In the article “The Case Against the Death Penalty,” which appears in Crime and Criminals: Opposing Viewpoints, Eric Freedman argues that the death penalty not only does not deter violent crime but also works against reducing the crime rate. Freedman says, “The death penalty not only is useless in itself, but counterproductive . . . ” (140). This paper will analyze Freedman’s article from the viewpoints of a middle-age working man, a poor person, and a politician.
Freedman argues that the death penalty does not deter crime. In his article, he argues that states that use the death penalty have crime rates nearly indistinguishable from those states that do not have the death penalty. He also adds that criminal cases in which the death penalty is sought are much more expensive to investigate and try, thus denying much-needed funds to programs that have been proven to reduce crime.
A Middle-Age Working Man
A middle-age working man would probably agree with Freedman’s point of view with relation to the financial aspect of capital punishment because Freedman talks about how much more the death penalty costs than life imprisonment. He says, “In Florida, each execution costs $3,200,000, six times the expense of life imprisonment” (141). The workingman would probably be amazed at how much the execution actually costs compared to how much life imprisonment costs. The workingman would probably wonder why the death penalty is even sought when life imprisonment seems to accomplish the same goal for much less money.
The working man would also probably agree with Freedman because the workingman would rather see his tax money spent on more productive programs. Freedman says, “The reality is that, in a time of fixed or declining budgets, those dollars are taken away from a range of programs that would be beneficial” (142). The workingman would add that with the government taking so much of his income in taxes, it could at least do something more productive than killing people.
A working man would probably be upset at how much money is spent on just trying a person in a capital punishment case. Freedman says, “Thus, the taxpayers foot the bill for all the extra costs of capital pretrial and trial proceedings and then must pay either for incarcerating the prisoner for life or the expenses of a retrial, which itself often leads to a life sentence” (142). The workingman would be upset because not only is the government using his money to try these criminals, but it is using more of his money to retry these criminals just because they didn’t get the verdict they wanted in the first place.
The working man might also be upset that more money has to be spent on extra expenses that would not be incurred if it was not a capital punishment trial. Freedman says, “Much more investigation usually is done in capital cases, particularly by the prosecution” (141). The working man might be upset that just because the prosecution wants to kill the defendant, he has to pay the extra cost so the prosecution can gain more evidence even though it often leads to a life sentence instead of an execution.
A Poor Person
A poor person would agree with Freedman because of how discriminating the death penalty is. Such a person would look at Freedman’s article and agree that many poor people are discriminated against because they do not have the money to receive a high quality of defense. Freedman says, “ Most capital defendants cannot afford an attorney, so the court must appoint counsel. Every major study of this issue . . . has found that the quality of defense representation in capital murder trials generally is far lower than in felony cases” (144). The poor person might see poor people as being targeted for capital punishment simply because of the fact that they won’t be able to defend themselves properly.
He might also be outraged at the fact that people to whom he can relate are not getting a proper defense because they cannot afford the best. Freedman says, “[T]here is an overwhelming record of poor people being subjected to convictions and death sentences that equally or more culpable—but more affluent—defendants would not have suffered” (144). Mark Costanzo, author of Just Revenge, agrees. He argues, “If you or someone you cared about was accused of murder, you would surely want a defense team as skillful and thorough as [a wealthy person]” (73). A poor person would add that if poor people had the money to defend themselves properly, fewer of them would receive the death penalty.
A poor person would see the death penalty as a way to rid the world of poor people because people might think they are different and don’t deserve to live. Freedman says, “Jurors are more likely to sentence to death people who seem different from themselves than individuals who seem similar to themselves” (144). A poor person would probably view most people as having more money and better things than he and that because he doesn’t have the best things, he is different than everyone else. He might feel bad because it seems like the world is against him and wants to get rid of him.
He may also see the death penalty as trying to take away money from programs that would benefit him and people like him. Freedman says, "Despite the large percentage of ordinary street crimes that are narcotics-related, the states lack the funding to permit drug treatment on demand. The result is that people who are motivated to cure their own addictions are relegated to supporting themselves through crime, while the money that could fund treatment programs is poured down the death penalty drain" (142). The poor person might be sad that he does not have access to beneficial programs because people are putting so much money into the death. He may conclude from Freedman’s statement specifically that if the death penalty were abolished, there would be fewer drug-related crimes because states would have more money to fund treatment programs.
A politician would probably disagree with Freedman because he would believe a price tag cannot be put on doing the things that are right. He would probably see the statistics Freedman gave as irrelevant. Freedman says, “In Florida, each execution costs $3,200,000, six times the expense of life imprisonment” (141). The politician would see these costs as very high but taken out of context. He would most likely look to the statistics of how the death penalty has actually been a crime deterrent, as proven by Jay Johansen in his article “Does Death Penalty Deter Crime?” Johansen says that the “[h]omicide rate is a mirror image of the number of executions. Consistently as the number of executions goes down, the homicide rate goes up, and when the number of executions goes up, the homicide rate goes down” (138). He would see this as proof that capital punishment is a deterrent, and it should remain legal as long as it continues to deter crime.
A politician might use Johansen’s statistics to prove that the death penalty should not be abolished. He might see that even though a capital punishment case costs more, if the crime rate goes down than we have fewer criminals to take to trial. If we have fewer criminals to take to trial, we are actually saving more money in the long run by keeping capital punishment legal. A politician might be angry that Freedman does not show the actual statistics of the crime rate as executions were outlawed and then when executions were again legalized. He might see Freedman as trying to divert people’s attention away from the actual statistics by showing how much one capital punishment case compared to one non-capital punishment case.
A politician might also disagree with Freedman because Freedman proposes to take a state’s right away. He would agree with Michael Levin that a state should have the right to enforce its laws however it sees fit. Levin says, “Well, the state must be able to enforce whatever it commands, or it is a state in name only” (83). Levin also states, “Once the state is granted the right to administer lesser punishments, it cannot be denied the right to kill” (83). The politician would strongly agree that a law abolishing capital punishment would be a law that is limiting a state’s right to pass judgement.
This paper has shown how three different types of people might interpret Eric Freedman’s article “The Case Against the Death Penalty,” which appeared in Crime and Criminals: Opposing Viewpoints. Freedman argues that the death penalty does nothing to deter crime but uses valuable resources that could help control crime. Freedman says, “The death penalty is not just useless—it is positively harmful and diverts resources from genuine crime control measures” (145). Freedman argues his point very well and logically and makes it very easy for people to understand all of the harm capital punishment can inflict. Whether capital punishment is ethical is still unclear, but what becomes more obvious is this, that the social class of a person may directly influence his or her opinion about capital punishment.