The death Penalty has always held popular support in the United States since the colonial days. The entire premise of the death penalty hinges on the rationale that the perpetrators of heinous crimes must ‘pay for their crimes with their life so that they cannot commit any more such crimes and that the punishment would serve as a deterrent to others. This essay examines whether the death penalty is an effective deterrent and should it be abolished in the US.
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Till 1972, the validity of the death penalty held wide acceptance in most U.S. states. In 1967, William Henry Furman, a 26-year-old black man, while committing a burglary shot at the house owner, William Joseph Micke Jr while trying to escape. Micke died and Furman got a one-day trial in which he was sentenced to death by the State of Georgia in 1968. (AllSupremeCourt Cases.com, 2007,p.1). The case went up for appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court as the landmark Furman v. Georgia (1972) case.
In the case, the U.S. Supreme Court “ruled on a 5-4 vote that capital punishment was administered in an arbitrary manner that constituted cruel and unusual Punishment” (Philips, 2008, p. 5). For about four years, from 1972 to 1976, the death penalty remained invalidated in the U.S. as the fallout of the judgment. As a result, state judiciaries sought to revise their statute books. Based on the logic that the states had corrected their statutes, the moratorium on the death penalty was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Gregg versus Georgia (1976) case. Since then, “36 U.S. states have the death penalty in their statute books” (Death Penalty Information Center, 2008, p. 1).
The operative principles of the death penalty in the U.S. have come in for considerable criticism from Human rights activists and minority groups. It has been stated that death was more likely to be “imposed against black defendants than white defendants, and death was more likely to be imposed on behalf of white victims than black victims.” (Philips, p. 4). Out of the 123 nations that allow the death penalty, only the U.S. and Iran currently sentence juvenile offenders to death (Political Research Associates, 2005, p. 2).
The Death penalty has been invalidated in Europe. In 1989, the UN General Assembly adopted the second optional protocol to the ICCPR which aims at the abolition of the death penalty. Human rights activists and opponents of the death penalty argue that the punishment has no salutary effect at all.
They judge this by stating that despite the U.S. executing 1132 people to date since 1976, the crime rate of heinous crimes is much higher than in entire Western Europe where the death penalty has been abolished. More alarmingly, according to the activists, the danger of an innocent person being executed is a possibility as statistics show that “since 1976, more than 120 people have been released from US death rows on grounds of Innocence” (Amnesty International, 2008, p. 2).
Youth up to a certain age should be judged leniently before deciding death penalty because behavioral psychologists through neurobiological studies have found that the poor judgment performance of adolescents is attributable to “incomplete frontal cortex and cerebellum development” (Hanson, 2006, p. 19). Thus, the ability of youth to judge right and wrong is debatable. Since the statistics show that US death penalty enforcement has not shown any salutatory effects and that European crime figures are much lower where the death penalty has been invalidated, the author of this essay opines that the US should abolish the Death penalty and concentrate more on better policing and interventionist programs like the Europeans.
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allsupremecourtcases. (2007). Furman Vs Georgia. Web.
Amnesty International. (2008). World: 2007 Death Penalty Statistics, Notes and Case studies. Web.
Facts About the Death Penalty. (2008). Web.
Hanson, M. J. (2006). Towards a New Assumption in Law and Ethics. The Humanist , pp. 18-21.
Philips, S. (2008). Racial Disparities in the Capital of Capital Punishment. Web.
Political Research Associates. (2005). United States Versus the World. Web.