In Cold Blood: Death Penalty
Capital Punishment has been part of the criminal justice system since the earliest of times. The Babylonian Hammurabi Code(ca. 1700 B.C.) decreed death for crimes as minor as the fraudulent sale of beer(Flanders 3). Egyptians could be put to death for disclosing the location of sacred burial sites(Flanders 3). However, in recent times opponents have shown the death penalty to be racist, barbaric, and in violation with the United States Constitution as "...cruel and unusual punishment." In this country,although laws governing the application of the death penalty have undergone many changes since biblical times, the punishment endures , and controversy has never been greater.
A prisoner's death wish cannot grant a right not otherwise possessed. Abolitionists maintain that the state has no right to kill anyone; . The right to reject life imprisonment and choose death should be respected, but it changes nothing for those who oppose the death at the hands of the state.
The death penalty is irrational- a fact that should carry considerable weight with rationalists. As Albert Camus pointed out, " Capital punishment....has always been a religious punishment and is reconcilable with humanism." In other words, society has long since left behind the archaic and barbous" customs" from the cruel "eye for an eye" anti-human caves of religion- another factor that should raise immediate misgivings for freethinkers.
State killings are morally bankrupt. Why do governments kill people to show other people that killing people is wrong? Humanity becomes associated with murderers when it replicate their deeds. Would society allow rape as the penalty for rape or the burning of arsonists' homes as the penalty for arson?
The state should never have the power to murder its subjects. To give the state this power eliminates the individual's most effective shield against tyranny of the majority and is inconsistent with democratic principles.
Family and friends of murder victims are further victimized by state killings. Quite a few leaders in the abolishment movement became involved specially because someone they loved was murdered. Family of victims repeatedly stated they wanted the murderer to die. One of the main reasons- in addition to justice- was they wanted all the publicity to be over. Yet. if it wasn't for the sensationalism surrounding an execution, the media exposure would not have occurred in the first place. Murderers would be quietly and safely put away for life with absolutely no possibility for parole.
The death penalty violates constitutional prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment. The grotesque killing of Robert Harris by the state of California on April 21,1992, and similar reports of witnesses to hangings and lethal injections should leave doubt that the dying process can be- and often is -grossly inhumane, regardless of method(Flanders 16).
The death penalty is often used for political gain. During his presidential gain, President Clinton rushed home for the Arkansas execution of Rickey Ray Rector, a mentally retarded, indigent black man. Clinton couldn't take the chance of being seen by voters as " soft on crime." Political Analysts believe that when the death penalty becomes an issue in a campaign, the candidate favoring capital punishment almost inevitably will benefit.
Capital punishment discriminates against the poor. Although murderers come from all classes, those on death row are almost without exception poor and were living in poverty at the they were arrested. The majority of death-row inmates were or are represented by court-appointed public defenders- and the state is not obligated to provide an attorney at all for appeals beyond the state level.
The application of capital punishment is racist. About 40 percent of death-row inmates are black, whereas only 8 percent of...
Cited: Flanders, Stephen A. Capital Punishment. New York, NY: Facts on File, 1991.
Long, Robert Emmet. Criminal Sentencing. New York, NY: H.W. Company, 1995.
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