Capital Punishment For and Against
Many defenders of capital punishment argue that the death penalty deters people from committing the crime of murder, and that each human being has an inviolable right to life. They also argue that capital punishment stops recidivism. Due to the fact, that the perpetrator can no longer commit atrocious acts of violence. Many opponents of capital punishment argue that innocent people have been convicted. Reasons for this include flawed witness statements, corrupt police, and lack of good lawyers. Whilst others argue that the race or social status of the defendant plays a part in deciding a verdict of guilty or innocent. It is only by analysing all of these areas that we can fairly judge capital punishment.
In order to ascertain whether or not capital punishment was a deterrent I access the U.S Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the Death Penalty Information Centre. I compared five non death penalty states to five death penalty states. The non death penalty states where New Hampshire, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Maine and Michigan. Whilst the death penalty states where, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, New Mexico, Maryland, and Nevada. I compared each non death penalty state to a death penalty state with a similar population. Pennsylvania was compared to Michigan, Maryland to Massachusetts, Maine to New Mexico, North Dakota to South Dakota, and Nevada to New Hampshire. I then recorded the murder rate in the states over a five year period. In four out of the five groups, with the exception of North Dakota
In 1996 the non death penalty state had a lower murder rate that the state with the death penalty.
Justice of the Supreme Court Sandra Day O’Connor once said to a Minnesota Women Lawyers Group. ‘If statistics are any indication, the system may well be allowing some innocent defendants to be executed. Perhaps it’s time to look at minimum standards for appointed counsel in death cases and compensation for inadequate counsel when they are used.’ Between 1973-2005 119 inmates on death row have been exonerated. Common reasons include false testimony and incentivized witnesses, police misconduct and incompetent lawyers.
Numerous studies in the U.S.A reveal that race plays a pivotal role in death penalty cases. One report issued by the University of North Carolina involved the study of 502 murder cases from 1993 to 1997. The study found that race played a significant part in the outcome of death penalty cases. The study concluded that defendants whose victims were white where 3.5 times more likely to receive the death sentence than those with non-white victims. Over 80% of victims in death penalty cases are white. Between 1930 and 1990 4, 016 persons were executed, of these 2, 129 (or 53%) were black. During these years African-Americans made up 12% of the nations population. Another common factor in death row populations is the inability to hire a lawyer when they where first tried. As Justice William noted in Furman ‘One searches our chronicles in vain for the execution of any member of the affluent strata in this society. Only one percent of all those on death row are women. Even through women commit 15% of all criminal homicides. A third or more of the women on death row were convicted of murdering men who had victimised them with years of abuse.
Many defenders of capital punishment argue that the death penalty stops recidivism. Many defenders point to the cases of James Hubbard. Who was sentenced to death in 1977 for the murder of a woman who had befriended him after he was released from prison for serving a twenty year sentence for murder. The case of Timothy Hancock who murdered his cell mate, after receiving a life sentence for murder.
One website claims that the cost of capital trial in two Texan counties, as being between $400, 000 and $600, 000. If we subtract the cost of a non-capital trial $75, 000 from a median of $500, 000 we get $425, 000 to try one capital defendant. Add to that the total cost of appeals and you reach a figure of $850, 000. The figure of $425, 000 alone is enough to support a lifer in jail indefinitely, as well as pay for an extra police man to patrol the streets. One of the reasons why capital punishment costs more is the fact that it is irrevocable. Unlike, the non-capital offenders, the death penalty defendant will perhaps not have the luxury, of new evidence appearing in ten or twenty years time which will establish his or her innocence. Since 1900, there have been an average of four cases per year in which the defendant was found to be innocent of the murder. For which he or she was first tried. One such example, was when authorities in New Mexico admitted they had sentenced to death four motorcyclists from Los Angeles. They admitted that the four men where innocent. The accused issued a documented witness which the prosecutors dismissed, the jury based there verdict on a perjured testimony of a witness.
Capital Punishment would no doubt have saved lives in the case of James Hubbard, and Timothy Hancock. However, the fact that on average four men per year have been found innocent of the crimes for which they where found guilty. As well as the increased likelihood of the death penalty population being black. Highlights, both the racism involved in capital punishment in a western democracy, as well as the (on occasion) infallibility of the system as a whole. When a innocent man has been executed. When at the time of the execution people thought he was guilty. The added expense of a capital trial I admit is necessary. Especially, when it is irrevocable. However, the money spent could be used to employ an extra police officer to patrol the streets.