I created this blog several years ago to do my part in reducing the amount of violent victimization in society, such as murder, rape, battery and so forth. Unfortunately, sometimes murder is committed by the governments that we want to protect us.
I remember the story of a teenage girl who was stoned to death by authorities for adultery in Somalia when she chose to report an alleged rape. Some other countries consider themselves more civilized for only choosing to provide the death penalty to murderers.
Of course, I want to use as much defensive force as necessary to protect people. If the only way to stop a murderer is with lethal defensive force, then I’m all for it.
But when we have already protected the innocent by incarcerating the offender, is it worth committing murder as punishment–even for murder? Let’s look at some facts about the death penalty provided by Amnesty International USA:
The death penalty defies international human rights standards. Over two-thirds of the countries in the world – 139 – have now abolished the death penalty in law or practice. In 2008, 93% of all known executions took place in five countries – China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the USA.
The death penalty is racially biased. Since 1977, the overwhelming majority of death row defendants (80%) have been executed for killing white victims, even though African-Americans make up about half of all homicide victims.
The death penalty claims innocent lives. Since 1973, 135 people have been released from death rows throughout the country due to evidence of their wrongful conviction. In this same time period, more than 1,000 people have been executed.
The death penalty is not a deterrent. A September 2000 New York Times survey found that during the last 20 years, the homicide rate in states with the death penalty has been 48 to 101% higher than the rate in states without the death penalty.
The death penalty costs more and diverts resources from genuine crime control. The greatest costs associated with the death penalty occur prior to and during trial, not in post-conviction proceedings. Even if all post-conviction proceedings (appeals) were abolished, the death penalty would still be more expensive than alternative sentences.
The death penalty disregards mental illness. The execution of those with mental illness or “the insane” is clearly prohibited by international law. In the USA, Constitutional protections for those with other forms of mental illness are minimal, however, and dozens of prisoners have been executed despite suffering from serious mental illness.
The death penalty is arbitrary and unfair. 95% of death row inmates cannot afford their own attorney. Local politics, the location of the crime, plea bargaining, and pure chance affect the process and make it a lottery of who lives and dies. Since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, 80% of all executions have taken place in the South (37% in Texas alone).
These facts show us many of the drawbacks of the death penalty. But I think we all know that murder has drawbacks. Despite it’s drawbacks, I think people support it because they want revenge. I have posted many times about the foolishness of vengeance. In the case of the death penalty, supporters need to reconsider whether the pleasure they feel from hurting another person as revenge is worth the drawbacks and risks of committing murder. Personally, I want the focus of law enforcement and the criminal justice system to solely be to protect people from violent victimization such as murder, rape, battery, assault, muggings and so forth. I do not want the justice system diverted towards the sadistic goal of getting revenge.
What do you think? Would you ever support murder? Do you know any other interesting facts about the death penalty?