The Trend Towards Life

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic
This article will present facts about the current trend away from using the death penalty sentence, and will offer the alternative solution of life sentences for crimes instead of execution.

Submitted: April 16, 2011

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Submitted: April 16, 2011

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The Washington Times ran this story in 2008: “The pace of scheduled deaths has slowed in recent years (in the state of Virginia).That has spurred hope among opponents of the death penalty that it could eventually be phased out. The Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment as constitutional in 1976, and Virginia ranks behind only Texas in enforcing the death penalty.” A year later, The New York Times echoed this sentiment, stating, “Says a defense lawyer in Kentucky and the director of the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project, Kevin McNally: (declining) statistics in federal death penalty cases tended to mirror those in state cases, and that in places like Virginia, Mississippi and Texas, where the state death penalty is active, there were more death sentences imposed in the federal courts.” That same year, The Washington Post published these trends: “John Gould, director of the Center for Justice, Law and Society at George Mason University, thinks prosecutors may be more cautious in seeking the death penalty because he said the state has had 12 wrongful convictions for rape or murder since the late 1990s. In 1994 courts also allowed juries to sentence convicts to life in prison without parole - a change former State Attorney General William G. Broaddus thinks is "the single biggest factor" in the decline of executions. Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said death sentences and executions are down by more than half across the country since 1999.” Three trusted media sources are in agreement: there’s been a shift away from death towards preserving life. What is causing this trend away from death sentences?

“It has become clear-particularly since DNA evidence has become more common -how unreliable the system is. Since 1973, 139 people have been released from death row because of (DNA) evidence that they were innocent, according to the Death Penalty Information Center” (New York Times, 2009). Also influencing judges are the astronomical costs of death penalty cases. “According to the Death Penalty Information Center, keeping inmates on death row in Florida costs taxpayers $51 million a year more than holding them for life without parole. North Carolina has put 43 people to death since 1976 at $2.16 million per execution. Perhaps the most extreme example is California, whose death row costs taxpayers $114 million a year beyond the cost of imprisoning convicts for life“ (New York Times, 2009). Besides the DNA technology and the sheer costs associated with execution, jurors do not like to convict someone to their deaths. And, death penalty cases are difficult to win: “Federal prosecutors win death penalties only about one-third of the time” (New York Times, 2008). Who then is it still in favor of the death penalty?

“Studies show Democrats typically oppose the death penalty in greater numbers than Republicans. A 2007 survey by the Pew Research Center found that just 14 percent of conservative Republicans oppose the death penalty, while 37 percent of moderate and conservative Democrats and 53 percent of liberal Democrats opposed it” (The Washington Times, 2008). Regardless of the margin for error which would amount to murder of an innocent person, the exorbitant costs, and the low percentage of death penalty “wins,” the majority of Republican and a minority of Democrats still support it. So do the majority of states: “Earlier this year, New Mexico repealed its death penalty, joining 14 other states -- and the District of Columbia -- that do not allow it. That is the way to eliminate the inevitable problems with executions” (New York Times, 2009). The obvious question then is why is it still being enforced?

Here’s where the opinions and conjecture comes in; no research statistics have been able to definitively explain why our country is supporting what human rights supporters call an inhumane, ridiculously expensive, and loosing legal proposition. What we do know is that the trend has been to move away from imposing the death penalty at both the state and federal levels. Perhaps the tax payers and criminal justice system are tiring of waging a loosing battle? I like to (perhaps naively) think it has more to do with a rise in our society’s consciousness than the money it takes to execute a man. I like to believe that we as a society are increasingly using our heads and hearts to bring about justice, instead of extracting our vengeance by taking “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,” as the Bible demands I’d like to be sure that this is a trend towards preserving life instead of extinguishing it, but trends rise and fall. What I can say with confidence is that the next generation has a chance to do what we didn’t: to show the world a more humane, less expensive, and more efficient way of punishing heinous crimes by giving life sentences without parole. I’d like to think that my children have learned from my generation’s mistake: that two wrongs can never make a right.
 
References
Editorial Desk. (2009). There is no humane execution. The New York Times Company. Retrieved March 2, 2010 from the World Wide Web: http://www.nytimes.com
Fueur, Allan. (2008). An aversion to the death penalty, but no shortage of cases. The New York Times Company. Retrieved March 4, 2010 from the World Wide Web: http://www.nytimes.com
Emerling, Gary. (2008). Critics of death penalty hope for a phase-out; Interpret recent slower pace of executions as significant. The Washington Times, LLC. Retrieved March 4, 2010 from the World Wide Web: http://www.washingtontimes.com

 


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