Capital Punishment, Injustice of Society

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Looking out for the state of the public's satisfaction in the scheme of

capital sentencing does not constitute serving justice. Today's system of

capital punishment is frought 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 time consuming. Retroactively, it has yet to

be proven as a deterrent. Morally, it is a 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 imposition of the death penalty

will act to dissuade other criminals from committing violent acts. Numerous

studies have been created attempting 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 ceases to be a deterrent when the

populace begins 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. This is

essentially a paradox, in which the less the death penalty is used, the less

society can legally use it. The end result is a punishment that ceases to

deter any 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 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 puny. If, in fact, a defendant

has a valid case to offer, what chance has he to offer it and have it

properly recognized. Furthermore, why should he be punished for a misjustice

that was created by the court itself when it appointed the incapable lawyer.

Even if a defendant has proper...
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