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Death Penalty Pros and Cons

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Michael Weems

on 3 October 2014

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Transcript of Death Penalty Pros and Cons

“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted”
- 8th Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Death Penalty
Pro-Death Penalty Arguments
The majority of Americans support the death penalty
The death penalty deters crime:
"Recent research shows that each execution is correlated with 74 fewer murders the following year."
- Dr. Michael Summers,
Wall Street Journal
, 2007
Provides closure to families of victims
Reduces risk of repeat offenses
Anti-Death Penalty Arguments
Popular support for the death penalty is decreasing
Death penalty does not deter crime:
"Statistics demonstrate that states without the death penalty have lower murder rates than those with it"

- Former Judge H. Lee Sarokin,
Huffington Post
, 2011
"Research reveals [that] 88% of polled criminologists do not believe that the death penalty is a deterrent."
- Dr. Michael L. Radelet,
Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology
, 2009
Often applied unequally or unfairly
Requires lengthy and expensive appeals
Innocent persons have been executed
Morally or ethically wrong
The Pros
The Cons
Capital Punishment - Definition
The legal process by which a person is put to death by the state as punishment for a crime
Has been used by many human societies for centuries to punish criminals and dissidents
History of Capital Punishment
Almost every ancient society
Code of Hammurabi 1700 BC, 25 crimes punished by death
Murder, rape, adultery, even petty theft punished by death
Ancient Times
History of the Death Penalty in the United States
Landmark Cases
Furman v. Georgia
(1972) halted executions in U.S.
Randomly applied, cruel and unusual
States respond with new procedures
Gregg v. Georgia
(1976) reinstates penalty
Atkins v. Virginia
(2002) mentally retarded persons
Roper v. Simmons
(2005) under 18 years old
Kennedy v. Louisiana
(2008) capital murder only
The Facts
Supreme Court determines "standards of decency"
Standards change as society changes
Cruel and unusual
Legal Issues
French Revolution, guillotine
Humane, equally applied
Influenced United States
Hanging (until 1924)
Electrocution (1924-1964)
Lethal Injection (1982-present)
Execution Methods
Capital Punishment Today
Death Penalty in the United States
Legal in 32 states and federally
Capital murder and treason only
Over 18 years old, not mentally disabled
Lethal injection most common
Executions private, few witnesses, families
Death Penalty Worldwide
40 countries still use death penalty
100 have abolished by law
All of European Union
48 have abolished in practice
7 retain for special circumstances
6 still conduct public executions
Death Penalty in Texas
1270 people executed total (2nd)
515 since 1976 reinstatement (1st)
273 currently on death row
Only given for capital murder
287 sentenced since 1976
121 executed since 1976
67 more than Dallas County
21 more than state of Virginia
Harris County Alone
Capital Murder Requirements
Must have aggravating factors - not simple murder
Murder of police officer, judge, or firefighter
Multiple murders in same criminal act
Intentional murder during commission of a felony
*Not allowed in Texas
Pending trial for capital murder
SXSW crash, killed 4, injured 24 others
Stolen car, commission of a felony
Rashad Owens
Prior to
(1972), unitary trial procedure, electric chair
Bifurcated trial - guilt or innocence determined separately from sentencing
Lethal Injection (1982)
Automatic appeals
Competent legal council
Texas Death Penalty
"Old Sparky" Huntsville, TX
Texas Death Row Inmates
Automatic appeals and lengthy trials - try to ensure guilt, fair trial
Innocent people
sometimes put to death
140 people exonerated since 1973
Troy Davis - witnesses recanted, still executed in 2011
Claude Jones executed 2000, later exonerated with DNA evidence
Death Penalty Problems
Racial Bias
Race of both victim and defendant affect likelihood of death sentence
Even post-
, racial bias exists
Violates Equal protection clause, 14th amendment
Trials and appeals necessary, but very expensive
Death Row - $90,000 more per year per inmate
Each case costs $2.3 million
3 times more than 40 years in prison
Money could be better spent elsewhere
Education, police, drug treatment all deter crime more than the death penalty
May have small deterrent effect
Not statistically proven
Criminals do not weigh the options
High publicity distracts from real crime issues
Full transcript