tion in the scheme of capital sentencing does not constitute serving justice. Today’s system of capital punishment is fraught 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) Capital Punishment has been part of the criminal justice system since the earliest of times. The Babylonian Hammurabi Code(ca. 1700 B.C.) decreed death for crimes as minor as the fraudulent sale of beer(Flanders 3). Egyptians could be put to death for disclosing the location of sacred burial sites(Flanders 3). However, in recent times opponents have shown the death penalty to be racist, barbaric, and in violation with the United States Constitution as “…cruel and unusual punishment.” In this country, although laws governing the application of the death penalty have undergone many changes since biblical times, the punishment endures, and controversy has never been greater.
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, “All 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.
“Revenge is an unworthy motive for our society to pursue.”(Whittier 1) In our society, there is a great expectation placed on the family of a victim to pursue vengeance to the highest degree — perhaps 1 the death penalty. Pat Bane, executive director of the Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation (MVFR), stated, “One parent told me that people made her feel like she was betraying her son because she did not want to kill the person who murdered him.”(Frame 50) This creates a dilemma of morality. If anything, by forcing families to seek the death penalty, their own consciences will be burdened by the death of the killer. Furthermore, “Killing him will not bring back your sons.”(Grisham 402). At some point, man must stop the violence. Seeking temporary gratification is not a logical basis for whether the death penalty should be imposed. Granted, revenge is easily confused with retribution, and most would agree that the punishment should fit the crime, but can society really justify murdering someone else simply on the basis that they deserved it? Government has the right and duty to protect the greater good against people who jeopardize the welfare of society, but a killer can be sentenced to life without chance of parole, and society will be just as safe as if he had been executed.
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 the United States 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