The death penalty has been a staple in the justice system of America since its inception. Though very controversial, it has stood the test of time as the ultimate punishment. Many countries are currently abolishing their death penalty practice. America, on the other hand, has laws regarding the death penalty in thirty-eight of its fifty states.
It seems that the United States requires the death penalty more than ever due to the increased rate of violent crime. Since 1990, more than 350 people have been put to death, with another 3,300 waiting on death row. On a larger scale, since 1976, 552 executions have occurred in the United States. The breakdown is as follows: 394 by lethal injection, 141 by electrocution, 11 by gas chamber, 3 by hanging, and 2 by firing squad. Half of the post-1976 executions have occurred within the last five years, including 52 so far this year. Although the death penalty has brought many vicious criminals to a fitting end, the process by which the death penalty is based upon is inconsistent. The system of tangled appeals, court orders, and last-minute pardons has rendered the entire system ineffective.
As displayed by the swelling of the stagnant pool of death row inmates, criminals are not deterred by the punishment. An evil deed is not redeemed by an evil deed of retaliation. Justice is never advanced by taking human life. Morality is never upheld by legalized murder. Many loopholes exist in the structure of the death penalty. The outcome of the case is decided by the quality of the lawyer defending the accused.
Many criminals cannot afford a competent lawyer, resulting in a greater chance of that particular person being issued the death penalty, as opposed to life in prison. A fine line separates these two charges, and a defendant who can afford a competent lawyer stands less of a chance of being assigned the death penalty than one who cannot. Also, studies show that the application of the death penalty is racially biased. The amount of violent crimes is split almost equally between the white and black ethnic groups.
Since 1977, 82% of the criminals assigned the death penalty have committed the crime against a Caucasian. Another defect of the structure of the death penalty system in America is the laws regarding the sentencing of criminals under the age of eighteen. Minors can be sentenced to death in 24 states. Although these criminals have indeed committed crimes that could call for the death penalty, they are children with so much more learning and opportunities ahead of them.
No person who is mentally inadequate or immature should be assigned a death penalty. Due to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, mentally retarded people can be put to death. Over thirty mentally impaired people have been executed since the ruling.
The death penalty is cruel and inhumane. No matter how it is carried out, no one has the power to judge and sentence another to death. Americans are taught that two wrongs do not make a right. This concept is the basis of most religions found in America. Religion is the foundation of groups fighting against the death penalty.
Moratoriums on the death penalty are increasing in number. They temporarily suspend the death penalty while its fairness is examined for future use. Illinois and Nebraska both passed moratorium bills in the spring of 1999, though neither was fully passed into law. The debate of morality in the death penalty is not a new one. The Supreme Court ruled that execution is a violation of the Eighth Amendment, which protects United States citizens from cruel and unusual punishment.
On June 29, 1972, the individual states stopped executions in 1967, awaiting the ruling of this case. However, in July of 1976, the death penalty was upheld by the Supreme Court as a righteous punishment for some crimes. For nine years, the death penalty was suspended. The United States did not encounter an immense crime increase when considering two factors that the United States was faced with at the time of this court ruling: the onslaught of the Vietnam Conflict and the racial tensions sparked by the Civil Rights movement of the mid-sixties.