First of all, in the scopes of this paper it is important to rely to the background of the death penalty notion. There are different names for this issue, which are also widely applied. They are the following: execution, capital punishment or death sentence.
Generally, it is possible to consider the capital punishment as the legal process, which is implied by putting a person to death by the state as a form of the punishment for a particular crime. The set of crimes, which may lead to the death penalty are called the capital offences or the capital crimes.
In the U.S. the capital punishment is limited by the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution in the set of the following cases: crimes against the state, homicide, and in the cases of crimes against humanity, which are committed by mentally-competent adults. While referring to the practice, the person is sentenced to the capital punishment only in the cases when the aggravating circumstances take their place, for instance, felony murder, aggravated murder or contract killing.
It is important to put an emphasis on the fact that before the Independence has been declared in the U.S. (by the Declaration of Independence of 1776), the Capital punishment has been the penalty at the common law for the wide set of the felonies and it has been enforced to majority of the American colonies. At the moment, the capital punishment is the legal sentence in 37 states, in military legal systems and in the federal civilian.
The penalty crimes subject and the methods of execution vary by the jurisdictions and have been significantly changed throughout the history. In the timeframes of last three decades, the most popular method is lethal injection (injecting with a fatal dose of particular drugs such as paralytic, barbiturate or potassium solution). In 2008, in the U.S. there have been 37 executions, and it has been the lowest rate since 1994. In 2011, 43 inmates have been executed lethally in 13 states and in 2010 this number has reached 46 people.
It is possible to state a fact that in the U.S. the death penalty is the contentious social issue. While referring to the historical background of the issue, the lion share of the capital punishment cases have been caused by the murder commitments. But with the time, the extent of this support has changed.
It is obvious that there are both supporters and oppositionists of the capital punishment in the U.S. from certain sectors of the population. That is why in 2012, the practical application of the death penalty has been banned by seventeen states (Alaska, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Mexico, New York) and Washington DC in particular. It is important to pay additional attention to the fact that at the moment the level of opposition to the death penalty is lower that it has been in 1980- and in 1990-s (in 1994, it has reached high of 80 percent), this index is constant in the timeframe of the last decade.
According to the Gallup poll, which has been conducted in 2011, 61 present of the U.S. citizens have favored the death penalty in the case murders, while 35 percent of the U.S. population have opposed such penalty. It is possible to state a fact that the index of 2011 is the lowest level of support since 1972, which has been recorded by Gallup.
In the case if the life in prison without parole is included as the poll option, the respondents are more evenly divided. In 2009, 49 percent of the respondents have preferred the death penalty and 46 percent have chosen an option of imprisoning without parole.
Current Application of the Death Penalty Worldwide
In the scopes of this section, it is important to rely to the fact that since World War II there has been a global tendency of the death penalty abolishing. Consequently, in 1977, in sixteen countries this sanction has been rejected. According to the current information, presented by the Amnesty International, this measure is altogether rejected in 97 countries, in eight countries it is applied in the exceptional cases; in three to four countries it has not been applied for a durable period of time; in 34 countries it has not been applied for at least ten years or even been under the moratorium and in the rest 58 countries, it is widely applied as the penalty measure for a set of defined crimes.
Opposition to the Capital Punishment in the U.S.
It is important to put an emphasis on the fact that the opposition to the death penalty has existed in the U.S. since the timeframes of colonial period. The peak of the opposition to the capital punishment has taken its place in 1966. The opposition has risen up to 47% - the supporters of the death penalty were 42 % of respondents and other 11 % had “no opinion”.
The core arguments of the oppositionist to the capital punishment in the U.S. have been the following: the high rate of the imprisoned people, sentenced to the death penalty were innocent in the particular crime conviction. In addition, the race and gender discrimination issues have been taken into account. There is a high probability that the representatives of the discriminated minority groups would be sentenced to the death penalty at the same time, when the affluent white, who commit the similar crimes, won’t be. The next argument implies the lack of the evidence for the death penalty, as the form of punishment, and deterrent effect. The final argument is the moral relativism. It implies the idea that in the case if it is incorrect to kill, than it is completely incorrect to kill for killing… The lion share of the religious bodies is against the death penalty in the U.S.
In order to support the opinion that the United States should abolish the capital sentence, it is important to outline the ten core arguments against the death penalty in the U.S.
Innocence and the Death Penalty
The first argument is the Innocence and the Death Penalty. While taking into account the specific of the punishment – its irreversibility, the innocence cannot be corrected in such case. After the capital punishment has been restated, the total quantity of people, who have been released from the death penalty, has reached 139. Since 1970, the total quantity of death row exonerations in the U.S. is 140. Nearly 62% of the sentenced people are non-white (belong to the minority groups). In the timeframes 2000-2007, the average annual number of exonerations is five people. In 17 of the 140 cases, the DNA testing has been applied for the innocence proving. Finally, the most common reasons of wrong convictions are the following: government misconduct, eyewitness error, snitches testimony, junk science and the last one, the false confessions.
The high cost of the capital punishment execution.
For the government, it is less expensive to keep the person in prison for life than to execute the death sentence.
There is a probability that Suffering for Victims' Families may be prorogated by the Death Penalty
In many cases, the members of the victims’ family do not feel that the death penalty would end their pain. That is why the durable legal process before the execution may prolong the negative feelings for the victim’s family.
International considerations, concerning the capital punishment in the U.S.
As it has been stated in the beginning of the research paper, the lion share of the South America and the North America (totally - 139 countries worldwide) have banned the capital punishment both judicially and practically.
Inadequate Legal Representation
It is possible to assume that one of the key factors, which makes its impact on the final decision - whether one would be sentenced to the capital punishment or not, is the way, manner and quality of the facts representation.
According to the set of the scientific investigations, it is possible to state a fact that the executions do not deter people from commitment the crimes in mire significant way than in the case of long prison sentences.
In 2009, the study, entities as "Do executions lower homicide rates?: The views of leading criminologists” has been conducted by Radelet and LaCock. This study shows that no deterrent effects are added by the death penalty to the people, who are already sentenced to the long imprisonment. The core focus of the study has been directed to the evaluation of the death penalty deters the murder from the crime commitment. The conclusion of the study has been the following: “we find no consistent evidence that capital punishment influenced killings during the 1976-1989 period... Police do not appear to have been afforded an added measure of protection against homicide by capital punishment.".
While taking about the fact that the execution of the death penalties is carried out by the police officers, the officers often become the victims of murders themselves. In accordance to the statistical data, obtained from the latest FBI Uniform Crime Report, those regions where the death penalty execution is carried out rare are the safest for the police officers and those regions, where such executions take their place regularly, are the most dangerous for the police officers.
That is why it is possible to state a fact about the direct interrelation between the death penalty execution rate and the rate of the police officers murdering.
While referring to the research about the interrelation of the death penalty existing in the country and its deterrent effect towards the homicide commitment, more than 80 percent of respondents consider that there is no such interrelation. The core argument is this case is that increasing the quantity of executions or decreasing the timeframe, the prisoners spend on the death row, does not make the general deterrent to homicide.
More than that, the research, which has been conducted in Homicide Studies, Vol. 1, No.2, May 1997, has indicated the fact that there is a probability of increasing the quantity of murders by the executing, rather than deterring the murders. That is why it is possible to make a conclusion about the controversial or even opposite effect of the death penalty existing in the U.S. for the quantity of murders reducing (that is the second direct argument for the general hypothesis proving).
The next argument in the scopes of this section is the new report on deaths of children in the U.S. It is obvious that the fact of the children death penalty existing in the U.S. does not improve the general image of the democratic country in the world community. In accordance to the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (1997), the child homicide rates in the U.S. in the timeframes of 1950-1993 have tripled. The U.S. has been compared to other industrialized counties, with the high rate of the firearm-related children death. The following conclusion has been done in the report, "the United States has the highest rates of childhood homicide, suicide, and firearm-related death among industrialized countries." It is important to put an emphasis on the fact that the lion shares of the industrialized countries, which have been also included into the list of the countries with high rate of child murders, have banned the death penalty practical application (Megivern, 1997).
Arbitrariness in the Death Penalty Application.
There are the cases when the legal counsel quality, politics and jurisdiction, where the crime has been committed are considered to be more valuable determining factors for the death penalty sentencing to the person rather that the crime itself and its investigation.
Religious approaches towards the Death Penalty
Even while taking into account the fact that religious scripture isolated passages are often quoted for the death penalty support argumentation, the lion share of the U.S. religious groups consider the death penalty executions as the immoral actions. There are the following religious organizations, which are against the death penalty: Christian Organizations; Buddhist Organizations; Jewish Organizations; Interfaith Organizations and Catholic Organizations.
The above listed religious organizations are working against the death penalty while applying the core perspectives of faith and morality. There is a movement, directed to declaring a moratorium on the executions.
Race is considered as the classification of humans due to the factors of appearance, which are based on heritable phonotypical characteristics or geographic ancestry.
While discussing the problem of racism, it is possible to say that the racial discrimination in many well-developed countries (in the U.S., in particular) is presented in all spheres of human life and activities: education, job searching, health care, cultural, lending and even in occupying some positions in the governmental structures. It makes a negative impact not only on the social life, but there are also different restrictions for those representatives of minority, who are willing to participate in economic life of the country and to become being the entrepreneurs. In the U.S., this problem is urgent in the death penalty sentencing also.
There is such trend that the race of the defendant and the race of the victim are the determining factors in the sentencing to death in the U.S.
According to the report from General Accounting Office (1990), "in 82 percent of the studies [reviewed], race of the victim was found to influence the likelihood of being charged with capital murder or receiving the death penalty, i.e. those who murdered whites were more likely to be sentenced to death than those who murdered blacks." (Death Penalty: Racial Disparities).
In order to support the race factor with the evidence, the set of diagrams, made on the indexed taken from Death Row Population Figures from NAACP-LDF "Death Row USA (January 1, 2009) are given below.
It is important to put an emphasis on the fact that the number of victims in diagram 3 is referred to the underlying murders in those cases when the capital punishment execution has taken place after the death penalty has been restored in 1976. It is important to refer to the fact that the quantity of victims exceeds the quantity of executors, because in the many cases there was more than one victim.
Alternatives to the Death Penalty
The last issue to be discussed in the scopes of this research paper is the alternatives to the death penalty in the U.S. In every state where the death penalty is still not banned, there is an option for the jurors of sentencing the convicted capital murderers to the life imprisonment without a parole possibility. As it has been stated above, the sentence is cheaper than executing the death penalty. Therefore, the core advantage of sentencing to the life imprisonment is the possibility of mistakes correcting in the case if the incorrect verdict is made.
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