Death penalty had been imposed by the American Government with hopes of instilling fear and serving as a deterrent among criminals who have plans of committing a crime.
Indeed, some crimes in the annals of American history are deserving of such a punishment, especially those concerning mass murders, be it against adults, but more especially on children; on rapes perpetuated on minors that leave a victim emotionally scarred for life; and on acts of terrorism resulting in the many losses of innocent civilian lives.However, in the three decades that the death penalty had been imposed in some States, certain prejudices and partialities have been officially documented, mostly involving predispositions on the convict’s racial background and socio-economic standing. This paper will make clear to the readers such claims.
ExecutionsState executions are being practiced in 35 states, totaling to 1,156 executions since its re-imposition in 1976. Texas has the most number of state executions with 435, followed by Virginia with 103, Oklahoma with 89, Missouri with 66, and Florida with 67 (Death Penalty information Center, 2009, p. 3). These are the five states which had the most numbers of executions in all of the United States.Of all the executions, African Americans made up for over 400 cases, or roughly 35% of the entire figure; while Hispanics and other minorities constituted for 108 cases, or about 9% of the executions (D.P.I.C.
, 2009, p. 1). However, a point worth noting would be the ratio on the race of the victims of those indicted with death penalty.
Contrary to what is popularly believed, American Caucasians made up for a staggering 79% of the victims; while for African Americans it is only 14%, Hispanics and other minority groups constituted only a measly 7% ( D.P.I.C., 2009, p. 1).
The result of this study suggests a cross-culture tendency of criminals in perpetuating a crime, as clearly evidenced in the ratio of White-Black, executions-victims, and a seeming non-factor of the Hispanic and other minority groups. Despite all the state executions perpetuated, over 3,300 death row inmates are still cued for their turn inside our lethal chambers. As of January 1, 2008, Texas had 373 inmates on death row; Florida with 397; Oklahoma with 84; Missouri with 48; and Virginia with 21 (D.P.I.
C., 2009, p. 2). Considering the staggering number these figures represent, one is attempted to question the process and the principles by which these lethal punishments are being carried out, and whether the system in which it is being done is in actuality, fool-proof.Seeming PredispositionsThe April 2009 report of Death Penalty Information Center and that of the American Civil Liberties Union in March of 2007, very clearly showed some very disturbing facts on this topic. It encompasses our entire society, especially with respect to the defendant’s race and economic status.It has been revealed that in all the states that practice death penalty, 98% of all the district attorneys are whites, with blacks compromising only 1% (D.
P.I.C., 2009, p. 2).After exhaustive researches, it had been found out that the chances of receiving a death penalty sentence rose by as much as 3.5 times if the murdered victims are Whites (D.
P.I.C., 2009, p. 2). The same study also showed that for those who had murdered Whites, the chances of receiving a death penalty sentence are over 3 times more likely than for those who had murdered Blacks, and this even rises to over 4 times likelihood than those who had murdered Hispanics (D.P.
I.C., 2009, p. 2).
Exonerations, or inmates later released from death row after the court’s reversal of sentence due to innocence, have been one of the many points put in question by those pushing for a review on death penalty. Since 1973, there have been 130 cases of exonerations all over the United States, as to how many among those executed were actually innocent of their crimes, there might be no way of knowing. Florida leads in exonerations with 22, Illinois with 18, Texas with 9, Oklahoma with 8, Virginia with 1, and Missouri with 3 cases. There were 3.1 average exonerations annually during 1973-1999, and it had steadily risen to an average of 5 cases annually in the years 2000-2007 (D.P.I.
C., 2009, p. 2).United States’ Chiefs of Police also seemed to be having a change of heart. During a 1995 study among American chiefs of police, it was evidently established that death penalty is no longer an effective means of deterring crime.
The said study showed factors in a descending order: reducing drug abuse: 31%; stronger economy: 17%; simplifying court rules: 16%; longer prison sentences: 15%; more police officers: 10%; reduction of lose firearms: 3%; and with expansion of death penalty scoring only 1% (D.P.I.C.
, 2009, p. 4).The American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, in their report in March of 2007, lists five conclusions, based on their exhaustive research: First: Death penalty kills the innocent- Of the 130 people exonerated since 1973, at least 7 were executed despite of their probable innocence (ACLU, 2007, p. 2). Second: Death penalty is racially biased and punishes the poor- due to the fact that most defendants are poor, they have no choice but to rely on incompetent legal representations, some of whom have even been reported to doze off, or were reeking of alcohol, while on trial (ACLU, 2007, p. 2). Third: Death penalty is unfair- during the course of all death penalty hearings, it was never established as being equal to all, in terms of race, economic class, or sex.
The life of the accused is solely dependent on the prosecutor’s mind set, the State where the hearing is made, bigotry of the judge and juries, and the competitiveness of the defense attorneys. Fourth: Death penalty costs more than life in prison- the most extensive studies made on death penalty revealed that a single execution in North Carolina costs $2.16 million more compared to a life imprisonment sentence (ACLU, 2007, p. 2). And fifth: The death penalty is not a deterrent to crime- Records would show that since the 1970’s, the region with the utmost murder rate had been the South. Ironically, this is also the region responsible for 80% of all executions (ACLU, 2007, p.
2).The Florida Department of Corrections, as of this month, lists 392 death row convicts, of which 239 are White males, 139 are Blacks, and 14 from Hispanics and other races (FDC, 2009). In Texas, meanwhile, there are 344, consisting of 106 Whites, 134 Blacks, and 104 Hispanics and other races (TDCJ, 2009).ConclusionTaking into consideration all facts derived from various studies shown in this paper, with the figures from the two abovementioned States, it would be unavoidable to perceive just how many among these convicts have been properly represented legally, how many will fall victim to the biases of the false notion of racial supremacy, and how many among them will eventually be executed despite of their innocence. Further investigations would reveal that almost all of the inmates in death row fall within the low-income group, and the majority, if not almost all of them have never attained a college-level education.
These groups in our society represent the most vulnerable and most susceptible to the confusing web of the very complex legal system in our country. Perhaps someday when our litigation system becomes perfect, when our society no longer holds predispositions, and when we can safely and proudly boast to all nations that America doesn’t kill its own innocents, we may reaffirm our dedication of ridding our society of its odious criminals.ReferencesFacts About the Death Penalty. (2009, April 2). Death Penalty Information Center. Washington, D.C.
Florida Department of Corrections. (2009, May 13). Retrieved May 13, 2009, from <http://www.dc.state.fl.us/activeinmates/deathrowroster.
asp>Gender and Racial Statistics of Death Row Offenders. (2009, May 1). Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved May 13, 2009, from <http://www.tdcj.
state.tx.us/stat/racial.htm>National Death Penalty Fact Sheet (2007, March). American Civil Liberties Union.