Wednesday, 7 May 2014

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT:  Should it be abolished?


I can think of two reasons why it should be abolished. The first reason is that innocent people have been executed.  Second reason is that it is a cruel and unusual punishment when the executions are botched.


Between 1973 and 2009 over 130 people in the United States who were on death row were exonerated by fresh evidence, DNA testing and new testimonies coming to light were the main reasons. Critics of death penalty believe that a number of people have been proved innocent after execution. If that many innocent people were on death row, it raises a disturbing question. Hoe many innocent persons were executed in the previous 37-year period? How many innocent persons were executed in the last century in the United States? The amount of innocent people that were executed in the US in the last century could be in the hundreds. To prevent such an eventuality of more innocent people being executed, the death penalty should be abolished.


To have a better idea why the second reason for the abolishment of capital punishment is appropriate can be found in my article that I published in this blog on Friday, May 2nd.


The pros


Despite the aforementioned paragraphs, I believe that there are good reasons why it should be used in cases where death of the criminals are appropriate, such criminals being—terrorists who cause death to their victims, murderers who tortured their victims to death, war criminals who are guilty of genocide, serial and mass murderers. The taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay large amounts of money incarcerating these evil killers.


For example, if a twenty-year-old mass murderer kills twenty elementary students in their school and is sentenced to natural life in prison without parole and he lives to age ninety, he will have spent seventy years in prison. It is generally accepted that it costs $50,000 a year to incarcerate a prisoner and if you multiply that by seventy years, the total cost of incarcerating this killer would be $3,500,000.  Couldn’t that money be better spent providing food and shelter for homeless people? Further, why should such a killer be permitted to live longer than the twenty six-year-old kids he murdered? 


It has been said that when you execute a murderer, it provides closure to victims' families. I believe that it does. No parent of a murdered child really wants to see the murderer continuing to outlive their murdered child.


Even if a mass murderer is sent to prison for the rest of his natural life, that doesn`t mean that he is going to live a life of total hell.


In July 1966, twenty-four year old Richard Speck broke into a townhouse that was for nursing students at South Chicago Community Hospital. There, he methodically and brutally killed eight female nurses.

Originally sentenced to the electric chair, Speck`s life was eventually spared by the U.S. Supreme Court. But he still was sentenced to serve 400 to 1,200 years in the maximum security Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet, Illinois.


Years later, I saw a picture of him enjoying his birthday party with some of his prison friends while in prison. This must have infuriated the family members of his victims.  Finally, at age 49, he died of a heart attack in 1991 after spending 24 years in prison for those murders. That   was when the family members finally got closure. They would have got it sooner if Speck was executed. I really don’t believe that while he was alive and enjoying himself in prison, there was any closure for the parent s of the murdered nurses.


I do not believe that executing murderers deters others of the same ilk from committing murder. It may deter some but let’s face it. Those US states that still have the death penalty on their books still have murders killing people in those states. For this reason, executing murders is not a useful purpose.

The Cons


In the state of California, the costs of death penalty were assessed by Judge Arthur Alarcon and Prof. Paula Mitchell in 2011 and these were further updated in 2012. According to them the death penalty had cost the state $4 billion since 1978. This includes $1.94 billion in pre-trial and trial costs, $925 million in automatic appeals and state Habeas Corpus petitions, $775 million in federal Habeas Corpus appeals, and $1 billion in the costs of incarceration. It was further estimated that if the Governor commuted the sentences of those remaining on death row to life without parole, the state would immediately save about $170 million annually and save over $5 billion in the next 20 years.

According to a 2009 New York Times editorial, Florida spends $51 million more a year on those on a death row than those on life without parole. In North Carolina 43 people have been executed since 1976 at $2.16 million per execution.

According to a 2011 report, the average cost of defending a federal death case trial is $620,932. This figure is over the cost of a federal murder case in which death penalty is not sought. 

A study published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicated that far more innocent people have been sentenced to death than those found through the legal process. According to the study, many innocent defendants are probably not being identified because they were taken off death row and given a lesser sentence. The rate of exonerations for those sentenced to death would be over twice as high if all cases were given the heightened scrutiny often accorded to those who remain on death row. The authors of "The Rate of False Conviction of Criminal Defendants Who are Sentenced to Death" concluded: “A conservative estimate of the proportion of erroneous convictions of defendants sentenced to death in the United States from 1973 through 2004 is 4.1%.” The percentage of death row inmates who were actually exonerated during the time of the study was only 1.6%. Professor Samuel Gross of the University of Michigan Law School, one of the authors of the study, pointed to the gravity of the problem: “Since 1973, nearly 8,500 defendants have been sentenced to death in the United States, and 138 of them have been exonerated. Our study means that more than 200 additional innocent defendants have been sentenced to death in that period. Most of these undiscovered innocent capital defendants have been resentenced to life in prison, and then forgotten.” But at least, they are still alive.


Many people believe that executing murderers punishes murder with another murder. That belief is hog wash. Executing a murderer legally is not murder. The argument against capital punishment would make more sense if those advocating the abolishment of capital punishment were to say that it is morally wrong to take a human life.


But was it morally wrong to take the life of Timothy McViegh who was convicted of killing 168 people and injuring over 600 when he placed a truck bomb in front of a federal office building in Oklahoma in 1995?


What was more appropriate—giving the hundreds of family members and friends of the murdered victims some closure with his execution or letting their agony of losing their loved ones simmer while this really evil man continued to live?  I do not believe that executing this fiend was morally wrong at all because the emotional wellbeing of the hundreds of people directly affected by this man’s actions and the emotional wellbeing of the first responders take precedence over the life of this fiend.  To suggest otherwise is a mockery of justice.


This creep had the audacity to say; “If there is a hell, then I'll be in good company with a lot of fighter pilots who also had to bomb innocents to win the war.”  First of all, fighter pilots didn’t carry bombs. Secondly, they risked their own lives when flying into the sky to fight the oncoming German pilots.  McViegh on the other hand was fleeing from the bomb site before his truck bomb went off. Is there anyone who really believes that it was morally wrong to exterminate this human vermin?


Number of countries that still have capital punishment 


Of the 195 countries that are members of the United Nations, 100 of them have abolished capital punishment, 7 retain it for exceptionally bad murders, 48 countries permit its use but in practice have not used it for at least a decade, and 40 countries retain the death penalty and practice it.


China executed 2000 in 2012, (keep in mind that there are at least  a billion people living in China) Pakistan executed 313, Iraq-291, Iran-156, Egypt-123,  Malaysia-108, Sri Lanka-106.       

In the year 2012, the United States executed 43 death row inmates while 3,000 condemned remain on death row in that country.

In March 2009, New Mexico voted to abolish the death penalty and in April 2012 Connecticut passed a similar vote. The repeal in both the states was, however, not retroactive. Those condemned prior to the repeals are still eligible to be executed.

In 1979, the Supreme Court of Rhode Island ruled that the mandatory death sentence for killing a fellow prisoner was unconstitutional. In 1984, the legislature removed the statute. In 2004, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that a section of the state's death penalty law was unconstitutional but later in 2007 it was ruled that this would not apply to existing death row prisoners.      

I believe that all of the United States will eventually abolish capital punishment and replace it with natural life in prison without parole for murderers that deserve that kind of punishment.

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