The negative connotations associated with the death penalty are often built on the practicality, the financial investment, and the moral standpoint behind it. However, few of us dare to consider the people who are affected by these laws. How sure can one wholly be in declaring that the accused person is, without any trace of doubt, the culprit?
In recent news, Wiley Bridgeman and Ricky Jackson—who were sentenced to death in 1975, nearly forty years ago—were declared not guilty of the crimes held against them. Although their release was due to insufficient evidence, the time they have spent behind bars cannot be returned to them. Still few can deny that, had they been killed, they would have been forced to sacrifice even more.
This is not the first instance of an inaccurate accusation resulting in a position on death row; earlier this year, Henry McCollum and Leon Brown were found not guilty of a 1984 rape conviction after DNA evidence pointed to a different man. With mistakes such as these prone to occurring, how could a country that promises freedom and justice take such a costly risk?
Many argue that the appeals process exists solely for this purpose. This “eye for an eye” mentality, they claim, may be the only process to deter criminals from illegal activity and will dispose of members of society who have hurt it beyond repair. Defenders of this policy claim that it is an effective method of reducing the crowdedness of prisons and providing a means of intimidation to use against potential murderers.
However, capital punishment has proven to be, on average, nearly twice as expensive as imprisoning a criminal for life. Life in prison, it can be argued, does not provide the mercy to the criminal that the death penalty does; it relieves them of their true sentence by escaping mortality as well. Those who are intent on killing are often not concerned about the consequences, especially if it is not premeditated.
It has likewise been proven that the risk of the death penalty would not deter many criminals from committing the crime. In fact, states that use the death penalty consistently have a higher murder rate than those that do not. The information collected asserts that 80% of executions are performed in the south, which has a substantially higher murder rate than the remainder of the United States.
Although this topic is one which lies heavy with controversy, and though both sides proclaim valid points in their defense, the death penalty leaves too much at stake in the event of an erroneous decision. To prevent people like Bridgeman and Jackson from suffering a fate much worse than 40 years of imprisonment, it is necessary to reconsider our position in the matter of capital punishment. This is not a matter of opinion, it is a matter of rescuing potentially innocent lives from the hands of the court.