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Final Critical Thinking: Capital Punishment

Julia Henderson
CAP 9
Red Group
May 10, 2015

Critical Thinking: Capital Punishment

Because capital punishment is an expensive, lengthy and inhumane process, all states
who havent already, must abolish the death penalty. Capital Punishment has recently become a
highly controversial topic. While it is currently legal, killing someone as punishment for a crime
should not be legally authorized. The execution of a criminal cannot take back the crime that was
committed. There are so many other reasons that support its abolishment.
The execution of criminals dates back to 18th century B.C. when the death penalty was
established by King Hammurabi of Babylon (Laura Randa, 1). In 1600s colonial America, seeing
that there was no prison, crimes of espionage and witchcraft were punished by death. During the
mid-19th century, certain states limited death as a punishment for only the most heinous crimes.
Rhode Island and Wisconsin abolished it all together (Changes in Death Penalty Laws, 3).
Death by guillotine was used up until 1878, when the Supreme Court ruled that while the firing
squad was a legitimate method, the guillotine was unconstitutional. Between 1907 and 1917,
eight states abolished or limited capital punishment, but by 1920 almost all of them had
reinstated it ("Part I: History of the Death Penalty"). Public hangings were a common practice
until the last one in 1936. Around the same time, the electric chair and gas chambers were
introduced. In 1965, 13 states abolished the death penalty, and in 1972 it was suspended by the
Supreme Court for going against the 8th amendment. It was again legalized four years later.

Lethal injection was first used in 1977. A decade later, the Supreme Court ruled that executing
anyone under the age of 16 was unconstitutional; and the age was raised to 18 in 2005.
In 1997 the American Bar Association called for a moratorium until courts "(1) ensure
that death penalty cases are administered fairly and impartially, in accordance with due process,
and (2) minimize the risk that innocent parties may be executed (Capital Punishment
Timeline 50). This was a step in the right direction, but it was hardly acknowledged, even when
it was called for again in 2007. In a similar effort 2 years later, The United Nations Human
Rights Commission called for an end to capital punishment but the U.S. and nine other countries
voted against the resolution. In 2004, New York found the death penalty to be unconstitutional.
Illinois abolished it in 2011, and Connecticut did in 2012. In the past two years, both Washington
and Pennsylvanias governors have called for moratoriums. Laws and opinions on capital
punishment have been on a roller coaster ride for thousands of years, but they are currently
headed in the right direction. The number of executions and of states that allow such executions,
has been decreasing, but a permanent solution must be put in place.
The whole process of capital punishment, including prosecution, appeals, jail time, and
execution, is extremely expensive. According to an Idaho Legislature review of the death penalty
costs in 2014, the average cost of the execution itself is on average 50,000 tax payer dollars.
Another study, in 2008, of Marylands (no longer active) death penalty, inferred that a deatheligible prosecution costs $1.8 million per individual and a successful death-penalty prosecution,
where the death penalty is secured, costs in excess of $3 million per individual (Meg Penrose
7). Between 1978 and 2014, tax payers have spent over $4 billion on capital punishment. These
statistics make it pretty clear that executions are costly. These taxpayer dollars should be going to

something more useful, like paying teachers or police officers, to rid crime in the first place. The
length of time that the process takes only adds to its costliness.
The system is incredibly inefficient. The process of appeal against the death sentence
takes on average at least a decade in most states. Californias system is so dysfunctional that it
takes around 25 years to finish. In the past 36 years, 900 Californians have been sentenced to
death row, but only 13 have been put to death. The American justice system is incredibly flawed
due to all of its time wasted on criminal justice cases. The process of putting a criminal to death
takes such a long time that it just isnt worth it. The criminal suspect may sometimes die
naturally before having the chance to be executed. The appeals are morally necessary, but the
problem is that more than half the California cases reviewed by federal courts, inmates' death
sentences were voided (Sandy Banks 23).
There is always a possibility of accidentally convicting an innocent person and
sentencing them to death. In one case, two brothers were sentenced to death row in 1983. It
wasnt until 2011 that they were found innocent when previously overlooked evidence was
reexamined. If they hadnt found this evidence, two innocent men -convicted at the ages of 15
and 19- would have been killed. Another man, Glen Ford, was on death row for thirty years until
he was finally exonerated when a mistake in his prosecution was found. The lead prosecutor of
the aged trial apologized saying, This case is another example of the arbitrariness of the death
penalty...We are simply incapable of devising a system that can fairly and impartially impose a
sentence of death because we are all fallible human beings" (qtd. A.M. Stroud III). The American
prosecution system allows for mistakes that can result in false criminals being executed. This
problem will forever continue if the death penalty remains in place.

Putting the 8th amendment to the Constitution aside, treating humans cruelly just isnt
right. The death penalty willfully causes pain to others. All methods used to put criminals to
death are cruel and inhumane but a particular recent case using lethal injection was torturous.
Criminals are supposed to be put to death as immediately as possible. In January of 2014, a
convicted killer in Ohio was executed using an untested lethal injection. The inmate took almost
25 minutes to die and began to make loud snorting noises and display irregular breathing and
gasping for at least 10 minutes (Elizabeth Barber 5). The majority of executions use lethal
injection. The untried drug cocktails are not only dangerous, but extremely painful and should
therefore be unlawful.
The most effective way of taking care of all the problems brought about by capital
punishment, is to completely abolish it. Often times, life in prison is a worse punishment for
criminals than being put to death. Death can be used to escape the punishment of prison. Life in
prison means no escape from this. The longer the person lives, the more time they have to think
about the wrong that theyve done. With its abolishment, would come more money for better
resources. The possibility of wrongly killing an innocent convict would disappear. Quite a bit of
valuable time would also be saved. Humans would be spared from inhumane punishment.
If the death penalty were to remain in place, a multitude of intrinsic problems with the
system would remain unfixed. While family members of crime victims may gain closure from
criminals deaths, they should be satisfied with them having to live with the gnawing guilt of
their crime by doing life in jail. Advocates claim that the death penalty deters crime, however
The General Assembly of the United Nations recently asserted, There is no conclusive evidence
of the deterrent value of the death penalty (UNGA Resolution 65). Capital punishment is too
often used against the poor and minority groups. As the International Commission Against Death

Penalty states, the death penalty undermines human dignity which is inherent to every human
being.
Capital punishment uses an arbitrary legal system that is ineffective, as well as unethical
and exorbitant. The abolishment of the death penalty will be successful by using tax payers
dollars for better things. While a good percentage of the population favors the death penalty,
other gross human rights violations that we recognize as unlawful today have received wide
support in the past. The number of supporters continues to fall, In 1996, 78 percent of
Americans were in favor of capital punishment and 18 percent opposed it; by 2013, support had
dropped to 55 percent while opposition had risen to 37 percent (Mark Berman and Robert
Barnes 17). Lets not look back fifty years from now and be ashamed of a previously legal death
penalty. Instead, we should abolish it now. According to the Death Penalty Information Center,
18 states have already abolished the death penalty. The 32 remaining states need to follow the
example of the others.

Works Cited
Banks, Sandy. "Death Penalty? No, It Isn't." Los Angeles Times. 19 Jul. 2014: A.2. SIRS Issues
Researcher. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.
Barber, Elizabeth. "Ohio Executes Killer: Was Untested Lethal Injection 'Cruel..." Christian
Science Monitor. 17 Jan. 2014: n.p. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.
Berman, Mark, and Robert Barnes. "Everything You Need to Know About Executions in the
United States." Washington Post. 02 May 2014: n.p. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 15
Mar. 2015.
"Changes in Death Penalty Laws." History of the Death Penalty. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 May 2015.
<http://deathpenaltycurriculum.org/student/c/about/history/history-3.htm>.
Dolan, Maura, and Victoria Kim. "Court Rejects State's Death Penalty." Los Angeles Times. 17
Jul. 2014: A.1. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.
"Executions in the U.S." Map. SIRS Issues Researcher. N.p., 24 July 2014. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.
<http://sks.sirs.com >.
"The Innocent on Death Row." New York Times. 04 Sep. 2014: A.26. SIRS Issues Researcher.
Web. 15 Mar. 2015.
M. Stroud, "Lead Prosecutor Apologizes for Role in Sending Man to Death Row," The
Shreveport Times, March 20, 2015; V. Wellborn, The Shreveport Times, March 20, 2015
"Part I: History of the Death Penalty." Death Penalty Information Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 10
May 2015. <http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/part-i-history-death-penalty>.
Penrose, Meg. "Has the Death Penalty Become Too Costly to Administer in America?."
McClatchy - Tribune News Service. 16 Oct. 2014: n.p.SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 15
Mar. 2015.

ProQuest Staff. "Capital Punishment Timeline." Leading Issues Timelines. 2015: n.p. SIRS Issues
Researcher. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.
Randa, Laura E. "History of the Death Penalty." Frontline PBS. N.p., n.d. Web.
10 May 2015. <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/execution/
readings/history.html>.
"States with and without the Death Penalty." Death Penalty Information Center. N.p., n.d. Web.
31 Mar. 2015. <http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/states-and-without-death-penalty>.
"Why the Death Penalty Should Be Abolished." International Commission against the Death
Penalty. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2015. <http://www.icomdp.org/arguments-against-thedeath-penalty/>.

Annotated Bibliography
Banks, Sandy. "Death Penalty? No, It Isn't." Los Angeles Times. 19 Jul. 2014: A.2. SIRS Issues
Researcher. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.
This article is about the ineffectiveness of Californias appeals and prosecution for the
death penalty. It provides a lot of useful statistics.
Barber, Elizabeth. "Ohio Executes Killer: Was Untested Lethal Injection 'Cruel..." Christian
Science Monitor. 17 Jan. 2014: n.p. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.
This article is about the untested lethal injection of an Ohio inmate in 2014.
Berman, Mark, and Robert Barnes. "Everything You Need to Know About Executions in the
United States." Washington Post. 02 May 2014: n.p. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 15
Mar. 2015.
A question and answer style article that gives important background information on the
topic. It discusses the death penalty in relation to: methods, race, abolishment, popularity,
etc.
"Changes in Death Penalty Laws." History of the Death Penalty. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 May 2015.
<http://deathpenaltycurriculum.org/student/c/about/history/history-3.htm>.
This provided historical background information about the states that had a death penalty
in the mid-19th century.
"Death Penalty's High Cost." Infographic. SIRS Issues Researcher. N.p., 2012. Web. 15 Mar.
2015. <http://sks.sirs.com>.
These graphs and chart help with visualizing the prices of appeals and executions. All of
the information was too specific to certain cases and didnt seem that important to include
in my paper.

Dolan, Maura, and Victoria Kim. "Court Rejects State's Death Penalty." Los Angeles Times. 17
Jul. 2014: A.1. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.
This article includes a few statistics that are impressive in supporting how Californias
death penalty system is particularly ineffective. There is also information about criminals
on death row dying of natural causes before being put to death.
"End Capital Punishment." Buffalo News. 01 Feb. 2014: A.6. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 15
Mar. 2015.
This article includes details about wrongful convictions of innocent people. It doesnt
ethically support its abolishment. No information from this article was necessary to argue
my case.
"Executions in the U.S." Map. SIRS Issues Researcher. N.p., 24 July 2014. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.
<http://sks.sirs.com>.
The bar graph of executions over the years shows that the executions are decreasing. The
map of the U.S. is helpful in showing which states have and have not abolished it.
"The Innocent on Death Row." New York Times. 04 Sep. 2014: A.26. SIRS Issues Researcher.
Web. 15 Mar. 2015.
This article is about the case of the two teenage boys being wrongfully convicted after
extensive police questioning.
M. Stroud, "Lead Prosecutor Apologizes for Role in Sending Man to Death Row," The
Shreveport Times, March 20, 2015; V. Wellborn, The Shreveport Times, March 20, 2015
This article is about an attorney who wrongfully convicted someone for thirty years on
death row. The man was recently exonerated and the prosecutor apologized. The

prosecutors change in opinion on the death penalty after this incident is a valuable piece
of support.
McElwee, Sean. "It's Time to Abolish the Death Penalty." Huffington Post: n. pag. Huff Post
Politics. Web. 15 Mar. 2015. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com >.
This article includes points against the death penalty that are unsimilar to my own but are
interesting. The author seems to have a very philosophical approach to the topic.
Muscara, Aprille. "U.S. Out of Step with the World on Death Penalty"." Global Information
Network. 15 Sep. 2010: n.p. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.
This article predicts the future of capital punishment in the United States. It is also in a
question and answer style. It examines geography in relation to abolishment and
compares Americas legalization of it to other countries.
"Part I: History of the Death Penalty." Death Penalty Information Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 10
May 2015. <http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/part-i-history-death-penalty>.
This article is about the abolishment, reinstatement, and limitations to the death penalty
in the past.
Penrose, Meg. "Has the Death Penalty Become Too Costly to Administer in America?."
McClatchy - Tribune News Service. 16 Oct. 2014: n.p.SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 15
Mar. 2015.
This article includes many useful statistical facts. It is about the cost of the death penalty
and talks about how taxpayer dollars should go to better causes.
ProQuest Staff. "Capital Punishment Timeline." Leading Issues Timelines. 2015: n.p. SIRS Issues
Researcher. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.

This is a compilation of historical facts about the death sentence and methods of
execution. This also includes attempts at abolishment and Supreme Court cases. This
information should be very useful for my second paragraph, providing a background on
the topic.
Randa, Laura E. "History of the Death Penalty." Frontline PBS. N.p., n.d. Web.
10 May 2015. <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/execution/
readings/history.html>.
This article reveals the origin of the death penalty. It talks about its first form: how,
where, when and by whom it was used.
"Reasonable Doubts: The Growing Movement Against the Death Penalty." American Prospect:
n. pag. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 15 Mar. 2015. <http://sks.sirs.com >.
This is a compilation of documents related to my topic. The specific focuses of each
article vary. None of the information from these was needed to make my argument.
"States with and without the Death Penalty." Death Penalty Information Center. N.p., n.d. Web.
31 Mar. 2015. <http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/states-and-without-death-penalty>.
This is a list of the states that have and have not abolished the death penalty. This gave
me the exact numbers of states for each.
Temkin, Moshik. "How to Kill the Death Penalty." Los Angeles Times. 27 May 2014: A.13. SIRS
Issues Researcher. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.
This article is mostly the same information from previous articles being repeated. It does
say the presidents view of the subject and compare Europes implementation to that of
the U.S..

"Why the Death Penalty Should Be Abolished." International Commission against the Death
Penalty. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2015. <http://www.icomdp.org/arguments-against-thedeath-penalty/>.
This website outlines the major problems of capital punishment. It gives a few details
about public support and the disproportionate racial and religious statistics of those
sentenced.