Death Penalty Is Inhumane December 12, 1984. Georgia. After the first jolt failed to kill Alpha Otis Stephens, he struggled for eight minutes before a second jolt finished the job. The first electrical charge took two minutes. Then there was a six minute pause so his body could cool down before physicians could examine him and declare that another jolt was needed. During that six minute interval, Stephens took 23 breaths. (Radelet,1998) Countless studies have shown that the murder rate per capita has not gone down since capital punishment was legalized in 1976, but it has actually gone up.
We also need to consider the fact that it costs taxpayers less to give a prisoner a life sentence without parole than it does to keep them on death row. There is no doubt that the death penalty is an expensive, inhumane, and an ineffective deterrent to crime. In 1972, the Supreme court decides that the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment according to the eighth amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Furman v.
Georgia decision stopped the death penalty in America. Capital punishment in America went on a four year break. In 1976 it made a comeback. Two of the same justices that were in the supreme court for the Furman decision were still in the court. The case was Gregg v.
Georgia, and it turned the nation around. The court now held that the death penalty does not invariably violate the Constitution. They went back on their word from four years ago. They pointed out that even the first congress of the US had enacted legislation providing the death penalty for certain crimes. So they put the enforcement of the death penalty into the hands of the states. Currently there are 36 states that practice the death penalty.
Twenty-seven states use lethal injection, twelve use the electric chair, seven use the gas chamber, four still use the classic noose-and-rope technique of hanging, and Utah still uses the firing squad (though only once). (Bedau, 1997) The people that aren’t being executed are spending more time on death row each and every year. The average stay in 1983 was just over four years. that number has nearly tripled since then, with the average stay being 125 months. (Tushner, 1994) Many people seem to think that by killing a person we are saving the taxpayer’s money. But in reality, holding a prisoner on death row is more expensive than holding them in prison without the possibility of parole.
It costs up to three times the amount to keep a prisoner on death row than it would be to keep them in prison for the rest of their lives. Capital cases cost at least $2.6 million more per execution in some states. The most extensive study in the country found that the death penalty costs North Carolina $2 million per execution over the costs of a non-death penalty murder case with a sentence imprisonment for life. On a national basis, these figures come out to an extra cost of half a billion dollars since 1976 for having the death penalty. In Texas, a death penalty case costs an average of $2.3 million, about three times the cost of imprisoning someone in a single cell at the highest security level for 40 years. (Justice For All Network,1997) A lot of the expenses come from the long drawn out appeals process that we are giving our criminals, and the court appointed attorneys that they are receiving. Speaking of which, the poor and mentally ill are being sent to death row much quicker than the rich. Why? Because they cannot afford a good lawyer.
They are sent to the court and usually end up with a court appointed attorney, who could usually care less what happens in the case. Most of them also have very little experience in capital cases. Richard Lacayo’s article shows that. He says that some cities are trying to change things so that the court appointed attorneys have a little help by setting up public-defender offices. But there are still so many places that rely on the list of local lawyers to draw from for their capital case attorney. (Lacayo, 1992) However, it is very hard to blame attorneys in general.
According to the article, an Atlanta private attorney may be being paid $75 an hour, while a court appointed lawyer will make about $30. States like Alabama make it even worse by placing a limit on how much a court appointed lawyer can be paid for pre trial work at $1000. Even if they spend 500 hours (the national average is 2000) on work before the trial, that amounts to $2 an hour. (Lacayo, 1992) They would be better off flipping burgers at McDonalds. Executions in general are cruel and inhumane. Let me take you onto the first ever electric chair broiling in the world.
It took place at Auburn State Prison on August 6th, 1890. William Kemmler was the convict. In the days before the execution, newspapers hailed the new method as euthanasia by electricity. However, it wasn’t hailed too much after the execution. Kemmler was convulsing in the chair and as his flesh burned, the witnesses noticed a purplish foam spilling from his mouth. (Jenkins, 1994) Paints a real pretty picture your mind. Several decades ago, a celebrated justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme court did witness an execution by electrocution, and wrote: The guards stepped back.
The Warden, who had stood by with arms raised, lowered his hand. It had taken a minute and thirty-seven seconds. There was a low whine and a short loud snap, as of huge teeth closing. Roger’s head flew back and his body leaped forward against the confining straps. Almost at once smoke arose from his head and left wrist and was sucked up into the ventilator overhead. The body churned against the bonds, and the lips ceased trembling and turned red, then slowly changed to blue.
Moisture appeared on the skin and a sizzling noise was audible. The smell of burning flesh grew heavy in the air. Roger was being broiled. The current went off with a distinct clap after about two minutes and Roger slumped back into his seat, his head hanging. No one moved.
Then came the second jolt and again the body surged against the restraining straps and smoke rose from it. The visible flesh was turkey red. Again the current slammed off and this time the doctor stepped forward to listen, but he moved back again and shook his head. Apparently Roger still clung faintly to life. The third charge struck him, and again the smoking and sizzling and broiling.
His flesh was swelling around the straps. The doctor listened carefully and raised his head. I pronounce this man dead, he said, folding up his stethoscope. It was seven minutes after Roger had been seated in the chair. So death by electrocution may not be the most humane method of execution.
(Abu -Jamal, 1996) Lethal injection seems to work out well though, you don’t hear too many horror stories about that. However, there have been quite a few cases in which the most humane method hasn’t worked up to potential. Raymond Landry was executed by lethal injection in the state of Texas on December 14th, 1988. Two minutes into the execution, the syringe came out of Landry’s vein, spraying deadly chemicals across the room toward the witnesses. The observation curtain was pulled for fourteen minutes while the execution team reinserted the needle into the vein. Robyn Lee Parks was executed by lethal injection in the state of Oklahoma on March 10th, 1992.
Two minutes after the drugs were injected, the muscles in Park’s jaw, neck, and abdomen began to react spasmodically for about forty-five seconds. Parks continued to gasp and violently gag until he died, eleven minutes after the drugs were administered. (Jenkins, 1994) Is it right for any man, no matter how insane or deranged, to die like that? For all those hard-core death penalty supporters who wish to see that capital punishment remain legal, it’s deterrent effects are one of their primary and prized arguments. However, there is no conclusive evidence that the death penalty deters would- be criminals from their act of violence. Sure there have been plenty of studies, but they have all been so full of holes.
One of those theories have been from our very own Governor George Pataki. He said that bringing back the death penalty in his state he has taken the fear out of the minds of the people and put it in the criminal’s where it belongs. (Pataki, 1997) But is this really valid? How is he to prove that criminals are rational enough to think things through before they do it? How is he to prove that the criminals really fear capital punishment? Recently, in Oregon Harry Charles Moore was executed. He could have filed an appeal and lengthened his stay in prison, but he decided not to. He felt no remorse for what he did, and he wanted to die.
Are these guys really the bad guys when we are standing in the way of their final wish? He also says to have crafted the death penalty in the state to only include the most inhuman murderers are eligible. But who is to make that decision at who is inhuman? Not a very good theory. Another problem with Pataki’s theory is that it is just another stunt to gain votes in the election (which obviously worked). He just recently won the race for Governor and his article in USA Today Magazine clearly shows he was out to win over the voters. He uses phrases like Honest, hard-working people share my vision for a safe New York.
Obviously a vote getter. It’s what New York wanted, so why not? But there is nothing that can shut a person up quicker than plain, hard facts. According to the death penalty information center, since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, the executions per year has gone up, but so has the murder rate per 100,000. It’s also shown that death penalty states often have a higher murder rate than their non-death penalty neighbors. Iowa, for example, has less than two murders per 100,000 people, while it’s neighbor Missouri has a murder rate of nine per 100,000 people. It’s also shown that in some states the murder rate increases more during execution years than non- execution years. (Nygaard, 1994) In closing, the death penalty doesn’t work in America.
It is way too expensive, inhumane, and it just doesn’t deter crime. So what could be done? In simplest terms, abolish the death penalty. Canada took that approach and it works fine. There is no way that capital punishment can be decent, or work because it is simply murder. The only good death penalty is a repealed one.
1811 Words Thesis and Dissertations.