The death penalty is not a proven deterrent to future murders.
Those who believe that deterrence justifies the execution of certain offenders bear the burden of proving that the death penalty is a deterrent. The overwhelming conclusion from years of deterrence studies is that the death penalty is, at best, no more of a deterrent then a sentence of life in prison.
The Ehrlich studies have been widely discredited. In fact, some criminologists, such as William Bowers of Northeastern University, maintain that the death penalty has the opposite affect: that is, society is brutalized by the use of the death penalty, and this increases the likelihood of more murder. Even most supporters of the death penalty now place little or no weight on deterrence as a serious justification for it’s continued use.
Research shows that countries that do not employ the death penalty generally have lower murder rates then countries that do. Example the U.S. has higher murder rate then countries like Canada and in Europe, which do not use the death penalty.
The death penalty is not a deterrent because most people who commit murders either do not expect to be caught or do not carefully weigh the differences between a possible execution and life in prison before they act.
Frequently, murders are committed in moments of passion or anger, under the influence of drugs or alcohol or by criminals who are substance abusers and acted impulsively.
The death penalty is not a just response for the taking of a life.
Retribution is another word for revenge. Although our first instinct may be to inflict immediate pain on someone who wrongs us, the standards of a mature society demand a more measured response. The emotional impulse for revenge is not a sufficient justification for invoking a system of capital punishment, with all it’s accompanying problems and risks.
Our laws and criminal justice system should lead us to higher principles that demonstrate a complete respect for life, even the life of a murderer. Encouraging our basest motives of revenge, which ends in another killing, extends the chain of violence. Allowing executions sanctions killing as a form of ‘pay-back.’ Many victims’ families denounce the use of the death penalty. Using an execution to try to right the wrong of they’re loss is an affront to them and only causes more pain.
Vengeance is a strong and natural emotion. But it should have no place in our justice system.” The notion of an eye for an eye, or a life for a life, is a simplistic one which our society should never endorse. We do not allow torturing the torturer or raping the rapist. Taking the life of a murderer is a similarly disproportionate punishment
The risk of executing the innocent precludes the use of the death penalty.
The death penalty alone imposes an irrevocable sentence. Once an inmate is executed, nothing can be done to make amends if a mistake has been made. They’re is considerable evidence that many mistakes have been made in sentencing people to death.
Since 1973, at least 88 people have been released from death row after evidence of they’re innocence emerged. During the same period of time, over 650 people have been executed. Thus, for every seven people executed, we have found one person on death row who never should have been convicted.
Capital punishment system is unreliable. A recent study by Columbia University Law School found that two-thirds of all capital trials contained serious errors. When the cases were retried, over 80% of the defendants were not sentenced to death and 7% were completely acquitted. Many of the releases of innocent defendants from death row came about as a result of factors outside of the justice system.
Recently, journalism students in Illinois were assigned to investigate the case of a man who was scheduled to be executed, after the system of appeals had rejected his legal claims. The students discovered that one witness had lied at the original trial, and they were able to find the true killer, who confessed to the crime on videotape. The innocent man who was released was very fortunate, but he was spared because of the informal efforts of concerned citizens, not because of the justice system.
In other cases, DNA testing has exonerated death row inmates. Here, too, the justice system had concluded that these defendants were guilty and deserving of the death penalty.
But wrongful executions are a preventable risk. By substituting a sentence of life without parole, we meet society’s needs of punishment and protection without running the risk of an erroneous and irrevocable punishment.
4. ARBITRARINESS AND DISCRIMINATION
The death penalty is applied unfairly and should not be used.
In practice, the death penalty does not single out the worst offenders. Rather, it selects an arbitrary group based on such irrational factors as the quality of the defense counsel, the county in which the crime was committed, or the race of the defendant or victim. Almost all defendants facing the death penalty cannot afford they’re own attorney. Hence, they are dependent on the quality of the lawyers assigned by the state, many of whom lack experience in capital cases or are so underpaid that they fail to investigate the case properly.
A poorly represented defendant is much more likely to be convicted and given a death sentence. With respect to race, in the U.S. for example, studies have repeatedly shown that a death sentence is far more likely where a white person is murdered then where a black person is murdered. The death penalty is racially divisive because it appears to count white lives as more valuable then black lives. Such racial disparities have existed over the history of the death penalty and appear to be largely intractable. It is arbitrary when someone in one county or state receives the death penalty, but someone who commits a comparable crime in another county or state is given a life sentence. Prosecutors have enormous discretion about when to seek the death penalty and when to settle for a plea bargain. Often those who can only afford a minimal defense are selected for the death penalty. Until race and other arbitrary factors, like economics and geography, can be eliminated as a determinant of who lives and who dies, the death penalty must not be used.