Texas is leading among states practicing capital punishment for a criminal offense. While the proponents of the death penalty belief that it is the best way to deter criminal offenders from the act, reports suggest that the rate of crime has not been reduced any better than states that do not practice it. The conflicts surrounding capital punishment are numerous, with many calling for its abolition. Cases of unfair judgments coupled with poor investigations are considered as some of the reasons that have led to the death penalty’s unpopularity among many observers. The main concern has been the prosecutors’ unfounded opinions that once a person has been found guilty of a felony for the first time, it is nearly impossible for such a person to avoid the act in the future. Other concerns are hinged on the fact that professional doctors have been found to produce conflicting results of medical tests; the inability of the defendants to get legal assistance; the racial disparity in meting capital punishment; and the possibility of conspiracy in the process of investigation. Theses concerns have led to further questions as to how fair is the process.
On the economic front, it is noted that the cost of capital punishment is far away from being considered economical (i.e. three times more costly than life sentence), despite its ineffectiveness to reduce crime to any significant level. It will be prudent to reconsider the idea of continued practice of this method of meting justice, albeit against the will of the powerful forces, mostly comprised of politicians, who see it as the only way to justify their commitment to fighting against crime. But the end results have proved otherwise, with failures in its primary goal and as well as exorbitant costs.
Texas has been reported to have had the highest number of executions through its death penalty law provisions. Reports indicate that one third of all executions in the United States have been in Texas and it has experienced 25% more death sentences than the next leading state (Cole & Smith 22). It’s also noted that the trend hasn’t gone any slower as death sentences are being meted at an alarming rate, despite the fact that the number of inmates slated for death penalties has overwhelmed the prisons.
The case of Texas is a worrying trend, as justice is seen to have reached a crisis state. Numerous convictions that lead to capital punishment are overshadowed by many reported cases of unfair judgments coupled with painful testimonies. Prosecutors have been known to make a lot of unfounded predictions as concerns the accused ability to avoid similar acts in the future while doctors are found to be in a state of professional negligence as some get conflicting results of the tests they perform to justify the prejudged convictions. A further concern is the cost of death penalty cases in Texas and even in the entire United States. According to Dallas Morning News, as reported by Neumann (196), death penalty cases are three times more expensive than non-capital cases, that is “its three times costly than imprisoning a person in a single cell at the highest security level for over forty years”.
While some people, particularly politicians have argued in favor of the death penalty as a means of meting criminal justice in Texas, they have failed to analyze the real context of this form of punishment in terms of cost, criteria and effectiveness; hence the failure accomplishes the actual goal of criminal law provisions. It will thus be prudent to critically analyze the real issues related to this
form of meting justice in Texas, as a way of progressing criminal justice debate on a more logical and justified ground.
Reducing Homicide with death penalty enforcement as compared to other forms of punishment for the same
Homicide cases have been in a steady increase in Texas, with many people being charged in a court of law for murder and related offenses. However, these charges are sometimes proving too technical to justify considering the number of victims who have been proven not guilty in the second or successive phases of investigations long after being found ‘guilty’ in first judgments. A case in point is that of 17 year old boy, Reuben Cantu, who was charged with murder on 24 August 1993 (Neumann 199). In this case, despite the lack of physical evidence, the final judgment was death penalty for the accused.
The confusion surrounding death penalty cases is the failure to give defendants room to justify their innocence. Many attribute this to the preformed opinion that many judges and prosecutors have against the defendants. For example, in Cantu’s case, the punishment is not commensurate to the level of investigations that were carried out as the defendant was wrongly accused. Human life should never be taken so lightly to an extent that investigations are done in an incomplete manner.
Punishments against persons accused of Aggravated Assault in a court of law
Aggravated assault is defined as a physical attack on another person that may lead to serious bodily harm. The attack is also considered serious assault or aggravated assault if it’s meted with “dangerous weapons like sword, knife, ax, gun or any blunt instrument” (Cole & Smith 61). A survey showed that persons who have undergone aggravated assault are steadily increasing in Texas, with an increase of 1.2% every year since 2004 (Cole & Smith 61). The level of punishments given to those convicted of aggravated assault is equally harsh. This is because it is considered a felony that may lead to capital punishment. The decision to meet death sentence on the accused is at the judge’s discretion, hence the complication of fairness in the process.
The fact that those accused and ‘found guilty’ of aggravated assault commit the crime under some great emotional state of mind or under the influence of some other substances such as drugs makes the whole process a sham. Why? In many incidences, the persons accused are under serious emotional distress where logical thinking is not on display whatsoever. In such cases, the person will commit the offence regardless of the possible consequences that may follow later. Furthermore, some of the defendants such as those accused of terrorist attacks on individuals are motivated by religious ideologies that are fronted by their masters. So the question is; should we punish the master or the messenger?
The fact that the accused are given little opportunity to defend themselves is a clear manifestation of failure in justice process. As has been observed, the increased number of aggravated assaults is a clear indicator of the failure of the death penalty law to reduce the cases.
Persons accused of rape and the justification of offense by police investigation process
In the United States, 18% of women are reported to have been raped at least once in their lifetime (Neumann 4). Out of this, 14.8% stated to have experienced an attempted rape. In these statistics, Texas’ case is not any different as the cases are as rampant as they are across the entire US. This is astonishing as it was expected that the use of capital punishment would deter the offenders from further rape related crimes.
As it is known, many cases of rape have been the most bizarre form of justice dispensation. In many occasions, the victims’ late admissions that the rape charges meted against their partners were in reality just sexual encounters with consent have left observers baffled. Many times do individuals accuse their partners of rape once relationships go sour, hence putting to doubt the authenticity of the evidences laid down. Furthermore, there are cases where some doctors have had personal confessions of having given wrong results to justify the victim’s claims.
When such a scenario occurs, the defendant will have no just ride to freedom even where he/she was falsely accused. It thus follows that the punishment may not merit the accusations and charges.
The problem with identification of the kidnappers and the process and the clearance of suspects
Kidnapping as a criminal offense that can attract capital punishment has received wide criticism among many observers. This is because in some specific cases, victims of kidnapping have been known to plan the ‘the kidnapping’ with the accused. When faced with the prospect of punishment, the victims insist they were truly kidnapped, leading to sometimes unmatched punishment to the defendant.
The punishment for these cases may not be commensurate to the crime committed either, as the defendants may not have had a bad motive. Furthermore, the law overlooks the likelihood of the other side of the story, such as individuals conspiring to get kidnapped for particular reasons like family matters. The defendant is never given any option to claim conspiracy, which attracts lesser punishment.
Persons charged with illegal possession of prohibited drugs and gun
Charges against drugs and guns are considered a felony, hence attracting capital punishment. The problem is that a good section of those accused of these offenses and the successive death penalties shows racial biases. That is, for every 7 people charged with illegal possession of guns or drugs, 4 blacks are convicted in every 3 whites (Haney 6).
This worrying statistical data has raised eyebrows as regards the legitimacy of the whole process of investigation, judgment and fair verdict. Unfortunately, the whole process of investigation and level of punishment obviously does not reflect the whole process. In general the level of punishment is not fair and equal across racial lines.
Punishment leveled against persons charged with crime causing harm to property
People have been accused of causing harm to property in Texas and elsewhere. Sadly, the punishment they eventually succumb to raises questions about how life is valued in the whole state. This is because many people have been accused of being malicious and destroying the property of other individuals. One of the common judgments the accused met is death penalty.
The daunting question is how much value of property is considered worth enough to equal the death of individuals? Identifying the property worth may not cause any difficulty; however, the problem is equating value of property with the life of human beings. How sad!
Punishing persons accused of attempted criminal activities
In the Texas criminal offense penal code, persons found guilty of attempted criminal offenses are charged more or less similar to those who have already committed crimes. Isn’t this unfair? Furthermore, as highlighted in many cases, proving one guilty is not an easy task as many of those accused of the offense is later acquitted from the court of appeal. But this is only possible where one has the means and ability to appeal.
For some, the defense is not given much time and ear, and unfortunately, justification of the intention of the accused is in dire question, with a good number of people finding it ridiculous as cases being overturned after thorough investigations increase every year.
Individuals accused of conspiracy and justification of level of punishment against them
Conspiring to commit a crime is a crime. However, if one person is found guilty of conspiring to commit a crime, to what extent is it considered a serious criminal offense to warrant death penalty? The inconsistency that has followed the meting of justice indicates the weakness of the criminal penal code used by Texas as a state that should regard life as a sacred entity; highly valued to be interfered with in a simple and unconvincing process.
Furthermore, witnesses’ innocence is in question as one may be possessed with prior motive to implicate another, with whom they have heard some personal differences unrelated to the one presented before the court of law. This leads to a punishment that when evaluated, does not give a clear picture of the whole truth and justice in the long run.
Individuals found guilty of aiding and/ or abetting criminal activity
If one aids or abets criminal offense, to what extent would be considered a crime worth the death penalty? Unfortunately, to this question, the process of abetting the crime is in itself vague. Why? If a person is accused of abetting crime, evaluating or justifying the level of involvement to conclude that he or she was fully involved has no clear path to be followed.
It therefore follows that punishment for the defendant may be considered unfair and not convincing enough as far as the process and criteria for doing investigation is concerned. The defendant is therefore left with little option to prove not guilty in the whole process.
How persons accused of felony are charged and treated
The historical picture of the past case of felony has shown that a number of people accused of the offense have been coerced in one way or the other to confess, with a promise that the judgment will be lenient on them. In most of these cases, they are individuals who are unable to seek legal advice or general legal assistance from a lawyer (Haney 42). These coercions were mainly rampant in the 1970s through to 90s. It painted a bad taste of the investigating police and the prosecutors.
The whole scenario was that the due process of justice was not followed adequately and the punishment was not justified in anyway. That is the defendant’s rights are violated, hence putting to question whether is it right to send someone to death row if in the first place he or she was forced to admit the offense with n regard r human rights.
The treatment of white collar crime victims and the fair judgment
While all felony cases in Texas have proved to be the ultimate means to get convicted, the treatment of that white collar crime offenders receive has been on the contrary. White-collar criminals have not received enough punishment as compared to those accused of felonies.
There are several reasons advanced to support this trend. First, white collar criminals are able to afford the cost of hiring a defense lawyer and favor longer and thorough investigations before being declared guilty (Haney 76).
Secondly, they are likely to get favoritisms in the justice process due to their means and ability to mingle with the prosecutors and judges at personal and social levels. Lastly, there are cases of state is represented as the accuser, which in many cases leaves doors wide open because state itself is an abstract entity as far as justice is concerned. Furthermore, they are accorded more rights in the process and most of the punishments only involve long term sentences or worse still, short term sentences with an option of bails.
Analysis of Cost of death penalties in relation to level of justice
An analysis shows that in the last 10 years, the cost of carrying out death penalty in Texas was $90,000 per year more that that spent on those serving life imprisonment (Steiker 2). This figure is a reflective of what the tax payers spend on executing their own people, who are sometimes innocent if only a just process and judgment were followed.
Surprisingly, studies have shown that the crime rate is not affected by capital punishment. One study revealed that police did not view death sentences as having any impact on the reduction of crime. They ranked the death penalty as the least effective means of controlling crime as compared to other programs that aim to “reduce drug abuse and guns in the hands of civilians, providing employment and hiring of more police officers” (Haney 43). The biggest concern therefore is that despite all the massive costs on the death penalty, its effectiveness is in question as more and more crimes are committed every day with no sign of receding.
Federal Law Amendment and the unending debate
The Federal law amendments in the past particularly that which was done in 1972 was later reversed, with claim that victims were not getting justice in the end process. An attempt to make certain amendments to strike a middle ground has proved cosmetic in nature and quite a good number of cases have shown this random approach of judges’ discretions. However, the an unending debate on whether capital punishment should be abolished or not.
The pro- death penalty argument is mainly based on the belief that people who are apposed to it are simply sympathizers of criminals. Again, they believe that justice will not be met if it’s abolished. In fair judgment, death penalty proponents are advancing the tit-for-tat means to find ‘justice’, without looking at the whole process in multiple dimensions.
Proposed Changes to the laws and barriers to achieving the goal of fair play
The proposed change is basically the abolition of capital punishment as a whole. This is to ensure justice is done to both the accuser and the accused. However, the proposals are facing challenges due to a lack of political will. Most politicians see death penalty as the only way they can convince the public that they care about the society’s welfare.
The changes are necessary to ensure that a fair process of meting justice is adhered to and no one is left with doubts if it’s the right thing to do to offer a just solution to the societal needs. With such changes, the public will be saved from the high cost of executing members of their society, while at the same time giving them the ability to channel these federal expenditures to other better and more humane programs.
It must be admitted that capital punishment is unusually cruel no matter the level of crime one has committed. At the same time, it denies the due process of law that consequently goes against the constitutional rights of individuals and equal treatment. Furthermore, death penalty does not reduce crime as expected despite spending huge resources in the process. The argument in defense of capital punishment has no logical ground and the failure to sort out the legal complication is not healthy for both the victims wrongly accused and the financial costs to the Federal government.
Cole, George & Smith, Christopher. Criminal Justice in America. New York. Sage Publishers, 2007. Print.
Haney, Craig. Death by Design: Capital Punishment as Social Psychological System. California. Oxford University Press, 2005. Print.
Neumann, Katherine. Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Issues. New York. Nova Science Publishers, 2002. Print.
Steiker, Jordan. Obstacles to fair administration of death penalty: supports America Law Institute decision to repudiate model death penalty provision. Texas. University of Texas at Austin, School of Laws. 2010. Web