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The “death penalty” should never exist in the first place. The “death penalty” is wrong.. It should not be given to anybody, whether they are under the age of 18 or not. It is morally wrong and will be the doom of America, The Mighty. Death comes to everyone with its own time. And, anyway, the mental suffering is more powerful than Death.
Shirley Crook was awakened by a light in her hallway. The Fenton, Mo., woman was subsequently robbed of $7, bound with duct tape and wire and driven to a park, where she was shoved off a railroad trestle to her death in the river below. Christopher Simmons (search) was sentenced to death for robbing and killing the 46-year-old housewife. He was 17 years old at the time. Simmons should have died for his crime 2 years ago. But appeals from Simmons’ attorneys resulted in a stay of execution, and his case was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court last October. A decision is expected in the coming weeks. At issue in Roper v. Simmons is whether executing 16- and 17-year-old murderers is no longer acceptable in the United States. Along with the lives of 72 young inmates, advocates on both sides of the death-penalty debate believe what’s really at stake is the future of capital punishment in America.
When Missouri’s state supreme court declared Simmons’ death sentence violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of “cruel and unusual” punishment, it based its finding in part on the perception of a growing reluctance to execute minors. Since 1989, when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the death penalty for 16- and 17-year-olds in Stanford v. Kentucky (search), four states have raised their minimum age to 18 through legislative action, and two states’ top courts also raised the age of eligibility, bringing the total number of states that prohibit the practice to 19. That’s on top of the 13 states with no death penalty at all. Meanwhile, no state has lowered its eligibility age. This trend has not gone unnoticed by the court. In 2002, Justice John Paul Stevens noted the contrast between the tiny numbers of juveniles sent to death row and state legislatures’ increased preoccupation with those offenders. He also cited polls that consistently showed only a small percentage of Americans support the execution of minors, even if they support the death penalty.
The death penalty is racist. The death penalty punishes the poor. The death penalty condemns the innocent to die. The death penalty is not a deterrent to violent crime. The death penalty is “cruel and unusual punishment.” The death penalty fails to recognize that guilty people have the potential to change, denying them the opportunity to ever rejoin society. The United States is the only country in the Western industrialized world that still uses the death penalty. Since 1990, 30 countries have abolished the death penalty. Among the 74 countries who continue to execute, a tiny group accounts for the vast majority of the world’s executions each year China, Iran, Vietnam and the United States. In the U.S., more than 3,200 people live on death row. Since 1976, when the death penalty was reinstated, more than 1,200 people have been executed in the United States. More than three-quarters took place in southern states and over 35 percent in Texas alone. For decades, both Republicans and Democrats have competed to be “tough on crime,” and throughout the 1980s and ’90s, executions skyrocketed. More recently, however, public support for the death penalty has declined. An October 2005 Gallup Poll found support for the death penalty was 64 percent, down from a high of 80 percent in 1994 and 2006 also saw the lowest number of executions in 30 years. What follows are six reasons why you should oppose the death penalty.
Number 1: The death penalty is racist. The death penalty is applied in a racially biased manner. This bias extends not only to the race of the defendants singled out for death sentences but also to the race of the victim.
When it comes to the death penalty, the lives of minorities are valued less than that of whites. African Americans are 12 percent of the U.S. population, but 42 percent of prisoners on death row. In Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and Maryland, and in the U.S. military and federal system, more than 60 percent of those on death row are Black; Virginia, Arkansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Ohio all have death rows where more than 50 percent are African American. Although Blacks constitute approximately 50 percent of murder victims each year, 80 percent of the victims in death penalty cases were white, and only 14 percent were Black. Of the over 18,000 executions that have taken place in this country’s history, only 42 involved a white person being punished for killing a Black person. According to Amnesty International, more than 20 percent of Black defendants executed since 1976 were convicted by all-white juries. In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that death penalty laws in the U.S. were unconstitutional, in part because capital punishment was rife with racial disparities. Murder by the pound Michael Goggin, a former prosecutor in Cook County, Illinois, admitted that the district attorney’s office ran a contest to see which prosecutor could be the first to convict defendants whose weight totaled 4,000 pounds. Men and women upon conviction were marched into a room and weighed. Because most of the defendants were Black, the competition was known by local officials as “Niggers by the Pound.”
Number 2: The death penalty punishes the poor. “One searches our chronicles in vain for the execution of any member of the affluent strata in this society.” –Justice William O. Douglas “There is something wrong in this country; the judicial nets are so adjusted as to catch the minnows and let the whales slip through.” –Eugene V. DebsIf you can afford good legal representation, you won’t end up on death row. Over 90 percent of defendants charged with capital crimes are indigent and cannot afford an experienced criminal defense attorney. They are forced to use inexperienced, underpaid and overworked lawyers. Many capital trials last less than a week -hardly enough time to present a good defense. The results are predictable. It is clear that had O.J. Simpson been poor, he would now be on death row, innocent or guilty. Good representation is a luxury “The reality in the United States today is that representation by a capable attorney is a luxury, one few of those accused of a crime or in prison can afford. There is a temptation to give up hope that the poor person who faces the loss of life or liberty or languishes in prison will ever receive adequate representation. Legislatures will not pay for it, most courts will not order it, and most members of the bar are unwilling or financially unable to represent a poor person in a criminal case without adequate compensation.”
Number 3: The death penalty condemns the innocent to die. Since 1973, 123 people in 25 states have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence. Given the way in which the justice system herds the poor through its gates, it is no wonder that it often ensnares innocent people. The use of plea bargains and leniency in exchange for snitch testimony often results in the least guilty serving the most time. Often, police and prosecutors -whether under pressure or in the effort to further their careers- make quick arrests and ignore evidence that might point in another direction. In January 2003, Illinois Governor George Ryan commuted the sentences of all the state’s death row prisoners on the grounds that the system was so flawed that it could not ensure that the innocent were spared. There can be no doubt that some people who were innocent have been executed. Criminologist Michael Radlet notes that between 1900 and 1992, there were 416 documented cases of innocent persons who have been convicted of murder or capital rape a third of whom. The death penalty is very wrong. The death penalty is a race. The death penalty is the doom of America.
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