Capital Punishment And The Innocent

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Capital Punishment And The Innocent A man saddened by the reality of his life takes his first step in years on to free land. As he is walking in freedom, a single tear slowly rolls down his face. His eyes seem to give off a blank stare while he begins his journey back to where he was almost a decade ago. So much has changed. Being locked up helped him realize the meaning of life and how wonderful of a gift that it is. Ironically, being locked up also took a big part of his life away. While inside he wondered how he once lived among people so cruel as to want to take his life. Now, it is time to forget that. He has been tortured for years with the thought of death, but years later proven innocent. Verneal Jimerson, Joseph Burrows, and Rolando Cruz along with many others have been proven innocent after being sentenced to death.

With an average of 4.8 releases of innocent victims on death row per year something obviously has to be done. No person should be sentenced to death for a crime. Though it does not seem fair, there are still many innocent put on death row for a number of reasons (

"A total of 69 people have been released from death row since 1973 after evidence of their innocence emerged. Twenty-one condemned inmates have been released [between] 1993 and [1997]." claims Richard C. Dieter, the Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington D.C. at, "There is considerable evidence that the crisis of wrongful death penalty convictions has worsened: the annual average of people released from death row because of their innocence has increased since the first report was prepared." Why the increase in capital punishment sentences for innocent victims? There are five major reasons. Pressure from the public, unrelated murders, publicity, qualified juries, and time limits on evidence all increase the chance of a wrongful conviction.

First, there is a lot of pressure from the American public to solve serious crimes such as murder. No one likes the idea of a "crazy killer" on the loose in his or her neighborhood. To make a community feel safe the police and prosecutors may convict the wrong suspects. It does not make much sense, but a quick capture of a criminal, even if it is the wrong one, seems to make everyone sleep a little easier (

Secondly, when a stranger murders someone there is usually no one around to witness the act. "Thus, in prosecuting the case the state relies more heavily on less reliable sources for evidence such as accomplices, jail-house snitches, and pressured confessions from the defendant." states, "The real killer has a strong motivation in a capital case to divert attention from himself and to put the onus, in whole or in part, on another individual who may be completely innocent." Another factor leading to a wrongful conviction is the publicity of the crime. The media many times influences jurors. Things may be blown out of proportion in order to gain public attention causing jurors to fallow popular opinion and sometimes ignore points made by the defense. Though jurors should not have access to any of this publicity, they usually do (

In addition, many people are ignorant of this fact, but there is something called "death qualified juries". This means people who do not believe in the death penalty are immediately eliminated from the jury. It is common sense that the jury is now more likely to convict the suspect (

Lastly, many states throughout the United States have set time limits on bringing new evidence into the court. For example, Virginia has a "21-day rule". This rule states that the defendant only has 21 days after being convicted to bring in new evidence in order prove him/herself innocent. 21 days is not a long time to pull up new evidence on a case, especially when many of the convicted are of a lower class and can not afford "good" attorneys that are able to work hard on a case (

Most cases where an innocent person is convicted, sentenced to death, and then released, they spend an average of seven years locked up. The people that in most cases have done nothing wrong are spending much of their life in prison. What may be even worse is they have in their mind the day of their death. One of the scariest factors is, "the average time between sentencing and execution is eight years," says This leaves only one-year difference from the average release of the innocent. It should make one think how many more innocent may be released if they moved the average execution up one year or if there was no execution at all (

Keeping a criminal imprisoned on a life term would eliminate the problem of a "murderer on the loose" just as well as capital punishment. Kenneth Cauthen at believes, "The purpose of confinement would not be vengeance or punishment. Rather an ideal community would show mercy even to those who had shown no mercy. It would return good for evil. The aim of isolation is reconciliation and not revenge." It is a fact that capital punishment is used more on the poor and minorities. There is a higher probability that these groups have, "suffered from neglect, emotional trauma, violence, cruelty, abandonment, lack of love, and a host of destructive social conditions. These extenuating circumstances may have damaged their humanity to the point that it is unfair to hold them fully accountable for their wrong doing." Explains, "Corporate responsibility somehow has to be factored into some degree," In an essay titled "Capital Punishment" under, there is an interesting point the author makes. He is speaking to God at his death, "God: You condoned capital punishment during your life on earth which caused undue pain and suffering to others. I have always professed love and forgiveness, not murder and mayhem. Me: Yes God, but those people deserved to die, since they themselves committed the act of murder. God: I have already passed judgement on those which is within my jurisdiction and not yours. I am now passing judgement on you and how you have conducted yourself during your stay on earth. You have made creatures of mine undergo excruciating pain. - At this point I realize that I have no acceptable response and must simply await my final fait as decreed by God." Because the majority of the American public believes in "an eye for an eye" capital punishment exists in our society. Killing a human should not be for anyone to decide. Capital punishment is murder no matter which way you look at it. Murdering a person for murder does not make much sense. Many on death row are innocent. Those on death row that truly are guilty should be separated from society, but it is no ones right to take a human life. Confinement is the moral alternative.