Death By America

The death penalty isn’t a necessary evil

The trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev ended on a particularly somber note. No, the people present didn’t weep for the victims of the Boston bomber and hold a final moment of silence. Instead the judge announced the verdict and sentence. Guilty. to nobody’s surprise. The death penalty. Uncle Sam the Vengeful strikes again.

Tsarnaev seemed doomed to be sentenced to death from the start.The practice of questioning jurors on their willingness to accept the death penalty as an outcome or “voir dire” practically rigs the sentencing in favor of the death penalty. This is especially the case in a trial where the defendant is accused of acts such as terrorism. The jury is looking for a reason to sentence the defendant to death, and Tsarnaev gave it to them. The sad part about the trial was that it occurred in a state whose constitutes didn’t want him dead. Instead of justice for the victims of Tsarnaev, they got revenge. Not the moral choice, not the right one, just revenge.

In The Dark Knight,  Batman tells Joker that he has “one rule” . Batman is of course referring to his rule of no killing. Throughout the movie Joker’s primary goal isn’t to take over Gotham or kill a mass amount of people. No, it’s to get Batman to break his rule. It’s a simple concept: the hero is never supposed to kill. The repeated act of sparing a criminal’s life is what makes him a hero; it’s what makes him morally correct. How then can America possibly support something that has been used as a cruel punishment since the ancient Greeks and still call itself a moral nation?

The ideology surrounding support for the death penalty is derived from the “an eye for an eye” mentality. The basic concept of “an eye for an eye” can be traced as far back as ancient Mesopotamia and Hammurabi’s code. The goal of a system of punishment, like this, is to get an equal revenge. The problem arises, when, by seeking revenge for horrific acts, we commit similarly despicable acts ourselves.

The process of sentencing to death, and then holding the prisoner for years on end, often in isolation, helps to dehumanize the prisoner.What allows nearly two-thirds of U.S. citizens to  justify the death sentence is that they are able to view it as a method of “putting down” a rabid animal. No person deserves to be casually put to death. What makes part of the Religious Right’s support of the death penalty so puzzling is that the same people who are pro-life are pro- death penalty as well. It seems as if liberals and conservatives should be able to unite on the issue facing the death penalty. Instead many politicians act as if the death penalty is still a moral conundrum when the answer is that there is a clear moral line against it.

Perhaps an argument could be made for the death penalty if it were economic, fair or even done in a humane manner. Instead, the bureaucratic process makes the death penalty a waste of time. California spends around $300 million to execute a single person. The cost of holding an execution ends up being 38 percent more than holding a criminal for life. Considering support for the death penalty is also born out of believing it costs less, a large portion of the supporters for the death penalty are misguided.

It’s bad enough that the death penalty is a cost-heavy method of punishing criminals, but it’s even worse that we often aren’t killing the right person. Since 1973, 152 people have been proven innocent…after being executed. Add to the fact that people on death row are disproportionately African American, and you get a process that seems to be engineered to punish people for revenge rather than for accuracy.

America’s obsession with the death penalty doesn’t adhere to law. Countries in Europe who didn’t have any executions in 2013 have taken steps to limit the United States supply of lethal drugs. Unfortunately, America is determined to kill people regardless of whether the concoction is tested. Unsurprisingly this has resulted in botched executions that keep the victim alive for two hours. You could argue that Utah has a solution to this problem, they use a firing squad instead.

There’s no excuse for the death penalty in America. There’s no excuse to continue a practice so widely shown to be morally, financially and institutionally wrong. That won’t stop the United States from using it though. Soon the next deplorable person will be handed a death sentence, and just like Tsarnaev’s it will be wrong.