In a society much more advanced than that of our uncivilized ancestors, killing another human- taking a viable human life- is a crime. Throughout history our most esteemed authors have written of murder and the punishment that follows; even the Christian Bible scribes the punishment fitting the crime. In Deuteronomy 19:21 it states, “Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” As we sit in a jury box playing God, deciding who must live and who must die, we hand out the death penalty with ease and become the same barbaric society who penned these primitive rules.
No matter the country, there is never truly proof-positive of someone’s guilt. No matter the justice system, it will always be prone to the failures of humans. Sending someone to prison for the rest of his or her natural life offers a chance for emendation and appeal. Sending someone to his or her death based on an evaluation by fallible human judgment, is irreversible.
Defenders of the death penalty claim this punishment is a deterrent for future criminals. However, the General Assembly of the United Nations recently stated, “There is no conclusive evidence of the deterrent value of the death penalty.” When a human is in the throes of rage, uncontrollable deviance, or passion, it is unlikely the threat of a future execution enters into his or her mind. Mental illness plays a role many times, as do drugs and alcohol. A 2009 study conducted by The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology showed that 88 percent of criminologists asked felt that executions do not lower homicide rates. This would leave some wondering if it is not just a matter of an outdated barbaric revenge.
The Innocence Project, an organization dedicated to exonerating prisoners who have been wrongfully convicted and given the death penalty as punishment, has proven 18 people completely innocent of the crimes of which they were convicted. These innocent victims spent many years on death row. Of the innocents set free, they served a combined total of 202 years in prison cells; their lives intercepted by human error.
Since 1973, 133 people have been set free from death rows across the nation for wrongful conviction. These convictions, for one reason or another, were the result of poor judgment and a slanted judicial system. In this country, it is said we are all innocent until proven guilty. However, with media so readily available to broadcast each notion an investigator has and with every gory detail of a crime painted in newspapers and magazines, a fair trial seems almost futile. A jury of peers having the ability to form an untainted, unbiased opinion seems inconceivable.
Sending someone to death row in the United States costs roughly $5 million, because the government takes the burden of paying for both sides. With appeals, and execution costs, death row is around $4 million more than an adult serving life in prison.
For some reason in this country, killing an individual deemed unfit for society has a band aid effect. The logic behind playing God is to teach society a lesson, but the reality is truly retaliatory. The same logic is seen in parents who hit their kids for hitting someone else. It just does not work. Sure, the child may not hit; but instead hold in a rage that leads to later aggression and violence. In our judicial system, we do not rape rapists, make drunk drivers stand in front of a speeding car, or chop off the thieving hands of someone who robs a bank. For some reasons unknown, we resort to a barbaric society when man kills man. We step into the shoes of a God and pass an irreversible judgment to mask our pain or disdain. We take away the life of another who may or may not be guilty of a crime and we do it with smiles on our faces. Who knows how many executed men and women lay beneath the ground for a crime they did not commit, all for the sake of satisfaction.
Editorial written by: Amy Magness Whatley