There has been a controversy about the death penalty since they day it was invented. Some people feel it is a fair way for people to pay for committing a murder while others feel that murderer’s should just get life in prison due to the fact that it is cruel and unusual punishment. Then there is other who feels that there is a lack of uniformity in the capital punishment system. So, the question remains is the death penalty applied justly or arbitrarily.
One of the main debates is that people have is the fact that many people feel that certain races and genders are more substantial to get the death penalty than others. From the days of slavery in which black people were considered property, through the years of lynching and Jim Crow laws, capital punishment has been deeply affected by race (Dieter, 1998). Unfortunately, the days of racial bias in the death penalty are not a remnant of the past (Dieter, 1998). A study that has been conducted due to race and the death penalty has proven that the odds of receiving the death penalty are nearly four times higher if the defendant is black (Dieter, 1998). Also, based on statistics it seems as though men are more likely to get the death penalty than women. For instance, as of January 1, 2010 there were 61 women on death row (Center, 2010). This constitutes to 1.87% of the total death row population of about 3,261 persons (Center, 2010).
When you look more into the details of why the women on death row are there you will notice that they majority of them are there for either killing their husbands/significant others or children which are using their own children or their nieces/nephews. However, there are some interesting facts that relate to both the men and the women who are on death row. It turns out that even though blacks and whites are murder victims in nearly equal numbers of crimes, 80% of people executed since the death penalty was reinstated have been executed for murders involving white victims (Center, Race and the Death Penalty, 2011). Not to mention the fact that more than 20% of the black defendants who have been executed were convicted by all white juries (Center, Race and the Death Penalty, 2011).
The color of the defendants and the victim’s skin plays a crucial and unacceptable role in deciding who receives the death penalty in America (NAACP, 2008). People of color have accounted for a disproportionate 43% of total executions since 1976 and 55% of those currently awaiting execution (NAACP, 2008). The federal death penalty, like its application in the states, is used disproportionately against people of color (NAACP, 2008). Of the 18 prisoners currently on federal death row, 16 are African American, Hispanic or Asian (NAACP, 2008). Then the worst part about the racial bias that takes place when assigning the death penalty is the fact that people are not always found to be guilty.
Since 1973, over 130 people have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence (Center, Facts about death penalty, 2011). Based on that information right there it is easy to see why many people are against the death penalty. Once someone has been put to death they cannot be brought back later if it is found out that they are innocent. So, who knows how many innocent people have died. Not to mention the fact that it is quite possible that come of the people who are currently on death row could possibly be innocent. Matter of fact, in 2005 it was revealed that Texas had executed an innocent man who “supposedly” committed a crime when he was 17. So, of course there have been others who have been executed and were innocent. However, of course, the government is going to try and hide it because they don’t want to look bad.
In the same year that and innocent man was found to have been executed the United States also decided that it was time to stop executing juveniles. One of the most important reasons as to why the U.S. Supreme Court decided it was time to stop executing juveniles was due to the fact that they were considering the evolving international views of “cruel and unusual punishment” (Eland, 2005). The court wisely noted the rising global tide of revulsion against governments killing their younger citizens, no matter what their crime, and ruled that juvenile death sentences in the United States are unconstitutional (Eland, 2005). However, many people believe that the death penalty should not only be abolished for the juveniles but adults should no longer receive the death penalty either.
Lastly, the death penalty is found to be very foul do to the link that it carries with poverty. Unlike racial discrimination in the imposition of death penalty where an obvious bias sends ethnic minorities to their deaths, the relationship between poverty and death penalty is a lot more complex (Akhtar, 2010). Many people who live in poverty are going to be sentenced to the death penalty – even if they are innocent – due to the fact that they cannot afford a qualified lawyer and they have to deal with a court appointed lawyer who is not experienced in handling capital murders cases and do not have the resources that they need.
In my opinion I feel that the death penalty is not applied justly. I feel this way because statistics are showing that more blacks are receiving the death penalty than blacks. Not to mention the fact that in 96% of the states where there have been reviews of race and the death penalty, there was a pattern of either race of victim or race of defendant discrimination, or both (Center, Facts about death penalty, 2011). Also, innocent people have been executed and innocent people have been released off of death row. Imagine how many people have been executed that were innocent that the government did not know about. Overall, if the death penalty is not applied equally it should not be used at all.
Akhtar, A. M. (2010, January). Murder most foul: the death penalty and the disadvantaged. Retrieved November 2011, 2011, from Selected Works: http://works.bepress.com/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1001&context=abdaal
Center, D. P. (2011, October 29). Facts about death penalty. Retrieved Novemeber 12, 2011, from Death Penalty Information Center: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/documents/FactSheet.pdf
Center, D. P. (2011). Race and the Death Penalty. Retrieved November 12, 2011, from Death penalty information center: http://deathpenaltyinfo.org/race-and-death-penalty
Center, D. P. (2010). Women and the Death Penalty. Retrieved November 12, 2011, from Death Penalty Information Center: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/women-and-death-penalty
Dieter, R. C. (1998). The death penalty in black and white: who lives, who dies, who decides. Retrieved November 12, 2011, from Death penalty information center: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/death-penalty-black-and-white-who-lives-who-dies-who-decides
Eland, I. (2005, March 7). Ending the Death Penalty for Juveniles Is Not Enough . Retrieved November 12, 2011, from The independent institute: http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1472
NAACP. (2008). Does a person’s race affect the likelihood of him/her receiving the death penalty? Retrieved November 12, 2011, from Death penalty: procon.org: http://deathpenalty.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=001187