By Amy Alkon
shared this story
from Advice Goddess Blog.
Ban The Death Penalty
A Bloomberg editorial has some strong arguments for this:
After the U.S. Supreme Court lifted a four-year ban on capital punishment in 1976, 32 states brought the death penalty back. The results can’t be called a success. There’s no good evidence that the death penalty has deterred the worst crimes, and it has been dispensed inequitably. Innocent people may well have been put to death — a mistake, unlike wrongful imprisonment, that cannot be corrected. Executions should be banned by act of Congress for this simple reason: Experience has shown that the death penalty doesn’t serve the cause of justice.
If capital punishment deterred the most awful crimes any better than decades of imprisonment, that would be an important fact. A century of research has failed to produce convincing evidence that it does. Comparing murder rates in states before and after the death penalty was reintroduced can’t filter out other influences on crime, such as changes in demographic and economic conditions. Comparing states with and without capital punishment is also inconclusive; in death-penalty states, capital crimes can be punished by long terms in prison instead, so their respective effects can’t be untangled.
How likely is it, really, that a killer will be more deterred by the risk of the death penalty than by having to spend the rest of his life in prison? The claim fails the test of common sense. Criminologists and police chiefs say the death penalty just doesn’t influence murderers — partly because its application is so haphazard.
This arbitrariness, of course, is a gross injustice in its own right. As well as being confined to people who live in certain states, the death penalty has been imposed disproportionately on the poor and uneducated, on defendants with substandard lawyers, and on those whose victims were white. A study in Maryland found that a black killer of a white victim was 11 times more likely to be sentenced to death than a white killer of a black victim. These disparities violate the constitutional guarantee of equal protection of the law.
Worst of all, execution risks imposing the ultimate and irrevocable punishment on the wrong person. The 18th century English jurist William Blackstone wrote that it is better that 10 guilty people escape than that one innocent suffer. A system that accepts any risk, however small, of putting the innocent to death should provoke special revulsion.