Synthesizing your own idea using the book for The Death Penalty
The debate on death penalty
In her book Last Words From Death Row: The Walls Unit, Norma Herrera writes about the tribulations she and her family went through while trying to free her brother, Leonel, from the death row. Despite showing glaring and overwhelming evidence claiming his innocence, Leonel was sentenced to death for a crime that he did not commit. His last words to the world were, “I am innocent, innocent, innocent. I am an innocent man, and something very wrong is taking place tonight.” CITATION Nor07 l 16393 (Herrera)Those who support the death row, however, would score Herrera for her attempt to bring light to this sensitive issue, and call her words an excessively emphatic exultation to bring attention away from the crime itself. They would argue that a person who took another’s life should not be allowed to keep his own.
The death penalty is an issue more complicated than any debate that the country has ever seen. Despite the long debates and the rehashed concepts that are presented to the media almost every day, there is but one truth that defines the issue: there is no way to look at the death penalty in black and white. Where on one hand, it ventures into immoral territory due to the obvious murder involved. On the other, though, the act is justified by calling it justice or retribution. Words like revenge, good, cruel and inhumane pop-up, but they do little to cast any importance on the debate: we cannot look at the death penalty with the expectations to reach a final decision.
In his article, Why the Death Penalty Needs to die, Nick Gillespie expresses outrage against people who label death penalty as a sane policy and good politics CITATION Gil14 p “par. 2” l 16393 (Gillespie par. 2). On the other hand, recently executed murderer David Zink was of the opinion that capital punishment was a better way of life for inmates than living their lives in constant doubt and fear while out on parole. He even asked his fellow inmates on death row to embrace the death penalty, calling it a true liberation, as opposed to parole, which he described a “lingering death” CITATION Hol15 p “pars. 4-6” l 16393 (Holloway pars. 4-6).
Whether the two arguments are right is ambiguous, though: how does one decide what the good way to die is? Human beings are part of the ultimate statistic: all of us die. What criteria does one use to decide whether one died a better death than his or her neighbor? Would a man, suffering at the hands of people, dying painlessly in his sleep be better than a good, honest family man dying in an accident? Thus, the whole debate about dying a death worse than the victim seems redundant, since there is no established criteria to decide what a successful death is.
Gillespie goes on criticizing the government for being unable to kill even a man properly, thus bringing attention to the numerous botched executions that have come to light recently, sparking up a new debate about using the penalty as a means of money. This, in turn, brings one to the current topic creating a buzz in circles: the days of discussing the morality and immorality of the death penalty seem to be long past. Now, experts are debating over whether it is an economical choice, as well as a popular one CITATION Gil14 p “pars. 1-2” l 16393 (Gillespie pars. 1-2).
CNN’s legal analyst Philip Holloway enlisted the reasons why the death penalty doesn’t work, and its economic repercussions were the highlight of his piece. He highlights studies that bring to light numerous instances of the death penalty costing the state more money than in cases where the prosecution’s ask for life without the possibility of parole. An example comes out of Colorado, where the jury for the Holmes case will now spend somewhere around three and a half million dollars for the criminal litigation, as opposed to the 150,000 that would have been spent had the state not decided to push for the death penalty CITATION Hol15 p “pars. 7-11” l 16393 (Holloway pars. 7-11).
David von Drehle shares Holloway’s opinions and says that the American shift in mindset from the death penalty to living in prison is more of a practical debate than a moral one. He calls the system of death penalty balky and unfixable in its stringent rules. It goes against not only the principles of life but also against those of fiscal responsibility and limited government CITATION Von15 p “par. 9” l 16393 (Von Drehle par. 9).
There are two ways to look at this side of the argument: one falls into the stream of humanity, where the debate then expands to include the age old question of whether human lives, however, wasted or criminal, should be measured regarding money. The other side takes on a practical approach than a humanitarian one and supports the abolishment of the death penalty on grounds that it will save the government potentially millions of dollars, and thus help in ameliorating the criminal justice system in America.
The scales may tip either side for each asked for his or her opinion. However, it is still not questionable to consider the pragmatism of the second view. The criminal justice system is horribly underfunded and understaffed, and a trial is pursuing a potential death penalty costs hundreds of thousands of dollars in evidence and other procedures throughout the trial. Additionally, it also prolongs the accused’s wait for a final verdict without the clear shot at acquittal on the horizon. If one is considering the moral ground here, one has to ask: what is crueler – killing a convict by lethal injection or having him believe that every day could be his last for years and years at a stretch?
Another face of the argument arises when the technicalities are concerned: not only is it inconsistent across the country, but its latest track record with success has been less than exemplary. Drehle says that there are only 31 states in the United States that practice the death penalty, and despite the decades’ worth of practice that the government has had, the system is doing an admirable job of getting the executions wrong. In April of 2014, authorities in Oklahoma spent almost forty minutes trying to kill Clayton Lockett after his execution was botched. He ultimately died of a heart attack CITATION Von15 p “par. 13” l 16393 (Von Drehle par. 13).
Not only this, the possibility of executing innocent people is one that has been discussed over and over again. In his article Here’s Why We Need to Kill the Death Penalty, Pennsylvania’s 17th District state Senator Daylin Leach says that since the reinstatement of the death penalty, over 149 people have been exonerated after being sentenced to death. Similarly, in the past 23 years, over 2000 people had been wrongly convicted of crimes that they did not commit. What he deems most disturbing is the absence of DNA evidence in over 85 percent of criminal cases. Lately, DNA evidence has been a prime player in determining the innocence of many people—but what of the people who have been wrongly convicted, or even sentenced to death over the years—because of the lack of DNA evidence to prove them innocent? CITATION Sen15 p “pars. 7-11” l 16393 (Sen. Leach pars. 7-11)Kent Scheidegger, in a debate on the death penalty, however, expressed the exact opposite, saying that the chances of an innocent person dying in prison after getting a lifetime sentence are greater than one dying on death row. Why? Because inmates on death row are put on priority regarding the appeal, cases, and post-trial motions. Thus, he calls death penalty an important part of the system, necessary to focus on guilt rather than any other issue CITATION Pad15 p 11 l 16393 (Padgett, Hanks and Raines 11).
The views are diverse. The arguments are many. The people talking are sundry. The conclusion, however, seems unreachable, at least in the near future. Whether the death penalty is justified by morality or by law is as questionable as the practices of the act itself. Though there have been many studies exulting both the popularity and the dislike of the death penalty, a specific conclusion cannot be reached until all agree. This, however, is what is impossible. However, there are some pertinent questions that we can begin with, the foremost being this: however wasted, inhuman or cruel a person is, do we arbitrarily get the right to debate on his life and his importance based solely on the pragmatism that it constitutes? If so, why is it then that some who may deserve to die—as defined by the circumstances and the criteria—walk free, while others who could have been spared lose their lives? On a broader spectrum, we need to consider whether the argument has two sides, or is just a futile debate wasting everyone’s time?
BIBLIOGRAPHY Gillespie, Nick. Why the Death Penalty Needs to Die. 31 July 2014. Web. 28 November 2015.
Herrera, Norma. Last Words from Death Row: The Wall Unit. Nightengale Press, 2007. Print .
Holloway, Philip. Time to question sanity of the death penalty. 26 July 2015. Web. 28 November 2015.
Padgett, Ray, et al. “Abolish the death penalty.” Intelligence Squared U. S. Debate. Arlington: National Capitol Contracting, 15 April 2015. Web.
Sen. Leach, Daylin. Here’s Why We Need to Kill the Death Penalty. 27 January 2015. Web. 28 November 2015.
Von Drehle, David. “The Death of the Death Penalty .” TIME Magazine 8 June 2015. Web.