Execution is Not the
Vengeance is not rational nor does it provide justice.
Tom Horkan, general counsel for the Florida Catholic Conference writes, "Have any wealthy people been sentenced to death under this law? No! If the accused is a part of the social or business class that any of those belong to, his chances of avoiding the death penalty are excellent, close to 100 percent. And the Catholic bishops of Florida have written, "In its application it is discriminatory. The death penalty falls most often on the underprivileged, the indigent, the friendless, minorities, ethnic groups."
A 1990 Government Accounting Office report summarizing several capital punishment studies confirmed "a consistent pattern of evidence indicating racial disparities in charging, sentencing and the imposition of the death penalty." The studies revealed "those who murdered whites were more likely to be sentenced to death than those who murdered blacks."
An American Association for the Mentally Retarded fact sheet states that six person known to be mental retarded were executed in the United States in 1995. The U.S. Supreme Court has acknowledged that the majority of the citizenry, though in favor of the death penalty, are against executing people with mental retardation. The court, though, said action must come from state legislatures. Eleven of 40 death penalty states have passed legislation to prohibit putting to death mentally retarded persons convicted of capital offenses.
In 1989 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of executing 16- and 17-year-old killers. In 1996, Mississippi prosecutors sought the death penalty for juveniles as young as 13. Nationally, women account for one of every eight people arrested for murder, as the debate over gender and capital punishment is likely to continue. Since the reinstatement of the death penalty, only one other woman beside Tucker has been executed, Margie Velman Barfield, a North Carolina grandmother put to death in 1985 for poisoning her financÚ.
KILLING THE INNOCENT
Critics say capital punishment is not only ineffective but also costly. In Florida alone, it costs nearly $3.2 million to carry out the "ultimate justice." Not that the actual executioner is well paid. The anonymous black-hooded man who pulls the switch is paid $150 in cash. The rest of the $1.8 million is spent on lawyers, Supreme Court justices and extra prison guards.
Then there are less obvious costs like the jury that doubles in size from six to twelve when the outcome could be a death penalty. There are expert witness costs on the defense and prosecution sides. Some inmates have been on death row for 20 years and more than 100 have been there at least a decade. In the past 10 years, Florida taxpayers have spent almost $21 million for capital collateral layers representing the convicted killers.
The overriding argument for eliminating the death penalty though, may be that innocent people, once executed, cannot be brought back. How often does it happen? The Southern Center for Human Rights reports that more than 65 people sentenced to death since 1976 have been released after evidence of their factual innocence emerged. They had been on death row an average of seven years from their conviction until their release.
Often it is media attention that convinces courts to revisit a capital case. Alabama courts ordered the release of Walter McMillian, who spent six years on death row, innocent of the crime of which he was convicted, only after CBS news program "60 Minutes" reported on his innocence. It is impossible to determine how many innocent people have been executed, but the National Coalition of Abolish the Death Penalty estimates at least 23 have been put to death wrongfully in this century.
The late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall wrote, "No matter how careful courts are, the possibility of perjured testimony, mistaken, honest testimony, and human error remain too real. We have no way of judging how many innocent people have been executed, but we can be certain that there were some."
However it plays out, American's thirst for vengeance is unique in the Western World. The London Economist editorialized, "one of the most striking difference between the United States and other industrial countries is America's enthusiasm for execution." At one post-execution vigil, the Rev. Brant Copeland, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, condemned capital punishment, quoting the late Florida Governor Leroy Collins, "The death penalty is the gutter of shame for Florida."
This can't go on. It speaks against all rationality.
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