There have been numerous studies illustrating that the death penalty does in fact deter murder. However, due to recent reanalysis and other new studies which prove that there are many statistical flaws in those studies. This paper will address the misconceptions of deterrence to murder rates by way of ‘right to life’ and will discuss how morality is just cause to abolish the death penalty. It is statistically proven that states within the United States of America who have abolished the death penalty, have lower murder rates than states that enforce the death penalty. This paper will draw a comparative study between the United States and Canada. Since Canada abolished the death penalty in 1976, it has seen drastic declines in murder. This paper will also outline on how the United Nations have been integrated into the issue of the death penalty. What strategies and steps they have taken to abolish it worldwide. The analysis from this paper will illustrate that the data from the past in regards to claims of deterrence are a statistical artifact of the anomalous nature. After reading this paper, one should have a great deal of knowledge has to why the death penalty does not deter murder and how morality should be an antiquate reason to abolish the death penalty.
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The death penalty is a form of punishment against the most heinous of crimes used in 84 countries. Does the fact that men have judged someone to be guilty of a crime give them the right to take the life of that individual? Are human beings born with a right to life, or do their determine actions whether or not they should live another day? There is the issue of government having the power to say who is allowed to live and who are subject to death according to the laws of the country. These are all questions that are heatedly debated when the subject of the death penalty and human rights comes up. The death penalty is generally only imposed on those individuals that have taken the lives of other human beings in a premeditated manner. There is the argument that the death penalty is acceptable in these circumstances because the victim that the perpetrator killed did not get to choose whether or not they would like to live. The criminal that is being put to death is guilty of taking the right to live away from the people they murdered so the government of their country feels for justice purpose; it is alright for them to take the life of the criminal. Is this not just a vicious cycle of violence being perpetually perpetrated. There is complexity when taking of one life justified as a means of payment for the taking of another life? The death penalty does not bring the victim of the first crime back to life. Would restitution to the families that the criminal inflicted pain and suffering on be a better punishment and a more humane punishment? When a human being is born into the world, they have nothing but the right to draw another breath. They are merely a living thing that breaths air in and exhale the air. If someone inhibits your ability to breathe the air into your lungs then they are taking away the one and only right that you have. Do not confuse the right to breathe with a guarantee of life because life is not guaranteed. Life is subject to end due to your actions, the actions of others, or naturally occurring causes. If the country you are born in decides that they have the right to extinguish the life of anyone that commits a certain crime then you no longer have the right to breath, you have the right to live according to the laws of the country and the government has the right to decide who breathes and who stops breathing. The succeeding research will illustrate clarity as to why the death penalty does not deter murder rates. The findings will discuss the reasoning as to why some speculate that the death penalty deters crime and will attempt to show that morality is just cause for the abolishment of the death penalty. The findings will prove that past statistics were flawed in their models. The United States of America and Canada will be the comparative cases in this study.
The trend towards enforcing the death penalty is at a downward slope. However, 84 countries still enforce the death penalty (Dieter, 1999, p.1). Protocols that have been put into action are that by the Council of Europe. They made effective Protocol 6 which calls for the abolishment of the death penalty (Dieter, 1999, p. 6). The European Union has abolished the death penalty and made it a precondition for the entry into the Union. In turn, this lead to numerous eastern European countries forced to abolish the death penalty if they want membership of the European Union. This includes such countries as Poland, Yugoslavia, and Serbia and Montenegro. Even the nation of Turkey is moving closer to abolishing the death penalty in order to gain entrance into the European Union (Dieter, 1999, p. 5). Because of such rigorous protocols established by the European Union, they have threatened the observer status of countries that enforce the death penalty. They stated that unless there is a full abolishment of the death penalty throughout the whole country, a country with observer status may be rejected that status (Dieter, 1999, p. 5). Even though the death penalty has been practiced for almost every century, as of present time there has been dramatic turnaround. For nations that have abolished that death penalty, it is of varied reason. For example, Spain abolished the death penalty in 1995, stating that, “The death penalty has no place in the general penal system of advanced, civilized societies (Hood & Hoyle, 2008, p. 63). In similarity to Spain, Switzerland abolished the death penalty because they believed that it is a flagrant violation of the right to life and dignity (Hood & Hoyle, 2008, p. 11). For other nations that have abolished the death penalty, it might have been of monetary inclination because of cost efficiency.
Contextualizing the Case
Per the research that has been illustrated in democratic societies postulates the following question: How has the deathly penalty affected murder rates in the United States of America and Canada? The reasoning behind the following research is too proof that the death penalty does not deter murder rates. There have studies that show that there is in fact correlation between the death penalty and murder rates. However, they have been clearly skewed and flawed in their methods to proof that the death penalty deters murder rates. There is great importance in providing findings that distinctly show a clear illustration on how the enforcement of the death penalty has no influence on murder rates. Within this research, the findings will incorporate solely individuals who have been charged with murder. The variables that are present in this research are the death penalty and murder rates in respect to the human right ‘the right to life’. Within this research it has brought forth the following two hypotheses: 1) The death penalty does not deter murder rates 2) Morality is just cause to abolish the death penalty. The following findings will prove both nulls wrong which illustrate the following: 1) the death penalty does deter murder rates; 2) morality is just cause for the abolishment of the death penalty.
Death Penalty does not deter crime
United States. The big case against how the death penalty does not deter crime has numerous supporting documentation and data. It is stated that the death penalty is a waste of the U.S. taxpayer money and provides no public safety incentives (Bedeau, 2011). Here is an interesting quote by former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, “I have inquired for most of my adult life about studies that might show that the death penalty is a deterrent. And I have not seen any research that would substantiate that point” (Jones, 2010, p. 123). For example, the state of Wisconsin has had the death penalty abolished for 150 years and has half of the murder rates that states like Texas or Florida have in which those states enforce the death penalty (Jones, 2010 p. 25). A great example, are the studies of Oklahoma and California which resulted failing to find that the utilization of the death penalty is a true deterrent of violent crime (Bailey, 1999). Adding to this, a study by William Bailey and Ernie Thompson has shown that there was an essentially significant increase in murders after the death penalty was reinstated (Bailey, 1998). A New York Times survey done by Raymond Bonner and Ford Fessenden validated that “homicide rate in states with the death penalty have been 48% to 101% higher than those without the death penalty (Bonner & Fessenden, 2000). A food for thought that is substantial is those who commit these violent crimes in actuality do not consider the consequences. In most cases where there is murder committed, emotions are high. However, when emotions run high, that is when rationale starts dissipate. A police chief of the Los Angeles Police Department states that “I am not convinced that the death penalty, in of itself, is a deterrent to crime because most people do not think about the death penalty before they commit a violent or capital crime” (Jones, 2010, p.125). A police chief in a massive metropolitan city claiming this makes for a compelling argument in regards to how the death penalty does not deter crime. The police chief in fact does deal with heinous crimes on a daily basis, which means there is empirical proof that the death penalty does not influence murder. Law enforcement professionals claim that the death penalty is of the lowest tier in regards to rank of violent crimes. The FBI also mentioned that states with the death penalty enforced, in reality have the highest murder rates (Bedeau, 2011). A statistic illustrates that 2 out of every 3 law enforcement officers do not believe that the death penalty decreases the rate of homicides (The Death Penalty Information Center, 2012). There is empirical evidence and data proving that the death penalty states in the U.S. in fact have higher crimes than states that are non-death penalty. The following table illustrates the differences between U.S. states that are a death penalty state and states that are not:
Table 1. U.S. States Murder Rate, 2010
Death Penalty State
The Journal of the American Statistical Association issued a journal article by Jeffrey
Grogger titled “The Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment: An Analysis of Daily Homicide
Counts” (1990). Grogger analyzes daily murder rate data to help determine if the death penalty has a deterrent effect on murders (Hunt, 2004, p. 4). The figures that are examined which were acquired from the California Department of Health and Statistics contain no accidental deaths from 1960-1963. After Grogger achieved his regression analysis, he fails to prove that there is a short-term deterrent effect when the death penalty exists.
Canada. Since the abolishment of the death penalty in Canada in 1976 there was a drastic decline in crimes by a staggering number of 27% (Amnesty International, 2012). Since the abolishment of the deathly penalty in Canada, there has generally been a trend of declination in murder rates. 2.8 per 100,000 are where the murder rates were at the year of abolishment. In 1995, Canada reached a 30 year low in 1995 of 1.8 per 100,000 (Warren, 2012). Some of Canada’s populations have vouched their opinions in favor of reinstating the death penalty, however the Canadian government is firmly holding their stance in regards to abolishment. It is fact that all of the Canadian political parties oppose the reintroduction of the death penalty. In 1987, there was a motion to reinstate the death penalty in Canada in the House of Commons, however the motion was defeated (148-127) (Warren, 2012). Even though there was an attempt to reinstate the death penalty, the government was in realization that it is not in the nature of a government or even down to the micro-level (an individual) to make such dramatic decisions (Chandler, 1976, p. 194). There is still an abundant about of citizens in Canada who want the death penalty to be reinstated, however their argument is flawed. Their flaw is that they seek justice on immoral grounds. It is proven statically that Canadian heinous crimes are of the lowest throughout the world and especially compared to the United States. As of today, the Canadian government is strictly opposed to the return of the death penalty and has rejected all calls for a national referendum.
Additionally, there has been a slight rise in Canada in regards to crime rate. However, there is no direct correlation between the death penalty and crime. If there is no direct link how can an entity such as a government determine if an individual is to lose their life. The following table below illustrates the murder rate in three territories of Canada.
Table 2. Canada Murder Rates, 2010
Country comparisons: United States v. Canada
The difference between the numbers of crimes committed between the United States and Canada is 21% (nationamaster.com, 2012). The United States in reality has the number one spot in regards to crime rate. Policy analysts Hashem Dezhbakhsh and Joanna Shepherd deliver a testimony claiming that executions in fact do have an influence on crime. He claims that a panel of recent studies shows that the death penalty saves lives. The study shows that there is a strong link between executions and reduced murder rates. As he states, there was a sophisticated panel done by Emory University which involved over 3,000 counties from 1977 to 1996 showing that because of execution there was an average of 18 fewer murders (Dezhbakhsh & Shepherd, 2003). This is however flawed, because there are countless variables that could have influenced these executions and every case in regards to crime is varied. A direct opposition to Dezhbakhsh & Shepherd is provided by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). To make note, there is domestic opposition to the death penalty within the U.S. They state that there is no laudable evidence linking the death penalty and murder. It is proven that states that have the death penalty do in fact have higher murder rates than states that don’t (aclu.org, 2012). The ACLU strongly explains that the panels that have been conducted to linking the death penalty and crime are extremely discredited due to thorough social science research (ACLU). They elucidate like mentioned earlier in the paper in regards to emotion, people commit crimes in the heat of passion. This includes adultery, deception, under the influence of drugs, or they are mentally ill (aclu.org, 2012). They give little or no thought to the possible consequences that face them. Like mentioned before, since the abolishment in Canada decline of murder rates has consistently been on the decline. Even the number of police officers killed in Canada has not been higher than in 1962 (Howard, 2001). The table below illustrates the regime, polity score, and the use of the death penalty between the United States of America and Canada.
John J. Donohue and Justin Wolfers provide additional opposition against the death penalty. In 1975, an American economic review paper written by Isaac Ehrlich analyzed the years of 1933-1969 in regards executions in the U.S. and how each execution yielded 8 fewer homicides (Donohue & Wolfers, 2006, p. 2). A re-analysis of Ehrlich’s work was conducted by Peter Passell and John Taylor showed that Ehrlich’s work was skewed. To elaborate, Ehrlich’s estimations were highly driven by a strong jump in murders from 1963-69. However, in the mid-1960s there was a decline in murders across all the states, even including the states that have never had the death penalty enforced (Donohue & Wolfers, 2006, p. 3). The model that Ehrlich demonstrated showed no correlation between executions and murder, because if those seven years were taken off, the majority of the years from 1930-1969 show low murder rates. This same model can be compared to Canada. There was no correlation between the death penalty and murder rates, the realization of this issue manifested inside the Canadian government and the result was abolishment. It is said that even the National Academy panel completely criticized Ehrlich’s model. Another study that is criticized by Donohue and Wolfers was performed by several professionals by the names of Dezhbakhsh, Rubin, and Shepherd (DRS) (Donohue & Wolfers, 2006, p. 3). DRS claim that each execution performed leads to 18 lives saved. This is clearly contested and is proven flawed and is deemed not credible by the Stanford Law Review. An instantaneous issue with this study is that the regression model that was run by DRS essentially went against their own views. In actuality, each execution is associated with 18 more executions (Donohue & Wolfers, 2006, p. 3). This study is related to Ehrlich’s study, because the DRS misuse an erudite econometric technique which is instrumental variables estimation. The problem with misuses leads to skewed results. The DRS used a quasi-experiment by categorizing a group of variables that may cause changes in execution rate (Donohue & Wolfers, 2006, p. 3). However, their study is flawed because their techniques are not applicable to the death penalty. The instruments utilized by the DRS are not valid to their study, because it is composed of too many experiments which don’t reflect changes in crime markets or social trends making it extremely flawed. This can be applied to Canada’s case as well, this is because the theory by DRS was debunked by Donohue and Wolfers and proves otherwise.
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Robert B Ekelund a professor of Economics at Auburn University explains how the death penalty is a deterrent of murders. Professor Ekelund elaborates on his study stating “Empirically, we find that execution and the death penalty have no significant effect on multiple murdersâ€¦our study also shows thatâ€¦single murders are deterred by execution variablesâ€¦the form of execution-electrocution being considered marginally more painful than lethal injections-is an added deterrent to single murdersâ€¦”(Ekelund, 2006). This study however is flawed, because of statistical problems in data collection. Please refer to the table below for realistic statistics without theoretical connectivity to show that the numbers speak for themselves.
Table 4. Comparisons of Murder Rates between U.S. and Canada
*Percentages are calculated per 100,000 people
*Reference- www.statcan.gc.ca & www.deathpenaltyinfo.org
Morality is just cause to abolish the death penalty. Morality undoubtedly comes into consideration when discussing the death penalty. Is there just cause for taking away someone’s life? Should a single judge or jury be the ultimate deciding factor in determining if a person keeps their life? The UN General Assembly claims that the utilization of the death penalty is clearly a violation of a basic human right, which is the right to life. It is proven through decades of the uses of the death penalty in the U.S. is extremely v flawed by design (ccrjustice.org, 2012). One should not only consider that the death penalty alone is a human rights violation. What should also be considered is the torture leading up to the execution. This includes decades in solitary confinement with minimal human interaction. An interesting factoid is that the U.S. ratified a treaty in 1994 by the name of Convention Against Torture (CAT). It is defined as the following, “any act by which severe pain or su¬€ering, whether physical or mental, is in¬‚icted on a person for such purposes as [â€¦] punishing him for an act he [â€¦] has committed or is suspected of having committed” (ccrjustice.org, 2012). However, clearly the U.S. is in practice of human isolations and tortures until the actual death of that inmate. Facts show that there are approximately 3,250 prisoners in the U.S. on death row, the majority of those prisoners serve in solitary and crippling conditions until their executions (ccrjustice.org, 2012). Twenty-five of the thirty-four states that enforce the death penalty hold their death row inmates in for 23 hours of the day in solitary confinement.
There is opposition on both sides of the spectrum in regards to the morality of the death penalty. An esteemed individual who is pro the death penalty is a well known Judge Antonin Scalia. Antonin Scalia explains that as a judge it is his duty to abide by the laws. He states “While my views on the morality of the death penalty have nothing to do with how I vote as a judge, they have a lot to do with whether I can or should be a judge at all” (Scalia, 2002). Based off this, we can assume that as a Judge, one has to by law convict a person if they fall into the category of being put on death row. From his perspective, it is not his job to determine whether it is immoral. Another esteemed Judge in America is Alex Kozinski. His belief is that the death penalty is of moral essence. His argument is backed up by Immanuel Kant, which explains that “society is not willing to demand a life of somebody who has taken somebody else’s life is simply immoral” (Kozinski, 2002). Kozinski states that if the system works and when the judicial system does an efficient job on identifying an individual of such heinous crimes, do we has a society have the right to take life? Simply Kozinski says yes (Kozinski, 2002). The last advocate of the death penalty in regards to morality that will be discussed is by constitutional lawyer and general counsel to the Center for Law and Accountability is Bruce Fein. His take on the issue is plainly that the perpetuator is in control of his own actions and destiny. To quote Fein, “The death penalty honors human dignity by treating the defendant as a free moral actor able to control his own destiny for good or for ill; it does not treat him as an animal with no moral sense, thus subject even to butchery to satiate human gluttony (Fein, 2008). Moreover, the death penalty celebrates the dignity of the humans whose lives were ended by the defendant’s predation” (Fein, 2008). From this quote, it seems that Fein is relishing in the fact that an eye for eye perspective, to get even in other words. And it is the responsibility of a human, because of dignity to enforce the death penalty in order to have a prosperous system of society. Canada on the other hand does not see a kill for a kill as of justice means. They do feel that person who committed murder should be taken out of society and confined. However, there is no justice for killing on behalf of killing according to the Canadian government laws in regards to the death penalty.
Now, we go into the defense of morality and how it is just cause for the abolishment of the death penalty. The Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution has much to do with the issue of the death penalty. In the case of Furman v. Georgia, former Justice of the Supreme Court Thurgood Marshall verbalizes some of his perspectives in regards to this issue. He begins with explaining that the death penalty is a violation of the Eight Amendment because it is morally unacceptable to the people of the United State at this time in their history (Fitzpatrick, 1995). Most court systems have stated that the death penalty is just, however if there is a shockwave amongst the conscience of the people and a sense of justice elucidating from the people there can be a transformation. Marshall explains that if all knowledge and facts were presented about the processes before death row in his humble opinion, the majority of society would not stand for the death penalty (Fitzpatrick, 1995). In this given time, society is interconnected in more ways than one can imagine compared to the past. Through globalization means, the world has become interconnected through means of information and knowledge. Based off of what Marshall said, it can be fairly claimed that in today’s societal beliefs, most would not favor the death penalty. An academia professor of sociology named Sandra J. Jones also elaborates on how morality is a just cause of the abolishment of the death penalty. Jones has interviewed countless activists against the death penalty and the majority of them stated are not absolutely immoral to kill on behalf of killing. She explains in juncture with an activist’s perspective that “not only is it dehumanizing, but everything else that wraps around it is immoral. It is an immoral action to have a human being strapped down for the purpose of killing them, because it is for justice (Jones, 2010, p. 197). Jones also explains how the prison warden or the prison guards should not be placed into such conflict of interests. It is simply inhuman actions (Jones, 2010, p. 197). In regards to Canada, even though they refuse to sign the Protocols established by the United Nations, they have abolished the death penalty. The ACLU also makes strong claim on how the death penalty is immoral in principal and prejudicial. The ACLU’s outlook on the government just cause is a negative one by nature and is deceiving. They state that no one deserves to die and when the government enacts their so called vengeance in the sake of justice, it is disguise (aclu.org, 2012). According to the ACLU in a civilized society, the people should reject the principle of killing as such the criminals did. In other words, society is only reenacting of what the criminal committed (aclu.org, 2012). Instead of one person losing their life due to the criminal’s actions, society would lose two individuals. Lastly former Governor of Illinois George Ryan lashes out on the judicial system. He exposes the judicial system by saying that reformation of the death penalty is not of interest to them. Ryan states that there has been a lack of justice for countless death row inmates with possibly meritorious claims-“because the Illinois death penalty system is arbitrary and capricious-therefore immoral- I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death (Ryan, 2003). From this quote alone, it can be assumed that this is the case for the majority of the states who still support the death penalty are of bureaucracy perspectives.
When sentencing an individual to death, it is a given that the sentencing maybe a wrong conviction. With Canada’s complete abolishment of the death penalty, if the court system wrongfully convicts an individual, there can be justification. However, in the United States if someone is wrongfully is convicted and placed on death row and executed. The court system is flawed in the sense that the enforcement of the death penalty has a strong immorality factor to it. The case of David Milgaard is a great example of case in Canada where the individual was wrongfully convicted. David Milgaard was sentenced to life imprisonment in the murder of Gail Miller in 1969. Milgaard spent 22 years in prison. Then in 1992 the Supreme Court revamped Milgaard’s case and he ended up being cleared by DNA evidence in 1997 (CBC, 2012). The government ended up awarding Milgaard $10 million for the wrongful conviction. An example from the United States was the case involving Larry Griffin. Quintin Moss was killed on June 26, 1980 due to a drive by killing in association with drugs. Robert Fitzgerald who was at the scene of the crime, testified that he saw three black men in a car firing shots at Quintin Moss (The Death Penalty Information Center, 2012). Fitzgerald testified that Griffin was the one who fired and killed Moss. Fitzgerald made it clear that Griffin fired the shot with his right hand. However, it was found out that Griffin was in fact left-handed (The Death Penalty Information Center, 2012). This was the first murder trial of Griffin’s attorney and he failed to address certain crucial factors. Griffin had explained that he was giving a ride to a man and his daughter, Griffin’s car ended up overheating (The Death Penalty Information Center, 2012). In the process of fixing his car, is when the drive by shooting occurred. Ten years after the conviction of Griffin, it was later revealed that the credibility of Fitzgerald was not substantial. However Griffin was executed through lethal injections means. The case was later reopened, by a professor at the University of Michigan Law, and the investigation concluded that Griffin was indeed innocent (innocent and executed) (The Death Penalty Information Center, 2012). This is the major difference between the United States and Canada, if there was complete abolishment of the death penalty, wrongfully convicted individuals have a chance to seek justice and clear their name. However, if there is someone executed and later proven innocent, that cannot be taken back.
The Death Penalty Information Center presents six indicators as to how individuals get wrongfully accused which benefits citizens of Canada as opposed to the US. First one is eye witness error, which is deriving from confusion or faulty memory (The Death Penalty Information Center, 2012). There can be multiple variables as to why an individual might be confused when witnessing such a heinous crime. They do not know the specifics of the story or even recognizing the actual individual who committed the murder. A study in 2001 was done by Northwestern Law School analyzing 86 Death Row Cases in the United States. Forty-five of the cases were of eye witness error (The Death Penalty Information Center, 2012). The second indicator is government misconduct, which are both the conduct from police officials and the prosecution officials (The Death Penalty Information Center, 2012). Seventeen cases involved government misconduct. The third indicator is junk science. Science is ever evolving; theories and practices are consistently renovating (The Death Penalty Information Center, 2012). Due to mishandled evidence at times or the use of unqualified experts have a strong influence on the conviction. Nine of the 86 cases were of junk science. The forth indictor is snitch testimony, which is habitually given in exchange for a reduction in sentence (The Death Penalty Information Center, 2012). The court systems both in the United States of America and Canada have similar processes. Taking that into consideration, lawyers at times want to just collect their money and move onto the next case. In turn, they jeopardize their clients for monetary gains or simply no interest in the case anymore. Snitch testimony involved 10 out of the 86 cases. False confessions is the fifth indicator, this usually results from mental illness or retardation and torture from police officials (The Death Penalty Information Center, 2012). Due to mishandling cases by prosecution officials, an individual who
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