Politics: Death Penalty

I am against the death penalty. I decided to write about it this week because yesterday the Governor of Oklahoma commuted a man’s death sentence hours before his scheduled execution. Seriously, he commuted the sentence at noon for a 4pm execution. And this is after a lot of protests, including school walk outs.

God, I kind of wish I was teenager right now because these kids are so cool.

When I was in ninth or tenth grade I read Dead Man Walking by Helen Prejean, a catholic nun who ministered to death row inmates. It opened my eyes to some serious injustice in the death penalty. And it’s really simple:

We keep killing innocent people

In 2014 a study concluded approximately 4% of the people executed were innocent. That doesn’t sound like a huge percentage – but some of the people were innocent. That is morally unacceptable to me. This isn’t a long point because I don’t know what else to say – this isn’t acceptable.

It’s -ist

If you Google pretty much anything on the death penalty one of the other disgusting points is that black defendants get killed more than anyone else. The SUPREME COURT outlines that it’s f&^king racist. 20 white defendants/black victim vs 282 black defendant/white victim. Our current system is not justice. The way we apply this is wrong.

One of the statistics I personally would like to see is the pre-trial income level of defendants. It’s something I’ve never found a study on, but I would not be the least bit surprised to learn they are in the bottom tiers of income level. Not because I think a poor person is MORE likely to commit murder. Because once you can afford to bring in your own attorney -they take the death penalty off the table. The way I think of this is “there are no rich men on death row.” It’s classist.

It’s racist and classist. We are killing people for being poor and black and that is wrong.

It’s expensive

Enforcing the death penalty costs Florida $51 million a year above what it would cost to punish all first-degree murderers with life in prison without parole. Based on the 44 executions Florida had carried out since 1976, that amounts to a cost of $24 million for each execution. (Palm Beach Post, January 4, 2000).

https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/urls_cited/ot2016/16-5247/16-5247-2.pdf

California, Maryland, North Carolina, and Texas all have found that the death penalty is way more expensive. And not just “It’s $1m to put someone in prison and $2m to kill them.” It’s 3-4x more expensive then keeping the person in prison FOR LIFE. Like “$1m to put them in prison for the rest of their life or $4m to TRY (and maybe not even get it) to get them executed.”

Conclusion

You will notice some arguments I didn’t make. “It doesn’t work” (it doesn’t). This isn’t part of my personal calculation because I don’t think executing someone is actually about deterring the crime in the future. If so, we apply it to the wrong crimes anyway. It is about retribution. It’s an emotional response (today). 200 years ago, executing someone vs keeping them imprisoned for 50 years was possibly the only reasonable solution. That isn’t true anymore.

Cruelty of the methods is also not part of my argument. If retribution is the goal, making it less painful doesn’t factor except it reminds us they are human. By putting them into a state of “sleep” and then slowly shutting down their internal organs with a cocktail of drugs makes it easier to watch and keep thinking the person dying is a monster. Seeing them scream and twitch in pain might bring forth some kind of empathy for the human being in front of us.

I have opposed the death penalty for twenty years. And when I was in high school I felt like a lone voice saying these things. Do you know how much I wish I could have had my high school walkout to oppose the death penalty? I hope these kids are walking out to oppose the practice, not just to support this one man. He might have received a terrible trial and may or may not be guilty – but he also isn’t the only one.

There are thousands of people on death row in the United States. If 4% of 1000 are innocent, that’s 40. If 4% of 3,000 are innocent that is 120 people. 120 potentially innocent of the crime we are going to kill them for. And they are probably black and probably poor. It isn’t justice.

Writer, nerd, and perpetual student. I am obsessed with books - both the reading and the making of them. If I won the lottery I would try to have the best private(ish) library in the world. It wouldn't be totally private because the whole purpose of having books is helping other people find a book they will love. I have 2 cats, Genkii (energy) and Kawaii (cutie). I will mention them regularly because they are a daily delight in my life. Granted, sometimes when I'm playing video games they are not so much "delight" as they are "distraction"... but I love them regardless.

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