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Is capital punishment ethically acceptable?

Capital punishment is the sentence of death, used as severe


punishment for the most heinous of crimes. In 2008, the United Nations
called for a ban on the use of capital punishment. However 58 countries,
including the United States and China, still continue to actively exercise
the death penalty. As seen, the death penalty is shrouded in controversy
and has been the centre of prevailing debate since its implementation.
However, it is my stance that the death penalty, for numerous reasons, is
unethical.
A recent study conducted by the Columbia University Law School
found that two thirds of all capital trials contained serious errors, with over
80% of the defendants being acquitted of the death penalty when retried.
This poses a grave question: Is it ethically acceptable to take the risk of
imposing the death penalty on an innocent man? In fact, since 1973, 138
people have been released from death row after evidence of their
wrongful conviction surfaced. In this same time period, more than 1 000
people have been executed. These statistics not only illustrate the
unacceptable risk of executing the innocent, but also our erratic justice
system. One of the many examples of wrongful convictions is the Daniel
Wade Moore case. In 2002, Moore was found guilty of murder and sexual
assault of Karen Tipton. The judged overruled the jurys original consensus
and sentenced him to death. However, 7 years later in 2009, he was
acquitted when 256 pages of withheld evidence were revealed. The
emotional pain that the friends and family of the innocent have to go
through in the time leading up to the execution is unbearable. Should
evidence of innocence emerged after the execution, there is no possible
way of compensating the wrongly convicted and his loved ones for this
miscarriage of justice. Such wrongful executions can be prevented by
abolishing the death penalty and turning to less barbaric methods to meet
societys needs of punishment and protection. Thus, capital punishment is
not ethically acceptable as there exists a risk of erroneously executing an
innocent Man.

Another reason

why capital punishment is

unethical

is

the

arbitrariness and discrimination that exists. Fair trials for death row
defendants can hardly be achieved due to irrational factors such as the
race of the defendant and the wealth he has. The discrimination against
different races can be shown in the US, where African-Americans account
for one in three people executed since 1977. A January 2003 study
released by the University of Maryland concluded that race and geography
are major factors in death penalty decisions, with prosecutors more likely
to seek a death sentence if the victim is white but less likely if the victim
is African-American. This shocking racial biasness that still exists in our
modern society further shows why the death penalty is ethically wrong.
Another factor that demonstrates the arbitrariness of the death penalty is
the affluence of the defendant. Most death row inmates could not afford
their own attorney at trial and thus are provided with court-appointed
attorneys. However, these court-appointed attorneys often lack the
experience or skills necessary for capital trials. This inadequate legal
representation makes who lives or dies based on luck, as poorly
represented defendants are more likely to be given a death sentence.
Thus, the death penalty is unethical due to its poor implementation, where
arbitrary factors such as race, wealth and geographic location play a
major role in deciding who deserves to die. Instead, everyone should be
entitled to a fair and just trial where they have an equal chance.
Supporters of the death penalty often argue that by executing
criminals convicted of heinous crimes, would-be offenders will think twice.
Singapore is a prominent example of using capital punishment as an
effective crime deterrent, particularly in curbing drug trafficking. Not only
does the low crime rate and general orderliness in Singapore bear
testimony to this, Singapore authorities reported an overall decline in the
number of drug abusers arrested between 1994 and 2000. Furthermore,
the 1973 Isaac Ehrlich study shows that for every inmate who was
executed, 7 lives were spared because other were deterred. Thus, death
penalty supporters argue, capital punishment is ethically justified as it can
save innocent lives and deter crimes just by executing a twisted criminal.

However, this argument lacks proper statistical evidence showing that the
death penalty will actually deter potential wrongdoers. Not only are the
figures provided by Singapore authorities potentially biased, the 1973
Isaac Ehrlich study have also been widely discredited. Furthermore, such
heinous crimes are usually committed in a moment of intense emotions or
under heavy substance abuse, where the perpetrator is unlikely to think of
possible consequences. This argument also fails to take into account
people with mental disabilities or defects, who are thus unable to be
deterred. Therefore, capital punishment cannot be considered ethical on
the basis that it can deter crimes.
In conclusion, it is not ethically justifiable to use the death penalty
under any circumstance due to reasons such as the unacceptable risks of
executing the innocent and the poor way it is currently implemented.
While it cant be denied that capital punishment does have some boons
such as deterring crimes and permanently incapacitating criminals, the
biased implementation and risks it comes with far outweigh its benefits.
(878 words)