Capital Punishment and Death by Fire

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Introduction

The cost for the death penalty is higher than if the convicted is sentenced to life in prison. The cost is two to three times higher because of the manpower needed to try a death penalty case is more involved than a person sentenced to life in prison. Death penalty cases require more jurors, experts (arsenal/psychological/medical), legal counsel, and time than a regular case.

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Additionally, when sentenced to death, the inmate usually seeks appeals to overturn their conviction. This issue does matter to me; however, it depends on the case. Texas, on average spends $8,075 per year on students and roughly $22,000 per inmate a year. Since the top three major offenses committed in Texas are burglary of habitation, possession of a controlled substance, and aggravated robbery, we must review all the facts. According to the Texas

Department of Corrections statistics, in 2016 under 9,000 people were incarcerated for murder. This is where my opinion of the death penalty, seriousness of a crime, and my tax dollar coincide. More inmates are spending time in prison for committing non-violent crimes than violent crimes. Murders should be in prison for life or put to death, in my opinion; we should spend our tax dollars only on violent, sexual, and murderous offenders and look for alternative less expensive sanctions for other offenders. I cannot say the cost of the death penalty does not affect me, because again, it depends on the case.

The cost of lethal injection is a little under $1,500. I believe in what is just and if a 20-year-old commits a heinous crime beyond a reasonable doubt and lives to be 100 years old, taxpayers have spent 1.7 million dollars for the duration of his lifetime to house him when we could have put that money into education and rehabilitation of communities for the betterment of society. If less inmates were in prison, we would have the extra money for the violent offenders. The problem is not in the cost per day per inmate or the cost of the death penalty, it is in the lack of change in our judicial and legislative systems.

The factors that I most believe contributed to Mr. Willingham’s reception of the death penalty are:

  •  A lack of scientific knowledge and skill about arsenal by the fire chief and the detectives and misinterpretation of the scene; lack of new technological advances in science and technology
  • Pressure from the community to have someone to blame for the crime
  • Emotions and preconceived notions from the community
  • His actions directly after the deaths of his three daughters
  • His history of domestic violence against his wife
  • False statements made by an alleged cell mate; a psychiatrist whom had never met or spoken to Cameron, determined he was a sociopath based on a few rock posters he had hanging in his home and a tattoo

Mr. Willingham had a history of domestic violence against his wife, but even she believed that he could not be capable of such a crime. The fact that she stood her ground up until he was about to be executed says quite a bit about his relationship with his daughters. Mr. Johnny Webb also did not help when he lied about Cameron telling the court that he had offered up a confession to him and later recanting his testimony. Mr. Webb was an extremely unreliable witness in my eyes, after reading the court transcripts and the prosecutor a snake for fabrication of the confession. In a town a little smaller than Friendswood where events like this probably don’t happen that often, the fire Marshall was not privy to the technology that may have be easy to access in a larger city and may not have known that there were scientist that study this type of science and could provide a more thorough insight into what actually occurred that day. Mr. Willingham’s half-brother even stated that he had the mindset of a twelve-year-old which may have led him not to go back in and try to save his children. A person cannot be condemned for being a coward. There were many factors that contributed to him getting the death penalty one for sure was not going back in to save the children and then partying soon afterwards.

Socioeconomic Status Does Play A Role In The Punishment Of A Person

A person with the means to afford a good lawyer is going to be able to pay for the best defense their money can buy. Court appointed lawyers tend to have a heavier work load and several cases on their plate at once. They also may not have the resources or funds to hire extra specialist and scientists to testify on their client’s behalf. It took a separate legal team out of New York to investigate getting an arsenal expert to review the case file. Another factor was that he was not as favorable to people in his community as they would have liked for him to have been, you can see why they were so eager to blame him for the cause of the fire instead of fully investigating it. One lady on the documentary stated that if he was an upstanding man that worked and provided for his family, he would have been given at least the benefit of the doubt; the jury possibly used this same mindset to convict him.

Mr. Willingham’s lawyer was court appointed and after hearing the initial evidence before the experts came in years later, his attorney did feel like he was guilty of killing his children. His counsel also urged him to take a plea deal for life without parole, but he refused. From the film I can state that it seems that his lawyer did not represent him the best way he could but after reading the case transcript, he was active during the trial and did a fantastic job of cross examining the witnesses. His lawyer wasn’t incompetent and in court did fight for his client even though he himself believed that his client was guilty. Again, with all the evidence provided at that present time, it would have seemed like he was guilty of the offense. Before technology, jurors had to rely heavily on eye-witnesses and testimony from investigators to decide the outcome.

In states were there is no death penalty the crime is lower by about 25%, however there are only a handful of states that do not have the death penalty, so this could mean crime is low because there are fewer people. Also, a person is not going to think about getting the death penalty while in the heat of the moment, they will just carry out the crime and keep their consequences in hindsight. This question does not matter to me as I believe a person who commits rape against a child or adult should also be put to death, again this is my opinion. The numbers show that in Harris county only 27% of Houstonians believe in the death penalty. I believe in justice. A man killed his two children once here in Texas near where I used to live to retaliate against his wife. That in my eyes is despicable and he needed to be put to death. So again, the death penalty does not deter crime because the criminal isn’t thinking about the punishment only the satisfaction that they are gaining from the crime they are actively committing.

Race does not affect the death penalty here in the state of Texas. After studying the execution graphs the state of Texas executed/or was going to execute 12 blacks, 16 latinos, and 16 whites between 2015-today. It seems to be even across the board and when looking at the race of the victims there was no more race on race crime than another. I was able to investigate several of the cases of those executed and convicted. Just as many whites killed whites as blacks did blacks here in the state of Texas. I did not look over the graphs of other states in detail, but Ohio was on the list with Texas often. I believe the death penalty coincides with the seriousness of the crime committed. Several of the criminals on death row were granted stays for mental impairments, I do not agree with this because they coincidentally were not too mentally impaired to commit these crimes and many of the stays were granted to blacks saying they needed treatment as opposed to the death penalty. I am black, and I agree that some do need help, however, insanity is not a free pass to commit rape and murder of an 11-year-old child or a stranger minding their business on public transportation.

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