The United States is one of the few countries, that is not considered third world, or a dictatorship, that still has capital punishment.Why?
Is the use of capital punishment a deterrent or retribution? There should be no argument that capital punishment is nothing other than retribution. Back in the days of Oliver Twist, England had public hangings. Crowds flocked to see a person die at the end of a rope, with food and drink and other goodies for sale as people waited for that trap door to drop. One of the crimes which required a hanging was for pick pocketing. Well, lo and behold, while the crowd stood there in great anticipation, pick pockets, feasted on the people who were distracted, waiting for that moment of finality, and had a field day picking people’s pockets. A conclusion to be drawn from this story is that there is no deterrence to murder or any capital crime, when using capital punishment.
Another historic example is that a prison inmate helped to invent part of the electric chair. He was eventually released and subsequently committed a capital crime which caused his death in the chair that he helped invent.
The greatest negative for the use of capital punishment is the prospect that mistakes are made. Illinois had several examples not long ago of convicts on death row who were found innocent once DNA testing was used. Once we have killed the alleged criminal, it is too late, if facts come to light indicating that the person did not do the crime. It is not like you can say, sorry, and bring him back to life.
DNA testing should be mandatory now, with the science becoming as sophisticated as it has become. Nothing can be worse than wasting away in prison for a crime you did not commit
It is hard to imagine but it is cheaper to incarcerate a person for life than it is to have them on death row.
The issue of cruel and unusual punishment has become a more recurrent theme of late as we have seen botched executions.
The best and most thorough argument regarding the issue of capital punishment came from Supreme Court Justice White back in the 1960’s and beyond. He argued that those who are on death row, were invariably poor and minorities. I can’t recall any rich person convicted of a crime that required that person to be executed. The scales of justice are tilted towards those who have money to defend themselves against crimes such as murder.
Clarence Darrow gave the classic argument, against capital punishment in his summation in the historic Leopold and Loeb murder case. These two young men from wealthy families intentionally set out to murder a child with the goal of simply performing the perfect crime.
Those with money can afford the best defense attorney’s. Justice is not served, equally and fairly, when one has the best attorney money can buy, versus a defendant who has no money and has a public defender.
History is replete with examples of death row inmates who were spared the ultimate punishment, and wound up contributing to society from prison. Life imprisonment without the possibility of parole is a better alternative to the death penalty. Revenge is a fruit that is bittersweet.
There is one exception to my view of capital punishment. That exception is that when a crime is so heinous that the conscience of man is struck by the awful nature of the crime that only death can be sufficient as a warning and a message to those who would commit crimes against humanity. Such crimes are rare, and include mass murderers. The rule or exception, if you like, is that the guilt is without any doubt. Hitler is the classic example, of a criminal whose crimes were so shocking that nothing other than execution would have sufficed.
It is time to stop the killing machines of states that are still willing to use capital punishment. Texas is a perfect example. They came very close to executing a man who is mentally retarded, in spite of the fact that the Supreme Court of the United States has prohibited such executions, Texas showed every willingness to hide the fact that they knew he was retarded but they hid the facts so that they could get their pound of flesh. One would think that for the families of the victims some form of closure would occur watching the execution but this seems to be contrary to the facts.
Let us end the barbaric practice of using capital punishment in most cases. It is time to recognize and admit that the use of capital punishment is nothing other than revenge.