The death penalty has been around since 1608. Since then, changes have constantly been made to laws to ensure that the death penalty is carried out in a way that is constitutional and doesn't fall under cruel and unusual punishment. While it once enjoyed days where it was pretty popular, it now seems to be losing support. There have been a lot of developments in the past few years that suggest the death penalty is on its way out. For example:
- A number of states, including Maryland, Connecticut, Nebraska, Virginia and Alabama, introduced bills to abolish the death penalty this year. To date, none of these have passed, but it is obviously on lawmakers' minds.
There are so many death penalty cases where the conviction was a travesty of justice and the sentence given, “death” then becomes a crime against the constitution. This must be unacceptable in a free and democratic society.
I personally, have grappled with the death penalty and its many arguments, pro and con. Is it humane…..is it a deterrent….and what crimes warrant its use, etc. Putting all of that aside, I can’t deny the fact that way too many convicted felons have been wrongly convicted and exonerated only with the the discovery and accepted use of the science of DNA.
The chance that one person may die, wrongly convicted, is enough for this writer to advocate for the death penalty’s abolishment. It makes all of the other, very valid arguments, moot.
The prison news magazine The Angolite features an in-depth piece on the use of capital punishment around the world in its recent issue. Citing a 2008 Amnesty International report, the article notes that China, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, and the United States lead the world in executions. Japan, the only other industrialized democracy besides the U.S. that uses capital punishment, averages five executions a year but is known for inhumane death row conditions. Author and inmate Lane Nelson details the conditions, the methods, and the controversies surrounding capital punishment in China, Iran, and Japan
The Dallas Morning News renewed its call for a moratorium on executions in Texas because of the numerous errors in the state's death penalty system. The paper highlighted the cases of Michael Blair and Charles Hood as examples of how the system has broken down. Blair was exonerated in 2008 after 14 years on death row. DNA evidence revealed that he had not been the murderer of 7-year-old Ashley Estel in 1993, despite the fact that the jury had taken only 27 minutes to convict him, and that he may have been guilty of other crimes. Charles Hood remains on Texas' death row, even though the fairness of his trial was completely compromised by the fact that the judge and the prosecutor admitted to having an illicit sexual affair.
Hard to believe? Texas hold the record for executions since the moratorium on the death penalty was lifted over 30 years ago. Here is one story among the many that illustrate why our justice system is too fallible to be given the death penalty as a sentencing tool.