Capital Pumishment

This essay has a total of 1445 words and 7 pages.

Capital Pumishment



Capital Punishment - Injustice of Society


The state of the public's satisfaction in the ways of capital sentencing does not
constitute serving justice. Today's system of capital punishment is fought with
inequalities and injustices. The commonly offered arguments for the death penalty are
filled with holes. "It was a deterrent. It removed killers. It was the ultimate
punishment. It is biblical. It satisfied the public's need for retribution. It relieved
the anguish of the victim's family."(Grisham 120) Realistically, imposing the death
penalty is expensive and is very time consuming. However, it has yet to be proven as a
deterrent. Morally, it is the continuation of the cycle of violence and "...degrades all
who are involved in its enforcement, as well as its victim."(Stewart 1)

Perhaps the most frequent argument for capital punishment is that of deterrence. The
prevailing thought is that having the death penalty will act to dissuade other criminals
from committing violent acts. Numerous studies have been created attemps to prove this
belief; however, "[a]ll the evidence taken together makes it hard to be confident that
capital punishment deters more than long prison terms do."(Cavanagh 4) Going ever farther,
Bryan Stevenson, the executive director of The Montgomery based Equal Justice Initiative,
has stated that "…people are increasingly realizing that the more we resort to killing
as a legitimate response to our frustration and anger with violence, the more violent our
society becomes…We could execute all three thousand people on death row, and most people
would not feel any safer tomorrow."(Frame 51) In addition, with the growing
humanitarianism of modern society, the number of inmates actually put to death is
substantially lower than 50 years ago. This decline creates a situation in which the


death penalty is deterrent when people begin to think that one can get away with a crime
and go unpunished. Also, the less that the death sentence is used, the more it becomes
unusual, thus coming in conflict with the eighth amendment. The end result is a punishment
that is obsolete to discourage crime at all.

The key part of the death penalty is that it involves death -- something which is rather
permanent for humans, due to the concept of mortality. This creates a major problem when
"…there continue to be many instances of innocent people being sentenced to
death."(Tabak 38) In our legal system, there exist numerous ways in which justice might be
poorly served for a recipient of the death sentence. Foremost is in the handling of his
own defense counsel. In the event that a defendant is without counsel, a lawyer will be
provided. "Attorney's appointed to represent indigent capital defendants frequently lack
the qualities necessary to provide a competent defense and sometimes have exhibited such
poor character that they have subsequently been disbarred."(Tabak 37). With payment caps
or court determined sums of, for example, $5 an hour, there is not much of an incentive
for a lawyer to spend a great deal of time representing a capital defendant. When you
compare this to the prosecution, "…aided by the police, other law enforcement agencies,
crime labs, state mental hospitals, various other scientific resources, prosecutors
…experienced in successfully handling capital cases, compulsory process, and grand
juries…"(Tabak 37), the defense that the court appointed counsel can offer is very
small. In fact, if a defendant has a valid case to offer, what is the chance he has to
offer it and have it properly recognized? Furthermore, why should he be punished for an
injustice that was created by the court itself if appointed the incapable lawyer?

Even if a defendant has proper legal counsel, there is still the matter of impartiality of

judges. "The Supreme Court has steadily reduced the availability of habeas corpus review
of capital convictions, placing its confidence in the notion that state judges, who take
the same oath of office as federal judges to uphold the Constitution, can be trusted to
enforce it."(Bright 768) This makes for the biased trying of a defendant's appeals,
"…given the huge pressure on elected state judges to heed, and perhaps even lead to, the
popular cries for the death of criminal defendants."(Bright 769) Thirty two of the states
that impose the death penalty also employ the popular election of judges. This creates a
deeply political justice system -- the words alone are a paradox. Can society simply brush
off mistaken execution as an incidental cost in the greater scheme of putting a criminal
to death?
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