This article is not intended to a persuasive argument either against or for the use of capital punishment. What this article seeks to do is provide cold, hard facts about the viability of capital punishment in America.
The concept of penalizing a person with the loss of life for committing an offense traces all the way back to the very first European settlements. You all know that the punishment for being found guilty of witchcraft in Salem, Mass was death, but did you also know that you could be sentenced to death for crimes that include rape, adultery, sodomy, idolatry, rebellion and even perjury?
A quite a long time, debate raged over whether the death penalty is racially administered. Some people might well assume that this debate is over and done with and that it was really just a myth all along. A landmark summary of studies into the racial question regarding death penalties handed out in America was titled Death Penalty Sentencing: Research Indicates Pattern of Racial Disparities was compiled and sent to Congress just two years after George H.W. Bush was elected partly on the strength of the Willie Horton ad. This report include findings from dozens of studies that concluded that black people who will white people have almost no hope of getting away with a mere life sentence. Recent studies have concluded that little has changed since 1990. The other side of this issue is best refuted in the book The Myth of a Racist Criminal Justice System by William Wilbanks.
One aspect of the death penalty that is not open to argument is that women murderers are far more likely to live a longer life than male murderers. Only about 100 women have ever been executed in America and just slightly over 10 between 1976 and 2009. One answer to this discrepancy might be that women commit fewer murders, but the percentage of homicides committed either by women alone or in connection with men has been standing at roughly 20% for a few decades now. Clearly, far less than 20% of those who have executed were equipped with a vagina by God.
In his book Deathquest III, author Robert Bohm says that at least 16 innocent people have been executed and that over 120 death row inmates have been released because new evidence proved they were not guilty.
A study conducted by the National Law Journal concluded that in many cases-and in most cases in those Southern states most eager to dole out the death penalty-defendants are likely to be represented by lawyers that make the OJ prosecution team look a multi-headed Clarence Darrow. Anyone who watched the Ted Bundy trial on television can attest to the fact that even such a high profile death penalty defendant hardly receives the finest legal mind available. This is obviously not such a bad thing when the defendant happens to be guilty, but what about those 136 people described above?
One of the most common statements you will hear from hardcore supporters of the death penalty is that they don’t want their tax dollars going to feed a murderer. The facts contradict that intellectual decision quite decisively. Most people should have absolutely no moral qualms about the state killing a person like Timothy McVeigh. On the other hand, it does make one a little queasy to learn that it cost the United States 100 million dollars to try and execute Timothy McVeigh when it would probably have cost less than one million dollars to keep him in jail for the rest of his miserable life. Of course, it should make you even queasier to think that McVeigh had escaped and wrought his self-righteous right-wing hatred against other innocents or lived to become a prisoner philosopher who influenced like-minded mindless lemmings. McVeigh wanted to become a martyr in death, but it appears that with the exception of Sean Hannity and the American Tea-Aliban Party followers, that is not going to happen.