World Day Against the Death Penalty
The death penalty is a fundamental human rights abuse, violating the right to life. On October 10th supporters worldwide will focus their efforts on abolishing the death penalty in the United States.
reasons to support death penalty abolition
The death penalty is being abandoned the world over. Over two-thirds of the countries in the world – 139 – have now abolished the death penalty in law or practice.
The death penalty is racially biased. Since 1977, the overwhelming majority of executions (77%) have been of individuals convicted of killing white victims, even though African-Americans make up about half of all homicide victims.
The death penalty risks irrevocable error. Since 1973, 138 people have been released from death rows throughout the USA due to evidence of their wrongful conviction. Others have gone to their deaths despite serious doubts about their guilt.
The death penalty has no special deterrent effect. The most senior Justice on the US Supreme Court noted in 2008 that "Despite 30 years of empirical research in the area, there remains no reliable statistical evidence that capital punishment in fact deters potential offenders."
The death penalty diverts resources. Capital prosecutions come with huge financial costs, far higher than ordinary criminal justice cases. Such resources could be used constructively against violent crime and to assist those affected by it.
The death penalty is used against offenders with serious mental illness. Although the death penalty in the USA is supposedly reserved for the “worst” crimes and offenders, dozens of prisoners have been executed despite suffering from serious mental illness either at the time of the crime or at the time of their execution.
The death penalty is a lottery. Local and state politics, prosecutorial discretion, the identity of the murder victim, and the economic status of the defendant, all contribute to who lives and who dies. Almost all death row inmates could not afford their own attorney at trial. Inadequate
defense representation has time and time again left jurors in the dark about the background of the person they are being asked to sentence to death.
The death penalty is geographically biased. Where the crime is committed plays a large part in whether it will result in the death penalty. Since 1977, for example, 80% of all executions have taken place in the southern states (37% in Texas alone). Whether the county where the crime was committed has the budget necessary to conduct a capital prosecution may also feed into the decision as to whether to pursue the death penalty.
The death penalty distorts the jury process. Individuals who are opposed to the death penalty can be and are removed by the prosecution during jury selection in capital cases, depriving the defendant of trial by a representative cross-section of the community. Research has shown that “death-qualified” jurors are more conviction-prone and pro-prosecution than their excludable counterparts.
The death penalty is incompatible with human dignity. Whatever the method chosen to kill the prisoner, the use of the death penalty denies the possibility of rehabilitation or reconciliation, rejects the humanity of the offender, is inescapably cruel, threatens to brutalize those involved in the punishment, and adds the suffering of the condemned prisoner’s family and friends to those of the murder victim.