As violence becomes an increasing concern among Canadians, people are calling for the reinstatement of capital punishment. This controversial issue has been ailing politicians and public morality since its abolition in 1976. As one examines the arguments for and against the reinstatement of capital punishment; examples of modern day cases dealing with capital punishment including wrongful convictions, the uncertainty of death penalty’s role as a deterrent for crime and the cost, one can better appreciate the reasons why this barbaric form of punishment should remain in the past.
There are many examples of wrongful convictions that have led to deaths of innocents. When a person is sent to prison for a wrongful conviction, there is a chance of getting that person their life back, but for a person who is wrongfully convicted and sent for the death penalty, there is no way of giving the person their deserved life back. Cameron Todd Willingham was executed February, 2004, for murdering his three young children by arson at the family home Corsicana, Texas. Gerald Hurst reviewed the case documents, including the trial transcriptions and an hour-long videotape of the aftermath of the fire scene and said in December 2004 that “There’s nothing to suggest to any reasonable arson investigator that this was an arson fire.
It was just a fire.” In 2010, he innocence project filed a lawsuit against the State of Texas, seeking a judgment of “Official oppression.” Statistics likely understate the actual problem of wrongful convictions because once an execution has occurred there is often insufficient motivation and finance to keep a case open, and it becomes unlikely at that point that the miscarriage of justice will ever be exposed. In the case of Joseph Roger O’Dell III, in 1997 for a rape and murder, a prosecuting attorney bluntly argued in court in 1998 that if posthumous DNA results exonerated O’Dell, “It would be shouted from the rooftops that … Virginia executed an innocent man.” The state prevailed, and the evidence was destroyed. Even if the death penalty was given to the right person, is it a deterrent for crime?
Eighty-eight percent of the country’s top criminologists do not believe the death penalty acts as a deterrent to homicide, according to a new study published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology and authored by Professor Michael Radelet, and Traci Lacock, The overwhelming conclusion from years of deterrence studies is that the death penalty is, at best, no more of a deterrent than a sentence of life in prison. The Ehrlich studies have been widely discredited. In fact, some criminologists, such as William Bowers of Northeastern University, maintain that the death penalty has the opposite effect: that is, society is brutalized by the use of the death penalty, and this increases the likelihood of more murder. Even most supporters of the death penalty now place little or no weight on deterrence as a serious justification for its continued use. States in the United States that do not employ the death penalty generally have lower murder rates than states that do. The same is true when the U.S. is compared to countries similar to it. The U.S., with the death penalty, has a higher murder rate than the countries of Europe or Canada, which do not use the death penalty.
“Whether you’re for it or against it, I think the fact is that Oregon simply can’t afford it” said by James Ellis, Chief Criminal Judge Oregon. This quote was said for a state in USA but what about Canada? Can Canada afford it? Throughout the United States, police are being laid off, prisoners are being released early, the courts are clogged, and crime continues to rise. The economic recession has caused cutbacks in the backbone of the criminal justice system. In Florida, the budget crisis resulted in the early release of 3,000 prisoners. In Texas, prisoners are serving only 20% of their time and rearrests are common. Georgia is laying off 900 correctional personnel and New Jersey has had to dismiss 500 police officers. Yet these same states, and many others like them, are pouring millions of dollars into the death penalty with no resultant reduction in crime.The exorbitant costs of capital punishment are actually making America less safe because badly needed financial and legal resources are being diverted from effective crime fighting strategies.
Before the Los Angeles riots, for example, California had little money for innovations like community policing, but was managing to spend an extra $90 million per year on capital punishment. Texas, with over 300 people on death row, is spending an estimated $2.3 million per case, but its murder rate remains one of the highest in the country.The death penalty is much more expensive than its closest alternative — life imprisonment with no parole. Capital trials are longer and more expensive at every step than other murder trials. Pre-trial motions, expert witness investigations, jury selection, and the necessity for two trials — one on guilt and one on sentencing — make capital cases extremely costly, even before the appeals process begins. Guilty pleas are almost unheard of when the punishment is death. In addition, many of these trials result in a life sentence rather than the death penalty, so the state pays the cost of life imprisonment on top of the expensive trial.
While the capital punishment does not exist in Canada any longer, it does exist in some of the states in the neighboring country, USA. Unfortunately, like most Americans, many Canadians believe in the barbaric “an eye for an eye” rule of restitution.This belief is the basis for the argument for the reinstatement of the death penalty. Some believe that the death penalty will deter similar crimes from happening, others believe that they would feel safer if a serious offender would be put to eternal rest. Few, suggests that putting these criminals to death would be more economical then putting them behind bars. But all of these people innately believe that “When you take a life, you give up the right to yours.” If having it in US is not making the crime rates any lower or making any positive impact then why have it? Are wrongful convictions really worth it? Is death sentence equalivallent to any crime? Is the cost really a payment for capital punishment?
Work Cited Page
1. ” The High Cost of the Death Penalty.” The Feminism and Nonviolence Studies Association Journal Home Page. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Aug. 2013. <http://www.fnsa.org/v1n1/dieter.html>. 2. “Deterrence (In Opposition to the Death Penalty).” Welcome | High School Curriculum on the Death Penalty. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Aug. 2013.