My little article against Capital Punishment
Value of human life
Everyone thinks human life is valuable. Some of those against capital punishment believe that human life is so valuable that even the worst murderers should not be deprived of the value of their lives. They believe that the value of the offender's life cannot be destroyed by the offender's bad conduct - even if they have killed someone. Some abolitionists don't go that far. They say that life should be preserved unless there is a very good reason not to, and that the those who are in favour of capital punishment are the ones who have to justify their position.
-Right to live
Everyone has an inalienable human right to life, even those who commit murder; sentencing a person to death and executing them violates that right.
This is very similar to the 'value of life' argument, but approached from the perspective of human rights.
The counter-argument is that a person can, by their actions, forfeit human rights, and that murderers forfeit their right to life.
Another example will make this clear - a person forfeits their right to life if they start a murderous attack and the only way the victim can save their own life is by killing the attacker.
The medieval philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas made this point very clearly:
- The death penalty is racism.
The death penalty is applied in a racially biased manner. This bias extends not only to the race of the defendants singled out for death sentences but also to the race of the victim. When it comes to the death penalty, the lives of minorities are valued less than that of whites.
African Americans are 12 percent of the U.S. population, but 42 percent of prisoners on death row Although Blacks constitute approximately 50 percent of murder victims each year, 80 percent of the victims in death penalty cases were white, and only 14 percent were Black.
Of the over 18,000 executions that have taken place in this country’s history, only 42 involved a white person being punished for killing a Black person.
According to Amnesty International, more than 20 percent of Black defendants executed since 1976 were convicted by all-white juries.
-The death penalty punishes the poor.
“One searches our chronicles in vain for the execution of any member of the affluent strata in this society." --Justice William O. Douglas
“There is something wrong in this country; the judicial nets are so adjusted as to catch the minnows, and let the whales slip through.” --Eugene V. Debs
If you can afford good legal representation, you won’t end up on death row.
Over 90 percent of defendants charged with capital crimes are indigent and cannot afford an experienced criminal defense attorney. They are forced to use inexperienced, underpaid and overworked lawyers.
Many capital trials last less than a week—-hardly enough time to present a good defense. The results are predictable. It is clear that had O.J. Simpson been poor, he would now be on death row, innocent or guilty.
-The death penalty condemns the innocent to die.
Since 1973, 123 people in 25 states have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence.
Given the way in which the justice system herds the poor through its gates, it is no wonder that it often ensnares innocent people. The use of plea bargains and leniency in exchange for snitch testimony often results in the least guilty serving the most time. Often, police and prosecutors—-whether under pressure or in the effort to further their careers-—make quick arrests and ignore evidence that might point in another direction.
There can be no doubt that some people who were innocent have been executed. Criminologist Michael Radlet notes that between 1900 and 1992, there were 416 documented cases of innocent persons who have been convicted of murder or capital rape—a third of whom were given a death sentence. He discovered that in 23 of these cases, the person was executed.
-That death penalty is “cruel and unusual punishment.”
In 2007, executions are on hold in over a dozen states and botched executions have put the lethal injection process under increasing scrutiny.
In April 2005, in the British medical journal The Lancet, a team of medical researchers found serious flaws in how lethal injections were being administered, causing extreme suffering to the prisoners being executed. The report found “that in 43 of the 49 executed prisoners studied the anesthetic administered during lethal injection was lower than required for surgery. In 43 percent of cases, drug levels were consistent with awareness.
-The death penalty fails to recognize that guilty people have the potential to change, denying them the opportunity to ever rejoin society.
The death sentence says some people are beyond redemption, beyond second chances, beyond being allowed to live in society. We disagree. We believe people deserve second chances. We actually think many people are on death row and in our prisons because they never got any first chances. Poverty, racism, neglect, violence and mental illness are all issues impacting who becomes a “criminal.”
Countless prisoners have also transformed their lives, in spite of the horrific conditions behind prison bars that they are forced to endure. Executing those individuals or condemning them to die in prison denies their ability to fully participate and contribute in society.