The Most Hypocritical and Barbaric Law in US History

Jonah Fouser, Journalist

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Capital punishment has been used in America for hundreds of years, but sometimes one has to break tradition. There are many reasons as to why some people are in favor of capital punishment. They think it deters crime, brings justice, and carries out revenge. However, the United States is one of the few western nations that still has this barbaric law still in place. It’s immoral, it’s unconstitutional, and it’s expensive. Human beings don’t have a right to toy with people’s lives and determine who gets to live and who has to die. Capital punishment is outdated and barbaric action that needs to be eradicated.

There are many reasons why people consider the death penalty a good option, but it all boils down to revenge. People feel that if others do terrible crimes and kill people then the criminals deserve to be killed as well. This idea of revenge is barbaric. Raymond A. Schroth, a professor of the humanities at St. Peter’s college, said, “The desire for revenge is one of the lowest human emotions — perhaps sometimes understandable, but not really a rational response to a critical situation.” The need for retribution and revenge should not be one’s response when someone carries out an unspeakable crime. Some people think that it has recently become about retribution. “Originally it was seen as a deterrent” said Mr. Ames, a teacher at Ipswich High School. “There was more to it [than just revenge] in most cases. When a jury delivers that sentence, there is more to it than that.”

The second reason people favor the death penalty is because they see it as a deterrent of crime. They think that people won’t commit a crime if the consequence is death. This idea has been proven wrong through many studies. In a study that compares murder rates between Hong Kong (no death penalty) and Singapore (strictly carries out the death penalty), little difference in crime between the two was found(Source 3). Another study was conducted comparing murder rates in American states with the death penalty and murder rates with states that do not carry out the death penalty. The study proved that, “States that have abolished capital punishment show no significant changes in either crime or murder rates. The death penalty has no deterrent effect” (source 2). The government shouldn’t be treating human beings as objects to persuade and morph society. The government is killing people who kill people in order to show that killing people is wrong. The entire idea is completely nonsensical.

The 8th amendment of the constitution prohibits the federal government from imposing cruel and unusual punishment, which is the definition of the death penalty. “Death is… unusual in its pain, in its finality, and in its enormity… The fatal constitutional infirmity in the punishment of death is that it treats members of the human race as nonhumans, as objects to be toyed with and discarded,” said William J. Brennan, an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court from 1957 to 1990 (source 2). The entire idea shouldn’t be allowed anywhere in the United States due to the fact that it goes against the constitution.

The way capital punishment is carried out is not perfect. Mistakes are made and the system is unjust. There are many innocent people that have been put on death row. Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, 1,414 people have been executed. More importantly 156 people have been exonerated from death row. “For every 10 people who have been executed since the death penalty was reinstated in the U.S., one person has been set free” (source 5). In 1991, in Corsicana, three daughters died in a fire in their house. The fire was considered arson at the time and the father, Cameron Todd Willingham, was the main suspect. Even though Willingham remained firm on his story and repeatedly stated he was innocent, in 2004 he was put to death. In 2009, the Texas forensic science commission panel reevaluated the crime and realized the firefighters and forensic scientists used flawed science and were negligent. Cameron Willingham was innocent and the American government put him to death. Mistakes shouldn’t be allowed. In order to carry out capital punishment, the government has to be more certain and definite if they are to murder people for the crimes they may have committed.

Our government is also unjust with the populations it sends to death. Poor people and racial minorities are statistically targeted more in our justice system. “Despite the fact that African Americans make up only 13 percent of the nation’s population, almost 50 percent of those currently on the federal death row are African American,” said the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (source 2). Out of all the defendants executed from 1976, 34.6% were black when only 12.6% of the population of the US is black (source 6). The US also unjustly targets the poor. The poor can’t afford a good lawyer and are looked down on, so they are much more likely to be put to death. “The poor… are selected to die in this country… It has everything to do with the kind of defense they get. Money gets you good defense. That’s why you’ll never see an O.J. Simpson on death row,” said Helen Prejean, an anti-Death penalty activist (source 2). The government should not be allowed to carry out capital punishment with such a biased system.

People have been questioning our justice system for decades. It isn’t just, so why would we put people’s lives into the hands of an unjust system. It makes no sense. Mr. Ames strongly agreed, saying, “No matter what’s going on, if your incarcerating and murdering one group more than another than yeah you’ve got a problem that you have to solve before [capital punishment] should even be considered legit.”

If you still don’t believe that capital punishment is wrong then just remember that it costs more to carry out capital punishment than to put someone in jail, so the taxpayers has to actually pay more. There is more trial time and money, more experts and attorneys. Richard C. Dieter, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, has reviewed a very large amount of studies, both state and federal, of the cost of capital punishment over the last 25 years. Dieter said, “One element is common to all of these studies: They all concluded the the death penalty is clearly more expensive than a system handling similar cases with a lesser punishment” (source 2). It actually costs the taxpayer millions, and over time, billions of dollars. A study was conducted in Nevada that stated that the average case that involves the death penalty costs a half a million dollars more then if it didn’t involve the death penalty. The same study also found that if all the people on death row were sentenced to life without parole then we would save $170 million dollars a year and $5 billion over the next 20 years (source 4).

Despite all of the facts, the death penalty should not be allowed because simply, it is immoral. The government is committing murder. The fact that the government feels it has a right to make this decision is troubling. They’re playing God by saying who has a right to live and who has a right to die. The government does not have a right to make that decision. Mr. Ames said, “I mean I can see some of its use and I can accept some of the justifications, but by and large we shouldn’t be taking lives.”

There are many people at Ipswich High School who think it’s morally wrong. There was a student, who wished to remain anonymous said, “No matter what’s happened you’re still dealing with a human life, and I think that that is the biggest thing you can take away from someone and I feel that it’s still wrong.” Raina Baier of Ipswich High School said, “You’re taking somebody’s life, and that’s never an okay thing to do, because an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

Capital punishment is simply about revenge. People feel that if someone has done something horrible then they deserve to die, which is entirely barbaric. Crime is not deterred whatsoever due to capital punishment. People don’t murder less just because there is the chance that they will be murdered. The death penalty goes against the constitution because of it being incredibly cruel. There are many mistakes in the process. Innocent people are put on death row and minorities and the poor are targeted more. It’s also entirely morally wrong. The government doesn’t have to right to judge whether people deserve to live or die. People have a right to live even if they have done terrible things. Just because people have carried out unspeakable acts doesn’t mean they aren’t human.

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Sources:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment
  2. http://deathpenalty.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=002000
  3. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/04/30/theres-still-no-evidence-that-executions-deter-criminals/
  4. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/costs-death-penalty
  5. http://www.ncadp.org/pages/innocence
  6. http://deathpenalty.org/article.php?id=54
  7. http://www.criminaljusticedegreesguide.com/features/10-infamous-cases-of-wrongful-execution.html

 

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