The death penalty is a brutal controversy in politics and raises many questions that concern ethics and efficiency. For years, New Hampshire Democrats have tried to abolish state capital punishment and finally succeeded on March 7 by passing a bill that would repeal the death penalty and replace it with “life without the possibility of parole.” The bill passed the New Hampshire House of Representatives with 76 percent in favor of repeal, and is currently being sent to the State Senate. Last year, Governor Chris Sununu vetoed a bill that would abolish the death penalty, however, the growing support of repeal in State Congress may have the power to override his veto.
The movement towards repeal was driven by a Concord Democrat, Safiya Wazir, who is also a refugee from Afghanistan. Wazir lamented that there is no need for “state-sponsored violence” in New Hampshire. According to the Concord Monitor, Wazir stated, “The United States has absolutely no need for capital punishment and New Hampshire should remove itself from the horrible list of states that use the death penalty.”
However, it should be noted that a majority of states in the U.S. enforce the death penalty, while twenty states have deemed it unconstitutional. Since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1988, 78 defendants have been sentenced to execution, according to the Federal Death Penalty Information Center (DICP.). The DICP website stated that only three of the 78 defendants have been executed; twelve have been removed from death row, three have been given reduced sentences, and the rest are endlessly cycling through court appeals. This begs the question, is the death penalty actually efficient?
Many of those who advocate for the death penalty claim that it solves overcrowding in prisons and relieves the burden of tax payers. On the contrary, death penalty cases are more expensive than the average homicidal case. The Marshall Project Organization reported that death penalty cases require more lawyers, more experts and time than the average case. The article states, “Every successful conviction is appealed to several state and federal courts, meaning the government pays for both prosecutors and defenders to pick over the trial transcript and for judges and clerks to spend hours reading appeals.” Furthermore, they state that it costs more to house prisoners on death row than it does to house the general population.
When presented with this information, it seems that death penalty procedures are wildly inefficient. However, the National Criminal Justice Reference Service explained that death penalty cases must be processed slowly to avoid any errors. It would be absolutely devastating and irreversible if the state were to wrongly convict someone to death. The report states that “The higher the rate at which a state imposes death verdicts, the greater the probability that each death verdict will have to be reversed because of serious error.” The evidence reveals that capital error rates more than triple when death-sentencing rates increase from a quarter of the national average to the national average. Therefore, if the U.S. were to expedite the process, it would run the risk of wrongly convicting more people. Ultimately, this would not make the death penalty proceedings any more efficient.
Those who oppose the death penalty vehemently argue that state capital punishment is unethical. The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP) is the nation’s oldest organization that is dedicated to abolishing the death penalty. The NCADP published an essay that argues “state-sanctioned killing” is immoral. Members of NCADP include religious people who believe in the sanctity of human life, civil rights activists who believe the death penalty discriminates against African Americans, and victims who were exonerated from the death penalty.
The essay by NCADP states, “One hundred fifty-six exonerees bear witness to the fact that we have made grave mistakes in the application of the death penalty.” Among them include Anthony Graves, who was sent to death row in 1994 for assisting Robert Carter in murdering a young girl. The NCADP reported that Graves was convicted based on the Carter’s testimony, despite the fact there was no physical evidence linking him to the murder. Carter finally admitted to lying in his testimony before he was executed. By the time Graves was exonerated, he already spent 18 years in prison, 16 of which he spent in solitary confinement. Although Graves received 1.45 million dollars in compensation, nothing could be done to reverse the psychological damage.
Currently, the inefficiencies surrounding the death penalty produce more unethical practices and risks. New Hampshire currently holds only one person on death row, Michael Addison, who was convicted of killing police officer Michael Briggs in 2006. Whether Addison is executed or not, his crime cannot be reversed or absolved. Now his fate rests in the hands of our elected representatives. But if it were up to me, I would say let him live and possibly he may grow to repent his sins.
Katie Jensen can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org