Facts

May 31st, 2013

There are many reasons the death penalty should be abolished. It is a complex issue and it is difficult to point to any single fact or argument as the most important.

It costs far more to execute a person than to keep him or her in prison for life. A 2011 study found that California has spent more than $4 billion on capital punishment since it was reinstated in 1978 and that death penalty trials are 20 times more expensive than trials seeking a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole. California currently spends $184 million on the death penalty each year and is on track to spend $1 billion in the next five years.

2) There is no credible evidence that capital punishment deters crime.
Scientific studies have consistently failed to demonstrate that executions deter people from committing crime anymore than long prison sentences. Moreover, states without the death penalty have much lower murder rates. The South accounts for 80% of US executions and has the highest regional murder rate.


3) Innocent people have been convicted and executed.
The wrongful execution of an innocent person is an injustice that can never be rectified. Since the reinstatement of the death penalty, 142 men and women have been released from Death Row nationally....some only minutes away from execution. Moreover, in the past two years evidence has come to light which indicates that four men may have been wrongfully EXECUTED in recent years for crimes they did not commit. This error rate is simply appalling, and completely unacceptable, when we are talking about life and death.


4) Race plays a role in determining who lives and who dies.
The race of the victim and the race of the defendant in capital cases are major factors in determining who is sentenced to die in this country. In 1990 a report from the General Accounting Office concluded that "in 82 percent of the studies [reviewed], race of the victim was found to influence the likelihood of being charged with capital murder or receiving the death penalty, i.e. those who murdered whites were more likely to be sentenced to death than those who murdered blacks."


5) The death penalty is applied at random.
Politics, quality of legal counsel and the jurisdiction where a crime is committed are more often the determining factors in a death penalty case than the facts of the crime itself. The death penalty is a lethal lottery: of the 22,000 homicides committed every year approximately 100 people or less are sentenced to death.


6) Capital punishment goes against almost every religion.
Although isolated passages of religious scripture have been quoted in support of the death penalty, almost all religious groups in the United States regard executions as immoral.


7) The USA is keeping company with notorious human rights abusers.
The vast majority of countries in Western Europe, North America and South America — more than 140 nations worldwide — have abandoned capital punishment in law or in practice. The United States remains in the same company as Iraq, Iran and China as one of the major advocates and users of capital punishment.


8) Millions currently spent on the death penalty could be used to assist the families of murder victims.
Many family members who have lost love ones to murder feel that the death penalty will not heal their wounds nor will it end their pain; the extended process prior to executions can prolong the agony experienced by the family. Funds now being used for the costly process of executions could be used to help families put their lives back together through counseling, restitution, crime victim hotlines, and other services addressing their needs.


9) Bad Lawyers are a Persistent Problem in Capital Cases
Perhaps the most important factor in determining whether a defendant will receive the death penalty is the quality of the representation he or she is provided. Almost all defendants in capital cases cannot afford their own attorneys. In many cases, the appointed attorneys are overworked, underpaid, or lacking the trial experience required for death penalty cases. There have even been instances in which lawyers appointed to a death case were so inexperienced that they were completely unprepared for the sentencing phase of the trial. Other appointed attorneys have slept through parts of the trial, or arrived at the court under the influence of alcohol.

10) Life Without Parole is a Sensible Alternative to the Death Penalty
In every state that retains the death penalty, jurors have the option of sentencing convicted capital murderers to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The sentence is cheaper to tax-payers and keeps violent offenders off the streets for good. Unlike the death penalty, a sentence of Life Without Parole also allows mistakes to be corrected. There are currently over 3,300 people in California who have received this alternative sentence, which also has a more limited appeals process last approximately 3 years.  According to the California Governor's Office, only seven people sentenced to life without parole have been released since the state provided for this option in 1977, and this occurred because they were able to prove their innocence.



 

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