Death Penalty Essay

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There are several reasons to argue for making the death penalty illegal in the United States of America. The United States Constitution does not allow for unkind penalties as a sentence for crime. The death penalty poses many risks to the innocent. World opinion supports the cessation of the death penalty. Poor and minorities suffer disproportionately from the death penalty. Capital punishment is not a deterrent to crime. Putting people to death by capital punishment is not cost effective. Putting people to death by capital punishment is inhumane and should be illegal. The U.S. Constitution states that, “cruel and unusual punishments (Amendment 8, 1791),” should not be inflicted on its citizens. It is especially cruel in cases of “botched” executions. On April 22, 1983 in Alabama, it took several jolts of 1,900 volts of electricity to execute John Evans. On the third attempt “another charge of electricity was sent through John’s body. Once again, his head and leg boiled (80, Canan, Burning at The Wire)”. In a 1994 case, Fierro v. Gomez, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California reviewed evidence on the effects of the gas chamber and supported Justice Brennan’s Eighth Amendment claim. The court “concluded that the time it takes for the lethal gas to kill an inmate combined with the degree of pain inflicted on the inmate warrants the use of another method of execution” (US Court for 9th Circuit). Brennan cited evidence that criminals executed in the gas chamber—by asphyxiation—suffered great pain over a number of minutes. Although most modern execution methods appear to be physically painless, appearances can be misleading. Renowned neurobiologists are now providing evidence which show that it is scientifically and medically certain that death by electrocution is not instantaneous. In the words of Harold Hillman, a prominent neurobiologist, “death by electrocution may inflict unnecessary pain, physical violence, and mutilation” (Hillman 174). The death penalty poses serious risk to the innocent. Due to inherent flaws in the US criminal justice system innocent people have been wrongly convicted. The danger is that once an innocent person is executed it cannot be remedied. Excerpts from a 1993 report by a US Congress Subcommittee, states that no matter how careful we are “the chances are high that innocent persons have been or will be executed” ( In 1989 although no physical evidence linked Joseph Burrows to the murder of William Dulin, he was convicted and sent to Death Row. Witnesses later said they had been coerced by prosecutors and police. In summing up the appeal, Justice Harry Blackmun, stated that, an “execution without adequate safeguards is unacceptable, so too is an execution when the condemned prisoner can prove that he is innocent” ( In 1994, a Texas court sentenced Michael Blair to death for the 1993 murder of 7-year old Ashley Estell. Mr. Blair could have paid with his life. However a re-investigation of the case in May 2008 found that “no reasonable juror would have convicted [applicant] in light of newly discovered evidence (”. More innocent people continue to be released from death row. “There have been 220 post-conviction DNA exonerations in United States history (” World opinion is in favor of abolishing the death penalty. The European Union campaigns for the universal abolition of the death penalty. Abolition of the death penalty is a requirement for countries seeking EU membership. The EU Charter states that “no one shall be condemned to the death penalty, or executed (Article II-2)”. Turkey has joined the growing number of countries that advocate the abolishment of the death penalty. The Turkish Constitution states that, “neither death penalty nor general confiscation shall be imposed as punishment (Article 38, 9)”. Even in Central Asia...
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