In the UK capital punishment for murder was formally abolished in 1965 under the murder (Abolition Of Death Penalty) Act 1965, but was not completely abolished until the 10th of December 1999 – International Human Rights Day, when the government ratified Second Optional Protocol to the International Convent on Civil and Political Rights. The death penalty is still in use in some countries such as the USA, Japan, China, Iran and others, most of which are in Asia. I believe that using the death penalty is wrong and that these countries should abolish it for a number of reasons.
Miscarriages of justice have resulted in the wrong person being executed in many cases. However, if they had been given just a prison sentence, then they could still have been released anytime during their sentence should new evidence arise. Even though this is still not brilliant for the accused, it is still much better than being dead, is it not? A review of 200 DNA and death row exonerations in the USA in the last twenty years revealed that the original forensic testing or testimony was flawed, thus proving that mistakes can be made.
Is it right to kill anyone, even if he or she is a murderer? The law tells us not to kill anyone, so is capital punishment not just as bad? Because we live in a predominantly Christian society, is it not in our beliefs that a wrongdoer or sinner has the chance to change and repent all their sins? Many groups who agree with this point, such as Amnesty International, argue the fact that it constitutes a form of psychological torture, by causing inmates to experience the ‘death row phenomenon.
The death row phenomenon is when the knowledge of impending death can drive you crazy and cause you to undergo intense suffering. And as human beings do you not agree that these criminals deserve their right to life if they are truly sorry for what they have done? “The death penalty is disgusting, particularly if it condemns an innocent. But it remains an injustice even when it falls on someone who is guilty of a crime. ”
Giuliano Amato, Prime Minister of Italy, 14 September 2000, commenting on a scheduled execution in Virginia USA In America discrimination also plays a big part in terms of how severe your sentence is. For instance, the Baldus Study, conducted in Georgia in the 1970’s, found that people convicted of killing a white person were four-times as likely to be sentenced to death than people convicted of killing a non-white person. Discrimination also adversely affects the number of appointments of black criminal court judges.
The perfect example of this is in Alabama, where only 4% of criminal court judges are black and there was only one black district attorney there during the 1990’s. Perhaps the most famous case in involving discrimination was the “Fourteen Days In May” case. This true story, which the BBC broadcast as a documentary on national television, tells the story of eighteen year old Edward Earl Johnson, a black man sentenced to death for the murder of a white policeman and the rape of a white woman forty years his senior.
His conviction was based on a confession he was forced to give because he was receiving death threats, and Edward maintained his innocence right up until his last few minutes in the gas chambers. The amazing and appalling thing is that almost everyone else believed he was innocent, even the guard who walked him to the execution chamber, but no one could do anything about it because the police did not investigate properly, important witnesses were not called, and political pressure in Alabama means that the authorities cannot be viewed as going “soft” on the death penalty.
Perhaps the most important reason of all is that capital punishment doesn’t actually reduce crime (see fig 1). The main reason behind the death penalty is to discourage people from committing serious crimes, but as it does not appear to be working, it means that we are killing people unnecessarily. Even worse still, the death penalty can cause the ‘brutalising effect,’ which in fact does the reverse of reducing crime – it gives criminals an excuse to justify doing it.
The ‘brutalising effect’ is when criminals say that the death penalty sends out the message that killing is sanctioned in some circumstances, so they feel that when they kill someone for a particular reason it is no different. Surely punishment for a crime should not be about revenge but should be about rehabilitation? A more imaginative solution is called for. It’s a phony issue. To pretend the death penalty is going to end crime in the United States is to fool people, to promote public ignorance.
Rudolph W. Giuliani (R), former U. S. Attorney of New York, former mayor of New York City There is a continuing debate about the most effective way to reduce crime and in particular the serious crimes. Murder will always be with us, but is state sanctioned killing really the answer to the preventing of individuals taking other individuals lives? Surely the government should encourage its citizens to behave in the best way possible by setting an example.