The Case Against Capital Punishment Essay Research

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The Case Against Capital Punishment Essay, Research Paper John H. Whitehead Professor Roth Whitehead 1 A Moratorium on The Death Penalty Should Be Enacted In Illinois Due to the recent releases of newly exonerated Death Row inmates, individuals and organizations are calling for a moratorium- a cooling off period for state executions. The cases of just a few inmates makes it apparent that this would be a necessary step to save innocent lives. After 17 years in prison, Illinois Death Row inmate Anthony Porter was released from jail after a judge threw out his murder conviction following the introduction of new evidence. This reversal of fortune came just two days before Porter was to be executed. As reported in USA Today, Porter’s release was the result of investigative

research as conducted by a Northwestern University professor and students. The evidence gathered suggested that Porter had been wrongly convicted. Were these new revelations and the subsequent release of Porter a lucky break or a freak occurrence? Not likely, reports DeWayne Wickham, also of USA Today. He points out that since the reinstatement of the death penalty in the United States in 1976, of those sentenced to death, 490 people have been executed while 76 have been freed from Death Row. This calculates into one innocent person being released from Death Row for every six individuals that were executed. This figure correlates with the 1996 U.S. Department of Justice report that indicates that over a 7-year period, beginning in 1989, when DNA evidence in various cases was

tested, 26% of primary suspects were exonerated. This has led some to conclude that a similar percentage of inmates presently serving time behind bars may have been wrongly convicted prior to the advent of forensic DNA typing. Whitehead 2 Amnesty International, in its 1998 report “Fatal Flaws: Innocence and the Death Penalty”, supports the American Bar Association’s call for a death penalty moratorium. Michelle Stevens, a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, reported that in 1998 Illinois State Representative Coy Pugh (D-Chicago) introduced a resolution calling for a bi-partisan panel to study the death penalty in Illinois. During the study all executions would be postponed. This proposal was initially killed but revived following the recent releases. Yet, this call for a

moratorium on the death penalty is not the first time that state executions have been opposed. Throughout its history capital punishment has been opposed on many premises. In discussion forums across the world many individuals often cite deterrence of crime as a viable defense of capital punishment. However, comprehensive studies, including the 1994 FBI Uniform crime Report, indicate that capital punishment does not serve as a deterrent to crime. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the death penalty not only does not deter crime- among states that have either abolished or instituted the death penalty crime and murder rates have remained unchanged. Additionally, Eric Pooley of Time magazine, in his research, reports that no proof exists to substantiate claims that

capital punishment discourages crime by anyone other than the criminals whom are executed. Glenn Lammi, of the Washington Legal Foundation is quoted as saying that “there are no convincing studies” [connecting] the death penalty and the crime rate. Whitehead 3 In the absence of persuasive studies linking capital punishment and crime rates, who better to turn to than the individuals who walk the thin blue line- law enforcement officials may be better equipped to address this subject. Time magazine reports that 67% of polled police chiefs also did not believe that the death penalty deters [crime such as] homicide. According to a 1994 Government Accounting Office report (GAO) substantial evidence indicates that courts have been unfair in death sentencing. The 1990 GAO report,