, Research Paper
17 Sep 00
The Case Against Death Penalty
This article was written by Eric M. Freedman, and was printed in the USA Today, magazine in March of 1997. Let us start right there with Mr. Freedman. Since this article appeared in the USA Today I assumed that this man was probably one that knew what he was talking about and probably well respected among his peers. He is a professor at Hofstra University School of Law where he teaches Constitutional Law and the Death Penalty. He has addressed many panels of lawyers, prosecutors, judges and even Congress about the death penalty. He graduated from Yale University and is a prominent First Amendment fighter. Now, after all that research I assumed that what I was about to read was going to be some cold hard facts about capital punishment. After all he appears to be extremely well versed about the Constitution and the death penalty.
Since I discovered that he was a professor at Hofstra University I decided to do a slight background check on that particular school because I had personally never heard of Hofstra. Come to find out Hofstra University, according to US NEWS, is ranked number two in the country when it comes to law. Hofstra is currently ranked between Yale, which is ranked first, and Harvard, which is ranked third. Following that information that I discovered I automatically presumed that Mr. Freedman was most definitely a qualified man and not just some radical who opposed the death penalty.
Continuing on with the analysis I figured I would break down the title. The Case Against the Death Penalty can only be seen a few ways in my book. I thought as soon as Crumley 2
I saw the title that this person was writing as an opponent of the death penalty. I further assumed to prove his point that he was going to have a lot of statistics to help back his point. Which for me meant that I was going to have to do more research to help break this essay a part.
Anyhow, right as I began reading this article I started to have doubts in Mr. Freedman. In the very first paragraph he states According to critics (USA Today, pg 48) and does not name any of them. Who are these supposed critics? They could be anybody. They could be a whole committee of opponents of the death penalty, who furthermore only show findings that they agree with. So, I as a reader, have no idea except for the fact that it was a group of so called critics.
Then directly after the first paragraph he says that in September of 1995, the state of New York re-instituted the death penalty and that this only meant that New Yorkers will get less crime control than they had before. (USA Today, pg 48) Well I decided to do a tad bit more digging and discovered that, according to the 1992 and 1997 FBI Uniform Crime Report for the New York State area, since 1992 serious crime had declined some 33%. What I also found was that the murder rate was down and violent crime was down 39% and 32% respectively. Now, after proving that one wrong my confidence in Mr. Freedman was dropping rapidly. However, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and said that we all can make mistakes.
Next I discovered his main purpose for writing this article in the first sentence of the third paragraph. And he supports this argument with the reasons of the death penalty s enormous cost, a detriment to public safety, it does not reduce crime, is racially Crumley 3
discriminatory, and will eventually be inflicted on the innocent. That just happened to give me a lot more ammunition to pound this article.
The next point that Freedman attempts to make is that the death penalty does not reduce crime. What he does not tell you is that the death penalty is not designed to reduce crime. The death penalty is a form of punishment designed to dispose of extremely violent criminals.
Freedman of course then moves to support this idea with the fact that between 1975 and 1985 twice as many police officers were killed in death penalty states as no death penalty states. Once again Freedman has tried to lead the reader astray. He does not tell you that those states with the death penalty have higher crime rates because they are ones with very large cities, such as New York, Chicago and Detroit. What he also does not tell you is that during the 1980 s crime was up nationwide according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report.
Next Freedman uses a judge in Harris County, Texas to make a point. Freedman points out that 10% of all executions since 1976 have taken place in this particular county jurisdiction. He then uses a quote from this judge to try and slam his point home or may be help persuade the reader a bit more because he his using another type of authority figure. What I found interesting about this particular quote is that the judge could have been commenting on crime in general, not just the death penalty
To follow this part of the article he throws in the fact that the death penalty is extraordinarily expensive. Which I believe was the best and most truthful part of this article. With the research that I went through I did find that even most proponents of the Crumley 4
death penalty did agree with this point. The death penalty is very expensive. But, he throws in some cost that I seem to think would be beneficial. Such as more investigation on the side of the prosecution. What he does not tell you is that the prosecution needs more investigation to get a death penalty verdict.
The next so-called fact Freedman presents to us is that the death penalty reduces public safety. That statement is not a fact. If that were true we would probably not have the death penalty. Does the judicial system really want to put people to death bad enough that they would risk other peoples lives?
Then Freedman states that according to financial problems New York cannot buy bulletproof vests for all of it peace officers. He is actually saying that since the death penalty costs so much it is a direct result on the protection of New York s police officers. I believe there are many other factors that can be thrown into that equation. Anyway, have you considered the fact that not every police officer is on duty? I have been told that most police officers do not work twenty-four hours a day three hundred sixty five days a year.
Next Freedman uses the example of narcotics and treatment. And that some of the money being spent on the death penalty could be used for treating these people who support themselves through crime. First of all I ask how many drug users would actually put themselves into treatment? I mean after all if these people are so far hooked on drugs that they commit crimes to get them, then they probably do not care enough to put themselves into rehab.
Now Freedman presents another so called fact. He states, basically that the
death penalty is geared towards a particular group of people. If that were actually true I believe the government would be hearing an ear full from the entire population.
After that great group of facts, Freedman gives the reader some statistics on racial discrimination. However, he did something a little different this time and questioned his own numbers. He was correct in saying that there are other factors that need to be taken into account with the figures he displayed. But I must question two more things in this paragraph.
First what studies exactly addressed these issues? And if it were true that one of the major contributing factors on whether someone received a verdict of the death was their race, I do not believe the justice system would continue to use capital punishment.
The next variable that Freedman says that contributes to the penalty of the death in income. He goes on and on about how poor people cannot get decent representation in capital cases. Let us look at this from another angle. There are not many lawyers around that accept capital cases. Like Freedman says the field is highly specified. Also, I had another look at the FBI Uniform Crime Report, and it states that lower income groups tend to perform capital crimes.
Then Freedman tries to compare the quality of capital murder trials to that of felony cases. Well, a felony case does not cost close to as much as a capital murder case. Also, most defense lawyers are prepared to defend felonies a tad bit more than capital cases.
The final variable that Freedman uses is that of mental disability. He says that jurors are more likely to put someone to death that has a mental disability of some kind. Crumley 6
Now, if you look at the actual crime itself, one would have to be a little screwed up to commit a crime bad enough to be tried as a capital case. Earlier in the article Freedman uses Ted Bundy as an example. Why does he not use Bundy as an example now? May be it is because the name, Ted Bundy, automatically brings a thought of someone who is seriously disturbed and is probably considered by most a good recipient of the death penalty.
The final fact that Freedman uses is that eventually the death penalty will be inflicted on the innocent. I would like to start with the word innocent. Yes the law states one is innocent until proven guilty. However, the word innocent will not be found in any trial. A person is either found guilty or not guilty. Yes, some people found guilty may not have committed the crime. But there was enough evidence for a jury to find the person guilty. And that works in reverse, some people are found not guilty because a jury was not presented with enough evidence to convict.
Now, the choice that Freedman makes here to finalize his argument with this is very well planned. He reminds the reader that death is final and can not be reversed. This was a good idea to me because if the reader has not made up their mind yet about whether they agree with the death penalty or not this somewhat slams his point home.
Freeman then leads the reader into his conclusion. He restates all of his points to try and further persuade the reader after his last statement that death is final. This, to me, was a very clever way of assisting his closing argument.
The last piece of information that I was able to dig into was that right after what seemed to be his summarization. Freedman tried one last group of people to help his Crumley 7
argument. And he used the Criminal Justice Section of the New York State Bar Association. He made sure to let me know that it was full of people who are well versed in the judicial system. Now what he did not let you know was that this particular section of the NYSBA just happens to be the one that deals specifically with the death penalty and Constitutional rights. Every member of this section are all opponents of the death penalty.
In conclusion I would like to say that at first sight this seemed to be a very well written and factual article. But after a slight bit of digging I found this to not be true at all. Even though Mr. Freedman may be quite qualified in the ways of our judicial system he used many so called facts to try and persuade his audience.