All around the world, crimes happen, whether minor crimes or major crimes, like mass killings, serial killings, homicides etc., and the law punishes those who commit such unspeakable crimes by making them serve time in jail. In many extreme cases, the death penalty is used as a last resort to stop crimes that the person continues to commit. Whilst there is no problem with seeking justice for crimes that have been committed, I do not think the death penalty is the way because the process is inhumane and inefficient.
New York was the second state to use the death penalty the most after Virginia but as time went on, it realized the unnecessity of the death penalty and essentially aborted it completely in 2008. Though some people consider the death penalty effective justice, New York realized the mistake of using the death penalty, and there is the need for the other states who still use the method to contemplate the reasons why New York abolished the act and possibly follow suit.
The death penalty occurs when an offender is sentenced to death after being convicted by a court of law for a criminal offense, and is executed. The death penalty has been around for a long time and the most popular method was beheading, but such means have never been used in the United States. Around the 17th century, the death penalty was introduced in the American colonies and New York reported the second highest use of the death penalty after Virginia. At that time, the death penalty mostly consisted of hangings, and sometimes some people even went to witness people being hanged, but gradually, the number of crimes that were given a death penalty jurisdiction was reduced, and the punishment became focused on crimes like first-degree murder. Today, acts like hanging are no longer used as the U.S. progressed, and methods such as lethal injection, electrocution, firing squad and poison gas became more commonly used.
Some people argue that, sometimes, the best way to go about stopping a consistent offender is to get rid of them, but are we to say that although it rids us of them, that it is the right thing to do? Imagine taking a fellow human’s life into your own hands and deciding whether they live or not. That goes against every moral code possible, and is not the right thing to do. As much as we want to give justice where it is needed, there are other ways that criminal offenders can be made to pay for their crimes without having to take away their lives. New York realized that and did away with the death penalty completely in 2008. So, why then is it hard for the other states who still use the death penalty to do away with it the same way New York did?
The different types of methods used in the death penalty were simply inhumane. None of these methods provided the offender with a painless death. Each method used had its way of bringing immense suffering before death to the offender. Some of these methods sent volts of electricity into the offender numerous times until they died; another trapped the offender in a room and forced them to inhale toxic gases till they died. Those who administered these punishments claimed that they made the passing of the offenders as painless and easy as possible but none of these methods did that; instead, they only experienced immense pain before passing away.
Furthermore, the methods used are claimed to be quick and effective. Instead, when the procedure goes wrong, the offender spends much more time struggling and suffering during their last days. After all this suffering the offenders are subjected to, one would hope that the death penalty is effective; instead, all it does is get rid of the offender and not necessarily anything else for the community.
Looking at this, it baffles me why other states continue to use the death penalty when the only thing it does is kill. Following New York’s ways and abolishing the death penalty and sticking to other methods like life imprisonment would be much better and actually help out the community.
Death Penalty Cases
Throughout American history, there have been many cases which have wrongly sentenced individuals to death. Here, I will focus on a couple of cases which helped shape the notion of getting rid of the death penalty altogether.
David Keaton was convicted of killing an off-duty sheriff during a robbery, and was sentenced to death. His conviction was made purely based on a mistaken identity and forced confessions. After the actual killer was caught, the Supreme Court granted Keaton a new trial. His charges were dropped, and he was released.
Another was the case of Delbert Tibbs, who was sentenced to death for allegedly raping a white sixteen-year-old girl and killing her companion. He was tried by an all-white jury who believed the girl’s testimony, even though it was inconsistent. The Florida Supreme Court overturned the conviction because the verdict could not be supported by the evidence they had.
These are just two out of thousands of cases where a person is found guilty and sentenced to death only to find out later that their verdict was false.
Setbacks of the Death Penalty
With the death penalty, people only consider the immediate effect which is doing away with the offender, but what of other factors like how much the death penalty costs, and whether the method actually deter crimes as many suggest?
Research shows that the death penalty costs more than what it does to put an offender in prison for life. Oklahoma uses 3.2 times more than they would on a capital case than non-capital cases. Kansas reported using about $400,000 per case if death penalty was used compared to $100,000 when death penalty was not used. Also, studies in California show that they have used about $4 billion on death penalty cases since 1978 and New York is expected to spend $500 million on the cost of death penalty in 20 years if the death penalty was to be reinstated.
All these studies show that the use of the death penalty costs way more than it would for a non-capital punishment. The worst part of this is that it is not exclusively government funded and the cost falls on taxpayers. This brings me to the next question on whether the death penalty deters crimes.
Research shows that the death penalty is among the lowest ways to deter crime. Research by the New York Times has found that states without the death penalty have a lower homicide rate than states with the death penalty. Thus, all this shows is that the death penalty is a great example of wasting money on a method that is immoral and doesn’t work.
New York completely abolishing the death penalty means them saving lots of money originally wasted on a less effective method. The states who are stuck on the death penalty could save much more of the taxpayers’ money and use it for different humane methods, which are far more effective, rather than the death penalty if they abolish the death penalty too.
Additional setbacks show the death penalty to be unjust, since factors such as income, race, the attorney’s level of prestige, and location of the crime play a role in sentencing behavior. As a result of this, a lot of people of color were sentenced to death at much higher rates than white people. Lastly, the death penalty sees too many innocent people convicted. The luckier ones are tried and let go, and those who are unlucky are killed for a crime they did not commit. All these facts prove why the death penalty should not be used as a way of punishment for crimes.
Other Methods Than the Death Penalty
Looking at all the methods by which the law can punish a person for their crimes, it still baffles me why people would opt for the death penalty. While I understand that society may want to rid us of such people, the process is nonetheless immoral and does not work, so there is no point in using the method. Lawful ways to go about punishing individuals for similar crimes could be life in prison with parole, where those who commit crimes are sent to prison and can be re-tried and released before their sentence is over; depending on the level of their crime, they could also be sentenced to life imprisonment. These methods, although unsuitable for some people’s standard of justice, are the proper way to go about punishment and make criminals learn their lesson.
If we are to assess the benefits and disadvantages of the death penalty, we are likely to only see disadvantages as there is no advantage to this method other than unnecessary killing. As people, we know that killing is a crime, and that is why people are convicted of murder. Thus, us killing the criminals who killed people is hypocritical. New York realized all of the disadvantages and the no-benefit that the death penalty brought to the state and that is why they abolished it. So, it would make sense if these other states still using these methods realize the uselessness of it and abolish it like New York did.