Capital Punishment: To Kill or Not to Kill

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Student: Dave Cameron
Professor: Robert Ashley
Class: CAN271FA Law & The Citizen
The first record of capital punishment in Canada is that of Peter Cartcel, a sailor who murdered Abraham Goodsides, a sailor from another ship, in 1749. Peter Cartcel was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death by hanging. Capital punishment was first implemented in Canada in 1749 when it was under British rule as a British colony. The death penalty was not abolished in Canada until 1976. The last instance of Capital punishment was an execution that took place at Toronto’s Don Jail on December 11, 1962. Arthur Lucas, a man convicted of killing an FBI informant and Ronald Turpin, a petty thief who shot a policeman while fleeing a restaurant robbery, were the last two individuals to be hung in Canada. Over the course of the two centuries that Capital punishment was in use in Canada, 710 individuals were executed. Canada should not re-instate the death penalty for any offences due to the fact that the legal system is still not an exact science and many innocent individuals continue to be wrongfully accused of crimes. There are many disadvantages to Capital punishment and reinstating it would be an egregious error on our nation’s part and we would be taking a step backwards in terms of our civility and humanity. If Canada reinstates the death penalty, there is a possibility that many individuals will be executed for crimes they did not commit. While there are no known cases of wrongful executions in Canada, between the years of 1879 and 1960, 438 death sentences were commuted as a result of newfound evidence etc. Had those 438 death sentences not been commuted, it is possible that 438 innocent Canadian citizens would have been put to death. Despite the fact that there is no evidence of wrongful executions in Canada, there have been many cases of individuals who have been exonerated of their crimes years after they were executed in other nations. One infamous case of wrongful execution occurred in the United States. Claude Jones, a United States citizen, was executed in the year 2000 for murdering liquor storeowner Allen Hilzendager in 1989. In 2007, a DNA test revealed that the strand of hair that was used by the prosecution to convict Claude Jones was actually a strand of hair belonging to the victim, proving Claude Jones’ innocence. Similar to Claude Jones’ proven innocence years after his execution, there have been many wrongful executions in other nations throughout the world. In the United Kingdom, Timothy Evans was found guilty of murdering his wife and daughter in 1950. The serial killer John Christie in fact committed the murders. The police coerced Timothy Evans into a false confession. The police also did not do a proper search of John Christie’s property and failed to find other human remains. Timothy Evans was granted a royal pardon in 1966, however an innocent life had been needlessly taken. Capital punishment was abolished in the United Kingdom partly because of Timothy Evans wrongful execution. If Capital punishment did not exist in these nations, the lives of many innocent men and women would have been spared. Therefore, Capital punishment should not be reinstated in Canada because it is not worth the possibility that innocent Canadians will be put to death for crimes they did not commit. If an individual is wrongfully accused for a crime, incarcerated for life and are exonerated, they can be released and resume their former life. However, a wrongful execution cannot be undone or taken back, it is permanent. It has been proven throughout the history of modern of law, particularly throughout the history of English common law, which is the basis of the Canadian legal system in every province in Canada except for Quebec, a province where they practice Civil law, that 50% of eyewitness testimony is false. Eyewitness testimony is the most influential deciding factor for a...
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