Capital punishment is outdated, irreversible, hypocritical, and ineffective and deterring criminals, and should therefore be abolished. There are many things wrong with executing criminals, but some of the most compelling reasons are these: it is barbaric, does not positively affect murder rates, and to put it simply, two wrongs do not make a right.
We consider the lethal injection humane compared to old forms of execution such as hanging or firing squad, when in reality, there have been many botched executions involving the lethal injection, and in some states, firing squad, gas chambers, hanging, and electrocution may still be used if the the lethal injection drugs are unavailable (Death, 2011). Because doctors are not ethically allowed to aid in the execution, there are often inexperienced technicians performing the injections, and that can lead to complications.
There have been several cases where the drugs have been injected into a muscle, rather than a vein, causing the person agonizing pain. Arguably the worst botched executions in recent years were of Clayton Lockett and Joseph Wood, both taking place in the year of 2014. On April 29, 2014, Lockett was executed using an experimental drug called protocol, despite numerous warnings of the danger of its use by defense attorneys. The executioner had trouble finding a usable vein in the prisoner, and after an hour, they finally found one in his groin area.
Three minutes after the drugs were administered, Lockett began breathing heavily and writhing on the gurney. They had to order the witnesses out of viewing room and attempted to stop the execution. Lockett finally died after 43 minutes from a heart attack. Joseph Wood didn’t die until almost two hours since the execution began. A witness said that he counted Wood gasp 640 times before he expired, but a spokesperson from the Attorney General’s office claimed that he was simply snoring (M. L. Radelet, 2014).
If that weren’t horrific enough, eight states allow the electric chair to be used if the lethal injection drugs cannot be obtained. The electric chair works by sending a 500 to 2000 volts of electricity into the inmate’s body, lasting around 30 seconds (Death, 2015). U. S. Supreme Court Justice William Brennan described execution by the electric chair as such: “The prisoner’s eveballs sometimes pop out and rest on [his] cheeks. The prisoner often defecates, urinates, and vomits blood and drool.
The body turns bright red as its temperature rises, and the prisoner’s flesh swells and his skin stretches to the point of breaking. Sometimes the prisoner catches fire…. Witnesses hear a loud and sustained sound like bacon frying, and the sickly sweet smell of burning flesh permeates the chamber,” (Death, 2015). Anyone can see that these executions are far from humane; not only are we executing people, but we are torturing them, which can only be described as barbaric. Not only is the death penalty barbaric, but it is also irreversible.
If someone is falsely convicted, once they are executed, there is no going back, and an innocent life has been taken by the system that was supposed to protect it. There have been many innocent lives taken, and many more that suffered death row for years before being exonerated. According to a 2014 study, it is estimated that over 4% of defendants sentenced to death would have been exonerated if they remained on the sentence of death indefinitely (Gross, Hu, Kennedy, & O’Brian, 2014). Even though 4% may not seem like much, it is more murders than most of the convicts being executed have committed.
Too many lives have been taken already, and trying to execute criminals that would get thoroughly punished by being sentenced to jail for life is not a reasonable excuse to take more. If an innocent is sentenced to jail, they can be exonerated, but if they are sentenced to death, they may never get that chance. In addition to these reasons, there is no data that shows that the death penalty deters crime, which renders its purpose mute and means that the only purpose it serves is murder.
Some may say that the death penalty is helpful to society because it intimidates criminals into committing less crimes, particularly murders, when in reality, studies like one done by Benjamin S. Tyree of the University of Richmond show that there is no correlation between the use of the death penalty and lower murder rates, and if anything, states that do not use the death penalty, have lower murder rates than those that do (Deter, Tyree). If that is the case, then it is obvious that the death penalty does not benefit our country.
For these reasons, and many others, the Supreme Court should rule all capital punishment as cruel and unusual punishment. It is not humane to torture and kill criminals. It is not helpful to the country in any way. And most importantly, it puts innocent lives at stake. If you support the death penalty, think about this: is it really worth killing innocent people, just to kill criminals as well? Doesn’t that make us, and the entire justice system, just as bad as the criminals? I do not think it is worth the risk.