adults. The usual alternative to the death penalty is life-long imprisonment. The media
showed that in 1990,82 percent approved in principle of the death penalty. But when asked to
choose between the death penalty and life imprisonment plus restitution, only a small
minority,26 percent, continued to favor executions.
used, although the results of interrogation and torture were often fatal. In the years to follow, the
wide variety of crimes. Blacks were threatened with death for many crimes that were punished
less severely when committed by whites.
Not until the end of the 18th century were efforts made to abolish the death penalty.
Bentham, England repealed all but a few of its capital statutes during the 19th century. Many
of murder and only used the death penalty for premeditated first-degree murder. Another reform
the option of sentencing a capital offender to life imprisonment rather than to death. After the
1830s, public executions ceased to be demonstrated but did not completely stop until after 1936.
dozen states in the Middle West and Northeast have abolished capital punishment, two in the last
mentally retarded or mentally disabled, more than 40 percent are African American, and a
disproportionate number are Native American, Latino and Asian.
in many ways now regarded today as barbaric and forbidden by law almost everywhere. Some
punishment today are considered cruel and unusual punishment. In the United States, the death
penalty is currently authorized in one of five ways: hanging, electrocution, the gas chamber,
firing squad, or lethal injection. These methods of execution compared to those of the past are
The traditional mode of execution, still available in a few states, is hanging. If the drop is
strapped into a chair, and hooded. A target is pinned to the chest. Five marksmen, one with
country in this century. The condemned prisoner is led–or dragged–into the death chamber,
strapped into the chair, and electrodes are fastened to head and legs. When the switch is thrown
the body strains, jolting as the voltage is raised and lowered. Often smoke rises from the head.
consciousness. An attempt to improve on electrocution was the gas chamber. The prisoner is
is dropped into the acid to form lethal gas. The latest mode of inflicting the death penalty,
is no way of knowing that it is really painless. As the U.S. Court of Appeals observed, there is
“substantial and uncontroverted evidence … that execution by lethal injection poses a serious risk
of cruel, protracted death…. Even a slight error in dosage or administration can leave a prisoner
conscious but paralyzed while dying, a sentient witness of his or her own asphyxiation.”
However, the execution sometime never proceeds smoothly as planned. In 1985, “the authorities
repeatedly jabbed needles into … Stephen Morin, when they had trouble finding a usable vein
because he had been a drug abuser. In 1988, during the execution of Raymond Landry, “a tube
attached to a needle inside the inmate’s right arm began leaking, sending the lethal mixture
shooting across the death chamber toward witnesses.”
the cost of a non-death penalty murder case with a sentence of life imprisonment. Each year the
death penalty costs California $90 million over and above the ordinary costs of the justice
system; $76 million of this amount is spent at trial. In Los Angeles County alone, the death
penalty costs over $635,000 more per defendant than life imprisonment without parole. In Texas,
a death penalty case costs about $2.3 million on an average to prosecute and execute each capital
case as compared with $400,000 for life imprisonment. Florida has found that it is almost six
times as expensive to try a capital defendant than to imprison the person for the rest of his or her
years 1979-1984 concluded that a death penalty case costs approximately 42 percent more than a
case resulting in a non-death sentence, according to the GAO.
costs of capital punishment are actually making America less safe because badly needed
1994 Epilogue to Millions Misspent states that if a program is highly cost intensive, it should be
replaced by better alternatives. With a record high of 3,269 inmates on death row, these costs
will only continue to escalate. The hundreds of millions of dollars that would be saved could be
the true alternatives to the death penalty as well as assisting financially families of victims.
Those who argue against the death penalty as a deterrent to crime say the following
statements. Adjacent states, in which one has a death penalty and the other does not, show no
penalty seem to have a larger number of homicides than states that do not use it. Also, states that
have abolished the death penalty and then reinstituted it show no significant change in the
murder rate. And finally, there has been no record of change in the rate of homicides in a given
city or state seems to occur following a local execution. The intent of scaring a possible
murderer not to kill or kill again because of the penalty of death according to critics has little
effect. The current prevailing view among criminologists is that no conclusive evidence exists to
show that death as punishment is a more effective deterrent to violent criminal activity than
of the death penalty say that it has a deterrent effect on criminals and therefore it should prevent
charged. But instead the death penalty is not more deterrent than life-imprisonment. The
They wouldn’t be deterred whether they come into prison for the entire rest of their lives or they
advantage when they plan to or are even killing a person or they think they will make it without
any damage to themselves. And a life in prison is more deterrent than the “procedure of death”.
Another controversial aspect of the death penalty is that innocent people are killed even
though they did not commit any crime. The danger that innocent people will be executed
released from death row since 1973 after evidence of their innocence emerged. Twenty-one
condemned inmates have been released since 1993, including seven from the state of Illinois
work of expert attorneys, not available to the typical death row inmate.
In 1975, only a year before the Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of capital
punishment, two African-American men in Florida, Freddie Pitts and Wilbert Lee, were released
convictions were the result of coerced confessions, erroneous testimony of an alleged
eyewitness, and incompetent defense counsel. Though a white man eventually admitted his guilt,
a nine-year legal battle was required before the governor would grant Pitts and Lee a pardon.
Had their execution not been stayed while the constitutional status of the death penalty was
argued in the courts, these two innocent men probably would not be alive today.
innocent. The accused offered a documented alibi at their trial, but the prosecution dismissed it
as an elaborate ruse. The jury’s verdict was based mainly on what was later revealed to be
and the defendants were released after eighteen months on death row.
Racial discrimination was one of the grounds on which the Supreme Court relied in
Furman in ruling the death penalty unconstitutional. Half a century ago, Gunnar Myrdal reported
for much more than their share of the executions.” Statistics confirm this discrimination, only it
States. Of these, 2,129 (or 53 percent) were black. For the crime of murder, 3,343 were
executed; 1,693 (or 51 percent) were black. During these years African-Americans were about
12 per cent of the nation’s population.
The nation’s death rows have always had a disproportionately large population of
African-Americans, relative to their fraction of the total population. Over the past century, black
offenders, as compared with white, were often executed for crimes less often receiving the death
penalty, such as rape and burglary. (Between 1930 and 1976, 455 men were executed for rape, of
whom 405 (or 90 percent) were black.) A higher percentage of the blacks who were executed
were juveniles; and blacks were more often executed than were whites without having their
conviction reviewed by any higher court.
countries in the world, is still practiced in almost forty states, and a high proportion of people in
the United States currently support it. This was not always the case. In the 60’s and 70’s, a bare
majority of Americans favored capital punishment. But rising fear of crime, and the alienated
number of prison wardens, maintain that capital punishment constitutes cruel and unusual
punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Killing, whether carried out by an individual
or the state, is immoral and ought not to be condoned. Furthermore, the death penalty as
practiced in the U.S. is subject to judgment and racial biased. It has no proven deterrent value.
And many misapplications of justice have been recorded over the years in which people have
been put to death for crimes they did not commit.