Evaluation Argument: Capital Punishment
Imagine you live in a small eight foot by eight foot cell, with only a bed and toilet. You are only allowed to leave this cell for maybe an hour per day. For the other twenty-three hours, you are stuck in that cell with nothing to occupy your time, and you know you are going to be there for the rest of your life. Now imagine that instead of spending the rest of your life in that cell, you were sentenced to death. You know the alternative. Which would seem more like a punishment: life in prison without the chance to ever leave, or the easy escape of a slow, painless death? Capital punishment is not justice. Capital punishment fails as an effective form of disciplinary action.
Capital punishment is not practiced consistently, and in a 2011 report published by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) it was compared to be as random as being struck by lightning (1). An exceptional amount of factors play a role in whether or not a citizen receives the death penalty, including race, geography, and politics. Race is the most disturbing factor to determine the likelihood of being sentenced to death. The amount of people of death row is not proportionate to the national population of their respective race. For example, while the 2000 census concluded that the United States population is 75.1% white and 12.3% black, it also reported that the national composition of those on death row was 45% white, and 42% black (Race and the Death Penalty 1). This means that based on the comparison of death row population and national population, there are 5.7 times more black inmates on death row than white inmates. Why is this? It is not because black people commit more crimes than white people. Looking at the crime rates by race from 1976 to 2005, the difference between the amount of offenders is less than eight percent (“Homicide Trends” 1). That is nowhere near the 5.7 times more black inmates than white. In addition, it is not only the race of the defendant that influences trials, but also the race of the victim. Reviewing cases as far back as 1990, the U.S. General Accounting Office found that in 82% of the cases, those who murdered whites were more likely to be sentenced to death than those who murdered blacks (DPIC 20). In a nation that stands for equality, statistics like these are simply unacceptable. This proves that the death penalty is not a consistent form of punishment because it is more likely for a black person to be sentenced to death than a white person.
Additionally, the issue of geography goes hand-in-hand with the process of jury selection in a court. Studies have found that white juries are more likely to seek the death penalty, and that black jurors are more likely to be struck from the jury because they are unlikely to seek the death penalty. This results in more death penalty cases in white communities with white victims across the nation (DPIC 22). This favoritism based on race is despicable in this day in age. Regarding politics, the chances being granted an appeal rely heavily on whether one has a liberal or conservative judge. Judges appointed by democratic presidents are much more likely to grant appeals than those appointed by republican presidents. For example, judges appointed by Democrat Jimmy Carter gave 89% of their votes in favor of defendants, while judges appointed by Republican George H. W. Bush gave 93% of their votes against defendants (DPIC 25). All of these facts prove that the decisions regarding capital punishment are anything but objective and are influenced by many factors, instead of the crime at hand, and are not consistently practiced.
Furthermore, capital punishment has not been proven to be a deterrent for future crimes. In a study done by Amnesty USA, the murder rates in states without the death penalty have stayed under the rates in pro-death penalty states as far back as 1990. As well, over the past decade, the...
Cited: “Death Penalty Statistics.” AntiDeathPenalty.org. January 2011. WEB. 3 December 2012. http://www.antideathpenalty.org/statistics.html
“Homicide Trends In The U.S.” Bureau of Justice Statistics. 2005. WEB. 10 December 2012. http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/homicide/race.cfm
Morrison, John H. “Death Penalty An Ineffective Deterrent.” MIT: The Tech. 29 October 1993. WEB. 3 December 2012. http://tech.mit.edu/V113/N53/morrison.53o.html
“Race and the Death Penalty.” Capital Punishment in Context. 2010. WEB. 3 December 2012. http://www.capitalpunishmentincontext.org/issues/race
Radelet, Michael L. “Examples of Post-Furman Botched Executions.” Death Penalty Information Center. 1 October 2012. WEB. 3 December 2012. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/some-examples-post-furman-botched-executions
“Struck by Lightning: The Continuing Arbitrariness of the Death Penalty Thirty-Five Years After Its Re-instatement in 1976.” Death Penalty Information Center. July 2011. WEB. 3 December 2012. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/documents/StruckByLightning.pdf
“The Death Penalty and Deterrence.” Amnesty International. April 2012. WEB. 3 December 2012. http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/issues/death-penalty/us-death-penalty-facts/the-death-penalty-and-deterrence
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