Law in Contemporary Society

The Death Penalty Debate

-- By BriannaGordon - 26 Apr 2022

The Discriminatory and Detestable History of the Death Penalty

Capital punishment is no stranger to opposition. It is a highly disputed practice and its constitutionality has been often legally challenged. Capital punishment was ruled unconstitutional in 1972 during the supreme court case, Furman v. Georgia. Reinstated four years later, as a result of modifications made to the death penalty statute, Gregg v. Georgia revised the statutes re-implemented the death penalty which is practiced in 30 states to this day. Along with these challenges, the death penalty has a long history intertwined with racism and discrimination that is still visible today in its practice. As it parallels the acts of lynching from white supremacist groups such as the KKK who normalized the persecution and murder of African-Americans, the way in which the death penalty is administered is highly disproportionate to African-Americans.

Studies have shown that the race of the victim has an influence on the likelihood of being charged with capital murder or receiving the death penalty. Those who murdered Whites were found more likely to be sentenced to death than those who murdered Blacks. A disproportionate amount of Blacks are incarcerated and on death row. Texas and Pennsylvania have the largest percentage of minorities on death row - 70% and 69%, respectively even though blacks and Hispanics only account for about 30% of the population. The concepts of the race also feed into juror selection. As jurors are the decision makers of an an individual's fate at the penalty phase, it is crucial that a prosecutor and lawyer strategically ensure that their jury is how they would like it to be to work in their favor. In many cases prosecutors systematically exclude individuals of the same race as the defendant as it is more likely than an individual of the same race would be less inclined to impose a death sentence. Race is undeniably a crucial component of capital punishment and it often contributes to the continuing arbitrariness and unfairness of the death penalty.

Unfairness & Arbitrariness

The issues surrounding race translate into many parts of the judicial system, specifically within juror selection. Elected to enhance fairness and advocate for the citizen’s voices, jurors possess a tremendous amount of power in the decision of an individual’s conviction. Whereas attorney’s have endured several years of education and are well versed in the legal system and its nuances, jurors are often not. Jurors are usually not engaged within the legal system or familiar with the system but are tasked with deciding whether or not an individual should be sentenced to death. Jurors arguably one of the most important parts of a capital case, can easily be extremely misinformed and incorrectly destroy the rest of an individual’s life. Jurors tend to possess immense amounts of pressure and feel as though they should be able to bring back a verdict without asking any questions. Slightly prepped, then bombarded with arguments and evidence from both the prosecution and the defense,Jurors often have many unasked questions. However, the culture of the court system does not allow for the seamless exchange of dialogue between jurors and the judge. After being sent to a different location to deliberate, it is hard to reassemble every time someone has a question. This factor tends to lead jurors to try to figure it out on their own, which leads to consequential errors in deciding the verdict.

No legislation or precedent has been set to revisit a juror’s deliberation if someone did not understand something. This is extremely dangerous as it is evident that a juror may not possess all the knowledge required to make an informed decision, but their votes will still be upheld regardless. This does a disservice to the fairness of the justice system and continues to contribute to the arbitrariness of the death penalty.

The Death Penalty is not a Deterrent

Actual executions of individuals do not cause an overall decline in crime rates where capital punishment is practiced. In fact, the death penalty does the opposite. Prosecuting people for killing people and punishing them with death highlights a contradiction and only helps to perpetuate the belief that someone’s life is not valued. This is described as the brutalization effect. The brutalization effect explains the relationship between states with the death penalty and their crime rates - The death penalty increases both homicide and violent crime markedly, seriously increasing the danger to society in states where it is used with any degree of frequency whatsoever. The death penalty only continues to occur solely for revenge, political gain and “justice for a victim’s family” even though many co-victims have condemned the executions of their relative’s murderers. The effects of capital punishment have a negative effect on crime control and bettering society as a whole.

The Stance of a Law Student

While I believe that it is time to fully abolish the death penalty, I think it would be abolition mostly in symbolic change. The United States is a country that has been infiltrated with citizens taking up self-justice in many ways. We have the HISTORY of the KKK that has fed white supremacists to take matters into their own hand. For example, the case of Ahmaud Arbery or Kyle Rittenhouse. Our fight to eliminate the death penalty will reinvent itself in reality. We have seen that in today's society, the acts are an extension of some of the discriminatory practices of our judicial system. I tbink abolishing the death penalty, while important, is secondary to implementing social community initiatives and resorative justice. Society and government alike will find th need to make up for this absence in ways that are similarly dangerous and would result in the same exact outcomes but just committed by actors.While we see this now, I believe an influx of these incidences would occur.

The literature is rather extensive. You could link to some tiny fraction of it throughout the draft, which would be very helpful to a reader who wants to use those links to start reading about the subject. Linking would allow you to use many fewer words to discuss what the links already do.

The abolitionist arguments here are familiar I have agreed with them all my life. But they aren't your new points, they're all our old points, A little more legal precision would be a big improvement. You discuss a number of issues that are landmark Supreme Court cases: Witherspoon, McCleskey? , and Batson, eg. It would make senss to link to them, and to make your text conform to their teaching.

But what we most need is your thinking. An excellent high-school debate team could marshal and summarize the familiar arguments in favor of abolishing capital punishment. But they can't do what you can, if you will.



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r3 - 06 Jun 2022 - 04:58:33 - BriannaGordon
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