There has always been much debate over the morality of the death penalty in the United States. Recently it has come under a lot of scrutiny when the State of Georgia was set to execute Troy Anthony Davis (executed 10:00 PM PST, September 21, 2011). With support for Troy Davis from high profile individuals like President Jimmy Carter and Pope Benedict, the case got a lot of media attention which flared the death penalty debate once again. The issue was once again brought to the attention of the public by the media yesterday when Texas decided to end its “special last meal” services to those about to be executed. I will analyze these two recent stories and give you my opinion on each case as well as my opinion on the death penalty in general.
Background Troy Anthony Davis Case:
Davis was convicted in 1991 of the murder of a Savannah, Georgia policeman, Mark MacPhail in 1989. While working security at a local bus station, MacPhail intervened when he saw someone being assaulted. According to witnesses, Davis then shot and killed MacPhail. During the trial, 34 people testified for the prosecution. Among them, seven witnesses testified to seeing Davis shoot MacPhail and two testified that Davis confessed to killing MacPhail. Along with all the witnesses, there was ballistic evidence. The bullets at the scene were linked to a gun used by Davis in an earlier shooting in which he was also charged.
Opposition’s point of view:
There has been recent strong support for troy Davis, who until his execution maintained his innocence. People have argued that there was not enough evidence that linked Davis to the murder. When convicting someone, the prosecution should argue beyond a reasonable doubt, and there was definite doubt in the public’s mind on Davis’ guilt. Over the years, Davis’ attorneys have filed petitions and appeals, pushing the execution dates back three times. Of the nine witnesses who originally testified against Davis, seven have retracted their statements. Nine people have come forward that implicate another man, Sylvester Coles. According to Davis supporters, there is reasonable doubt, and thus he should be exonerated.
My point of view:
Troy Anthony Davis had a criminal record. Earlier, he was charged and convicted in another shooting. The bullet casings at the earlier shooting matched the bullet casings at the scene of the murder of MacPhail. THIRTY FOUR people testified for the prosecution. SEVEN of those stated they had seen him shoot MacPhail and TWO testified that Davis confessed to the killing. Why did seven people retract their statements? A number of issues could have played into this i.e. media, pressure from vocal public opinion and also pressure of going against Davis’ high profile supporters. Witnesses also have a habit of second guessing the past and rethinking what they originally stated; it had been a while (the original trial was in 1991). Additionally, despite appeal after appeal, the defence was not able to convince any of the judges on Davis’ innocence. In my opinion the prosecution convincingly laid out the case to convict Davis.
Now I will change gears and taking a look at the last meal part of the execution process.
Background on Texas deciding to end its “special last meal” services:
“The controversy began after Lawrence Russell Brewer, who was executed on Wednesday for the hate crime slaying of James Byrd Jr. more than a decade ago, asked for two chicken fried steaks, a triple-meat bacon cheeseburger, fried okra, a pound of barbecue, three fajitas, a meat lover’s pizza, a pint of ice cream and a slab of peanut butter fudge with crushed peanuts. Prison officials said Brewer didn’t eat any of it.” If you do not know about this case I will briefly explain it though for this piece of the post I am only arguing that the rights given to a prisoner about to be executed is ridiculous. Jame Byrd Jr. was viciously murdered by three white supremacists. The “lynching-by-dragging method” used on this man made the case one of the worst hate crimes of the past decade. So obviously, there is no doubt that Lawrence Brewer deserved the death penalty. So when Brewer ordered this extravagant meal and did not even touch it, Sen. John Whitmire decided that it was a privilege that the prisoners did not deserve and was put into place effective immediately by the Texas Criminal Justice Division.
Opposition’s point of view:
As it is, many find the death penalty unusually cruel. Taking away what little humanity there is in the process makes it even crueler. Other states put dollar limits on final meals and other restrictions, but Texas decided just to eliminate it. There is no real argument for why people do not agree with the elimination of the last meal in Texas other than an emotional appeal.
My point of view:
Like Senator John Whitmire said in his argument, these murderers did not give their victims their last meal wishes so why should they have theirs. They ruthlessly took away an innocent person’s life and thus should have all rights stripped away from them.
With the media attention on the death penalty this past week, I just wanted to write my own opinions of the death penalty. As you can probably tell, I am pro-death penalty and I will list out just a few reasons why.
1. Financials. a lot of anti- death penalty proponents argue that death row and execution costs more than keeping someone in prison for life. Sure on the surface it does look like it costs more but when adding up totals for the death penalty, they factor in costs like all the appeals prisoners make. When adding up the numbers for keeping that inmate alive, those metrics are not taken into account. Those sentenced to life have an unlimited number of times they can appeal, so in the long run, keeping them alive would end up costing more.
2. This brings me to my next point. Why not just sentence them to life? It is less inhuman they argue. In this strong opposition to the death penalty there is tremendous hypocrisy. How is it that opponents to the death penalty did not protest the execution of Brewer who was convicted of killing James Byrd? So are the opponents for using the death penalty selectively? Or is it that some murders are more heinous than others and therefore deserve the death penalty? Opponents of the death penalty however claim they are against ALL death penalties. However their actions prove otherwise. Additionally, sentencing someone to life without the option of parole actually does not mean they will stay there until they die in prison. There have been multiple cases where they have been let out for various reasons. is this fair to the victims whose lives were ruthlessly taken away?
3. The death penalty process is actually pretty fair. There are many people who are convinced innocent people are being executed but the process allows for those mistakes to be avoided. There is plenty of time to appeal between the time they are sentenced to death and when they are actually executed.
If those reasons did not convince you I will now try to appeal to your emotional side.
1. Execution is the only way to remove a threat from society. Even within prison walls, an inmate can do a lot of damage to society. “Pablo Escobar, a criminal so ruthless he allegedly mailed witnesses invitations to their own funerals, was not only able to control his criminal empire from a luxurious prison, but he was also able to escape with a disturbing level of ease.” So for the safety of the society as a whole, it makes more sense to eliminate this possibility.
2. Deterrent to crime. It has been proven that with strong punishment, crime rates decrease greatly. We can see this in the fact that countries like Singapore, which has the death penalty for weapons infractions and large fines for smoking in non-smoking areas, have a very low crime rate compared to the United States. I know what you are thinking. The US is huge and has a much higher population than Singapore. Well the analysis was calculated in ratios per 100,000 people.
3. Justice and retribution. It was not only the victim that was affected in each case. Each victim has family and friends that are left grieving. So for their loved ones lost, it is only right that they get justice.
The punishment should fit the crime. When someone ruthlessly takes away the life of a victim, their life should be taken away too. Eye for an Eye? In its most basic sense, yes.