Arguments upholding death penalty are tenuous

FORT WORTH, Texas (U-Wire) — The United States is the only industrialized Western nation that still practices the death penalty. While justice is, and should be, an essential ideal in our society, the death penalty as it is practiced in America is unfair and should be abolished.
The death penalty has been a lively source of debate for many years. Both sides of the argument have many valid points, and one can argue persuasively both for and against the death penalty. Traditionally, these arguments have been purely moral and ethical, often based on religion. For example, the Bible has been used in arguments both for and against the death penalty, with references given to verses that say “thou shalt not kill” and, on the other side, “an eye for an eye.” With the upcoming execution of political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, these types of arguments are sure to surface in the debate about his Dec. 2 execution.
Being that I am void of morals and ethics as defined by the state, you will not hear these types of moral arguments from me. I do, however, object to the biased, inhumane and unfair practice of capital punishment as it exists in the United States.
Capital punishment in America is some sort of idiosyncratic lottery. According to the United States Department of Corrections, only one in 15 convicted murderers is sentenced to death, and half of those sentenced to death are set aside on appeal.
How does the judicial system decide which of the convicted felons are to be given the death penalty?
The death penalty is inflicted disproportionately on minorities and the poor. Those who can afford quality representation are much more likely to receive a lesser sentence than those who cannot. For this reason alone, the death penalty is unfair in practice and should be abolished.
However, there is more to the practical argument against the death penalty. For one, it can be, and has been, used in error. In fact, recent research by Hugo Adam Bedau has shown that 23 people are known to have died wrongfully at the hands of the death penalty in America since 1900, and an additional 300 were sentenced to death before they were absolved of the crime.
Every year, one or more on death row is shown to be innocent. As is obvious by the nature of the punishment, once imposed, the death penalty is impossible to reverse. Therefore, because of the imperfections of the judicial system, the death penalty should be replaced by life imprisonment in the United States.
Proponents of the death penalty argue this point by saying that putting convicted criminals to death is less expensive than imprisoning them for life. After all, the cost of a little electricity or an injection is obviously less expensive than the cost of life imprisonment, right? Wrong!
On the contrary, there is quite a bit of evidence that holds that life imprisonment is much cheaper than application of the death penalty. Because of the extent that the legal system is involved in the application of the death penalty and its aftermath, the cost of putting a prisoner to death is higher than life imprisonment without parole. The argument that it is cheaper to put a prisoner to death is both naive and erroneous, so don’t believe it.
All of this being said, it is obvious that the death penalty is inefficient and unjust. However, if it could be proven that putting convicted criminals to death deterred potential murderers from killing in the future, then there would be a credible argument stating that the death penalty should remain in our society. After all, if murdering one could set the precedent for saving the lives of 100, then it would be worth it. However, there exists no evidence supporting the claim that the death penalty deters potential murderers.
The real criminal is the system that ignores these arguments and continues to implement the death penalty. The real criminal is the U.S. citizen who, like a common murderer, dehumanizes the victims of state capital punishment and supports the death penalty.
The United States is in the company of such nations as Iran and China in continuing to enforce the death penalty.
Although we like to think of ourselves as a nation of morals amidst other barbaric and inhumane nations, it is really we who are the murdering barbarians, both at home and abroad.

Zachary Norris’ column originally appeared in Wednesday’s Texas Christian University paper, the Daily Skiff.