More than 100 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. The USA by contrast has increased its rate of executions and the number of crimes punishable by death. Thirty-eight states currently have the death penalty on their statute books. More than 500 people have been executed in the USA since 1990. More than 3,000 others are on death row. More than half the nations of the world (and all of the so-called "developed nations," except for the U.S.) have outlawed capital punishment.|
In an era in which the United States is attempting to take the lead on universal rights and free democracy, how can it continue to promulgate a punishment deemed draconian by many of its allies? Further, the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the nation's foundational document, prohibits the infliction of "cruel and unusual punishment." What could be more cruel than the taking of a person's life, particularly, as is often the case, by means of a device as barbaric as the electric chair?
Children have not reached a full understanding of their actions. However, in 24 US states people can be sentenced to death for crimes committed when they were children. In 1989 the US Supreme Court ruled that it was not unconstitutional to execute mentally retarded people. Since then some 30 mentally impaired people have been executed. However, some positive steps have been taken. In 1998 Nebraska became the 12th state to adopt a law banning the execution of mentally retarded prisoners. Whether someone is sentenced to life or death can depend more on their lawyer than on the crime. A defendant who cannot afford an experienced and competent lawyer is more likely to be sentenced to death than someone who can.
One execution is one too many because, no matter how it's carried out, the death penalty is cruel, inhuman and degrading. It's an assault on human dignity and a violation of human rights. A startling number of inmates on death row have had convictions overturned on DNA evidence not available at the time of the trial. If we could absolutely 100% guarantee that this person is unrepentantly guilty of an unbelievably heinous crime - then maybe, MAYBE they have forfeited their right to live. BUT ONLY by the decision, and at THE HANDS of those closest to the victim! NOT BY SOME GOVERNMENT HACK!
BUT even this is by definition impossible. We are human and we are amazingly prone to error. History is full of times when the greatest minds have made simple errors (anyone remember crashing a space probe into Mars because someone forgot to convert Metric to English?. And the people we have running the judicial system are far from "our greatest minds". They miscalculate, underestimate, overestimate, or misjudge every single day - luckily it rarely has to do with another person's life.
The point is we are not perfect and death penalty convictions have been overturned because there was something we didn't see before - maybe something we couldn't see - or someone just plain lied. It is beyond doubt that America's "Justice System" has executed innocent people.
So what, we have DNA now - we won't make mistakes? Ever hear of PLANTED EVIDENCE? Never happens you say? Think again. IT HAPPENS! NO-ONE can be trusted with this kind of power. How do we decide what crimes are capital crimes? Murder? Manslaughter? The US Army executed a man for desertion -- is that right? The Rosenbergs were executed for conspiracy, not espionage -- because there wasn't enough evidence to convict them of espionage.
The Supreme Court decided in 1977 that you cannot execute someone for rape -- the punishment is disproportionate to the crime. 17 blacks and 3 whites were currently awaiting execution on the charge of rape. If the Court is correct that it's wrong to execute someone for rape, what about all the people who had already been executed? Some say the death penalty is racist. I believe that more than that, it is MONEY that is a major part of deciding who lives and dies, and most blacks brought up on serious crimes don't get competent defense for a lack of it.
The United States has killed thousands of people by way of the death penalty. Some were innocent. I believe that part of the reason events like September 11 2001 are happening to America, with increasing frequency, is it's peoples coldhearted attitude towards life, as in the case of ABORTION. The increasing use of the death penalty is another. You live by the sword, you will DIE by the sword. PURE AND SIMPLE. On June 11 2001, the person who allegedly committed the worst terror attack on American soil up to that time, Timothy McVeigh, was killed at the hands of the U.S. government. We know what happened three months later, to the day. A warning to the perceptive? The bottom line is: a "justice" system that thumbs it's nose at the constitution, and cares very little about truth, and nothing about fairness, must NEVER be given the power to decide who lives, and who dies.