“John Doe, upon the murder of Jane Doe, not only have you forfeited your right to live among us, but you have also forfeited your right to live at all. I therefore, sentence you to the death penalty.” Commonly, those are the words a murderer hears when they have just been sentenced to death. The act of ending a murderers life can take anywhere from a few months to a few years and there is no say if they will even live up to that day.
The death penalty has been a controversial topic since it first came up. According to ProCon, the first known death penalty laws were contained in the Code of Hammurabi, a legal document from modern-day Iraq in the 1700’s BC (1). It wasn’t until 1608 when a legal system was brought from Britain to what is now the United States, where the first execution was documented (1). The execution took place in Virginia, a man named Captain George Kendall was hanged for treason, among other crimes that contributed to the death penalty were murder, rape, heresy, and witchcraft (1).
People were even murdered under the death penalty for small inconveniences such as burglary, robbery, horse-stealing, slave-rebellion, and other small crimes (1). The death penalty is not justifiable to either society or the criminal because: it gives the criminal an easy way out, it is simply not enough punishment; many of the criminals could be innocent, therefore being wrongfully incriminated; capital punishment does not reduce crimes, there is evidence to support that argument; and the death of the criminal would not be beneficial to either of the parties or to society as a whole. Imagine a five year old little boy, sitting on the swing at the park. The wind ruffles his hair, as he calmly eats his popsicle while he kicks the dirt beneath his feet up into the air. The little boy is sitting there, without a care in the world. Now imagine, another five year old, but bigger in size. He walks up to the frail little boy and pushes him off the swing for absolutely no reason, making him drop his popsicle in the dirt.
The mother of the bigger child sits back, watching the whole ordeal. She then walks up to her son with pride and while walking away with him she whispers in his ear that she’ll buy him a popsicle on the way home. This scenario is a metaphor, sentencing a murderer to the death penalty is like giving a popsicle to the boy who pushed the other boy who was minding his own business, off the swing. Yes, capital punishment would potentially eliminate a murderer from harming others but that criminal would suffer almost nothing for the crime he has committed of taking an innocent person’s life. Not only would it be cruel to the victim, it would also be cruel to the family knowing that the murderer didn’t suffer at least a little.
Capital punishment is not justifiable for many reasons, one main reason is that within the people sentenced to death, there are many individuals that are innocent. According to a study, more than 4% of inmates in the United States, who are sentenced to death are not guilty (2). Over 140 inmates, since 1973, have been found not guilty for the crimes they were convicted of (2). A popular rebuttal for those who argue that the death penalty should be put into effect, is that there has to be concrete evidence for a criminal to be sentenced to death. Although, yes, only four-percent are found to be innocent, there are others who have been executed, who were more than likely also innocent. There are many examples where the criminal justice system has failed innocent people by jailing them for many years.
In existence, there are hundreds, maybe thousands of cases where innocent human beings are incarcerated for crimes they have not commit. The criminal justice system has failed the American people countless times, which is why capital punishment, simply should not be an option. To name one example out of the many wrongful incriminations: in 1981, William Vasquez, was victim to a wrongful charge against arson, which killed a mother and her five children (4).
Velasquez served thirty-one years of jail time, time he could have spent free and happy with his loved ones. During incarceration, Velasquez not only had his freedom already taken away from him but during that time he also lost his eyesight due to untreated glaucoma (4). It was later found that Vazquez was innocent of the crime he had been sentenced for and was later released in 2012. William Vasquez had already lost thirty-one years of his life, and now he was literally thrown blindly into a world he did not know anymore. If the criminal justice system shows countless times, with cases like Velasquez’s, that they are capable of incarcerating innocent people for many years, who’s to say they won’t wrongfully murder an innocent person through the death penalty? Capital Punishment is favored by about half of the population due to the fact that it is believed to deter crime. In reality, the states without the death penalty have had consistent, lower murder rates than states with the death penalty in play. Some statistics provided by the Death Penalty Information Center show this argument to be true.
In 1990, the murder rate in death penalty states was at 9.5% while the murder rate in non-death penalty states was lower with 9.2% (3). While in 1995, murder rates decreased, the murder rate in death penalty states was still higher than non-death penalty states with 8.6% compared to 6.
8% (3). By 2010 crime had decreased by almost twice as much since 1990 with a 5% murder rate in death penalty states and a 4.01% murder rate in non-death penalty states (3). Lastly, and most currently, in 2016, the murder rate for death penalty states was rated at a 5.6% while non-death penalty states were rated at a 4.5% (3).
These statistics show that capital punishment has no deterrence to crime. There will be crime regardless of the government ridding the United States of those criminals. As stated before, the murder rates in states without the death penalty have remained lower than states where they do have death penalty laws, the gap continues to grow. Most criminals don’t get caught, and when they do, they are not typically sentenced to death. Those who are sentenced, can remain on death row for many years, even a decade. This information provides further proof towards the argument that capital punishment does not deter crime because if the criminals are not caught, then they will continue to commit crimes and those who are caught but wait years during the process of the death penalty, they have a chance to escape prison and continue to harm innocent people. Capital punishment does not deter crime, it is clear that this system is not beneficial to the victims family or society as a whole. There are many reasons why capital punishment does not benefit either of the parties.
The death penalty is a one-party system meaning that anyone sentenced to death is done so by the state, by it’s people (7). Essentially, those murderers are themselves being murdered by society. Every single person residing where a death sentence is put into place, is at fault and responsible for the death of the criminal.
The death penalty is also barbaric and cruel. According to research done by Professor Austin Sarat, “executions by lethal injection are botched at a higher rate than any of the other methods employed since the late 19th century….” The rate of botched lethal injection deaths is currently at 7% since the 19th century (7). Capital punishment is also costly. A death sentence can cost up to three times more than it would cost for life imprisonment, due to costs of capital punishment trials, appeals, and security.
Getting rid of the death penalty would save the United States hundreds of millions of dollars each year. The death penalty is also uncivilized, countries who have yet to ban the death penalty are usually more corrupt. Some examples of corrupt nations are: North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, Yemen, and Iraq (7). The leading states in the United State for death penalties applied is Texas, with over one-third of United States executions (7).
The death penalty has also been used in discriminatory ways. It can be a racist system, African American men are unjustly sentenced to death (7). It is proven that prosecutors are more likely to sentence an African American to death when the victim is white (7). With the following examples, it is clear that capital punishment is not beneficial. In relation to retribution and utilitarianism, one may think that a utilitarian would not agree with the death penalty due to the fact that there is the possibility that the criminal would be in excruciating pain. Utilitarianism is defined as “the belief that a morally good action is one that helps the greatest number of people.” Capital punishment can be justified by a utilitarian because they see pain as justifiable when it is outweighed by positive consequences, such as the criminal on death row being unable to commit further crimes, the family finding consolation in knowing that the criminal can no longer hurt others, and the fact that executing the criminal can be beneficial to society’s safety (5). On the contrary, retribution is the definition of revenge.
(8) Family members of victims usually lean on pushing capital punishment on the criminal based off of an emotional impulse. Using the execution of a murderer does not reflect well on the system and on the people who agree with capital punishment. An eye for an eye and a life for a life has never been supported in the United States and anyone who does support the death penalty is clearly seeking revenge. (8) Vengeance has no place in the criminal justice system. In conclusion, capital punishment should not be an option in the criminal justice system. Capital punishment in a way, violates the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which states the prohibition of imposing excessive bail, excessive fines, or cruel and unusual punishment (6). Therefore, capital punishment does violate the cruel and unusual argument of the Eighth Amendment. Instead, the death penalty should be replaced by life sentences without the opportunity for parole.
Life without parole is a safer option for possibly innocent “criminals,” therefore providing more time for crime investigators to find evidence to support their innocence. The death penalty has also been proven to not deter crime, which brings up the point that a death sentence would not stop crime regardless. The death penalty is not justifiable to either society or the criminal also because it gives the criminal an easy way out and they wouldn’t be receiving the punishment they deserve. Also, the death of the criminal would not be beneficial to either of the parties’ families or to society as a whole. Lifelong imprisonment may also seem inhumane but it is a better alternative to killing someone for the exact same reason being that they killed someone. An eye for an eye should never be an option in the criminal justice system. Instead of giving the bully a popsicle for pushing the innocent boy off of the swing, the mother should give him time-out because it is a better alternative and he simple does not deserve that popsicle. Also, murdering someone for murdering someone to prove that murder is wrong, does not make sense.