DEATH PENALTY (PROS): 1. Financial costs to taxpayers of capital punishment is several times that of keeping someone in prison for life. Most people don't realize that carrying out one death sentence costs 2-5 times more than keeping that same criminal in prison for the rest of his life. How can this be? It has to do with the endless appeals, additional required procedures, and legal wrangling that drag the process out. It's not unusual for a prisoner to be on death row for 15-20 years. Judges, attorneys, court reporters, clerks, and court facilities all require a substantial investment by the taxpayers. Do we really have the resources to waste? It is barbaric and violates the "cruel and unusual" clause in the Bill of Rights. Whether it's a firing squad, electric chair, gas chamber, lethal injection, or hanging, it's barbaric to allow state-sanctioned murder before a crowd of people. We condemn people like Ahmadinejad, Qaddafi, and Kim Jong Il when they murder their own people while we continue to do the same (although our procedures for allowing it are obviously more thorough). The 8th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prevents the use of "cruel and unusual punishment". Many would interpret the death penalty as violating this restriction. The endless appeals and required additional procedures clog our court system. The U.S. court system goes to enormous lengths before allowing a death sentence to be carried out. All the appeals, motions, hearings, briefs, etc. monopolize much of the time of judges, attorneys, and other court employees as well as use up courtrooms & facilities. This is time & space that could be used for other unresolved matters. The court system is tremendously backed up. This would help move things along. We as a society have to move away from the "eye for an eye" revenge mentality if civilization is to advance. The "eye for an eye" mentality will never solve anything. A revenge philosophy inevitably leads to an endless cycle of violence. Why do you think the Israeli-Palestine conflict has been going on for 60+ years? Why do you think gang violence in this country never seems to end? It is important to send a message to society that striking back at your enemy purely for revenge will always make matters worse. It sends the wrong message: why kill people who kill people to show killing is wrong. Yes, we want to make sure there is accountability for crime and an effective deterrent in place; however, the death penalty has a message of "You killed one of us, so we'll kill you". The state is actually using a murder to punish someone who committed a murder. Does that make sense? Life in prison is a worse punishment and a more effective deterrent. For those of you who don't feel much sympathy for a murderer, keep in mind that death may be too good for them. With a death sentence, the suffering is over in an instant. With life in prison, the pain goes on for decades. Prisoners are confined to a cage and live in an internal environment of rape and violence where they're treated as animals. And consider terrorists. Do you think they'd rather suffer the humiliation of lifelong prison or be "martyred" by a death sentence? What would have been a better ending for Osama bin Laden, the bullet that killed him instantly, or a life of humiliation in an American prison (or if he was put through rendition to obtain more information). Other countries (especially in Europe) would have a more favorable image of America. It's no secret that anti-Americanism is rampant around the world. One of the reasons is America's continued use of the death penalty. We're seen as a violent, vengeful nation for such a policy. This is pretty much the same view that Europeans had of America when we continued the practice of slavery long after it had been banned in Europe. Some jury members are reluctant to convict if it means putting someone to death. Many states require any jury members to be polled during the pre-trial examination to be sure they have the stomach to sentence someone to death before they're allowed to serve. Even if they're against the death penalty, they still may lie in order to get on the panel. The thought of agreeing to kill someone even influences some jury
members to acquit rather than risk the death. Some prosecutors may go for a lesser charge rather than force juries into a death-or-acquit choice. Obviously, in all these situations, justice may not be served. 9. The prisoner's family must suffer from seeing their loved one put to death by the state, as well as going through the emotionally-draining appeals process. One victim's innocent family is obviously forced to suffer from a capital murder, but by enforcing a death sentence, you force another family to suffer. Why double the suffering when we don't have to?
10. The possibility exists that innocent men and women may be put to death. There are several documented cases where DNA testing showed that innocent people were put to death by the government. We have an imperfect justice system where poor defendants are given minimal legal attention by often lesser qualified individuals. Some would blame the court system, not that death penalty itself for the problems, but we can't risk mistakes. 11. Mentally ill patients may be put to death. Many people are simply born with defects to their brain that cause them to act a certain way. No amount of drugs, schooling, rehabilitation, or positive reinforcement will change them. Is it fair that someone should be murdered just because they were unlucky enough to be born with a brain defect. Although it is technically unconstitutional to put a mentally ill patient to death, the rules can be vague, and you still need to be able to convince a judge and jury that the defendant is in fact, mentally ill. 12. It creates sympathy for the monstrous perpetrators of the crimes. Criminals usually are looked down upon by society. People are disgusted by the vile, unconscionable acts they commit and feel tremendous sympathy for the victims of murder, rape, etc. However, the death penalty has a way of shifting sympathy away from the victims and to the criminals themselves. An excellent example is the execution a few years ago of former gang leader "Tookie" Williams. He was one of the original members of the notorious Crips gang, which has a long legacy of robbery, assault, and murder. This is a man who was convicted with overwhelming evidence of the murder of four people, some of whom he shot in the back and then laughed at the sounds they made as they died. This is a man who never even took responsibility for the crimes or apologized to the victims -- NOT ONCE! These victims had kids and spouses, but instead of sympathy for them, sympathy shifted to Tookie. Candlelight vigils were held for him. Websites like savetookie.org sprang up. Protests and a media circus ensued trying to prevent the execution, which eventually did take place -- 26 years after the crime itself! There are many cases like this, which make a mockery of the evil crimes these degenerates commit. 13. It often draws top talent laywers who will work for little or no cost due to the publicity of the case and their personal beliefs against the morality of the death penalty, increasing the chances a technicality or a manipulated jury will release a guilt person. Top attorneys are world-class manipulators. They know how to cover up facts and misdirect thinking. They know how to select juries sympathetic to their side. They know how to find obscure technicalities and use any other means necessary to get their client off without any punishment. Luckily, most criminal defendants cannot afford to hire these top guns; they must make do with a low-paid public defender or some other cheaper attorney. However, a death penalty case changes everything. First of all, a death penalty case almost always garners significant media attention. Lawyers want that exposure, which enhances their name recognition & reputation for potential future plantiffs and defendants. Second of all, thousands of attorneys have made their personal crusade in life the stomping out of the death penalty. Entire organizations have sprung up to fight death penalty cases, often providing all the funding for a legal defense. For an example, look no further than the Casey Anthony trial, in which a pool of top attorneys took on a high profile death penalty case and used voir dire and peremptory challenges to craft one of the stupidest juries on record, who ended up ignoring facts and common sense or release an obviously guilty woman who killed her daughter. After the "not guilty" verdict was rendered, defense attorneys such as Cheney Mason went into long-winded speeches for the media about the evils of the death penalty. 14. It is useless in that it doesn't bring the victim back to life. Perhaps the biggest reason to ban the death penalty is that it doesn't change the fact that the victim is gone and will never come back. Hate, revenge,
and anger will never cure the emptiness of a lost loved one. Forgiveness is the only way to start the healing process, and this won't happen in a revenge-focused individual. 15. The crimes punishable by death are heinous for being grievous, odious and hateful offenses and which, by reason of their inherent or manifest wickedness, viciousness, atrocity and perversity are repugnant and outrageous to the common standards and norms of decency and morality in a just, civilized and ordered society. 16. The interest of justice, public order and the rule of law necessitates the imposition of death penalty. 17. To foster and ensure not only obedience to government's authority, but also to adopt such measures as would effectively promote the maintenance of peace and order, the protection of life, liberty and property, and the promotion of the general welfare which are essential for the enjoyment by all the people of the blessings of democracy in a just and humane society. 18. Prison: There are three purposes for prison. First, prison separates criminals for the safety of the general population. Second, prison is a form of punishment. Third and finally, the punishment of prison is expected to rehabilitate prisoners; so that when prisoners are released from prison, these ex-convicts are less likely to repeat their crimes and risk another prison sentence. The logic for capital punishment is that prisons are for rehabilitating convicts who will eventually leave prison, and therefore prison is not for people who would never be released from prisons alive. 19. Cost of Prison: Typically, the cost of imprisoning someone for life is much more expensive than executing that same person. However with the expensive costs of appeals in courts of law, it is arguable if capital punishment is truly cost effective when compared with the cost of life imprisonment. 20. Safety: Criminals who receive the death penalty are typically violent individuals. Therefore for the safety of the prison’s guards, other prisoners, and the general public (in case a death row inmate escapes prison), then logic dictates that safety is a reason for capital punishment. 21. Deters Crime: There is no scientific proof that nations with capital punishment have a lower rate of crime, therefore the risk of the death penalty does not seem to deter crime. 22. Extreme Punishment: The logic is that the more severe the crime, then the more severe the punishment is necessary. But what is the most severe punishment: lifetime in prison or execution? I am not sure that anyone alive is qualified to answer this question. 23. Appropriate Punishment: It is commonly believed that the punishment of a crime should equal the crime, if possible. This is also known as "an eye for eye" justice. Therefore using this logic, the appropriate punishment for murder is death. 24. Vengeance: Some crimes are so horrific that some people think that revenge or retribution is the only option. This reasoning is not based on logic; but rather, it is based on emotions. Therefore, this reason should not be deemed a valid justification.
DEATH PENALTY (CONS): 1. The death penalty gives closure to the victim's families who have suffered so much. Some family members of crime victims may take years or decades to recover from the shock and loss of a loved one. Some may never recover. One of the things that helps hasten this recovery is to achieve some kind of closure. Life in prison just means the criminal is still around to haunt the victim. A death sentence brings finality to a horrible chapter in the lives of these family members. It creates another form of crime deterrent. Crime would run rampant as never before if there wasn't some way to deter people from committing the acts. Prison time is an effective deterrent, but with some people, more is needed. Prosecutors should have the option of using a variety of punishments in order to minimize crime. Justice is better served. The most fundamental principle of justice is that the punishment should fit the crime. When someone plans and brutally murders another person, doesn't it make sense that the punishment for the perpetrator also be death? Our justice system shows more sympathy for criminals than it does victims. It's time we put the emphasis of our criminal justice system back on protecting the victim rather than the accused. Remember, a person who's on death row has almost always committed crimes before this. A long line of victims have been waiting for justice. We need justice for current and past victims. It provides a deterrent for prisoners already serving a life sentence. What about people already sentenced to life in prison. What's to stop them from murdering people constantly while in prison? What are they going to do--extend their sentences? Sure, they can take away some prison privileges, but is this enough of a deterrent to stop the killing? What about a person sentenced to life who happens to escape? What's to stop him from killing anyone who might try to bring him in or curb his crime spree? DNA testing and other methods of modern crime scene science can now effectively eliminate almost all uncertainty as to a person's guilt or innocence. One of the biggest arguments against the death penalty is the possibility of error. Sure, we can never completely eliminate all uncertainty, but nowadays, it's about as close as you can get. DNA testing is over 99 percent effective. And even if DNA testing and other such scientific methods didn't exist, the trial and appeals process is so thorough it's next to impossible to convict an innocent person. Remember, a jury of 12 members mustunanimously decide there's not even a reasonable doubt the person is guilty. The number of innocent people that might somehow be convicted is no greater than the number of innocent victims of the murderers who are set free. Prisoner parole or escapes can give criminals another chance to kill. Perhaps the biggest reason to keep the death penalty is to prevent the crime from happening again. The parole system nowadays is a joke. Does it make sense to anyone outside the legal system to have multiple "life" sentences + 20 years or other jiverish? Even if a criminal is sentenced to life without possibility of parole, he still has a chance to kill while in prison, or even worse, escape and go on a crime/murder spree. It contributes to the problem of overpopulation in the prison system. Prisons across the country face the problem of too many prisoners and not enough space & resources. Each additional prisoner requires a portion of a cell, food, clothing, extra guard time, and so on. When you eliminate the death penalty as an option, it means that prisoner must be housed for life. Thus, it only adds to the problem of an overcrowded prison system. It gives prosecutors another bargaining chip in the plea bargain process, which is essential in cutting costs in an overcrowded court system.The number of criminal cases that are plea bargained (meaning the accused admits guilt in return for a lesser sentence or some other concession) can be as high as 80 or 90 percent of cases. With the time, cost, and personnel requirements of a criminal case, there really isn't much of a choice. The vast majority of people that are arraigned are in fact guilty of the crime they are accused.
Even if you believe a defendant only deserves life in prison, without the threat of a death sentence, there may be no way to get him to plead guilty and accept the sentence. If a case goes to trial, in addition to the enormous cost, you run the chance that you may lose the case, meaning a violent criminal gets off scot free. The existence of the death penalty gives prosecutors much more flexibility and power to ensure just punishments. 10. Imposition of death penalty will not in anyway prevent commission of heinous crimes. It only reflects the failure of the government and the society to instill proper values to its citizens. 11. Justice cannot be attained by killing the perpetrator of heinous crime. We must value life and in the same vein, the government must not resort to imposing death penalty to find justice to the victim. A civil society should not descend to the status of murderers by preferring revenge over far better forms of justice. 12. Punishment is supposed to reform and rehabilitate the perpetrator of a crime. Imposing the death penalty will not achieve said goal. Death penalty is an absolute judgment against the life of a person. 13. Prison: It is often believe that prison is a viable alternative to executing a person. However as mentioned above, even imprisonment for life with no chance of parole still has issues. 14. Not Humane: Killing a person is not humane, even if the criminal is not humane. What is humane is subjective to a person’s upbringing, education, beliefs, and religion. Therefore different people interpret what is humane differently. For instance, some people consider putting a pet asleep is humane if the animal is in great pain, but doing the same thing for a person is often not considered humane. Other people would not kill an animal even for food. In some cultures, mercy killings are honorable. 15. Fairness: The life of the criminal can not compensate for the crime committed. Basically, two wrongs do not make a right. 16. Pain of Death: Executing a person can be quick and painless, or executing a person can be slow and painful. The method, and therefore the pain, of capital punishment is also subjective to society’s norms. Some cultures prefer suffering, others do not. 17. Violates Human Rights: Some groups of people deem death a violation of the person’s right to live. Other groups of people disagree that the death penalty is a cruel and unusual punishment. There is no clear definition of what human rights are, so there will always be disagreements with whether it violates human rights. 18. Wrongly Convicted: Some people executed were proven too late to be wrongly convicted of a crime that they did not commit. 19. Playing God: Some people believe that all deaths should be natural. Other people believe murder is a part of nature. 20. Salvation: Felons have less time and likelihood of finding spiritual salvation if they are executed. The obvious question for this reasoning is salvation a valid concern for the state? 21. Forgiveness: Criminals have less time and likelihood to seek forgiveness for their crimes if they are executed. Again, is forgiveness a valid concern for the government? 22. Amends: Executing someone decreases the time and likelihood for the criminal to repair any damage from the crime. Should the state be concerned over this too? 23. Family Hardship: It is often said that the family members of the executed needlessly suffer too, yet the crime itself has victims and family members too.
PRO Death Penalty 1. Morality PRO: "The crimes of rape, torture, treason, kidnapping, murder, larceny, and perjury pivot on a moral code that escapes apodictic [indisputably true] proof by expert testimony or otherwise. But communities would plunge into anarchy if they could not act on moral assumptions less certain than that the sun will rise in the east and set in the west. Abolitionists may contend that the death penalty is inherently immoral because governments should never take human life, no matter what the provocation. But that is an article of faith, not of fact. The death penalty honors human dignity by treating the defendant as a free moral actor able to control his own destiny for good or for ill; it does not treat him as an animal with no moral sense." Bruce Fein, JD Constitutional Lawyer and General Counsel to the Center for Law and Accountability "Individual Rights and Responsibility - The Death Penalty, But Sparingly," www.aba.org June 17, 2008
CON Death Penalty
CON: "Ultimately, the moral question surrounding capital punishment in America has less to do with whether those convicted of violent crime deserve to die than with whether state and federal governments deserve to kill those whom it has imprisoned. The legacy of racial apartheid, racial bias, and ethnic discrimination is unavoidably evident in the administration of capital punishment in America. Death sentences are imposed in a criminal justice system that treats you better if you are rich and guilty than if you are poor and innocent. This is an immoral condition that makes rejecting the death penalty on moral grounds not only defensible but necessary for those who refuse to accept unequal or unjust administration of punishment." Bryan Stevenson, JD Professor of Law at New York University School of Law "Close to Death: Reflections on Race and Capital Punishment in America," from Debating the Death Penalty: Should America Have Capital Punishment? The Experts on Both Sides Make Their Best Case 2004
2. Constitutionality PRO: "Simply because an execution method may result in pain, either by accident or as an inescapable consequence of death, does not establish the sort of 'objectively intolerable risk of harm' [quoting the opinion of the Court from Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U. S. 825, 842, 846 (1994)] that qualifies as cruel and unusual... Kentucky has adopted a method of execution believed to be the most humane available, one it shares with 35 other States... Kentucky's decision to adhere to its protocol cannot be viewed as probative of the wanton infliction of pain under the Eighth Amendment... Throughout our history, whenever a method of execution has been challenged in this Court as cruel and unusual, the Court has rejected the challenge. Our society has nonetheless steadily moved to more humane methods of carrying out capital punishment." Baze v. Rees (529 KB) US Supreme Court, in a decision written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Apr. 16, 2008 CON: "Death is... an unusually severe punishment, unusual in its pain, in its finality, and in its enormity... The fatal constitutional infirmity in the punishment of death is that it treats 'members of the human race as nonhumans, as objects to be toyed with and discarded. [It is] thus inconsistent with the fundamental premise of the Clause that even the vilest criminal remains a human being possessed of common human dignity.' [quoting himself from Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238, 257 (1972)] As such it is a penalty that 'subjects the individual to a fate forbidden by the principle of civilized treatment guaranteed by the [Clause].' [quoting C.J. Warren from Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86, 101 (1958)] I therefore would hold, on that ground alone, that death is today a cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Clause... I would set aside the death sentences imposed... as violative of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments." William J. Brennan, JD Justice of the US Supreme Court Dissenting opinion in Gregg v. Georgia (347 KB) July 2, 1976
PRO: "Common sense, lately bolstered by statistics, tells us that the death penalty will deter murder... People fear nothing more than death. Therefore, nothing will deter a criminal more than the fear of death... life in prison is less feared. Murderers clearly prefer it to execution -- otherwise, they would not try to be sentenced to life in prison instead of death... Therefore, a life sentence must be less deterrent than a death sentence. And we must execute murderers as long as it is merely possible that their execution protects citizens from future murder." Ernest Van Den Haag, PhD Late Professor of Jurisprudence at Fordham University "For the Death Penalty," New York Times Oct. 17, 1983
CON: "[T]here is no credible evidence that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than long terms of imprisonment. States that have death penalty laws do not have lower crime rates or murder rates than states without such laws. And states that have abolished capital punishment show no significant changes in either crime or murder rates. The death penalty has no deterrent effect. Claims that each execution deters a certain number of murders have been thoroughly discredited by social science research." American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) "The Death Penalty: Questions and Answers," ACLU.org Apr. 9, 2007
4. Retribution PRO: "Society is justly ordered when each person receives what is due to him. Crime disturbs this just order, for the criminal takes from people their lives, peace, liberties, and worldly goods in order to give himself undeserved benefits. Deserved punishment protects society morally by restoring this just order, making the wrongdoer pay a price equivalent to the harm he has done. This is retribution, not to be confused with revenge, which is guided by a different motive. In retribution the spur is the virtue of indignation, which answers injury with injury for public good... Retribution is the primary purpose of just punishment as such... [R]ehabilitation, protection, and deterrence have a lesser status in punishment than retribution." J. Budziszewski, PhD Professor of Government and Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin "Capital Punishment: The Case for Justice,"OrthodoxyToday.org Aug./Sep. 2004 CON: "Retribution is just another word for revenge, and the desire for revenge is one of the lowest human emotions — perhaps sometimes understandable, but not really a rational response to a critical situation. To kill the person who has killed someone close to you is simply to continue the cycle of violence which ultimately destroys the avenger as well as the offender. That this execution somehow give 'closure' to a tragedy is a myth. Expressing one’s violence simply reinforces the desire to express it. Just as expressing anger simply makes us more angry. It does not drain away. It contaminates the otherwise good will which any human being needs to progress in love and understanding." Raymond A. Schroth, SJ Jesuit Priest and Community Professor of the Humanities at St. Peter's College Email to ProCon.org Sep. 5, 2008
5. Irrevocable Mistakes PRO: "...No system of justice can produce results which are 100% certain all the time. Mistakes will be made in any system which relies upon human testimony for proof. We should be vigilant to uncover and avoid such mistakes. Our system of justice rightfully demands a higher standard for death penalty cases. However, the risk of making a mistake with the extraordinary due process applied in death penalty cases is very small, and there is no credible evidence to show that any innocent persons have been executed at least since the death penalty was reactivated in 1976... The inevitability of a mistake should not serve as grounds to eliminate the death penalty any more than the risk of having a fatal CON: "...Since the reinstatement of the modern death penalty, 87 people have been freed from death row because they were later proven innocent. That is a demonstrated error rate of 1 innocent person for every 7 persons executed. When the consequences are life and death, we need to demand the same standard for our system of justice as we would for our airlines...It is a central pillar of our criminal justice system that it is better that many guilty people go free than that one innocent should suffer... Let us reflect to ensure that we are being just. Let us pause to be certain we do not kill a single innocent person. This is really not too much to ask for a civilized society."
wreck should make automobiles illegal..." Steven D. Stewart, JD Prosecuting Attorney for Clark County Indiana Message on the Clark County Prosecutor website accessed Aug. 6, 2008 Russ Feingold, JD US Senator (D-WI) introducing the "National Death Penalty Moratorium Act of 2000" April 26, 2000
6. Cost of Death vs. Life in Prison PRO: "Many opponents present, as fact, that the cost of the death penalty is so expensive (at least $2 million per case?), that we must choose life without parole ('LWOP') at a cost of $1 million for 50 years. Predictably, these pronouncements may be entirely false. JFA [Justice for All] estimates that LWOP cases will cost $1.2 million-$3.6 million more than equivalent death penalty cases. There is no question that the up front costs of the death penalty are significantly higher than for equivalent LWOP cases. There also appears to be no question that, over time, equivalent LWOP cases are much more expensive... than death penalty cases. Opponents ludicrously claim that the death penalty costs, over time, 3-10 times more than LWOP." Dudley Sharp Director of Death Penalty Resources at Justice for All "Death Penalty and Sentencing Information," Justice for All website Oct. 1, 1997 CON: "In the course of my work, I believe I have reviewed every state and federal study of the costs of the death penalty in the past 25 years. One element is common to all of these studies: They all concluded that the cost of the death penalty amounts to a net expense to the state and the taxpayers. Or to put it differently,the death penalty is clearly more expensive than a system handling similar cases with a lesser punishment. [It] combines the costliest parts of both punishments: lengthy and complicated death penalty trials, followed by incarceration for life... Everything that is needed for an ordinary trial is needed for a death penalty case, only more so: • More pre-trial time... • More experts... • Twice as many attorneys... • Two trials instead of one will be conducted: one for guilt and one for punishment. • And then will come a series of appeals during which the inmates are held in the high security of death row." Richard C. Dieter, MS, JD Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center Testimony to the Judiciary Committee of the Colorado State House of Representatives regarding "House Bill 1094 - Costs of the Death Penalty and Related Issues" Feb. 7, 2007 7. Race PRO: "[T]he fact that blacks and Hispanics are charged with capital crimes out of proportion to their numbers in the general population may simply mean that blacks and Hispanics commit capital crimes out of proportion to their numbers. Capital criminals don’t look like America... No one is surprised to find more men than women in this class. Nor is it a shock to find that this group contains more twenty-year-olds than septuagenarians. And if — as the left tirelessly maintains — poverty breeds crime, and if — as it tiresomely maintains — the poor are disproportionately minority, then it must follow — as the left entirely CON: "Despite the fact that African Americans make up only 13 percent of the nation’s population, almost 50 percent of those currently on the federal death row are African American. And even though only three people have been executed under the federal death penalty in the modern era, two of them have been racial minorities. Furthermore, all six of the next scheduled executions are African Americans. The U.S. Department of Justice’s own figures reveal that between 2001 and 2006, 48 percent of defendants in federal cases in which the death penalty was sought were African Americans… the biggest argument against the death penalty is that it
denies — that minorities will be 'overrepresented' among criminals." Roger Clegg, JD General Counsel at the Center for Equal Opportunity "The Color of Death: Does the Death Penalty Discriminate?,” National Review Online June 11, 2001
is handed out in a biased, racially disparate manner." National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) "NAACP Remains Steadfast in Ending Death Penalty & Fighting Injustice in America's Justice System,” NAACP website June 28, 2007
8. Income Level PRO: "The next urban legend is that of the threadbare but plucky public defender fighting against all odds against a team of sleek, heavily-funded prosecutors with limitless resources. The reality in the 21st century is startlingly different... the past few decades have seen the establishment of public defender systems that in many cases rival some of the best lawyers retained privately... Many giant silk-stocking law firms in large cities across America not only provide pro-bono counsel in capital cases, but also offer partnerships to lawyers whose sole job is to promote indigent capital defense." Joshua Marquis, JD District Attorney of Clatsop County, Oregon "The Myth of Innocence,” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology Mar. 31, 2005 CON: "Who pays the ultimate penalty for crimes? The poor. Who gets the death penalty? The poor. After all the rhetoric that goes on in legislative assemblies, in the end, when the net is cast out, it is the poor who are selected to die in this country. And why do poor people get the death penalty? It has everything to do with the kind of defense they get. Money gets you good defense. That's why you'll never see an O.J. Simpson on death row. As the saying goes: 'Capital punishment means them without the capital get the punishment.'" Helen Prejean, MA Anti-death penalty activist and author of Dead Man Walking "Would Jesus Pull the Switch?,” Salt of the Earth 1997
9. Attorney Quality PRO: "Defense attorneys... routinely file all manner of motions and objections to protect their clients from conviction. Attorneys know their trial tactics will be thoroughly scrutinized on appeal, so every effort is made to avoid error, ensuring yet another level of protection for the defendant. They [death penalty opponents]... have painted a picture of incompetent defense lawyers, sleeping throughout the trial, or innocent men being executed. Their accusations receive wide media coverage, resulting in a near-daily onslaught on the death penalty. Yet, through all the hysteria, jurors continue to perform their responsibilities and return death sentences." California District Attorneys Association (CDAA) "Prosecutors' Perspective on California's Death Penalty,” www.cdaa.org Mar. 2003 CON: "[A] shocking two out of three death penalty convictions have been overturned on appeal because of police and prosecutorial misconduct, as well as serious errors by incompetent court-appointed defense attorneys with little experience in trying capital cases. How can we contend that we provide equal justice under the law when we do not provide adequate representation to the poor in cases where a life hangs in the balance? We, the Congress, must bear our share of responsibility for this deplorable situation. In short, while others, like Governor Ryan in Illinois, have recognized the flaws in the death penalty, the Congress still just doesn't get it. This system is broken." John Conyers, Jr., JD US Congressman (D-MI) Hearing for the Innocence Protection Act of 2000 before the Subcommittee on Crime of the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives June 20, 2000
10. Physicians at Executions PRO: "Accepting capital punishment in principle means accepting it in practice, whether by the hand of a physician or anyone else... If one finds the practice too brutal, one must either reject it in principle or seek to mitigate its brutality. If one chooses the latter option, then the participation of physicians seems more humane than delegating the deed to prison wardens, for by condoning the participation of untrained people who could inflict needless suffering that we physicians might have prevented, we are just as responsible as if we had inflicted the suffering ourselves. The AMA [American Medical Association] position should be changed either to permit physician participation or to advocate the abolition of capital punishment. The hypocritical attitude of 'My hands are clean — let the spectacle proceed' only leads to needless human suffering." Bruce E. Ellerin, MD, JD Doctor of Oncology Radiation at Sierra Providence Health Network Response letter to the New England Journal of Medicine regarding an article titled "When Law and Ethics Collide — Why Physicians Participate in Executions," by Atul Gawande, MD July 6, 2006 CON: "The American Medical Association's policy is clear and unambiguous... requiring physicians to participate in executions violates their oath to protect lives and erodes public confidence in the medical profession. A physician is a member of a profession dedicated to preserving life... The use of a physician's clinical skill and judgment for purposes other than promoting an individual's health and welfare undermines a basic ethical foundation of medicine — first, do no harm. The guidelines in the AMA Code of Medical Ethics address physician participation in executions involving lethal injection. The ethical opinion explicitly prohibits selecting injection sites for executions by lethal injection, starting intravenous lines, prescribing, administering, or supervising the use of lethal drugs, monitoring vital signs, on site or remotely, and declaring death." American Medical Association (AMA) "AMA: Physician Participation in Lethal Injection Violates Medical Ethics," press release from the AMA website July 17, 2006