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Capital Punishment – Shariah Western Style

July 2, 2014

Capital punishment… I just don’t get it

I understand the emotions involved in a desire for revenge. I understand outrage at what often seems to be lenient sentences for heinous crimes. But the justice system is in place to protect us… ALL of us… from the blood lust of vengeance. It is intended to provide for an examination of evidence and to allow the accused a robust defense against the charges.

We would generally disapprove of vigilantes meting out their own extra judicial perceptions of justice. We generally disapprove of murder and torture. In fact it is these very crimes we consider MOST heinous. So it is completely inconsistent with the aims of civilized societies to clamor for what they profess to abhor most. Even a superficial examination of capital punishment shows:

  • it doesn’t serve as a deterrent
  • it doesn’t save money
  • it is disproportionately delivered upon the least advantaged
  • is often horribly cruel
  • leads to shoddy investigations, and prosecutorial and judicial misconduct
  • HAS and will CONTINUE to lead to execution of innocents

In short, supporting capital punishment means you are willing to pay more, for less justice, meted out on the wrong people, by a corrupt system that covers it own ass, and risk executing the wrong person, allowing the real culprit to go free, for a visceral, primitive desire to lash out.

Deterrence:

There are some studies that claim a clear deterrent effect. These claims fall apart on examination of the data and methods of analysis. Columbia law professor, Jeffrey A. Fagan, shows how a critical examination of these ‘studies’ sees them crumble.

Costs:

It is long been assumed that post trial proceedings and appeals were the greatest expense in capital punishment cases over non-capital cases. Again, examination of data shows this is not true. Every phase of the proceedings and post conviction incarceration is much more expensive than non-capital cases. And the costs go beyond that, to cash strapped states laying off prosecutors and releasing prisoners to save money. This would also seem to run counter to the deterrent claim.

Disproportion:

“Capital punishment means them without the capital get the punishment” ~~ Helen Prejean MA, 1997

The huge majority of the people on US death row come from poor backgrounds regardless of race, but are also disproportionately ethnic minorities. Of course minorities also have much lower average incomes than whites. If you are OJ Simpson and can afford Johnny Cochrane, you stand a much better chance of being found not guilty… or if found guilty, to avoid a death penalty sentence. If you are poor and black, there are two strikes against you. One, you get whatever defense the state offers. Two, institutional and societal attitudes towards race skew the system against you. The statistics are stark…

95% of prosecutors are white. 12.2% of the population is black. 39.4% of the prison population is black. 42% of death row inmates are black.

Counsel for the Poor: The Death Sentence Not for the Worst Crime but for the Worst Lawyer

A longer ACLU paper outlines just how severely the deck is stacked against these and other disadvantaged groups.

Cruel:

There is no doubt that the ‘humane’ execution methods selected in the US have had horrific results. Regardless of the perceptions of decapitation, a swift removal of the head is far more humane than many of the executions carried out in the US. It is sickening to read the list…

Misconduct and Wrongful Execution:

District attorneys are elected in the US system. They campaign on ‘law and order’ platforms that focus on punishment and vengeance, not justice or truth. Conviction rates are how they are measured. There is no compelling reason to review past cases for wrongs or omissions and mess with their own success. And dead men don’t tell tales. Once a convict is executed, it is highly unlikely time and expense will be spent to re-examine the case. In fact, investigators and prosecution often fight tooth and nail against reopening cases when a miscarriage of justice may have occurred. And there is almost never any real penalty for prosecutorial misconduct. And yes, innocent people DO get executed, like here and here.

For more information:

https://www.aclu.org/capital-punishment

http://www.innocenceproject.org/

http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/issues/death-penalty/us-death-penalty-facts

http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/

(Links updated: Feb 9, 2017)

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