Of the thirty eight states with the
death penalty, twenty-two execute those whose crimes were committed while
juveniles, under the age of 18, despite mounting evidence against the
suitability of such punishment based on incomplete brain development in
juveniles and their inability to fully understand the consequences of their
Since the reinstatement of the
death penalty in 1976, Texas has executed over 300 individuals, yet Texas is
admittedly no safer with regards to crime rates than any of the twelve states
that do not have capital punishment.
Canada, the closest geographical
and social equivalent to the United States, has not had the death penalty for
many years and suffers no adverse social effects as a result.
Many individuals who maintain their
support for the death penalty cite various passages from the Old Testament in
their defense, yet nearly every major religion and denomination has a public
statement denouncing the death penalty as an ineffective and socially
destructive punishment. (See
Religious Statements on the Links page)
Over 100 men have been released
from death row, exonerated of crimes they did not commit. In nearly every
case, the only reason the errors in prosecution and criminal investigation were
exposed was due to the work of third-party groups and individuals investigating
the cases, not by the appeals process. In Illinois, over eighteen
men have been exonerated, some of them due to the efforts of a class of
journalism students at Northwestern University Law School who were assigned to
investigate questionable death penalty cases as a class project.
In order to seat a jury in a death
penalty case, a juror must be "death eligible." That is, the prospective
juror must be willing to convict the accused knowing that a sentence of death is
a possibility. In this way, the accused already has the deck stacked
against him or her as no one who conscientiously opposes the death penalty is
likely to be accepted as a juror.
Despite being twelve percent of the
population, blacks make up 35% of those who have been executed for their crimes
and 42% of all death row inmates. The overwhelming majority (80%) of their
victims were white, even though nationally only 50% of murder victims are white.
Less than 2% of all murder cases
are tried as capital cases, creating an enormous disparity between homicide
victims' families which can be very difficult to bridge when providing victim
Many victims who oppose the death
penalty are denied their legal rights as crime victims as defined by the laws of
their states. They are often not allowed to give victim impact statements
at trial, not notified of hearings in a timely manner, denied victim services
because they are "pro-defendant," and even excluded from the courtroom during
trials by the prosecution.
Expenses related to the conviction
and execution of Timothy McVeigh amounted to over $13 million, yet the victims
of the families of the Oklahoma City Bombing received only $250,000 to divide
amongst themselves for victim services.