12 February 2013
The Death of the Death Penalty
In the case of Furman vs. Georgia (408 U.S. 238), the Supreme Court of the United States stated that, under the current laws "the imposition and carrying out of the death penalty ... constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments" (Bedeau 2). The death penalty is an unconstitutional punishment and should not even be considered to be part of the United States’ justice system. Although the death penalty can bring closure to a few relatives of murder victims, the execution of those convicted of murder violates basic human rights, can come at the cost of incompetent lawyers and, in many cases, the lives of innocent people.
Capital punishment, better known as the death penalty, is one of the most controversial issues among American citizens today. This issue evokes, in each person, diverse and conflicting emotions on the subject. Although some states, such as Texas, are instilling almost a fast-lane to death row, much “momentum is moving against capital punishment” (Turow 1). Death sentences from juries have seemingly declined, and in four states – New Jersey, New Mexico, Illinois, and New York – lawmakers have outlawed the death penalty completely. Additionally, there are also quite a few organizations, such as Murder Victim’s Family’s for Human Rights (MVFHR) protesting against capital punishment and winning a lot of ground in the battle for abolition due to the cause they support (Cushing 1). The battle against the death penalty is being won by people like these while their cause is being aided by many lately made mistakes in the judiciary system. From 1973 until 2006, DNA testing advancements have exposed evidence which has proven many inmates innocent, resulting in the release of 177 death row inmates (Henningfeld 36). People have fought the death penalty with everything they have for a long time now, and, eventually, their persistence will pay off.
Many unwarranted convictions occur because of incompetent lawyers. The inability to acquire a sound and competent lawyer and deter faulty evidence by many of those accused of murder leads to many convictions and executions. The Chicago Tribune in Illinois, one of the states that has recently abolished the death penalty, discovered that over “300 capital [murder] cases” had “incompetent legal work,” and that many of these cases were commonly “riddled with bias and error” (Williams 45). The sheer magnitude of inept lawyers and judges makes it a known fact that the legal system has many flaws in it, and should not be relied on to decide whether or not someone is executed, and because more of this is being brought to light as in quite a few cases in Georgia, exposed by a local newspaper, where out of “159 ruling that upheld death sentences,” there were “24…[that had] ineffective defense lawyers” (Rankin, Vogell, Wertheim 5). Of these people being brought to death, over fifteen percent of those convicted of murder had lawyers that were not fit to defend them. And, in one of these cases, a man’s defense lawyer actually “slept through parts of the trial,” displaying how poor a lawyer that some of these “convicts” are stuck with to defend their lives (Rankin, Vogell, Wertheim 4). When someone, fighting to save another man’s life to provide evidence for his innocence, is just sleeping on the job, how could someone in their right minds possibly sentence said man to his death? The fact of the matter is, when there are so many people accused of crimes they possibly did not commit, yet they receive a conviction due to a terrible lawyer, they simply cannot be sentenced to death.
The execution of criminals is against human rights and is a violation of the sacred nature of life itself. A member of one of the biggest anti-death penalty organizations, the MVFHR, describes that the MVFHR “was founded…by a group of families and survivors of