Capital Punishment: with Equal Justice for All

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The figure of Lady Justice is a fixture in courtrooms around the U.S. She is blindfolded, representing justice as impartial and holding a scale, giving weight only to the evidence in a trial, not to the stature of the accused. On her right hand she carries a sword, signifying the power of those who make decisions. While Lady Justice symbolizes impartiality and strength in the American justice system, two important traits the courts should possess, justice itself is served in the courts in two main ways: restoratively or retributively. As justice is being served, defendants should not be given sentences that impede on their fundamental rights nor should defendants receive sentences that are disproportional to their crime. This idea of "equal justice for all" is one of the strongest beliefs held by the American people. Capital punishment does not always provides "equal justice for all" with its high statistics in mistakes, These mistakes lead to the execution of the innocent and, denies the right to life based on fallible human judgment. American justice, based on retribution, gives way to the use of capital punishment, a flawed system that does not answer to the idea of "equal justice for all"; while it might inflict cruel and unusual pain to the wrongdoer, it is just and easy way out of reparation. In the courts today, retributive and restorative sentences exist and are given to the defendants by the discretion of the judge(s) or jury. Restoration, either in monetary damages or some action that needs to be done by the guilty defendant, often tries to compensate the victims through victim-offender mediation (O'Connor 1). While restorative justice may be more helpful to the victim and tries to right the wrong, it is clear that America is a country that uses retributive justice. America currently has the highest incarceration rates in the world, with over two million humans behind bars. (O'Connor 1). Looking at American justice through the idea of retribution, the courts must decide what punishment the guilty should receive in relation to their crime. The punishment that most criminals receive is jail time. Murderers and the most offensive crimes have the chance of being charged with capital sentences, the most permanent form of retributive justice. This popular process of retributive justice is flawed from its foundation to its execution and creates a problem when put up against the "equal justice for all" motto so dear to the American people. This process begins unequally since it is up to prosecutors to decide which cases get capital charges and it is up to attorney generals approve death penalty charges based on their own discretion. A giant flaw with the capital punishment system surfaces as not all murders and high crimes may receive capital charges. Crimes with less standing are susceptible to getting a capital sentence charge solely at the prosecution's discretion. There is proof of this in the 2002 and 2003 investigations in Illinois and several other states, where misconduct on the side of the prosecution using perjured testimony and manipulated evidenced just to get death penalty sentences were revealed (Amsterdam, 2). DNA testing was used to prove the innocence of death row inmates who were later released after spending years in prison. Despite that fact that there has been reversals due to mistakes, "DNA testing is often of no use in the kind of case that gives rise to most of the worst errors in capital cases: a conviction based on perjured testimony, incompetence of the trial attorney, unavailability of expert witnesses, or racial bias in the police station, prosecutor's office, or jury room" (2). Lawyers are more intent on getting the death penalty sentence, by any means necessary, instead of obtaining a sentence fit for the crime solely because ascertaining a death penalty charge is considered a prestigious thing in the law community (Liebman 2058). The trial itself then, cannot be equal since the players...
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