Death penalty is a discriminatory institution that has been hopelessly mired in race, class, incredibility, and inconsistency from its very beginning. Since human beings are fallible, the risk of executing an innocent person is always present. In addition, the high costs involved in putting a person on death row, such as investigation, lengthy trials, appeals, and costs of keeping the suspect in remand exemplify the inappropriateness of death penalties. Although countries that still apply death penalty say that it reduces the rate of capital crimes, there is no evidence to support this argument (Hans & Jehle, 2003).
On the contrary, the death penalty has various weakness that makes it inappropriate. To begin with, it denies individuals the right to life as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Amnesty International, 2016a). To make the matters worse, the irrevocable nature of this sentence makes it punitive especially in the case of wrong executions. For example, since the reinstatement of the death penalty in the US, 150 prisoners sent to death row have been exonerated. Moreover, some have still been executed despite looming doubts about their offenses (Amnesty International, 2016a). According to Amnesty International (2016b), death penalty does not deter crime. In fact, in some countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, and Iran a judge only has the option of issuing a death penalty for certain offenses. With this regard, the corrective mechanism of putting a law offender to jail is eliminated.
The death penalty is also popular in countries that have a biased judicial system. Due to its popularity in flawed judicial systems, it is prone to abuse. In the top three executing countries, China, Iran, and Iraq, there are constant questions with regard to unfair trials and forced confessions obtained through torture (Diamond & Zeisel, 1974). With this regard, the death penalty is also used as a political tool to quell opponents and instill a dictatorial regime (Neapolitan, 1983). The discriminatory process of the death penalty is often witnessed among the victims of this flawed judicial process. Given that the poor have little access to legal resources, the poor and marginalized are usually unable to defend themselves against this punitive law (Sandys & McGarrell, 1995).
Despite the inappropriateness and ineffectiveness of death penalty, the US still upholds this law. In 1986, Jack Greenberg argued that given that it is impossible to design and implement a system that would consistently isolate only the worst law offenders, then the use of this punishment is unconstitutional (ABA, 2003). In an effort to ensure that the US death penalty is consistent with the eight amendment, there have been various changes to this law since it was established. In the Coker v. Georgia, 433 U.S. 584, (1977) case, for example, the US Supreme Court set the minimum requirement for a death penalty as the committing of a capital offense (JUSTIA, 2016). In 2006, the Supreme Court introduced the requirement of an individualized sentencing in the issuance of a death penalty. In the Kansas v. Marsh, 548 U.S. 163, (2006), for example, the Supreme Court noted that death penalty can only be issued when a jury finds any aggravating and mitigating factors to be of the same weight having considered individualized sentencing (LII, 2016b).
To ensure there is fairness in the issuance of death sentences, the Supreme Court established that it is cruel and inconsiderate to execute mentally retarded individuals due to their mental handicap. As such, it exempted these individuals from execution following the Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304, (2002) case (LII, 2016a). Similarly, juvenile offenders were exempted from death penalty due to their immaturity, greater vulnerability to negative influence, and incomplete development of their characters after the Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551, (2005) case (LII, 2016c).
To sum up, due to the impossibility of establishing a system that can guarantee there is a consistent identification of the worst criminals and the irrevocable nature of death penalty, this form of punishment should be abolished. The human limitations in monitoring systems and the likelihood of erroneous information can lead wrong sentences, not to mention, bias mistakes in the application of death penalty can affect the credibility of the judicial system.
American Bar Association (ABA). (2003). Death penalty. Mental and Physical Disability Law Reporter, 27(3), 425-429.
Amnesty International (2016a). Death penalty. Retrieved from: https://www.amnesty.org/en/what-we-do/death-penalty/
Amnesty International (2016b). Is the death penalty the answer to drug crime? Retrieved from: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2015/10/is-the-death-penalty-the-answer-to-drug-crime/
Diamond, S., & Zeisel, H. (1974). A courtroom experiment on juror selection and decision making. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 1, 276-277.
Hans, V. P., & Jehle, A. (2003). Avoid bald men and people with green socks? Other ways to improve the voir dire process in jury selection. Chicago-Kent Law Review, 78, 1179-1201.
JUSTIA. (2016). Supreme Court of the US: Coker v. Georgia, 433 U.S. 584, (1977). Retrieved from: https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/433/584/case.html
Legal Information Institute (LII). (2016a). Supreme Court of the US: Atkins v. Virginia (00-8452) 536 U.S. 304, (2002). Retrieved from: https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/00-8452.ZD1.html
Legal Information Institute (LII). (2016b). Supreme Court of the US: Kansas v. March, 548 U.S. 163 (2006). Retrieved from: https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/04-1170.ZS.html
Legal Information Institute (LII). (2016c). Supreme Court of the US: Roper v. Simmons, 543 (03-633) U.S. 551 (2005). Retrieved from: https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/03-633.ZS.html
Neapolitan, J. (1983). Support for and opposition to capital punishment: Some associated social-psychological factors. Criminal Justice Behavior, 2,145.
Sandys, M., & McGarrell, E. F. (1995). Attitudes toward capital punishment: Preference for the penalty or mere acceptance? Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 32, 191-213.