The Death Penalty, an Adequate Punishment for Justice?

When a child is hit by another child in the playground they are told to tell a teacher, so that the naughty child can be punished, instead of hitting the child back. Two wrongs do not make a right, and if you hit back, you are just as naughty as the other child. So what makes murder any different? The death penalty is still in use in certain countries and states in America, and I think that is disgusting because what are they learning? That is not justice, it’s an easy escape.

According to Amnesty International in the USA since 1973 there have been over 130 inmates released from death row due to evidence of wrongful convictions.  With a figure this high how can we trust that the thousands already executed were all deserving of capital punishment? After watching the film Green Mile as a child, the thought of judges deciding who has the right to live or die has deeply disturbed me, as in the film, an innocent man was executed due to lack of evidence confirming that he did NOT commit a murder, and the jury’s own racial prejudices against him. Surely it should be innocent until proven guilty and not the other way around? Governor George Ryan of Illinois made a stand after releasing yet another wrongfully convicted death row inmate and refused to sentence anyone to execution unless he could be sure with moral certainty that the defendant was truly guilty.  He believed that the system was fundamentally flawed.

On the 21st September 2011 Troy Davis was executed for allegedly killing a police officer some twenty years ago. The case against Mr Davis was based purely on witness testimonies, which were all falsified or contradictory to their statements, apart from two. Many of the witnesses claimed to have been forced into testifying against the defendant by police, hence triggering a huge conspiracy into why Troy Davis was really executed and whether the government was to blame.  One of the witnesses who did not take back his allegation has now been implicated in the murder with new evidence, and testimonies from nine individuals. William Dubose, leader of the NAACP, used Mr Davis’ case as an example of why the death penalty needs to be abolished and referred to his execution as ‘murder’.

Many people felt that it was a racial attack on Mr Davis and the police were trying to exert their power over minorities. According to the death penalty info website 77% of victims are Caucasian and crimes where the victims are minorities are given less importance. In terms of interracial murder cases the figure for black defendants killing white victims on death row were significantly higher than white defendants killing black victims. Amnesty International correlates these statistics by stating that the death penalty around the world is discriminatory and is used disproportionately against the poor, ethnic minorities, and religious communities.

There is also the aspect of cost, to be more specific money WASTED in putting these defendants on trial, carrying out the investigation, the expense of maintaining the inmates on death row and appeals. This is the main pushing factor behind certain states/countries changing their laws to abolish the death penalty. If the death penalty gives justice to the victims’ families, then to counteract this, why not spend the money from executing someone, on the families for funerals and any other compensation they need? As there is already more commissioning for charities helping offenders, rather than victims.

On the first of September 1979 a little eight year old girl was walking home from school when she was picked up by the car of a man she trusted and was left raped and stabbed, bleeding to death on the side of the road. Her last words to her killer were ‘Jesus loves you’, which in turn aggravated him further because she made him feel guilt. The justice for Cary Ann Medlin’s family was the day they witnessed the execution of this man, it was a triumph for the whole society. There are many similar cases.  Ask yourself if that was your child wouldn’t you want the murderer dead?

As said by President Barrack Obama, the death penalty should only be used in appropriate cases where the crime was particularly heinous. The conditions in which to use the death penalty include; if the crime was one of many intentional killings made by the defendant; if the crime was an act of terrorism; if the murder was committed in a cold, calculated manner without the pretence of moral or legal jurisdiction; if the victim was killed due to their race, colour, religion, gender, sexuality or nationality; if the crime was committed for money or something or value; if hostages are taken or the defendant used a human shield and if the murder was in context with the illegal drug trade or human trafficking. However these conditions are not always considered and certain offenders are given harsher punishments, due to irrelevant prejudices.

John McAdams, Marquette University lecturer, claims that executing murderers to deter future criminals is a small price to pay, compared to not executing murderers who will not deter future offenders, and therefore will sacrifice the lives of many innocent victims. The pro death penalty website supports his claim, by stating how wrong it is that people see the death of a criminal as a tragedy, compared to the countless number of victims who have become an ignored statistic. Those in favour of the death penalty believe that the victims were killed without dignity so why should their killers have the luxury of a dignified death? All loved ones of the victims should be given justice for their loss and the death penalty provides this.

Killing someone who is not definitely guilty makes the judge a murderer. I believe criminals should live with the consequences of their actions, but death is not the only answer. A life for a life is not justice, just a vicious cycle.



The death penalty isn’t the only topic I have strong opinions on, read some of my other opinion pieces below:



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