Thursday, October 1, 2020

Capital punishment

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Our nation's criminal justice system is the mechanism by which societal order is maintained. The goals that this system must satisfy in order to maintain this harmony are deterrence of crime, punishment of the guilty, acquittal of the innocent, avoidance of needless cruelty, equal treatment of citizens, and prohibition of oppression by the state (Greenberg 146). Any aspects of the system that fall short of accomplishing these goals must be addressed and corrected. Murder, the deprivation of a human life, is the most ruthless offense that one individual can commit against another. The fact that this transgression is often dealt with by a legalized, state-sponsored variation of the same act, and labeled as "capital punishment," is cause for great concern. The issue of the death penalty raises many questions about our nation's system of criminal justice because it is a condition that fails to truly carry out justice. Capital punishment is not only morally and ethically wrong, but it does not effectively accomplish the necessary deterrence and punishment, and is a cruel, unfair, and oppressing affliction to various factions of people.

Capital punishment is a major dilemma that must be dealt with immediately. It is truly a black eye for our country. Capital punishment is not true justice, which allows for mercy, clemency, and compassion. Instead, it is a source of agony for many families who must "live with the twin pain of knowing, not only that in some cases their family members were responsible for inflicting a terrible trauma on another family, but also the pain of knowing that society has called for another killing (Ryan ). What is moral and just about that? The United States sets the example for justice and fairness for the rest of the world. However, while many of our allies with whom we share similar views on moral issues have rejected the death penalty, we remain, as Illinois Governor George Ryan put it, "partners in death with several third world countries" (Ryan ). The United States is the only nation of the Western democratic world that currently practices capital punishment. In contrast, countries with whose dominant value systems we ordinarily disagree, like China, Iran, and South Africa, execute prisoners in great numbers (Greenberg 148). Pope John Paul II takes the stance that death as a form of punishment is "cruel and unnecessary. Not only does capital punishment present a moral predicament, it also threatens the diplomatic influence of our nation. Many allies to the United States have voiced concerns about our position on capital punishment. Recently, British Prime Minister Tony Blair was encouraged by his Parliament to bring up the issue of capital punishment with President Bush. One White House official stated that Secretary of State Colin Powell is routinely confronted on the issue by his counterparts in other Western nations. The President of the NATO Parliamentary Committee, Rafael Estrella, has spoken of the degenerating memory of current generations in Europe and around the world of America's role in World War II and the Cold War. "Young people think of America in terms of [being] the culprit behind the death penalty," he said. It is apparent, in light of the 108 nations that have banned capital punishment, that these and many other nations no longer look to the United States for moral guidance on an issue that many of them deem important (Cannon). Public sanctioned killing has cheapened human life and dignity (Kelly 6). While the majority of Americans continue to support the death penalty, it is important to keep in mind that "if politicians followed public opinion, we would still have slavery and women would not have the right to vote. The general public is not always the best judge of what is fair and moral" (Luttkus A).

Capital punishment is designed to be a severely deterring punishment. It is assumed to be a system in which the penalty is inflicted on the most reprehensible criminals and occurs frequently enough to deter (Greenberg 146). The truth is, however, that it is no more, if as much of a deterrent, as a life sentence without parole. This is clearly displayed by simple, straightforward statistics. The death penalty has been abolished in 1 states and in none of these states has the homicide rate increased (Ryan ). In fact, Wisconsin, a state with no death penalty, has only one-half the murder rate of Texas, the state that leads the union in executions with 8 since 176 (Luttkus A). And, since at least 167, the death penalty has been inflicted, rarely and erratically, upon the least odious killers, while many of the most heinous criminals have escaped execution. "Between 167 and 180, death sentences or convictions were reversed for 18 of the 40 people on death row, a reversal rate of nearly eighty percent." Given these facts, potential killers who rationally weigh the odds of being killed themselves must conclude that the danger is nonexistent in most parts of the country, and is therefore no deterrent. However, the truth is that most killers do not engage in a cost-benefit analysis, but are often highly disturbed, of low intelligence, and addicted to drugs or alcohol, and therefore never even consider the possibility of being faced with death (Greenberg 146-). Death is often even considered an escape hatch from the snare of spending the rest of one's life in prison. Life without parole has been described by prosecutors as a fate worse than death. Governor Ryan of Illinois told of a letter he received from a death row inmate which said, "If you can't pardon me, don't condemn me to a life in prison. Leave me on death row. Don't do me any favors" (Ryan 4). There are even cases in which the prospect of being sentenced to death has done the opposite of deterring murder; it has encouraged it. Gary Gilmore, the first person in the United States to be executed after the decade long cessation of capital punishment from 167 to 177, proclaimed to have committed murder as means of suicide via the death penalty. He moved from his home state of Oregon, which doesn't have a death penalty, to Utah, which administers death using a firing squad. There, he gunned down innocent victims at a gas station. There are many similar cases. "Sociologist Thorsten Sellin reports of an unnamed prisoner at Leavenworth who committed murder to exchange his life sentence for a death sentence." In one instance, a Vietnam veteran partook in murder-for-hire, a crime for which in that state, the death penalty was mandatory. He reportedly told his sister, "I'm too much of a coward to commit suicide." Steven Judy threatened his jury, saying, "You had better put me to death, because next time it might be one of you or your daughter." Psychiatrist Lows West reported a patient who confessed to a murder he did not commit in order to receive a death sentence. There are numerous other psychiatric reports that attest to such phenomenon. Forensic Psychiatrist Bernard Dramond states that capital punishment, with its dramatic rituals and ceremonies, is the perfect fantasized death, a glorified crucifixion for some sick minds. Other psychiatric reports indicate that the prospect of execution is extremely attractive to some individuals who crave a violent means of suicide. In such cases, especially those involving lethal injection, the death penalty is really no more than state sponsored euthanasia (van Wormer). The death penalty does not deter crime. Its only purpose is to serve as vengeance. We can not tell gang members that they cannot kill for revenge, and still justify killing murderers as retribution for family members of the victims (Stowe). There is an overwhelming body of research indicating that the death penalty does not deter any of the crimes for which it is used as a penalty (Luttkus A). The fact that life in prison without parole is cheaper and faster makes it a clearly more suitable alternative (Capital Punishment Ended 6).

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