Is it time to end the death penalty?

Herbert Smulls was sentenced to death late last month, and was subsequently executed. However, Smulls was pronounced dead four minutes before his final stay was denied. Even though he would have still been executed, this rather reckless practice of justice is unfit for America.

Dennis McGuire was sentenced to death for the rape and murder of a pregnant woman. What makes his death newsworthy is that a new combination of drugs was used during his lethal injection due to drug shortages. This was the first time the chemical concoction was used during an execution and one state expert predicted the outcome.

It took McGuire 26 minutes to die where there was an apparent obstruction of his breathing. His crimes are reprehensible, yet as Americans we all have a right to the Eighth Amendment. No one should be subjected to excessive cruel and unusual punishment.

America has always held itself to a higher standard than the rest of the world, yet the continued practice and use of the death penalty is just one example of how our country morally lags behind two-thirds of the world that has already abolished capital punishment.

We, as a country, should be able to take the higher road than we are now.

However, as lethal drug shortages plague states, instead of questioning the moral consequences of being able to indiscriminately kill humans, talks of reinstating firing squads and beheadings took center stage.

The death penalty is still a contentious issue in America today. Thirty-two states still use the practice. Michigan, thankfully, abolished the death penalty on May 18, 1846 and made the practice unconstitutional in 1963.

Opinions on the death penalty are shifting.

According to a 2013 Pew Research survey, 55 percent of Americans still favor the death penalty for persons convicted of murder. In 1996, 78 percent favored capital punishment. During the same time, opposition to the death penalty rose from 18 to 37 percent.

Since 2011, three states have seen governor-imposed moratoriums issued on the death penalty.
The most recent was Washington State. Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington State announced Tuesday that his state will not use the death penalty while he’s in office, issuing reprieves to delay the executions.

“But there have been too many doubts raised about capital punishment. There are too many flaws in the system. And when the ultimate decision is death there is too much at stake to accept an imperfect system,” Inslee said in a speech last week.

While our justice system is highly flawed and meaningful sentencing more reliant upon money and good lawyers instead of actual innocence, there is good reason to believe the death penalty isn’t being applied equally.

According to a study commissioned by the governor of Maryland, “Offenders who kill white victims, especially if the offender is black, are significantly and substantially more likely to be charged with
a capital crime.”

The unequal application of the death penalty is troubling. How anyone could support such an inadequate, racist and inhumane practice baffles me.

Yes, there are evil people who commit terribly evil atrocities, but just one innocent death by the state is one too many.

What is certain is that as the death penalty debate rages on, it is clear that the death penalty is just another cog in the broken system of American justice. The moral ambiguity of the death penalty will remain pervasive in the American dialogue. What we can only hope for is that if the death penalty continues, its application becomes blind to the injustices occurring everyday in this country. When a life is on the line, one mistake is one too many.


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