The Death Penalty 9 Essay, Research Paper
Advocates of capital punishment believe that the death penalty is dominated by the fraudulent voice of the anti-death penalty movement-that culture and lies so dominate that movement that many of falsehoods are now accepted as fact.
Contrary to many beliefs, the imposition of the death penalty is extraordinarily rare. Since 1967, there has been one execution for every 1600 murders or .06%. According to the FBI s Uniform Crime Report and Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 1967 and 1996, there have been approximately 560,000 murders and only 358 executions.
Opponents of capital punishment say there is a risk in executing the innocent-advocates disagree. Great effort has been made in pre-trial, trial, appeal, and clemency procedures to minimize the chance of an innocent being convicted, sentenced to death, or executed. Since 1973, these legal protections have been so extraordinary that 37% of all death row cases have been overturned for due process reasons. Inmates are 6 times more likely to get off death row by appeals than by execution. In July of 1997, opponents claimed that 69 innocent death row inmates have been released since 1973. In just a casual review of 39 of those cases, there was no evidence of innocence in 29, or 78% of them. Even if we give these 69 individuals the benefit of the doubt by assuming they are innocent, it still goes to prove that the clemency procedures, which are procedures used to judge the merits of death row inmates claims regarding their innocence, have worked precisely, often generously.
Opponents claim that there is no deterrent effect, when in actuality, there is. Advocates believe the incapacitation effect saves lives-that is, by executing murderers you prevent them from murdering again, thereby, saving innocent lives. John McAdams of Marquette University puts it perfectly when he states, If we execute murderers and there is in fact no deterrent, we have only killed a bunch of murderers. If we fail to execute murderers, and doing so would have in fact deterred other murderers, we have allowed the killing of a bunch of innocent victims. I would much rather risk the former.
The individual deterrent effect also proves execution saves lives. This effect represents those potential murderers who did not murder under specific conditions because of their fear of execution. With no death penalty and only life without parole, there is no deterrent for killing others in prison or after escape because they already received the maximum penalty-in a way, they are getting away with murder.
Opponents state that if the death penalty were a deterrent, then states that have it would have a reduced homicide rate. Delaware, which executes more murderers per capita than any other state in the USA, has those low rates. Regardless, deterrence should not be measured by low homicide rates, but by rates that are lower than they otherwise would be if the death penalty were not present. Houston, Texas is an excellent example. The highest murder rate occurred in Houston in 1981 with 701 murders. In 1982, executions were resumed. The murder rate decreased from 701 in 1981 to 261 in 1996-a 63% reduction rate.
Opponents of capital punishment believe there is discrimination. They assert that the poor and racial minorities are given death sentences more frequently than whites. Advocates of the death penalty state that anyone who commits a capital crime should be given the death penalty, regardless of race, gender, and wealth. Advocates address the discrimination issue with the following facts: (1) only 38% of those on Georgia s death row are poor, (2) there is no evidence which proves that wealthy capital murderers may be less likely to be executed, (3) the majority of those executed are white. As a matter of fact, between 1991 and 1994 56% of the people executed were white and 38% were black, (4) the majority of those on death row are white, and (5) Successful capital prosecutions have nothing to do with the race of the victim or of the defendant and everything to do with the nature of the crime. Opponents also believe that blacks are more likely to receive the death penalty when killing a white person rather than killing a black person, even though between 92 and 97% of murderers who receive the death penalty are involved in intra-racial offenses as opposed to inter-racial offenses. Daryl Charles of the National Review addresses this issue stating, A twist on the racial disparity-argument says that, even if black murderers are no more likely to be executed than white murderers, black murderers are more likely to get the death penalty when they kill whites rather than when they kill blacks. But there is a commonsense explanation for this phenomenon that has nothing to do with racism. When a murder involves people of different races, it is more likely that the victim and killer are strangers, and such murders tend to be of the kind where the death penalty applies.
Opponents also state that the cost of the death penalty is so expensive that we must choose life without parole. Advocates highly disagree. Assuming the cost of being in prison is $34,200/year for 50 years at a 2% annual cost increase, the total cost would be 3.01 million plus 75,000 for trial and appeals. Assuming the cost of being on death row for 6 years is 60,000/year at the same 2% annual cost increase comes out to a total cost of 1.88 million plus 1.5 million for trial and appeals. The cost of the death penalty is clearly lower.
Opponents equate the death penalty with the Nazi holocaust. They see no moral distinction between the slaughter of 12 million totally innocent men, women, and children and the execution of society s worst human rights violators. Advocates and the Supreme Court see executions as the appropriate punishment for certain criminals committing specific crimes.