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Running Head: DISCUSSING THE DEATH PENALTY 1

Discussing The Death Penalty



Tracyone Qualls

Pasadena City College

May 30, 2014







Capital punishment is an extremely sensitive and controversial topic in the United States.
Religion, emotions, politics and revenge play a substantial role on societys view and opinion of
Running Head: DISCUSSING THE DEATH PENALTY 1

the death penalty. The question of wether the death penalty is a morally correct and economical
punishment is one that many have pondered throughout the years. When discussing capital
punishment, and wether or not it is a viable solution for high profile criminals in the United
States, you should consider three main aspects: The cost of the death penalty, the amount of
people on death row who may potentially be innocent, and the breakdown on statistics of socio-
economic background and race of the offenders.

The death penalty is a very expensive punishment. On average, the death penalty costs
three times as much as a lifetime sentence without parole. (Performance Audit Report: Costs
Incurred for Death Penalty Cases: A K-GOAL Audit of the Department of Corrections, 2003)
Many believe that keeping inmates in prison for life is more expensive than the death penalty,
but that is not the case. Capital punishment trials costs taxpayers millions of dollars each year
and one main cause is that sentencing someone to death is a very lengthy procedure. There are
several different stages to the trial, and once the person has been found guilty, the sentencing
process continues with several more trials and appeal processes. The cost of these trials, appeals,
and the lawyers that they require are what increases the price of the death penalty. On top of the
expenses of the legal proceedings, the taxpayers must still pay for the inmates care while they are
incarcerated.

Another concern regarding the death penalty is the conviction and execution of the
innocent. Since 1979, 144 inmates on death row have been released from prison due to their
innocence. A vast majority of these inmates had already served years of jail time. As with any
organization, there are flaws in the United States legal system. 144 innocent people could have
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potentially been murdered due to our current capital punishment regulations. On average,
inmates spend 10 years in prison between their sentencing and their exoneration. 47% of those
who have been exonerated from death row have been African-Americans. Taking the racial
climate of our country into consideration, it can be seen as a form oppression that 47% of those
found innocent are blacks who were convicted by mostly white juries. (S. Hartsoe, "Study: All-
White Jury Pools Convict Black Defendants 16 Percent More Often Than Whites,2012)

There is a disparity between the number of white individuals sentenced to capital
punishment than the number of blacks. Even though African-Americans make up 12% of the
population, they make up 41% of inmates on death row. (Death Row Population Figures from
NAACP-LDF "Death Row USA, 2009) When comparing those statistics and the fact that
African-Americans make up 47% of those found innocent of death row, you can see why these
capital punishment sentences may be unfair. According to studies, African-Americans are
sentenced to death at a higher rate than white convicts, even when their crimes were similar.
(Becka, Holly; LaFleur, Jennifer; McGonigle, Steve; Wyatt, Tim, Jurors Race a Focal Point for
Defense, 2006) When statistics show that certain raises are disproportionately sentenced to
capital punishment, the entire process of conviction, sentencing, and execution of inmates should
be questioned.

The costs of the death penalty, the fact that innocent people my be murdered, and there
may be racial prejudices in the process of sentencing inmates to death should be considered
when talking about the death penalty. These are three very important points that can go a long
way towards repairing our justice system, reducing our expenses, and ensuring that innocent
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lives are sparred. Though there are instances where we feel that the death penalty may be
applicable, we should consider the ramifications of the action, and wether or not the risks and
costs are worth it.

Works Cited
Performance Audit Report: Costs Incurred for Death Penalty Cases: A K-GOAL Audit of the
Department of Corrections, 2003 <http://www.kslpa.org/docs/reports/04pa03a.pdf>
Death Row Population Figures from NAACP-LDF "Death Row USA, 2009 <http://
www.naacpldf.org/files/publications/DRUSA_Winter_2014.pdf>
S. Hartsoe, "Study: All-White Jury Pools Convict Black Defendants 16 Percent More Often Than
Whites , 2012 <http://today.duke.edu/2012/04/jurystudy>
Becka, Holly; LaFleur, Jennifer; McGonigle, Steve; Wyatt, Tim, Jurors Race a Focal Point for
Defense, 2006< <http://www.deathpenalty.org/article.php?id=54>.
"Race and the Death Penalty." DPIC. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 May 2014. <http://
www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/race-and-death-penalty>.