The Death Penalty Should be Abolished
So imagine you were sentenced to death. You would imagine you did a horrible crime and that there is substantial proof of your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. You expect your punishment to happen swiftly, but you end up just waiting for years. You keep waiting, and you begin to think the state has no intentions of executing you at all. Then when you waive your rights to any appeal the state still does not have any way of executing you. You are stuck into this realm of uncertainty. This continues until you decide to take care of it yourself and you take your own life. This hypothetical is a true story. Scott Dozier took his own life when his execution date was pushed back indefinitely. Is this fair? The execution system in America is incredibly flawed. The way it is carried out varies from state to state. It can be influenced along racial lines. It can cause a long and expensive process in the courts causing them to be delayed indefinitely. There also is evidence that an alarmingly high rate of innocent people are executed. These issues heavily cripple the legal system. A solution to this problem would be to ban the death penalty. Capital punishment is an unethical, immoral and broken practice, and it should be outlawed federally in the United States. This paper will list significant flaws with the death penalty and justify why the federal government should step in and abolish the death penalty nationwide.
While many states have abolished the death penalty, most states, including the two biggest states in the country California and Texas, still have the death penalty. Thirty states and the federal government still have the death penalty. This debate is still very relevant in America today considering how most states still practice capital punishment. For example, in a predominantly liberal state like California, a proposition to repeal the death penalty was voted down 6.1 million to 5.3 million (New York Times Report). The majority of U.S states still practice capital punishment, and its use is still a very relevant debate in the country.
The first big problem with the Death Penalty the waiting times. The waiting times for death penalties are too long and may constitute cruel and unusual punishment. In the United States executions are an argues ordeal that can take several years. There is a lengthy appeals process that happens for most executions, and it cost the state more money than sentencing the prisoner to life in prison. According to Angela A. Sun, is a journalist who has done research on the death penalty and she states,
“In states like California, the total elapsed time from sentencing to execution exceeded two decades as of 2008. In response to these lengthening delays, scores of death row inmates have been raising Lackey claims over the last few decades-claims that inordinate pre execution delays on death row constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment” (Angela April 1).
This is evidence that execution wait times are excessive and can be unconstitutional. A counter-argument to this would be that since it is the highest penalty and it should take a long time to carry out. The waiting period also benefits the person who is on death row might be exonerated at any time he was sentenced. A recent story about this type of phenomenon is when inmate Scott Dozier killed himself when his execution was continually got delayed despite him waving his right to appeal. The reason the state of Nevada could not carry out the execution because the state had no FDA approved drugs to execute him. This is because to every one of the suppliers of these drugs banning the use of their products in executions. Nevada considered using the lethal opioid fentanyl to execute Dozier. This chain of events caused continuous delays in Dozier’s execution, and his situation would drive him to suicide(Vice News). This matters because some constitutional rights are being violated by how this system is set up. It is also morally wrong to prolong someone’s suffering with imprisonment when they were just sentenced to death with a quick and speedy execution. Constant waiting can be unbearable. The inmates on death row were sentenced to death, not life in prison. The inefficiency of this system makes it seem that the state does not even want to carry out any executions.
Another reason the death penalty should be abolished is because of the exorbitant cost to taxpayers. The death penalty cost more for taxpayers than sentencing an inmate to life in prison. This really should not be the case. The myth that feeding inmates cost more than executing them is completely false. It would be completely rational to assume that clothing, feeding, and housing another human being under constant guard would cost more than simply killing that person. This is completely false, however. Due to the various legal proceedings surrounding executions, they prove to be far more expensive for taxpayers than inmates who spend the rest of their lives in jail. A solution to this problem would be to stop having executions and save the state more money. Nicholas Peterson, a researcher who has written scholarly articles about criminal justice, cited in his article about the death penalty that the state of California would save millions if the were to abolish the death penalty. “An article in the Sacramento Bee from that time period estimated that California would save an estimated $90 million annually if capital punishment were abolished” (Nicholas Peterson 2). A counter-argument to this point would be that the most serious penalty should cost the most. It can also be reformed so that the cost can go down as a high cost is not inherent in the executions themselves. For example, a firing squad right after sentencing can sole a lot of the cost problems. A response to this argument would be that execution should be painless and not conducted that way. Also, the cost would still be very high convening a firing squad and getting and paying enough judges to carry out that capital case. Cost matters because it is a strong reason to get rid of the death penalty. It should not be such labor on the government’s budget to simply kill someone. Abolishing the death penalty would be the fiscally responsible action for the government to make.
There is a long history between state executions and African American people. It has been used by the state to target and oppress African Americans since the country’s inception. Given this context, it should be of no surprise that African Americans are executed at a higher rate than any other group of people in America. The death penalty is influenced by race and African Americans are targeted by it disproportionately by capital cases. Despite white victims making up half of all murder victims, 80% of capital cases involve a white victim. As of 2002 only 12 people have been executed were the perpetrator was white, and their victims were black as opposed to the 178 black people who were executed after being convicted of killing a white person. This happens despite black people only making up 15% of the country (ACLU). This disparity gets worse when looking at southern states. According to ACLU an organization that lobbies for civil liberties in the United States, “University of Iowa law professor David Baldus found that during the 1980s prosecutors in Georgia sought the death penalty for 70 % of black defendants with white victims, but for only 15% of white defendants with black victims.” Others would argue that this would be that race does not matter and that these people were found guilty and deserve their sentence. This line of thinking would have to ignore the historical relationship between capital punishment and the black community were African Americans were found guilty for merely being accused of a crime by a white person. Abolishing the Death penalty would stop any of these executions from happening thus limiting the racial injustice that is present in the criminal justice system.
The methods of execution can be downright inhumane. Botched lethal injections can cause extreme pain and suffering before someone passes. There are reports of inmates who struggle and twinge while being executed during their injections. A proper lethal injection puts the inmate into an unconscious state before a mixture of the other drugs kill them. According to the Non-Profit DPIC which provides information about the death penalty,
“All states and the federal government use lethal injection as their primary method of execution. States use a variety of protocols using one, two, or three drugs. The three-drug protocol uses an anesthetic or sedative, typically followed by pancuronium bromide to paralyze the inmate and potassium chloride to stop the inmate’s heart. The one or two-drug protocols typically use a lethal dose of an anesthetic or sedative.”
This method of execution is meant to be painless and humane. Despite this, there of reports of inmates struggling and clearly in agony as they take the lethal injection. CNN reported that an aborted execution in the December of 2018 in Alabama saw inmate Doyle Hamm be in severe pain coughing and heaving while being executed. This is due to him having a condition with his veins. Despite the inmate being very vocal about his condition and arguing that it violated his constitutional rights with no cruel and unusual punishment, the state of Alabama decided to proceed with the execution. CNN reported, “Hamm’s attorney, Bernard Harcourt, wrote Sunday in a blog post following a physician’s two-hour exam of his client that “the IV personnel almost certainly punctured Doyle’s bladder because he was urinating blood for the next day. They may have hit his femoral artery as well because suddenly there was a lot of blood gushing out.” ” (Chandrika Narayan 1). CNN also reported that a federal judge ordered the state to preserve all evidence involving the botched execution, and ordered the state to run a full medical examination of the inmate. The execution of Clayton Lockett was an infamously botched execution that received much attention when it happened. According to BBC witnesses saw him twitching being in agonizing pain before the execution was stopped. After the execution failed, Clayton died of a heart attack. This was a result of the drugs meant to stop Clayton’s heart. BBC reported that,
“Lockett writhed and shook uncontrollably after the drugs were administered, witnesses said. “We believe that a vein was blown and the drugs weren’t working as they were designed to. The director ordered a halt to the execution,” Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokesman Jerry Massie said. But Lockett’s lawyer, David Autry, questioned the remarks, insisting his client “had large arms and very prominent veins,” according to the Associated Press. The prisoner was moving his arms and legs and straining his head, mumbling “as if he was trying to talk,” Courtney Francisco, a local journalist present at the execution, told the BBC” (Victoria Gill 1).
The article would later state that states have been having trouble accessing safe lethal drugs and have been turning to different combinations of untested drugs to carry out executions. “US states have encountered increasing problems in obtaining the drugs for lethal injections, amid an embargo by European pharmaceutical firms. Some have turned to untried combinations of drugs or have sought to obtain the drugs custom-made from compounding pharmacies.” (Victoria Gill 2). The phenomena can also be seen in the case of Scott Dozier. His execution was delayed because the state had no means of executing him without lethal injection drugs. Due to states not even having sound means of performing executions without committing cruel and unusual punishment the death penalty should be completely abolished from the United States.
Some supporting views for the death penalty are that the federal government allows state governments to make their laws about executions and they have every right to carry out these executions. Another point is that states have held elections on the death penalty, like California and the people have approved of the states to continue with executions. The death penalty doesn’t violate the 8th Amendment according to Gregg v. Georgia so it is just and lawful. Since it is constitutional, it is moral according to the federal government and states are free to use it on people it deems fit. Another argument is that the states hold votes on whether to keep the death penalty or not and ignoring the election and abolishing it nationwide will defy the peoples wishes like when California rejected Proposal 62 (New York Times).
Nonetheless, the Supreme Court precedent can change over time and just because it does not violate the Constitution does not mean it makes sense to keep conducting the death penalty due to all of its downsides and middling benefits. This argument has merit because this court case says that the Death Penalty doesn’t violate and federal laws and that states have the right to use them if the public keeps voting to retain these punishments. Even though this the people voted to keep the death penalty in California, abolishing it federally would not be the first time the federal government intervened in state laws to stop unjust practices. An example of this would be the civil rights act which overruled southern laws and ended Jim Crow laws.
The death penalty is an outdated, inefficient, and expensive system. Executions can be botched and can easily violate people’s constitutional rights to no cruel and unusual punishment. Executions are also heavily influenced by racism against African Americans. The solution to all these problems is to abolish this punishment federally. Abolishing the death penalty federally will stop state governments from carrying out executions. Inmates on death row should also not be executed after the penalty gets abolished and should be punished and reformed with prison time. This action from the Federal government will put an end to a broken system. There are also many cases the federal government has had to intervene between states performing executions because they have been botched and the methods needlessly tortured the inmate. Whether it be through a Supreme court ruling or through Congress passing legislation, the Federal government is the only power in the United States that can completely abolish the death penalty from the country A point can be made that this can be seen as violating states rights and it is the federal government overreaching. While this may be the case, there has already been a precedent set that the federal government can and should overrule state laws when they are ineffective, immoral, and irrational. The federal government must act for the death penalty is to be abolished entirely in the United States.
Context: This was a research paper I had to write for my class. The assignment was to research a controversial topic and report on it.