Death Penalty Obstructing Societal Progress

Originally published on The Fordham Ram. Click here to view.

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On March 2, the Supreme Court agreed to review Florida’s capital punishment system, and whether or not this allows juries to recommend the execution of criminals.

The case in question involves 36-year-old Timothy Hurst, who was sentenced to death after being convicted of murdering his manager, Cynthia Harrison, in 1998. Hurst’s appeal argues that Florida did not seriously consider his claims of intellectual disability, and that the jury rule allowing a divided vote was unconstitutional.

This brings up the time-honored debate of whether or not capital punishment should be continued in the United States. In my opinion, the death penalty seems ineffective and senseless, and should be replaced with life in prison without parole.

Capital punishment is archaic and barbaric, and encourages a cycle of violence. When children hit a playmate during a petty argument or fight, they are immediately punished for doing so. Children are often confused by this response, since their parents have the authority to spank them when they misbehave. Nowadays, spanking is no longer seen as an acceptable source of punishment for children, since it encourages them to resort to violence when they decide someone deserves to be punished.

Therefore, it seems that execution is a dissatisfactory form of punishment because it perpetuates the idea that killing is okay in certain circumstances, and maintains the cycle of violence inherent in the United States.

It also seems hypocritical that the United States publically condemns violent dictators for killing their citizens, yet continues to uphold practices of capital punishment, admittedly to a lesser degree. The government is supposed to take the high ground and not degrade itself by following the narrow-minded argument of “an eye for an eye.” Besides Belarus and Kazakhstan, capital punishment is banned in Europe, again moving past the United States in huamn rights advancement. If we want society to grow, execution should be viewed as an unreasonable source of legal punishment, since it serves no purpose and is a senseless practice.

Now, I state that capital punishment is senseless because it does not serve a useful purpose in today’s society.

There is no conclusive evidence that proves capital punishment effectively discourages people from committing murder. Luckily, technology has allowed the police to become more accurate when convicting people of crime, but that does not prevent innocent or mentally ill people from sliding through the cracks and receiving an irreversible form of punishment.

We live in a flawed society where people are fallible, make mistakes often and submit to hubris or prejudice. Life in prison without parole gives society wiggle room for faults or bias that can occur during the convoluted trial and appeal process, without having to take someone’s life.

Capital punishment seems too harsh and too permanent a punishment for it to be used in the United States. It is already shocking that Florida allows juries to decide the fate of someone’s life, instead of a trained and educated judge. Life in prison without parole is a strong enough form of retribution without demeaning ourselves to taking someone’s life as some sort of backward punishment.

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