A Violation Of Life Essay, Research Paper
A Violation of Life In 1990, Jesse Tafero was executed in Florida. In 1976, Both he and his wife Sophia were convicted of killing a state police officer and sentenced to die. In 1981, his wife s penalty was reduced by an appeal to life imprisonment, and 11 years later a federal court vacated her conviction. The evidence for their convictions had been based mainly on a perjured testimony by an ex-convict. Had Tafero been alive in 1992, he no doubt would have been released along with his wife Sophia. This example of an innocent man being executed raises the question, Is the death penalty just? Although it is very compelling, the death penalty is not just because it violates our right to life, the innocent have been executed, it tends to be sentenced randomly, it has failed to accomplish its stated objectives, it cost more than its alternatives, and it is wrong both morally and ethically. The death penalty, plain and simply, is a violation of the right to life. It is the ultimate form of cruel, inhumane, or degrading punishment contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration, adopted by the United Nations in 1948, proclaims each person’s right to protection from deprivation of life, and it states that no one shall be subjected to cruel or degrading punishment. The premeditated and cold-blooded killing of prisoners in state custody violates these rights. Because of this, over half the world’s countries have abolished in law or practice this barbaric act, leaving the United States among countries of extreme injustice such as Iran and China. On top of this, we are the execution capital of the world! Now isn’t that something to be proud of? We currently have over 3000 people on death row, a fact that makes me a little less proud. Emotionally, the death penalty is very compelling. When we see the worst one individual can do to another, there is an insatiable urge to retaliate in kind. If my sister were raped and murdered, a part of me would want to see her assailant dead. But that would not bring her back. And it would not constitute justice. At least 23 wrongly convicted people have been executed in the US since 1900. There have been at least 349 people wrongly convicted of crimes punishable by death since 1900. The most extensive safeguards against miscarriages of justice cannot produce an infallible legal system because human beings are fallible. False testimony, mistaken identification, misinterpretation of evidence, and community prejudices and pressures can wrongfully imprison and sometimes kill the innocent. No one save a monster would justify the execution of the innocent. We cannot close ourselves from the fact that innocent men have lost their lives because of false convictions made by our legal systems. Extensive evidence shows that death sentencing continues to be random in the U.S. Offenders who commit similar crimes under similar circumstances have received widely differing sentences. Race, social and economical status, and pure chance are often deciding factors in sentencing persons to death. There is a pattern of evidence indicating racial disparities in the charging, sentencing, and imposition of the death penalty according to a 1990 U.S. government report. An overwhelming majority of death row defendants since 1977 were executed for killing whites despite the fact that whites and blacks are victims of murder in approximately equal numbers. In Texas, for example, blacks found guilty of killing whites were found to be almost six times more likely to receive the death penalty than whites convicted of killing whites. Racism has no place in our society, especially when a person’s life is on the line. Capital punishment has undoubtedly failed to accomplish its stated objectives. Proponents of capital punishment reason that: 1. the death penalty has an effect that deters people from committing capital crimes, and 2. the consequences of the death penalty cause offenders of crimes worthy of the death penalty to never consider committing them again.
Many people believe the myth that the death penalty deters crime. The truth is, murder rates are climbing almost every year and executions are rising. A United Nations study published in 1980 found that “Despite much more advanced research efforts to determine the deterrent value of the death penalty, no conclusive evidence has been found on its efficiency.” Researchers have noted an increase in murders in the months following an execution. Recent crime statistics confirm that the average homicide rate in the 13 states without the death penalty is lower than the average homicide rate in the 37 states where executions are legal. Does this appear to be a drop in crime? Not hardly. The death penalty is not stopping criminals. The reason for this is that most murders are heat-of-the-moment affairs during which rational thinking is not a top priority. Also, most people who plan a murder plan to get away with it, rationalizing away any concern for punishment. Another argument that proponents of the death penalty tend to use is that the death penalty is less costly than its alternatives. They say that it is the cheapest way of handling society’s outcasts, and that the “good” members of our society should not be taxed to support murderers for the rest of their lives. It seems immoral to debate the taking of even a murderer’s life in terms of money, but the truth of the matter is that the average capital trial cost more than six times what it cost to keep a person in prison for life. The cost for life imprisonment is around $500,000; and the cost of the average capital trial, including only the first stage of appeals, cost the taxpayers $3.2 million. The tangible costs of the death penalty in terms of long-drawn-out jury selection, extended trials and retrials, appeals, extra security, maintenance of expensive seldom used death houses, support of the felon’s family, etc., are heavy. The arguments in favor of the death penalty appeal to us because they pull our emotional strings, ignoring our rational ones. In seeking “fair and just punishment,” one must look beyond a simple analysis of severity. One must ask: “What is accomplished?” Does the criminal learn anything? Does the victim receive any recompense? Is society better off? The answer to all these questions is no. For obvious reasons, the death penalty fails to rehabilitate the criminal. But neither does it provide better protection for society. Life without parole means just that. A person who is behind bars for the rest of his life is of no threat to society. It is true that a killer who is killed cannot kill again, but in defense of this, a killer who is in jail for the rest of his life can also never kill again. Besides, in my opinion, to live with guilt and a future consisting of a small prison cell for the rest of one’s life seems like the worst punishment. I believe that man has no right to decide when a life ends. Whether the issue be abortion or the death penalty. Yet, when a murder is committed, someone has decided a life should end. This person should be sentenced to life imprisonment, not execution. Killing this person will not bring back the victim; it will only serve as revenge. Capital punishment is morally and ethically unjust. It violates the humane respect that we as modern democratic states must strive to obtain and uphold. It has no place in our laws and is unnecessary for the protection of the state or its citizens. It makes mistakes in justice irredeemable; it inhibits the reform of our prison systems. It encourages disrespect for our laws, our courts, our institutions. I think Paul Baumann of Commonweal magazine wrote it perfectly: “A human life is ended by an act of human will. Taking life to show that life should not be taken doesn’t make sense.”