opinion

COLUMN: The death penalty should be abolished countrywide



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The Monroe County Courthouse is located in the middle of downtown Bloomington. IDS file photo Buy Photos

The United States is currently in the midst of mass calls for criminal justice reform, as witnessed recently in California. However, the United States still has the death penalty in 30 states, including Indiana.

Capital punishment, despite being split 50-50 in America, is one of the most archaic practices still used today, and, compared to the rest of the modern world, the United States is lagging far behind. Most modern nations have come to realize that the death penalty is often very complicated, costly and cruel, yet the United States seems to continue this practice due to this prevalent eye-for-an-eye mentality.

Proponents of capital punishment often say that it is an effective deterrent against crime and that it is cheaper than life in prison, but this is simply not true; in California, a death sentence would've costed 18 times more than a life sentence without parole. This does not even take into account the morality of capital punishment as well as the many unorthodox execution methods states often use.

Lethal injection is the preferred method by most states, but with drug companies becoming more reluctant to provide their drugs for executions, more and more states are turning to alternative methods, leading to many botched executions. For example, the use of midazolam in Ohio.

Additionally, the poor argument that the death penalty is cheaper often does not include the costs of the lengthy trial process used in capital cases.

In the state of Indiana for example, capital murder cases seeking the death penalty can cost 4.25 times as much as those that are seeking life without parole and up to 2.33 times more than cases with a guilty plea.

Nevertheless, cost is not an indication of capital punishment’s effectiveness. So how much does capital punishment deter crime?

According to a study published by University of Colorado-Boulder sociology professor Michael Radelet, “88 percent of the country’s top criminologists do not believe the death penalty acts as a deterrent to homicide.”

To me, the most damning evidence against the death penalty is how many innocent people are sentenced to death. According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by University of Michigan Law School professor Samuel Gross, at least 4.1 percent of death row inmates would have been exonerated by seeking an appeal. That means more than 200 prisoners between the years of 1973 and 2004 were wrongly executed.

Our country should never be executing innocent people, but this is inevitable if we continue to allow capital punishment.

I fully understand why Americans would want the death penalty for the most abhorrent crimes, but by allowing capital punishment, we open the doors to potentially executing and in the cases of botched executions, torturing the wrong people.

The majority of the countries in the world have abolished the death penalty in law or practice — 142 according to Amnesty International in 2017.

In the U.S., shouldn’t we consider capital punishment as cruel and unusual punishment, therefore violating the Eighth Amendment of our Constitution?

State executions are immoral and lead to countless complications. As a leading developed nation in the world, I think we should hold ourselves to a higher standard and look toward other nations about how abolishing the death penalty would positively affect their societies.

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