Punishable by Death?
A crime that is apparently so heinous that the only conceivable punishment is death. The use of the death penalty as a deterrent to crime is as heinous as the crimes that put people on death row. The death penalty is believed to be one rooted in racism and it has continued on in that tradition. The poor are at a disadvantage when it comes to being tried for the death penalty. Lastly the sentencing of the death penalty is not always given with just cause. The penalty of death due to crime is a racist punishment that condemns the poor and innocent alike.
Racism has always been around and probably always will be. However it has no place in our court systems. It is fairly apparent that the death penalty is racist. African Americans are 12% of the U.S. population, but yet they make up 43% of prisoners on death row. Although Blacks constitute 50% of all murder victims, 83% of the victims in death penalty cases are white. Throughout the course of the history of our country, only 37 of the over 18,000 executions in this country involved a white person killing an African American person. Also a study done in Georgia found that murderers of white people are 4.3 times more likely to receive a death sentence than killers of African Americans. Right now more than 75% of the people on federal death row are not white. Of the 156 prosecutions approved by the Attorney General since 1988, 74% of the defendants were not white.
Having money has always been a source of influence in this country since the beginning of its existence. When it comes time to defend oneself in court it all boils down to if you can afford a good attorney that specializes in capital punishment cases. Justice William O. Douglas once said, One searches our chronicles in vain for the execution of any member of the affluent strata in this society. Justice Douglas is verifying that money has a strong hold on society and the more one has the better off one will be in that situation. More than 90% of the defendants charged with capital crimes are poor and cannot afford to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent them. One is the forced to have inexperienced and underpaid court-appointed attorneys. Most states pay for court appointed attorneys is so low that lawyers assigned to capital punishment cases will lose $20-30 and hour if they even do an adequate job. In Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi defense attorneys are paid a flat fee of $1,000. For most lawyers that is the equivalent to $5 an hour. During the Clinton administration, Clinton himself cut federal funding to 20 legal resource centers. These centers provided counsel to poor defendants. All these centers that once received funding have been shut down.
Considering that one could never always know if the person committed of a crime is always the one that committed it. In the last 25 years, more than 82 people have been released from prison after being sentenced to death despite their innocence. So, 1 in 7 of those on death row has been freed after being fully forgiven. It is noted in the book, In Spite of Innocence that between 1900 and 1992 there have been 416 documented cases of innocent persons who have been convicted and given a death sentence. The authors discovered that in 23 of those cases, the person wound up executed anyways. In Illinois they have released as many people from death row as it has executed since 1976. Illinois Supreme Court Justice responded to that with, Despite the courts efforts to fashion a death penalty scheme that is just the system is not working. Innocent people are being sentenced to death If this is the best our state can do, we have no business sending people to their deaths. Former President Clinton has called appeals by death-row prisoners ridiculous and interminable . He passed a law that limits prisoners to a single habeas corpus appeal within one year of conviction. Under this law, many of those released from death row due to innocence since 1976 would be dead.
Throughout the history of our great country many people have been sentenced to death. Although we now have humane ways of killing people it still doesn t make the process of sentencing a person to death proper and just. The punishment of death in this country has had roots in racism. The 1972 Furman V. Georgia case abolish the death penalty for four year on the grounds hat capital punishment was full of racial disparities. The people of this country that have money will always be more likely to get out of death sentences and receive life or a shorter sentence for a crime that has had harsher punishments. Also we can never be sure what really happens at the scene of a crime, be it shoplifting or murder. The only way we could is if we where actually there or its on video. However in most cases its not. So we can never be sure if the person sentenced to death actually committed a crime that would be considered for punishment by death.