Innocent Executions essay

Document Type:Thesis

Subject Area:English

Document 1

More than often, supporters believe that cold-blood murders do not deserve any considerations and thus they ought to be eliminated especially those who commit atrocities involving murders of children and women. On the other hand, opponents of capital punishment have argued that the law should be abolished because it is a cruel and unusual punishment that also seems to be unfair to the minorities. Also, opponents have claimed that implementation of the death penalty does not deter the commission of capital offences. However, neither of these responses can be the whole truth. If the primary goal of executing murders would be to deter crime, then individuals would have insisted on public executions which would neither be on the political agenda nor an item that American citizens would be interested in promoting (Williams, 2002). Similarly, if the main aim of capital punishment were vengeance then, the bereaved family would have been allowed to determine the fate of the murderer and in the absence of a family member or relative of the victim, the whole issue would have been dropped. Apparently, according to Williams (2000), capital punishment is a necessity to make a public decree that murder is intolerable since deliberate murderers strongly embrace the evil that degrades the community. Even so, opposition to capital punishment remains a major challenge to implementation of the law in several states. By definition, capital punishment is the infliction of the death penalty as a punishment for specific crimes (Costanzo & White, 2006). A substantial number of people in the U.

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S since the colonial times. The first ever recorded legal execution happened in Virginia in 1608 when Captain Kendall George was executed for an offence of espionage (Costanzo & White, 2006). Ever since the crimes worthy of capital punishment changed. For example, before the American Revolution, capital offence included murder, manslaughter, blasphemy, adultery, bestiality, conspiracy, rebellion, sodomy and bearing of false witnesses in capital cases. Later, capital punishment became exceedingly restricted to murder. States such as Washington, Missouri, Oregon, Minnesota, Kansa and South Dakota abolished the law completely while others such as North Dakota, Tennessee and Arizona limited its use to crimes such as treason Costanzo & White, 2006). However, by 1920, the number of executions across the U. S increased following reinstatement of capital punishment in some states as a result of communism and a threat of revolution.

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In America’s history, the sum of executions in the subsequent 1930s marked the record of the highest number of executions ever recorded in a decade account for 167 executions annually (Costanzo & White, 2006). Over the years, these numbers continued fluctuating and increasing following the occurrence of various critical cases that brought the issue of capital punishment to the spotlight. Compared to 2015 in which six states conducted executions, only five states imposed capital punishment in 2016. In States like Georgia, the number of executions nearly doubled from 5 to 9, while in Texas the number almost halved from 13 to 7 executions (Amnesty International, 2017). Collectively, these two states accounted for 80% of all executions in the U. S in 2016. Nevertheless, as at the end of 2016, 2, 832 individuals were still under death row in America. Rather than capital punishment, most Americans now support a life sentence for convicted murderers.

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Among the opposers of capital punishment, 40% argue that it is wrong to take away lives while 17% claim that a person may be wrongly convicted and executed yet, innocent (Amnesty International, 2018). Such, are the concerns that have shifted the public’s attitude towards capital punishment. Innocent Executions Determination of full innocence has been an obvious challenge for the judges and juries and the overall law enforcement system as a whole. As a result, it has led to wrongful convictions among death row defendants (Bedau & Radelet, 1987). In 1998, University of Northwestern conducted their first National Conference on Wrongful Convictions and Death Penalty in Chicago, Illinois (Kirchmeier, 2006). This meeting attracted countrywide attention and reunited 30 of the unfairly convicted inmates who had been exonerated and released from death row (Kirchmeier, 2006). A majority of these cases had not been discovered because of successful determination of innocence by the justice system but, were mainly spotted due to the new scientific techniques such as DNA profiling and investigations by students and journalist as well as the efforts of volunteer attorneys.

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In the following two years, Illinois freed thirteen innocent inmates from death row within the same time with which it had executed twelve inmates. During this period, Governor Ryan George affirmed a cessation of executions and assigned a committee on capital punishment to investigate the issue of executing innocent inmates. An example of a recent case with such a consequence is the 42year old case of Troy Davis v. Georgia. Death row inmate Troy Davis was executed by the U. S State of Georgia for the murder of a police officer Mark McPhail in 1989. Davis spent 19years on death row and after three-set execution dates, he was executed 20 years later in September 11, 2011 (Roth, 2017). Atkin had been sentenced for kidnapping, armed robbery and capital murder but upon an evaluation of his mental competence by a forensic psychologist, it was established that he was mildly mentally retarded at the time of the crime.

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With an IQ of 59, Atkins was declared to be in the lowest one percentile of intelligence and was sentenced to death (Haydel & Ferber, 2015). However, with the claims of the misleading verdict, the Supreme Court of Virginia called for a second sentencing hearing where an expert rebuttal expert stated that Atkins was not mentally ill but rather of an average IQ that could be diagnosed as an antisocial personality disorder. As such, the Supreme Court acknowledged the death penalty but later made considerations with claims that Atkins mental status was that of a mental age of a child between the age of 9 and 12 and thus imposing death penalty on him would be an excessive use of force and a cruel a well as a strange punishment prohibited by the eighth amendment (Han, 2002).

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Today's society perceives intellectually retarded offenders as downright less liable than the average criminal thus the reason why they should be protected from wrongful executions. Retrieved from https://www. amnesty. org/en/latest/news/2018/04/death-penalty-facts-and-figures-2017/ Amnesty International. April 11). The Death penalty in 2016: Facts and figures. T. An overview of the death penalty and capital trials: History, current status, legal procedures, and cost.  Journal of Social Issues, 50(2), 1-18. Death Penalty Information Center (2018, July 14): Facts about the Death Penalty. org/documents/FactSheet. Deciding to take a life: Capital juries, sentencing instructions, and the jurisprudence of death.  Journal of Social Issues, 50(2), 149-176. Haydel, J. Ferber, Y. V. Remembering Troy Davis six years later and the continued fight to end the death penalty in the U. S. Retrieved from https://medium. com/@amnestyusa/remembering- troy-Davis-six-years-later-and-the- continued-fight-to-end-the-death-penalty-in-the-us-58 Raphel, A.

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Wihbey, J. E.  Capital Punishment: Current Controversies. Greenhaven Press.

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