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Jessie Lau
Mr. Davis
Government/ P2
15 October 2016
Deadly Consequences of Death Penalty
The death penalty has no place in the 21st century, announces United Nations
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. This inhumane practice has remained ineffective in the United
States for 40 years, since its reinstatement in 1976. Of the 50 states, only 19 banned the death
penalty while it remains legal in 31 states. As of April 13, 2016, nearly 1,500 inmates given the
death penalty have been executed. 38 countries in the United Nations have called for the United
States to end capital punishment for its grave representation of humanity. Furthermore, the great
expenses spent on keeping inmates sentenced with the death penalty in maximum security for
decades, diverting limited funds from being spent on prevention of crimes from occurring,
mental health treatment, and education and victim rehabilitation. The death penalty cannot
properly compensate for inmates families should they be wrongfully executed; it does not lend
to mistakes that occur prevalently. On a greater scale, the criminal justice system has been
known for employing corrupt individuals that do not prioritize justice, but racially profile
defendants. Capital punishment should be removed from all states and at the national level due to
great financial demand on taxpayers, possibility of incarcerating innocent victims, and racial
discrimination in the system.
Each year, taxpayers bear the burden of paying for the maintenance of death row inmates,
each costing around $90,000. This hefty paycheck does not cover the expense of hiring defense
attorneys, experts and investigators paid to take the stand, and courtroom costs. According to
Professor Robert C. Boruchowitz, It costs more than an additional $1 million to pursue the
death penalty than not to seek it in an aggravated murder case in Washington (SU Study
Assesses Costs of Seeking Death Penalty). On average, trials cost 2.8 to 3.5 times more for death
penalty cases than those not seeking capital punishment. In order to reach the required funds for
expensive death penalty cases, thousands of correctional personnel and police officers have been
laid off nationwide. As reported by Brandon Payette, Californians can be kept just as safe from
convicted killers by putting them in prison for life with no option for parole, while saving $184
million a year (Stanford Progressive). Of the $4.6 billion used to administer the death penalty,

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42% ($1.94 billion) has been siphoned on trials and pretrials costs. Although it may seem as
though the extra expenses may be effective, experts Justin Marceau and Hollis Whitson have
found otherwise, In Colorado, including all death prosecutions commenced since January 1,
1999, there were ten failed death penalty cases that went through trial even though no death
sentences resulted. (The Cost of Colorados Death Penalty). The nearly $5 billion spent on
Californias death penalty can be allocated to different alternatives actually working to reduce the
number of prospective victims and to deter crime.
On top of the substantial price of sentencing capital punishment, implementing the death
penalty prevents the innocent wrongfully incarcerated from receiving a chance to escape the
brutal punishment. 151 cases have been overturned due to wrongful convictions, releasing these
innocent inmates after wasting years under high security with great limitations. According to
authors Samuel Gross, Barbara OBrien, Chen Hu, and Edward Kennedy, In the past few
decades a surge of hundreds of exonerations of innocent criminal defendants has drawn attention
to the problem of erroneous conviction, and led to a spate of reforms in criminal investigation
and adjudication (Rate of False Conviction of Criminal Defendants who are Sentenced to
Death). Those that have had their cases overturned believe it is out of pure luck, not because the
system has proven to be resourceful. Additionally, forensic analysts often cannot find enough
evidence at the crime scene to make a definitive conclusion and should enough be found, states
often neglect to store evidence carefully. Shapiro states, Discarded evidence and DNA profiling,
perhaps more than any other development, has exposed the fallibility of the legal system (The
Wrong Men on Death Row). The majority of wrongful convictions stems from amateur defense
attorneys. John McCormick admits, Judges often assign capital cases to inexperienced or
marginally talented attorneys. Alabama pays lawyers just $20 an hour--up to a cap of $1,000--to
prepare for a capital trial, and $40 an hour to argue it (The Wrongly Condemned). Alongside
inadequate legal representation, perjured testimonies, mistaken eyewitnesses, and police
misconduct have been responsible for placing individuals behind bars. All these factors, factors
that can be controlled and prevented from going awry are not properly maintained by states and
the federal government.
Beyond the costly expenses directed for trial costs seeking death penalty, capital
punishment cases have wrongly sentenced innocent colored victims to their deaths. Michael
Fraser states, There are countless cases in many states throughout the South that indicate blatant

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racial discrimination taking place in the courtroom (Social Sciences Journal). Besides unfair,
biased judges, the corrupt system is setup to fail socioeconomically poor individuals. David
Bender states, They [poor and minorities] are there because of an archaic bail-bond system that
favors the professional criminal and the affluent (Americas Prisons: Opposing Viewpoints).
Colored defenders are not receiving the same legal system as their white counterparts because of
racial profiling. Monica Swanson expresses the naked truth, a large part of the death row
population is made up of people who are distinguished by neither their records nor the
circumstances of their crimes, but by their abject poverty, debilitating mental impairments,
minimal intelligence, and the poor legal representation they received (The Death Penalty and
Race). The injustices in this country have incarcerated individuals based on circumstantial
evidence, often choosing to ignore the truth presented in front of them. In 1968, Attorney
General Ramsey Clark made a statement before the Subcommittee on Criminal Laws and
Procedures of the Senate Judiciary Committee to abolish the death penalty:
Our history shows the death penalty has been unjustly imposed, innocents have been
killed by the state, effective rehabilitation has been impaired, judicial administration has
suffered, crime has not been deterred. Society pays a heavy price for the penalty of death
it imposes.
Nearly 40 years later, the United States is still facing the same issue. Richard C. Dieter
ominously states, Despite overwhelming evidence of discrimination, the response of the courts
has been to deny relief on the grounds that patterns of racial disparities are insufficient to prove
racial bias in individual cases (The Death Penalty in Black and White: Who Lives, Who Dies,
Who Decides). State and federal courts shamelessly turn a blind eye to unfair representations,
misinterpretation and manipulation of evidence, and unequal opportunities for colored
defendants to prove their innocence due to overwhelming racial prejudice in the country.
Despite the pricey expenditures, wrongful convictions, and racial prejudice, others still
support the legalization of the death penalty. Proponents of capital punishment do not consider it
as a cruel and unusual discipline. In fact, Cynthia Oberg argues Monetarily, the death penalty is
the most efficient manner of dealing with perpetrators of heinous crimes (The Death Penalty
True Cause for Justice). These supporters believe death penalty is the appropriate consequence
for crimes such as federal murder, espionage, drug trafficking, treason, etc. It is a form a justice,
as restitution for their actions. Others consider the death penalty as a means of deterring crime

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for it creates a fear factor. According to Columbia Law School Professor Jeffrey Fagan, The
new deterrence research has been discussed favorably and uncritically by national news outlets
and has been declared persuasive in leading academic journals and by prominent scholars and
jurists (Capital Punishment: Deterrent Effects & Capital Costs). The greatest priority death
penalty holds is reducing the number of criminals on the streets, thus promoting safety and
security. Szumski and Bender bring up the argument:
Although sentencing policies generally are not expected to have any effect on crime rates,
proponents of selective incapacitation argue that it should be adopted precisely because it
will reduce the crime rate without increasing the prison population. By selectively
imprisoning dangerous offenders, the streets will supposedly be made much safer for lawabiding citizens (America's Prisons: Opposing Viewpoints).
Retribution, deterrence, and safety factors are primary arguments proponents of the death penalty
use to justify the death penalty.
Capital punishment has proven repeatedly to not only fail defendants, but to fail victims,
their families, and the morality of American citizens as well. As a Western culture that takes
pride in democracy and morality, the death penalty is neither serving justice nor fairness. Not
only is capital punishment cutting jobs and costing taxpayers more money than sentences for life
without possibility of parole, but has it has uncovered racial prejudice in the system. With these
known errors in the system, the nation and states have still taken little to no effective measures to
prevent such mistakes from arising again. It is our duty as human beings to put an end to this
form justice for it does not provide nor ensure justice. The United States should take the
United Nations urge to abolish the death penalty for it is cruel, unjust, and has been proven to be
futile time and again.

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Works Cited
Bender, David L. "Why Put People in Prisons?" America's Prisons: Opposing
Viewpoints,. St. Paul, MN: Greenhaven, 1985. 109-13. Print.
Szumski, Bonnie, and David L. Bender. "How Should Criminals Be Sentenced?"
America's Prisons: Opposing Viewpoints. 4th ed. St. Paul, MN: Greenhaven, 1985. 92114. Print.
McCormick, John. "The Wrongly Condemned." Newsweek 132.19 (1998): n. pag. Print.
Shapiro, Joseph P. "The Wrong Men on Death Row." U.S. News and World Report
[Washington D.C.] 9 Nov. 1998: n. pag. Print
Boruchowitz, Robert C. "SU Study Assesses Costs of Seeking Death Penalty." KCBA Bar
Bulletin (2015): n. pag. Web. 15 Oct. 2016.
Fagan, Jeffrey A. "Capital Punishment: Deterrent Effects & Capital Costs." Columbia
Law School. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
Fraser, Michael. "Crime for Crime: Racism and the Death Penalty in the American
South." Diss. Western Connecticut, n.d. Social Sciences Journal. 30 Sept. 2011. Web. 15
Oct. 2016. <http://repository.wcsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1070&context=ssj>.
Gross, Samuel R., Barbara OBrien, Chen Hu, and Edward H. Kennedy. "Rate of False
Conviction of Criminal Defendants Who Are Sentenced to Death." Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. National Academy of
Sciences, 20 May 2014. Web. 16 Oct. 2016.
Marceau, Justin F., and Hollis A. Whitson. "The Cost of Colorado's Death Penalty."

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Oberg, Cynthia G. "The Death Penalty." The Death Penalty. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Oct.
2016. <http://web.gccaz.edu/~mdinchak/eng101/death_penalty1.htm>.
Payette, Brandon. "Stanford Progressive." The. N.p., Oct. 2011. Web. 16 Oct. 2016.
Swanson, Monica. "The Death Penalty and Race." Anti-Death Penalty Project (ADPP).
N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2016. <https://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~marto/adpp/swanson.htm>.