The Truth Behind the Death Penalty
"I don't give a damn what you say or what you do. I don't give a damn what your people say either. I'm going to put twelve people on a jury who are going to find your goddamn black ass guilty." These words, spoken by Sheriff Tom Tate to Walter McMillian, a black man falsely accused of murder in 1987, show a clear racial bias in the law enforcement system. Despite multiple alibis on the morning of, McMillian was still sentenced to death. It was only after six years on death row in Alabama that he was released, after proof that supposed witnesses had lied on the stand. The death penalty, though abolished by 20 states in the US, is still an active punishment in 30 states, in spite of alarming facts of which the 20 opposing states have mentioned. The death penalty should be repealed because not only do its negatives outweigh its positives, but it’s simply unjust, either by being racially biased or by false convictions.
False convictions are a very common occurrence in law enforcement. According to National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), 156 people have been innocent when sentenced to death between 1973 and 2016, and in the same time, 1142 people have been executed, meaning 1 in 10 people are innocent when they are executed. Proven by McMillian’s case, innocence doesn’t protect people from prosecution.
Another notable downside of the death penalty is that it’s not cost-effective. According to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), in California alone, death row prisoners cost the state $184 million more per year than those sentenced for life without parole. Is the suffering of thousands of inmates -- innocent or not -- truly worth it?
Some people may say that those rightly convicted are deserving of death, and that the death penalty should be continued, for multiple studies have shown that the great majority of inmates prefer to get life without parole. While most convicted are guilty, the innocent life of 1 in 10 people is lost. But the government cannot tell its people that killing is wrong, and commit the act itself. For example, in Washington, juries were 4.5 times more likely to enforce the death penalty on black defendants than white defendants. Because of this, Washington banned the death penalty, deeming it arbitrary, and unconstitutional for being racially biased.
The death penalty should indeed be repealed, to prevent more innocent people to be executed, many times because of their race. Though it may serve as a deserving punishment, given the accidental executions of innocent people, the bias towards people of color, and the cost involved in executions, the death penalty must be abolished.