Problems with Capital Punishment

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"Dead Man Walking!" This sound rings through each and every death row inmate a thousand times a day; But should it? Capital punishment is one of the most controversial topics among Americans today. Since every person has there own opinion on this topic, either for or against, the question always raised is "Is it morally right." The number of problems with the death penalty are enormous, ranging from innocence to racism, and these problems will never be resolved unless the death penalty is abolished.

The problems with capital punishment stem as far back as the ritual itself. The number of occurrence on why the death penalty is racist is uncountable. A 1990 report released by the federal government's General Accounting Office found a "pattern of evidence indicating racial disparities in the charging, sentencing and imposition of the death penalty after the Furman decision." Professor David Baldus examined sentencing patterns in Georgia in the 1970's. After reviewing over 2,500 homicide cases in that state, controlling for 230 non-racial factors, he concluded that a person accused of killing a white was 4.3 times more likely to be sentenced to death than a person accused of killing a black. The Stanford Law Review published a study that found similar patterns of racial dispair, based on the race of the victim, in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Virginia. For example, in Arkansas findings showed that defendants in a case involving a white victim are three-and-a-half times more likely to be sentenced to death; in Illinois, four times; in North Carolina, 4.4 times, and in Mississippi five times more likely to be sentenced to death than defendants convicted of murdering blacks.

There is also the issue of Capital Punishment being a deterrent. But does the death penalty really deter crime? The death lobby wants you to believe the answer to that question is "yes." But, in fact, it is a resounding "NO." Consider this...the US is the only Western nation that still allows the death penalty, and we also have one of the highest crime rates. During the 1980s, death penalty states averaged an annual rate of 7.5 criminal homicides per 100,000, while abolition states averaged a rate of 7.4 per 100,000. That means murder was actually more common in states that use the death penalty. Also consider this...in a nationwide survey of police chiefs and sheriffs, capital punishment was ranked last as a way of reducing violent crime. Only twenty-six percent thought that the death penalty significantly reduces the number of homicides. The theory behind the deterrence doctrine is flawed itself. Murderers do not examine risk/reward charts before they kill someone. Being a criminal is inherently irrational...life imprisonment ought to deter a rational person itself. Besides, no criminal commits a crime if he believes he will be caught.

The next issue that deserves some observation is that of Capital punishment being economically correct, meaning will it save the U.S. and its taxpayers money. "The death penalty is not now, nor has it ever been, a more economical alternative to life imprisonment," said Spangenberg and Walsh in an article in the Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review. A study by the NY State Defenders Association showed that the cost of a capital trial alone is more than double the cost of life imprisonment. In Maryland, a comparison of capital trial costs with and without the death penalty for the years 1979-1984 concluded that a death penalty case costs "approximately 42 percent more than a case resulting in a non-death sentence," according to the US Government Accounting Office. In 1988 and 1989 the Kansas legislature voted against reinstating the death penalty after it was informed that reintroduction would involve a first-year cost of more than $11 million. And the Miami Herald reported that Florida, with one of the nation's largest death rows, has estimated that the true cost of each execution is approximately $3.2 million, or approximately six times the cost of a life-imprisonment sentence.

The last issue that should be observed is that of innocence. Are there really innocent people on death row? At least twenty-three people have been executed who did not commit the crime they were accused of. And that's only those that we know. And here lies an inherent danger of capital punishment...when we execute an innocent person; the real killer is still on the