The death penalty has been a matter of great controversy in US. Many call it a denial of human rights and against dignity of mankind. Currently, over two-third nations of the world have abolished capital punishment and many are on the way. In US, many states still continue with death penalty laws. Supreme Court suspended capital punishment during period 1972-76; however, that was resurrected after that.
The paper explores why capital punishment should be abolished.
US Death Penalty History
The below mentioned table depicts death execution history in last few decades in US.
It can be seen from the above table that death penalty was certainly on decline until at least 1980 in US; however, in subsequent decades it went up considerably. It would be further interesting to see how these executions are distributed racially.
Death Penalty and Racial Bias
Amnesty International (2010) runs campaign to remove the death penalty in the USA by going through individual cases of injustice. The organization exposes the flawed nature of capital punishment conviction and absurdity involved with it and argues strongly to abolish death penalty. According to them, the death penalty is absurd and cruel. The organization gives example of Brandon Rhode put to death just a few days after his life was saved. Often, the death penalty is not authorized on proven guilt. Serious doubts were raised for the guilt of Troy Davis; however, he remained on death row. Quoting the case of Teresa Lewis in Virginia while she was awarded the death penalty but the person who masterminded the crime did not get the penalty. In the case of Reggie Clemons convicted for the murder of two white women in St. Louis, four federal judges charged prosecutor's conduct as ‘boorish and abusive’. Clemons alleged about police brutality during interrogation. The political pressure led to the police and prosecutor misconduct and speaks about the racial bias in this case. Ohio Governor Ted Strickland granted clemency to Kevin Keith because of some doubt still remained on her crime. This is an indication of changing times (Amnesty, 2010).
Does Death Penalty Act as a Deterrent?
There is a great deal of debate that capital punishment works as a deterrent for the heinous crimes like murder. Lamperti (2011) argues and concludes that capital punishment does not create any deterrent effect and reduce the rates of homicides. Lamperti further argues that many countries such as England in 1973, Canada in 1976, France in 1981, Italy in 1994, Spain in 1995 and Australia in 1985 have abolished capital punishment from their soil for this simple reason that death penalty in no way works as deterrent. A study done by United Nations indicates that there is no correlation between the existence of death penalty and the lower rates of crime.
Several States Abolish Death Penalty
Recently, Connecticut have taken a decision to abolish the death penalty after an evidence from a comprehensive study that death sentences are executed haphazardly without establishing the gravity of crimes. Following Connecticut now many states such as Kansas, Florida, Kentucky, California, Georgia, and Washington have started taking repeal measures on the death penalty laws. The states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Oregon have also stared reviewing the death penalty laws.
Cost versus Benefits
In an editorial review by the New York Times, the paper states that the cost of death penalty is enormous as is evidenced from the spending of roughly $4 billion on the execution of 13 death penalties. The proponents of death penalty in the State of California now declare that there is no visible benefit or it serves no purpose in continuing with it. The paper categorically mentions that racial bias permeates from death penalty cases. Minority defendants have a greater chance of death penalty if victims are whites. If seen from the population perspective, blacks constitute only 12.6 percent of the population but 35 percent of the convicts receiving death penalty are from blacks. The reason could be insufficient counsel support and major blunders from court-assigned lawyers. The paper quotes the American Law Institute who opines that the system cannot fix the issue as it is not possible to rid the system free of racial or class biases. Finally, the paper takes a strong position that death penalty should be abolished throughout the United States (The New York Times, 2012).
There is no doubt that death penalty serves no useful purpose. It neither acts as a deterrent nor any other social purpose. Racial and class bias coupled with political interference denies justice to the innocent which goes against basic human rights. More and more states are on the way to abolish capital punishment and that augurs well for the mankind.
Amnesty USA (2010), Human Rights Now, Retrieved April 23, 2012 from
Lamperti, J. (2011), Does Capital Punishment Deter Murder? Retrieved April 23, 2012 from
The New York Times (2012), More Evidence against the Death Penalty, Retrieved April 23, 2012 from