The death penalty is a very controversial topic for many of us, there will always be two sides. Some may think that it’s necessary and fair because they may have done heinous crimes, others may think that the government doesn’t have the right to take another person’s life, or maybe you think there are many pros and cons and don’t really takes sides. There are thirty-one states with the death penalty including the state of Nebraska. One thousand four hundred eighty-one people since 1976 have been sentenced to the death penalty. The method being lethal injection, electrocution, gas chamber, hanging, and firing squad since the year of 1976 (DEATH PENALTY INFORMATION CENTER, Para 1).
Like I said people may have different opinions on the death penalty, some might have many pros and cons. People may think that the pros would be getting closure for the victim’s families, or that death penalty costs less than life imprisonment without parole, and they may argue that it’s constitutional, the Eighth Amendment, prohibits the federal government from imposing excessive bail, fines and cruel and unusual punishments, including torture. They argue that the lethal injection is painless and a humane method of execution, whereas others may think that the death penalty is cruel and inhuman and just a response to murder. Maybe that it’s not an effective way to be preventing people from doing heinous crimes. Some cons that others may say is that innocent people are wrongfully executed, some may be suffering from mental illness, or that a death penalty is a form of revenge. Others sometimes may also think that the death penalty can be abused or be applied unfairly, making it dangerous and unfair (List of 10 Biggest Death Penalty Pros and Cons).
If we would’ve known that statistics have proven that one in every twenty-five (4.1%) people on death row are innocent we would think just a little bit differently than we do now or you may not (ONE IN 25 SENTENCED TO DEATH IN THE U.S. IS INNOCENT, STUDY CLAIMS, Par 3). It has also been proven that 140 people have been released from death row around the country due to wrongful convictions and evidence. The death penalty can also be racially biased, since the year 1977. Majority of the death row defendants (77%) have been killed for killing white victims, even though African-Americans make up just about 50% of all homicide victims. Almost all of the death row inmates could not afford their own attorney when they are on trial, which could lead to a not very fair trial. The percentage of White race 42%, African-American 41%, Hispanics 13%, and 3% are described as “Other”.
The state with the most executions is California with the amount being 746 people. As of 2017 more than fifty women have been executed in the country since the year 1903. Twenty-two juveniles in the United States since January 1, 1973, have also been sentenced to death, mostly 17-year-olds. Sometimes the juveniles that are seventeen years old are tried as adults which means that they will treat them like adults, sometimes resulting in getting the death penalty or a longer life sentence. Whereas if you are tried as a minor then you will go to rehabilitation and not have to go to prison. The oldest man that has ever been executed was in Alabama, Walter Moody at the age of 83. The most famous execution was “The Oklahoma Bomber” Timothy McVeigh in 2001, (Death Penalty Information Center, Pg. 2). There are many, many ways people can get on death row. Take Timothy McVeigh for example, a bomber. Some capital offenses would be murder, either to a federal judge or law enforcement official or anyone in that matter. Others would be murder for hire, bank-robbery-related murder or kidnapping, and treason. Different types of offenses to cause the death penalty would be aircraft hijacking, placing a bomb near a bus terminal, drug trafficking, and espionage. Espionage is spying or using spies, typically by governments to obtain political and military information. Sometimes offenses like second conviction for rape of a child under the age of 14 can also be caused for the death sentence. As you can tell most of these offenses usually involve the murder of others (DEATH PENALTY INFORMATION CENTER, Para 1).
There aren’t many other offenses that don’t involve murder. So to better understand the death penalty at least a little bit more let’s take a closer look at real cases in today’s society. Many people are sentenced to death for, example, Carey Dean Moore he was born in Omaha Nebraska. He made a terrible mistake in my eyes when he purchased a handgun and planned to kill Omaha cab drivers in August 1979. He said that he was looking for cab drivers who were older than him because it was “easier” and he was 22 at the time. When he carried out his plan he abducted and murdered Reuel Eugene Van Ness, Jr. on August 22, 1979. Reuel Eugen was a Korean War veteran who adored his ten kids. Sadly Mr. Van Ness bled to death after being shot three times by a handgun being used by Mr. Moore. Then about less than a week on the 27th, he did the same with Maynard Helgeland. Mr. Helgeland was 47 years old and a father of three, he was trying to make amends after being one year sober and he was also a Korean War veteran. He was shot three times the head and Mr. Moore claimed that he didn’t take money off of him and that he couldn’t move the body because of the amount of lost blood. Mr. Moore claims that he killed the cab drivers looking for some drug money and didn’t want to leave any loose ends, like the cab drivers. He was asked why he had stolen money from cab drivers specifically and he said that his own mother was a cab driver and that she always had money on her. Carey Moore did these heinous crimes at the age of 22, he was then charged with two counts of first-degree murder. Interesting enough he never denied his guilt, but he did regret doing these horrible crimes and the pain that he caused to the families of Van Ness and Helgeland. Carey Moore’s final days were about him preparing himself to die. He decided that he wanted pizza as his last meal and his final thoughts were “Take me home, Jesus” and believed that Jesus had forgiven him for his murders, but he still felt guilty for the pain that he had caused. Carey Dean Moore was then executed on August 14, 2018, at the age of 49 after 27 years in a cell. Just like Carey Dean Moore from Nebraska, there are many others too, but there are also death row inmates that are innocent and have been exonerated due to wrongful convictions (JUSTIA US LAW, Para 2).
Texas is one of the states that has passed the death penalty and Anthony Graves was sentenced to death at age 26. He had no such record of violence but he was still convicted in 1994 for assisting Robert Carter in six murders that occurred in the year 1992. Although they didn’t find any physical evidence connecting Anthony Graves to the crimes he allegedly participated in, the police had Robert Carter’s testimony. The testimony said that Graves was his accomplices in the murders, but he later said that his testimony was a lie. After they learned about that false testimony in 2006 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit changed Graves’ conviction. They then wanted to have another trial when they found out that the prosecutors didn’t share a testimony that could have persuaded the jurors to think different about Anthony Graves. So then the district attorney, which was Parham then hired a former Harris County assistant district attorney Kelly Siegler. Siegler was asked to investigate, so that’s what she did and after months of investigating Siegler said that they couldn’t find any evidence proving that Anthony Graves was guilty, he was innocent. Graves was then released and had all charges dismissed on October 27, 2010, after 16 years in solitary confinement and 12 years on death row (DEATH PENALTY INFORMATION CENTER, Para 1).
Some people after being exonerated from death row probably feel like they have a second chance at life and in this case with Anthony Graves took the opportunity and did just that. After many, many years in prison Mr. Graves didn’t give up and after being released from prison Anthony Graves believed that he still had a lot to do in life. Mr. Graves founded a scholarship and named it after his attorney who fought with him every step of the way. He also established a foundation called the “Anthony Graves Foundation” to help at-risk children whose parents are in prison. Not only did he find a scholarship and establish a foundation but he also wrote a book that was published on January 16, 2018. Anthony Graves’ book was called “Infinite Hope”, it also says “How Wrongful Conviction, Solitary Confinement and 12 Years on Death Row Failed to Kill My Soul”. The book is about all of his years in prison while living with the fact that he was innocent and what he had to go through. Some people who’ve read it may call it “A powerful memoir about fighting for—and winning—exoneration”, which I think is very true after just reading the prologue of his book. Anthony Graves showed those who are innocent and in prison that it is never too late to achieve your goals in life (Texas Exoneree Honors Attorney, Establishes Law School Scholarship, Para 2).
Like I stated at the beginning of my essay the death penalty is a very controversial topic for us and there will always be two sides. After reading my essay I would think that you as well think this is a controversial topic in today’s society. Part of the essay that I wrote talked about what pros and cons some people might list under the death penalty. I also informed you about the percentage of people that were innocent and all of the different races that have been sentenced to death and what causes the death penalty. Not only did I talk about the statistics but true life stories that have occurred, one of the two men were guilty and the other one was proven innocent after receiving the penalty. Once I established the fact that he was innocent I also talked about how he has improved his life after prison. So, like John Grisham once said, “Death row is a nightmare to serial killers and ax murderers. For an innocent man, it’s a life of mental torture that the human spirit is not equipped to survive”. Once again, a very controversial topic in our society.
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