• Sierra Heaton

The Inefficiency of the Death Penalty

George Junius Stinney Jr., the youngest American to be killed by the death penalty in 1944, was only 14-years-old when he faced capital punishment, execution. In 2004, Stinney Jr.’s case was reopened for a second look, and he was found innocent in 2014 of the crime for which he was executed 70 years before. He is not the only innocent person who has been forced to suffer this fate. For centuries, the death penalty has been used to punish people for crimes they have, or in some cases, have not committed. In recent years, people might receive the death penalty if they have been charged with treason, espionage, murder, large-scale drug trafficking, or attempted murder of a witness, juror, or court officer. These serious crimes are still prominently committed, so the death penalty is shown to be an inefficient way of preventing potential offenders.

Unfortunately, the demand for executions has gone up. In 2018, 54 percent of Americans favored the death penalty for people who had been convicted of murder. Even though people are being executed, crime rates are still staying in the same range. In other words, the crimes for which people are being killed are still happening. Besides that, some studies, like the study done by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science have found that at least four percent of people who are on death row are most likely or definitely innocent. There have been too many times that someone has been falsely accused of a crime and killed for it. In my opinion, the death penalty is something that should be abolished for being a cruel and unusual punishment; it’s a punishment that doesn’t even implement significant changes in crime rates in the long run.

Regrettably, there are too many people who have been sentenced to the death penalty that have been innocent. To reiterate, about four percent of people sentenced to death are innocent. Currently, there are about 2,620 people on death row in the U.S. Four percent of 2,620 people would be roughly 105 people. That means there are likely 105 people right now on death row who are potentially innocent, and they have a chance of being killed for a crime they didn't even commit. Within the last 10 years, 297 people have been killed after being put on death row. That's roughly 12 potentially innocent people who have been executed.

Often, people may not realize how many are being killed in such a little amount of time. In the last four years, under the Trump administration, 109 people were killed. Roughly five or six of those people could be innocent. These numbers do not include people who were put on death row and taken off of it or those who have been found innocent before dying. So in a hypothetical situation, if they were not pardoned, the percentage of innocent people dying would be much higher. George Junius Stinney Jr. was one of the many innocent people who were killed by this unfit punishment, and his story also shows how race sadly sometimes plays a factor in being sentenced to the death penalty.

Many people excuse the death penalty by bringing up victims or victims’ families. For example, Brandon Bernard was a black man that was convicted of robbery, kidnapping, and murdering two people. He was not properly represented at trial. He was not present at the time of the carjacking, the robbery, or the mistreatment of the victims; Brandon did not shoot anyone. He should have gotten the same sentence as the other two people who just got 20 years in jail when they had more of a part in the crime than Brandon did. Brandon’s death was excused and overlooked by many because they believed it would bring the victim’s family closure, and that it would let his victims rest peacefully. Sadly, Brandon dying for being an accomplice doesn't make anything about the situation better. His death does not bring the victims back, and it also doesn't right the wrong he did. People who commit these crimes deserve to go to jail to see if there's a chance of rehabilitating them or even help psychologists or criminal profilers learn more about the behavior of criminals to help prevent crimes like this in the future. In my opinion, deciding to kill a criminal for their crime is not doing anything better than what they did. It’s like trying to fix a wrong with a wrong. In reality, sending off the message that it is not okay to murder people, but it is okay to murder people who commit crimes seems contradictory and like a double negative.

It could be argued that a lot of executions break the 8th amendment. The 8th amendment states: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” From my point of view, killing someone by putting them to sleep and injecting them with a serum, or tying them to an electric chair is a cruel and unusual punishment. Since that is not a natural way for a human being to die, and the government is forcing them to die by man-made items. So in other words America should comply with its own rules and abolish the death penalty, so we can actually work on bettering society rather than continuing the cycle of murder and death. Killing someone for something they did or didn't do is a cruel and unusual punishment, but it also doesn't fix anything in the end. Sentencing someone to death won't end crime or bring back the victims. We should work on reforming and rehabilitating, or just longer prison sentences instead of the death sentence.

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