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Injustice is defined as: An unjust act or occurrence, a violation to someone’s rights. In American society, committing a high degree crime such as mass murders could possibly land you on death row, a sentence that will not cost you a lifetime while locked in a maximum security penitentiary but rather take your life as well. Capital punishment had been used as a form of moral and ethical punishment since early civilization. Starting off as shameful public kills, such as hangings and burnings for the executing counterfeiters, murders, and even thieves it soon turned into political movements. More “humane” forms of using the penalty became present, the electric chair and lethal injections replaced hanging and burning, nowadays many industrialized nations have outlawed the death penalty but the United States of America has yet to abolish the sentence and yet to follow to their own Constitutions words. The death penalty is a very controversial topic, to oppose the executions does not make someone “soft on crime” it’s very realistic to view two sides to a crime, essentially there are two sides, the criminal and the victim. To focus on the injustice within the death penalty a person has to be able to see both sides and focus on the civil rights rather than the crime committed, by the person it was committed, and to whom it was committed. Although in such critical cases of crime it’s hard to accept the fact that the criminal on trial is still in fact a person, whether good or bad. In America authority is given such power to protect all citizens civilly. In some ways removing a criminal from society is clearly the best option for public safety. But what is the difference to the public, the victims, between placing a person in a maximum security penitentiary and taking their life? Is taking a criminal’s life possibly inhuman, discriminatory, and unjust?
Often faced with discrimination already, black inmates on death row have been executed and sentenced to execution much more than white inmates who have committed crimes that were similar or worse. A study found by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) found, “blacks convicted of killing whites received the death penalty twenty-one percent of the time (in 50 of 233 cases), whereas whites convicted of killing blacks received the death penalty only 3 percent of the time (in 2 of 60 cases)” (Benson and Brannen 482). The evidence found about the discrimination against black inmates demonstrates how America and particularly the criminal justice system needs a new and fair way to determine how to appeal the death penalty. Criminals always have a right to trial and representation, but what is the need of trial and representation if the likelihood of a black inmate being sentenced to death row is already twenty-one percent more likely to a white inmate. Not to mention the color of the victim’s skin, socioeconomic status, and even gender can impact the probability of a death sentence. Because of reasons like those innocent people are often sentenced to death row every year. Over 156 people have been released from death row within 26 states because of their later found innocent.
Another injustice in the system is the way of death, lethal injections given to modern day Americans on death row are proven to be inhumane. The sedative used is not always effective, making the execution long and sometimes painful (Baude). The death penalty violates many inmates right to the Eighth Amendment (‘excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted’) because of the penalties unreliability and unpredictability. Sometimes it’s even uncertain that the process will follow through as planned. The common argument here would be, since the crime committed was horrible, their comfort shouldn’t matter. Which is a clear argument of anger. It is inhumane to take a life in such matter, in any matter, if the system is sentencing an inmate to their death for brutality taking another life, the system is contradicting their beliefs on life and more importantly murder. Midazolam is the common sedative used during a lethal injection but a case was proven that, “midazolam can induce unconsciousness, it is not sufficient to maintain unconsciousness through the effects of the rest of the execution cocktail”(Oyez “Glossip”). Most people believe that the sedative would be in order to save the pain and the potential legal problems if a person is found to suffer, although in many cases this is run through smoothly, some unlucky ones stay awake and very much in pain. The execution of inmate Clayton Lockett is one of the few stories in which a citizens Eighth Amendment rights were violated when Locketts intravenous line was not properly inserted as Oklahoma officials inserted it in the groin area instead of a strong vein in the arm. The improper and risky way of administration caused Clayton Lockett to have a heart attack thirty minutes after officials had stopped the execution. For not only that reason was Locketts execution reported to be inhumane but the three drug cocktail that included, an anesthetic, paralytic and potassium chloride could have been a bad mix as this execution was botched, this mixer could have caused Lockett undue pain (Stern). This is just one example of the clear inhumane potential of the lethal injection. In 2002 the Supreme Court claimed that the execution of mentally ill criminals are “cruel and unusual”and prohibited by the Eighth Amendment and in 2005 the Supreme Court also ruled that the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution forbid the imposition of the death sentence to inmates under the age of 18 when the crime was committed. To this day 3,200 men and women are under a death sentence.
Previously stated reasons point to why the death penalty should not only be voided from certain inmates but from all inmates falling under the Eighth Amendment. If not, all executions should be handled with the most extreme care as ending a life by injection is “unusual” and without a doubt injust. New ways of lawful punishment to inmates should be discovered in order to keep from unlawful execution and the United States of America a place where citizens are treated fairly. Furthermore, the death penalty adds to the intolerable denial of civil liberty, making it very inconsistent with the values of the constitution. Citizens in American society should strive to abolish capital punishment as it’s in clear violation of their own values. The hopes, wants, earns, deserves of American society is stripped away from an inmate and if that’s not enough for authority punishment is applied in an unjust manner within a barbaric and brutal system. American citizens need to set aside one side of a story, treat a person as they should be, humanely. If the death penalty was a more talked about issue within our society and courts a solution to the inhumane act of taking “a life for a life” the justice system would have some decent justice within. Citizens need to fight for the humane option, marching, writing and speaking about the injustice of capital punishment could help American society strive as an industrialized civilization.
- Baude, William. “Is the Death Penalty Unconstitutional?” The New York Times. The New York Times.
- Benson, Sonia, Daniel E. Brannen, Jr., and Rebecca Valentine. “Eighth Amendment.”
- “Glossip v. Gross.” Oyez. Chicago-Kent College of Law at Illinois Tech, n.d.
- Stern, Jeffrey E. “The Cruel and Unusual Execution of Clayton Lockett.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company.
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