When looking at history and at the situation of the world today, it embarrasses me to see that the United States is one of the very few countries that have the death penalty on its books. We share the ranks with such countries as Iran, China and North Korea. Even countries like Japan and France, the masters of the guillotine, have abandoned the death penalty in recent decades. When it comes to making a stand on the issue of the death penalty, I find it unsettling that America has only international ‘thugs’ as spiritual friends.
In recent years, with the advancement of DNA analysis and other high-tech forensic technology, quite a few people on death row were found to be innocent. These wrongful convictions may make up a substantial number of convictions, many of which are attributable to over zealous prosecutors and district attorneys. Often evidence is being withheld from police, juries bias, and especially in smaller cities simply not accustomed to dealing with the complicated capital punishment case. While some states, especially in the northern U.S. no longer have the death penalty, others in the south, especially Texas seems to have an express lane for those accused of capital crimes. The majority of all executions are performed in Texas, which has less than ten percent of the U.S. population. It is unsettling to think that the death penalty is handed out in a random manner and that in the past; possibly one out of ten prosecuted were executed innocently. When talking about the death penalty, the biggest issue that I have with supporting it is the prevalence of wrongful convictions, which seems to be unavoidable. One could argue that somebody could be released from prison after serving a lengthy term, but not be brought back from the dead.
The United States has a disproportionately high population, making up one percent of the general population. Many of these are violent and repeat offenders. Something within the structure of what we refer to as America may be inherently wrong to create an ever growing number of social outcasts. Our national inclination to support the death penalty may have its roots in some odd place such as early high school days in which the winners and losers, the stars and the outcasts are prematurely selected. Crime rates in most developed countries are significantly lower, prison populations disproportionately smaller with relatively few offenders guilty of a capital offense. All these speculations and thoughts about opposition to the death penalty and the origins of such prevalent violent crimes are brushed aside with some of the most violent cases of recent history. Some offenders are virtual poster children for the death penalty. Case and point Edward Duncan III, a convicted child molester with apparent previous child killings under his belt. The details of his most recent crimes are too horrific to list here, but it involves the killing of four individuals for the purpose of molesting two children. In his sadistic manner, he apparently created snuff movies of himself raping and violating the children. In court he was convicted of murder as the jury had to watch the horrific recordings of his acts. He showed no remorse. Seeing a case like this I cannot only say that I derive great comfort from knowing that the execution would rid the world of a potentially escape prone predator from ever walking the earth again. I must admit that the discussion of cruel and unusual punishment, in his case, has a ridiculous ring to it and that I must restrain myself not to devise appropriately barbaric methods of punishment. This however is part of most people’s human nature, and when all is said and done, I say I wish we would live in a world where the punishment could be stashed with other relics of our history. However the reality is this society seems to be barbaric, so barbaric measures seemed to be destined to stay on the books. Maybe in the 22nd Century America will not need the death penalty anymore.