entative Persuasive EssaysThe Death PenaltyThe death penalty is a very controversial issue. Many people havedifferent opinions about how a criminal should be disciplined.
Over 80% ofAmericans favor the death penalty. Presently, thirty-eight states have the death penalty, but is the concept of “alife for a life” the best way to castigate a criminal? Of the thirteen statesthat do not have the death penalty, is crime more likely to occur there than instates that have the death penalty? (The Economist, April 1, 1995, p. 19) Havethere been criminals wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death row? Does thedeath penalty really scare criminals off and make them think twice aboutcommitting a crime? Is the death penalty fair to everyone, even the minoritiesand the poor? How does mental illness and retardation come into play?When a person is sentenced to death by lethal injection in New Jersey,the provisions of N. J.Order now
S. 2C: 11-3 say that the “punishment shall be imposed bycontinuous, intravenous administration until the person is dead of a lethalquantity of an ultrashot acting barbiturate in combination with a chemicalparalytic agent in a quantity sufficient to cause death. ” Prior to the lethalinjection, the person shall be sedated by a licensed physician, registered nurse,or other qualified personnel, by either oral tablet or capsule or anintramuscular injection of a narcotic or barbiturate such as morphine, cocaine,or demerol. In the provisions of the N. J. S.
2C: 49-3, it says that theCommissioner of the Department of Corrections determines the substances andprocedure to be used in execution. The Commissioner shall also designatepersons who are qualified to administer injections and who are familiar withmedical procedures, other than licensed physicians. Also, persons conductingthe execution must be unknown to the person being executed. Under the N. J.
S. 2C: 49-7, only certain people are allowed to be present at the execution. Theyinclude: the Commissioner, execution technicians, two licensed physicians, sixadult citizens, no more than two clergymen not related to the person, tworepresentatives from major news wire services, two television representatives,two newspaper representatives, and two radio representatives. No one relatedeither by blood or by marriage to the person being executed or to the victim ispermitted to be present during the execution.
(New Jersey Statutes Annotated:Title 2C Code of Criminal Justice: 2C: 37 to 2C: End)There are two very important Supreme Court cases dealing with capitalpunishment. In 1972, in the case of Furman vs. Georgia, the Supreme Court ruledthat under then existing laws, “the imposition and carrying out of the deathpenalty. .
. constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighthand Fourteenth Amendments. ” Four years later, in the case of Gregg vs. Georgia,the Supreme Court shifted in the opposite direction, and ruled that “thepunishment of death does not invariably violate the Constitution.
” The Courtruled that these new statutes contained “objective standards to guide,regularize, and make rationally reviewable the process of imposing the sentenceof death. ” (Bedau, Hugo Adam, American Civil Liberties Union, prodigy)There are many different reasons, pro and con, for the death penalty. The following are the most frequently cited arguments for the death penalty. Some believe that those who kill deserve to die. When someone takes anotherperson’s life, they forfeit or sacrifice their own right to live.
Murder is oneof the worst crimes a person can commit and it deserves the worst penalty. Thedeath penalty is the greatest deterrent to murder. If people know that theywill be punished by death, they will be less likely to commit crimes and kill. Statistics show that since 1976, fewer than two hundred of the 2500-plus peopleon death row have been executed. Some say that more than 20,000 murders thattake place each year could have been prevented if criminals believed they wouldbe executed for their crimes. Murders pose a threat to everyone and should beisolated from society.
The death penalty guarantees that the killer would notbe able to kill again. Life imprisonment does not guarantee that. Criminalscan be released on parole or escape from prison, giving them opportunities tomurder again. (Scholastic Update, Sept. 4, 1992, p.
13-16)The arguments against the death penalty are just as strong. Two wrongsdo not make a right. How many times have children heard that from theirparents? Adults should follow their own advice. Murder is murder and it iswrong no matter what, even if it is ruled constitutional. In the civilizedsociety that we live in, is the notion of “an eye for an eye” acceptable?Should the punishment for a rape, be another rape? Or for arson, should we burndown the arsonist’s house? One of the government’s jobs is to protect itscitizens, but there are others ways to do it without killing. There are nocreditable studies that show that capital punishment acts effectively as adeterrent to crime, murder, and other capital offenses.
Most crimes arecommitted on the spur of the moment or in the heat of passion, and the person isusually either under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. Therefore, most donot think about the consequences of their wrongful actions. States that havedeath penalty laws do not have lower crime rates or murder rates than stateswithout such laws. And states that have abolished capital punishment show nosignificant changes in either crime or murder rates. Also, the death penaltyrarely discourages murderers who plan to kill because they do not believe thatthey will be caught. Humans are errable.
Mistakes are made in trying capitalcases very often and can and have taken innocent lives. A recent study showedthat 350 people who were convicted of crimes for which they could have been putto death for, were later found to be inculpable. Tragically, twenty-three wereexecuted wrongly. Some find that the death penalty discriminates against theminorities and the poor and is not administrated fairly.
Approximately 20,000murders are committed each year, but only one out of a hundred convictedmurderers are sentenced to death. Almost half of those sentenced to die areblack and 84% of those were convicted of killing a white. Furthermore, morethan 90% of the inmates currently on death row were too poor to hire a lawyer torepresent them at their trial. People are being executed not because of theheinousness of their crimes, but because of the incompetence of their lawyers.
(Scholastic Update, p. 13-16 and prodigy)The American Civil Liberties Union believes that capital punishment isan intolerable denial of civil liberties. They feel that the death penaltyessentially violates the constitutional ban against cruel and unusual punishmentand the guarantee of due process of law and the equal protection of the laws. The state should not take unto itself the right to kill human beings, especiallywhen it kills with “premeditation and ceremony, under color of law, in our names,and when it does so in an arbitrary and discriminatory fashion. ” (Bedau, HugoAdam, American Civil Liberties Union, prodigy)The cost of an execution is extravagantly costly.
Every study carriedout and completed have shown that it is far more expensive to put someone todeath than to jail him for life. Two Duke University professors calculated thatbetween the extra costs of litigation, and of housing and guarding the inmatesas they wait on death row, the extra cost to taxpayers was $2. 2 million perexecution. The Sacramento Bee estimates that California spends $90 million eachyear on the death penalty; in eighteen years the state has put precisely twopeople to death. Conservatives say that the solution to this high cost is tocurtail or cut back the number of death row inmates to appeals.
This way thetime that he is in jail will be shorten and execution will take place sooner. The Supreme Court’s rulings on the matter rest on the notion that, as apunishment, death is different. It cannot be infringed arbitrarily, it must beimposed consistently. (The Economist, 1995, p. 19-20)Have criminals been wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death row?The answer is yes.
Astonishingly enough, a recent report revealed that between1900-1985, 350 people have been wrongfully convicted of capital offenses. Inthe last two decades, forty-eight wrongfully convicted people have been releasedfrom death row because of innocence. Unfortunately, twenty-three of the threehundred and fifty people wrongfully convicted, were already executed before theevidence came about. Justice Thurgood Marshall, a long time opponent of thedeath penalty feared that “if an individual is imprisoned for an offense he didnot commit, the error can to some extent be rectified, but if he is executed,the wrong that has been done can never be corrected. ” (Jet, March 13, 1995, p. 12-15)William Hance, a former marine, was sentenced to death for the murder oftwo prostitutes and awaiting the “chair of death”.
The day before, the Georgiaboard of pardons and paroles rejected Hance’s appeal for clemency. The day ofthe execution both the state and federal court refused to halt the execution. Then the Supreme Court denied Hance’s appeal. The legal skirmishing had gainedhim ninety extra minutes of life.
This execution was different though. One ofthe twelve jurors to sentence Hance to death swore that she never agreed to thesupposedly unanimous vote. Gayle Daniels, the only black juror, swore on anaffidavit the she did not vote for the execution because she “did not believeHance knew what he was doing at the time of his crimes. There was alsoshocking evidence that race prejudice played a central role in the jury’sdeliberations. Finally, Hance may have been mentally retarded.
The prosecutorwho helped investigate the first murder case, Douglas Pullen, argued that “atthe very least, this man has a borderline I. Q. That is not retarded. ” ButHance’s trial in a military court for the second murder ended in the reversal ofa life sentenced after jurors determined that he lacked the capacity forpremeditation. (Smolowe, Jill, Time, April 11, 1994, p. 61)Fortunately, not all cases end unhappily.
In several cases the accusedwere found innocent just in time. Andrew Golden was very lucky. His case wasreversed twenty-six months after he was put on death row. He was sentenced todeath for the possible murder of his wife, Ardelle.
She drowned in a lake.