Defining laws and policies is a difficult thing to do because everyone has different opinions about what should and shouldn’t be allowed.
Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is an issue that many have trouble finding common ground on. The death penalty is defined by Google as “the legally authorized killing of someone as punishment for a crime”. The death sentence factors in three things: poor lawyers, race of accused or the victim, and the county and state.
Things like racial discrimination, mental illness, and corruption of the justice system are all factors that have a heavy impact in determining which criminals get placed on death row.
In my opinion, capital punishment should only be enforced in severe instances of killings, rapes, and molesting. There are many levels to a case such as these and specific evidence provided in a trial that could sway my idea of capital punishment.
Even in a functioning justice system such as ours, there are always going to be holes that impact criminal and victim lives. The justice system often fails to protect those with mental disabilities and illnesses. These disabilities heighten wrongful convictions and according to ACLU.org, “a civilized society forfeits its moral authority by executing people with mental or intellectual disabilities.”
I believe that those who have mental or intellectual disabilities that commit a crime should be placed in an environment that would allow them to seek the help they may not have been able to afford. Many criminals commit crimes because of underlying psychological trauma and to make sure they do not do it again; they should be given a chance at help. This is not to justify their crimes, but to look at these punishments from a logical point of view.
There is also the issue of innocence within the justice system. ACLU.org states that between 1973-2015, there have been 148 exonerations of innocent people from death row. The site also says that research suggests that “one on every 25 defendants sent to death is likely innocent.”
Race discrimination within the criminal justice system has always been problematic but especially so when capital punishment is involved.
ACLU.org mentions that several studies have confirmed that the race of the victim drives the death penalty decisions and that “76 percent of executions imposed since 1976 were for killing at least 1 white victim but only 50 percent of murder victims are white.”
Files.deathpenaltyinfo.org states a study done in North Carolina found that the odds of receiving a death sentence rose to 3.5 times among those defendants whose victims are white.
Files.deathpenaltyinfo.org also notes that “96 percent of states with reviews of race and death penalty had a pattern of race-of-victim or race-of-defendant discrimination or both.”
Capital punishment has also been justified by people who believe that homicide rates go down because of this law. The National Research council stated studies that have determined that the death penalty lowers murder rates are “fundamentally flawed and should not be used for policy decisions.”
The utilitarian argument for the death penalty firmly believes in the idea that capital punishment influences potentially violent criminals when life imprisonment is not enough restraint for their crimes; even though this has been disputed in a Radelet and Lacock study in 2009.
Supporters with a moral outlook on capital punishment say that people who have taken the lives of others have voluntarily sacrificed their right of life and that their death would be justice for the victim’s families and law-abiding citizens. This only touches on the instance of murder, whereas challengers of moral support for the death penalty argue that this practice is hypocritical in the message it conveys to society and that some lesser crimes are often not proportionate with the punishment.
Every crime and trial are different and should be treated as such. Some crimes can only be retributed with the death penalty, but in a lot of cases the corruption of the criminal justice system makes it difficult to determine if a person truly deserves to be on death row.