Monday, September 8, 2008

Opinion Piece: The Death Penalty

When it comes to the death penalty, I have to admit that I have a harder time with this debate, as I don’t see it as much in daily life, nor have I dealt with an experience relating to it. I’ve thought both sides have some valid points, but I tend to lean towards being against it. With the “eye for an eye” response given often by the pro side, I often see that as being on the same level as a murderer.
Life without parole seems like a justifiable option, in that perhaps living that way for years on end could be a valid punishment. The issue is brought up with money, and in reality it usually costs more to execute a criminal than it would to keep them alive in jail (Montaldo). A study in Kansas indicated that a capital trial costs $116,700 more than an ordinary murder trial. In California, capital trials are six times more costly than other murder trials. Complex pre-trial motions, lengthy jury selections, and expenses for expert witnesses tend to add to the costs in death penalty cases (Dieter).
It also often looks like the justice system runs into problems of whether or not the prisoners are actually guilty. In 1993 in North Carolina, Levon Jones was wrongfully convicted of a murder in 1987. Despite being innocent, he spent 16 years on death row. In North Carolina, three innocent men have been released since December, and there have been a total of 129 innocent people released since 1973 (ACLU). With a corrupt judicial system, how can we be absolutely sure that those on death row are absolutely guilty? The death penalty is permanent for those who are innocent.
Another issue that the death penalty hits is mental illness. Recently, in Nashville, a severely mentally ill man named Richard Taylor spent 18 years on death row for a 1981 murder. Despite already known to have a mental illness, prison officials had stopped giving Taylor his anti-psychotic medication two months before his attack (ACLU). Mental illness cases often can be difficult, in that they might not always be legitimate. With cases like these though, severe mental illnesses can’t be seen in the same light as those who are mentally capable, especially if the mental illness has been apparent for some time.
As I mentioned before, the death penalty just comes across as merciless to me, and it creates another murderer in its own way. It seems that there just isn’t enough focus on evidence or a sound judicial system, and often bias, apathy, or hate create the corruption within it. It obviously can’t be perfect, but life without parole isn’t a permanent solution, and more could be done towards evidence.

ACLU. “Innocent North Carolina Man Exonerated After 14 Years on Death Row.”
August 25, 2008.
ACLU. “Mentally Ill Man Receives Life Sentence After 18 Years on Tennessee Death Row.”
August 25, 2008.
Dieter, Richard. “What Politicians Don't Say About
the High Costs of the Death Penalty.” The Death Penalty Information Center.
September 05, 2008.
Montaldo, Charles. “Death Penalty: The Only Justice for Killers?” August 25, 2008.