According to the American Civil Liberties Union, between 1976 to 2015, 1,392 prisoners have been executed within the United States as a form of punishment, and 995 of them took place in the South. But what good comes from this punishment, and how can justice be served by finding comfort in someone’s death?
While I understand heinous crimes deserve harsh punishment, I believe capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is unconstitutional under the ban of cruel and unusual punishment, and it should no longer be offered as punishment within our justice system for several reasons.
First, sentencing someone to death is immoral mostly because it allows the state to choose who deserves to die and lawfully kill in the name of justice. Death sentences are usually given in response to murder. However, this enables the “eye for an eye” ideology, and it allows for murder to be acceptable in certain circumstances when it should not be acceptable at all. Also, if the idea is to truly impose a harsh punishment that will equal the amount of suffering the criminal inflicted, then allowing them to live a life in solitude with no hope of freedom would amount to much more than a quick death.
Death is also too permanent of a punishment, considering how easy it is for an innocent person to be convicted of a crime. In fact, around 160 people that were initially on death row have been found not guilty and have been exonerated since the 1970s, according to the National Coalition Against the Death Penalty.
In addition, the death penalty is also unconstitutional because it violates the Equal Protection Clause as stated in the 14th Amendment. The Equal Protection Clause states no state shall deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. This ensures no one is treated any differently than someone else in the same legal situation. However, the death penalty is given almost randomly, and often disproportionately, among people of color, especially when the victim is white.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, in 82% of the studies they reviewed, race of the victim was found to influence the likelihood of receiving a capital murder charge or receiving the death penalty, such as those who murdered whites were found more likely to be sentenced to death than those who murdered blacks.
As reported by Michelle Kaminsky with Forbes, Curtis Flowers, a now 49-year-old black male from Winona, MS, has been on trial since 1996 for allegedly killing four people, three of them white. District Attorney Doug Evans has tried Curtis Flowers six times since 1996, and four of the six trials convicted Flowers of capital murder and all sentenced him to death, with the other two trials resulting in mistrials due to a hung jury.
However, due to prosecutorial misconduct, prejudicial evidence and racially biased jury selection and tampering, all 4 convictions have been overturned by the Mississippi Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court for violating the constitution, as well as Flowers’ rights granted to him in the 14th Amendment. Curtis Flowers’ case, along with many others, is a prime example of why the death penalty should be outlawed, as his life is being threatened and targeted by people with racially motivated agendas.
Lastly, capital punishment is a big financial drain due to costs of trials, appeals and the injection itself. According to research conducted by Torin McFarland of Susquehanna University, a prisoner on death row costs $1.12 million more than a general population prisoner.
Considering prisoners on death row, on average, spend up to 20 years going through the process until they are actually executed, taxpayers are paying far more than they would for an inmate with a life sentence for expenses such as housing, paying public defenders, healthcare and more. Also, the lethal injection chemicals cost about $200 each, in addition to the other related expenses.
Nevertheless, please understand I am in no way excusing murder, and I believe in harsh punishments for murder and other violent crimes. However, I do not, nor will I ever, support the idea that murder for murder is an acceptable punishment. It should not be allowed in our criminal justice system under any circumstances. I strongly believe each of our lives have value, and we all, at the very least, deserve an opportunity to change one's life, rather than lose it.