therefore, the government needs to revamp the system in order to provide an alternative solution to punishing criminals who are condemned to death.
Over the years, the issues regarding the legality of the death penalty has been fought for and against. In 2014, The Pew Research Center found that 62 percent of Americans support the death penalty while 26 percent are against it (Death Penalty Information Center 6). There are various reasons that the death has been proven ineffective. Due to the imperfections in the justice system, the moral issues of the death penalty have arisen and have caused this very controversial subject. No just society that claims the rule of law should be in the business of accidental executions.
There have been many cases where innocent individuals have been faced with wrongful convictions that have either almost cost them their life or did cost them their life. Roughly 120 of about 3,000 inmates faced with the death penalty in America might very well be innocent of their conviction (Von Drehle 2). One incident regarding the regrettable conviction of an innocent individual was that of the Cameron Todd Willingham case. Willingham was accused of arson and murder in 1992. After his conviction in 2004, he was put to death for the murder of his two children, where it was believed that he had intentionally set the fire that had killed them. After the fact, it was determined that the fire was not the murderous act of Cameron Todd Willingham like his accusers had thought, but an unfortunate accident (Eric 1). Willingham is just one out of many individuals that have been executed but later on found to be innocent. Due to the fact that the death penalty is the ultimate finality, incidents like the one stated above should never happen.
Another issue besides innocent people being wrongfully convicted, is that of the inequality of the justice system. Those who can afford expensive legal teams have an advantage over those who cannot afford the same. Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb were two wealthy teenagers from Chicago, had been accused and admitted to murdering a young boy named Bobby Franks. They both received life sentences instead of death, being able to afford an expensive and long trial (Banner 225). Because of their trial “…there was a wave of public commentary on the relationship between the death penalty and moral responsibility for crime, as well as criticism of the differential treatment of rich and poor criminals” (Banner 225).
Since poorer individuals lack the money to hire a lawyer on their own, they are often represented by attorneys appointed by the state. The state-appointed attorneys are usually overloaded with cases and too busy to properly prepare for their cases (Streissguth 69-70). Some may even be right out of law school without the experience needed to try such important cases as the death penalty or death penalty appeals (Streissguth 69-70). The expense of appealing a death sentence is very high (Streissguth 69-70). In the Jack House case, an accused murderer, was represented by his lawyers, Dorothy and Ben Atkins. “…who were real estate attorneys and had never before represented a defendant in a capital case. Both failed to interview any witnesses personally…” These two lawyers did a poor job defending Jack House during his case. This could ultimately lead to serious outcomes of death rather than a life sentence as it has in many cases (Streissguth 69-70). The social status and the level of wealth of an individual possesses could play a huge role in the outcome of a person’s sentence.
Maybe add: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, minority groups, such as African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos, 25% of those groups fall below the poverty level. The percentage for white individuals who fall below the poverty level is only around 10% (Macartney, Bishaw, Fontenot 1).
Another issue when dealing with the controversy of the death penalty, is the racial component. One factor that contributes to the inequality of the justice system regarding the death penalty, is the fact that non-white individuals are more likely to be sentenced to death than white individuals. Of the last eighteen people in New York State to be executed in 1963, thirteen were African American and one was Hispanic. This racial makeup seems illogical if the system was actually objective and consistent. It is clear that there is a bias when deciding the fate of individuals from different racial backgrounds. White individuals have an advantage over black individuals who are three times more likely to be sentenced to a death penalty trial (Williams 1).
The death penalty doesn’t necessarily save the United States anything economically. Executions have evolved into an extremely expensive and large-scaled process. The criminal justice system has to maneuver through very tedious trials, elevated judicial review, and costly appeal processes for every capital offense. The length of time that death row inmates remain on trial the more expensive they become. It also goes against moral standards to believe that a prisoner’s life should be ended because it would cost the country as a whole less money in the long run (Hess 3). An individual’s life should not have a price tag attached to it .
The death penalty, in fact, doesn’t lower the statistical evidence on the murder rate. (Howard 6). The death penalty has been used for centuries in order to deter people from committing murders. Since this cannot be proven through research, the question must be asked as to why the death penalty is still being used today. Not being able to accomplish one of its main goals, suggests that the death penalty in many ways, is ineffective. Instead of using an immoral and unethical way to punish criminals, tighter regulations on prisoners once they have been convicted could deter them from committing a heinous act such as murder. This could include a life of hard labor. The act of punishing someone does not have to go to the extreme of ending that person’s life.
Another issue when dealing with the controversial issue of the death penalty, is the fact that poorer . It has been proven through extensive research that non-white individuals are more likely to be sentenced to death than white individuals. Of the last eighteen people in New York State to be executed in 1963, thirteen were African American and one was Hispanic. This racial makeup seems illogical if the system was actually objective and consistent. It is clear that there is a bias when deciding the fate of individuals from different racial backgrounds. White individuals have an advantage over black individuals who are three times more likely to be sentenced to a death penalty trial (Williams 1).
The death penalty has been proven to lack adequate protection on the evidence presented to juries to obtain a death verdict. This has been stated by a federal judge in the state of Vermont (Turow 21). Considering the statement above is coming from a powerful figure who has experience dealing with the death penalty, helps to further support a reason to make a change within the capital punishment laws. Without an abundant amount of information to support the ultimate decision of death, morally there is no way you can put someone to death with justification. It is unfair and wrong to execute someone without being definite on the final decision made. It is agreeable that taking an innocent person’s life is unjustifiable, making this person’s family go through an immense amount of grief and also robbing someone’s future from them. It is pertinent that there is an extensive amount of investigation before one is sentenced to death, but there is a presence of doubt when this conclusion is made. Statistically speaking, at least 4 percent of all people that receive the death penalty are innocent (Lopatto 1). This number is way too high. Morally speaking, the only acceptable number is zero.
Another issue when discussing executions is the procedure used to put people to death. Although the method of lethal injection isn’t nearly as ghastly as the issues dealing with the electric chair, there is always a chance of botching an execution. The technique of lethal injection is derived from operating rooms, where skilled medical personnel administer anesthesia. Lethal injection in death penalty cases is administered by non-medical personnel, which has ultimately led to several botched executions. This particular method violates the United States Constitutional right of forbidding “cruel and unusual punishments” (Streissguth 44-45).
Contrary to the above opinions, many individuals in society believe that the death penalty is morally and ethically justified. The number one reason for supporting the death penalty in the United States relates to the biblical phrase of “an eye for an eye” (Swift 4). They believe that the punishments for criminals should match the crime they have commit. They deserve to be faced with death if they are guilty of committing murder. If you’re executing someone for taking another’s life, what makes the United States actions right? This is just as wrong as the crime they are being punished for. To use the death penalty is just as immoral and unjust as the the original crime. The simple facts that executions do not accomplish their intended goal, aren’t racially fair, and aren’t 100% fool proof, point out why the death penalty is wrong.
Since the United States has been established, there have been many different forms of capital punishment and the “eye for an eye” mentality. While the population was lower, it appeared to do what it was meant to do: deter people from murdering one and another and justifying society’s need for revenge. However, now that the population has increased and we have evolved as humans, we should be able to find a better form of punishment that doesn’t include immoral and unjust ways, like the death penalty. There has been many many innocent people put to death unnecessarily and the families of these have been left with no justice. A change needs to occur.