The Death Penalty Is Not Worth It Essay

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The Death Penalty Is Not Worth It Capital punishment, commonly known as the death penalty, is an issue that has caused much controversy throughout the history of the United States of America. Currently, thirty-four states employ the death penalty, and the five states with the highest number of executions account for over sixty-five percent of the 1274 total executions in the country since 1976, when the Supreme Court re-affirmed the constitutionality of capital punishment. Throughout the years, millions of dollars have been wasted executing people and several people have been proven innocent after their execution. The death penalty is unjust and should be completely abolished in every state. Even though the number of death sentences per year has dropped since 1999, the fact that the death penalty is still legal in many states leaves more money to be wasted, more innocent people to be sentenced and more unjust acts to be committed upon society. It is commonly believed that the death penalty is less expensive than keeping a prisoner locked behind bars for the rest of their lives. This common misconception is understandable because people do not take into account the processes one must go through once sentenced to death. Capital punishment is much more expensive than life without parole because the Constitution requires a long and complex judicial process for capital cases. Each state that has legalized the death penalty has different laws regarding its methods, but typically, the legal process involves four steps: Sentencing, Direct Review, State Collateral Review, and Federal Habeas Corpus (ACLU, Death Penalty 101).
People often ask “why should I have to pay for the meals and lodgings of criminals? Wouldn’t it be much cheaper to just execute them?” Because of the complex judicial process involved in comparison to keeping someone in prison for life without parole, capital punishment is much more expensive. According to Capital Punishment: Second Edition by Michael Kronenwetter, “[s]imply charging a defendant with a capital crime escalates the cost of the trial” (38). When people think of the death penalty, they do not think of everything it entails. According to the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Northern California,
A capital case requires two trials (one to determine guilt and another to determine penalty), automatic state supreme court review, postconviction proceedings, and Supreme Court appeals, all of which are extremely costly to the state both in money and human resources. Jury selection and pretrial motions are also more lengthy in capital cases, and expert consultants such as psychiatrists often must be retained. The cost of maintaining death rows in state prisons, clemency hearings, and the execution itself must also be added to the price of executions. (San Francisco: ACLUF, October 1992)
The cost of capitally prosecuted cases varies from each state, but the cost in each state is irrefutably more than what it would cost to keep someone in prison for the rest of their lives. In Texas, the state with the most executions, a usual death penalty case costs taxpayers about $2.3 million. This is almost three times the cost of imprisoning someone in a single cell at the highest security level for forty years. ("Executions Cost Texas Millions," Dallas Morning News, March 8, 1992). Virginia, the state with the second most executions is also spending an unnecessary amount of money employing the death penalty. In 2009, Virginia suffered a $3.5 billion gap in its budget, along with a dozen capital murder cases under way. The fees for the defendants' legal representation during a capital trial were $150 per hour out of court, and $200 per hour in court. These cases routinely reached six figures each, which did not include other court costs and the prosecutions themselves. ("Is an execution worth the price?," The Virginian-Pilot, December 11, 2009) Florida, also in the top five execution states, spends…