Capital Punishment: Injustice of Society


Looking out for the state of the public's satisfaction in the scheme of
capital sentencing does not constitute serving justice. Today's system of
capital punishment is frought with inequalities and injustices. The commonly
offered arguments for the death penalty are filled with holes. ?It was a
deterrent. It removed killers. It was the ultimate punishment. It is biblical.
It satisfied the public's need for retribution. It relieved the anguish of the
victim's family.?(Grisham 120) Realistically, imposing the death penalty is
expensive and time consuming. Retroactively, it has yet to be proven as a
deterrent. Morally, it is a continuation of the cycle of violence and ?
...degrades all who are involved in its enforcement, as well as its victim.?
(Stewart 1)
Perhaps the most frequent argument for capital punishment is that of
deterrence. The prevailing thought is that imposition of the death penalty will
act to dissuade other criminals from committing violent acts. Numerous studies
have been created attempting to prove this belief; however, ?[a]ll the evidence
taken together makes it hard to be confident that capital punishment deters more
than long prison terms do.?(Cavanagh 4) Going ever farther, Bryan Stevenson,
the executive director of the Montgomery based Equal Justice Initiative, has
stated that ??people are increasingly realizing that the more we resort to
killing as a legitimate response to our frustration and anger with violence, the
more violent our society becomes?We could execute all three thousand people on
death row, and most people would not feel any safer tomorrow.?(Frame 51) In
addition, with the growing humanitarianism of modern society, the number of
inmates actually put to death is substantially lower than 50 years ago. This
decline creates a situation in which the death penalty ceases to be a deterrent
when the populace begins to think that one can get away with a crime and go
unpunished. Also, the less that the death sentence is used, the more it becomes
unusual, thus coming in conflict with the eighth amendment. This is essentially
a paradox, in which the less the death penalty is used, the less society can
legally use it. The end result is a punishment that ceases to deter any crime
at all.
The key part of the death penalty is that it involves death -- something
which is rather permanent for humans, due to the concept of mortality. This
creates a major problem when ??there continue to be many instances of innocent
people being sentenced to death.?(Tabak 38) In our legal system, there exist
numerous ways in which justice might be poorly served for a recipient of the
death sentence. Foremost is in the handling of his own defense counsel. In the
event that a defendant is without counsel, a lawyer will be provided. ?
Attorney's appointed to represent indigent capital defendants frequently lack
the qualities necessary to provide a competent defense and sometimes have
exhibited such poor character that they have subsequently been disbarred.?(Tabak
37). With payment caps or court determined sums of, for example, $5 an hour,
there is not much incentive for a lawyer to spend a great deal of time
representing a capital defendant.
When you compare this to the prosecution, ??aided by the police, other law
enforcement agencies, crime labs, state mental hospitals, various other
scientific resources, prosecutors ?experienced in successfully handling capital
cases, compulsory process, and grand juries??(Tabak 37), the defense that the
court appointed counsel can offer is puny. If, in fact, a defendant has a valid
case to offer, what chance has he to offer it and have it properly recognized.
Furthermore, why should he be punished for a misjustice that was created by the
court itself when it appointed the incapable lawyer.

Even if a defendant has proper legal counsel, there is still the matter
of impartiality of judges. ?The Supreme Court has steadily reduced the
availability of habeas corpus review of capital convictions, placing its
confidence in the notion that state judges, who take the same oath of office as
federal judges to uphold the Constitution, can be trusted to enforce it.?(Bright
768) This makes for the biased trying of a defendant's appeals, ??given the
overwhelming pressure on elected state judges to heed, and perhaps even lead to,
the popular cries for the death of criminal defendants.?(Bright 769) Thirty
two of the states that impose the death penalty also employ the popular election
of judges, and several of these even have judges run with party affiliations.
This creates a deeply political justice system -- the words alone are a paradox.
Can society simply brush off mistaken execution as an incidental cost in the
greater scheme of putting a criminal to death?
?Revenge is an unworthy motive for