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Death Penalty

Death penalty is an irrevocable crime which many people argue its effectiveness in deterring future crimes. It became a very important issue for the human rights associations such as, “Amnesty International”, which is working worldwide to protect human rights and abolishing death penalty. According the facts of “Amnesty International”, today 111 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. That leaves 84 other countries which retain or use death penalty (Amnesty International). There are also “victim’s rights” organizations, which support the use death penalty. It became an important debate lately. Therefore, we should know the consequences of abolishing death penalty such as its benefits and threats to the society, its effectiveness and its role in the international arena.

Individuals and organizations who oppose the death penalty claim that it violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They also claim that it is an inhuman punishment which is ineffective in deterring future crimes.

Those, who support the death penalty, claim that death penalty is effective in deterring future crimes and keep the society a better place to live in. They also believe that there should be alternative punishments for different crimes and death penalty is a kind of punishment some criminals deserve.

While opponents claim there is no solid evidence of deterrence, people who support the death penalty argue that our society is not able to see the results of what is not happening. This is like hearing the news of the shipwrecks, but not hearing any news on the ones that arrived safely to the harbor.

Practice of death penalty always carries the risk of taking innocent lives. Cooper shows proof of this risk when she says, “75 people were released from death row after courts reversed their convictions” (Cooper). Those, who support the death penalty, believe that it is extremely a small risk and it is decreasing as forensic science improves. They also believe that execution of an innocent inmate is a even smaller chance than the releasing a criminal. This is credited to the careful observations made before the execution. The Jogger case is an example of false convictions. “…the faulty convictions of five teenagers in 1989 would have never come to light” (Halpern).

Organizations such as the “Amnesty International” show the fact that, “death penalty punishes the poor” as a reason to abolish it. Good judicial representation often results in less or no penalty, but it costs too much to be represented by a good lawyer. This situation might result in changing a death row sentence to a life long imprisonment for a wealthy criminal. According to Mary H. Cooper, “poor inmates often do not receive adequate legal counsel” (Cooper).

Victim’s rights organizations argue that the death penalty, in fact, does not discriminate the poor. This accusation can not be an argument against death penalty because it is an argument against all types of punishment. The only way to solve this issue is to improve the justice system, which is not easily done.

Fairness of death penalty is also questionable because the prosecutor may choose to go for the death penalty or life-time imprisonment. Some prosecutors always seek for the death penalty and others may never consider this penalty, this circumstance discriminates between types of prosecution. There is also evidence that “prosecutors seek for death penalty more frequently when the victim is black than when the victim is white” (Cooper).

Another threat of the death penalty to society is the effect of the execution on relatives and supporters of the convict’s innocence. Whatever the reason for execution is, it always leaves a negative physiologically affect on the individual’s supporters. Think of the daughter or son of someone executed whether he is innocent or not. These children are affected by the way society punishes and might become potential enemies to the system. Life-time imprisonment without parole seems like a much better alternative. As long as, there is no place for mistakes in the decision, supporters still argue that the death penalty is the best alternative.

Victim’s rights organizations are mostly made up of people who had been affected by some kind of crimes. It is not strange that people who lost their loved ones will behave emotionally and support the death penalty. “An eye for an eye” mentality is the basic reason these people support death penalty. After the pain, they can no longer take a neutral stand and think about the issue clearly.

Death penalty supporters are also bothered because they believe life-time imprisonment of criminals is a waste of taxpayer’s money. They prefer criminals to be sent to death row than being taken care of for a life-time (Thibault).

Although many organizations define the death penalty an unusual punishment, some supporters argue that the framers of the constitution supported death penalty and constructed laws to practice it, so it is not unusual. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, after reviewing Callins v. Collins case, observed that:

The Fifth Amendment provides that ‘[n]o persons shall be held to answer for a capital…crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury…nor be deprived of life…without the due process of law.’ This clearly permits the death penalty to be imposed, and establishes beyond doubt that the death penalty is not one of the ‘cruel and unusual punishments’ prohibited by the Eighth Amendment (Scalia).
One other issue is that United States has not abolished the death penalty for youths. Juveniles do not have the same moral reasoning as adults so there should be an alternative way of punishing them. According to Schiraldi, this does not look good on the international arena as well. He states this well, where he says: “Over the last three years, aside from the United States, only Pakistan, Iran and the Republic of Congo have executed juvenile offenders –hardly the kind of human rights company we should be keeping” (Schiraldi).

Abolishing the death penalty is a requirement for joining the European Union. Republic of Turkey, who was waiting at the gates of the European Union for a longtime, has taken steps to abolish death penalty although it has not been practiced for a long time. Abolishing the death penalty and practice of human rights laws is becoming a more important issue in the international arena. “Turkey has been praised for laws adopted in August to abolish death penalty in peacetime” (Houston Chronicle).

I believe it is not possible to end killings by executing murders. For a better society, we should be more responsible for human rights. Even though, it is a very small risk that the executed will be innocent, I believe it is not worth it. It is also becoming a necessity to abolish death penalty for the sake of humanity in the international arena. Every country should take further steps to act according to United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. United States should not be in the same class of countries who practice death penalty and be an example as it is in other issues. Death penalty should be abolished at all so that it will no more be an alternative to kill for vengeance.