Rhamel If our government kills every killer, then

Rhamel Brewer

Mr. Barbour

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US Government

1 January 2018

The Death
Penalty

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world
blind,” said Mahatma Gandhi. The death penalty is exactly that, an eye for
an eye. The problem with killing those who kill is how we view justice. Retribution
for the sake of justice may seem to contradict right from wrong.  Extreme punishment is a reflection of Hammurabi’s
code, which we strive to avoid in a civilized society. If our government kills
every killer, then there is no hope for redemption and rehabilitation which is
the sole goal of our federal prison system. You simply cannot deter murder by
murdering more people. The death penalty does not deter crime, it only acknowledges
crimes and alternatively brings “justice” to it. Effectively, many states
without the death penalty have considerably lower crime rates than states with
the death penalty.  This renders the
death penalty useless.  It is
understandable that people who commit heinous crimes need to be suitably  punished.  However, to kill the killer makes our society no
better than the killer. Capital punishment exists today solely because our
country, the United States, sees it as appropriate. This way of thinking is
imperfect because of the flaws in the justice system. The government should not
kill people. It is unconstitutional.

Capital punishment is execution, the legal
killing of someone as punishment. It is administered to someone legally
convicted of a capital crime. There are a total of 41 capital offenses that are
punishable by death, ranging from treason and espionage, to kidnapping and
murder. The process is widely debated, questioning constitutional rights,
expense, and morality. Execution has existed since the beginning of human
civilization. Though the methods have been altered over time, it has been
looked at as the appropriate thing to do.  Although other countries have more gruesome
means of execution, there have been five traditional means of capital
punishment in US history: lethal injection, electric chair, gas chamber, hanging,
and firing squad.

Despite centuries of practice, we haven’t gotten
better at executing criminals. It has shown itself to be ineffective and inconsistent.
When hanging was the go-to form of execution, it wasn’t done recklessly. The
noose would be knotted a certain way so upon hanging the neck would instantly
snap, which would result in immediate death. Other methods surfaced in time
like the gas chamber, the electric chair, and firing squad. The goal of these
forms of execution was a means of a quick death and painless death.  This was always the outcome, however. Hanging
sometimes failed, resulting in the person hanging, kicking their feet, and
gasping for air in front of large audiences. With firing squads, men would line
up with guns and shoot you all at once. This is very bloody. In the gas
chamber, inmates would die by asphyxiation, where they would moan and gasp for
air till they died. Death by electric chair became the United States standard
for execution, which started in the late 19th century. This involved
strapping an inmate to a chair and shooting jolts of electricity through their
head until they die. Texas later adopted an
alternative method of execution, lethal injection. On December 7, 1982, Texas became the first state to use lethal injection
to carry out capital punishment, for the execution of Charles Brooks Jr.

Lethal Injection was the
“most humane” and was quickly adopted throughout the country, and is
traditionally used today. Lethal injection is the act of injecting a person
with a mixture of drugs. The drugs are delivered through an IV (sodium
thiopental, pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride) and are supposed to put
you to sleep, paralyze you, stop your heart and kill you immediately. Though
this method is said quick and painless, there have been dozens of reports of failed
executions involving lethal injection (which was said to be superior). Since
the 19th century, there have been almost 9,000 capital punishment
cases. Of those 9,000 cases, about 300 of them have failed or gone unexpectedly
wrong. “The state of Florida is killing an innocent person…The state of Florida
is committing a crime because I am innocent…The death penalty is not only a
form of vengeance, but also a cowardly act by humans.” These were the last
words of Angel Nieves Diaz before he was wrongfully accused and executed. The
system has been proven to be flawed, and the death penalty needs to be
abolished.

Historically, the percentage of capital punishment
supporters in the US has been about 60-70%. 
That percentage has declined, with the percentage at about 50-55%. When
citizens commit a crime and are a threat to society, they should be removed
from that society then evaluated based on their motives. For cases where the sentence
may be the death penalty or life in prison, our government should be forced to
build in more safe guards to ensure that the proof of guilt can stand without
question. Capital punishment should be appropriately dealt with, but I don’t agree
with execution being a solution to capital punishment. Though the death penalty
is allowed, I believe it should be specific on who deserves it. Severe
punishment should only be applied to those who committee most heinous. This
includes genocide, mass killings, the killing of children, and murder with an evil
incentive. Treason and espionage cases don’t always result in death, and the offender’s
motives aren’t always clear. They’re enemies of the state, so they should be
locked away on the grounds they tried to betray. It our societies priority to
protect our country so we don’t stoop to the level of those who try to hurt it.

Sadly, many sentenced to death row are found
innocent. Fortunately for them, the death penalty process takes a very long
time. Also, I believe the death penalty gambles with the lives of the innocent.
Making the mistake of executing someone who is innocent is one that is unforgivable. To make matters worse, the death penalty doesn’t
have a defined structure for who is sentenced to it. It is random in a sense. As
citizens of the United States, we are “innocent until proven guilty”, though
this seems to be a forgotten philosophy when applied to a death sentence, and
even in our justice system. If
society deems human life to be of high value, then the risk of killing an
innocent person provide a serious moral conflict.

Since 1973, 161 people who were convicted of
crimes have been exonerated and/or found innocent. Some were acquitted, some
were pardoned, and others had their charges dropped. 1 in every 25 inmates on
death row has been found to be falsely convicted due to falsified evidence or new
discoveries in technologies. DNA results and confessions play a major role in
this. That’s 4% of people that could have been wrongfully executed. Though that
may not seem like a high number statically, it is an extremely high number when
innocent lives are at stake. Unfortunately, there have been situations where
inmates have been found guilty AFTER their death sentence. The United States
has taken too many lives in vain.

The Eighth Amendment to the United
States Constitution states that there shall be no cruel and unusual
punishments. The use of the death penalty, in my opinion, is cruel and unusual,
and calls into question the 8th Amendment. The death penalty has been abolished
and reinstated throughout history due to controversial cases including mentally
ill criminals and juvenile delinquency.

On August 16, 1996, 18-year-old Daryl Renard
Atkins and his accomplice, William Jones, walked to a nearby convenience store
where they abducted Eric Nesbitt and robbed him. He was carrying only $60, so they
forced him to withdraw $200 out of a nearby ATM. The two men then drove Nesbitt
to a secluded location, where they shot and killed him.  Forensic evidence from Nesbitt’s abandoned
vehicles confirmed Atkins and Jones were in the car and they were captured on
nearby CCTV cameras.  The two suspects
were quickly found by the police and brought into custody. Ironically, each
suspect blamed the other for the shooting of Eric Nesbitt.  Even though Atkins’ story had more
inconsistencies,  his cellmate later
confirmed that Atkins confessed to killing the man. This enabled the court to
charge Daryl Atkins with abduction, robbery, and capital murder.

During the trial, the defense attorney
presented Atkins grades from when he was in school, and his IQ test, which had
a score of 59. Due to his poor IQ score and performance in school, he was
determined “mildly mentally retarded”. Regardless of his condition, Atkins was
sentenced to death. Due to an “an improper sentencing verdict” the case was
retried. Dr. Stanton Samenow argued that Atkins was intellectually disabled due
to his lack of vocabulary, general knowledge, and observed behavior.

In the 2002 case Atkins v. Virginia, having a 6-3 ruling, the US Supreme Court ruled
that the execution of the mentally retarded is cruel and excessive. In this
court case, former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
John Paul Stevens decided: “Death is not a suitable punishment for a mentally
retarded criminal… Construing and applying the Eighth Amendment in the light
of our evolving standards of decency, we, therefore, conclude that such
punishment is excessive and that the Constitution places a substantive
restriction on the states power to take the life of a mentally retarded
offender.”  The reasoning behind this is that these individuals have
a harder time understanding right from wrong, reasoning, and learning from past
experiences. The National Alliance on Mental Illness defines such conditions as
“medical
conditions that disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate
to others and daily functioning. Serious mental illnesses include major depression,
schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, OCD, panic disorder, PTSD, and borderline
personality disorder.” Atkins
v. Virginia is an important case because it allows the 8th Amendment to protect
against the execution those who have variations of these conditions and
disabilities.

The next
key case is Roper v. Simmons. This
court case is important because, like Atkins
v. Virginia, involves the protection of the 8th Amendment. In 1993, Christopher Simmons of Fenton,
Michigan was only 17 when he devised up a plan to burglarize Shirley Crook’s
home, then kill her. Simmons and his friend broke into the woman’s home, tied
her up and blindfolded her.  They then
then drove Shirley Crook to a nearby park, where they threw her off of a
bridge. The two were later apprehended. During the trial phase, Simmons
confessed to his crimes, and evidence from his friends confirmed the crime was
premeditated.  Witnesses stated that Simmons
bragged about it before and after the doing. The boy was sentenced the death
penalty. He continued to appeal the court’s decision until it made its way to
the Supreme Court. Christopher Simmons argued that given his age and troubled
childhood, the death penalty is unfair and unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court of Missouri declared that “a national consensus has
developed against the execution of juvenile offenders.” The 5-4 decision
overrode the prior ruling involving Stanford v. Kentucky (1989). Such
punishment now violates the 8th Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and
unusual punishment. Simmons was sentenced to life in prison without parole.  The case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme
Court by Donald P. Roper (hence the case name, Roper v. Simmons). On March 1st, 2005, Justice of the
Supreme Court of the United States Anthony Kennedy declared: “The
Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments forbid imposition of the death penalty on
offenders who were under the age of 18 when their crimes were
committed… Once juveniles diminished culpability is recognized, it is
evident that neither of the two penological justifications for the death
penalty—retribution and deterrence of capital crimes by prospective offenders—provides
adequate justification for imposing that penalty on juveniles.” The Supreme Court of the United States stood by Missouri’s decision, determining that
capital punishment on minors is unconstitutional and violates the 8th
amendment.

Today, many (like myself) protest against the
death. We believe it is inhumane, unconstitutional, and unnecessary. The death
penalty prohibitively expensive and costs state governments a vase amount of
money. This is causing many states to modify their budgets and is the reason
why nineteen states have overturned or abolished the death penalty. Some of
these states include: New York, New Jersey, Vermont, Michigan, and Maine. In
California, for example, the state has paid about $4,000,000 to execute only
thirteen of its prisoners. Given the hundreds of millions of dollars spent per
death penalty case, many states have decided to stay clear of such procedures.
Depending on the state and method, a death penalty trial case costs 6 to 20
times as much as a regular trial. Political scientists predict that the
abolishment of the death sentence can save millions, and even billions of
dollars. States that have abolished the death penalty, and have shown the
amount of money they’ve saved have the potential to start the nationwide trend.
This is mainly because other states have started to notice the advantages of
ending the era capital punishment.  Apart
from cost, the death penalty process is slow and inconsistent.

Death row is time-consuming. Due to habeas corpus
petitions, appeals, and trial, these cases take on average 15-20 years. The
process is only getting longer, and it is decades before the presented prisoner
is executed. There are many cases where inmates die of natural causes (such as heart
attacks and old age). For example, North Carolina alone has lost nine inmates
to natural causes since 2012. Within capital punishment states, out of the
thousands sentenced to death, only a small fraction of them are actually
executed. Many places like Florida, North Carolina, and Florida spend millions
of dollars to house death row inmates that happen to die of natural causes. This
shows how inconsistent and unproductive the process is.

In 2014, The state of
Oklahoma attempted to execute Clayton Lockett, who received the death penalty
for very heinous crimes including: rape, forcible oral sodomy, robbery,
kidnapping, and murder. It took the authorities 43 minutes to execute Lockett,
when it should have only taken a matter of minutes. They failed to properly
deliver the drugs, causing the man to twitch, gasp for air, and fight. After
the drugs were administered, Lockett was flailing and tried raising from the
gurney. The authorities had to close the blinds to the witness room and halt
the execution. This failed due to unpreparedness and inexperienced. The prison
was using a new type of drug, and they only used one IV instead of the
recommended two (it took multiple attempts). Clayton Lockett was later
pronounced dead due to a heart attack later that night. This incident caught
national attention with even Former President Barack Obama speaking on the
situation. He stated, “In the application of the death penalty in this country we
have seen significant problems: Racial bias, uneven application of the death
penalty, situations in which there were individuals on death row who were later
discovered to be innocent because of exculpatory evidence.”

Sadly, race and income is
a huge factor in determining who gets the death penalty. Even a jury selection of
peers is a controversial matter. We live in a country where placing one black person
on a white jury makes it “diverse”.  This
way of thinking is similar to seeing a movie or commercial where there is a
group of white kids and one black kid to show “diversity”. There are many cases
where racial injustice is speculated. Those
who commit crimes against white people are more likely to be sentenced to die
than those who commit crimes against African-Americans. Being a black man in
America, if you are convicted of a capital crime you are more likely to receive
the death penalty, especially if the crime is against a white victim. The
racial disparity is unfortunate and it doesn’t help our system. In Louisiana,
there has never been anyone sentenced to death for killing a black victim.

Throughout our government’s
history, there have been laws attempting to address racial justice (or the lack
of) within the court systems. In 1998, Kentucky passed the Racial Justice Act.
This law allows the right to challenge
their capital punishment sentences if they prove that race was a factor in the
decision to issue the death penalty during the trial. In other words, it
prohibited race from being a deciding factor on whether a defendant should be
sentenced to death. Though, as shown in thousands of cases, race of the victim is the most common
factor that determines whether the death penalty is administered. Similar legislation was presented in other
states more recently but was quickly repealed.

In 1987, Warren McClesky, convicted
of armed robbery and murder, argued that death penalty sentences in Georgia
were racially biased because of the race of the victim. The court ruled against
McClesky  and he was executed in 1991.
The court ruled that racial inequality in the death penalty were not a
violation of one’s 14th Amendment rights. In order to correct the
defects in the justice system, we must first tackle the issues of racism,
inequality, and injustice. Only a month ago, prosecutors wrote “B (Black)” next
to all African American names on a list during the jury selection period of an
Alabama death penalty case. They then excluded 90% of these black people from
the jury pool. This act of racism was requested to be reviewed and appealed to
the Supreme Court but the request was declined. Racism is present in our
country and court systems but is widely ignored and pushed to the side. Mind you,
76% of all executions since 1976 have been on those who killed a white person.
Race should not be a determining factor when it comes to giving the death
sentence. That’s not justice, and it’s definitely not ethical

Well,
is capital punishment right? Killing isn’t always the answer, nor is it always
the right thing to do. Many families of victims want justice and punishment for
someone that took the life of their loved one.  Some punishments are worst than death, like
super-max prison, or confinement. It is a long, dreadful, and justified
punishment. The families should be compensated for the taking of their loved
one’s life. This is because execution doesn’t ease trauma, or bring anyone
back. The killing of another human doesn’t solve grief, or even guilt. It’s
like teaching people that the death of another will make right the wrong.  We must considering the fact that that those
on death row consist of those who are guilty, underrepresented and even those
that are innocent.  Until we can vastly
improve the flaws in the justice system, I believe that life sentences are the
appropriate punishment for  capital
crimes. Justice would be served knowing a criminal has been locked away from
the outside world, never seeing the light of day again. The death penalty is an
old fashion means of justice. It doesn’t fit into today’s society, and in time
it will be abolished.

Capital
punishment is inhumane. No government should be above its own law and should and
we have to hold our government to the highest of standards. There is no humane
way to execute another human, especially in front of a crowd of people as if it
was a movie or some type of sporting event. In my opinion, that’s the most
inhumane of about the execution: the audience. Its sickening to think that we
are searching for new methods to execute when she should abolish the practice
altogether.

There
is an immeasurable amount of flaws in the system involving capital punishment
including: failed execution attempts, millions of dollars wasted, racial bias,
unfair juries, and the amount of time spent on death row. Based on the values
of our country, the ideology of this new age we live in, and the integrity of
valuing life, I believe the death penalty should be abolished. Like many laws
in America, it is backed by an out of date constitution. It has no role in
today’s society.  Remember, an eye for an
eye makes the whole world blind, and it wrongfully encourages vengeance.

 

 

 

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