Capital Punishment: Injustice of Society

Topics: Capital punishment, Murder, Prison Pages: 5 (1450 words) Published: October 8, 1999
Capital Punishment: Injustice of Society

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 fraught 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 legal counsel, there is still the matter of impartiality of...

Bibliography: Boston University Law Review 75 (1995): 768-69.
Cavanagh, Suzanne, and David Teasley. "Capital Punishment: A Brief Overview."
CRS Report For Congress 95-505GOV (1995): 4.
Frame, Randy. "A Matter Of Life and Death." Christianity Today 14 Aug. 1995:
Grisham, John. The Chamber. New York: Island Books, 1994.
Stewart, David O. "Dealing with Death." American Bar Association Journal
80.11 (1994): 50
Tabak, Ronald J. "Report: Ineffective Assistance of Counsel and Lack of Due
Process in Death Penalty Cases." Human Rights 22.Winter (1995): 36
Whittier, Charles H. "Moral Arguments For and Against Capital Punishment."
CRS Report For Congress (1996): 1
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