.. uggests that rather than deterring homicide, state executions may actually increase the murder rate. This phenomenon has been named the brutalization hypothesis. It suggests that through suggestion, modeling, or by legitimizing killing, homicide numbers increase. In a study taken from 1957 to 1982 by Isaac Ehrlich, the number of executions in 1957 was 65 and the number of murders was 8,060.
From 1958 to1960 the execution rate stayed roughly the same, but the murder rate increased (Bender& Leone, 1986, p. 99-100) (Vila & Morris, 1997, p.223). Throughout the remainder of the study the execution rate dropped and the murder rate continued to increase. In 1981 the murder rate was at 22,520 and the number of executions was at one (Bender& Leone, 1986, p.100). This study clearly shows that the murder rate increased uniformly with the number of years, and not with the number of executions.
Note that the population greatly increased throughout this time period. Also, states with no death penalty had a lower average murder rate than those with a death penalty being 4.75 per 100,000 as compared to 6.8 per 100,000 (US Department of Justice, 1999, September 29). However, such a simple comparison can be misleading, because the states within each group have a broad range of murder rates, and there is also a good deal of overlap between rates in the two groups. These studies also imply that no factors other than the death penalty affect a states murder rate. That is why most studies comparing homicide rates to executions rates are not accurate (Vila & Morris, 1997, p.278).
The death penalty cannot be successful in deterring murder because in most cases it is only used for premeditated murder. Those who have planed out a murder generally think it is impossible for them to be caught. This makes any form of deterrence ineffective (Bedau, 1999, November 10). For these reasons there is no valid evidence that the death penalty is effective in the deterrence of crime. Gary Wills, writing in a column about the execution of his friend, pointedly questioned the basis of the deterrence theory when he said: We kill one person to deter some unknown person, somewhere, from killing There is no way to counter death but with lifewe can mourn those who are lost by saving those who are left, by treasuring life, by literally discrediting the currency of death. Otherwise, the cycle is unbreakablethe displaced people displacing others, the hated hating, the victims victimizing, the friends of the killed killing, and death collecting its debt (Clay, 1990, p.90). What he is saying is that after the death penalty those who are put to death will not be coming back.
He wants society to treasure life, not throw it away. Mr. Willis says that if actions and thoughts arent changed the cycle of hatred will be unbreakable. Some of those who support the death penalty defend it as a cost-effective alternative to life imprisonment. They argue that it is cheaper to get rid of the problem than to keep it locked up for years and years.
However, it is far more costly to execute an inmate than to have that person serve a life sentence. A 1982 study in New York concluded that the average capital murder trial and first stage of appeals costs U.S. taxpayers 1.8 million dollars (Bedau, 1999, November 10)(Robinson, 1999, October 7). This is more than the current cost of 60 years of incarceration. However, the principle factor in this cost of capital punishment is the appeals process, which lasts an average of 10 years and is deemed necessary to reduce the likelihood of the execution of innocent persons. This process can cost up to two million dollars more than regular murder trials (BCCLA, 1999, October 7).
In Maryland, a comparison of capital trial costs for the years 1979-1984 concluded that a death penalty case costs around 42 percent more than a case resulting in a non-death sentence. In 1988 and 1989 the Kansas legislature voted against reinstating the death penalty after it was informed that reintroduction would involve a first year cost of more than $11 million. Also, Florida, which has one of the nations largest death rows, has estimated that each execution costs around 3.2 million. This is approximately six times the cost of a life sentence. For these reasons capital punishment is not an affordable from of punishment (Bedau, 1999, November 10).
Some think that the methods used to convict a murderer with the death penalty are far more costly than they should be, and that the death penalty would be effective if a different approach were taken. This is not true. The long process of conviction is very important due to the fact that the wrongly accused need a chance to plead their cases. If a less expensive approach were taken, more innocent men and women would wrongly die. Time must be taken to find the truth. People cannot be brought back from death. It is easy to unlock a door and free the wrongly accused.
Perhaps one of the worst characteristics of capital punishment is that it is irreversible. Since 1900, in this country alone, there have been, on the average, more than four cases a year in which an entirely innocent person has been convicted of a murder. Many of these people were sentenced to death, and in many of the cases a reprieve arrived just hours later than the scheduled death appointment. Innocent people have and do get put to death under the death penalty (Bedau, 1999, November 10) (Robinson, 1999, October 7) In 1975 two African American men in Florida, Freddie Pitts and Wilbert Lee, were released from prison after twelve years awaiting execution for the murder of two white men. Their convictions were the result of coerced confessions, erroneous testimony, and an alleged eyewitness. Though a white man eventually admitted his guilt, a nine-year legal battle was required before the governor would grant Pitts and Lee a pardon.
Had there execution not been postponed for the legal battle, they would have been innocently put to death (Bedau, 1999, November 10). Just a few months later, after Pitts and Lee were released, authorities in New Mexico were forced to admit they had sentenced to death four motorcyclists from Los Angeles who were innocent. The jurys verdict in this case was based on alleged eyewitnesses and a perjured testimony. If it hadnt been for the investigation of newspaper journalists, and the confession of the real killer, they too would have died innocent men (Bedau, 1999, November 10). Though these two stories have reassuring endings, but the chances of good outcomes happening are small. People are too commonly wrongly accused of crimes.
There will always be overzealous prosecution, perjured testimony, faulty police work, coerced confessions, the defendants previous criminal record, and inept defense councils. People will be wrongly put to death leaving their families behind wondering who was telling the truth. As long as society chooses to ignore its moral values, and as long as it brings down the value of a human life, capital punishment will remain in use. People must do the research and see for themselves the costs to society, both in dollars and in lives, are far too high. People will always make mistakes, and with the death penalty in use innocent people will die.
For these reasons the United States should follow the lead and abolish capital punishment.