Analyzing Abolishing the Death Penalty and Capital Punishment … Term Paper
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Abolishing the Death Penalty/Capital Punishment
Social evolution seems to have triggered people and countries across the globe to a consensus regarding certain practices. Many countries seem to have agreed that some practices must be stopped, as a way of maintaining the dignity of humanity. Slavery and sacrificing humans as a ritual are some examples of the practices that the world now largely abhors and frowns at. Physical torture of humans is yet another practice that is fast being dropped by many societies. Although vestiges of some of these practices still exist, they remain isolated and far from the normal and universally acceptable behaviors and cultures. That means the practices have largely been shunned and that they have no room in modern society.
Historically, however the church is said to have executed many lives, contrary to Biblical teachings of the importance of life, and man's right to the same (Snyder, 1999). Christians killed many innocent people during the early centuries in the name of Christ as their flag bearer; in fact, several monotheist religions massacred innocent lives, attributing their acts to divine law, killing people who were considered blasphemous or heretical (Nicolau, 2013). The Catholic Church bishops in the U.S., in 1976, made an appeal to the Pontifical Justice and Peace Commission based in Rome to assist in solving the contentious debate over death penalties. The Commission responded that "bishops have voiced their views and acted firmly in support of life against abortion and euthanasia. . . . There must be an inner reason that would force Catholics, with their sense of the sacredness of life, to be persistent in this defence and extend it to the adoption of capital punishment." More bishops were motivated as a result of the Commission's response to push for the abolition of capital punishment. It was in the same year that the Supreme Court lifted its suspension of death penalty (the ban was declared in 1972) sentences by declaring it constitutional in Gregg v. Georgia (Snyder, 1999).
Most countries around the world have increasingly dropped the death penalty as an unacceptable way of punishing capital offenders. However, there is still lack of consensus regarding the use and effectiveness of this penalty. China, which is the most populous country in the world, executes capital offenders in their thousands each year. The United States applies the death penalty commonly. Overall, there are 84 countries that still employ the death sentence. Studies show that the number of states that employ the death penalty to punish capital offenders is declining fast. There is a likelihood that pressure will mount on those who still apply the penalty, until they abandon it in the coming years (Dieter, n.d.). There are varied reasons why the countries that drop the death penalty do so. Many countries have made that decision basing it on their new perspective on human rights understanding. Spain, for instance, abolished the death penalty completely in 1995 with formidable observation that the practice had no place in modern society. There is nothing more degrading than depriving someone of their life (Nicolau, 2013). Switzerland cited flagrant violation of the right to life and dignity as its motivation towards the abandonment of the sentence. In South Africa, Justice Chaskalson notably pointed out in the landmark decision that overturned the use of the death penalty that the right to life is the most critical of all human rights. Therefore respect for such important human rights must be demonstrated by the state in all its activities including how it deals with criminals (Dieter, n.d.).
The first person in Europe to abolish capital punishment in 1786 was the Great Duke of Tuscany. It is no accident that the enlightenment philosophy and the first abolition of death penalty occurred simultaneously in history. After all, there should be no power capable of taking away man's natural right to life; there is the need for a society that does not execute any man even if he breaks its laws. This is the essence of abolishing capital punishment as a way of protecting human rights, specifically the right to life. Evidence lies in the history of abolishing death penalty (Nicolau, 2013). A society's power should halt at the point where it recognizes that it cannot execute man for whatever reason due to each person's right to life. Clearly, a murderer does not realize this right. But why would a society want to see through the eyes of the murderer by adopting his practice of killing? (Nicolau, 2013). This paper will justify why death or capital punishment should be abolished by all nations across the globe.
The Error Rates in Capital Cases- A Broken System
Many stakeholders in the American justice system agree that errors in the legal death penalty sentence have hit a crisis level. More people hold the opinion that the system sends some innocent people to death row. Other critics state that capital appeal procedures are too winding and too long. According to the governor's director of communications, Ellen Qualls, in every 300 pertinent cases, 20 to 30 are expected to be exonerations in accordance to the trends of DNA test results. This clearly indicates a high error rate in previous convictions of suspects to capital punishment; this can be argued by some as unacceptable for a state that sentences offenders to death penalties. Although the U.S. has been divided for a long time with regards to the issue of capital punishment, it is upon a state to adopt or abolish it. Providing evidence that many innocent people have been killed through capital punishment is strong enough to push for its abolishment (Marris, 2006).
A report, the first ever on modern American capital appeals, collected information on various appeals; 4578 appeals were found in capital cases of the state between 1973 and 1995, highlighting that both opinions on the death penalty system are true. They say that the judicial review of capital offences takes far too long. The study, however, found the justification for the protracted process, stating that the capital sentences are frequently fraught with so many errors that critically dent their reliability and credibility (Liebman, Fagan, & West, 2000). The report further showed that
In the period spanning 23 years, prejudicial error stood at 68% in the capital punishment system. In particular, there were serious flaws in 7 out of every 10 capital sentences slapped on people. There were thousands of such cases under review and completed in the same period (Liebman, Fagan, & West, 2000).
It has also been established that there are far too many mistakes in capital trials that it takes up to three inspections to cite them. This also means that there is a chance that some of the mistakes are not picked up in the inspections. A federal review discovered fundamental flaws that undermine the reliability of the results of 40% of the remaining death sentences. This was after 47% of death sentences were thrown out, owing to serious errors (Liebman, Fagan, & West, 2000).
State courts conduct most of the clean up in correcting mistakes in death sentences. 90% of the death sentences that were dismissed were done by state judges. Interestingly, many of these judges were among the ones that imposed those death sentences. They were bestowed with public trust; therefore, they were unlikely to overturn the death sentences unless there was a very good reason. Federal review is still necessary though. There are large amounts of grave capital errors that the state judges of the appellate courts are required to review. It is not a wonder, therefore that a substantial amount of the cases that are let through to the federal stage are still significantly flawed (Liebman, Fagan, & West, 2000).
The threshold for the reversal of a case is quite high. Some of the common reasons that lead to reversals of death sentences include: 1. Incompetent defence lawyers who fail to identify such errors in the cases against their clients; and 2. Prosecutors who learnt about such serious errors, but deliberately covered them up and eventually let the jury make rulings without such information (Liebman, Fagan, & West, 2000).
There were massive error rates that endangered innocent people and exposed them to the possibility of wrongful execution. It was found that 82% of people whose cases were reversed deserved sentences that were less severe than a death sentence.7% of these people were found innocent (Liebman, Fagan, & West, 2000).
The high rate of errors occurs over a long time. It was noted that 50% of the flawed cases examined, occurred in 20 of the 23 years that the study was carried out including 17 of the last 19 years. The error rate was over 60% in half of the most recent years (Liebman, Fagan, & West, 2000).
The error rates are a common occurrence across the nation. It has been pointed out that over 90% of the states that still apply the death sentence in the U.S. have an error rate of over 52%.… [END OF PREVIEW]
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