Abolish the Death Penalty misc0 Essay

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Abolish the Death Penalty misc0










Abolish the Death Penalty
By: Mike Mahmudi
E-mail: mmahmudi@aol.com

Death Penalty The death penalty is a major issue that brings up a lot of
arguments in our society. The most important question concerning the death
penalty is whether it should be abolished or not. I think that the death penalty
is the ultimate denial of human rights. It violates the right to life as proclaimed
in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman,
and degrading punishment. Race, social and economic status, location of
crime, and pure chance may be deciding factors in death sentencing. In
addition, prosecutors seek the death penalty far more frequently when the
victim of the homicide is white than when the victim is black. The actual cost
of an execution is substantially higher than the cost of imprisoning a person for
life. Death was formerly the penalty for all felonies in English law. In practice
the death penalty was never applied as widely as the law provided, as a
variety of procedures were adopted to decrease the harshness of the law.
Many offenders who committed capital crimes were pardoned, usually on
condition that they agreed to be transported to what were then the American
colonies; others were allowed what was known as benefit of clergy(Ploski 2).
The beginning of benefit of clergy was that offenders who were established
priests were subject to trial by the church courts rather than the non-religious
courts. If the offender convicted of a felony could show that he had be
ordained, he was allowed to go free, subject to the possibility of being
punished by the ecclesiastical courts. In medieval times the only proof of
ordination was literacy, and it became the custom by the 17th century to
allow anyone convicted of a felony to escape the death sentence by giving
proof of literacy(Ploski 4). In 18th-century England concern with rising crime
led to many statutes either extending the number of offenses punishable with
death or doing away with benefit of clergy for existing felonies, which as a
result became capital(Black 2). By the end of the 18th-century English
criminal law contained about 200 capital offenses. Many offenders who were
convicted of capital crimes escaped the gallows as a result of reprieves and
royal pardons, usually on condition of transportation, and many others who
were charged with capital crimes were acquitted against the evidence,
because the jury was unwilling to see the death penalty applied in a minor
case(Black 5). The unpredictable application of the death penalty in the late
18th and early 19th centuries led to demands for humanitarian reform.
Between 1820 and 1840 most capital statutes were repealed, and by 1861
only murder, treason, arson in a royal dockyard, and piracy with violence
retained the death penalty. Until the mid-19th century executions in England
were public, and throughout the 18th century great crowds attended the
regular executions in London and other cities(Ploski 6). Often an execution
was followed by scenes of violence and disorder in the crowd. Public opinion
eventually turned against the idea of executions as spectacles, and after 1868
executions were carried out in private prisons( Black 7). The earliest
recorded execution committed in the U.S. under state authority was in 1864.
During 1864-1890, 57 persons were executed under state authority( Kasper
8). Since the 1960's, 100% of the executions performed under civil authority
have been state executions(Mello 7). The power for local governments to
perform executions, however, greatly dropped during this century. Perhaps
the transfer of death penalty power from local to state governments was
partially due to increased technology. Improved communications made it
easier to centralize the decision-making about executions with state
governments(Black 9). The legal killing of a criminal by carrying out a death
sentence is a type of punishment called "capital punishment". By taking away
a criminal's life, capital punishment is the ultimate penalty. From 1930 to
1933, 4,085 prisoners were executed in the United States(Haines 3). In
1972, the Supreme Court ruled that laws regulating the death penalty in
various states were defined as being unconstitutional in the form in which that
existed at the time. This ruling prevented any executions from taking place
period. In 1976, however, the Supreme Court upheld revised state laws
regarding capital punishment, which made it legally possible again for states to
carry out death sentences. From 1977 to 1993, 226 prisoners were
executed(Kasper 2). Capital Punishment offenses differ between the states,
and not all states have a death penalty. Most states with the death penalty
choose first-degree murder as a capital offense. Some federal crimes also can
be capital offenses, such as certain crimes involving contract killing, killing
on-duty law enforcement officer, espionage, or assassination of the President,
Vice President, a member of Congress, or a Supreme Court Justice.
Deterrence is an argument often spoken of to justify the death penalty. On the
outside, the argument makes sense. Rational people understand links
between cause and effect and crime and punishment. A fear of death or the
possibility of death also affects the behavior of most reasonable people.
People who murder, however, are rarely intelligent at the time they commit
the crime. The threat of execution at some future dates does not enter the
minds of killers acting under the influence of drugs or alcohol, panicking while
committing another crime, of simply lacking and understanding of the force of
their crime. Hired killers obviously believe they will not be caught. The death
penalty has never shown to benefit a society. In fact, there are strong
indications that it increases people's tolerance towards violence. No credible
study yet has produced any solid evidence that the death penalty prevents
violent crimes. According to FBI statistics, the murder rate in some states
which use the death penalty is twice that of some states which do not use the
death penalty(Mello1). Even researchers who set out to prove that police
officers have greater protection in jurisdictions permitting executions
uncovered no deterrent value in the death penalty. Between 1976 and 1985,
almost twice as many law enforcement officers were killed in death penalty
states, as were killed in states that did not execute(Mello 2). The widely
respected Thorsten Sellin studies, conducted in the United States during
1962, 1967, and 1980, concluded that the death penalty has no deterrent
effect(Haines 4). The British Royal Commission on Capital Punishment
analyzed statistics from seven European, and three non European countries,
reporting that no evidence affiliated elimination of the death penalty to
increased homicide rates(Haines 5). Some researchers have found that the
death penalty not only fails to reduce murder rates, but also may increase the
number of homicides. The U.S. Bowers-Pierce study, testing executions
between 1907 and 1963, concluded that an average of two additional
homicides were committed in the month after an execution took
place(Kasper 6). Why should taxpayers pay to keep a person in prison for
life, why not execute the person and save money? This question,
appropriately offensive as it may be, is often posed by death penalty
supporters in the U.S. The fact is the cause of executing a person in the U.S.
is higher than the cost of locking up a person for life. The Unites States
Supreme Court has realized that because the death penalty is an
unchangeable punishment, capital cases require safeguards against errors.
Jury selection is more lengthy in capital cases, and expert investigators and
consultants such as psychiatrists must often be heard. Also, the costs of
maintaining death rows in state prisons, of forgiveness hearings, and of the
execution itself must be added to the price of capital punishment. A 1982
study of death penalty costs in New York placed the cost of executing a
prisoner at over $1.8 million. This figure is three times the cost of
imprisoning a person for life. California spends an extra $90 million per year
on capital punishment. In Florida, each execution costs the state $3.2 million,
six times more than imprisoning a prisoner for life. Texas, with the highest
execution rate, spends an estimated $2.3 million per capital case. This is
almost three times the cost of keeping someone in prison for 40 years. A
study in Kansas, which recently supported the death penalty, showed that a
capital trial costs $116,700 more than an ordinary murder trial. In
conclusion, I think the death penalty is wrong and should be abolished in the
United States. Even with the precautions required by the United States
judicial systems, entire miscarriages of justice take place. Innocent people
Continues for 7 more pages >>




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