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Deterrence & Justice, page 4


When it comes to the death penalty as a form of justice, the first question that comes to my mind is who are we giving justice to? Is it to the victim, the relatives, society, or even the murderer? Is it justice for all? According to author David Anderson "It is the victim that first and foremost must be able to think and feel that justice has been administered in a verdict, and after the victims, the members of society."[1] If David Anderson is suggesting that we somehow would know how a person that was murdered would feel and think about a verdict, I would say his statement is absurd. I will assume that he is referring to the relatives of a murder victim; I would also suggest that due to the relatives' natural emotional state they might feel that if they do not pursue the death penalty, they are not showing love for their murdered relative(s). The emotional feelings of revenge from the murdered victim's family members should not be a measure for justice in our judicial system. Moreover, the resumed society's desire to think and feel that justice can only be administered by a death sentence in a capital case verdict fuel for some miscarriages of justice.

Some retentionists may argue that when it comes to violent crimes the death penalty is natural; they state that there is no other punishment that can be called just and fair if the proportion between the crime committed and the punishment is to be maintained-- this is not so simple. There are many factors that prevent the death penalty or any other punishment from being absolutely just and fair (In my opinion, and based on history observations, it can never be.) The difference between making a mistake in accusing someone of lying vs. accusing someone of murder is that a life is on the line, a life that if taken could never be recovered. Essentially, how are we to amend the life of an innocent person who has circumstantially being accused of murder and sentenced to death? Evidence has shown that since 1973, 119 people in 25 states have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence.[2] Furthermore, it could be argued that perhaps capital punishment is a tool which helps keep powerful racist and classicist stereotypes in place in the U.S.

Despite the way one may feel about the death penalty personally, common debate exposes the unfairness, ineffectiveness, and preeminent cost of the existent capital punishment system. Most retentionists would go on and say that even if an unjust and discriminating legal proceeding would mean that four out of ten guilty murderers escaped a death sentence, justice has been made with the six convicted ones.[3] To me, it is ridiculous to call this justice. How can there be justice in capital punishment in a country with a history of slavery, and discrimination which is still present today, where the single majority is white and where, proportionally, there is more minorities on death row.

In reality, the bias extends even further when you consider the race of the victims of the crimes - "killers of whites are eleven times more likely to receive the death penalty than killers of Blacks". Also, how can there be justice when the chief District Attorneys in counties using the death penalty in the United States have nearly 98% white and only 1% African-American members.[4] All of these factors are causes of more violence for many reasons. What makes the life of another race more valuable? How could a minority, generally speaking, feel the system is just and fair if the outcome is systematically decided by those who are much more protected by it? With the current system, could minorities feel really protected and represented under the law? - No, of course not. This is a cycle that is bigger than just the judicial system. It is crucial to take the steps to abolish the death penalty in order to reach true reconciliation in modern society instead of brutalization effects.

George W. Bush, the president of the USA, said: "I support the death penalty because I believe, if administered swiftly and justly, capital punishment is a deterrent against future violence and will save other innocent lives." Well yes, but that is assuming that the state has the right to kill someone that is not eminently endangering others, which is highly debatable. Could we not accomplish the same results with LWOP without risking the killing of selective groups and innocent people? Also, in the real world, no system of capital punishment has ever been administered swiftly and justly. Studies show that even the juror selection in itself is alarmingly biased in the U.S. A North Carolina jury study conducted in 1982 found that 55.2 percent of black potential jurors were being excluded during the death-penalty qualifying process in contrast to 20.7 percent of whites. Studies also indicate that women tend to be excluded since they are also more likely to oppose the death penalty. [5]

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