Death Penalty

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate September 2001

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Put yourself in the shoes of a man such as Gary Gauger. He telephoned the police reporting that both of his parents had been killed on their farmhouse in Illinois. This 40-year old former hippie who helped his parents maintain their farm quickly became the primary murder suspect. Without signs of robbery or virtually any struggle, the culpability of Gary became somewhat obvious. During the investigation of the crime scene, Gary was quiet, as he tended to the farm without going through the reactions typical of those of a son whose parents had just been killed. In the subsequent months, Gary was sentenced to die by lethal injection. Gary was put on death row, where he remained for eight months, when he was finally released after the FBI, via a wiretap, overheard members of a motorcycle gang confess to the double murder of the Gaugers. An innocent man would have been wrongfully executed if the police hadn't blindly stumbled upon the evidence to prove otherwise (Joseph Shapiro, p.23).

For every seven executions in America since 1976, one other prisoner on death row has been found innocent. How can you justify capital punishment when an innocent man may be condemned to die? Over the past twenty-five years there have been seventy-four men sentenced to die who were found innocent and freed while on death row. Gerald Kogan, former chief justice of Florida's Supreme Court and capital punishment advocate, stepped down from his position, claiming "If one innocent person is executed along the way, then we can no longer justify capital punishment" (Shapiro, p.23). I believe capital punishment to be just, but the underlying principles of its nature require that the guilty man be executed. Why are innocent men being put on death row? There are many answers to this question;...