Capital Punishment- Injustice of Society



Capital Punishment:
Injustice of Society


Looking out for the state of the public’s satisfaction in the scheme of
capital sentencing does not constitute serving justice. Today’s system of
capital punishment is frought with inequalities and injustices. The commonly
offered arguments for the death penalty are filled with holes. “It was a
deterrent. It removed killers. It was the ultimate punishment. It is
biblical. It satisfied the public’s need for retribution. It relieved the
anguish of the victim’s family.”(Grisham 120) Realistically, imposing the
death penalty is expensive and time consuming. Retroactively, it has yet to
be proven as a deterrent. Morally, it is a continuation of the cycle of
violence and “...degrades all who are involved in its enforcement, as well as
its victim.”(Stewart 1)
Perhaps the most frequent argument for capital punishment is that of
deterrence. The prevailing thought is that imposition of the death penalty
will act to dissuade other criminals from committing violent acts. Numerous
studies have been created attempting to prove this belief; however, “[a]ll
the evidence taken together makes it hard to be confident that capital
punishment deters more than long prison terms do.”(Cavanagh 4) Going ever
farther, Bryan Stevenson, the executive director of the Montgomery based
Equal Justice Initiative, has stated that “…people are increasingly realizing
that the more we resort to killing as a legitimate response to our
frustration and anger with violence, the more violent our society becomes…We
could execute all three thousand people on death row, and most people would
not feel any safer tomorrow.”(Frame 51) In addition, with the growing
humanitarianism of modern society, the number of inmates actually put to
death is substantially lower than 50 years ago. This decline creates a
situation in which the death penalty ceases to be a deterrent when the
populace begins to think that one can get away with a crime and go
unpunished. Also, the less that the death sentence is used, the more it
becomes unusual, thus coming in conflict with the eighth amendment. This is
essentially a paradox, in which the less the death penalty is used, the less
society can legally use it. The end result is a punishment that ceases to
deter any crime at all.
The key part of the death penalty is that it involves death -- something
which is rather permanent for humans, due to the concept of mortality. This
creates a major problem when “…there continue to be many instances of
innocent people being sentenced to death.”(Tabak 38) In our legal system,
there exist numerous ways in which justice might be poorly served for a
recipient of the death sentence. Foremost is in the handling of his own
defense counsel. In the event that a defendant is without counsel, a lawyer
will be provided. “Attorney’s appointed to represent indigent capital
defendants frequently lack the qualities necessary to provide a competent
defense and sometimes have exhibited such poor character that they have
subsequently been disbarred.”(Tabak 37). With payment caps or court
determined sums of, for example, $5 an hour, there is not much incentive for
a lawyer to spend a great deal of time representing a capital defendant.
When you compare this to the prosecution, “…aided by the police, other law
enforcement agencies, crime labs, state mental hospitals, various other
scientific resources, prosecutors …experienced in successfully handling
capital cases, compulsory process, and grand juries…”(Tabak 37), the defense
that the court appointed counsel can offer is puny. If, in fact, a defendant
has a valid case to offer, what chance has he to offer it and have it
properly recognized. Furthermore, why should he be punished for a misjustice
that was created by the court itself when it appointed the incapable lawyer.

Even if a defendant has proper legal counsel, there is still the matter of
impartiality of judges. “The Supreme Court has steadily reduced the
availability of habeas corpus review of capital convictions, placing its
confidence in the notion that state judges, who take the same oath of office
as federal judges to uphold the Constitution, can be trusted to enforce
it.”(Bright 768) This makes for the biased trying of a defendant’s appeals,
“…given the overwhelming pressure on elected state judges to heed, and
perhaps even lead to, the popular cries for the death of criminal
defendants.”(Bright 769) Thirty two of the states that impose the death
penalty also employ the popular election of judges, and several of these even
have judges run with party affiliations. This creates a deeply political
justice system -- the words alone are a paradox. Can society simply brush
off mistaken execution as an incidental cost in