19 November 2014
For the worst crimes, life without parol is a more logical option for several reasons. I am against the death penalty not out of sympathy for criminals, but because of the fact that the threat of death is no more successful in reducing crime than the fear of life in prison, and is therefore unnecessary. The death penalty also prolongs the anguish of the families of murder victims, and is more expensive.
According to Forbes, the top ten most dangerous cities in the United States as of 2014, determined by crime rate and the number of residents, are listed in the order from most dangerous to least dangerous as followed: Detroit, St. Louis, Oakland, Memphis, Birmingham, Atlanta, Baltimore, Stockton, Cleveland, and Buffalo. Seven out of the ten cities listed above are within states that have not abolished the death penalty. These cities are St. Louis (Missouri), Oakland (California), Memphis (Tennessee), Birmingham (Alabama), Cleveland (Ohio), and Stockton (California). Although all six of these states are utilizing capital punishment, it has done little to prevent violent crimes, such as homicide from occurring. St Louis, Missouri is considered to be the second most dangerous city to live in the U.S. With a population of approximately 320,454 people, the murder rate, which is calculated by dividing the population by 100,000, is 35.3 (35 murders per 100,000 people). In 2013, St. Louis
had a total of 113 murders. Abolishing the death penalty in Missouri may not decrease the crime rate, but I do not believe it would increase either. In 1917, Missouri briefly abolished the death penalty only to restore it again in 1919. During the period of 1901 to 1910, before the death penalty was abolished, there was a total of 804 recorded murders in St. Louis alone. From 1911 to 1921, only 138 homicides were recorded within this ten year period even though the years in which the death penalty was not in effect are included. Therefore, the crime rate is not directly effected by the death penalty regardless of if it is in effect or not. The death penalty is strictly enforced in California, but two of its cities remain high on the list of the most dangerous cities in the United States. Oakland, with a population of 395,317, had a murder rate of 26.3 per 100,000 in 2012. The city is plagued by gang violence and its homicide rate jumped up to 15% in 2011. Stockton has a population of 295,136 and a violent crime rate of 1,408 per 100,000. If the death penalty were to be abolished in California, the crime rate would not significantly increase. In terms of size and population, St. Louis is the most similar to Oakland and Stockton when compared to Memphis, Cleveland, and Birmingham. Judging by Missouri’s attempts in abolishing the death penalty, the crime rate results in St. Louis would be similar in Oakland and Stockton as well.
The family members of murder victims are often forced to suffer through more pain and anguish than the convicted murderer during a trial meant to determine if that convicted murderer should face the death penalty or receive life in prison. Death penalty cases can take 20 to 30 years to finally get through the court system. Meanwhile, mothers, fathers, siblings, and close friends are called upon by the court to endure learning and being reminded about the specifics of
their loved one’s death on a regular basis. Honest, law-abiding citizens should not have to be punished along with the person who committed the crime.
On May, 8th, 2013, Jodi Arias was convicted and found guilty of first-degree premeditated murder after brutally murdering her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander. Although Arias was convicted over one year ago and her guilt had long been determined, this marathon trial is still in progress today as jurors are unable to reach a unanimous decision during the penalty phase and while prosecuting lawyer, Juan Martinez, seeks the death penalty for Jodi Arias. During the retrial, Travis Alexander’s brother and sister each gave a heartfelt testimony explaining how the trial had effected them emotionally. Travis’ brother, Stephen Alexander, “alternated between breaking down in tears and struggling through visible anger on his face” as he spoke about how his life had been dramatically changed and that he had taken several antidepressants and had been hospitalized for stomach ulcers (Kenally, Travis Alexander's siblings tear up as they plead jurors). “His sister Samantha echoed his victim statement, telling the emotional toll the four-month-long trial has taken on her family” (Kenally, Travis Alexander’s siblings tear up as the plead jurors).
“Most death penalty cases do not end in an execution - the convictions are either overturned or the inmate dies while waiting on an appeal to be decided” (Sherer, Death Penalty Cases Take Longer To Complete As Debate Continues). If the majority of inmates sentenced to death never actually face execution, the anguish that families like the Alexanders undergo during the penalty phase is completely unnecessary.
The death penalty is substantially more expensive than keeping an inmate in prison for the remainder of his or her life. Because California has the largest death row in the country, they
alone have spent over $4 billion on capital punishment since 1978. The amount of money taxpayers in Maryland pay for one death sentence is $1.9 million to $3 million. Florida pays $51 million a year to execute their criminals. In the U.S. death penalty trials cost an average of 48% more than the average cost of trials in which prosecutors seek life imprisonment. This money is better off being spent on resources that could help control and prevent crime such as emergency services.
Considering the alternative, there is no reason for the death penalty to exist. The threat of capital punishment does not seem to discourage criminals from committing homicide, one of the only crimes the death penalty reserves. The “eye for an eye” principle is not worth the pain the families of murder victims experience during penalty phases, nor is the obscene amount of money the U.S. spends on it. Death is not a necessary punishment for a crime because life in prison is not much of a life at all.
Kenally, Meghan. "'I Don't Want These Nightmares Anymore': Travis Alexander's Siblings Tear up as They Plead Jurors to Give Jodi Arias the Death Penalty." Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 16 May 2013. Web. 21 Nov. 2014.
Sherer, Dennis. "Death Penalty Cases Take Longer to Complete as Debate Continues." TimesDaily. Dave Martin, 5 Apr. 2010. Web. 21 Nov. 2014.