One of the most debatable topics in history has been whether the death penalty should be upheld. On this, many arguments have risen, for and against this judicial practice. For instance, under the International Covenant on Civil and political rights, the death penalty is not prohibited. However, in recent times, several movements in favour of abolishing the use of the death penalty are starting to emerge. Here, I will elaborate on both views and give my opinion.
Those who support capital punishment believe that it’s the only ‘just price’ to pay for certain unlawful acts. An example of this would be a death penalty essay published at Chicago State University. This was the case of Richard Benjamin Speck, an American mass murderer whose July 13, 1966 killing rampage claimed the lives of eight student nurses — a hate crime that shook Cook County Hospital and the United States. Even though Richard’s death sentence was later overturned, not everyone was in line with the decision to do so.
American death penalty advocates also reason that without its implementation, a large number of lives would have been snuffed out faster than they would have been saved. Anytime a disgruntled offender is on the loose, people fear for the safety of their loved ones and for good reason — it’s almost unavoidable to do so since no one knows who may be the next victim. China, one of the pro-execution countries through its sheer determination has by far slashed the number of illicit drug traffickers and users to a half.
The death penalty, in general, gives an outlook on the heavyweight of violent and capital crimes. It underlines the high importance of a person’s life; as such penalties are for crimes against humanity including aggravated murder. Imagine ripping the world of life and sometimes, more lives, all for the purpose of revenge, spite, or provocation.
Application of judicial murder shows that the life of a person is most important and the gravity of violating the right to life accounts for the highest punishment—death. There is no amount that could buy a life, lived memories, friendships formed, and family bonds broken by murder. Life itself is the most precious thing and brutal violations deserve equal punishments.
Overpopulation of prisons can also be a serious problem as the cost of keeping condemned prisoners under confinement raises a lot of expenses. Without implementing criminal justice, some prisons risk letting loose such laws offenders, either due to the lack of housing space or inability to cater to their daily essentials. While serving as justice to the people and means to protect political rights, capital punishment also reduces the potential of releasing urchins into the public.
Let’s take an instance of the Californian justice system, prisons become so crowded that they currently have the largest death room in all of the United States. With capital crimes being convicted monthly, the government has had to take charge to cut the potential of running out of space. As of 2015, seven hundred and fifty executions were carried out.
Why the Death Penalty Is Unjust
Meanwhile, opponents of the death penalty claim that inasmuch as crime is bad and needs to stop, putting a death price on it is as insensible as it is insensitive. While at it, we should all ask the question: Is the death penalty really ‘tough’ on crime? We know the answer is “no”. Taking the life of the culprit doesn’t pay it all nor does it solve the social menace caused by crime.
In the unjust and corrupt world in which we live today, concepts such as executions often depend on skin colour, economic or financial status, as well as the location of the crime. The Supreme Court of the United States has been accused of infringing human rights law in the execution cases. For example, in the case of skin colour, coloured offenders are sometimes sentenced more than their white counterparts. Statistically, 43% of the executions since 1967 are people of colour and currently, 55% are in the death row.
Research at the University of Maryland concluded in January 2003 that the majority of the death penalty was for the murder of white people. One well-known case of the youngest person ever sentenced to death by an electric chair, George Junius Stinney, Jr., is a good example of such cruelty by race.
George was a 12-year-old African American convicted in June 1944 in an unfair trial for the murder of two white girls aged 7 and 11 in his home town of Alcolu, South Carolina. He was executed and, exactly 70 years later, his conviction was overturned in 2014. Such unfair trials make the death penalty a means of exercising certain privileges that deter true justice. It is totally contrary to the human rights law and, in most cases, unfairly punishes the innocent.
In conclusion, given that the problem is global, the best solution would also be global. In my opinion, the 21st century death penalty should be applied. Very careful investigations should be carried out before people are sentenced to death by inhumane methods, such as the use of lethal injections. This way ensures that innocent bystanders do not become felons who have to pay for their own lives.
Thankfully, there are laws in place, which limit the imposition of the death penalty in certain sensitive cases: violation of international human rights (under ICCPR), absence of a fair trial, minors as offenders, pregnant offenders, and crimes not punishable by death sentences at the time of their commitment.