The United States’ employment of capital punishment equates to state-sanctioned murder, violates the Eighth Amendment prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment, and must be repealed. In capital cases, justice yields to the ever-present possibility of a most egregious human error, executing an innocent man.
The majority of capital cases target the economically impoverished, represented by mostly careless and inept public defenders. Funds required to conduct crucial DNA tests and hire experts aren’t available. Eighty-one percent of capital murder cases have involved a Caucasian victim, even though Caucasians typically constitute only fifty percent of homicides nationwide. At least thirty-five individuals with mental retardation, who easily confess to crimes they haven’t committed under intense police pressure, have been executed since the Supreme Court’s 1976 reinstatement of capital punishment in Gregg v. Georgia. The Supreme Court’s June 20, 2002 decision in Atkins V. Virginia states the execution of the mentally retarded violates the Eighth Amendment against cruel and unusual punishment. Our country has allowed the execution of 21 men for crimes committed as a juvenile. Only Iran and Nigeria still allow the execution of juvenile offenders.
Thirty states have executed 832 convicts since 1976. The sentences of 220 death row inmates have been commuted to life imprisonment, resulting from doubts to the defendant’ s guilt or inequities in their sentencing. A horrifying 107 prisoners sitting on death row have received complete exonerations and release from prison. Florida leads the country with 23 exonerations. On Jan. 11, 2003, outgoing Republican Illinois Gov. George Ryan commuted the sentences of 167 death row inmates to life imprisonment and granted four pardons. His decision followed a two-year moratorium on Illinois’ death penalty, which uncovered police torture and forced confessions.
A lengthy appeals process costing millions per case negates the frequently voiced argument against costly life imprisonment. The death penalty hasn’t worked as a deterrent as most capital cases don’t involve premeditated murder. In a country where seven of ten approve of murdering our murderers, overzealous prosecutors and other elected officials vigorously promote capital punishment for their own expedient purposes.
The United States still stubbornly clings to an archaic and barbarous form of retribution. Our great country, the world’s paradigm for human rights, must kill the death penalty, declaring it in violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment.
Pete Trombadore can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.