Let’s say a teacher asked the students to discuss whether do bad people deserve to die. You can be sure that everyone will give the politically correct answer “it is wrong to kill people”. That is what they are bound to say. Of course, that’s the correct response to give, right? Humans are always trying to maintain appearances when they’re in public. That is just how we are. So what, why does it matter if we do get rid of the bad people that got what was coming to them?
The death penalty is a very emotional and controversial subject of this time. For centuries, people argue and debate what is the right thing to do to someone who cause so much trouble, damage, and pain. One of the biggest issues being debated is whether the death penalty in immoral, excessively cruel, or inhumane. The word “judge”, one of the Greek words translated in the Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, is partially defined as “to form an opinion” and is cross-referenced to the word “sentence.” From the bible, God is the only one who has the right to condemn or sentence. When we pass judgment on another, we are trying to be God. Mr. President, this essay goes out to you about why you should not let the death penalty pass.
What is interesting from the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty states that “in North Carolina, the odds of receiving a death sentence are 3.5 times higher among defendants whose victims were white (Prof. Jack Boger and Dr. Isaac Unah, University of North Carolina, 2001)”. Also, the odds of receiving a death sentence in Philadelphia are 38% higher in cases in which the defendants are black. As pro death penalty groups provide ample evidence about how the white murderers received the death penalty slightly more often 32% than non-white murders 27%. I cannot over look that does not roll out that racial bias is no longer a major problem.
Racial bias is still a problem in the justice system. “There is a particular, fundamental flaw in our justice system that other candidates appear to lack the commitment to address our failed reliance on the death penalty. This is a tragedy both because it is a racially biased punishment, and ineffective in deterring crime. Our nation’s legacy of slavery and racial injustice find continued offense in our use of the death penalty. Our death row population is more than 40% black nearly three times the proportion of the general population. Reforming our criminal justice system to save and redeem more lives is not as simple as changing just one thing. But we should be able to admit that we must do more of what works to save lives, and we should stop doing things that do not work. As a prosecutor, I saw that the death penalty’s racial legacy could not be excused or explained away and that too many innocent lives were being taken by this profoundly flawed practice. So, I decided to fight for the death penalty’s repeal. (O’Malley)”.
Studies also found the murderers of white victims received the death penalty more often 32% than the murderers of non-white victims 23%. When controlled for variables such as seventy and number of crimes committed, there is no disparity between those sentenced to death for killing white or black victims. The deciding factor on this issue is the official inmate population numbers from the United States Department of Justice. Since 1976, whites have outnumbered African Americans on death row. Given the available facts, there is still a sufficient evidence of a racial bias when considering the death penalty.
“A systemic racial bias in the application of the death penalty exists at both the state and federal level. A moratorium on the death penalty is needed to address this miscarriage of justice. The color of a defendant and victim’s skin plays a crucial and unacceptable role in deciding who receives the death penalty in America. People of color have accounted for a disproportionate 43% of total executions since 1976 and 55% of those currently awaiting execution. A moratorium of the death penalty is necessary to address the blatant prejudice in our application of the death penalty.The federal death penalty, like its application in the states, is used disproportionately against people of color. Of the 18 prisoners currently on federal death row, 16 are either African-American, Hispanic or Asian. From 1995-2000, 80% of all the federal capital cases recommended by United States Attorneys to the Attorney General seeking the death penalty involved people of color. Even after review by the Attorney General, 72% of the cases approved for death penalty prosecution involved minority defendants (The American Civil Liberties Union)”. Besides racial bias, the cost of putting an inmate on death row can be expensive.
“One of the most common misperceptions about the death penalty is the notion that the death penalty saves money because executed defendants no longer have to be cared for at the state’s expense. If the costs of the death penalty were to be measured at the time of an execution, that might indeed be true. But as every prosecutor, defense attorney, and judge knows, the costs of a capital case begin long before the sentence is carried out. Experienced prosecutors and defense attorneys must be assigned and begin a long period of investigation and pre-trial hearings. Jury selection, the trial itself, and initial appeals will consume years of time and enormous amounts of money before an execution is on the horizon. All of the studies conclude that the death penalty system is far more expensive than an alternative system in which the maximum sentence is life in prison” (Dieter).
But why is the death penalty more expensive? The overall increase in costs for death penalty cases requires more investigation, pretrial, trial, sentencing and appeals phases, each of which is considerable more complex and time consuming than in non-capital cases. They are far more complicated and require more prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges to be involved. There is a United States Constitution that protects basic rights through the criminal justice process, including equal treatment under the law and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment since 1972. The United States Supreme Court has given additional safeguards to protect these rights in death penalty cases. Jury selection is also a much more involved process. Given the length, complexity and unique juror qualification requirements of death penalty cases, pools of prospective jurors can reach into the hundreds.
The first comprehensive attempt to measure the economic impact of capital sentencing policy was conducted in New York in 1982. State level economic cost studies of the death penalty have taken place over the last 15 years. Over the course of their research, all showed that cases where the death penalty is significantly requiring higher costs than similar cases where the death penalty is not needed. Oregon and Washington, where the average death penalty case costs more than the average non-death penalty aggravated murder case by $1,035,000 and $1,193,000.
“I presided over 10 murder cases in which I sentenced the convicted men to die. As a result, I became known as ‘the hanging judge of Orange County,’ an appellation that, I will confess, I accepted with some pride. I can live with it and, apparently, so can the men I condemned. The first one, Rodney James Alcala, whom I sentenced to die more than 30 years ago for kidnapping and killing 12-year-old Robin Samsoe, was, just last year, again sentenced to death for killing Samsoe and four other young women who, it has subsequently been determined, were his victims around the same time. Had I known then what I know now, I would have given Alcala and the others the alternative sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Had I done that, Robin’s mother, Marianne, would have been spared the pain of 30 appeals and writs and retrial. She could have dealt then and there with the fact that her daughter’s killer would be shut away, never again to see a day of freedom, and gone on to put her life together. And the people of California would have not have had to pay many millions of tax dollars in this meaningless and ultimately fruitless pursuit of death. It’s time to stop playing the killing game. Let’s use the hundreds of millions of dollars we’ll save to protect some of those essential services [such as education] now threatened with death from state budget cuts. Let’s stop asking people like me to lie to those victim’s family members (McCartin)”.
“The Holy See has consistently sought the abolition of the death penalty. Where the death penalty is a sign of desperation, civil society is invited to assert its belief in a justice that salvages hope from the ruin of the evils which stalk our world. The universal abolition of the death penalty would be a courageous reaffirmation of the belief that humankind can be successful in dealing with criminality and of our refusal to succumb to despair before such forces, and as such it would regenerate new hope in our very humanity (The Catholic Church)”.
In most religions, the death penalty is considered barbaric. It neglects the fact that primitive cultures could have taught us a great deal about morality which we seem to have forgotten. Part of the whole point of punishment, some people may see, not because they take pleasure out of seeing suffering, but because they think it is just. “The United Methodist Church declares its opposition to the retention and use of capital punishment and urges its abolition. In spite of a common assumption to the contrary, ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,’ does not give justification for the imposing of the penalty of death. Studies conducted over more than sixty years have overwhelmingly failed to support the thesis that capital punishment deters homicide more effectively than does imprisonment. The death penalty falls unfairly and unequally upon marginalized persons including the poor, the uneducated, ethnic and religious minorities, and persons with mental and emotional illnesses (The United Methodist Church)”.
“Executions harm society by mirroring and reinforcing existing injustice. The death penalty distracts us from our work toward a just society. It deforms our response to violence at the individual, familial, institutional, and systemic levels. It perpetuates cycles of violence. Since human beings are fallible, the innocent have been executed in the past and will inevitably be executed in the future. Death is a different punishment from any other; the execution of an innocent person is a mistake we cannot correct. It is because of this church’s concern regarding the actual use of the death penalty that we oppose its imposition (The Evangelical Lutheran Church)”.
“There is not the slightest credible statistical evidence that capital punishment reduces the rate of homicide. Whether one compares the similar movements of homicide in Canada and the US when only the latter restored the death penalty, or in American states that have abolished it versus those that retain it, or in Hong Kong and Singapore, the first abolishing the death penalty in the mid-1990s and the second greatly increasing its usage at the same, there is no detectable effect of capital punishment on crime. The best econometric studies reach the same conclusion. Last year roughly 14,000 murders were committed but only 35 executions took place. Since murderers typically expose themselves to far greater immediate risks, the likelihood is incredibly remote that some small chance of execution many years after committing a crime will influence the behaviour of a sociopathic deviant who would otherwise be willing to kill if his only penalty were life imprisonment. Any criminal who actually thought he would be caught would find the prospect of life without parole to be a monumental penalty. Any criminal who didn’t think he would be caught would be untroubled by any sanction (Donohue III)”.
“Our survey indicates that the vast majority of the world’s top criminologists believe that the empirical research has revealed the deterrence hypothesis for a myth… 88.2% of polled criminologists do not believe that the death penalty is a deterrent. 9.2% answered that the statement ‘the death penalty significantly reduces the number of homicides’ was accurate. Overall, it is clear that however measured, fewer than 10% of the polled experts believe the deterrence effect of the death penalty is stronger than that of long-term imprisonment. Recent econometric studies, which posit that the death penalty has a marginal deterrent effect beyond that of long-term imprisonment, are so limited or flawed that they have failed to undermine consensus. In short, the consensus among criminologists is that the death penalty does not add any significant deterrent effect above that of long-term imprisonment (Radelet)”.
Judy Kerr, who is a victim liaison and spokesperson for California Crime Victims for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and sister of a murder victim stated, “Life without the possibility of parole is an alternative to capital punishment that both addresses our need for public safety and allows us to redirect precious monies currently being used on capital trials to solving cold cases…
Testimony previously heard by this commission indicates that sentencing people to grow old and die naturally in prison costs far less than trying to execute them. Californians pay more than $117 million each year to maintain a death penalty system that is functionally equivalent to death in prison. Over 20 years, the state would save more than $2.34 billion if we actually sentenced everyone on death row to death in prison. These figures don’t even include the costs of trials. Each death penalty trial costs a county three times more than a trial seeking death in prison.”
For my final thoughts, my personal opinion, I do not support death penalty and I do not believe that killing people would make me or anyone feel safer. I choose to at least try and help people. Where there is life, there is potential. We are not built to kill. We do not have claws, fangs, or armor. Veterans came back with post traumatic stress disorder, that didn’t just happen because we are comfortable with killing. We are not. We feel. We are connected. Some people were born with bad brains. Some of them got sick along the way. The rest were just damaged people. Traumatized themselves but they could heal. Some more, some less, but they can. We all can. It’s all a circle and everything gets a return.
Joyce Meyer. “Who Are We To Pass Judgment?”. Chrisma Magazine: Empowering believers for life in the Spirit. Website. October 30, 2009.
W.E Vine. “Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words”. Vol 1, pp194. 2015.
Death Penalty Information Center: Facts about the Death Penalty. Website. https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/documents/FactSheet.pdf.
Peter A. Collins. Aliza Kaplan. “The death penalty is getting more and more expensive. Is it worth it?”. The Conversation. Website. March 30, 2017.
John J. Donohue III. JD. PhD. Professor of Law at Stanford University. article “There’s No Evidence That Death Penalty Is a Deterrent against Crime”. The Conversation. August 8, 2015.
Michael L. Radelet. PhD. Sociology Professor and Department Chair at the University of Colorado-Boulder. “Do Executions Lower Homicide Rates?: The Views of Leading Criminologists”. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. Website. 2009.
Donald McCartin. JD. California Superior Court judge. “Second Thoughts of a ‘Hanging Judge'”. Los Angeles Times. Website. March 25, 2011.