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Protecting the Innocent

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Protecting the Innocent

By: Amy York


Amy York April 24, 2000 Protecting the Innocent Capital punishment should be abolished in the United States. There may have been a time when capital punishment was needed and acceptable, but that time is far behind us. The concepts and beliefs supporting capital punishment are outdated and have no place in our modern society. There is no longer a need to perform executions to maintain a safe society. There are two opposing viewpoints on the issue of capital punishment, and both present strong arguments with valid points. One side maintains that capital punishment is an ethical response to crime, and the opposing side believes capital punishment is not an ethical legal action. Undeniably capital punishment does offer some advantages to our society, such as deterrence and incapacitation. However both of these can be gained without the death penalty. There is no proof that the death penalty is a deterrent to criminals, and incapacitation can be achieved by sentencing offenders to life in prison. A common misconception is that executing an offender costs less than life long imprisonment. The cost of apparatus and maintenance of the procedures attending the death penalty, including death row and the endless appeals and legal machinery, far outweighs the expense of maintaining in prison the tiny fraction of criminals who would otherwise be slain (Draper 46). A report issued in1998 by the Judicial Conference of the United States found the cost of sentencing a defendant to the death penalty is higher than imprisoning the accused for life. This is due to the high cost of providing representation in federal death penalty cases ( Cases involving the death penalty take longer to prosecute and therefore have higher costs than other cases. The state is usually responsible for paying the accused legal fees, as most cannot afford a lawyer. Some legal firms do handle capital punishment cases pro bono but the majority of defendants are unable to obtain legal representation on their own. The death penalty was abolished in the United States from 1972 to 1976 after the Supreme Court ruled it cruel and unusual punishment and therefore violated the 8'th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. When new execution methods were introduced the decision was reversed ( However even if the death penalty is no longer considered cruel and unusual, it is still unethical. Our legal system is not infallible, mistakes occur daily within this system. When errors are made regarding capital punishment, the risk of ending innocent lives becomes a very real possibility. During the past century many innocent persons have been given the death penalty. Many of these people spend years on death row only to later be exonerated. The House Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights issued a report in October of 1993 listing 48 persons who had been released from death row between 1973 and 1993 due to new evidence that proved their innocence ( However recently President Clinton has signed a law that limits death row prisoners to one habeas corpus appeal within one year of conviction ( Many of the innocent people released from death row during the last decade would have been executed were this law in effect. When you read facts and figures concerning death penalty convictions it is easy to disassociate yourself from the convicted. When faces go along with the written name it becomes harder not too feel something for these people. The majority of society will never know anyone sentenced to death row. This makes it safe to be a supporter of capital punishment. I believe that if these same supporters were to watch an execution it would become harder to support. I know that just thinking of the innocent people who have had years of their lives stolen away from them is enough to make me oppose the death penalty. Many of the supporters of capital punishment believe that murderers and sex offenders have nothing to offer society and ...

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