Death Penalty It is a fact that there are 1900 people across the country sitting on Death Row. It is a fact that the US and Turkey are the only two countries that execute people for certain crimes they have committed. It is also a fact that all twelve jurors of a case must unanimously agree for a defendant to receive the Death Penalty. (Films for Humanities) With all of these people sitting on Death Row everyday in only two countries, with their fate having been controlled and determined by only twelve people, one would think it doesn’t leave much room for mistake, or misjudgment. Maybe we should take a closer look.
Just how careful is our judicial system when it comes to determining other people’s fate? Just how effective is the Death Penalty where it is carried out? And, just how moral is the Death Penalty when it comes to upholding the moral standards that we impose on out society today? The facts are alarming. In New Jersey in 1984, Teddy Rose, and twenty-one year old man with no past record, shot a cop out of panic during a burglary. The police officer died, and Teddy Rose’s fate was a shaky one. One month later, Douglas Parsons, a twenty-one year old man living in New Jersey, with a past record of illegal drug use and sale, shot a cop out of panic during burglary. The police officer died.
Parson’s fate was now a shaky one. One year later, both cases were tried-Teddy Rose was sentenced to death, and Douglas Parsons was sentenced to thirty years in prison with no parole. These cases were almost identical, except for the defendant’s backgrounds, yet the outcome of the two cases were drastically different. Rose, with no previous record was condemned to die, and Parson’s, with a previous police record, was getting off quite easy compared to his opponent, (so-to-speak). How is this possible? In the Landmark case of Fuman verses Georgia, which also took place in New Jersey, the Supreme Court declared the Death Penalty “as unpredictable as being struck by lighting”(Films for Humanities), and in 1972 passed a bill stating that the Death Penalty must be fair and predictable.
Is this 1984 case an example of that? It is also a fact that within different states, the Death Penalty is handled differently. The same crime in state one may not be creeded the same way in state two. The criminal justice system for one state may be more over burdened. Perhaps they may not have enough attorneys to administer the Death Penalty. Does this seem fair between states? Let’s examine the main reasons that states carry out the Death Penalty.
Our courts seem to feel very strongly about it, or so we are led to believe. Two reasons are stated in the Films for Humanities version of The Death Penalty. Our prisons are overcrowded and it helps reduce crime. The Film also suggests that in New Jersey, the Death Penalty has neither reduced crime there, nor eliminated over-crowdedness within the prisons. Reports of 438 persons executed in Texas since the Electric Chair was installed concludes that the Death Penalty has been applied in a discriminatory fashion and has not reduced crime rates at all. (Randelet and Vandiver, 120) This particular sentence does not seem to be doing what our courts had in mind.
It seems as though it is actually backfiring in some respects. In 1932, Linberg, a German immigrant, was tried and convicted of his two-year old son’s murder. He was sentenced to death and later, after his sentence was carried out, his innocence was questioned. (Films for Humanities) In 1950, Timothy Evans was executed for the murder of his daughter. In the course of his trial, he accused a man by the name of John Christie for the murder of not only his daughter, but also his wife.
His accusations were overlooked, and he was put to death anyway. Christie was subsequently found to have murdered six women, four of which he sexually assaulted beforehand. During his trial, he admitted to the murders of Timothy Evan’s daughter and his wife. Evans was granted a posthumous pardon, which is basically a pardon come too late. (Sorell, 47) This, however, did not bring Evans back to life. Evan’s life was wasted due to a bad jury, or perhaps a bad defense. It is true that the more money you have the better defense you will receive. According to the Films for Humanities, most of the people that sit on death row are poor. They can not afford to hire an experienced, private lawyer.
They get what they pay for. Does this seem fair? Pawsey, a Death Penalty supporter feels it is fair. He states in Tom Sorell’s Moral Theory and Capital Punishment that, “it is justifiable if the number of innocent lives saved by Capital Punishment is greater than the number of innocent lives lost through wrongful conviction and execution”. (47) Is this so though? We have already examined states whose crime rates have not decreased. John Maxton, a Capital Punishment abolitionist, argues with Pawsey and says, “if we allow one innocent person to be executed, morally we are committing the same, or, in some ways, a worse crime than the person who committed the murder”.
(Sorell, 47) Are we that powerful and overpopulated, that we can justify killing an innocent person in our courts to hopefully stop crime other places? Do we really have the authority to dismiss a life by mistake, and move on under the same principles by that which, at times, fails us? These do not seem like good moral standards that we should live by. “A practical policy which violates the moral law is not truly practical and will prove inexpedient in the end” (Calvert, 171) I could not agree with this statement more. You would probably find that most people would agree with this statement, yet they do not always apply it to everyday policies and procedures that we live by. Just how moral is the Death Penalty? I feel as though it contradicts the moral ethics we try to live by and raise our kids by. I feel that “social conduct should be based upon an ethical concept”(Calvert, 172), and Capital Punishment is not ethical.
When we as a society kill someone for killing someone else, or hurting someone else, we are no better than they are. It is like telling your child that hitting is wrong and solves nothing, and then slapping them everytime they do someth …