Protecting The Innocent Essay Research Paper Amy

Protecting The Innocent Essay, Research Paper Amy York April 24, 2000 Protecting the Innocent Capital punishment should be abolished in the United States. There may have been a time when capital punishment was needed and acceptable, but that time is far behind us. The concepts and beliefs supporting capital punishment are outdated and have no place in our modern society.

Protecting The Innocent Essay, Research Paper

Amy York

April 24, 2000

Protecting the Innocent

Capital punishment should be abolished in the United States. There may have been a time when capital punishment was needed and acceptable, but that time is far behind us. The concepts and beliefs supporting capital punishment are outdated and have no place in our modern society. There is no longer a need to perform executions to maintain a safe society.

There are two opposing viewpoints on the issue of capital punishment, and both present strong arguments with valid points. One side maintains that capital punishment is an ethical response to crime, and the opposing side believes capital punishment is not an ethical legal action. Undeniably capital punishment does offer some advantages to our society, such as deterrence and incapacitation. However both of these can be gained without the death penalty. There is no proof that the death penalty is a deterrent to criminals, and incapacitation can be achieved by sentencing offenders to life in prison.

A common misconception is that executing an offender costs less than life long imprisonment.

The cost of apparatus and maintenance of the procedures attending the death penalty, including death row and the endless appeals and legal machinery, far outweighs the expense of maintaining in prison the tiny fraction of criminals who would otherwise be slain (Draper 46).

A report issued in1998 by the Judicial Conference of the United States found the cost of sentencing a defendant to the death penalty is higher than imprisoning the accused for life. This is due to the high cost of providing representation in federal death penalty cases (www.uscourts.gov/dpenalty.htm). Cases involving the death penalty take longer to prosecute and therefore have higher costs than other cases. The state is usually responsible for paying the accused legal fees, as most cannot afford a lawyer. Some legal firms do handle capital punishment cases pro bono but the majority of defendants are unable to obtain legal representation on their own.

The death penalty was abolished in the United States from 1972 to 1976 after the Supreme Court ruled it cruel and unusual punishment and therefore violated the 8′th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. When new execution methods were introduced the decision was reversed (www.brittanica.com). However even if the death penalty is no longer considered cruel and unusual, it is still unethical.

Our legal system is not infallible, mistakes occur daily within this system. When errors are made regarding capital punishment, the risk of ending innocent lives becomes a very real possibility. During the past century many innocent persons have been given the death penalty. Many of these people spend years on death row only to later be exonerated. The House Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights issued a report in October of 1993 listing 48 persons who had been released from death row between 1973 and 1993 due to new evidence that proved their innocence (www.un.org). However recently President Clinton has signed a law that limits death row prisoners to one habeas corpus appeal within one year of conviction (www.whitehouse.gov). Many of the innocent people released from death row during the last decade would have been executed were this law in effect.

When you read facts and figures concerning death penalty convictions it is easy to disassociate yourself from the convicted. When faces go along with the written name it becomes harder not too feel something for these people. The majority of society will never know anyone sentenced to death row. This makes it safe to be a supporter of capital punishment. I believe that if these same supporters were to watch an execution it would become harder to support. I know that just thinking of the innocent people who have had years of their lives stolen away from them is enough to make me oppose the death penalty.

Many of the supporters of capital punishment believe that murderers and sex offenders have nothing to offer society and do not deserve to live. However this is not necessarily true. This point of view is partially correct because there is usually no chance for rehabilitation. However people who commit the most heinous of crimes can be useful to all of society. We have the resources to study these individuals and find out what happened to make them commit these acts. When we gain knowledge of thought patterns leading to criminal activity our society is given the opportunity to prevent more crimes like these from taking place.

Our country is known as a champion of human rights. But we seem to be forgetting the principles and ideals that founded our nation and made our country what it is today. Why do we need to be not only the judge but also the executioner? Our society knows that murder is wrong and unethical. And yet our country contains a criminal justice system that supports vengeance instead of rehabilitation or incapacitation.

The expression “an eye for an eye” is often used in association with the death penalty. But this expression implies an equality of behavior. Many times a criminal who commits a murder does so because they do not possess the same rational thought process that the rest of society possesses. Since the re-establishment of capital punishment in 1976, 34 mentally retarded inmates have been executed (www.nodeathpenalty.com). These people are unable to process thought and understand consequences in the same way that a healthy mind would. How can our nation rationalize the execution of these people?

Another contributing factor to the unethical nature of capital punishment is the racial disparities associated with death penalty cases. In 1997 The Economic and Social Council of United Nations conducted an investigation of executions within the United States. The investigation was prompted by reports of “discriminatory and arbitrary use of the death penalty and a lack of adequate defense during trail” (www.unhchr.ch.gov). The United Nations investigation revealed that African Americans are 43% of the death row population, but only 12% of the United States population. Since 1976 only 10 executions involved a white defendant who had killed a black victim (www.unhchr.ch.gov).

Principles and ethics have a place in our society. And while we strive to maintain ethics in the business community and other parts of society, our criminal justice system no longer supports ethics. Vengeance and discrimination have no place in our criminal justice system. Our society does not have the right to take a life for any reason. The technology in our society is rapidly advancing. New discoveries are made in science and medicine daily. And yet we have not taken the time to advance our sense of ethics and principles. We are losing what made our county unique so many years ago. Capital punishment needs to be left in the past where it was created.

Works Cited

“Capital Punishment”. Britannica Online. 04 April 2000. (http://www.britannica.com/bcom/eb/article/index/1/0,8377,12071100.html)

Draper, Thomas. Capital Punishment. New York: H.W. Wilson, 1985.

Federal Judiciary Subcommittee on Defender Services. “Recommendations Concerning the Cost and Quality of Defense Representation”. 01 May 1999. (http://www.uscourts.gov/dpenalty/1cover.htm).

No Death Penalty Organization. “Five Reasons Why You Should Oppose the Death Penalty”. 29 March 2000. (http://www.nodeathpenalty.org/fivereasons.html).

United Nations Economic and Social Council. “Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial or Arbitrary Executions”. 22 January 1998. (http://www.unhchr.ch.org/hurdoca.html).

United Nations Organization. Home Page. 29 March 2000. (www.un.org/rights.html).

White House Office of the Press Secretary. “Clinton Administration Plan to Expand Community Policing and Reduce Gun Violence”. 11 August 1993. (http://www.pub.whitehouse.gov/uri-res/I2r.text).

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“Capital Punishment”. Britannica Online. 04 April 2000. (http://www.britannica.com/bcom/eb/article/index/1/0,8377,12071100.html)

Draper, Thomas. Capital Punishment. New York: H.W. Wilson, 1985.

Federal Judiciary Subcommittee on Defender Services. “Recommendations Concerning the Cost and Quality of Defense Representation”. 01 May 1999. (http://www.uscourts.gov/dpenalty/1cover.htm).

No Death Penalty Organization. “Five Reasons Why You Should Oppose the Death Penalty”. 29 March 2000. (http://www.nodeathpenalty.org/fivereasons.html).

United Nations Economic and Social Council. “Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial or Arbitrary Executions”. 22 January 1998. (http://www.unhchr.ch.org/hurdoca.html).

United Nations Organization. Home Page. 29 March 2000. (www.un.org/rights.html).

White House Office of the Press Secretary. “Clinton Administration Plan to Expand Community Policing and Reduce Gun Violence”. 11 August 1993. (http://www.pub.whitehouse.gov/uri-res/I2r.text).