, Research Paper
“Human rights are the basic rights to which all human beings are in titled, no matter who they are or what they have done” (Amnesty International). According to Amnesty International the U.S. has been violating human rights for quite some time with the use of the death penalty as punishment for violation of positive law. Many groups and organizations feel that it is necessary to abolish the death penalty or at least fix the numerous problems is encounters. There is an abundance of proof, which supports the arguments made towards abolishing the death penalty, which makes us believe that it is morally wrong and truly unnecessary.
One of the main reasons why the U.S. enforces the death penalty is to deter potential criminals from committing crimes that are punishable by death. This, however, is a false belief. According to Attorney General of Massachusetts (a state who does not support the death penalty) “There is not a shred of credible evidence that the death penalty lowers murder rate. In fact, with out the death penalty, the murder rate in Massachusetts is about half the national average.” Furthermore, in Canada, between the abolition of the death penalty in 1976 and the end of 1995, the murder rate dropped by 34 percent. To continue, 67% of police chiefs, according to Hart Research Associates Polls, say that the death penalty does not deter people at all from committing homicidal acts. Finally, American Society of Criminology, and the Academy of Criminal Justice Scientist were surveyed and an outstanding majority of 80 percent stated that the death penalty is not an effective homicidal deterrent. All these facts and statistics prove that the major reason for enforcing the death penalty, homicidal deterrence, is a political fallacy.
The cost of the death penalty is not limited to a person’s life, in fact to take a person’s life with the death penalty costs a great deal more than life imprisonment. The state of California alone has spent over 90 million dollars above the cost of the ordinary justice system on enforcement of the death penalty. Texas, the state that uses the death penalty most frequently, spends an average of 2.3 million dollars per death row inmate as compared with 400 thousand dollars per life sentence inmate. One might say “why not just put a bullet in him and be done with it?” The process is not quite that simple, for it is not always the cost of the actual execution that cost so much but rather the trial. The trials usually account for 95 percent of the total cost. This money is spent on attorneys and hundreds of court hours resulting from the numerous appeals that almost always occur after the death penalty sentence has been given. Because of the extreme cost it can be argued that the death penalty is actually producing more crimes and problems in America. For instance, the money used to execute death row inmates takes away from other forms of crime deterrence that can be proven to actually work. Also, the money spent on enforcing the death penalty could be used to help solve common American problems such as hunger and homelessness. It is clear that the result of the death penalty does not justify its outrageous expense.
The means of execution associated with the death penalty are generally accepted to be quick and painless, however, this is not true in many cases. In fact, a number of executions turn out to be elongated torture sessions instead of fast and painless deaths. One such incident was the execution of Pedro Medina in Florida. At this 1997 execution, Pedro’s electric chair malfunctioned and caused him to catch fire and slowly burn to death. Florida’s Attorney General seemed to boast the malfunction, saying People who wish to commit murder, they better not do it in the State of Florida because we may hjave a problem with our electric chair.” However this matter is not one to joke about, it is an extreme human rights violation. Some states have opted to use lethal injection rather than the electric chair or hangings for execution. They think that this is a “quick and painless death.” However, some cases such as the 1996 execution of Tommie Smith have been all but painless. Tommie was prepared for a painless death, but doctors had to search for 16 minutes to find a vein in his arm. With no success they tried to administer the injection through his neck but just ended up injecting the lethal dose into his foot 36 minutes later.
A similar situation occurred when Luis Mata’s execution began, but was immediately stopped by a last minute appeal. He ended up being strapped in the chair for 70 minutes with a needle stuck in his arm while lawyers debated his fate. After this last bout failed, the execution proceeded, but a complication arose. The injection that was administered did not act fast enough and Luis went through a series of painful convulsion until his death, which came several minutes later. Several other cases of this nature have been documented by Amnesty International, proving that the prolonged execution of Luis Mata was not an isolated case. All these incidents prove that the death penalty, at least in several cases, violates a person’s human rights by inflecting painful torture before their death.
The death penalty has also taken its toll on juveniles and the mentally impaired. “Sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age” states the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by the US in 1992. Although this law has been in affect for six years it has not stopped all states from enforcing the death penalty onto minors. On example of this is the case of Joseph Jon Cannon, a seventeen-year-old boy who was executed in the state of Texas. It was proven that Jon, who killed Anne Walsh as a result of years of abuse and brutality, was a brain-damaged schizophrenic who had no treatment. This execution was a clear violation of international law and is inexcusable. At the age of 17 Robert Anthony Carter was convicted of murder and placed on death row. His execution was carried out in
May 1998, despite his young age at the time of his conviction. He to was brain damaged, but the courts disregarded this factor. Moving on, Varnall Weeks was diagnosed by psychiatrists as being severely mentally ill with strong religious dilutions. The jury ruled that the man was insane and not fit to be put to death. The judge, however, dismissed the verdict by saying that the man was not insane because he could answer simple questions such as his “what is your name?” and he was put to death. All these cases clearly show that even with a law prohibiting it minors and the mentally impaired are still executed and will continued to be executed until the death penalty is completely abolished.
The judicial system in America is considered to be fairly stable but not 100 percent accurate. When it comes to a sentence so irreversible as the death penalty, there is no room for mistakes or false accusations. Since 1973, it has been reported that 70 people that were executed with in the U.S. were proven innocent after there deaths. 23 of these people were put to death within the last 8 years. Ricardo Guerra, who had been executed in 1994, was proven to be innocent later that year by the U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Hoyt, who stated “The actions of police and prosecutors were intentional and done in bad faith.” A similar situation occurred when David Wayne Spence was executed in 1997 in the state of Texas. He, by coincidence, met a businessman named Brian Pardo and found that he had strong evidence to support David’s innocents. These new facts were not admitted partly because of the Effective Death Penalty Act, which restricts inmates with new evidence of innocence to appeal because of the large amount of time and money it takes to carry out an appeal. After discovering how many innocent people have been put to death Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun stated “Form this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death. I feel morally and intellectually obligated simply to concede that the death penalty experiment had failed. The execution of an innocent person comes perilously close to simple murder.” The death penalty has proven to be a faulty system of punishment as well as one that can not be depended on to carry out justice, in fact many cases prove it to cause extreme injustice. This information alone is reason enough for its abolition.
The death penalty, which causes the death of the innocent people, juveniles and the mentally impaired, is a process that clearly violates human rights. Such injustices are supposed to be outweighed by the benefits but in reality the only results of the death penalty are the spending of the taxpayers money with absolutely no criminal deterrence. I have come to the conclusion that the penalty of death as in forced by the U.S. judicial system is a violation of human rights that has only negative results and no beneficial effects.