In Cold Blood: Death Penalty Essay

This essay has a total of 1335 words and 8 pages.

In Cold Blood: Death Penalty

In Cold Blood: Death Penalty


Capital Punishment has been part of the criminal justice system since
the earliest of times. The Babylonian Hammurabi Code(ca. 1700 B.C.) decreed
death for crimes as minor as the fraudulent sale of beer(Flanders 3). Egyptians
could be put to death for disclosing the location of sacred burial
sites(Flanders 3). However, in recent times opponents have shown the death
penalty to be racist, barbaric, and in violation with the United States
Constitution as "...cruel and unusual punishment." In this country,although laws
governing the application of the death penalty have undergone many changes
since biblical times, the punishment endures , and controversy has never been
greater.

A prisoner's death wish cannot grant a right not otherwise possessed.
Abolitionists maintain that the state has no right to kill anyone; . The right
to reject life imprisonment and choose death should be respected, but it changes
nothing for those who oppose the death at the hands of the state.

The death penalty is irrational- a fact that should carry considerable
weight with rationalists. As Albert Camus pointed out, " Capital
punishment....has always been a religious punishment and is reconcilable with
humanism." In other words, society has long since left behind the archaic and
barbous" customs" from the cruel "eye for an eye" anti-human caves of religion-
another factor that should raise immediate misgivings for freethinkers.

State killings are morally bankrupt. Why do governments kill people to
show other people that killing people is wrong? Humanity becomes associated with
murderers when it replicate their deeds. Would society allow rape as the penalty
for rape or the burning of arsonists' homes as the penalty for arson?

The state should never have the power to murder its subjects. To give
the state this power eliminates the individual's most effective shield against
tyranny of the majority and is inconsistent with democratic principles.

Family and friends of murder victims are further victimized by state
killings. Quite a few leaders in the abolishment movement became involved
specially because someone they loved was murdered. Family of victims repeatedly
stated they wanted the murderer to die. One of the main reasons- in addition to
justice- was they wanted all the publicity to be over. Yet. if it wasn't for the
sensationalism surrounding an execution, the media exposure would not have
occurred in the first place. Murderers would be quietly and safely put away for
life with absolutely no possibility for parole.

The death penalty violates constitutional prohibitions against cruel
and unusual punishment. The grotesque killing of Robert Harris by the state of
California on April 21,1992, and similar reports of witnesses to hangings and
lethal injections should leave doubt that the dying process can be-
and often is -grossly inhumane, regardless of method(Flanders 16).

The death penalty is often used for political gain. During his
presidential gain, President Clinton rushed home for the Arkansas execution of
Rickey Ray Rector, a mentally retarded, indigent black man. Clinton couldn't
take the chance of being seen by voters as " soft on crime." Political Analysts
believe that when the death penalty becomes an issue in a campaign, the
candidate favoring capital punishment almost inevitably will benefit.

Capital punishment discriminates against the poor. Although murderers
come from all classes, those on death row are almost without exception poor and
were living in poverty at the they were arrested. The majority of death-row
inmates were or are represented by court-appointed public defenders- and the
state is not obligated to provide an attorney at all for appeals beyond the
state level.

The application of capital punishment is racist. About 40 percent of
death-row inmates are black, whereas only 8 percent of the population as a whole
are black(Flanders 25). In cases with white victims, black defendants were four
to six times more likely to receive death sentences than white defendants who
had similar criminal histories. Studies show that the chance for a death
sentence is up to five to ten times greater in cases with white victims than
black victims(Flanders 25). In the criminal justice system, the life of a white
person is worth more than the life of a black person.

The mentally retarded are victimized by the death penalty. Since 1989,
when the Supreme Court upheld killing of the mentally retarded, at least four
such executions have occurred. According to the Southern Center for Human Rights,
at least 10 percent of death row inmates in the United States are mentally
retarded(Long 79).

Juveniles are subject to the death penalty. Since state execution of
juveniles also became permissible in the decision cited above, at least five
people who were juveniles when their crimes were committed have executed(Long
79).

Innocent people can-and have been- executed. With the death penalty
errors are irreversible. According to a 1987 study, 23 people who were innocent
of the crimes for which they were convicted were executed between 1900 and
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