“It’s strange when they near your cell. You lose all your strength. Then the footsteps stop in front of another solitary confinement cell and when you hear the sound of the key turning, you feel relieved.” These were the words of Sakae Menda, who spent 34 years on death row before he was found innocent. The death penalty has been a point of contention in this country for many years, and there are convincing arguments on both sides. At the core, however, it is never right to take the life of another person. The death penalty should be abolished in the United States, like it is in most other western cultures. This matters because it could very well be your family member or loved one on trial one day, and they could face the death penalty. That would a horrible reality, especially if they were innocent. And, truthfully, innocent people are sometimes condemned to die, and it’s been proven that it doesn’t deter crime; the death penalty even victimizes the poor.
The death penalty often condemns the innocent to die. While many people act as if this is debatable, it is a fact. Samuel R. Gross, Professor of Law at the University of Michigan conducted a study that concluded that since 1973, 144 people on death row have been exonerated for innocence. One such case was Glenn Ford. Mr. Ford spent more than 30 years on death row in Louisiana in solitary confinement, until he was released when new evidence in the case proved he wasn’t the murderer. This affected him even after he was released; he lived off charities and homeless shelters until he died. He is only one case; there are so many more examples of people being put on death row and then being released when they were proven innocent. When there are this many people proven innocent by DNA evidence, there is no escaping the conclusion that innocent people have been put to death for a crime they did not commit.
It is also an indisputable fact that capital punishment doesn’t deter crime. Columbia Law School’s Jeffery Fagan compared Murder Rates in Hong Kong, which abolished capital punishment in 1993, and murder rates in Singapore, which require the death penalty in murder cases. He found absolutely no difference between the crime rates of the two Asian cities. This just goes to show that the death penalty doesn’t make any area safer. H. Lee Sarokin, US Court of Appeals Justice, says that the death penalty doesn’t deter crime in his article in the Huffington Post. He makes the assertion that no murderer sits around the kitchen table, and says “If the death penalty is a possibility, I won’t commit this crime.” He says that states without the death penalty actually have consistently lower murder rates than those with the death penalty. He thinks that this is merely coincidental, though, and that the death penalty has no real effect. If this is the case, then what’s the point, revenge? We cannot base our laws or someone’s life on revenge.
The death penalty also victimizes the poor, the weakest among us. These are facts: the most important factor in determining if a defendant will get the death penalty is the quality of representation he or she is provided. This is an issue due to the fact that almost all defendants in death penalty cases cannot afford their own attorneys. Capital cases are usually represented by inexperienced, overworked, and in many cases, incompetent lawyers provided by the state. Ruth Bader Ginsburg once said “I have yet to see a death case among the dozens coming to the Supreme Court in which the defendant was well represented at trial. People who are well represented at trial do not get the death penalty.” This is an absolute outrage that should bother each and every one of us who believe in a fair judicial system.
The death penalty should absolutely be abolished because it doesn’t fit what we stand for as a country. It victimizes the poor and it acts as a law based on revenge since it doesn’t actually deter crime. Those are reason enough to abolish the death penalty, but among the most egregious issues surrounding the death penalty is that it literally sentences the innocent to die. How would you feel if it were your brother or mother being sentenced to death in a rapid trial by an inexperienced lawyer? No one should have to their life hang in the balance like that, no matter their crime. So therefore, we should take action on the local, state, and national level to make sure that the death penalty is abolished; there are more appropriate punishments, like life in prison, than killing someone as the United States of America, a land that stands for justice and equality.
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