Death Penalty In The US (esp. Texas) Essay, Research Paper
The death penalty has been used for centuries all over the world. In biblical times, the “Eye for an Eye” rule was common amongst the people. If one killed someone else, then they in turn would be killed. Keep in mind that these people were very religious and societies back then were more barbaric. Times have changed so much over the years, and now the humanitarian people are trying to put an end to Capitol Punishment. Texas, one of the largest states in the Union, uses the death penalty more than any state in the country. This punishment seems to be more acceptable here than most other places. Texas, however, isn’t the only place in America with capitol punishment. There are many arguments for and against capitol punishment and those arguments will be represented here.
As of 3-31-98, Texas has sent 147 people to their death. Most of these people were killed by lethal injection, while some other states use less humane methods. Texas has put more people on death row than the next 4 closest states combined. Texas’ laws for imparting the death penalty seem to be a lot more liberal than most other states. There have been 36 clemencies in Texas, as compared to 40 by all the other states together. This shows that Texas puts more people to death, but it also makes the most inaccurate convictions.
Race plays an important factor in convictions of crimes in Texas. It is interesting to note the percentages of each race imprisoned in Texas as compared to other states in America. Here is a very shocking statistic that, when compared to national statistics, is very indicative of the racism in this state. In Texas in 1991, African-Americans made up 12 percent of the population, but 48 percent of the prison population and 55.5 percent of those on death row are black. Here are the national percentages of people put to death: White 252 (55.9%), Black 167 (37.0%), Latino 25 (5.6%), Native American 5 (1.1%), Asian 2 (0.4%), for a total of 451 people.
The one place Texas doesn’t discriminate is in sex. 2 of the 3 women sentenced to death were executed there. Being that Texas is in the South and it’s a rural area, the people there abide by older laws, which were passed many years ago. Crime in rural areas is very small, and most of the crimes aren’t even violent ones. Almost 80% of all crimes reported in Texas were petty thefts, and smuggling of Mexicans across the border.
The violent crime rates bring up an important issue amongst people who feel that the death penalty should be outlawed. Abolitionists see that most people who have committed violent crimes in large cities are kept in jail for short periods of time and are released on parole for good behavior. But murderers in Texas, where most land is farmland and there are few cities, are sent to their deaths. There aren’t nearly as many shootings here as there are in cities like LA and New York City, but most of the people who commit violent crimes receive the death penalty. The crime rate is lower here because there are no gangs, no organized crime, and a rather small population.
The laws that apply to the execution of the death penalty were created to be efficient. Laws have been passed denying people the right to appeal cases. There was even a law passed to speed up the rate at which the people can be killed. This just goes to show how Texas has made its legal system a giant killing machine for those people that they feel are a threat to society.
There have been many attempts to abolish the death penalty all over America. Currently, 38 states and 2 federal branches, the government and the military, have death penalties. If such is the case, then the death penalty cant be such a bad thing. Most victims’ families can rest easy knowing that the person convicted of killing their loved one is not alive to bring them pain. It pleases them to know that that person has suffered just as their victims had.
The eight amendment protects people from “cruel and unusual punishment”, which some people feel includes the death penalty. There was a battle in the Supreme Court as to the legality of capitol punishment. For a short time, the death penalty was ruled unconstitutional. It was reinstated soon after, as more and more people rallied to defend it. The Supreme Court found that the punishments weren’t unusual, and they were humane as the criminals felt very little pain.
Support for the death penalty has come from many people for many reasons. Victims’ families are happy that the person who committed a horrible crime against their family will get a taste of the killer’s own medicine. For the families, it’s the ultimate justice, and it’s the best way for the person to pay for his crime.
People in general want to be safe, and try hard to make their communities safe. Killers and very violent people with violent pasts jeopardize their safety. Having killers roaming the streets after they are set free for whatever reason is dangerous to everyone. Like many people say, “Once a killer, always a killer.” These people feel that rehabilitation of criminals doesn’t work, and there is only one way to take care of these violent people who are the lowest in society.
One major reason for the survival of the death penalty is deterrence. Many people in the law enforcement and judicial communities find that knowing you could get death for a crime deters criminals from committing crimes which are punishable by death. This is a good reason for people to think about what they are doing, before they do it. It prevents violence in our society that is plagued with violence. Many feel that it is our only hope to turn our country around.
There has been and probably always will be a large opposition to capitol punishment. People are using religious teachings to counteract other religious beliefs. Many have said that God loves us all the same and can forgive everyone. This counteracts the “eye for an eye” type thing said in the bible. All of these implications can be taken with a grain of salt because there is no proof as to what religion is correct.
The cruel and unusual punishment argument is still alive and well. Humanitarian people feel that suffering isn’t right and people shouldn’t have to suffer if it isn’t necessary. To this argument, people say that the killer’s victim suffered and it was unnecessary, so the killer should suffer too. It is up to the states and the people if capitol punishment is right and 38 states can’t be wrong.
The pain and suffering disputed has been settled by scientific research showing that capitol punishment methods are not painful. Every attempt is made by the Texas lawmaking body to ensure that the convicts will be as comfortable as possible in their last moments. Texas uses the lethal injection, which is regarded as the most safe, effective, and humane way to go.
Lethal injection is done in a small room in the Texas prisons, where the convict is allowed to give a final statement and say goodbye to loved ones. The prisoner is sedated, or put to sleep soon after. While he is sleeping, drugs are injected to stop his breathing and heartbeat. Death occurs a few minutes later. It is a fact that prisoners, who have had a choice on how to do, have mostly chosen the injection. It is painless because they are sleeping when they die.
By far, the greatest opposition to the death penalty comes from taxpayers that must finance the killing. In Texas, it costs roughly $20,000 to keep a person in jail for 1 year. This means a life sentence could cost up to 1.5 million dollars per person. This is a lot of money to keep one person in jail, but keep in mind that jails are almost at capacity and that there are over 5,000 people in almost every prison.
On the flip side, it costs over $2 million for one person’s execution. That’s a ton of money for one person to die. Why not just put a bullet in his head you may ask? The main reason it costs so much to put these people to death is the cost of prosecution and appeals.
After the initial conviction, there are appeals and other court proceedings. Not to mention the attorneys who must be provided for the defendants if they cant afford one. Then the cost of the actual injection, it costs a ton of money.
As you can see, the battle over the legality of capitol punishment is a highly debatable topic. There are many legal and ethical ramifications dealing with the death of convicted killers. I firmly believe that if you committed the crime, you do the time. If that means being killed, then so be it. Punishment is very important, because without it, we have total chaos.
Capitol Punishment, Encarta 1998 CD-ROM, Microsoft Inc., 1998.
Capitol Punishment, Information Finder, World Book Inc, 1996.
Donovan, Suzanne. Texas Death Row, New York: Mother Jones Inc. 1997.
Kaplan, David A. “Life and Death Decisions,” Newsweek, 6/16/97, Vol. 129 Issue 24:
Lethal Injection, Information Finder, World Book Inc, 1996.
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