Capital punishment is implemented in 33 of the 50 United States. Many believe that execution makes society safer and brings justice to the murder victim’s family. However there is no real evidence to show either of these concepts to be inherently true. Since the pro-death penalty message has failed in its objective to prove justice and increased safety, banning the death penalty should be considered.
Society must empathize with the families of murder victims; a young family who lost their mommy, daddy, or baby to a senseless act of violence truly has its own world torn apart and deserves justice. However, the family of a convicted murderer is also a victim of loss; it’s bad enough they are separated from their family member for years on end; it’s even worse when that separation is forcibly made permanent.
Moreover, the state does not and can not determine penalty based on the desires of a victim’s family. Should the court offer amnesty to one guilty party, and execute another, simply because the respective families demand said action, justice is gravely damaged.
Execution of a family’s loved one who is guilty is bad enough; killing someone who may be innocent is much worse. As forensic science constantly improves, previously convicted individuals currently facing capital punishment are proven innocent. Such is the case with Glenn Ford. A Louisiana, a jury convicted Glenn Ford of murder in 1984. Following his conviction, a jury sentenced him to death after less than four hours of deliberation. However after 30 years behind bars awaiting execution, evidence strongly showing Ford to be innocent has emerged. Gambling with a person’s life, even when strong evidence suggests that the person proclaiming his innocence is indeed guilty, shows a genuine failure in meeting the objective of protecting innocent life.
To better understand the last point, people may consider an analogy. One may imagine themselves at a carnival. After walking past the dunking booth and merry-go-round, they come upon the shooting gallery; only this one has a very unique twist. The host of the game hands the player an actual high-power hunting rifle, and directs them to an opaque screen at the end of the shooting lane. The player can see a silhouette behind the screen. The rules are fairly simple: the silhouette may be a simple cardboard cutout, or it could be an actual person behind the screen. If the player shoots what is a cardboard image, he wins a million dollars. On the other hand if he actually shoots a person, he wins no money, but there is no penalty; he walks free. The game host presents enough evidence to state that odds are 99.5 percent that the target is cardboard; the odds it is an actual person is only 0.5 percent. Here lies the issue; even against such overwhelmingly positive odds, is it it still ethical to shoot at what in all likelihood is just a target? The answer has to be a resounding “no.”
The argument that execution protects society from a specific violent criminal does not work. Once a convicted murderer is incarcerated, he is no longer a threat to society. For this reason, prison guards are not allowed to randomly beat prisoners without real cause such as self-defense. Likewise capital punishment as a deterrent to violent crime has failed to show consistent confirmation. While it is true that some of the world’s most violent countries such as Honduras have banned the death penalty, the same can be said some of the world’s least violent countries like Denmark. Without consistent results showing that execution reduces crime, employing that method for the purpose of public safety needs to be abandoned.
When the objective of a group of people is to make society safer and offer justice to the grievously wronged, using capital punishment can deem likes a viable method. However, when such action fails in its objective to show consistent proof a happier victims and lower murder rates, then the death penalty must be avoided like the slippery slope it is.
Opinion by Ian Erickson
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