Ending the life of a human legally as punishment has been practiced in the United States for centuries. Influenced by Britain more than any other country, European travelers brought it with them when they stepped foot in the new world. The first-ever execution was carried out in 1608 in the colony of Jamestown located in Virginia and was carried out on the infamous Captain George Kendall; he was convicted of spying for Spain. (Death Penalty Information Center, 2020).
Currently, the United States of America is one of 55 countries that still retain capital punishment. Inside, 28 states, federal government, and the military are currently practicing this form of punishment. Since 1977, approximately 7800 defendants have been given the death sentence, 1500 of which are already executed. Out of these 1500 people, 165 were executed before their official execution date. Two thousand six hundred fifty-six prisoners are still on death row as of December 17, 2019 (Capital Punishment in the US, 2019) (Center, 2019).
There are five methods for executing a prisoner; these include death by; hanging, firing squad, lethal injection and electric chair, and gas chamber. In all five methods, mishaps have been reported more than once. From the head of one prisoner catching fire on the electric chair to another prisoner struggling for more than 30 minutes because of the wrong combination of drugs in the lethal injection, these mishaps are reported by the police officers as well as the journalists and the family member of prisoners and victims who witnessed the execution. In some cases, prisoners were given a death sentence purely because of a lack of evidence or identification of the wrong man by eyewitnesses. There are also cases where crime scenes are made up to hide the real culprit and let someone else suffer. Not all people on death row are guilty, but sadly in most cases, their innocence is proven after their death, which is of no good to anyone. (Prison Fellowship, 2020)
There is a difference of opinion amongst the American people about killing a helpless human legally and the ways that process is carried out. For some, such prisoners are a threat to everyone, and this threat should be eliminated. But for others, no matter what the criminal has done, he or she is still a living human being. The person should be punished, but no one should have the right to decide on how long one must live. They have done horrible things, but they do have a wife, a child, a mother, a father, all law-abiding innocent citizens of this country. What have they done to experience a planned killing of one of their own? The punishment of never getting out of jail for the rest of their life is more than enough for death row inmates, but they should have the right to live out their natural life.
With many different opinions amongst the American people, mishaps in the execution processes, and six states getting rid of the death penalty, one may ask, “Is death penalty appropriate as the final form of punishment for criminals in the United States.”
With many protests by the people, errors in the execution processes, and violation of human rights, the issue of the death penalty has become a subject of debates in various intellectuals and political arenas. Proponents of the death penalty argue that maintaining this type of punishment reduces the crime rate in the country, while opponents of capital punishment strongly disagree. The questions that this study will address are; Is the death penalty appropriate as the final form of punishment for criminals in the United States? Does it help in decreasing the crime rate? What mechanisms can be put in place to ensure that the accused are not convicted of a crime they never committed? Why should the government have the right to decide who should die and when? Especially with such procedures that have gone wrong countless times and have brought great suffering and struggle to the person being executed.
Statistics show that crimes in the United States continue to be rampant in most states. The easy access to guns may be a factor that contributes to keeping the crime rate higher than most developed countries in the world, including Canada and European countries. This research intends to show that the death penalty is not the ultimate solution even for the worst of crimes. It brings pain and suffering not only to the prisoner who is found guilty even when there is a chance that he or she is not but also to his/her family. On top of that, there is no proof that this brings a lifelong relief to the victim’s family as well. The methods used can go horribly wrong, and the witnesses of the execution also have a negative physiological effect. Apart from that, this research also shows that how life sentence is the best alternate for the death penalty, not only for those who oppose the concept of execution but also for those who believe that a prisoner should suffer in the worst way possible.
As mentioned prior, many people are convicted in the United States for the crimes they never did. About 4% of the death row inmates are accused of a crime that they never committed. But once the decision is read, the person convicted has no choice but to either accept his fate or go for the appeal. There are many reasons as to why a person is labeled ‘guilty of the crime’ that he or she never committed. Above all is the judicial system within the free world. There are eleven major steps of the federal process regarding crime within the US as stated by the United States department of justice (United States Department Of Justice, 2020). The mere first step of this process can easily be subjected to an attempt of a wrongful accusation both willingly and due to lack of evidence. Not much attention is also given to the statement of the witnesses as to whether they are telling the truth or not. This has happened many times before, and many prisoners were wrongfully accused due to improper investigation or lack of evidence. Among many cases, there is one case that wraps up most of the steps that can easily be taken to accuse someone of a crime that he never committed.
Angel Diaz was a 55-year-old Puerto Rican convict who was executed using lethal injection by the State of Florida. His execution was one of the severe miscarriages of justice because not only was he was innocent of the accused crime but also because his execution went wrong, and he ended up struggling for 36 long minutes before being pronounced dead (AMERICAN MURDERER, 2015). He was accused of the murder of Joseph Nagy.
Joseph Nagy was the manager at Velvet Swing Lounge when Diaz and two of his friends, Angel Toro, and another yet-unidentified man, went there for robbery. During the robbery, one of the robbers shot Joseph. No witnesses were there to confirm as to which one killed Joseph as everyone was locked in the bathroom by the robbers. The case unsolved for almost half a decade, after which Diaz’s informed the police that he was the one who shot Nagy. Diaz would go on to represent himself in the court despite his bad English, which placed him in a position of major disadvantage. Later, another prisoner (who didn’t understand Spanish) told police that Diaz (who spoke only Spanish) had confessed in jail that he shot the manager. Without any witnesses or evidence, Diaz was sentenced to death in 1986 by an 8-4 jury vote. He was executed by lethal injection on December 13, 2006 (Murderpedia, 2020). Angel Diaz’s last words, as translated, were’ “you know I’m innocent, I know I am innocent, God knows I am innocent.” (RON WORD, December 13, 2006).
This is just one of the many cases where people were either executed or were put behind bars for almost half of their life for the crimes they never committed, just because of a lack of evidence, improper investigation, and lying witnesses.