Death penalty agonizes legal murder


Illustration by Kathleen Hetherington.

One of the most unjust and inhumane systems still legal in America today is the death penalty. The whole purpose of executions is that they are a more humane way to punish criminals for their crimes, which is ironic, to say the least. It is sad that in 2019 the most humane way of punishment we can think of is execution. 

To me, execution is just a cop-out and justification for a larger problem that is mass incarceration. The American justice system in and of itself has a huge problem on its hand, and mass incarceration and the death penalty are not an adequate solution for it. 

There are a few problems with the death penalty as a form of punishment, and studies have shown that the psychological effect is more harmful than its use as punishment.

According to the Equal Justice Initiative, for every nine people convicted of a crime, sentenced to death and killed, one of them has been innocent. That is just one too many. To submit an innocent person to the psychological damage faced in prison as they wait for their last day on Earth to arrive is horrendous, and quite frankly a very un-American act. 

The death penalty itself should not exist, but to sentence someone to death, there should be no shadow of a doubt. 

Every so often, you hear about another case of innocence–either of someone in prison or on death row and through DNA or other new evidence, something has been found that could possibly exonerate the person in question. 

In cases like Rodney Reed, they gain national attention and support. Activist Shaun King and a slew of others have created petitions and spread awareness through social media to advocate for his release from jail. Reed, who is set to be executed on Nov. 20, was convicted of the murder of Stacey Stites in 1996. Reed, who’d always claimed he was innocent of the crime, has been in prison since then.

This is one of the major flaws with the death penalty: the fact that you could possibly execute someone who is innocent, and no amount of money or apologies can excuse that.

There’s also the possibility of a botched execution. These botched executions, according to Death Penalty Info, occur when there is a departure from the protocol that’s supposed to be followed for executions. 

This departure from protocol can result in unanticipated problems or delays that can cause unnecessary stress and agony for the victim, thus creating a sort of torture for them. Problems such as inmates catching fire, strangling the inmates instead of their necks breaking while being hung, or being administered the wrong dosage of a lethal poison. 

While the rate of botched executions is low, under 10% in most cases, that number is still too high to be comfortable with putting another human to death. 

We’ve always heard that the death penalty deters criminals from committing crimes, but statistics have proven that it actually doesn’t. Deterrence is not a factor of crime, nor should it be used as a justification for continuing to uphold a justice system that uses the death penalty. Even if deterrence were an option, the act of killing someone as retribution of a crime is ironic in and of itself when you consider the fact that murder is a crime.

With the inefficacy of convictions and trickiness of the American justice system, the death penalty should no longer be looked at as an efficient form of punishment. There’s frankly too much red tape and too many lives at stake to continue this inhumane way of punishing people.