Overall, according to Hawkins (2002), 80% of voters supported abolishing or significant reform of the capital punishment system in 2002. The strongest argument against capital punishment is the possibility of executing an innocent person; 65% of the people voting against capital punishment are concerned by the possibility of executing an innocent person (Hawkins, 2002). According to Hawkins (2002), approximately one person out of nine who are convicted to death should be exonerated. The effectiveness of a justice system which gives errors in more than 11% of cases is quite doubtful. Moreover, the statistics shows that capital punishment system is discriminative towards racial minorities, mentally ill or retarded convicts and impoverished individuals. The risk to be condemned to death for people who cannot afford to hire a good attorney is significantly higher than for more wealthy convicts. In addition to this, there is a variety of human factors affecting the fairness of court decisions. There have been cases when suspects were represented by ineffective lawyers (sleepy, drunken, mentally ill) at capital punishment processes. Such factors as biased perception of the suspect, lack of experience, dishonesty and even tampering of the lawyer can also affect the result of the trial (Hawkins, 2002). Even if the suspect is pleaded guilty of the crime, there might be many circumstances resulting in either criminal prosecution for this person, or in life imprisonment. Justice Stewart in 1972 has strikingly compared the probability of death penalty decision in the modern justice system with the probability to be struck by lightning (Hawkins, 2002).
It is possible to see that currently there are many powerful arguments for the abolition of death penalty, namely the cost of the “death row” and additional costs created by the whole capital punishment system, probability of executing innocent persons, discrimination and the dependence of the sentence from external factors. At the same time, the arguments of the supporters of death penalty are mostly ineffective, with the only reasonable argument being overcrowding in the prisons. The deterrence argument does not have effective data proving it (and there might be alternative methods of crime deterrence), and such arguments as incapacitation of criminals and fairness of execution are currently inconsistent. Basing on these arguments, it is possible to conclude that the system of capital punishment in the USA is no longer effective, and should be eliminated.
Hawkins, S. W. (2002). Do we need the death penalty?: It is immoral and ineffective. The World & I; Washington.
Rozenman, E. (2007). Do we need the death penalty?: Yes, It’s Ethical and Effective. The Washington Post; Washington, April 29, pg B8.
Steiker, C.S. & Steiker, J.M. (2010). Capital Punishment: A Century of Discontinuous Debate. The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 101 (3): 643-690.