Capital Punishment has been part of the criminal justice system sincethe earliest of times. The Babylonian Hammurabi Code(ca. 1700 B.
C. ) decreeddeath for crimes as minor as the fraudulent sale of beer(Flanders 3). Egyptianscould be put to death for disclosing the location of sacred burialsites(Flanders 3). However, in recent times opponents have shown the deathpenalty to be racist, barbaric, and in violation with the United StatesConstitution as “. .
. cruel and unusual punishment. ” In this country,although lawsgoverning the application of the death penalty have undergone many changessince biblical times, the punishment endures , and controversy has never beengreater. A prisoner’s death wish cannot grant a right not otherwise possessed. Abolitionists maintain that the state has no right to kill anyone; .Order now
The rightto reject life imprisonment and choose death should be respected, but it changesnothing for those who oppose the death at the hands of the state. The death penalty is irrational- a fact that should carry considerableweight with rationalists. As Albert Camus pointed out, ” Capitalpunishment. . . .
has always been a religious punishment and is reconcilable withhumanism. ” In other words, society has long since left behind the archaic andbarbous” 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 toshow other people that killing people is wrong? Humanity becomes associated withmurderers when it replicate their deeds.
Would society allow rape as the penaltyfor rape or the burning of arsonists’ homes as the penalty for arson?The state should never have the power to murder its subjects. To givethe state this power eliminates the individual’s most effective shield againsttyranny of the majority and is inconsistent with democratic principles. Family and friends of murder victims are further victimized by statekillings. Quite a few leaders in the abolishment movement became involvedspecially because someone they loved was murdered. Family of victims repeatedlystated they wanted the murderer to die.
One of the main reasons- in addition tojustice- was they wanted all the publicity to be over. Yet. if it wasn’t for thesensationalism surrounding an execution, the media exposure would not haveoccurred in the first place. Murderers would be quietly and safely put away forlife with absolutely no possibility for parole. The death penalty violates constitutional prohibitions against crueland unusual punishment.
The grotesque killing of Robert Harris by the state ofCalifornia on April 21,1992, and similar reports of witnesses to hangings andlethal 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 hispresidential gain, President Clinton rushed home for the Arkansas execution ofRickey Ray Rector, a mentally retarded, indigent black man. Clinton couldn’ttake the chance of being seen by voters as ” soft on crime.
” Political Analystsbelieve that when the death penalty becomes an issue in a campaign, thecandidate favoring capital punishment almost inevitably will benefit. Capital punishment discriminates against the poor. Although murdererscome from all classes, those on death row are almost without exception poor andwere living in poverty at the they were arrested. The majority of death-rowinmates were or are represented by court-appointed public defenders- and thestate is not obligated to provide an attorney at all for appeals beyond thestate level. The application of capital punishment is racist. About 40 percent ofdeath-row inmates are black, whereas only 8 percent of the population as a wholeare black(Flanders 25).
In cases with white victims, black defendants were fourto six times more likely to receive death sentences than white defendants whohad similar criminal histories. Studies show that the chance for a deathsentence is up to five to ten times greater in cases with white victims thanblack victims(Flanders 25). In the criminal justice system, the life of a whiteperson is worth more than the life of a black person. The mentally retarded are victimized by the death penalty. Since 1989,when the Supreme Court upheld killing of the mentally retarded, at least foursuch executions have occurred.
According to the Southern Center for Human Rights,at least 10 percent of death row inmates in the United States are mentallyretarded(Long 79). Juveniles are subject to the death penalty. Since state execution ofjuveniles also became permissible .