Ethics and Law/ Capital Punishment term paper 17919

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Problems with Capital Punishment

"Dead Man Walking!" This sound rings through each and every death row inmate

a thousand times a day, but should it? Capital punishment is one of the most controversial

topics among Americans today. Since every person has there own opinion on this topic,

either for or against, the question always raised is "Is it morally right.?" The number of

problems with the death penalty are enormous, ranging from innocence to racism, and

these problems will never be resolved unless the death penalty is abolished.

The problems with capital punishment stem as far back as the ritual itself. The

number of occurrence on why the death penalty is racist is uncountable. A 1990 report

released by the federal government's General Accounting Office found a "pattern of

evidence indicating racial disparities in the charging, sentencing and imposition of the

death penalty after the Furman decision" (Bedau, p.55). Professor David Baldus

examined sentencing patterns in Georgia in the 1970's. After reviewing over 2,500

homicide cases in that state, controlling for 230 non-racial factors, he concluded that a

person accused of killing a white was 4.3 times more likely to be sentenced to death than a

person accused of killing a black. The Stanford Law Review published a study that found

similar patterns of racial despair, in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, and many other

states. For example, in Arkansas “findings showed that defendants in a case involving a

white victim are three-and-a-half times more likely to be sentenced to death; in Illinois,

four times; in North Carolina, 4.4 times, and in Mississippi five times more likely to be

sentenced to death than defendants convicted of murdering blacks” (Winters, p.78).

There is also the issue of Capital Punishment being a deterrent. Does the death

penalty really deter crime? The death lobby wants you to believe the answer to that

estion is "yes." But, in fact, it is a resounding "NO." Consider this, the US is the only

Western nation that still allows the death penalty, and we also have one of the highest

crime rates. During the 1980s, death penalty states averaged an annual rate of 7.5 criminal

homicides per 100,000, while abolition states averaged a rate of 7.4 per 100,000. That

means murder was actually more common in states that use the death penalty. In a

nationwide survey of police chiefs and sheriffs, capital punishment was ranked last as a

way of reducing violent crime. Only twenty-six percent thought that the death penalty

significantly reduces the number of homicides. The theory behind the deterrence doctrine

is flawed itself. Murderers do not examine risk/reward charts before they kill someone.

Being a criminal is inherently imprisonment ought to deter a rational person

itself. Besides, no criminal commits a crime if he believes he will be caught.

The next issue that deserves some observation is that of capital punishment being

economically correct, meaning will it save the U.S. and its taxpayers money. "The death

penalty is not now, nor has it ever been, a more economical alternative to life

imprisonment" (Winters, p.99). A study informed that reintroduction would involve a

first-year cost of more than $11 million. And the Miami Herald reported that Florida, with

one of the nation's largest death rows, has estimated that the true cost of each execution is

approximately $3.2 million, or approximately six times the cost of a life-imprisonment


The last issue that should be observed is that of innocence. Are there really

innocent people on death row? At least twenty-three people have been executed who did

not commit the crime they were accused of. And that's only those that we know. And

here lies an inherent danger of capital punishment...when we execute an innocent person;

the real killer is still on the streets, ready to victimize someone else. But when an innocent

person is arrested, he is often the driving reason behind further investigation, and if he is

executed, than the case remains closed forever. Or, at least, until someone else gets killed

by the real perpetrator.

Capital punishment is a power that no man or woman deserves to make for

another human being. The Constitution clearly states that everybody deserves, "life,

liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;" But if you kill that person how can any of this be

attained? Capital punishment is just plain wrong and has no place in today's society.

There are too many flaws in the death penalty; therefore the only reasonable solution is to

abolish the death penalty.

Word Count: 749


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